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John D. Townsend Manuscript

An inventory of his item(s) at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Oct 1987

Biographical History

John D. Townsend (1835-1896) was an American lawyer and author who wrote New York in Bondage (1901).

John Drake Townsend was born in New York City in 1835. His father, John R. Townsend, was an attorney in the city. His father was also the first President of the New York Life and Trust Company. John D. Townsend entered Columbia College at the age of thirteen, but his college career was short-lived. By the age of twenty, he was the second officer of "The Flying Cloud," a clipper ship that made headlines when it sailed from New York to San Francisco in only 89 days.

Townsend married Miss Delano Swan with whom he had four daughters. Due to financial difficulties, Townsend turned his attention to law, studying with Messrs. Sprague and Fillmore for three years followed by two years at the Dane Law School of Harvard University. He was admitted to the New York State Bar in May 1859.

The lawyer served in the Queens County Legislature before being asked by Governor Morgan to serve on a committee responsible for organizing a war regiment from Townsend's Senatorial district. He went on to act as a delegate to the Democratic State Convention on numerous occasions. Townsend earned the reputation of being "The Fighting Lawyer," and was eventually chosen to serve as the sole attorney for William "Boss" Tweed. He was later selected by the Assembly Committee to oversee the examination of the District Attorney's office, the Police Department, and various other branches of the city government.

Townsend died on Christmas night, 1896 during a dinner party given by friends.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John D. Townsend Manuscript consist of a single item, an undated bound typescript manuscript with pencil corrections for his book New York in Bondage.


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


Townsend, John D. (John Drake), 1935-1896. New York in bondage


Authors, American.
Tweed Ring.


New York (N.Y.) -- Politics and government -- To 1898.

Genres and Forms

Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John D. Townsend Manuscript
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

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