Special Collections Department
George Alfred Townsend
1862 - 1912
Manuscript Collection Number: 415
Accessioned: Purchase, April 2001
Extent: .3 linear ft.
Content: Letters, photographs, and ephemera.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: June 2001 by Gerald Cloud
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
Journalist and novelist George Alfred Townsend was born in Georgetown, Delaware, on January 30, 1841, to the Reverend and Mrs. Stephen Townsend. Townsend lived throughout Delaware and Maryland as his father transferred from parish to parish, before his family settled in Philadelphia in 1855. There, Townsend was graduated from Central High School with a Bachelor of Arts in 1860.
Townsend’s first full-time employment began in 1860 as a news editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 1861, he moved to the city editorship of the Philadelphia Press, and in the same year, his play, The Bohemians, was published. Although Townsend’s stories and poems had been published in high school newspapers and, in fact, Townsend had published a small high school magazine, this play is his earliest known surviving publication.
By 1866, Townsend had become a noted news journalist, as a war correspondent covering the Civil War for the New York Herald, the New York World, and later, as a ghost writer, for The New York Times.
His reports of Lincoln’s assassination (part of which was later published as Life, Crime and Capture of John Wilkes Booth ) and General Sheridan’s victory at the Battle of Five Forks, Virginia, brought him considerable recognition. Townsend, who was the only correspondent present for the battle on March 31, 1865, conveyed word of the Union Army’s decisive victory, which resulted in the Confederate abandonment of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.
Townsend’s reflections on the Civil War and on his two-year journey in Europe during the war were collected in his Campaigns of a Non-Combatant and his Romaunt Abroad during the War (1866). Townsend’s recognition as a war correspondent led to his popularity as a lecturer. He traveled throughout the United States, lecturing on the Civil War, European politics, and U.S. government.
By 1867, Townsend had made his home in Washington, D.C., choosing the capital because of his desire to report on political news and issues. His books, The New World Compared with the Old (1869), Washington Outside and Inside (1873), and Events at the National Capital and the Campaign of 1876 (1876), explore American government, the nation’s capital, and political topics.
During the 1860s and 1870s his columns, articles, and letters appeared in newspapers throughout the United States, including papers in Boston, Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. Some of these articles, as well as some of his books, were written using a number of pen names, including “G.A.T.,” “Swede,” “Laertes,” “Johnny Bouquet,” and his favorite, “Gath.”
Several of Townsend’s books, written during the 1880s, are set in Delaware and Maryland. The first, Tales of the Chesapeake (1880), was a collection of poems and stories about Delaware and the Maryland shore. Townsend’s first historical novel, The Entailed Hat (1883), tells the tale of Patty Cannon, the “slave runner,” and her adventures in what is today the Governor’s House in Dover. The sequel to The Entailed Hat was Katy of Catoctin (1884), set in Western Maryland.
In 1884, Townsend purchased land near Burkettsville, Maryland, and established an estate, which he named Gapland. It was on this estate, in 1896, that he built the only national memorial to Civil War correspondents. Located near the Antietam Battlefield, the monument bears the names of 157 correspondents and artists.
After Townsend’s death in 1914, and following a succession of other owners, the estate was deeded to the Maryland State Department of Forests and Parks in 1949. The estate was renamed Gathland State Park, using Townsend’s popular pen name “Gath.” The park honors George Alfred Townsend as one of America’s most important journalists and novelists of the Reconstruction Era.
Frank, Bill. “Famed Sussex War Correspondent,” The News Journal (Wilmington), February 23, 1987.
Hindes, Ruthanna. George Alfred Townsend: one of Delaware’s Outstanding Writers. Wilmington: Hambleton Printing & Publishing Co., 1946.
The George Alfred Townsend Correspondence spans the dates 1862 – 1912. The collection includes letters and telegrams addressed to Townsend, legal documents, and other ephemera related to Townsend’s life and work. Other than one letter written to Townsend’s wife and several letters of introduction, the correspondence is addressed directly to Townsend by various friends, business associates, editors, and admirers. Also included in the collection are publishing contracts, a copyright claim, and a summons to appear in court.
