William Harrison Riley papers
Scope and Contents
Throughout the correspondence Riley's efforts to edit socialist journals and to publish articles, pamphlets, and books form a major topic. Riley corresponded with editors of many socialist publications on both sides of the Atlantic, and was constantly seeking financial aid from them, as well as receiving appeals for money from others (Ernest Jones of the Chartists, 1838-1859). Riley was also looking for jobs with publishers and literary figures. Included is a letter from Rudyard Kipling declining Riley's services as secretary (1895 Nov 4) and from J.J. Callahan concerning a job as editor of a labor paper in Colorado (1899).
Two side issues of some interest appear in Riley's correspondence. Robert Newsham writes of the conditions among the troops before the battle of Sebastopol in 1854-1855, and Edward Drury describes his incarceration in an asylum and asks Riley's help in attaining his release (1880).
In addition to William Riley's correspondence, there are several letters addressed to George H. Riley, all of a routine nature, from Norman Thomas, Max Eastman, and others (folder 20). There is also a small collection of signatures cut from letters, mostly of correspondents represented in the correspondence, but including an envelop addressed by Walt Whitman (folder 28). Among the remaining items in the papers are manuscript drafts of two works by Riley which are mentioned in the correspondence but apparently were never published, and a variety of newspaper articles by Riley. There are also photographs of Riley, Karl Marx, Brigham Young, and others, membership cards for several socialist organizations, memorial cards, a sample of "equitable money," and the marriage certificate of George H. Riley.
These papers were the gift to Yale University of Walter Beinecke, Jr. in 1961.
Conditions Governing Access
Existence and Location of Copies
Conditions Governing Use
0.75 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Language of Materials
Biographical / Historical
A man who received and kept letters from people like Karl Marx, John Ruskin, Walt Whitman, William Rossetti, Walter Besant, Rudyard Kipling, Justin McCarthy, and Edward Everett Hale must have interest to more than the Yale Library – although this list may sound like a list of our special collections. Mr. Riley was editor of a large number of periodicals, many of which are present in the gift. In 1871 he was editing the Leeds Critic. He proceeded to London where he concerned himself with the Herald and Helpmate, the Republican, the International Herald under the auspices of the British Federal Council, becoming in 1873 the Republican Herald. This London period was followed by a half year spent editing the Sheffield Socialist. Two pamphlets were issued in London, An Appeal to Reason to Reform Itself (1872) and Yankee Letters to British Workmen(1871 [?]) in eleven parts. These are the comments of a Boston machinist traveling in England, written in the homespun tradition of Jack Downing continued by Will Rogers.
In 1880 Mr. Riley returned to American and from 1889 to 1896 was a resident of Lunenberg, Massachusetts. Two more substantial works are present in manuscript and I find no record of their publication: "Literary Cranks By One of Them," on 112 pages, and "Radical Jack" on 212 pages. During his later years in America Riley seems to have written under the name William Freeland. He retained his interest in cooperative colonies and workingmen's associations as is documented by nearly a hundred newspaper clippings –most of which need to be identified. Such a man was naturally the recipient of numerous "crack-pot" letters. George Francis Train writes from the Tombs in 1873 and signs himself "The Coming Dictator." One Peter Swenson writes from Caddo, Texas suggesting setting up an agricultural commune. F.G. Evans answers a request for information on the Shaker Community in Mount Lebanon. Ernest Jones, ringleader of the Chartists, sends a frantic appeal for funds (1854). One folder is inscribed "Feuds within Feuds" and contains letters to Riley from such radicals as John DeMorgan, Charles Bradlaugh, and John Hales.
From Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 36, October 1961.
- Allsop, Thomas, 1795-1880
- Aveling, Eleanor Marx, 1855-1898
- Besant, Walter, 1836-1901
- Bliss, William Dwight Porter, 1856-1926
- Bradlaugh, Charles, 1833-1891
- Buchanan, Joseph Ray, 1851-
- Dilke, Charles Wentworth, Sir, 1843-1911
- Edwards, Alfred Shenstone, 1849-
- Eliot, Charles William, 1834-1926
- Evans, F. W. (Frederick William), 1808-1893
- Fawcett, Henry, 1833-1884
- Great Britain
- Guild of St. George
- Hale, Edward Everett, 1822-1909
- Hales, John
- International Workingmen's Association (1864-1876)
- Jerrold, Blanchard, 1826-1884
- Jones, Samuel Milton, 1846-1904
- Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936
- Labor movement
- Litchman, Charles Henry, 1849-1902
- Lucas, Auberon Thomas Herbert, baron, 1876-1916
- Marx, Karl, 1818-1883
- Massey, Gerald, 1828-1907
- Maxse, Frederick Augustus, 1833-1900
- McCarthy, Justin, 1830-1912
- Oneida Community
- Orme, John
- Riley, William Harrison, 1835-1907
- Rossetti, William Michael, 1829-1919
- Ruskin, John, 1819-1900
- Socialism -- England
- Socialism -- United States
- Train, George Francis, 1829-1904
- Working class
- Guide to the William Harrison Riley Papers
- Under Revision
- compiled by Janet Elaine Gertz
- November 1982
- Description rules
- Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository
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