Charles McLaughlin, 76; AU Professor of History

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Charles C. McLaughlin, 76, an American University history professor emeritus and an expert on 19th century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, died Sept. 2 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after a heart attack. He was a Chevy Chase resident.

Dr. McLaughlin joined the AU faculty from Stanford University in 1963. Over the next 30 years, he taught such subjects as intellectual history, urban studies and the history of landscape architecture. With his wife, a novelist, he taught the history of London at an AU program based in the British capital.

Charles Capen McLaughlin was a Boston native and a 1951 music and European history graduate of Yale University. He received his doctorate in American studies from Harvard University in 1959. In 1955, he and his wife contracted polio and were hospitalized for nine months. He thereafter needed to use canes and, in recent years, an electric tricycle.

His interest in Olmsted began as a child when he saw some of the railroad stations Olmsted had designed in the previous century. "Everyone else at the time seemed to be interested in the quick buck rather than in permanence of beauty," he told the New York Times in 1977. "Olmsted had a real spirit of planning. He made an attempt to handle some of the esthetic recreational needs of our rapidly growing population."

He studied Olmsted as an undergraduate and later edited "The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted" (1977), which required evaluating about 60,000 documents. He was a founding member of the National Association for Olmsted Parks.

He edited and wrote an introduction to Olmsted's 1852 book, "Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England," republished in 2002 by the Library of American Landscape History.

He was a board member of the library as well as a member of the Cathedral Choral Society and New Dominion Chorale, for which he sang bass.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Ann Landis McLaughlin of Chevy Chase; and two children, John C. McLaughlin of San Francisco and Ellen M. McLaughlin of New York.

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