The correspondence in the collection is organized chronologically according to the date on each item. Nearly all of the letters are dated and many are written on the correspondents’ stationery or letterhead. A small group of ephemera follows the correspondence in a separate folder.
The collection shows the broad range of Townsend’s various correspondents, which run from a young admirer (Henry M. Warren), to journalists, editors, several U.S. Congressmen, the British Prime Minister (William Gladstone), two American presidents (Ulysses Grant and William McKinley), and the widow of a third (Mrs. James Garfield).
Among the types of letters included in the collection are business, editorial, and personal correspondence, letters of appreciation, and letters of introduction. Townsend seems to have maintained friendly relationships with his correspondents and many of the letters discuss both business and personal matters.
Most of the letters from editors and publishers typically include requests for stories, articles, poems, new editions of his books, and also a few editorial exchanges. One example, from July 1872, is a request from his publisher, S.M. Betts & Company, to update his book The New World Compared with the Old by adding an additional chapter to account for the Franco-Prussian war. Other letters deal directly with individual articles, such as John McLean’s letter of December 1878, which specifies the type of article he wanted Townsend to write on the insurance business. Another interesting editorial exchange is found in the two telegrams dated on November 12, 1877 by New York Herald editor James G. Bennett. Senator Conkling of New York appears to have objected to some of the quotations that Townsend attributed to the Senator in a published article and Bennett’s telegrams request a clarification from Townsend.
The group of documents from Townsend’s publisher, S.M. Betts and Company (see F1 and F2), reveals the dealings between publisher and author, including details on contracts, subscriptions, publication, and editing. A letter from the publisher Charles Scribner, June 1882, discusses a manuscript that Townsend had submitted to Charles Scribner's Sons for publication. There are also two letters from the banker John Moore, October-November 1898, that discuss Moore’s assistance in publishing a book of Townsend’s poetry.
Among the other diverse items in the collection is a note from General Ulysses Grant scheduling a meeting with Townsend in October 1880, a letter from Senator Anson McCook confirming that the senator’s “cousin John” will “help” Townsend as they had previously discussed, and several friendly letters from Jerome Stillson, Donn Piatt, and Henry Stanley.
Also included in the collection is a photograph of Townsend taken at M.B. Brady’s studio in Washington, D.C., and a manuscript titled “The Work-room of a Noted Correspondent,” by an unknown author that describes Townsend’s home in New Jersey.
Related Collections:MS 296 George Alfred Townsend Collection
Folder -- Contents
