Main content

George H. Boker papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

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.

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).

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.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Holly Mengel
Finding Aid Date
2015 April 20
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.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Request item to view

Aldrich, Thomas Baily, 1856, 1862, 1866.
Box 1 Folder 1
Brine, Lindesay, undated.
Box 1 Folder 3
Butler, Sarah, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
Cameron, Simon, 1864-1870.
Box 1 Folder 5
Cesnola, Luigi Palma di, 1874.
Box 1 Folder 6
Child, Josiah, 1857.
Box 1 Folder 7
Childs, George William, undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
Couldock, C.W. (Charles Walter), 1851.
Box 1 Folder 9
Curtis, George William, 1863-1871.
Box 1 Folder 10
Dana, Charles A. (Charles Anderson), 1866, 1868.
Box 1 Folder 11
Davenport, Edward Loomis, undated.
Box 1 Folder 12
de Ruiz, Pauline B., undated.
Box 1 Folder 13
Delb, Thomas, 1853 June 3.
Box 1 Folder 14
Drew, Louisa, 1895 February 25.
Box 1 Folder 15
Dudley, Thomas H. (Thomas Haines), contains only ribbons for Grant and President Lincoln (following his death), undated.
Box 1 Folder 16
Field, Cyrus W. (Cyrus West), 1868.
Box 1 Folder 17
Fields, James Thomas, 1839-1868.
Box 1 Folder 18
Fottion, Michael M., 1874-1877.
Box 1 Folder 19
Frémont, Jessie Benton, undated.
Box 1 Folder 20
Godkin, Edwin Lawrence, undated.
Box 1 Folder 21
Hay, John (signatures only), undated.
Box 1 Folder 22
Heron, Matilda, 1854.
Box 1 Folder 23
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1863-1865.
Box 1 Folder 24
Jay, John, 1867-1868.
Box 1 Folder 25
Kean, Charles John, 1853.
Box 1 Folder 26
Kemble, William H., 1865.
Box 1 Folder 27
Lacey, H., undated.
Box 1 Folder 28
Lee, S. Adams (Samuel Adams), 1857, 1866.
Box 1 Folder 30
Matthieu, G., undated.
Box 1 Folder 31
McKenzie, R. Shelton, 1869, 1882.
Box 1 Folder 32
Meade, George Gordon, 1866.
Box 1 Folder 33
Milliken, James, 1871 November 8.
Box 1 Folder 34
Morley, John, 1868-1869.
Box 1 Folder 35
Murdoch, James Edward (includes two newspaper clippings), 1851.
Box 1 Folder 36
Niven, Alexander T., 1837.
Box 1 Folder 37
Porter, Daniel D., 1865 June 23.
Box 1 Folder 38
Press of the United States, dinner invitation "in complement to Mr. Charles Dickens", 1868 April 18.
Box 1 Folder 39
Read, John M. (John Meredith), 1868 May 1.
Box 1 Folder 40
Read, Thomas Buchanan, 1853-1854.
Box 1 Folder 41
Savage, John, 1871 November 8.
Box 1 Folder 42
Schuyler, Eugene, 1876 October 17.
Box 1 Folder 43
Seward, William Henry, 1865 June 10.
Box 1 Folder 44
Shaw-Lefevre, John George, 1867 July 30.
Box 1 Folder 45
Sheridan, Philip Henry, 1864 December 14.
Box 1 Folder 46
Simms, William Gilmore (letter to Henry C. Lea), circa 1851.
Box 1 Folder 47
Smith, Harrison, circa 1855.
Box 1 Folder 48
Smith, R.D. (includes three photographs), 1866.
Box 1 Folder 49
Society of the Army of the Republic, 1869-1870.
Box 1 Folder 50
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, undated.
Box 1 Folder 51
Stedman, Edmund Clarence, 1864-1871.
Box 1 Folder 52
Stoddard, Richard Henry, 1856 April-October.
Box 1 Folder 53
"Canopus," poem by Bayard Taylor, 1864 November 12.
Box 1 Folder 54
Thompson, John Reuben, note accompanying newspaper clipping regarding Boker, 1869 September 21.
Box 1 Folder 55
Tilton, Theodore, 1863, 1871.
Box 1 Folder 56
Tuckerman, Henry T. (Henry Theodore), 1850, 1866.
Box 1 Folder 57
Union League Club (New York, NY), invitation and note regarding the presentation of a testimonial to Mr. Thomas Nast, 1869 April.
Box 1 Folder 58
Union League of Philadelphia, meeting announcements and notes (includes a paper entitled, "A Third Term--Tradition--The Constitution"), 1869-1871.
Box 1 Folder 59
United States Department of State, 1875.
Box 1 Folder 60
United States Legation (Russia), 1877-1878.
Box 1 Folder 61
United States Legation (Turkey), letters and invitation in Turkish, 1875.
Box 1 Folder 62
Whipple, William D. (William Denison), 1865 February 23.
Box 1 Folder 63
White, Richard Grant, 1865 June-July.
Box 1 Folder 64
Willis, Nathaniel Parker, 1851, 1855.
Box 1 Folder 65
Wilton, J. Hall, 1851 March-May.
Box 1 Folder 66
Young, John Russell, 1867-1868.
Box 1 Folder 67
Unidentified correspondents, 1850-1867.
Box 1 Folder 68

