American editor and soldier William Conant Church was born to Parcellus Church and Chara Emily (Conant) Church in Rochester, New York, on August 11, 1836.
At the age of 19, Church joined the staff of the New York Chronicle, a paper founded by his father and J.S. Backus. After buying out Backus's share of the paper, Church became co-editor of the religious weekly with his father. In 1860, Church left the Chronicle for employment as editor and publisher of the New York Sun, a position which he only briefly held before embarking on a tour of Europe and working as a foreign correspondent for the Sun. While Church was abroad, the Sun folded and the American Civil War began, leading Church to return to New York earlier than expected in July 1861.
Upon returning to the United States Church joined the military-naval expedition led jointly by General William T. Sherman and Admiral Samuel F. Dupont. While serving as a commissioned officer, Church covered the war filing stories under the pseudonym "Pierrepont" to various newspapers including the Evening Post, Sun, and New York Times.
After serving in several campaigns, getting wounded at the Battle of Williamsburg, and being promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, Church resigned his commission and returned to publishing in 1863. He became the editor of the newly founded Army and Navy Journal, a position which he held until his death in 1917. Church's brother, Frank, also briefly worked at the Journal. The brothers continued to collaborate on publishing projects until their deaths. In 1866, they co-founded the Galaxy, an enterprise they hoped would be New York's answer to Boston's Atlantic Monthly. The magazine operated for 12 years, publishing pieces, columns, and serials from authors such as Walt Whitman, Henry James, Bret Harte, and Mark Twain, before merging with the Atlantic Monthly.
In addition to his editorial work, Church co-founded the National Rifle Association in 1871 with General George Wingate, and served as its first president and honorary director for life. He also was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a member and director of the New York Zoological Society, and an original member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Church authored several books later in his life, including The Life of John Ericsson (1891), The Life of Ulysses S. Grant (1897), and Reconstruction (1897). Prior to his death in 1917, he also published a volume reprinting two of his Army and Navy Journal essays.
"William Conant Church." Contemporary Authors Online. Gale, 2010. Available via Biography Resource Center at http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (accessed April 1, 2010).
"William Conant Church." Dictionary of American Biography. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Available online via the Biography Resource Center at http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC (accessed April 1, 2010).
The collection includes approximately 29 pieces of correspondence (28 incoming and 1 outgoing) between American editor, author, and soldier William Conant Church and various American authors, publishers, journalists, historians, and educators, sent between 1876 and 1917. The collection also includes several pieces of printed ephemera and photographs from the Century Association of New York City.
Many of the letters to Church were sent to him in his capacity as editor of the Army and Navy Journal, and request his advice, assistance, or perspective on some military matter. Examples include two typed letters signed from Brooks Adams regarding the origins of World War I, one typed letter signed by Charles Francis Adams, Jr. investigating a quote from Teddy Roosevelt about Robert E. Lee, and one autograph letter signed from Richard Henry Savage requesting that the Army and Navy Journal publish an announcement that Savage was in no way affiliated with the recently invented "Savage Gun." Other letter writers contacted Church to draw on his long experience as a journalist and editor. One series of letters from Columbia College president Nicholas Murray Butler discusses the formation of Columbia's School of Journalism and thanks Church for his assistance with the development of the school. Another exchange between Church and James Melvin Lee discusses Church's former editorial position with the New York Sun. A copy of Church's three page response to Lee is retained with Lee's original letter and provides information about the history of the New York Sun and its owner Moses S. Beach. Several additional letters provide details on events in Church's personal life, including a letter from Theodora Booth of the Girls National Honor Guard expressing remorse on the death of Church's father, a letter from Ripley Hitchcock inviting Church to a dinner at the Author's Club held in honor of Stephen Crane, and a letter from journalist and railroad executive Henry Villard inviting Church to become a commissioner to inspect portions of the North Pacific Railroad Company line. Additional letters provide background on Church's own writing, including a series of letters from G. H. Putnam and G. P. Putnam's Sons about Church's biography of U.S. Grant.
The original order of these letters, which were filed alphabetically by last name of author, has been retained. Each letter is described in greater detail below.
The final collection of items housed in this folder relates to the Century Association of New York and includes several black-and-white photographs, as well as several pieces of printed and manuscript ephemera pertaining to the Association. These items span the dates 1878 to 1899 and include a menu, an illustrated advertisement, and a memorial flyer. These items are described in further detail in the Detailed Contents List.