F1 1862, 1866 – 1869 (7 items) Hanscomb, S.P. 1862 July 26, TL, letter of introduction to Colonel Fletcher Webster, 1 p. State of New York 1866 April 18, Copyright claim for Campaign of a Non- Combatant, 1 p. Halpine, Charles (1829-1868); American poet and journalist 1867 May 24, ALS, letter of introduction on New York Citizen letterhead, 1p. Miller, J. 1868 September 14, ALS, addressed to Mrs. Townsend, 1 p. S.M. Betts & Co. (3 items) 1869 March 18, Contract, autograph, 4 pp. 1869 May 24, ALS, 2 pp. 1869 December 2, ALS, 1 p. F2 1870 – 1873 (12 items) [illegible] 1870 March 21, ALS, 41st Congress House of Representatives stationery, 1 p. Bliss, J.L. 1871 March 24, ALS, Northwestern Lyceum Bureau letterhead, 1 p. Bennett, [James Gordon] 1872 June 20, Autograph telegram, 1 p. S.M. Betts & Co. 1872 July 23, ALS, Request for additional chapter in The New World Compared with the Old, 1 p. Memphis Appeal Publishing 1872 September 16, ALS, Letter of introduction, 1 p. Arkansas Campaign Executive Committee 1872 September 22, ALS, letter of introduction, 1 p. F2 1870 – 1873 (con’t) S.M. Betts & Co. 1873 March 6, Autograph contract, The New World Compared with the Old, 3 pp. Warren, Henry M. 1873 March 13, ALS, 2 pp. White, Horace (1834-1916); American journalist 1873 March 24, ALS, Chicago Tribune letterhead, 2 pp. S.M. Betts & Co. 1873 June 24, ALS, subscription accounts, 2 pp. Dealy, Dennis F. 1873 July 3, ALS, Evening Herald (Philadelphia) letterhead, 1 p. [illegible] 1873 December 23, ALS, The Graphic Company letterhead, 2 pp. F3 1875 – 1878 (14 items) [illegible] 1875 September 20, ALS, The Graphic Company letterhead, 2 pp. Dimock, A.W. 1875 October 5, ALS, Letter of introduction to [Com. C.K. Garrison], 2 pp. Townsend, George Alfred n.d., ALS, Addressed to The Graphic Office, 1 p., (This item is pasted on the verso of the Dimock letter.) Fisher, George P. 1876 March 10, ALS, 4 pp. Carroll, [?.H.] 1876 March 10, ALS, Hartford Evening Post, 1 p. McCook, Anson (1835-1917); U.S. Representative from New York 1876 March 31, ALS, U.S. Senate letterhead, 1 p. Stillson, Jerome B. 1877 June 28, ALS, 3 pp. F3 1875 – 1878 (con’t) Bennett, James Gordon (1841-1918); American journalist (2 items) 1877 November 12, Autograph telegram, 1 p. 1877 November 12, Autograph telegram,1 p. Editorial exchange concerning a interview Townsend published on Senator Conkling, [Roscoe, (1829-1888)]. Copeland, William 1878 April 4, ALS, 1 p. Buck, E.A. 1878 April 21, ALS, Letter of introduction on Spirit of the Times (NY) letterhead, 1 p. Reid, Whitelaw (1837-1912); American diplomat and journalist 1878 December 3, ALS, New York Tribune letterhead, 1 p. McLean, John R. (1848-1916) 1878 December 11, ALS, Cincinnati Enquirer letterhead, 1 p. Buck, E.A. 187? Saturday, ALS, Spirit of the Times (NY) letterhead, 1 p. F4 1880 – 1884 (12 items) Reid, Whitelaw (1837-1912); American diplomat and journalist 1880 February 27, ALS, New York Tribune letterhead, 1 p. Piatt, Donn, (1819-1891), American journalist 1880 March 19, ALS, 3 pp. [Grant, Ulysses S. (1822-1885); U.S. President, 1869-1877] 1880 October 18, AL, with note in Townsend’s hand, 1 p. [illegible], Charles Francis 1880 December 26, Autograph telegram announcing the death of Townsend’s friend Jerome Stillson, 1 p. McLean, John R. (1848-1916) 1881 