American lecture manager and memoirist James Burton Pond was born June 11, 1838, in Cuba, New York. Known familiarly as Major Pond, he represented American and British explorers, preachers, politicians, scientists, and writers, on the lecture circuit from 1874 to his death in 1903. His clients included Henry Ward Beecher, Winston Churchill, Henry M. Stanley, Thomas De Witt Talmage, and Mark Twain. Pond wrote two books recounting his memories of the famous figures he managed: A Summer in England with Henry Ward Beecher (1887) and Eccentricities of Genius: Memories of Famous Men and Women of the Platform and Stage (1900).
At a young age, Pond moved with his family from New York to Illinois and then to Wisconsin where his father earned a living as a farmer and blacksmith. Pond took a printer's apprenticeship at fourteen, becoming a journeyman printer in 1856, and working for newspapers across the Midwestern states. When the Civil War broke out, Pond enlisted with the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, rising to the rank of major by the end of the war and receiving the Medal of Honor for his service at the 1863 Baxter Springs Massacre.
Pond's first client was Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young who renounced her marriage and Mormonism. In 1874, Pond, with friend George Hathaway, bought the Lyceum Theater Lecture Bureau in Boston from James Redpath, and Pond officially began to manage platform speakers. Pond later moved his headquarters to New York City in 1879. Pond was extremely successful in the lecture business, managing many of the great speakers of his time and earning himself a small fortune as well as recognition on a national and international level.
Pond was married twice during his lifetime, first to Ann Francis Lynch from 1859 until her death in 1871 and then to Martha Glass from 1880 until his death in 1903. Pond died suddenly when an amputation of his leg failed to stop the spread of an infection that originated from an ulcer on his foot. His son from his second marriage, James Burton Pond, Jr. (1889-1961) took over his father’s business after his death.
"James Burton Pond." Dictionary of American Biographyreproduced in Gale Biography In Context. http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/bic1 (accessed September 29, 2010).
"Pond, James Burton." National Cyclopedia of American Biographyreproduced in Biography Reference Bank. http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/ (accessed September 29, 2010).
"Major J.B. Pond is Dead." The New York Times, June 22, 1903. http://www.nytimes.com (accessed September 29, 2010).
Spanning the years 1878 to 1944, the James B. Pond papers are largely comprised of the incoming and outgoing correspondence of James Burton Pond (familiarly known as Major Pond), as well as two smaller groupings of correspondence to his son James Burton Pond, Jr. and to his second wife Martha Glass Pond. The collection also includes three holograph memos from Pond's business, two typescript manuscripts, miscellaneous printed matter, and two photographs related to Pond and his occupation as a lecture manager.
The collection is organized in two series: I. Correspondence, II. Manuscripts and Ephemera related to Pond.
Series I. consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence of James B. Pond and others. It is divided into two subseries: correspondence to and from Pond; and correspondence to others. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent's surname. Series I.A. comprises incoming and outgoing correspondence between James Burton Pond and his friends, admirers, and clients. A significant portion of the correspondence discusses business, including requests for lecture tours, suggestions for lecture topics, and scheduling concerns.
Another common theme of the letters is congratulations on and impressions of Pond's book Eccentricities of Genius: Memories of Famous Men and Women of the Platform and Stage (1900) in response to complimentary copies sent out by the author. Notable correspondents include author Poultney Bigelow (1855-1954); Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and his mother Jennie Randolph Churchill, known after her second marriage as Jennie Cornwallis-West (1854-1921); U.S. Senator Chauncey M. Depew (1834-1928); Native American lobbyist and writer Charles Alexander Eastman, also known as Ohiyesa Eastman (1858-1939); and author and journalist Julian Ralph (1853-1903). Correspondents range from adventurers, to business men, preachers, politicians, and writers. The collection includes letters from the adventurers Adrian Hofmeyr (1873-1919) and Joshua Slocum (1844-1909) and writers John Masefield (1878-1967), Justin Huntly McCarthy (1861-1936), and Daniel Webster Wilder (1832-1911). There are also three letters on White House stationary from three consecutive Secretaries to the President between 1896 and 1902, Henry T. Thurber, John Addison Porter, and George B. Cortelyou, referencing presidential reaction to Pond’s lectures.
Series I.B. contains four groupings of correspondence to Pond's second wife Martha Glass Pond, his son James Burton Pond, Jr., his employee Sadie Glass, Columbia University president Seth Low, and author and humorist Bert Leston Taylor, respectively. Letters are arranged alphabetically by sender within each grouping. Correspondence to Mrs. Pond is largely comprised of letters concerning Pond's health and condolences after his death from friends and public figures. Correspondence to James Burton Pond, Jr. and Sadie Glass deal exclusively with the Pond Lecture Bureau which Pond Jr. managed after his father's death. Noteworthy correspondents include wildlife photographer and artist Arthur Radclyff Dugmore (1870-1955), arctic explorer Knud Rasmussen (1879-1933), and radio news commentator H.v. Kaltenborn (1878-1965). There is a letter from Columbia University president Seth Low to a Jacob W. Mack in reference to a lecturer. The single letter from Bert Leston Taylor (1866-1921) is addressed to John N. Cook in reference to the possible publication of Taylor’s novel The Bilioustine: A Periodical of Knock (1901). Taylor wrote a weekly humor column in verse for The Chicago Tribune titled "A Line o' Type or Two" from 1901 to 1903 and 1910 to 1921; however, there is no apparent connection between this letter and the Pond family.
Series II.A. comprises three holograph memoranda organized chronologically followed by undated. Two are on James B. Pond Agency Stationary, one regarding financial calculations and the second regarding childhood memories possibly by Pond. The third memorandum also deals with Pond’s business.
Series II.B. includes two typescript manuscripts organized alphabetically by title. The first is a partial manuscript with pages numbered 7-26 that includes retyped correspondence, conversation, and contextual information about Pond's troubled business relationship with Winston Churchill. The second manuscript is a typescript about Pond for a 1902 newspaper column by the otherwise anonymous columnist "The Philosopher." The newspaper of publication was possibly The Wausau Daily Record or The Wausau Daily Herald .
Series II.C. contains a variety of printed material: a playbill for Mr. William Terriss and Miss Millward at the Town Hall performed in Folkestone, England, on July 4, 1890; a photocopy of "A Dealer in Brains: Major J.B. Pond and His Association with Great Men" by Robert C. Burt from Pearson's Magazine , volume 5, January-June 1898, published in London; and a reprint of United States Senator Chauncey M. Depew's article "The Growing Importance of Transportation: Its Recognition by the Great Nations of the World."
Series II.D. consists of two photographs: a platinotype dated 1895 of U.S. District Attorney of Kansas (1874-1879) and president of the American Bar Association (1905-1906) George R. Peck (1843-1923) and a photograph circa 1897 of James B. Pond, American writer F. Marion Crawford (1854-1909), and an unidentified man.