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Alfred Thayer Mahan Collection


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Mahan, A. T. (Alfred Thayer), 1840-1914

Alfred Thayer Mahan was a U.S. naval officer and historian. A Union naval officer in the Civil War, he later lectured on naval history and strategy at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., of which he was president (1886-89, 1892-93). Out of his lectures came his two major works on the historical significance of sea power: The influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890) and The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812 (2 vols., 1892). In these he argued that naval power was the key to success in international politics; the nation that controlled the seas held the decisive factor in modern warfare. Theodore Roosevelt and other proponents of a big navy and overseas expansion were influenced by Mahan's writings. Among his many works are biographies of David Farragut and Horatio Nelson and the autobiographical From Sail to Steam.

The collection consists chiefly of letters by Mahan to staff members of the New York publisher Charles Scribner's Sons. The major correspondents are Edward L. Burlingame, first editor of the firm's most successful magazine, Scribner's Magazine, to whom Mahan writes about his manuscript of "Gulf Island Waters," his article "Campaign on Lake Champlain of 1776," and galleys and proofs of other works; and Joseph Hawley Chapin, head of the firm's Art Department, to whom Mahan wrties regarding captions for book illustrations. Other material includes a letter (1897) by the writer Robert Bright Marston regarding publishing a book titled History of the Royal Navy, two letters (1908) by Mahan to Robert Mountsier declining an invitation to deliver an address at the University of Michigan due to ill health, a prospectus for a biography about Mahan by Charles Carlisle Taylor titled The Life of Admiral Mahan (1920), and a partial genealogy of Mahan's family, dated June 1977.

Arranged chronologically.

Acquired in 1985.

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on June 30, 2006. Finding aid written by Tenley Eakin on July 5, 2006. Folder inventory added by James Clark '14 in 2012.

No appraisal information is available.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Date
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

2 ALsS to Robert Montsier, 1908 July 14-21. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

ALsS to Scribner's Including Letters to Burlingame and Chaplin, 1883-1913. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Prospectus for a Book, undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Partial Genealogy of Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, USN, 1977 June. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

ALS from Robert Bright Marston, 1897 August 13. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

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