Ward, Samuel Gray, 1817-1907

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Samuel Gray Ward (October 3, 1817 – November 17, 1907) was an American poet, author, and minor member of the Transcendentalism movement. He was also a banker and a co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among his circle of contemporaries were poets and writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller who were deeply disappointed when Ward gave up a career in writing for business just before he married.

Ward was born on October 3, 1817 in Portland, Maine. He was the son of Lydia Gray (1789–1874) and Thomas Wren Ward (1786–1858), who served as treasurer of Harvard from 1830 to 1842 and was the American agent for London-based Baring Brothers & Co., merchant bank. His brother was George Cabot Ward.

Ward attended Harvard College and graduated along with Transcendentalist poet Jones Very, though the two were not friends. As a student, he boarded for a time with Professor John Farrar and his wife Eliza Ware Farrar. He joined the Farrars on a trip to Europe in the summer of 1836, though he broke from them for private travels to England, Paris, and Rome, before rejoining them in the Swiss Alps by August 1837.

Ward became associated with Ralph Waldo Emerson and began contributing to the Transcendentalist journal The Dial, which published four of his poems in its inaugural issue. Emerson reflected on meeting him: "Beautiful among so many ordinary & mediocre youths as I see, was S. G. W. when I first fairly encountered him". Emerson particularly relied on Ward to inform him about art criticism; he wrote to Ward in 1838 that he was "especially curious of information on art & artists, of which however, I warn you, I know nothing." Emerson seemed particularly taken by the young man, writing to Ellery Channing in January 1840, "your friend Samuel G. Ward, whom though I have known but a little while I love much". A few months later, he told Ward, "I... wish you to love me".

When Ellery Channing published his book of poems, Ward subsidized its printing. Emerson edited the project but told Ward that Channing "goes to the very end of the poetic license, and defies a little too disdainfully his dictionary and logic". Critic Edgar Allan Poe agreed and noted in his review of Channing's book that it was "full of all kinds of mistakes, of which the most important is that of their having been written at all". After Margaret Fuller's death in 1850, Emerson attempted to persuade Ward into writing her biography, though he declined. "How can you describe a Force? How can you write the life of Margaret?" he asked.

Thanks to an inheritance from his father as well as his own business dealings, Ward became the wealthiest person among the Transcendentalist circle, though he did not pursue literature for long. Though Emerson chose four of his poems for his 1874 compilation Parnassus, Ward had stopped writing new poetry since his contributions to The Dial.

In 1840, Ward married Anna Hazard Barker (1813–1900), to the disappointment of their mutual friend Margaret Fuller. Barker's father, New York State Senator Jacob Barker (1779–1871), hired Ward to work as a banker, which Fuller worried removed him from a more aesthetic life. Ward had chosen such a career out of concern for proving he could support his soon to be wife. Fuller expressed her disappointment over Ward's decision in a letter to him, "I will confess, once and for all, I had longed to see you a painter... and not a merchant... when I learned you were to become a merchant, to sit at the dead wood of the desk, and calculate figures, I was betrayed into unbelief." Emerson was equally disappointed and wrote to fellow Transcendentalist Caroline Sturgis Tappan that the news affected him "with a certain terror" and he concluded that "happiness is so vulgar". Though he chose to pursue a career in business Ward continued to correspond with his friends in the Transcendentalist movement through the remainder of his life.

Ward and Barker eventually had four children: three daughters and a son.

For a time, the family kept a summer house in Lenox, Massachusetts, where a young Emma Lazarus would sometimes join them with her family. That home, built on land purchased in 1844, was named Oakwood and is an area now known as Shadow Brook Farm Historic District.

