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George H. Boker papers

Ms. Coll. 661

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Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Boker, George H. (George Henry), 1823-1890
George H. Boker papers
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 661
0.8 Linear feet (2 boxes)
George Henry Boker (1823-1890) was an American poet, playwright, and diplomat whose patriotic writings supported the Union government during the American Civil War. This collection contains letters to and from Boker; a small portion of financial records, largely relating to the publishing of Boker's poetry; and poems, plays and other writings by Boker.
Cite as:
George H. Boker papers, 1837-1919, Ms. Coll. 1067, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
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George Henry Boker (1823-1890) was an American poet, playwright, and diplomat whose patriotic writings supported the Union government during the American Civil War. The son of an influential banker, Boker was educated in private schools and Princeton University, from which he graduated in 1842. He was educated as a lawyer, but focused his energy on writing. His plays include Calaynos,  The Betrothal,  Anne Boleyn,  Leor de Guzman and  Francesca Da Rimini.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Boker became involved in the foundation (in November 1862) and support of the Union League of Philadelphia, an organization designed to "support President Lincoln, the administration, and the Union," ( PA Civil War 150). He also wrote poetry that supported the Union and was patriotic in nature. In 1864,  Poems of War was published. He served as secretary of the Union League from 1863 to 1871.

His support of the Union appears to have been recognized as President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Boker as an ambassador to Turkey in 1871 and Russia in 1875. Following the presidential election of 1876, Boker was recalled from diplomatic service and he returned to Philadelphia. From 1879 to 1884, Boker served as president of the Union League. Towards the end of his life, his play Francesca Da Rimini "found a resurgence on the Philadelphia stage demanding a reprinting," ( Mechanics National Bank). After Boker's death in 1890 in Philadelphia,  Sequence of Profane Love, a collection of sonnets, was published posthumously.

Scope and Contents

The George H. Boker papers contains letters to and from Boker; a small portion of financial records, largely relating to the publishing of Boker's writings; and poems, plays and other writings by Boker. The first two portions of the collection include letters to and letters from Boker. In both cases, the letters are arranged in alphabetical order. The letters are generally personal and friendly in nature and most discuss Boker's writings; however, some letters are more politics-driven, in particular those by Simon Cameron, Michael M. Fottion, John Jay, the Society of the Army of the Republic, the United States Department of State, and the United States Legations for Russia and Turkey. Letters from Boker are also largely about his (and others') writings, but there is a notable letter to Edmund C. Stedman about the death of his friend Bayard Taylor.

Financial records are almost entirely receipts and notes relating to the publishing of Boker's writings although there are a few relating to Boker's salary when he worked as a diplomat.

Boker's writings in this collection consist of poems and plays and are arranged in chronological order. Many of the poems were written by George H. Boker in response to the United States Civil War. The poems were published either in newspapers or as broadsides and date from 1854 to 1868. While the majority of the poems in this collection are patriotic war poems, there are a few that do not relate to the war; including one referring to Queen Victoria reviewing the Baltic Fleet in 1854 and one written for the wedding day of Boker's friend Bayard Taylor (who married Maria Hansen in October 1857).

In addition to his own war poems, the collection includes the poems of others who were inspired or enraged by Boker's "Tardy George," (probably referring to George McClellan despite Major General George Sykes earning the nickname "Tardy George"). One or two of the poems included (for example, "In the Wilderness," and "Hymn for the Eighty-Seventh Anniversary of American Independence") were published in Boker's Poems of the War, but the majority were not part of that work.

Of note is "An Old Story," a selection of 87 sonnets compiled into a scrapbook by Angelina King Hicks, who may have been the inspiration for the poems. According to Sculley Bradley, "these sonnets are unmistakably personal in tone, and their reality and depth of feeling preclude the possibility of considering them either as poetic exercises or flights of fancy" (Sculley, page 259). Another volume of note, The Book of the Dead, includes a series of poems Boker wrote to defend his father's reputation following his death and a lawsuit by the Girard Bank.

This collection documents Boker's literary life more than his political and diplomatic life, although his politics are certainly reflected strongly in his writings.


