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Talcott Williams papers

Identifier: MSS 0176

Scope and Contents

The papers of American journalist Talcott Williams (1849-1928) consist of .3 linear feet of letters, pamphlets, and clippings. The collection is divided into three series: Series I, Letters; Series II, Pamphlets by Talcott Williams; and Series III, Miscellaneous Material.

Series I, Letters, makes 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. 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.


  • Creation: 1894-1925
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1894-1923


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

Talcott Williams (1849-1928), an American 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 Beirut. 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 knowledge 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.


.3 linear foot (1 box)


Talcott Williams (1849-1928) was an American journalist and educator. The Talcott Williams collection consists of letters, pamphlets and clippings.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1987.

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  2. Removal: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversized boxes (32 inch)

OCLC Number

Processing Information

Processed by Shanon Lawson, November 1997. Finding encoded by John Caldwell, December 2017.

Finding aid for Talcott Williams papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2017 December 14
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA