Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

George Ticknor Curtis Letters

An inventory of his letters at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Apr 1989

Biographical History

George Ticknor Curtis (1812-1894) was an American lawyer, and author, best rememberd for his Constitutional history of the United States and a biography of James Buchanan.

Curtis was born in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1812. His brother was Benjamin R. Curtis who would go on to become a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. George Ticknor Curtis attended Harvard Law School from 1833-1834 before serving as a United States Commissioner in Boston. While in this office, Curtis was faced with making a decision in a fugitive slave case under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; instead, the defendant, Shadrach, was freed by a mob of abolitionist sympathizers that raided the courthouse. A Boston attorney and Whig, Curtis served as co-counsel, along with Montgomery Blair, for Dred Scott during the Dred Scott Case, 1846-1857 (Scott v. Sandford , 60 U.S. 393 (1857)).

Curtis is also known for his literary works concerning various topics of United States history. Many of these works were written under the pseudonym Peter Boylston. Some of his writings include:

1870 Life of Daniel Webster
1883 Life of James Buchanan: Fifteenth President of the United States
1887 The Life, Character, and Service of General G. B. M'Clellan
1889 A Constitutional History of the United States, from the Declaration of Independence to the Close of their Civil War
1889 John Charaxes; a Tale of the Civil War in America
1889 Plea for Religious Liberty and the Rights of Conscience

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Ticknor Curtis Letters are a collection of outgoing correspondence written between 1881 and 1891 by a lawyer and author of several books, most notably, a Constitutional history of the United States and a biography of James Buchanan.

The collection contains five letters to postmaster and author Nahum Capen, most of which contain offers of assistance in finding subscribers to a book Capen had written. In another of the letters Curtis inquires about the possibility of remuneration for contributing a biographical profile to a book which Hampton L. Carson was compiling. Curtis's son, Herbert, to Lloyd Bryce, editor of the North American Review, reflecting not so much parental pride as faith in his own reputation as a writer (13 May 1891):

My suggestion is, that you employ him as a reader of Articles, and if the Articles can be read at home he will have the benefit of my assistance.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Bryce, Lloyd, 1851-1917.
Capen, Nahum, 1804-1886.
Carson, Hampton L. (Hampton Lawrence), 1852-1929.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George Ticknor Curtis Letters
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents