George Perkins Marsh Online Research Center
The George Perkins Marsh Research Center provides access to transcriptions and images of selected letters in Marsh's correspondence. With a generous grant from the Woodstock Foundation we have transcribed over 650 letters from the University...
Show moreThe George Perkins Marsh Research Center provides access to transcriptions and images of selected letters in Marsh's correspondence. With a generous grant from the Woodstock Foundation we have transcribed over 650 letters from the University manuscript collection and from Marsh's letters located at other institutions.
Major topics in the correspondence selected for electronic publication are:
The American Civil War. The letters present the war from two perspectives: as it was experienced by those in Europe and by those in New England, particularly in Vermont. Marsh, an ardent Unionist, wrote from Italy, where there were many active Confederate sympathizers in the American expatriate community and among English residents. The view from Vermont is represented by Albert G. Peirce, a Burlington grocer, who sent Marsh detailed accounts of the war as it affected the city. Other Vermonters and Charles Eliot Norton, the Harvard luminary and an active abolitionist, also wrote of their hopes and opinions as the war progressed.
Vermont geography. Creating an accurate geographical description of the complex Vermont landscape remained a problem throughout the nineteenth century. Marsh and his brother Charles, a Woodstock, Vermont, farmer, made several attempts to measure the elevation of Vermont mountains, and Marsh kept in contact with leading geographers of the day to find more accurate instruments to measure temperature and ascertain the exact landmass of the state.
Nineteenth century sculpture. Marsh's friendship with Hiram Powers, begun when both were children on neighboring Woodstock farms, led to a correspondence in which Powers not only described the trials and tribulations of a working sculptor, but discussed his ideas about classical and contemporary works in some detail. Powers's aesthetics are most clearly expressed in his letters to Caroline Crane Marsh regarding the bust he made of her, now in the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont. In addition, Marsh corresponded with Larkin G. Mead, then a young sculptor from Barre, who designed the statue of "Agriculture" atop the State House, and with John Norton Pomeroy of Burlington about the statue of Ethan Allen, carved in Italy under Marsh's supervision, that now stands above Allen's grave in Burlington's Green Mount Cemetery.
Nineteenth century public architecture. The rebuilding of the Vermont State House in 1857 provides a detailed picture of how American connoisseurs and architects designed public buildings. The collection contains over ninety letters by Thomas W. Silloway, the architect, to Marsh, one of the building commissioners, discussing appropriate forms for each element, as well as the politics involved in construction. These are enhanced by letters from the building superintendent, Thomas E. Powers of Woodstock, from another commissioner, Norman Williams of Woodstock, and from state legislators and private citizens caught up in what was a highly controversial undertaking.
Creation of the Smithsonian Institution. The evolution of the museum and its support for scientific expeditions and collection development are documented in the correspondence between Marsh and Spencer Fullerton Baird which began in 1847 and ended with Marsh's death in 1882. Marsh was instrumental in securing a post at the Smithsonian for Baird, who eventually became its second director and founded the Oceanographic Institute at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The two men also worked together to increase the Smithsonian's collections and facilitate the exchange of scientific information with Italy.
In addition the letters provide information on nineteenth century domestic life, the politics surrounding Vermont's railroads, local and national social and political developments, the tangled relationships between the European powers, and other subjects of interest to educated and engaged individuals of the time.
The Center also includes the full text of contemporary publications that are related to the major topics of the letters.
Biography: When Man and Nature was published in 1864 it was immediately hailed as a major contribution to the field of physical geography. Now a classic of environmental literature, its author, George Perkins Marsh, was one of the first to recognize and described in detail the significance of human action in transforming the natural world.
Lawyer, diplomat, and scholar, Marsh, was born on March 15, 1801 at Woodstock, Vermont. In 1820 he graduated with highest honors from Dartmouth. He immediately tried teaching, but finding it distasteful, studied law with his father, Charles Marsh. Admitted to the bar in 1825, he practiced in Burlington, Vermont, where he became prominent in his profession. On April 10, 1828, he married Harriet Buell of Burlington. They had two sons; the eldest died a few days before his mother in 1833. Marsh immersed himself in the study of Icelandic and other Scandinavian languages, beginning a life long career as a philologist and linguist. Six years after his first wife's death, he married Caroline Crane of Berkley, Massachusetts. Already well known as a lawyer, business man and scholar, in 1835 he was elected to the Governor's Council. In 1843 he ran for Congress as a Whig, and during three successive terms proved himself a cogent speaker in support of a high tariff and in opposition to slavery and the Mexican War. He served on the committee that established and guided the future of the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1849 President Taylor appointed Marsh U.S. Minister to Turkey. He aided refugees from central European revolutions of 1848, and in the summer of 1852 he was sent to Athens on a special mission. He collected specimens for the Smithsonian during an intensive tour of Egypt and Palestine.
