Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Another Mrs. Tomlinson

Daily Albany Argus - January 4, 1847
 found on Fultonhistory.com

Herman Melville gave one very early copy of his first book to a "Mrs. Tomlinson." Before now, this Mrs. Tomlinson has been identified in Melville scholarship as the wife of Gansevoort Melville's friend and fellow lawyer Theodore Edwin Tomlinson (1817-1887). As Hershel Parker noticed, Mrs. Tomlinson was privileged to receive her signed copy of Typee before close family members and other friends got theirs:
"On 18 March, in the excitement of being an author, Herman inscribed a copy of Typee to the wife of Gansevoort's friend Theodore Tomlinson, rather than saving all the first copies for older acquaintances and family." -- Herman Melville: A Biography Volume 1, 1819-1851 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) pages 406-7.
In The Melville Log, Jay Leyda cited "Martin" for the gift of Typee to "Mrs. [Theodore E.?] Tomlinson" on March 18, 1846, referencing the "Collection of H. Bradley Martin, Jr, New York." In January 1990 this item was sold at auction by Sotheby's along with other Melville rarities from Martin's extraordinary collection, as Lynn Horth reported in Melville Society Extracts Number 80 (February 1990) pages 10-11. Lot 2141, the first American edition of Typee inscribed to Mrs. Tomlinson, was acquired by the Nineteenth Century Shop.

The full inscription as described in an earlier sale catalog:
... PRESENTATION COPY FROM THE AUTHOR, inscribed on the front end-leaf: "Mrs. Tomlinson from the author March 18, 1846."  -- Sales - Parke-Bernet Galleries

Abby E. Tomlinson (1820-1907)

New York Spectator - December 21, 1844

As a young attorney in New York City during the early 1840's, Gansevoort Melville shared the law office of Albany friends and mentors Alexander W. Bradford and Theodore Edwin Tomlinson. Both Bradford and Tomlinson were committed Whigs, while Gansevoort passionately sided with Democrats and would become a celebrity orator on behalf of Polk in the 1844 presidential campaign. Theodore did not get married until after the election. His new wife was the former Abigail Esther Walden (1820-1907), aka "Abby." Abby E. Walden married Theodore E. Tomlinson on December 11, 1844, just two months after Herman Melville returned home on the frigate United States. (Did Herman Melville or his brother Gansevoort attend their wedding at the Church of the Ascension in NYC?) Abby was the youngest daughter of Thomas Treadwell Walden (1779-1825) and Esther Franklin (1789-1874).

As noted in Gansevoort Melville's 1846 London Journal, edited by Hershel Parker (The New York Public Library, 1966), pages 46 and 53, Gansevoort mailed newspapers to "Mrs Tomlinson" but not (why not?) her husband, Gansevoort's old friend Theodore E. Tomlinson. In 1846 Theodore and his new wife Abby lived in New York City. Gansevoort, age 30, was in London sending letters and newspapers to family and friends in the United States, and by March Herman was autographing copies of his first book. Theodore's wife, being 26 years old in 1846, does not really fit the pattern observed by Hershel Parker regarding Gansevoort's attentiveness to 
"women married to powerful men, women somewhat older than he."
In Lansingburgh, NY Herman Melville did not fail to inscribe and mail one copy of Typee to its distinguished dedicatee, Lemuel Shaw in Boston. Other known recipients of Typee from the author himself in March 1846 lived nearby in Albany and Troy, NY: aunt Susan L. Gansevoort (Albany), cousin Maria Peebles (Troy), and William E. Cramer, assistant editor of the Albany Argus

Anna Staples Tomlinson (1806-1873)

Another, older Mrs. Tomlinson also lived in Albany, New York where she had moved in 1834 with her husband and children. This was Anna Staples Tomlinson (1806-1873), wife of Theodore's cousin Oliver Mead Tomlinson (1796? -1867). Let's restore the question mark that Jay Leyda attached in volume one of The Melville Log, page 207, to his tentative identification of 
"Mrs [Theodore E.?] Tomlinson"
as the person whom Melville generously blessed with a signed copy of Typee on March 18, 1846. 


Done! Now then... was Mrs. Anna S. Tomlinson in Albany the real correspondent of Gansevoort and fortunate recipient of Herman Melville's first book? Anna (age 40) and Oliver M. Tomlinson (about 50?) had been married more than twenty years when Gansevoort was writing to "Mrs. Tomlinson" from London. When Gansevoort was appointed Secretary of Legation, O. M. co-managed the Stanwix Hall Hotel in Albany. Stanwix Hall was the magnificent marble building at Broadway and Maiden Lane, constructed in 1833 by Gansevoort and Herman Melville's Dutch-descended uncles, Herman Gansevoort and Peter Gansevoort.

O. M. and Gansevoort's friend Theodore E. Tomlinson were Connecticut cousins; their fathers were sons of Joseph Tomlinson (1741-1813).

In Albany O. M. Tomlinson previously operated a line of packet boats on the Erie Canal. He owned or co-owned the Western Navigation Company, then an important company of canal "forwarders."
Thu, Nov 3, 1836 – Page 4 · The Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · Newspapers.com
In 1844-5 O. M. Tomlinson lived at 24 Dallius according to the Albany City Directory

In March 1845, celebrating St. Patrick's Day at Stanwix Hall, O. M. Tomlinson gave the following toast:

Irishmen, the readiness with which they adapt themselves to the laws of freemen in America, the active lead and steadfast manner in which they maintained the cause of Temperance, the peaceable and orderly manner free discussion has been conducted on political subjects in large assemblages, clearly shows that the Irish people are capable of self-government, and that Ireland of right ought to have a Parliament of her own.

