Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Curtis, George William
CURTIS, George William, author and orator, b. in Providence, R. I., 24 Feb., 1824; d. on Staten Island, N. Y., 31 Aug., 1892. He removed to New York with his father in 1839, and for a year was a clerk in a mercantile house in that city. He with his elder brother, in 1842, joined the community of Brook Farm, in West Roxbury, Mass., and, after eighteen months of study and farm labor, the brothers went to Concord, Mass., where they spent eighteen months more in a farmer's family, afterward tilling a small piece of land on their own account for six months. In 1846 Mr. Curtis went abroad, living for some time in Italy and Germany, and afterward travelling in Egypt and Syria. He returned to this country in 1850, and soon afterward became one of the editorial staff of the New York “Tribune.” Mr. Curtis was one of the editors of the first series of “Putnam's Monthly” from its appearance in 1852 till it ceased to exist. About three years after it was established the magazine passed into the hands of the firm of Dix, Edwards & Co., in which Mr. Curtis was a special partner, pecuniarily responsible, but taking no part in its commercial management. In the spring of 1857 the house, which had also undertaken to publish books, was found to be insolvent for a large amount, and Mr. Curtis sank his private fortune in the endeavor to save its creditors from loss, which he finally accomplished in 1873. In 1853 he began in “Harper's Monthly” the series of papers entitled the “Editor's Easy Chair,” and in the same year entered the lecture field, meeting with great success. He soon gained reputation as a popular orator, and in the presidential canvass of 1856 spoke in behalf of the republican candidates. Soon after the establishment of “Harper's Weekly,” in 1857, he became its leading editorial writer, in which place he continued, and on the establishment of “Harper's Bazar” in 1867 he began a series of papers under the title of “Manners upon the Road,” which was continued weekly until the spring of 1873. He was a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1860 and 1864, and in the latter year was an unsuccessful candidate for congress in the 1st New York district. In 1862 he declined the office of consul-general in Egypt, offered him by President Lincoln. In 1867 he was elected a delegate at large to the Constitutional convention of New York, in which he was chairman of the committee on education. In 1868 he was nominated a republican presidential elector, and in 1869 declined the republican nomination for secretary of state of New York. Mr. Curtis had always been an earnest advocate of civil-service reform, and in 1871 was appointed by President Grant one of a commission to draw up rules for the regulation of the civil service. He was elected chairman of the commission and of the advisory board in which it was subsequently merged, but resigned in March, 1873, on account of difference of views between him and the president in regard to the enforcement of the rules. He was a delegate to the National republican convention of 1876 that nominated President Hayes, and at the beginning of the administration he was asked to select a foreign mission, which he declined, and he also declined the special offer of the mission to Germany. Mr. Curtis was chairman of a meeting of independent republicans that met in New York on 16 June, 1884, to take action against the nomination of James G. Blaine, made by the Chicago convention, and he subsequently supported the democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland. After 1864 Mr. Curtis was one of the regents of the university of the state of New York, and for eight years its vice-chancellor. He published “Nile Notes of a Howadji” (New York, 1851); “The Howadji in Syria” (1853); “Lotus-Eating,” letters originally written to the New York “Tribune” from various watering-places (1852); two volumes of selections from his contributions to “Putnam's Magazine,” entitled “Potiphar Papers” (1853) and “Prue and I” (1856); and “Trumps,” a novel, which had appeared in “Harper's Weekly” in 1858-'9 (1862). — His half-brother, Joseph Bridgham, soldier, b. in Providence, R. I., 25 Oct., 1836; killed near Fredericksburg, Va., 13 Dec., 1862, was graduated at the Lawrence scientific school of Harvard in 1856. In 1857 he became a member of the New York Central park engineer corps, and in April, 1861, was appointed engineer, with the rank of captain, in the 9th New York volunteers. After that regiment was mustered out, he became, on 16 Sept., 1861, second lieutenant in the 4th Rhode Island volunteers, and was promoted to first lieutenant on 2 Oct. He served with Burnside in North Carolina, distinguished himself by his coolness and daring at the capture of Roanoke Island, 7 Feb., 1862, and on 9 June was appointed assistant adjutant-general on Gen. Rodman's staff. In August he was promoted, at Gen. Burnside's special request, to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 4th Rhode Island regiment, joined the Army of the Potomac, and was with it in the succession of battles between the Rappahannock and Washington. In the battle of Antietam his regiment suffered so much that it was withdrawn from the field by the general's command, whereupon Col. Curtis took a musket and cartridge-box from a dead soldier and did duty as a private in a Pennsylvania regiment till the close of the battle. He was killed at Fredericksburg while in command of his regiment, the colonel having been disabled by a wound. See a memoir by George William Curtis, in John R. Bartlett's “Rhode Island in the Rebellion” (1867). — Joseph Bridgham's brother, Edward, b. in Providence, R. I., 4 June, 1838, was graduated at Harvard in 1859, and received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1864. He had entered the army as medical cadet on 6 Sept., 1861, became acting assistant surgeon on 5 May, 1863, assistant surgeon in 1864, and was brevetted captain and major on 13 March, 1865. He resigned from the army in 1870, and began practice in New York city. During the later years of his army service he was in charge of the microscopical section of the medical museum, and was especially engaged in developing the art of photographing through the microscope. He became lecturer on histology in the College of physicians and surgeons in 1870, and in 1873 was given the chair of materia medica and therapeutics, becoming professor emeritus in 1886. He was made assistant surgeon to the New York eye and ear infirmary in 1872, surgeon in 1874, and in 1876 became medical director of the Equitable life assurance society, retiring from active practice. Dr. Curtis has published a “Catalogue of the Microscopical Section of the U. S. Army Medical Museum ” (Washington, 1867), and “Manual of General Medicinal Technology” (New York, 1883). — Another brother, John Green, became, in 1873, adjunct professor of anatomy in the College of physicians and surgeons, New York city.