Recalled by a new administration in 1854, Marsh labored to mend his bankrupt fortunes, to act as Vermont railroad commissioner, fish commissioner, and to lead a commission formed to rebuild the Vermont State House. He lectured throughout the northeast and mid-West and taught courses on the English language at Columbia College and the Lowell Institute. Having joined and campaigned for the Republican party in 1856, he was sent by President Lincoln as the first United States minister to the new kingdom of Italy in 1861, a post he held for the remaining twenty-one years of his life. He won admirers in the Italian government and a greater reputation as a scholar by his mastery of Italian affairs and his writings on language and environmental matters. He died on July 23, 1882 at Vallombrosa, near Florence, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome.
David Lowenthal's George Perkins Marsh: Prophet of Conservation. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000.
Caroline Crane Marsh's Life and Letters of George Perkins Marsh. Vol. I. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1888.
Biographical sketches can also be found in national biographical dictionaries.
Technical Information The text files were created using WordPerfect 7.0 as an SGML editor and the DTD for historical documents developed by Dr. David R. Chesnutt of the University of South Carolina and the Model Editions Partnership (MEP). The SGML publication used DynaText, a software package developed by EBT Corporation of Providence Rhode Island and granted to the University of Vermont under their educational grant program. WordPerfect 9.0 was used as the final editor and parser.
The actual coding depended largely on programs James P. Tranowski wrote to process the letters. Ellen Mazur Thomson did the bulk of it, although Cheryl Morrison and several graduate students connected with the MEP project at the University of South Carolina also worked on the letters. William Hicks of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, provided additional coding of the Correspondence Lists. Aaron Shamp coded the footnotes, entered copy editing corrections, parsed and cleaned all the SGML files and entities.
Paul Philbin and Marcie A. Crocker, at the Howe Library and Hope A. Greenberg, at the Academic Computing Service served as technical advisers for the hardware and software.
Original web publication came through DynaWeb, also an EBT grant program.
On November 26, 2008 The George Perkin Marsh Online Research Center was migrated from its original location http://bailey2.uvm.edu/specialcollections/gpmorc.html to its new home at the CDI. Documents were migrated from SGML to XML using openSP and XSL.
Contributors David A. Donath, the Advisory Board of Directors, and the Board of Trustees of the Woodstock Foundation provided the financial support that made this project possible. Bruce Kirby, archivist at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and archivists at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, the New York Historical Society, and the Archives of American Art provided copies of Marsh correspondence in their collections for us to transcribe and publish. The Vermont Historical Society allowed us to reproduce photographs in their collection.
Connell Gallagher, head of the Special Collections Department, and Dr. Elizabeth H. Dow, created the project; Dr. Dow acted as Project Director. Ellen Mazur Thomson was Project Manager.
Faculty and staff members of the Special Collections Department gave us specialized and expert reference: David Blow, Ingrid Bower, Sylvia Bugbee, Karen Campbell, Sylvia Knight and Jeffrey Marshall.
Dr. Robert H. Rogers of the Classics Department, transcribed and annotated many of the Greek and Latin phrases used in the letters. Dr. Ralph H. Orth translated German materials, Ellen Mazur Thomson translated those in French.
Dr. Ralph H. Orth, Professor Emeritus of the University of Vermont, created the transcription protocols for the letters. He transcribed most of the Powers and Norton letters and provided notes for their correspondence with Marsh. John Thomas transcribed Marsh's letters to Baird and Jacob Colie transcribed the Peirce letters. Eileen N. Brown contributed notes.
Ellen Mazur Thomson selected the letters, designed the [original] web pages and wrote the introductory text.
Related Archival Collection
- George Perkins Marsh - Albert G. Peirce Correspondence
A Burlington businessman, Albert G. Peirce ran J. S. Peirce and Sons, a grocery and agricultural supplies store on Church Street. When the Marshes left for Italy, the family looked after their house and forwarded their mail.
- George Perkins Marsh - Charles Eliot Norton Correspondence
The friendship between Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), the American scholar and professor of art history at Harvard, and George Perkins Marsh began in the winter of 1860-61, while Marsh was lecturing at the Lowell Institute in Boston. When Marsh was appointed Minister to Italy, he wanted Norton...
The friendship between Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), the American scholar and professor of art history at Harvard, and George Perkins Marsh began in the winter of 1860-61, while Marsh was lecturing at the Lowell Institute in Boston. When Marsh was appointed Minister to Italy, he wanted Norton, who had spent some time in Italy, appointed secretary of Legation, but the choice was not Marsh's to make.
During the early period of the correspondence, Norton co-edited the North American Review(1864-1868) and helped E.L. Godkin to found the Nation (1865). Norton was also a committed abolitionist and the conduct of the Civil War figures prominently in many of the letters. In the summer of 1868 Norton returned to Europe with his family and visited the Marshes. Marsh helped Norton obtain material for Norton's prose translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (1891-92).
The correspondence continued intermittently until Marsh's death in 1882. At that time Caroline Crane Marsh asked Norton to return her husband's letters for a projected biography. In consequence, most of the correspondence is now in the Marsh Collection at the University of Vermont; the remainder is part of the Norton Papers at the Houghton Library at Harvard University.
