Henry George papers

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Collection Data

Collection contains George's correspondence, 1854-1897; diaries, 1855-1896; manuscripts of his writings; photographs; and family papers documenting nearly every phase of his life and career. Extensive correspondence includes letters to and from George to members of his family, friends and political associates in the Single Tax and Irish nationalist movements in America and abroad. Much of the correspondence also concerns his journalistic work and other writing projects. 1869 letterbook consists of letters relating to his work for the San Francisco Herald and his dealings with the Associated Press. Letterbooks of 1881-1882 contain chiefly letters written from Britain to Patrick Ford, editor of the New York Irish World assessing the policies and actions of the leaders of the Irish Land League and reporting on his lecture tour.
George, Henry, 1839-1897 (Creator)
Dawson, Thomas (Correspondent)
Ford, Patrick (Patrick J.) (Addressee)
Garland, Hamlin, 1860-1940 (Correspondent)
George, Annie Fox, 1843-1904 (Contributor)
George, Henry, 1862-1916 (Contributor)
Hyndman, H. M. (Henry Mayers), 1842-1921 (Correspondent)
Johnson, Tom Loftin, 1854-1911 (Correspondent)
Joynes, J. L. (James Leigh), -1893 (Correspondent)
Lewis, August (Correspondent)
McGlynn, Edward, 1837-1900 (Correspondent)
Müller, F. Max (Friedrich Max), 1823-1900 (Correspondent)
Post, Louis F. (Louis Freeland), 1849-1928 (Correspondent)
Shaw, Francis George, 1809-1882 (Correspondent)
Shearman, Thomas Gaskell, 1834-1900 (Correspondent)
Taylor, Edward Robeson, 1838-1923 (Correspondent)
Taylor, Helen, 1831-1907 (Correspondent)
Walker, Thomas F. (Correspondent)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1840 - 1950 (Approximate)
Library locations
Manuscripts and Archives Division
Shelf locator: MssCol 1137
Ireland -- Politics and government -- 19th century
Journalism -- United States -- 19th century
Reformers -- United States -- 19th century
Single tax
Social problems -- United States -- 19th century
Davitt, Michael, 1846-1906
Parnell, Charles Stewart, 1846-1891
Henry George, printer-journalist, political economist, and reformer, was the most important and influential radical theorist of nineteenth century America. Born in Philadelphia in 1839, the second of ten children of Richard S. H. George and Catharine (Vallance) George, he was raised in modest circumstances and in a pious, evangelical Protestant atmosphere. After brief attendance at three schools and two years of private tutoring, George began work, at the same time embarking on a life-long regime of self-education. At 16 he shipped out as foremast boy on the vessel Hindoo, bound for Melbourne and Calcutta. On his return in 1856 he had difficulty finding work, and after none months apprenticeship as a typesetter, he again left home, this time in search of new opportunities in California. But times were hard in the West, and George found only temporary jobs as a typesetter. He fell deeply in love with Australian-born Annie Corsina Fox and, though out of work and in debt, married her in 1861; his financial burden was soon increased by the birth of two sons. By 1865 the family was near starvation, but George was beginning to build a reputation as a contributor to the local press. Over the next decade he worked as a reporter and editor for several papers, including four years (1871-1875) as editor of his own San Francisco Daily Evening Post. Active in local politics, he shifted his loyalties from Lincoln Republicanism to the Democrats, and became a trenchant critic of railroad and mining interests, corrupt politicians, land speculators, and labor contractors. He failed as a Democratic candidate for the state legislature, but landed the patronage job of state inspector of gas meters. In an 1871 pamphlet, Our Land and Land Policy, he first set out his theory of rent as the primary cause of monopoly and poverty, and advocated a single tax on land. Between 1877 and 1879 he pursued work on a major treatise, his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty. After failing to find a publisher, George brought out five hundred copies on his own. The plates were then taken by Appleton's and the book soon became a sensation, translated into many languages and assured George's fame. At the heart of his oft-repeated critique of Gilded Age capitalism was the conviction that rent and private land-ownership violated the hallowed principles of Jeffersonian democracy and that poverty was an affront to the moral values of Judeo-Christian culture. Now in demand as a writer and lecturer, George moved to New York in 1880 and soon became closely involved with the Irish nationalist community. The publication of his The Irish Land Question resulted in his being sent to Ireland and England in 1881-1882 on assignment for the radical Irish World. There he became acquainted with Michael Davitt and other leaders of the Irish Land League, and with many English socialists and radicals, including H. M. Hyndman and Helen Taylor. He returned to New York a hero, with a strong transatlantic following, and agreed to run for mayor in 1886 as the candidate of the United Labor Party. After a strenuous campaign against Democrat Abram S. Hewitt and Republican Theodore Roosevelt, George came second in the poll; many supporters charged that fraud had robbed him of victory. George now found his own base in a national network of Single Tax clubs, and his own organ in the New York Standard (1887-1892). He toured Britain again in 1888 and 1889, and was warmly welcomed to Australia and New Zealand in 1890. He suffered a slight stroke in the winter of 1890-1891, but continued to lecture widely and write prolifically. Among his later works are Protection or Free Trade (1886); An Open Letter to the Pope (1891), a reply to Leo XIII's encyclical The Condition of Labor; A Perplexed Philosopher (1892), a critique of Herbert Spencer; and The Science of Political Economy (1897), a grand summation of his economic and ethical ideas. In his later years George found himself more and more at odds with both socialists and mainstream labor leaders; his movement increasingly attracted middle class progressives. In 1897, aged fifty-eight and in poor health, George allowed himself to be persuaded to run again for mayor, this time as an independent Democrat. At the very close of the campaign, on October 29th, he suffered a stroke and died; his eldest son and close collaborator, Henry George, Jr., stepped in to complete the campaign, but earned only 22,000 votes. The respect and affection felt for Henry George were demonstrated in the funeral ceremonies, in which more than a hundred thousand people viewed his body and joined the procession to the burial site in Brooklyn, and in the outpouring of written tributes from around the world.
Content: Taken as a whole this collection provides rich documentation of nearly every phase of Henry George's life and career. The correspondence forms the largest and most comprehensive section of the collection and reflects his habit of writing constantly to his family and his closest political colleagues, especially while traveling abroad. His close relationship to the Irish national movement is well demonstrated, not only in his letterbooks of correspondence with the (New York) Irish World, but also in his diaries and notebooks, and in manuscripts of articles and lectures. While the growth and inner workings of the American Single Tax movement are well illustrated in the correspondence, diaries, and writings, other aspects of George's political activity are less adequately covered. In particular, there is little material here concerning George's two New York City mayoral campaigns (1886 and 1897). To complete the records of George's intellectual and political ideas and activity, as well as the passionate response (both pro and con) he evoked, it is necessary to consult the full body of published work by and about him. Users should be aware that a large part of Anna George de Mille's original donation of Henry George material, including 29 volumes of scrapbooks of clippings [classmark TIQB+ (George)], bound volumes of pamphlets, loose pamphlets and periodicals, and books, can be found in the Economics and Public Affairs Division of the Library. For details of these holdings consult the two bibliographies cited below.
Physical Description
Extent: 8.5 linear feet (22 boxes, 15 v., l oversize folder)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b11822933
MSS Unit ID: 1137
Archives collections id: archives_collections_1137
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 84b41090-279b-0135-62f5-0fb7b6b36733
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