Archive for December, 2012

George Alfred Townsend mentioned as potential Librarian of Congress [Washington Sentinel, January 21, 1899]

LOC _ Main Reading RoomLibrarian Young’s Successor

The death of the Hon. John Russell Young Tuesday creates a very desirable vacancy in the Government service which Mr. McKinley will be called upon to fill at an early date. The position of Librarian of Congress pays $6,000 a year and carries with it the control of considerable patronage. There will probably be a lively scramble for the place. Among the names that have already been mentioned in connection with the position are Representatives Lemuel Ely Quiqq, of New York, Gen. Henry V. Boynton, George Alfred Townsend, Thomes G. Alvord, and A.R. Spofford [sixth Librarian of Congress, 1864 – 1897].



Washington Sentinel, January 21, 1899 


Note: Herbert Putnam would serve as the eighth Librarian of Congress for 40 years until 1939.



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Mark Twain’s “Last Visit to Washington” [New York Times, April 22, 1910]

Mark Twain, 1907. Library of Congress

Mark Twain, 1907. Library of Congress


Humorist Invited Cannon to Luncheon, Which Neither Ever Ate.

WASHINGTON, April 21.-On the occasion of his last visit to the National Capital, which was in December, 1906, Mark Twain appeared in the halls of Congress on a cold day dressed in a suit of cream-colored flannel. When asked why he was wearing white on such a day the aged humorist replied:

“This is not a suit; it is a uniform. It is the uniform of the American Association of Purity and Perfection, of which I am President, Secretary, and Treasurer, and the only man in the United States eligible for membership.”

Commenting further on his costume, Mr. Clemens declared that when a man was 71 years old he had a right to dress in the fashion that conformed most to his comfort and enjoyment.

“I prefer light clothing and colors,” he added, “like those worn by the ladies at the opera.”

He said men’s clothing, especially evening dress, was abominable.

It was a favor of a change in the copyright laws that Mark Twain made his last appearance in Washington. Other literary celebrities also were here. Mr. Clemens appeared before the joint committee on copyright and spoke in favor of extending the life of a copyright, and spoke in favor of extending the life of a copyright from forty-two years to the life of the author and fifty years beyond.

“I think that ought to satisfy any reasonable author,” he told the committee, “because it will take care of his children. Let the grandchildren take care of themselves.”

Appearing at Speaker Cannon’s office to seek advice in regard to the Copyright bill, Mr. Clemens, who had arrived on the scene early in the day, was told by the Speaker’s secretary that the Speaker had not yet reached the Capitol.

“Well, when he comes, will you present to him this letter?” asked the humorist. When the Speaker arrived, he read the letter, which was to the effect that “during a long and busy life the author had not bothered Congress much, wherefore he thought he should be given a vote of thanks by Congress.” With a twinkle in his eye, the Speaker looked up from the letter and said:

“Well, Mark, I would like to admit you to the floor of the House, but I cannot even entertain a motion that effect.”

But Mr. Cannon did even better for Mr. Clemens. He gave him the use for several days of his private office, whither nearly all the members of Congress flocked as soon as they learned that Mark Twain was holding an informal reception there. A few days later he said to Mr. Cannon: “I would like to become better acquainted with you and wish you would take lunch with me tomorrow.”

“But I don’t eat lunch,” replied Mr. Cannon.

“So much the better neither do I,” was the retort. “We’ll let George Harvey eat the lunch while we smoke and talk.”

And this programme was followed.

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Review of “The Frozen Truth,” Mark Twain’s lecture in Washington, DC [National Republican, January 10, 1868]

NR_1868.1.10_review of Twain lecture0001AMUSEMENTS

THE FROZEN TRUTH. – Mark Twain, the well known humorous writer and lecturer, made his debut before a Washington audience, at Metzerott Hall, last evening. To say that the lecture and lecturer were a decided success is simply to record the verdict of a delighted audience. Besides a number of minor topics, humorous hits, and well-told anecdotes, the lecture embraced a general review of the excursion, per steamship Quaker City, made last summer by the Puritan Pilgrims to the Holy Land and various other points en route in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The state-room accommodations on the steamer, the various sensations and stages of sea-sickness, the sociability of the passengers and their peculiarities, were inimitable, and elicited uncontrollable bursts of laughter from the audience, while his reminiscences of the noble cities to-day and those of the past, visited by the voyagers, were given with all the genuine freshness of a traveler who has seen with observing eyes and a reflective mind all that he reproduces to his hearers.

The domestic difficulties of the Sultan of Turkey with his 900 wives, and the points shown of the similarity of certain of the institutions of that country with those of our own, were aptly made sad and thoroughly appreciated. Mark Twain possesses that rare but happy combination of talking as well as he writes; and if any of our readers may be laboring under a fit of the “blues,” we recommend to them a speedy relief in the brief advice, “Go and hear Mark Twain.” His next lecture is advertised for Saturday evening, at the same place.



