Alcott, A. Bronson (Amos Bronson), 1799-1888

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Amos Bronson Alcott (November 29, 1799 – March 4, 1888) was an American teacher, writer, philosopher, and reformer. As an educator, Alcott pioneered new ways of interacting with young students, focusing on a conversational style, and avoided traditional punishment. He hoped to perfect the human spirit and, to that end, advocated a plant-based diet. He was also an abolitionist and an advocate for women's rights.

Born in Wolcott, Connecticut in 1799, Alcott had only minimal formal schooling before attempting a career as a traveling salesman. Worried about how the itinerant life might have a negative impact on his soul, he turned to teaching. His innovative methods, however, were controversial, and he rarely stayed in one place very long. His most well-known teaching position was at the Temple School in Boston. His experience there was turned into two books: Records of a School and Conversations with Children on the Gospels. Alcott became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and became a major figure in transcendentalism. His writings on behalf of that movement, however, are heavily criticized for being incoherent. Based on his ideas for human perfection, Alcott founded Fruitlands, a transcendentalist experiment in community living. The project failed after seven months. Alcott struggled financially for most of his life. Nevertheless, he continued focusing on educational projects and opened a new school at the end of his life in 1879. He died in 1888.

Alcott married Abby May in 1830 and they eventually had four surviving children, all daughters. Their second was Louisa May, who fictionalized her experience with the family in her novel Little Women in 1868.

Alcott's published books, all from late in his life, include Tablets (1868), Concord Days (1872), New Connecticut (1881), and Sonnets and Canzonets (1882). Louisa May attended to her father's needs in his final years. She purchased a house for her sister Anna which had been the last home of Henry David Thoreau, now known as the Thoreau-Alcott House. Louisa and her parents moved in with Anna as well.

After the death of his wife Abby May on November 25, 1877, Alcott never returned to Orchard House, too heartbroken to live there. He and Louisa May collaborated on a memoir and went over her papers, letters, and journals. "My heart bleeds with the memories of those days", he wrote, "and even long years, of cheerless anxiety and hopeless dependence." Louisa noted her father had become "restless with his anchor gone". They gave up on the memoir project and Louisa burned many of her mother's papers.

On January 19, 1879, Alcott and Franklin Benjamin Sanborn wrote a prospectus for a new school which they distributed to potentially interested people throughout the country. The result was the Concord School of Philosophy and Literature, which held its first session in 1879 in Alcott's study in the Orchard House. In 1880 the school moved to the Hillside Chapel, a building next to the house, where he held conversations and, over the course of successive summers, as he entered his eighties, invited others to give lectures on themes in philosophy, religion and letters. The school, considered one of the first formal adult education centers in America, was also attended by foreign scholars. It continued for nine years.

In April 1882, Alcott's friend and benefactor Ralph Waldo Emerson was sick and bedridden. After visiting him, Alcott wrote, "Concord will be shorn of its human splendor when he withdraws behind the cloud." Emerson died the next day. Alcott himself moved out of Concord for his final years, settling at 10 Louisburg Square in Boston beginning in 1885.

As he was bedridden at the end of his life, Alcott's daughter Louisa May came to visit him at Louisburg on March 1, 1888. He said to her, "I am going up. Come with me." She responded, "I wish I could." He died three days later on March 4; Louisa May died only two days after her father.

