Special Collections Department
The Christopher Ward Papers
Manuscript Collection Number: 107
Accessioned: Gift of Mrs. Christopher Ward, 1947.
Extent: 11.5 linear ft.
Content: Correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, poetry, essays, speeches, stories, novels, galley proofs, and maps.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: Reprocessed December 1995 by Jennifer Paul; revised July 1996 by Anita Wellner.
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Return to Christopher Ward Papers Index
Table of Contents
Ward spent his adolescence in Towanda, Pennsylvania, under the care of his paternal grandfather and namesake, Christopher Longstreth Ward. Christopher Longstreth Ward was a successful businessman and lawyer who was unhindered by his lack of formal education. He completed his primary education at a make-shift frontier school and then worked as an apprentice to a printer. He eventually became a partner in ownership of The Susquehanna Register, as well as an active local politician. Additionally, after several years of self-promoted study, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1837.
His son, Henry Ward, attempted to follow a similar career path combining journalism and law. Henry attended both Princeton University and Heidelberg University in Germany, but a growing mental incapacity would prevent him from achieving the success of his esteemed father. Henry Ward's mental instability became evident in 1870, when he murdered a man with a pistol at a dinner party and was convicted of manslaughter. Henry served a one-year sentence in Tunkhannock prison in Northeast Pennsylvania.
This tragic event, followed by the 1872 death of Christopher Longstreth Ward, forced the permanent relocation of Martha Ward and her four children to her parents' home in Wilmington. Upon his release from prison, Henry Ward made several unsuccessful attempts to contact his estranged wife and children. As his behavior became increasingly erratic, his ties to his wife and children were completely severed. Martha Potter Ward finally was awarded a divorce from Henry in the early 1880s. In 1886, the family had received word of Henry Ward's death from paresis. Christopher Ward, who was seventeen at the time of his father's death, remained unaffected, as he had always considered himself to be fatherless and did not retain many memories of Henry, since their last encounter occurred when Christopher was five years of age. Although Christopher did not mourn the loss of his father, he did grieve over the death of his grandfather Ward, and as a testament to his memory, he later changed his middle name from Lewis to Longstreth.
Even though the Wards led a comfortable life in Towanda, it was the house on 612 (then 606) French Street that Christopher Ward considered his true home. His clearest childhood recollections included intimate details about the design of the house, and particularly vivid was his memory of the literature which lined the shelves in his grandfather Bush's elaborate study.
Dr. Lewis Potter Bush was a distinguished general practitioner in the days preceding specialized medicine. He was revered by his colleagues, as was demonstrated by his 1886 election to the presidency of the American Academy of Medicine. He was particularly concerned with public health issues, and his health campaigns benefited Wilmington residents through the provision of proper sewer systems and purified water supplies. Dr. Bush was also one of the original founders of the Historical Society of Delaware, and served on the Board of Trustees of Delaware College during its most financially unstable era. Although Christopher Ward did not pursue the profession of medicine, he assumed the extra-curricular interests of his grandfather Bush, especially as they pertained to the Historical Society of Delaware.
Christopher Ward's education began in Towanda where he attended kindergarten and was provided with the fundamentals of formal education. He received constant encouragement from his family to advance himself through self-education at a very early age. By the time he entered a Wilmington Quaker school at the age of five, Ward was already equipped with the ability to read and write. The school was a room in a building on Orange Street, catering to a half dozen pupils who ranged in age from five to sixteen. Ward attended this school for two years, and then transferred to the prestigious Rugby Academy in 1876, considered to be the elite boy's preparatory school of its day.
Rugby Academy occupied four rooms on the second floor of Wilmington's Grand Opera House, providing an education for at least seventy boys. It was at Rugby Academy that Ward first participated in the arts of debate, acting, and gentlemanly refinement, all qualities which he retained and exemplified throughout his life and work. He participated in several plays staged at the Grand Opera House, and was a member of both the Rugby literary and debate societies. Ward was also a member of the "Rugby Cadets," an unofficial military training unit which also doubled as calisthenics classes for the young boys. However, Rugby Academy suffered a loss of prestige in the early 1880s, and by 1884, Ward had followed the suit of several of his former Rugby classmates and transferred to the up-and-coming Friends School, also located in Wilmington.
