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George Perkins Marsh Online Research Center

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Collection Overview

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 manuscript collection and from Marsh's letters located at other institutions.

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Time Period Covered: 1812-1929 

Sub-collections

Selected Published Works
Rebuilding the Vermont State House (1857-1859)
G. P. Marsh - Thomas W. Silloway Correspondence
G. P. Marsh - S. F. Baird Correspondence
State House Statues by L. G. Mead, Jr.

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Related Archival Collection(s)

George Perkins Marsh Collection

Provenance

The initial collection of George Perkins Marsh Papers came to the University of Vermont through donations made by Caroline Crane Marsh in the late 1880's and has had material material added from many sources since. It now consists of eighteen cartons, with material dating from 1812 to 1929.

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Published:  November 26, 2008,  University of Vermont, Bailey/Howe Library, Special Collections

Rights:  Requests to reproduce this item should be sent to the UVM Libraries' Center for Digital Initiatives at cdi@uvm.edu. For more information, see http://cdi.uvm.edu/about/rights. More information.


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Title:   G. P. Marsh - Alfred G. Peirce Correspondence

Resource type:   letter

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.

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    Title:   G. P. Marsh - C. E. Norton Correspondence

    Resource type:   letter

    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 intermittedly 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.

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      Title:   G. P. Marsh - Hiram Powers Correspondence

      Resource type:   letter

      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.

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        Title:   G. P. Marsh - S. F. Baird Correspondence

        Resource type:   letter

        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).

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          Title:   Selected Published Works

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            Title:   State House Statues by L. G. Mead, Jr.

            Larkin Goldsmith Mead, Jr. (1835-1910), was a prominent American sculptor in the nineteenth century. The son of a successful attorney, Mead grew up in Brattleboro and at the age of eighteen went to work as a studio assistant to the sculptor Henry Kirke Brown of New York City. He first drew national attention when in 1856, on New Year's Eve, he and some friends surprised Brattleboro residents by creating an eight foot snow statue called "Snow Angel." The incident was reported in the national press and immortalized by James Russell Lowell in his poem "A Good Word for Winter."While still a young man, Mead was chosen to design "Agriculture," a monumental female figure, to top the Vermont State House dome. As these letters show, Mead conferred with George Perkins Marsh, one of the three State House Commissioners, about the design and symbols for the figure. In sending Marsh three alternate sketches he wrote, "I wish you would inform me what you think will be the most proper design, for I should prize your opinion more than any ones else from your thorough experience in all pertaining to Art.Responding to Marsh's suggestions, Mead produced a more finished drawing: "Your letter was received this morning and I have made a sketch, trying to introduce proper symbols of Agriculture. Also the scroll (or Laws)."Johann Henkel, a German-born woodcarver living in Brattleboro, carved the original statue in pine. By 1938 "Agriculture", now badly decayed, was replaced by a copy.In 1858 Mead also submitted a design for a statue of Ethan Allen to be placed at Allen's grave in the Green Mount Cemetery in Burlington. In a letter to John N. Pomeroy of Burlington, head of the Statuary Commission, Mead included a drawing of the figure representing Allen demanding the surrender of Fort Ticonderoga "in the name of the Continental Congress and the Great Jehovah." At the time, Burlington residents were unable to raise enough money to pay for the monument, but the Legislature appropriated the necessary funds in 1859 and it was installed on the State House portico in 1861. A replica of the original took its place in 1941.In addition to his work at the Vermont State House, Mead is best known for the series of figures he designed for the Lincoln Memorial in Springfield, Illinois. A variation of his "Ethan Allen" is in Statuary Hall in the Capitol at Washington, D.C. In 1862 Mead emigrated to Florence, Italy where he became a permanent member of the American expatriate community.

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