Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Man of Destiny!

At the Special Collections Research Center, we recently began processing the W. Hugh Peal manuscript collection. A graduate from the University of Kentucky’s class of 1922, William Hugh Peal was an avid collector of 19th and 20th century manuscripts and autograph albums, especially those relating to the English Romantic writers Charles Lamb, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and Robert Southey. Peal also collected manuscripts by scientists, clergymen, artists, and political figures.

Of the political figures represented in the collection, a significant highlight is the unconventional and bombastic George Francis Train. Born in Boston in 1829, Train modestly referred to himself as a “man with the brains of twenty men, the energy of a hundred, and the magnetism of a God.”

The letterhead for Train’s 1872 presidential campaign asserted Train was “Unanimously Nominated for the Presidency by immense audiences everywhere” and featured a list of his rather aggressive platform positions, including “Death to Official Thieves, through Vigilance Committees.”

In response to harsh criticism from rival presidential candidate and New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, a facetious Train sent a portrait of himself and referred to Greeley as “the name caller.” 

Corresponding with a gentleman from The Liberty Insurance Company, Train eagerly contended that a man can subsist on a diet of bread and water “forever!”

Train also took it upon himself “to show New York just what a real Santa Claus is like," declaring that he would “eclipse all the old white-beard myths with bogus reindeers that ever appeared.” 

George Francis Train, professional "eccentrique."


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