University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Talcott Williams Papers

1894 -1925

Manuscript Collection Number: 176
Accessioned: Purchase, 1987.
Extent: .3 linear ft. (28 items)
Content: Letters, clipping, pamphlets, advertisement.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: November 1997, by Shanon Lawson.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Talcott Williams, journalist and educator, was born in Abeih, Turkey on July 20, 1849. He was the son of William Frederic Williams, a Congregational missionary, who helped to create both Robert College in Constantinople and the American College in Beruit. Talcott Williams' uncle, Samuel Wells Williams (1812-1884), was a prominent Sinologist, missionary, and expert in Chinese language and literature. With this background, Talcott Williams grew up with a strong knowedge of Eastern languages and cultures.

Williams traveled to New York in 1865, at the age of 15. The next year, he enrolled in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then in 1869, he began his studies at Amherst College. After graduating in 1873, he got a job as an Albany legislative correspondent for the New York World. During his four year stint with the paper, Williams worked his way up to the position of night editor. At the end of 1876, the World transferred him to Washington D.C., where he became a political reporter. From 1877 to 1879, he was the Washington correspondent for the New York Sun. In 1879, he married Sophia Wells Royce, and that same year, he became an editorial writer for the Springfield Republican, where he remained until 1881.

After leaving the Republican, Williams began what would be a thirty-one year career, writing and editing for the Philadelphia Press. By the time he left the press in 1912, he had become the paper's associate editor. His interests and abilities were widespread; in addition to editorials, he also wrote reviews of art, literature, and theatre, as well as a weekly business column. Williams also traveled to Morocco twice, in 1889 and 1897, collecting artifacts and botanical specimens for the Smithsonian Institute and the University of Pennsylvania Archeological Museum.

In 1912, Williams left his longtime position at the Press and, after thirty-nine years of newspaper experience, became the first director of the Columbia University Pulitzer School of Journalism. His theories of education combined the practice of standard journalistic skills with courses designed to deepen his students' cultural knowledge. He is also credited with teaching and promoting the reporting of scientific news. In addition, he was able to create, by 1900 a collection of over 1,400,000 newspaper clippings for the school. Williams became professor emeritus in 1919 and remained so until his death. In addition to his work at Columbia, Williams was also a trustee of Amherst College from 1909 to 1919, and of the Constantinople College or Women. Between 1895 and 1915, he received at least eleven honorary doctorates, from such institutions as the University of Pennsylvania, Rochester University, and Brown College. He was also a member of numerous organizations throughout his career, including the American Philosophical Society and the American Oriental Society.

During the later years of his life, Williams published numerous articles, pamphlets, and lectures, including works on the Arabic language and a forward to an 1898 edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He co-edited the second edition of the New International Encyclopedia in 1917, and contributed to the 10th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He also wrote two books: Turkey, A World Problem of Today (1921) and The Newspaper Man (1922). Talcott Williams died on January 24, 1928.


Dunbar, Elizabeth. Talcott Williams, Gentleman of the Fourth Estate. New York: G.E. Stechert and Co., 1936.

"Talcott Williams." Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 10. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1958-1964. pp 291-292.

Scope and Content Note

The papers of American journalist Talcott Williams span the dates 1894-1925 and consist of .3 linear feet of letters, pamphlets, and clippings. The collection is divided into three series: Series I contains letters written to Talcott Williams, Series II contains proofs of four pamphlets written by Williams, and Series III contains miscellaneous material relating to Williams.

The twenty letters in Series I make up the majority of the collection. Written between 1894 and 1923, these letters to Williams come from many prominent literary, theatrical, and political figures from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Correspondents include Walt Whitman, Richard Harding Davis, publishers Edward Bok and Walter H. Page, actors Sir Johnson Forbes-Robertson and Julia Marlowe Southern, and the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. These letters address several topics, including the political climate before and during World War I, different journalistic issues, and many congratulatory missives regarding Williams' appointment to the Columbia School of Journalism. The letters are arranged alphabetically, in two folders.

