University of Texas at Austin

Collection of Autograph Leaves of our Country’s Authors :

An Inventory of the Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creators: Kennedy, John Pendleton, 1795-1870 and Bliss, Alexander, 1827-1896
Title: Collection of Autograph Leaves of our Country’s Authors
Dates: 1837-1864, undated
Extent: 1 oversize box (osb), 1.20 linear feet
Abstract: The collection consists of a bound volume of original manuscripts submitted by American authors for an 1864 publication (Autograph Leaves of our Country’s Authors) that was assembled by John Pendleton Kennedy and Alexander Bliss and sold for the benefit of Union soldiers during the Civil War. Among the contributors are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry David Thoreau.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-54148
Language: English, Italian, Latin,
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation Collection of Autograph Leaves of our Country’s Authors (Manuscript Collection MS-54148). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchase, 1958, Hanley I Collection
Processed by: Joan Sibley and Richard Workman, 2019 Note: This finding aid replicates and replaces information previously available only in a card catalog. Please see the explanatory note at the end of this finding aid for information regarding the arrangement of the manuscripts as well as the abbreviations commonly used in descriptions.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

During the American Civil War the U.S. Sanitary Commission promoted "sanitary fairs" in northern cities to raise funds for medical and other assistance for the Union troops. One such fair, the Maryland State Fair for U.S. Soldier Relief, was held in Baltimore from 18 April to 2 May 1864. Alexander Bliss, assistant quartermaster general of the Union army, and John Pendleton Kennedy, Maryland writer and politician, concocted a plan to solicit handwritten manuscripts from well-known American authors for publication in facsimile in a book to be sold at the fair. (Some sources say they also attempted to sell the original manuscripts.) The resulting printed book was titled Autograph Leaves of our Country’s Authors. After the book was produced, the original manuscripts were pasted into a bound volume, given the title, Autograph Leaves: 1864, and retained by Bliss and his heirs.
Noted authors represented in the collection include John Quincy Adams, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Henry Dana, Jr., Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Julia Ward Howe, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Herman Melville, Charles Eliot Norton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, and Daniel Webster. Writings include primarily short prose pieces, fragments of longer prose writing, and poetry. The original manuscripts are arranged in the bound volume in no apparent order; in this guide they are listed alphabetically by the author’s last name, with page numbers given for ease of location.
The contents of the manuscript volume and the printed book differ somewhat. The bound volume originally contained 98 manuscripts (including the Preface by Bliss and Kennedy), of which five were physically removed before the volume was acquired by the Harry Ransom Center, namely: a letter from Noah Webster to James Greenleaf; a letter from Lindley Murray to Robert and Elizabeth Pearsall; two excerpts by Louis Agassiz, one untitled and the other from his "Methods of Study"; and Abraham Lincoln’s handwritten copy of the Gettysburg Address. The Webster, Murray, and Agassiz items are listed in the table of contents of the manuscript volume, but do not appear in the printed version. Present in the printed book but not in manuscript is a copy of "The Star Spangled Banner" in the hand of Francis Scott Key. In several instances an author is represented in the printed book by a different document than that included among the manuscripts. The printed book reproduces 93 documents in all.
The reasons for the removal of the Webster, Murray, and Agassiz items are not known, nor is there any indication of what became of the Key manuscript. The Lincoln address remained with the collection until about 1949, when it was removed by the Bliss heirs and sold at auction to a private collector. The new owner eventually bequeathed the document (known as the Bliss copy, one of five in existence in Lincoln’s hand) to the White House, where it now hangs in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Container List

Autograph Leaves, 1864 (1837-1864). From the Hanley Collection. Formerly cataloged as MS X-1. Consists of 93 separate handwritten documents pasted into a bound volume: Container osb 1