Ward died on November 17, 1907 in Washington, D.C.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Ward, Samuel G. Letter, 1864 October 14. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Ralph Waldo Emerson miscellaneous correspondence, 1825-1881. Houghton Library
referencedIn Ralph Waldo Emerson letters from various correspondents, ca. 1814-1882. Houghton Library
creatorOf Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908. Charles Eliot Norton papers, ca. 1845-1908. Houghton Library
referencedIn Portrait file: Guide. Houghton Library
referencedIn Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874. Correspondence, 1829-1874 Houghton Library
referencedIn Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866. Jared Sparks collection of American manuscripts, 1582-1843 Houghton Library
referencedIn Tilton, Eleanor M. (Eleanor Marguerite), 1913-. Papers, 1770-1991. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Howe family papers, 1819-1910. Houghton Library
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn James family letters to various correspondents, 1846-1916. Houghton Library
creatorOf James, Henry, 1811-1882. Letters from Henry James Sr. and Mary Walsh James to various correspondents, 1827-1878. Houghton Library
referencedIn Ward-Perkins Family Papers, ca. 1788-1954 University of California, Santa Barbara. Davidson Library. Department of Special Collections.
referencedIn Eleanor M. Tilton Papers, 1770-1991 Columbia University. Rare Book an Manuscript Library
referencedIn Elizabeth Gaskell Norton and Sara Norton papers, 1867-1948 (inclusive), 1880-1946 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn James, William, 1842-1910. Papers, 1803-1941 (bulk: 1862-1910) Houghton Library
referencedIn Houghton Library printed book provenance file, R-Z and unidentified Houghton Library
referencedIn Elizabeth Palmer Peabody collection of papers, 1822-[1957, 1832-1838 The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.
referencedIn Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Portraits, ca. 1852-ca. 2004 Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Higginson, Henry Lee, 1834-1919. Business records, 1799-1919 (bulk: 1870-1919) Harvard Business School, Knowledge and Library Services/Baker Library
referencedIn William James correspondence, 1856-1910. Houghton Library
creatorOf Ward, Samuel Gray. Samuel Gray Ward art works, [undated]. Archives of American Art
creatorOf Ward, Samuel Gray. Account of meeting with Jones Very, 1839-1899. Massachusetts Historical Society
creatorOf Ward, Samuel Gray. Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Ward-Perkins Family Papers, ca. 1877-1954. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
referencedIn Caroline Sturgis Tappan papers, 1838-1921. Houghton Library
referencedIn James Russell Lowell additional papers, 1736-1951. Houghton Library
referencedIn Vol. CXXXIII (ff. 270). March-May 1871.includes:f. 1 Samuel G. Ward, banker; of New York: Letter to Lord Ripon: 1871.ff. 3, 124 (draft), 125 (draft), 134, 204 (draft), 215, 247-254 British America, and United States: Memoranda, etc., rel. to the ... British Library
referencedIn Letters from Henry James Sr. and Mary Walsh James to various correspondents, 1827-1878. Houghton Library
referencedIn Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908. Papers, ca.1845-1908 Houghton Library
creatorOf Cole, Thomas, 1801-1848. Thomas Cole papers, 1821-1863. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Palfrey family papers, 1713-1915 Houghton Library
referencedIn Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893. Fanny Kemble papers, 1829-1874. Library of Congress
referencedIn Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882. Letter, 1857 May 11. Fruitlands Museums (Harvard, Mass.)
referencedIn John Jay Chapman papers, 1841-1940. Houghton Library
creatorOf Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882. Miscellaneous correspondence, 1825-1881. Houghton Library
creatorOf Ward, Thomas W. (Thomas Wren), 1786-1858. Thomas Wren Ward papers, 1717-1943; 1778-1858. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Emerson family papers, 1699-1939. Houghton Library
referencedIn Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882. Letters to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1761-1904 (bulk 1820-1888) Houghton Library
referencedIn Letters from various correspondents, 1861-1914. Houghton Library
creatorOf Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Loring, Charles G. (Charles Greely), 1794-1867. Papers, 1768-1866 Houghton Library
referencedIn Emerson family correspondence, ca. 1725-1900. Houghton Library
referencedIn Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893. Fanny Kemble papers, 1829-1874. Library of Congress
referencedIn Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward papers, 1823-1934 (inclusive) 1837-1900 (bulk). Houghton Library
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associatedWith Ware, Annie B person
associatedWith Ware, John, 1795-1864 person
associatedWith Waterman, Nathaniel person
associatedWith Waterston, Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy, 1812-1899 person
associatedWith Wellman, W U person
associatedWith Wells, David person
associatedWith White, Stanford, 1853-1906 person
associatedWith Whitman, Sarah Wyman person
associatedWith Willard, Susanna H person
associatedWith Wister, Owen, 1860-1938 person
associatedWith Wister, Owen Jones. person
associatedWith Wister, Sarah Butler, 1835-1908 person
associatedWith Wister, Sarah Edythe. person
associatedWith Woolner, Thomas, 1825-1892 person
associatedWith Young, Jesse. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Lenox MA US
Boston MA US
Washington, D. C. DC US
Portland ME US
Subject
Capitalists and financiers
Poets, American
Merchants
Death
Ships
Transcendentalists (New England)
Flowers
Children
Birds
Occupation
Businessmen
Writer
Bankers
Activity

Person

Birth 1817-10-03

Death 1907-11-17

Male

Americans

English

Information

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Ark ID: w6998zdq

SNAC ID: 85493523