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Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Alcott family. Additional papers, 1820-1886. Houghton Library
referencedIn Singer, André, composer. Alcottiana : a choreographic cantata for soli, chorus and orchestra : op. 33. Prologue / André Singer. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
referencedIn Brooks, John Graham, 1846-1938. Papers of John Graham Brooks, 1845-1938 (bulk 1900-1938). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888. Papers consisting of correspondence, literary manuscripts, legal documents, book reviews, and photocopies [manuscript] 1856 (1863-88) 1910. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Amos Bronson Alcott papers, 1799-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn Lovell, Vincent Smith, 1846-1892. Vincent S. Lovell papers, 1867-1873. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
referencedIn Wendte, Charles William, 1844-1931. Papers, 1867-1931 (inclusive). Harvard University, Divinity School Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Books from the library of Amos Bronson Alcott, 1579-1893. Houghton Library
referencedIn Alford, Norman. Norman Alford fonds. [1962-1990]. University of Victoria Libraries, UVic
referencedIn Pillsbury, Parker, 1809-1898. Letters to Henry David Thoreau [manuscript], 1861 April 9 & 13. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Benjamin Holt Ticknor Papers, 1595-1935, (bulk 1850-1920) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Boston Anti-Man-Hunting League. Records, 1846-1882. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Amos Bronson Alcott papers, 1799-1888. Houghton Library
creatorOf Codman, John Thomas. John Thomas Codman Brook Farm collection, 1840-1901. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Letter, 1870, October 10, Concord, to [Franklin B. Sanborn, Cincinnati]. University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
referencedIn Thomas Davidson papers, 1857-1948, 1857-1902 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Orphic sayings, manuscript, [ca.1840]. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Sarah Helen Whitman papers, Whitman (Sarah Helen) papers, 1816-1878, 1816-1878 Brown University Library, Special Collections
creatorOf Alcott family. Alcott family additional papers, 1707-1904 (inclusive), 1821-1888 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Fuller, Margaret, 1810-1850. Papers of Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli [manuscript] 1833-49. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Lyon, William H. (William Henry), 1846-1915. Sermons, 1888-1914. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Fenn, Mary R. Collection of manuscript and typescript materials concerning restoration of Orchard House by Bronson Alcott, 1967. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Letter, 1874 May 12, Concord. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Alcott books : books from the libraries of Amos Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott and members of their immediate family, 1824-1887. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Amos Bronson Alcott family papers, 1837-1879. Library of Congress
creatorOf Amos Bronson Alcott ticket to lecture, 1884 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Amos Bronson Alcott letters, 1872 and 1875. Pennsylvania State University Libraries
referencedIn Alcott, May. Papers of the Thoreau and Sewall families, 1790-1917, 1831-1876. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
creatorOf Baylor, Ruth M. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody research materials, 1822-1960 Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Streeter, Gilbert L. (Gilbert Lewis), 1823-1901. Gilbert Lewis Streeter Papers, 1845-1905. Peabody Essex Museum
creatorOf Alcott, William A. (William Andrus), 1798-1859. Letters, Newton, Mass., to Amos Bronson Alcott [manuscript] 1853 Jan. 15. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Hawthorne family. Hawthorne family papers, 1825-1929. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn John Thomas Codman Brook Farm collection, 1840-1901. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Selection from the Dialogues of Plato to be read at the John Brown memorial meeting : autograph manuscript : [Concord, Mass.], [1859 Dec. 2]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888. Papers, 1862-1888. Harold B. Lee Library
referencedIn Frederic Alcott Pratt papers on Louisa May Alcott's literary estate, 1877-1908. Houghton Library
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel J. May diary, 1860. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Ricketson, Anna, 1836-1927. In memory of Louisa May Alcott by her friend Anna Ricketson : manuscript, 1888. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
referencedIn Wheildon, William W. (William Willder), 1805-1892. Obituary scrapbooks, Concord, Mass., 1840-1963. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson 1799-1888. Amos Bronson Alcott letter. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
referencedIn Cheney, Ednah Dow Littlehale, 1824-1904. Letter, 1879 Aug. 27, Bar Harbor [Me.] to Frank[lin B. Sanborn, n.p.] University of Michigan
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. ALS, 1872 November 26, Dubuque, Iowa, to [Ezra M. Prince]. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862. Autograph note related to the John Brown memorial meeting : [Concord, Mass.], [1859 Dec. 2]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Howe family papers, 1819-1910. Houghton Library
referencedIn Autograph File, A, 1518-2002. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott family. Alcott family additional papers, 1724-1927. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Bronson Alcott letters, 1869-1882. Middlebury College