Ward found his new school to be far more academically challenging than Rugby, and would later state that he only studied hard twice in his life: at the Friends School and in law school. But while Ward was attending the Friends School, he operated under the assumption that, given his mother's monetary struggles as a single parent, higher education would be an unattainable goal for him.
In 1874, his paternal grandmother, Hanna Porter Ward, died and bequeathed to young Christopher one fourth interest in her late husband's substantial library. The library had been sold to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and from this sale Ward received an inheritance of roughly $13,000. Christopher's inheritance was entrusted to his legal guardian, second cousin, and next door neighbor, George Bush. "Uncle" Bush invested the inheritance in mortgages on houses in Denver, Colorado, at eight per cent interest. When Ward came of college age, he was encouraged by his guardian to continue his education, and it was only then that he learned of his independent wealth.
Following the Friends School, Ward entered Williams College and immediately pledged the D.K.E. fraternity, or the "Dekes."He resided in the charter house from his sophomore through his graduating year, and there polished his sharp wit and social skills. Although fraternity life did not cater to study, Ward maintained a grade point average which seeded him in the first quarter of his class. Williams College also provided Ward with another opportunity to partake in extracurricular activities, such as the Junior Dramatics club, the Art Society, and the Little Historical Society. In his junior year, Ward joined the staff of the campus newspaper, the "Williams Weekly," and had advanced to editor-in-chief by his senior year.
In 1889 at the age of 21, Christopher Ward came into his inheritance and "Uncle" Bush was relinquished of all guardianship responsibilities. Over the years of investing, Bush had secured a total of $16,000, of which Ward received a comfortable annual allotment of $1,300.
Christopher's financial situation enabled him to continue his studies, and he entered Harvard Law School in the fall of 1890. By this time, Ward had grown accustomed to certain luxuries. His first year at Harvard, he opted to live alone in a private house and spent all of his money on lavish decor and rare books. Although much of his time was consumed by studies, Ward still pursued his love of literature, particularly the works of Dickens, Dumas, and Jane Austen. By the time he graduated from Harvard, Ward possessed a healthy collection of rare books.
The year 1895 proved to be a turning point for Christopher Ward, ultimately determining the course of his life. Upon graduation from law school, Ward's "Uncle" Bush had arranged for him to join a Minneapolis law firm. It was Ward's intention to move to Minneapolis, but his investments in the Denver house mortgages faltered and he was forced to contend with a severe shortage of funds. Without financial security, he was reluctant to leave Delaware, especially since his lodging and board were provided free of charge by his grandfather Bush in Wilmington. In September 1895, Ward passed the Delaware bar examination and was eligible to practice law in Wilmington.
Ward's success as an esquire was slow to develop. As he had no substantial connections among the already established law firms in Wilmington, he was forced to rent a small space in the Equitable Building, where many other young attorneys also procured offices in wait of clients. Ward's career took an upward turn in 1898 with the adaptation of a new state corporation law permitting the incorporation of businesses in Delaware. Christopher Ward, his wealthy friend, Willard Jackson, and Otho Newland, then President of the Equitable Guarantee and Trust Company, seized the opportunity and out of their own pockets created the Delaware Incorporators' Trust Company. The Delaware Incorporators' Trust Company served as strategist and local counsel for businesses considering incorporation in Delaware.
The Corporation Service Company prospered financially, so much so that Christopher Ward was able to buy out his two original partners by 1911, and had expanded the business to include a skilled office manager and a sizeable staff of clerks. In 1920, Ward merged his business with Josiah Marvel, a distinguished Delaware attorney also working in corporation law. The result was the Corporation Service Company, a merger which initially yielded extremely high profits. The business flourished until 1929, when the Great Depression made businessmen reluctant to incorporate. However, the Corporation Service Company did survive the Depression and continues to maintain offices in Wilmington.
Although Ward's work was extremely time consuming, he managed to invest some effort in developing a social life. In 1893, he began to court a childhood acquaintance, Caroline Bush, who was also the daughter of Ward's cousin, Walter D. Bush. The couple was engaged by December 1895, but could not marry until May 5, 1897, when Ward felt he had secured enough funds to cover the expenses of cohabitation. Their first home was located on West Seventh Street, not considered to be a promising neighborhood, and fell short of the standard of living to which they had grown accustomed under their relatives' roofs. On June 21, 1898, Christopher Jr. was born, and Ward had earned enough money to purchase an elegant farm house in the Delaware countryside, in what is now Arden.