 --Albany Evening Journal, April 1, 1845; reprinted in the Albany Argus on April 7, 1845.

During the fall of 1845, O. M. Tomlinson ran Stanwix Hall in partnership with Daniel Comstock.

Albany Argus - September 30, 1845
 STANWIX HALL.-- This favorite Hotel has recently been still farther improved and enlarged by the annexation of the new four story building in Broadway, adjoining, which gives it forty feet more front on that fine avenue. The addition comprises some twelve parlors, with bed-rooms adjoining, peculiarly well adapted for winter boarding. The present proprietors of Stanwix Hall are Messrs. TOMLINSON and COMSTOCK, who with the energy of new lessees, are constantly making additional efforts to render their fine House more worthy of the patronage of the traveling public.
During the coming winter, Albany will present an array of Public Houses that would do credit to any city in the Union, not even excepting New York.  --Albany Argus, September 30, 1845.
The Schenectady Cabinet - September 30, 1845 via NYS Historic Newspapers

The brief partnership between O. M. Tomlinson and Daniel Comstock was formally dissolved in late November 1845.
THE Copartnership heretofore existing between the subscribers is this day dissolved by mutual consent, all debts of the firm of Tomlinson & Comstock will be paid by the said Comstock, and all debts due the said firm will be paid to the said Comstock, at Stanwix Hall in the city of Albany. Dated Albany, November 26, 1845.


The business of STANWIX HALL will be conducted hereafter by Daniel Comstock and Charles H. Comstock under the firm of D. COMSTOCK 7 SON, who will settle all unsettled business of Tomlinson & Comstock.-- A share of public patronage is respectfully solicited. D. COMSTOCK & SON.

The Albany City Directory for 1845/6 lists Wheeler and Tomlinson as "proprietors of Stanwix Hall." 

Afterwards Mrs. Tomlinson was associated by that name with the operation of a hotel or boarding house at 21 Hamilton street in Albany. State legislators reported to be staying in Albany with "Mrs. Tomlinson" in January 1847 were Senators Thomas J. Wheeler, Enoch B. Talcott, and Henry J. Sedgwick.  

Daily Albany Argus - January 4, 1847
via Fultonhistory.com

As announced in the Albany Evening Journal, proprietorship of the boarding house at 21 Hamilton street "lately occupied by O. M. Tomlinson, Esq." was assumed by a "Miss Ball" in May 1848. 

Albany Evening Journal - May 2, 1848
"BOARDING. Miss Ball has taken House No. 21 Hamilton street, lately occupied by O. M. Tomlinson, Esq., where she will be pleased to accommodate a select number of Boarders from the 1st of May...."

Bill Poray gives an entertaining account of "The Amazing Life and Times of Oliver Mead Tomlinson" in the Perinton Historical Society Historigram, Vol. 44 No. 8, May 2012.

"In the spring of 1825, Mr. Tomlinson married Ann Staples, daughter of Olney and Susannah Staples, the proprietors of Staples Tavern in Egypt. The Tomlinsons had three children, Ann Eliza, born in 1828, a son, Victory, born in 1830, and a second daughter, Statira, born in 1834. Not long after the birth of Statira, her father's business pursuits took him to Albany, and later, to the western frontier."

In 1854, the Tomlinsons' daughter Statira Tomlinson (1834-1925) married New Yorker William Maltman in Nevada City, California. William died there in 1870. 

O. M. Tomlinson is the subject of another article by Bill Poray, "The ingenuity and incarceration of a Perinton Pioneer" in the May 2019 Historigram

After his adventures out west, Oliver Mead Tomlinson left California and returned to Albany NY where in 1863 he lectured at Tweddle Hall on "How to Silence Southern Guns."

Albany Evening Journal - March 14, 1863
via Genealogy Bank

O. M. Tomlinson died in Cheektowaga, Erie County, New York on September 30, 1867.

A letter was received yesterday by William Mattman, notifying him of the death of his father in law, Oliver M. Tomlinson. He died near Buffalo, on the 30th of September, aged seventy years. Mr. Tomlinson resided in Nevada for Many years, and carried on an extenstive mining operation at Mansanita Hill. He returned East in 1862, and has since resided near Buffalo.  --Marysville CA Daily Appeal, October 26, 1867.
Oliver's widow Anna Staples Tomlinson died in Fairport, New York on November 20, 1873 according to her obituary in the Buffalo Express. The "late Mrs. A. R. Cobb" refers to Mrs. Tomlinson's daughter Ann Eliza or Eliza Anna Tomlinson (1828-1862) who married Ansel R. Cobb (1806-1884) in Buffalo, NY on September 19. 1849.

25 Nov 1873, Tue Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express (Buffalo, New York) Newspapers.com

Mrs. Oliver Tomlinson, 

a very estimable lady, who had many friends in this city, died at her residence in Fairport, Monroe County, on the evening of the 20th inst. We speak of Mrs. Anna S. Tomlinson, who has been suffering from severe illness for many months past, and who formerly resided in Buffalo. She was the mother of the late Mrs. A. R. Cobb, of this city, and had arrived at the advanced age of 67 years. Her remains were brought to this city yesterday morning and deposited in the vault of St. Paul's Cathedral.  
--Buffalo Express, November 25, 1873.

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