February 19, Autograph telegram, 2 pp. Scribner, Charles, (1854-1930); American publisher 1882 June 9, ALS, Charles Scribner’s Sons stationery, 2 pp. F4 1880 – 1884 (con’t) City of New York 1883 March 5, Summons, 1 p. Fish, James D. 1883 July 17, ALS, includes news clippings on Townsend attached to verso, 1 p. [Conant, S.S.] 1883 October 8, ALS, Harper & Brothers’ stationery, 3 pp. Bookwalter, _ (2 items) 1884 March 22, James Leffel & Co. letterhead, ALS, 2 pp. 1884 July 22, James Leffel & Co. letterhead, TLS, 1 p. [Gladstone, William (1809-1898); British Prime Minister] Levenson Gower, G. 1884 August 22, ALS, secretary to British Prime Minister William Gladstone, 10 Downing Street, Whitehall stationery with portion of envelope, 1 p. F5 1887 – 1897 (10 items) Austin, M. W. 1887 March 1, ALS, 4 pp. Taylor, Charles H. (1846-1921); American journalist 1892 July 1, ALS, Boston Globe stationery, 1 p. McLean, John R. (1848-1916) 1894 January 8, TLS, Washington Gas & Light Company letterhead, signed by “Whitwell”, 1 p. 1894 January 11, , TLS Washington Gas & Light Company letterhead, signed by “Whitwell”, 1 p. Sherman, John (1823-1900), U.S. Senator and Representative from Ohio 1894 March 21, ALS, Senate Chamber, Washington stationery, 2 pp. Noyes, Crosby Stuart (1825-1908), American journalist 1895 April 12, ALS, Evening Star, Washington, 1 p. McCullagh, Joseph Burbridge (1842-1896); American journalist 1895 October 4, ALS St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 1 p. F5 1887 – 1897 (con’t) Nast, Thomas, (1840-1902); American caricaturist and painter December 10, 1895, ALS, 1 p. Garfield, Lucretia, (1832-1918); wife of President James Garfield 1896 October 9, ALS, with envelope, 1 p. Watterson, Henry (1840-1921); U.S. Representative from Kentucky and editor 1897 March 1, ALS, Louisville Courier-Journal, 2 pp. F6 1898 – 1899 (13 items) Brice, Calvin (1845-1898); U.S. Senator from Ohio 1898 September 2, TLS, 2 pp. [McLean, John R. (1848-1916)] 189 October 24, ALS, Union League of Philadelphia stationery, 1 p. Moore, John G. (2 items) 1898 October 31, TLS, from Moore’s secretary Moore & Schley Bankers letterhead, 1 p. 1898 November 7, TLS, Moore & Schley Bankers letterhead, 1 p. [unknown] [1899 January 21], Printed dinner invitation, 1 p. [McKinley, William (1843-1901); U.S. President (1897-1901)] Cortelyou, George B. 1899 June 10, TLS, letter from McKinley’s secretary on Executive Mansion, Washington stationery, 2 pp. [Sturges], John S. 1899 June 14, ALS, 1 p. Cannon, H.W. 1899 June 29, TLS, Chase National Bank letterhead, 1 p. Morton, L.P. (2 items) 1899 July 11, ALS, 1 p. 1899 July 17, ALS, 1 p. Watterson, Henry (1840-1921); U.S. Representative from Kentucky and editor 1899 August 9, TLS, Louisville Courier-Journal letterhead, 1 p. F6 1898 – 1899 (con’t) R [illegible] 189? April 14, TLS, The Herald, New York, 1 p. [Hudson], 18?? October 23, Telegram, 1 p. F7 1901 – 1912 (8 items) Stanley, Henry M. 1901 January 5, ALS, 3 pp. Meekins, Lynn Roby 1901 February 2, TLS, Saturday Evening Post letterhead, 1 p. Sellers, Kathryn 1902 October 26, ALS, 2 pp. Morgan, James 1903 September 30, TLS, Boston Globe, 1 p. Watterson, Henry (1840-1921); U.S. Representative from Kentucky and editor 1907 August 8, TLS, Louisville Courier-Journal letterhead, 1 p. Reid, Whitelaw (1837-1912); American diplomat and journalist 1911 January 17, TLS, 1 p. Richardson, Harry A. (1853-1928); U.S. Senator from Delaware 1912 February 14, TLS, United States Senate stationery, 1 p. [Lowery, G.P.] n.d., ALS, letter of introduction to T.A. Edison, 1 p. F8 Ephemera (3 items) “Victory in the Air,” [May 1884] Circular advertisement from the Boston Globe mentioning stories by Townsend about the Democratic National Convention. Photograph of George Alfred Townsend,  “M.B. Brady’s… / New Gallery, 1107 F St. N.W. / 2d door from Cor 11th. / Washington, D.C. “The Workroom of a Noted Correspondent,” n.d. Autograph manuscript in an unknown hand, 6 pp. Index of Names in the Collections Austin, M. W. 3/1/1887 F5 Bennett, [James Gordon] 6/20/1872 F2 Bennett, James Gordon 11/12/1877 F3 Bennett, James Gordon 11/12/1877 F3 Bliss, J.L. 3/24/1871 F2 Bookwalter 3/22/1884 F4 Bookwalter 7/22/1884 F4 Brice, Calvin 9/2/1898 F6 Buck, E.A. Saturday F3 Buck, E.A. 4/21/1878 F3 Cannon, H.W. 6/29/1899 F6 Carroll, [?.H.] 3/10/1876 F3 [Conant, S.S.] 10/8/1883 F4 Copeland, William 4/4/1878 F3 Dealy, Dennis F. 7/3/1873 F2 Dimock, A.W. 10/5/1875 F3 Dinner Invitation [1/21/1899] F6 Fish, James D. 7/17/1883 F4 Fisher, George P. 3/10/1876 F3 Garfield, Lucretia 10/9/1896 F5 [Gladstone, William] / Levenson Gower, G. 8/22/1884 F4 [Grant, Ulysses S.] 10/18/1880 F4 Halpine, [Charles] 5/24/1867 F1 Hanscomb, S.P. 7/26/1862 F1 [Hudson], 10/23/18?? F5 [Lowery, G.P.] nd F7 McCook, Anson 3/31/1876 F3 McCullagh, John B. 10/4/1895 F5 [McKinley, William] / Cortelyou, George B. 6/10/1899 F6 McLean, John R. 12/11/1878 F3 McLean, John R. 2/19/1881 F4 McLean, John R. 1/11/1894 F5 McLean, John R. 1/8/1894 F5 [McLean, John R.] 10/24/1898 F6 Meekins, Lynn Roby 2/2/1901 F7 Miller, J. 9/14/1868 F1 Moore, John G. 10/31/1898 F6 Moore, John G. 11/7/1898 F6 Morgan, James 9/30/1903 F7 Morton, L.P. 7/11/1899 F6 Morton, L.P. 7/17/1899 F6 Nast, Thomas 12/10/1895 F5 New York City (summons) 3/5/1883 F4 New York State 4/18/1866 F1 Noyes, C.S. 4/12/1895 F5 Piatt, Donn 3/19/1880 F4 R [illegible] 4/14/189? F6 Reid, Whitelaw 12/3/1878 F3 Reid, Whitelaw 2/27/1880 F4 Reid, Whitelaw 1/17/1911 F7 Richardson, Harry A. 2/14/1912 F7 S.M. Betts & Co. 3/18/1869 F1 S.M. Betts & Co. 5/24/1869 F1 S.M. Betts & Co. 12/2/1869 F1 S.M. Betts & Co. 7/23/1872 F2 S.M. Betts & Co. 3/6/1873 F2 S.M. Betts & Co. 6/24/1873 F2 Scribner, Charles 6/9/1882 F4 Sellers, Kathryn 10/26/1902 F7 Sherman, John 3/21/1894 F5 Stanley, Henry M. 1/5/1901 F7 Stillson, Jerome B. 6/28/1877 F3 [Sturges], John S. 6/14/1899 F6 Taylor, Charles 7/1/1892 F5 Townsend, George Alfred nd F3 Warren, Henry M. 3/13/1873 F2 Watterson, Henry 3/1/1897 F5 Watterson, Henry 8/9/1899 F6 Watterson, Henry 8/8/1907 F7 White, Horace 3/24/1873 F2 [illegible], Charles Francis 12/26/1880 F4 [illegible] 3/21/1870 F2 [illegible] 9/22/1872 F2 [illegible] 9/16/1872 F2 [illegible] 12/23/1873 F2 [illegible] 9/20/1875 F3 Ad circular  F8 Townsend, George Alfred (photograph)  F8 Workroom of a Noted Correspondent, The nd F8