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Introduction to Milo Adams Townsend and Social Movements of the Nineteenth Century


Milo Adams Townsend (June 20, 1816-August 14, 1877) was the oldest son of Quaker parents, Talbot Townsend and Edith Ware Townsend of New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Milo was at various times a schoolmaster, a printer, and a bookseller and stationer, the latter being verified by the following advertisement, which he put in the April 18, 1855, Beaver County Argus :

Milo A. Townsend

Dealer in Books, Stationery and Fancy Goods

Broadway, New Brighton

In 1841 he married Elizabeth Updograph Walker. They had two children, Lemuel Garrison and Charles Walker.

William Lloyd Garrison in a letter to his wife, Helen E. Garrison, August 16, 1847, pronounced Milo to be one of America's truest reformers whose reformatory pen was potent. He stated that Milo appeared to have given attention to every branch of reform (Merrill III 510).

As Garrison wrote, Milo was involved in almost every social movement of the time: antislavery, temperance, prison reform, woman's rights (including suffrage), education, experimental communities, the needs of the poor, improved labor conditions. He also interested himself in one of the more abstruse concerns of the day, Spiritualism.

At one time we supposed that Milo became involved in other reforms only after the Civil War had accomplished the objectives of the antislavery cause. However, a more careful study of the man and his writings proved otherwise. He was involved simultaneously in a variety of social movements throughout his life, both before and after slavery was abolished.

The antislavery movement was, however, probably his greatest concern from the 1840s through the early 1860s and must have been the basis for his initial contact with many whose letters appear here. Like Milo, most of them had other interests as well. For that reason the letters that he received and wrote did not necessarily center in abolition or even in other social issues of the time.

These letters he put into two notebooks. Individual letters were held in place by gummed bindings, which occasionally covered and made inaccessible portions of the text. The numbers that appear above the letters in the chapters that follow are those which Milo wrote in the upper right corner of each to facilitate indexing. The numbers do not correspond to the order in which the letters were written; but in so far as dating is possible, those from each writer are arranged in chronological order in this study.

Milo filled six scrapbooks with newspaper clippings, many, but far from all, being his own articles. Included in these books are reports on abolitionist speakers and others who lectured in New Brighton as well as accounts of Milo's doings. He also left some hand-written notebooks.


In the following pages each correspondent is introduced in alphabetical order together with the letter or letters that he or she wrote. Milo Adams Townsend's letters to and articles about these people and related topics appear either in the introduction to them or after their letters.

A few of the letters included here were not written to Milo; e.g., the one from Henry Clay. All of the letters were, however, in his possession.

Words that the editors were unable to decipher will be indicated by [?].

Editorial notes also appear in brackets.

The editors for this compilation are Charles W. Townsend III and Peggy Jean Townsend. Additional research was carried out by Arlene Treasure Townsend, who together with Blanche G. Moore Grimes transcribed many of the original letters. All original letters are owned by Charles , Arlene, and Peggy Jean Townsend with the exception of the letter from Milo A. Townsend to Arthur Bullus Bradford, which is the property of Marjorie Douthitt.

In addition to those from friends about whom little or nothing is known, this study contains letters from the following well-known correspondents:

Bailey, Gamaliel 1 letter

Bradford, Arthur Bullus 3 letters

Brisbane, Albert 1 letter

Clarke, Sara Jane

(Grace Greenwood) 3 letters

Clay, Henry 1 letter

Davis, Andrew Jackson 1 letter

Dickinson, Anna Elizabeth 2 letters

Douglass, Frederick 1 letter

Dugdale, Joseph A. 2 letters

Foster, Abby Kelley 5 letters

Garrett, Thomas 1 letter

Garrison, William Lloyd 4 letters

Giddings, Joshua Reed 1 letter

Greeley, Horace 1 letter

Henrici, Jacob 1 letter

Hopper, Isaac 1 letter

Howells, Henry C. 2 letters

Johnson, Oliver 1 letter

Parker, Theodore 3 letters

Phillips, Wendell 1 letter

Remond, Charles Lenox 1 letter

Smith, Gerrit 3 letters

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady 1 letter

Thompson, George 2 letters

Townsend, Milo Adams 3 letters in addition to those printed in contemporary newspapers