The Ward family moved to their farmhouse in May 1899, and their second child, Esther, was born on September 5th of that same year. Their third child, Rodman, was born November 5, 1901. Alison, the Wards' youngest daughter, was born several years later on May 20, 1912. Even though the Ward family farm in Arden juxtaposed Harvey Station and train service was readily available, country living proved a burden to the growing family, and by 1904, they had retreated back to Wilmington. Ward then purchased a tract of land and commissioned the construction of a sizeable home on Willard Street.
The Wards moved into their new home in March 1905, and they found themselves party to a group of social neighbors with whom they traveled and entertained. Ward and his new neighbors, having economic and social interests in common, developed an informal salon in which literature, art, and drama were the topics most commonly addressed.
By 1907, Ward and neighbor Bertha Bates organized the Green Room Club, an amateur acting company which performed plays in several Wilmington venues, including the Grand Opera House. Christopher Ward, a veteran of the local stage, partook not only in the dramas as an actor, but managed, selected plays for, casted, and directed all of the Company's performances in coordination with Bertha Bates. The Green Room Club disbanded in 1912 when the Bates moved from Wilmington.
In the years that followed, Ward enrolled all of his children in private schools of high repute in New England. Christopher Jr. and Rodman attended Taft in 1913 and 1916 respectively, while Esther entered Westover in 1914. The absence of the children from the Wilmington house, along with the relocation of some neighbors, made the Wards long once again for the country. In 1918, a collective of ten businessmen purchased a 600-acre tract of land near Centreville, Delaware, on the Kennett Pike. The Wards commissioned the Philadelphia architectural firm of Mellor, Meigs, and Howe to build a house on their newly acquired property, and by August 1920, they had moved from Wilmington to a large and extravagant house constructed of the finest materials.
While the Ward family continued to prosper, World War I raged in the background, and would eventually affect the lives of the Ward family. Christopher Jr. had matriculated into Williams College in 1916, only to have the school transformed into an officer's training camp one year later. In 1917, Christopher Sr. served as Chairman of the board of a group of legal advisors who oversaw the draft process in New Castle County. In 1918, Ward was appointed as Director of Delaware's Compulsory Work Bureau, a program designed to involve men who were not fighting in the war effort.
During this time, Ward also traveled extensively, oscillating from horseback riding trips in Wyoming to fishing trips in Maine. He also traveled overseas, visiting England and Paris for several weeks at a time. These vacations provided Ward with some of the vivid descriptive scenery in his picturesque novels of the 1930s.
Towards the end of World War I, Christopher Ward was immersed in an exquisitely comfortable living situation, due in part to the thriving success of Corporation Service Company. He had earned and saved a substantial sum of money, was able to provide for all of his children, and surrounded himself with educated and intellectually stimulating companions. His proficiency as an attorney was well noted among his colleagues, but his prowess as an author was yet to be discovered.
Ward's cousin, Henry Seidel Canby, was instrumental in advancing Ward's literary career. Canby was a native of Wilmington who attended Yale University in the late 1890s. Eventually, Canby became a Yale professor of English and the editor of the prestigious Yale Review. "The New Slavery," Ward's first published work and a scathing critique on his assignment as Director of the Delaware Compulsory Work Bureau during World War I, was published in the Atlantic Monthly in June 1919 as a result of Canby's editorial contacts. Although the piece was not widely received at the time, the potency of Ward's language did not go unnoticed. A second lighter piece titled, "In Praise of Brick and Oak," a reflection on the building of Ward's home on Kennett Pike, was published in the Yale Review in 1921. While Ward's article was being published, Canby was in the process of making a career change, leaving the Yale Review in favor of the newly established Literary Review, a subsection of the New York Evening Post. Three years later under Canby's direction, the Literary Review would split from the Post to form the autonomous Saturday Review of Literature. Ward would later contribute frequently to his cousin's publication.
In 1922, Christopher Ward sent Canby his first manuscript, simply titled Bill. Canby suggested several publishers who might have an interest in Ward's first work of fiction, but no interest was generated by the novel and it never went to publication.
