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Williams, Talcott (1849–1928)

Talcott Williams was born in Beirut en route to Turkey where his parents were missionaries. He graduated from Phillips Academy and went on to Amherst, graduating in 1873. He learned journalism in New York City at the World and at the Sun. He joined the Philadelphia Press in 1881, remaining there for thirty-one years until he became the first head of the Columbia University School of Journalism. In Philadelphia, Williams was a regular at the literary gatherings on Saturday nights at the home of his neighbor and Whitman patron, Dr. S. Weir Mitchell. Among Williams's friends were the Shakespeare scholar Horace Howard Furness, the artist Thomas Eakins, and Whitman, whose poems he sometimes published. Whitman respected Williams, saying, "The only thing that saves the [Philadelphia] Press from entire damnation is the presence of Talcott Williams" (Traubel 341). He was one of the thirty-six subscribers who gave ten dollars each to buy a horse and buggy for Whitman. In 1887 Williams introduced Eakins to Whitman so that he could paint his portrait. A founder of Philadelphia's Contemporary Club, he arranged for Whitman to speak at one of its first meetings. Williams's biographer credits him with obtaining the revocation of the court order barring Leaves of Grass from the federal mail as pornographic material. As one of the honorary pallbearers at Whitman's funeral he read selections from the Bible, the Greek philosophers, Confucius, and the Koran.


Dunbar, Elizabeth. Talcott Williams: Gentleman of the Fourth Estate. Brooklyn: Robert E. Simpson, 1936.

Paneth, Donald, ed. The Encyclopedia of American Journalism. New York: Facts on File, 1983.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. 1. 1906. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961.

Williams, Talcott. The Newspaperman. New York: Scribner, 1922.

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