Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)

Philosopher, educational innovator, author, diarist, and ardent reformer, Amos Bronson Alcott is not as well known as some of his transcendentalist friends, but during his lifetime he exerted a profound influence. Alcott has been called "the most transcendental of the Transcendentalists," and is considered, by some, to be the founder of American Transcendentalism.

A list of his friends, neighbors, and acquaintances included literary giants Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman, Thoreau, Fuller, and Emerson-who once claimed that Alcott possessed the purest mind of anyone he had ever met. He championed causes that still resonate: nonviolence, education, animal rights, race relations, vegetarianism, and women's equality. He conducted Socratic dialogs, or Conversations, which were later adopted by Margaret Fuller. Assisted by Fuller and Elizabeth Peabody at his Temple School, Boston, Alcott advanced the cause of education in America by conducting revolutionary experiments in pedagogy, ethics, discipline, and instructional methodology. For six years, he served as Superintendent of Concord Schools.

In his seventies, Alcott finally realized another dream and founded the Concord School of Philosophy, a school for adult education. He founded Fruitlands, a short-lived transcendental vegan community, and advocated vegetarianism through lectures and writing. His daughter Louisa May remembered the Fruitlands experience in her reminiscence Transcendental Wild Oats. As organizer of the Non-Resistance Society, Alcott opposed all forms of violence and exercised a profound influence on Thoreau. He staunchly defended women's rights and was asked to lecture at women's rights conferences. It is notable that Alcott was alone among Transcendental leaders in signing Lucy Stone's petition calling for women's right to vote.

Not least among A. Bronson Alcott's accomplishments was his family life. Alcott was committed to his family. He was the husband of Abigail May Alcott, and the father of Anna Bronson, Louisa May, Elizabeth Sewall, and Abba May. A sincere advocate of feminism, Alcott shared in domestic chores, including cooking and child care, and raised his daughters to believe that their life choices were unlimited.

Alcott was an author and poet who wrote articles, pamphlets, poetry, and books, including The Doctrine and Discipline of Human Culture (1836), Conversations with Children on the Gospels (1836-1837), Ralph Waldo Emerson (privately published, 1865; published, 1882), Tablets (1868), Concord Days (1872), Table Talk (1877), New Connecticut (1881), and Sonnets and Canzonets (1882).

Bronson Alcott in the Abernethy Collection

Amos Bronson Alcott, His Character: A Sermon by Cyrus Bartol
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, December 12, 1874
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, March 13, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, October 17, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, July 7, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, June 6, 1870
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, March 27, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, March 5, 1871
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, March 19, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, August 16, 1870
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, January 7, 1882
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, July 15, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, February 27, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, July 6, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, April 8, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, November 14, 1869
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, February 6, 1878
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, October 19, 1869
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, July 27, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, September 19, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, December 27, 1871
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, July 10, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, April 25, 1870
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, June 2, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, March 29, 1870
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, December 30, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, October 31, 1869
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, June 10, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, May 5, 1872
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, May 5, 1874
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, October 3, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, September 3, 1873
Letter from Amos Bronson Alcott to Miss Ellen A. Chandler, August 28, 1873
Manuscript of Poem of "Friendship" by Bronson Alcott, no date
Letter from Bronson Alcott to Joshua Young, February 6, 1878
Letter from Bronson Alcott to Reverend Samuel Longfellow, April 21, 1849
Quotation from Tasso as Copied by Bronson Alcott, 1876

 



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