National Republican, 10 January 1868, p. 3

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An Autobiography, Mark Twain [The Aldine, April 1871, p. 58]

The Aldine _ Vol. 4, No. 4 _ April 1871 _ p. 58 _ An Autobiography Mark Twain0002AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY.


I was born November 30th, 1835. I continue to live, just the same.

Thus narrow, confided and trivial, is the history of a common human life! – that part of it, at least, which it is proper to thrust in the face of the public. And thus little and insignificant, in print, becomes this life of mine, which to me has always seemed so filled with vast personal events and tremendous consequences.

I could easily have made it longer, but not without compromising myself.

Perhaps no apology for the brevity of this account of myself is necessary.

And besides, why should I damage the rising prosperity of THE ALDINE?

Surely THE ALDINE has never done me any harm.

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GEORGE ALFRED TOWNSEND. “Gath’s Extraordinary Gifts as Correspondent and Author.” [Washington Critic, April 28, 1886]

Washington Critic _ 1886.4.28_ Gath on top of the world _ front0001Probably no newspaper writer is more widely known than George Alfred Townsend. The magic pseudonym “Gath” is almost as familiar beyond the seas as at home. For twenty-five years it has been the index to clear and logical analyses of men and manners, to descriptions of photographic accuracy and to vivid details of events.

The merits of “Gath’s” newspaper and literary work are best attested by the fact that it has won him a reputation that mediocrity could never have done. A brief sketch of Mr. Townsend’s career as a writer, therefore will better serve its purpose if devoted to illustrate the quantity rather than the quality of his work.

George Alfred Townsend’s father, a slave-holder of Maryland, was originally a house-builder. He married a devout Methodist and through her influence was induced to join the Methodist Church. He became a minister, and as “Gath” thinks, spoiled a good house-builder. “Some few of my father’s houses that are yet standing,” said he, “I have admired much more than any sermon of his that I’ve read.” Mr. Townsend moved to Georgetown, Del. in response to a call from the Methodist Church of that place, and here on January 30, 1841, George Alfred was born. His first schooling was at Washington College, Chester County, Md. afterward Delaware College at Newark, Del. When about 14 years old his parents moved to Philadelphia, where they both died. He then went to the Philadelphia High School for four years, during which time his taste for literary pursuits began to develop, and he published a little paper called the School Journal. His first effort to get into print outside of the school paper was a poem, entitled “Progress of Education,” published in 1856. He was then 15 years of age. The Republican party came into existence about this time and political topics engaged his attention. His first newspaper work was on the Philadelphia Inquirer and as a correspondent of the New York Herald. From 1860 to 1862 he was city editor of Forney’s Press. He began to engage in political correspondence in 1867 with four newspaper, the Cincinnati Commercial, Cleveland Leader, Chicago Tribune, and St. Louis Democrat. Up to this time he did all of his own writing, but he soon found this not only breaking down his physical energies, but after sitting at his desk all day he would be drained of subjects. Therefore, in order to give himself time to get out and circulate among public men and replenish his wasted stock of material he employed a stenographer  All of his newspaper work is now dictated. This, at present, consists of one daily letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer of about 5,500 words and two letters a week of about the same length for other papers, and an occasional magazine article. His week’s work will average about 50,000 words, or about thirty or forty columns of closely printed matter. Mr. Townsend never receives a salary from any newspaper, but is paid by the letter.

His literary work is of a varied character. He has published a dozen books, mostly novels, which have been well received by the public. For two years he wrote almost as much for the English press as for our own. He was a contributor to Cornhill Magazine when Thackery was editor. He also contributed a series of twelve articles on the American war to Chamber’s Journal.

In 1874 Mr. Townsend, in order to familiarize himself with commercial life, removed to New York, where he has since resided in winter, seeking the recuperative air of his South Mountain home in summer.

The voluminous newspaper writings of George Alfred Townsend, if measured by columns would reach from Washington to Mount Vernon and back to Alexandria. It would make a square sheet covering as much space as the new Pension building. The manuscript of the same would reach from Washington to Baltimore.



The Washington Critic., April 28, 1886, front

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Resolution adopted by Congressman George N. Briggs to provide pension to “Body Servant of Gen. Washington.” [Vermont phoenix., January 27, 1843]

Vermont Phoenix _ 27 January 1843, p. 3 _ 'Body Servant of Gen. Washington'

Library of Congress

Body Servant of Gen. Washington.

On motion of Mr. Briggs, a resolution was adopted instructing the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions to inquire into the expediency of allowing a pension to John Cary, who says that he was the body servant of General Washington, and was present with him at the defeat of Braddock and the surrender of Cornwallis, and that he is 112 years old.


Vermont Phoenix, Jan. 27, 1843

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George Alfred Townsend’s “Washington, outside & inside” in Washingtoniana Division’s Card Catalog

GATH _ DCPL Card Catalog


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