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Walt Whitman collection of Charles E. Feinberg [manuscript], 1849-1882. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Rogers, Emma Savage. Journal of Emma Savage : manuscript, 1836. Houghton Library
creatorOf Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864. Autograph letter signed : Salem [Mass.], to Henry David Thoreau, 1849 Feb. 19. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917. Papers of Franklin Benjamin Sanborn, 1851-1914. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917. Notes on Emerson and Alcott [19--?]. University of Michigan
referencedIn Deedy, John G. Collection of newspaper clippings relating to Fruitlands, [191-]-1973. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917,. Notes : concerning Theodore Parker : manuscript, [18--] Houghton Library
referencedIn Louisa May Alcott additional papers, 1839-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn Louisa May Alcott papers, 1849-1931. Houghton Library
referencedIn Rideout, Gertrude H. Chronology of the Alcott family : especially A.B.A. and L.M.A. : typescript, [196-]. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Ward, Prudence, 1795-1874. Correspondence of Prudence Ward and Anne J. Ward, 1839-1906. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Kleinfeld, Leonard F. Walden : a one-act play : for one female and four male characters : typescript, 1948 / by Leonard F. Kleinfeld. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Herrnstadt, Richard L., 1926-. Papers, 1830-1918. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn Portrait file: Guide. Houghton Library
referencedIn Alcott family additional papers, 1724-1927. Houghton Library
referencedIn Books from the library of Amos Bronson Alcott, 1579-1893. Houghton Library
referencedIn Ralph Waldo Emerson collection of papers, 1821-1912, (1837-1882) The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
referencedIn Spring, Rebecca. Rebecca Spring papers, ca. 1830-1900. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882. Autograph letter signed : Concord, to Henry D. Thoreau, 1843 May 21. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Ticknor, Benjamin Holt, 1842-1914. Papers of Benjamin Holt Ticknor, 1595-1935 (bulk 1850-1920). Library of Congress
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Christian conversation, manuscript, undated. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
creatorOf Alcott, Abba May, 1800-1877. Alcott family papers, 1830-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel Joseph May diary, 1868. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Papers of Francis Ellingwood Abbot, 1841-1904. Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Rideout, Gertrude H. An attempt to explain transcendentalism : (written for my own satisfaction and read in answer to questions at the A.B. Alcott lecture) : typescript, [196-] / G.H.R. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Autograph letter signed A. Bronson Alcott to: [?] February 22, 1878. Wellesley College
referencedIn Bronson Alcott Society. Mailings, 1979- Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Adams, Raymond, 1898-1987. Bronson Alcott in North Carolina : a paper read before the Philological Club, University of North Carolina, May 9, 1944 : typescript, 1944 / by Raymond Adams. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel Joseph May Diary, 1866. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Brown, John, 1800-1859. Selection from the Wisdom of Solomon read at the John Brown memorial meeting : manuscript copy in three hands : [Concord, Mass.], [1859 Dec. 2]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Alcott family papers, 1830-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn Hawthorne, Sophia Peabody, 1809-1871. Letters, 1837-1868, to Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf Barrett, Robbins, Mrs. Barrett collection of printed ephemera relating to sessions of the Concord School of Philosophy, Concord, Mass., 1879-1888. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Emerson family papers, 1699-1939. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Autograph letter signed : Concord, to G.C. Hickok in Boston, 1864 Dec. 24. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Noyes, Alfaretta Lucretia, 1848-1942. Alfaretta Lucretia Noyes : diary of a schoolgirl in Concord, Massachusetts : diaries, 1862 Sept. 15-1863 Feb 26. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Alcott family additional papers, 1724-1927. Houghton Library
referencedIn Whitman, Sarah Helen, 1803-1878. Papers, 1816-1878. Brown University Archives, John Hay Library
referencedIn Louisa May Alcott papers, 1849-1931. Houghton Library
referencedIn Cartes-de-visite album and biographies, ca. 1875-1876. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Adams family. Papers, 1618-1976, undated. Iowa State University, Parks Library
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel Joseph May diary, 1861. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Letter to Miss Seymour : Concord : ALS, 1864 Oct. 17. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882. Papers, 1822-1930 (bulk: 1830-1877). University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Albert Edgar Lownes collection on Henry David Thoreau, Lownes (Albert Edgar) collection on Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1965, 1837-1965, 1837-1965 Brown University Library, Special Collections
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Amos Bronson Alcott papers, 1865-1879. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel J. May diary, 1869. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888. Additional papers, 1845-1944. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. ALS : [Concord, Mass.], to Louisa May Alcott, Boston : facsim. of original, 1840 June 21. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Autograph File, A, 1518-2002. Houghton Library