That same year, Christopher Ward was catapulted into the literary spotlight. He parodied a popular novel of the time, The Freedom, in the Saturday Review of Literature, and Ward's light cynicism was well received by critics and publishers alike. Henry Holt and Company was the first publisher to solicit a book contract from Ward. Under their auspices, Ward wrote and published his first novel, The Triumph of the Nut, in 1923, a parody of acclaimed author Sherwood Anderson's The Triumph of the Egg. Ward's first novel enjoyed a three-edition run before its sales tapered off, but his cunning and stylistic grace had won him a small contingency of fans. One year later, he would produce the novella, Gentleman Into Goose, a parody of David Garnett's popular work, Lady Into Fox. Ward's sharp wit and clever comic interpretations put his name on the literary map, and with the 1924 release of his next book, Twisted Tales, he was acclaimed in many circles as America's leading parodist, an opinion compounded by the 1925 release of his third collection of parodies, Foolish Fiction.
In 1926, Ward attempted to break away from his usual literary platform by writing a complete work of fiction. One Little Man was published by Harper and Brothers, and although it received raves from American and British critics, its sales generated very little revenue. In spite of One Little Man's lack of financial success, Harper and Brothers bought the publishing rights to Ward's next novel, The Starling: Stories About Husbands and Wives, released in England in 1927. Ward also wrote several short stories and poems throughout the 1920s, some of which were published in the Saturday Review of Literature and the New Yorker.
In 1928, Ward completed the manuscript for a short historical parody, The Saga of Cap'n John Smith. The saga was a rhymed burlesque and was followed by several others in the same genre, including a parody of Christopher Columbus and Robinson Crusoe. These burlesques were Ward's vehicle for incorporating his love of history into his comical literary style, and he enjoyed a certain degree of success with this new hybrid.
In 1930, Ward wrote his first exclusively historical work, The Dutch and Swedes on the Delaware, which was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Its release coincided with the tercentenary of the Swedish settlements on the Delaware. Although this specialty history did not generate large profits, it prompted enough of a response from its target audience to release an abridged version specifically for the 1938 tercentenary celebration titled New Sweden on the Delaware.
Despite the critical acclaim of The Dutch and Swedes on the Delaware, Ward was not yet willing to usurp his literary inclinations in favor of strictly historical accounts. Instead, Ward combined history and literature, a marriage resulting in the 1932 release of Ward's picaresque novel, Jonathan Drew: A Rolling Stone. Jonathan Drew chronicles the life of a roving youth in America from 1821 to 1824. The sequel, Jonathan Drew: A Yankee Rover, published in 1933, continues the adventures of the traveling antagonist through 1829. Ward's preparatory research for the Jonathan Drew books was extensive and detailed, including retrospective maps of 19th century Boston, some sketched by Ward's own hand.
Despite Ward's critical acclaim, the Depression era drastically reduced book sales and many writers were rendered unemployed. Roosevelt responded by establishing the Federal Writer's Project which supported, among other programs, a nationally syndicated newspaper column, The Conning Tower. It was in The Conning Tower that Ward first published his "Rimes," or rhyming burlesques which parodied myths and legends. By 1936, Ward had published a collection of his "Rimes," and the result was Sir Galahad and Other Rimes: a pass-key to the classics.
In December 1937, Christopher Ward compiled an historical time line of events transpiring in or affecting the state of Delaware. The Delaware Tercentenary Almanak was published under the authority of the Delaware Tercentenary Commission. Although the order presented by the time line is somewhat questionable, the work details historical accounts significant to the development of Delaware, including maps, etchings, and sketches by prominent artists such as Andrew Wyeth.
Ward's preparation for the Delaware Tercentenary Almanak had stirred in him a passion for Delaware history. He became particularly interested in the role of the Delaware regiment in the American Revolution, and developed an expansive map collection in order to trace the movements of the Delaware troops. After five years of research, Christopher Ward published the Delaware Continentals, 1776-1783, a two volume set, in 1941. One year earlier, Ward had assumed the position of President of the Historical Society of Delaware. In this capacity, he raised funds to insure the publication of the Delaware Continentals through the Historical Society.
After the publication of the Delaware Continentals, Ward continued to study the military history of Delaware as it pertained to the Revolutionary War. He began to write a new book which focused specifically on the military strategies of the Delaware regiment, rather than their overall contributions to the struggle for American freedom. In 1943, Christopher Ward died at the age of 75, leaving his manuscript unfinished. The War of the Revolution, an authoritative two volume set, was completed and edited by John Richard Alden, and published posthumously by Macmillan Press in 1952.
Able, Agustus H., III. Christopher Ward: Papers Selected from Delaware Notes, 1947 and 1949. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware, 1947.
Marvel, Josiah. Delaware Corporations and Receiverships. Wilmington, Del.: The Corporation Service Company, May, 1923.
Reed, Clay H. Delaware: A History of the First State, Volume II. New York, N.Y.: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc, 1947.
Reese, Charles, L. Jr. "Men Who Led the Society: Christopher Longstreth Ward, President, 1940-1943." Delaware History, Volume II. Wilmington, Del.: Historical Society of Delaware. pp. 55-57.
Shields, Jerry A. "Buried Treasures: Some Unpublished Writings of Christopher Ward." Collections, Volume IV. Newark, Del.: UDLA, 1989. pp. 37-59.
Stellwagen, Thos. "Delaware Doctors." Papers of the Historical Society of Delaware, Volume XIX. Wilmington, Del.: Historical Society of Delaware, 1897. pp. 3-11.
Ward, Christopher L. "Autobiography of Christopher L. Ward, (1868-1943) parts I and II." Delaware History, Volume XV. Edited by Charles L. Reese, Jr. Wilmington, Del.: Historical Society of Delaware, 1972-1973.
Scope and Content Note
The Ward papers are primarily composed of drafts, both holographic manuscripts and typescripts, of Ward's literary and historical works. This collection houses the drafts of three complete novels, two plays, seven short stories, and forty-five poems, several of which were published in the depression era Federal Writers Project column, The Conning Tower. Many of these poems were collected in Sir Galahad and Other Rimes (1936). Chapter drafts, typescripts, research notes, appendices, and postscripts pertaining to Ward's historical works are also included, and holographic manuscripts of The Delaware Continentals, 1776-1783, and The War of the Revolution are almost entirely intact. These histories are accompanied by an oversized box containing 37 maps, 36 of which are directly related to the aformentioned publications. Additionally, there exists a folder containing artists' sketches of the settlement of Delaware, including some penned by Andrew Wyeth, which were used to illustrate Ward's historical time line, The Delaware Tercentenary Almanak.
The correspondence in the Ward papers is largely composed of business communications with his various publishers: Simon and Schuster, Harper and Brothers, Henry Holt and Company, T. Werner Laurie, Ltd., and the University of Pennsylvania Press. Concerning the publication of his short stories, poems, and occasional articles, Ward corresponded with magazine editors of such publications as the Literary Review, later to become the Saturday Review of Literature, and the New Yorker. Ward maintained a personal correspondence with several prominent figures in the literary world, including Carl and Irita Van Doren, Alfred Kreymburg, and Henry Pleasants.
The clippings and scrapbooks in the collection consist of book reviews, character profiles, and publicity releases regarding Christopher Ward and his authorship, as well as letters from prominent literary figures. Letters offering congratulations or encouragement are present from George Moore, Joseph Conrad, Alec Waugh, Christopher Morley, Elinor Wylie, William Rose Benet, Bliss Perry, Rebecca West, and Louis Untermeyer, to name a few. The majority of clippings address the publications Jonathan Drew: A Rolling Stone, and Ward's first novel, One Little Man.
Finally, the collection includes three speeches delivered by Ward to Williams College Alumni dinners or a chapter dinner of D.K.E., as well as a reproduction of a portrait of Christopher Ward, the original of which is housed at the Historical Society of Delaware.
The Ward papers record the career of a popular early 20th century Delaware author. The various stages of his work--from outline, research, and draft to publication, with supporting publishers' correspondence--document Ward's writing projects. Scrapbooks and other personal correspondence reflect his literary connections and aspects of cultural activities in Wilmington.
I. Literary works, 1913-1936 1. Novels, 1926-1932 2. Short stories, 1923-1935 3. Poetry, 1924-1936 4. Plays, 1913-1928 II. Historical Works, 1930-1952 1. The Delaware Tercentenary Almanak, 1937 2. Delaware Continentals 1776-1783, 1941 3. The War of the Revolution, 1952 III. Correspondence, 1894-1966 IV. Newspaper and magazine clippings, 1923-1936 V. Scrapbooks, 1922-1926 VI. Speeches written and delivered by Ward, 1919-1935 VII. Portrait, [n.d.] VIII. Legal documents concerning Ward's estate, 1918-1944 IX. Maps, 1775-1943 Index of Correspondence
Return to Christopher Ward Papers Index
Back to the UD Special Collections Home Page