Bradley, Sculley, "George Henry Boker and Angie Hicks," American Literature, Volume III, Number 3, November 1936 (Box 2, Folder 1).

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  2015 April 20

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Holly Mengel

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Source of Acquisition

The letters to Boker, gift of Sculley Bradley, 1972; Manuscripts of Book of the Dead, Glaucus, Nydia, The Queen Must Dance, and A Welcome to Garibaldi, gift of E. Sculley Bradley, 1946-1947; Letters to Boker, formerly Dewey 812 B633L; and Civil War broadsides, formerly Dewey 811 B634W.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At Penn State University: George H. Boker collection, 1849-1887, RBM 4055

At Princeton University: George H. Boker collection, 1847-1888, CO208

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Controlled Access Headings

  • Broadsides (notices)
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Plays (performed works)
  • Poems
Geographic Name(s)
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Love poetry
  • Patriotic poetry
  • Poets, American--19th century
  • War poetry

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Collection Inventory

I. Letters to Boker.

Box Folder

Aldrich, Thomas Baily, 1856, 1862, 1866.

1 1

Brine, Lindesay, undated.

1 3

Butler, Sarah, undated.

1 4

Cameron, Simon, 1864-1870.

1 5

Cesnola, Luigi Palma di, 1874.

1 6

Child, Josiah, 1857.

1 7

Childs, George William, undated.

1 8

Couldock, C.W. (Charles Walter), 1851.

1 9

Curtis, George William, 1863-1871.

1 10

Dana, Charles A. (Charles Anderson), 1866, 1868.

1 11

Davenport, Edward Loomis, undated.

1 12

de Ruiz, Pauline B., undated.

1 13

Delb, Thomas, 1853 June 3.

1 14

Drew, Louisa, 1895 February 25.

1 15

Dudley, Thomas H. (Thomas Haines), contains only ribbons for Grant and President Lincoln (following his death), undated.

1 16

Field, Cyrus W. (Cyrus West), 1868.

1 17

Fields, James Thomas, 1839-1868.

1 18

Fottion, Michael M., 1874-1877.

1 19

Frémont, Jessie Benton, undated.

1 20

Godkin, Edwin Lawrence, undated.

1 21

Hay, John (signatures only), undated.

1 22

Heron, Matilda, 1854.

1 23

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1863-1865.

1 24

Jay, John, 1867-1868.

1 25

Kean, Charles John, 1853.

1 26

Kemble, William H., 1865.

1 27

Lacey, H., undated.

1 28

Lee, S. Adams (Samuel Adams), 1857, 1866.

1 30

Matthieu, G., undated.

1 31

McKenzie, R. Shelton, 1869, 1882.

1 32

Meade, George Gordon, 1866.

1 33

Milliken, James, 1871 November 8.

1 34

Morley, John, 1868-1869.

1 35

Murdoch, James Edward (includes two newspaper clippings), 1851.

1 36

Niven, Alexander T., 1837.

1 37

Porter, Daniel D., 1865 June 23.

1 38

Press of the United States, dinner invitation "in complement to Mr. Charles Dickens", 1868 April 18.

1 39

Read, John M. (John Meredith), 1868 May 1.

1 40

Read, Thomas Buchanan, 1853-1854.

1 41

Savage, John, 1871 November 8.

1 42

Schuyler, Eugene, 1876 October 17.

1 43

Seward, William Henry, 1865 June 10.

1 44

Shaw-Lefevre, John George, 1867 July 30.

1 45

Sheridan, Philip Henry, 1864 December 14.

1 46

Simms, William Gilmore (letter to Henry C. Lea), circa 1851.

1 47

Smith, Harrison, circa 1855.

1 48

Smith, R.D. (includes three photographs), 1866.

1 49

Society of the Army of the Republic, 1869-1870.

1 50

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, undated.

1 51

Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 1864-1871.

1 52

Stoddard, Richard Henry, 1856 April-October.

1 53

"Canopus," poem by Bayard Taylor, 1864 November 12.

1 54

Thompson, John Reuben, note accompanying newspaper clipping regarding Boker, 1869 September 21.

1 55

Tilton, Theodore, 1863, 1871.

1 56

Tuckerman, Henry T. (Henry Theodore), 1850, 1866.