referencedIn Emerson family papers, 1699-1939. Houghton Library
referencedIn Whipple, Edwin Percy, 1819-1886. Papers of Edwin Percy Whipple, 1847-1881. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Davidson, Thomas, 1840-1900. Thomas Davidson papers, 1857-1948 (inclusive), 1857-1902 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Brooks, John Graham, 1846-1938. Additional papers, 1845-1938 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Alcott family letters to Anna Ricketson, [187-]-1893. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Papers of Amos Bronson Alcott 1840-92. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn May, Samuel J. (Samuel Joseph), 1797-1871. Samuel J. May diary, 1870. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888. Louisa May Alcott additional papers, 1839-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn Emerson family papers, 1699-1939. Houghton Library
referencedIn Autograph File, S, 1556-1996. Houghton Library
referencedIn Alcott family additional papers, 1707-1904 (inclusive), 1821-1888 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Wendte, Charles William, 1844-1931. Papers, 1867-1931 Andover-Harvard Theological Library
creatorOf Harris, William Torrey, 1835-1909. William Torrey Harris Concord School of Philosophy scrapbook, 1879-1887. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn James Russell Lowell papers, 1835-1919. Houghton Library
referencedIn Wheelwright, Sarah Cabot, 1835-1917. Reminiscences, 1904. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Roberts Brothers (Boston, Mass.) letters to Louisa May Alcott, 1868-1886. Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Diary : manuscript, [not after 1893] Houghton Library
referencedIn Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917. Journal : autograph manuscript, 1855 Sept. 15. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. A. Bronson Alcott papers, 1843-1882. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Alcott family additional papers, 1820-1886. Houghton Library
referencedIn Alcott family papers, 1830-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn Pratt, Frederic Alcott, 1862-1910. Frederic Alcott Pratt papers on Louisa May Alcott's literary estate, 1877-1908. Houghton Library
referencedIn Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association. Collection of materials issued by or relating to the revived Concord School of Philosophy, 1975-<1984> Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
referencedIn Additional papers, 1845-1938 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Critique of the philosophy of Amos Bronson Alcott, manuscript [18--?]. HCL Technical Services, Harvard College Library
creatorOf Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882. Collection of manuscript and printed documents related to the John Brown relief and memorial meetings : Boston, Salem, and Concord, Mass., 1859-1860. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Observations on the life of my second child, (Louisa May Alcott) during the first year, 1832 & 3 [microform]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Cheney, Ednah Dow Littlehale, 1824-1904. Letter, 1879 Jun. 26, Jam[aica] Plain [Mass.] to Frank[lin B. Sanborn, Concord, Mass.] University of Michigan
referencedIn Houghton Library printed book provenance file, A-D Houghton Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Letter, 1864 Sept. 10, Boston, to Mrs. Alvin Adams. Boston Athenaeum
referencedIn Emerson family correspondence, ca. 1725-1900. Houghton Library
creatorOf Abbott family. Autograph file, A, 1518-1962. Houghton Library
referencedIn Additional papers, 1845-1944. Houghton Library
referencedIn Fields, Annie, 1834-1915. Annie Fields papers, 1847-1912. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Order of in-door duties for children : facsim. of original, 1846. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Letter, 1872 Oct. 4, Concord, [N.H.] to John S. Dwight, Boston. Dartmouth College Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Letter to Rev. William Henry Furness, 1857. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Collection of tickets to, notice of, and invitation to "Conversation" lectures of Amos Bronson Alcott, 1842-1861. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Amos Bronson Alcott papers, 1799-1888. Houghton Library
referencedIn Tilton, Eleanor M. (Eleanor Marguerite), 1913-. Papers, 1770-1991. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Hawthorne Family Papers, ca. 1800-1926 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Books from the library of Amos Bronson Alcott, 1579-1893. Houghton Library
referencedIn Henry David Thoreau additional papers, 1856-1857. Houghton Library
referencedIn Savage, Emma. Journal, 1836. Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Eleanor M. Tilton Papers, 1770-1991 Columbia University. Rare Book an Manuscript Library
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Sphinx's questions; with Psyche's answers, 1848. University of Michigan
creatorOf Alcott, Amos Bronson, 1799-1888. Autograph letter signed : Concord, to Kennington Cook in England, 1873 Apr. 7. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Lane, Charles, 1800-1870. Papers, 1842-1851. Fruitlands Museums (Harvard, Mass.)
referencedIn May family. May family collection, 1760-1899. Concord Free Public Library, Special Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Walt Whitman to A. Bronson Alcott, 26 April 1868 Walt Whitman Archive
Relation Name
correspondedWith Abailard, Pierre, 1079-1142 person
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Alcott, Abba May, 1800-1877 person
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