- George Perkins Marsh - Hiram Powers Correspondence
George Perkins Marsh and Hiram Powers (1805-1873), the most famous American sculptor of the nineteenth century, had been boyhood friends in Woodstock, Vermont. They lost touch when the Powers family moved to Cincinnati but resumed contact in 1847 when Marsh and a former governor of Vermont,...
George Perkins Marsh and Hiram Powers (1805-1873), the most famous American sculptor of the nineteenth century, had been boyhood friends in Woodstock, Vermont. They lost touch when the Powers family moved to Cincinnati but resumed contact in 1847 when Marsh and a former governor of Vermont, Charles Paine, wrote to Powers about commissions for the Vermont State House. By this time Powers was an established sculptor in Florence, where he had emigrated in 1837. The two men renewed their relationship after Marsh visited Italy in 1849 en route to his diplomatic post in Constantinople, and maintained close personal ties until Powers' death in 1873.
Powers began his artistic career in Cincinnati, excelling in portrait busts. A wealthy benefactor financed several trips to Washington, where he made portraits of President Andrew Jackson, Chief Justice John Marshall, and other statesmen that were highly praised. When he moved to Italy with his family, he continued with portraiture as well as full length figures taken from history and myth. His "Greek Slave" (1841) was undoubtedly his most famous work. A standing figure of a nude woman in shackles, done in the Neo-classical tradition of the day, it inspired both praise and condemnation and established his international reputation.
Powers had a long and bitter relationship with members of Congressional committees who selected work for the new U.S. Capitol. This and other commissions are fully discussed in his correspondence with Marsh. The two men also shared an interest in Classical sculpture. Powers' letters describe in some detail the thinking that underlay his approach to art.
In addition to artistic matters, Powers and Marsh wrote frequently about the Civil War, its personalities, conduct, and significance. The letters also contain descriptions of the Powers family and of their circle of friends, including Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Also figuring in the correspondence are Caroline Crane Marsh, Marsh's wife, and George Ozias Marsh, his son, as well as Longworth Powers, Powers' son.
The letters in this collection date from 1847 to 1871. They are housed in the Marsh Collection at the Special Collections Department, Bailey-Howe Library, University of Vermont; the Powers Papers at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and the New-York Historical Society.
- George Perkins Marsh - Spencer Fullerton Baird Correspondence
A leading 19th century authority on North American wildlife, Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887) is now remembered as a science administrator. He was the first director of the United States National Museum, second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and founder of the U.S. Fish Commission,...
A leading 19th century authority on North American wildlife, Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823-1887) is now remembered as a science administrator. He was the first director of the United States National Museum, second secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and founder of the U.S. Fish Commission, the forerunner of the Oceanographic Institute at Woods Hole, Massachusetts. He placed naturalists on all major government-sponsored expeditions, and created an international network of scientific exchange for the United States.
Baird met Marsh through his wife, Mary Churchill Baird, who had known the Marshes when she was a schoolgirl in Burlington. Baird and Marsh shared many professional interests, worked hard to further each other's careers, and corresponded regularly from 1847 until Marsh's death 35 years later. As a member of the governing Board of Regents, Marsh recommended Baird for the position of assistant secretary at the Smithsonian, collected specimens for him during his term as U.S. Minister to Turkey, and furthered connections between the Smithsonian and learned societies in Italy and elsewhere.
Most of Marsh's letters are housed at the Archives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC while Baird's letters are part of the Marsh Collection in the Special Collections Department, at the University of Vermont. Biographical information can be found in William H. Dall, Spencer Fullerton Baird. A Biography. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1915) and E. F. Rivinus and E. M. Youssef, Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1992).
- George Perkins Marsh - Thomas W. Silloway Correspondence
The architect commissioned to design the Vermont State House, Thomas William Silloway (1828-1910) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he also lived and worked as an apprentice to a house carpenter. He moved to Boston and worked in the office of Ammi B. Young, the architect of the...
Show moreThe architect commissioned to design the Vermont State House, Thomas William Silloway (1828-1910) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he also lived and worked as an apprentice to a house carpenter. He moved to Boston and worked in the office of Ammi B. Young, the architect of the destroyed Vermont State House. The courthouse in Woodstock, Vermont, also designed by Young, was destroyed by fire in 1854, and Silloway was chosen to design a new courthouse, under Thomas E. Powers, the superintendent of construction of that project as well. Following his work on the Vermont State House, Silloway studied for the ministry and, in 1862, was ordained as a minister. He went on to design numerous churches, including Montpelier's Universalist church in 1865, as well as various public buildings, including the Goddard Seminary in Barre, 1866-1870, and the Jenkins Memorial Library in North Conway, New Hampshire. He was also commissioned as architect of buildings at Buchtel College in Akron, Ohio. His published works include Text-book of Modern Carpentry, (Boston: Crosby, Nichols & Co., 1858), and, with Lee L. Powers, The Cathedral Towns and Intervening Places of England, Ireland, and Scotland: a description of cities, cathedrals, lakes, mountains, rivers, and watering places, (Boston: A. Williams, 1883).