Series II contains proofs of four pamphlets written by Williams. They include his introduction to an anthology of Greek literature, which was originally published in Library of the World's Best Literature, an 1898 history of Tammany Hall, an 1888 tract published by the Society for Political Education entitled "Labor a Hundred Years Ago," and a 1912 tribute to Shakespearean scholar Horace Howard Furness, which also contains an essay about Furness by Agnes Repplier. The proofs are on ragged pieces of paper, but they do provide an example of some of the many short writings that Williams produced in his career.

Series III contains miscellaneous items related to Talcott Williams. Included are an invitation card to a 1925 art exhibition, signed by Williams, a 1914 newspaper photograph of Williams, an announcement of Elizabeth Dunbar's 1936 biography, Talcott Williams, Gentleman of the Fourth Estate, and a pamphlet on events preceding World War I.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

 Series I.  Letters, 1894-1923
     Contains 20 letters to Williams from various correspondents, addressing aspects of his
     personal and his professional life, notably his appointment to the Columbia School of

F1   Bok, Edward William, 1863-1930.
     1894 Mar 14    TLS       1p
     Daniels, Josephus, 1862-1948.
     1916 May 30    ALS       1p

     Davis, Richard Harding, 1864-1916.
     [n.y.] Oct 2   ALS       3p

     Forbes-Robertson, Johnston, Sir, 1853-1937
     1915 Feb 10    ALS       2p

     Forbes-Robertson, Oriol.
     [n.y.] Jan 18  ALS       2p
     Furness, Horace Howard, 1833-1912.
     1912 Mar 11    TLS       2p    

     Hackett, James K.
     1917 Jan 26    TLS       1p

     Lester, William R.
     1912 Mar 19    ALS       2p

     Page, Walter Hines, 1855-1918.
     1912 Apr 30    TLS       2p

     Parker, Gilbert, 1862-1932.
     1916 Aug 30    TLS       2p
     1916 Oct 6     TLS       2p

     O'Donnell, Hugh A.
     1912 Mar 15    TN        1p
                    Note: Includes a 1p TLS, dated 3/12/1912, from D. Payne to O'Donnell.

     Peary, Robert E. (Robert Edwin), 1856-1920
     1897 Mar 28    ALS       2p

     Series I.  Letters, 1894-1923 (cont'd)
F1   Perdicaris, Ion.
     1915 Sep 26    ALS       2p

F2   Putnam, George Haven, 1844-1930.
     1919 Jan 22    TLS       2p

     Repplier, Agnes, 1858-1950.
     1912 Mar 11    ALS       4p
     Southern, Julia Marlowe
     1919 Jul 9     ALS       2p
     1920 Sep 14    ALS       4p
     1923 Aug 12    ALS       4p
     Straus, Oscar Solomon, 1850-1926.
     1912 Mar 11    TLS       1p

     Wanamaker, John, 1838-1922.
     1912 Mar 11    ALS       

     Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892.
     [n.y.] Feb 20  ALS       1p

     Wood, Leonard, 1860-1927.
     1918 Apr 1     TNS       1p

     Series II.  Pamphlets written by Talcott Williams, 1888-1912.
F3   Contains four proofs of pamphlets, including "The Greek Anthology" (1897), "Tammany
     Hall" (1898), "Labor a Hundred Years Ago" (1888), and "Horace Howard Furness: Our
     Great Shakespeare Critic" (1912). (111 pp.)

     Series III.  Miscellaneous Material.

F4   Includes a printed invitation, signed by Talcott Williams, for a December 31, 1925
     painting exhibit by Henry W. Parton, Cass Gilbert, and Henry Bacon; a December 26,
     1914 newspaper clipping of a photograph of Williams; a publisher's advertisement for
     Elizabeth Dunbar's 1936 biography of Williams, and a 59 pp pamphlet on the events
     preceding World War I.

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