Putnam, George

Original price was: $110.00.Current price is: $95.00.

Carte-de-visite photo signed by a founder of the Transcendentalist Movement



Autograph ID: 5618
Condition: Very good, mount remnants verso
Description: “(1807-78) Harvard Class of 1826, Rev. Putnam spent a year teaching at a fledgling private academy in Duxbury then attended Harvard Divinity School, graduating in 1830. Later that year, he was ordained minister at the First Church in Roxbury, one Massachusetts’ oldest religious congregations, a position he held for the rest of his life. He was a Trustee of the Boston Public Library 1868-77, member of the 1853 state constitutional convention, member of the State Legislature for 2 years. He served on the Roxbury school committee, was a Harvard Fellow, and President of the Trustees of Roxbury Latin School, the Boston Young Men’s Christian Union, and the Fellowes Athenaeum. Rev. Putnam was a close friend of state attorney general (later Governor) John Clifford, and advised him on ways to strengthen prosecution of the celebrated Parkman-Webster Harvard murder case, before becoming a self-appointed father confessor and confidant to the condemned Webster. The highly publicized crime, investigation and trial shook Boston to its core in 1849-50, due to the crime’s gruesome nature and the high social station of victim and murderer.

The beginning of the Transcendentalist movement took place on Sept. 8, 1836, the day of Harvard College’s 200th anniversary celebration. At some point, 4 attendees grew tired of the proceedings and desired conversation that was new, deeper, broader and revolutionary. All struggled with conventional ideas on religion and philosophy; 3 were ministers, the 4th had been a minister but resigned a few years prior. The eldest was Rev. George Ripley, 34, Harvard Class of 1823, an 1826 graduate of Harvard Divinity School; that year he was ordained a minister of Boston’s Purchase Street Church. Ralph Waldo Emerson, 2nd oldest at 33, was the only one without a pulpit. Harvard Class of 1821, graduating at 18, also graduated from the Divinity School, ordained as junior pastor at Boston’s Second Church in 1829. He subsequently wrestled with religious questions and resigned his ministry in 1832. By 1836 he had embarked on a career as a lecturer and writer. His first book, Nature, was due for publication the next day. Rev. Frederick H. Hedge, 31, Harvard Class of 1825 and Divinity School Class of 1828, accepted a ministry in West Cambridge in 1829; a year before this meeting, he took the pulpit in Bangor, Maine. The club they were contemplating would take pains to schedule most of their meetings when Hedge was visiting Boston from Bangor. The youngest was George Putnam. The 4 left Harvard Yard and sat down in Willard’s Hotel to discuss the discouraging state of thinking in Cambridge and in America. There is no record of the specifics of the discussion at Willard’s but 11 days later, the club held its 1st meeting at Ripley’s home in Boston, 10 people attending. The club was sometimes later referred to as “The Brotherhood of the Like-Minded” but Emerson sometimes called it “The Transcendentalist Club”. Over time, members included Bronson Alcott, Theodore Parker, Elizabeth Peabody, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, William Henry Channing, Orestes Brownson, and others. It was the start of perhaps the greatest cultural and intellectual movement in American history of the time, a forum for new ideas, a clearinghouse, informal, far from the usual exclusive social clique. Meetings often centered on one topic. On Oct. 3, 1836, at Alcott’s in Boston, it was “American Genius-the causes which hinder its growth, and give us no first rate productions.” On Oct. 18, at Brownson’s house in Boston, it was “Education of Humanity.” On May 29 at Ripley’s in Boston it was “What is the essence of Religion as distinct from morality?” In summer 1837 at Emerson’s house, it was “Does the species advance beyond the individual?” On May 20, 1838, at Stetson’s house in Medford it was “Is Mysticism an element of Christianity”? In June 1838 at Bartol’s house in Boston it was “On the character and genius of Goethe”; in Dec. 1838 at the same place it was “Pantheism.” On May 13, 1840, at Emerson’s it was on “the Inspiration of the Prophet and Bard, the nature of Poetry, and the causes of sterility of poetic Inspiration in our Age and country.” Transcendentalism was not only a literary, philosophical, and religious movement; it was also, inescapably, a social and political movement as well.

SP, 4 x 2 1/2 full-length standing sepia carte-de-visite photograph signed on bottom border and also on verso.”
Type: Photograph

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