Bromley, Theodore, letter relating to seats for the performance of Francesca da Rimini, 1883 September 13.
Box 1 Folder 69
Kinney, Mrs. E.C., thank you letter, 1850 January 28.
Box 1 Folder 69
Murdoch, James E., letter regarding poems, 1864 April 4.
Box 1 Folder 69
Stedman, Edmund Clarence, letters regarding "Book of Sonnets" and about the death of Bayard Taylor, 1867, 1879.
Box 1 Folder 69

Accounts and receipts related to Boker's writings (Anne Boleyn, Our Heroic Themes, Plays and Poems, and Poems of War), 1856-1868.
Box 1 Folder 69
Letter relating to salary from the United States Treasury Department, 1877 March 20.
Box 1 Folder 69

"Sonnet to Queen Victoria," New York Daily Tribune, 1854 June 7.
Box 1 Folder 71
Verse, autographed by Boker, 1850, 1888.
Box 2 Folder 7
"Dies Nuptials," New York Daily Tribune, 1857 October 27.
Box 1 Folder 71
"An Old Story," 87 sonnets, compiled by Angelina King Hicks (includes article regarding the volume by Sculley Bradley), 1861-1863.
Box 2 Folder 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.
Box 2 Folder 2
"Tardy George," second edition (3 copies), 1862 January.
Box 1 Folder 71
"'Tardy George,' A True Version," by Richard Vaux, undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
"Glorious George," by Henry Coppée, undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
"Glorious George," by Henry Coppée (corrected version), undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
[Untitled poem based upon "Tardy George"], by Charles J. Peterson, undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
"The Queen Must Dance," first draft, 1862 February 7.
Box 1 Folder 72
"Dedication to Mrs. Eliza Conrad", 1862 July 1.
Box 1 Folder 72
"Narrative of what occurred between Mr. Schott and Captain Le Roy", 1862.
Box 1 Folder 29
"The Second Louisiana" (2 copies), 1963 May 27.
Box 1 Folder 71
"Das Zweite Louisiana Regiment," German version of the "The Second Louisiana", 1863 May 27.
Box 1 Folder 71
"Hymn for the Eighty-Seventh Anniversary of American Independence", 1863 July 4.
Box 1 Folder 71
"In the Wilderness, An incident of the Battle-field of 'The Wilderness,'", 1864 May 7.
Box 1 Folder 71
"Hymn for the Union League", 1865 July 4.
Box 1 Folder 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.
Box 1 Folder 71
"The Queen Must Dance," poem written in 1862, published in a Philadelphia newspaper, 1867 April 14.
Box 1 Folder 71
Book of the Dead, corrected copy, 1882.
Box 2 Folder 3
"Grant before the People", undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
Nydia, typescript, 1885.
Box 2 Folder 4
Glaucus, typescript, 1886.
Box 2 Folder 5
"Evening," extract from an unpublished play, 1888.
Box 2 Folder 6
"A Series of Sonnets", 1919.
Box 2 Folder 6
"A Welcome to Garibaldi", undated.
Box 1 Folder 72
"Song of the Anderson Cavalry", undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
"The Copperhead," for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, undated.
Box 1 Folder 71
"The Ivory Carver", undated.
Box 2 Folder 6

Print, Suggest