University of Delaware Library

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

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

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 [1865]) 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.

Scope and Content Note

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

Contents List

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)
     1870 March 21, ALS, 41st Congress House of Representatives
     stationery, 1 p.
     Bliss, J.L.
     1871 March 24, ALS, Northwestern Lyceum Bureau letterhead, 1
     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.
     1873 December 23, ALS, The Graphic Company letterhead, 2 pp.
F3   1875 – 1878 (14 items)
     1875 September 20, ALS, The Graphic Company letterhead, 2
     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
     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

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
     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
     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[8] 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
     [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.
     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
     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
     Photograph of George Alfred Townsend, [1894]
     “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                [1884]            F8
Townsend, George Alfred
   (photograph)            [1894]            F8
Workroom of a Noted
Correspondent, The         nd                F8

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