1 57

Union League Club (New York, NY), invitation and note regarding the presentation of a testimonial to Mr. Thomas Nast, 1869 April.

1 58

Union League of Philadelphia, meeting announcements and notes (includes a paper entitled, "A Third Term--Tradition--The Constitution"), 1869-1871.

1 59

United States Department of State, 1875.

1 60

United States Legation (Russia), 1877-1878.

1 61

United States Legation (Turkey), letters and invitation in Turkish, 1875.

1 62

Whipple, William D. (William Denison), 1865 February 23.

1 63

White, Richard Grant, 1865 June-July.

1 64

Willis, Nathaniel Parker, 1851, 1855.

1 65

Wilton, J. Hall, 1851 March-May.

1 66

Young, John Russell, 1867-1868.

1 67

Unidentified correspondents, 1850-1867.

1 68

II. Letters from Boker.

Box Folder

Bromley, Theodore, letter relating to seats for the performance of Francesca da Rimini, 1883 September 13.

1 69

Kinney, Mrs. E.C., thank you letter, 1850 January 28.

1 69

Murdoch, James E., letter regarding poems, 1864 April 4.

1 69

Stedman, Edmund Clarence, letters regarding "Book of Sonnets" and about the death of Bayard Taylor, 1867, 1879.

1 69

III. Financial information.

Box Folder

Accounts and receipts related to Boker's writings ( Anne Boleyn,  Our Heroic Themes,  Plays and Poems, and  Poems of War), 1856-1868.

1 69

Letter relating to salary from the United States Treasury Department, 1877 March 20.

1 69

IV. Poems, plays, and other writings.

Box Folder

"Sonnet to Queen Victoria," New York Daily Tribune, 1854 June 7.

1 71

Verse, autographed by Boker, 1850, 1888.

2 7

"Dies Nuptials," New York Daily Tribune, 1857 October 27.

1 71

"An Old Story," 87 sonnets, compiled by Angelina King Hicks (includes article regarding the volume by Sculley Bradley), 1861-1863.

2 1

"An Old Story," items laid in (includes letters to Angelina and Thomas Hicks from Parke Godwin and John Sartain and clippings of poems by George H. Boker, probably from "Poems of War", 1850-1880.

2 2

"Tardy George," second edition (3 copies), 1862 January.

1 71

"'Tardy George,' A True Version," by Richard Vaux, undated.

1 71

"Glorious George," by Henry Coppée, undated.

1 71

"Glorious George," by Henry Coppée (corrected version), undated.

1 71

[Untitled poem based upon "Tardy George"], by Charles J. Peterson, undated.

1 71

"The Queen Must Dance," first draft, 1862 February 7.

1 72

"Dedication to Mrs. Eliza Conrad", 1862 July 1.

1 72

"Narrative of what occurred between Mr. Schott and Captain Le Roy", 1862.

1 29

"The Second Louisiana" (2 copies), 1963 May 27.

1 71

"Das Zweite Louisiana Regiment," German version of the "The Second Louisiana", 1863 May 27.

1 71

"Hymn for the Eighty-Seventh Anniversary of American Independence", 1863 July 4.

1 71

"In the Wilderness, An incident of the Battle-field of 'The Wilderness,'", 1864 May 7.

1 71

"Hymn for the Union League", 1865 July 4.

1 71

"Hymn for the Union League," annotated copy stating, "This Hymn was sung at the Thanksgiving Dinner in Paris, December 7, 1865, a copy of the poem, of which this is one, being placed under the cover of each guest", 1865 December 7.

1 71

"The Queen Must Dance," poem written in 1862, published in a Philadelphia newspaper, 1867 April 14.

1 71

Book of the Dead, corrected copy, 1882.

2 3

"Grant before the People", undated.

1 71

Nydia, typescript, 1885.

2 4

Glaucus, typescript, 1886.

2 5

"Evening," extract from an unpublished play, 1888.

2 6

"A Series of Sonnets", 1919.

2 6

"A Welcome to Garibaldi", undated.

1 72

"Song of the Anderson Cavalry", undated.

1 71

"The Copperhead," for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, undated.

1 71

"The Ivory Carver", undated.

2 6