Saturday, April 2, 2011

We had Lunch with Cousin James R. Osgood (1836-1892)

Today my husband and I traveled to the neighboring town of Pueblo, Colorado to take care of some business. Before returning home we stopped for lunch at the Cracker Barrel there. As is typical of this chain of restaurants, the walls of this one are decorated with memorabilia from the past. The Hostess escorted us to a table at the farthest end of the dining room.

While we waited for our food to be served, Larry and I gazed around at all the items on the walls---a milking machine apparatus, cigarette advertising signs, a "Bubble Up" beverage sign, as well as the many old portraits that were displayed. I turned around and saw a portrait on the wall about 3 feet behind me. It aroused my curiosity, so I got up and walked closer to it to read the name on it. It was the portrait that I've posted above, that of James Ripley Osgood. I joked to Larry that he was probably my cousin. Larry thinks I'm related to everyone in the world because, with ancestors who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I AM related to a lot of people whom we study or hear about.

When we returned home this afternoon, I promptly "googled" James R. Osgood. From Wikipedia I learned this:
"A reputed child prodigy, James R. Osgood knew Latin at age 3 and entered college at 12 years of age. He studied at Bowdoin College in Maine, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. While there, he was a member of the Peucinian Society among others.

He entered the publishing trade as a clerk in the Boston firm of Ticknor and Fields and, by 1864, became a partner in the firm. It was reorganized in 1868 as Fields, Osgood, & Company. The firm acquired The Atlantic Monthly.

In 1870 Osgood and two partners founded James R. Osgood & Company. Among their successful publications was Bret Harte's The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Stories, followed by a volume of Harte's poems and another of "condensed novels." Osgood advanced Bret Harte $10,000 for future work, but Harte never wrote another story. In 1872 and 1877, J.R. Osgood & Company brought out Henry Wilson's three-volume account of the Civil War, The History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America. Also in 1877 the firm sold the North American Review and published an edition of Edward FitzGerald's Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

In 1878 the firm dissolved, and Osgood joined forces with Henry Oscar Houghton to form the short-lived Houghton, Osgood & Company. The firm's most successful book was William Dean Howells' The Lady of the Aroostook. In 1880 this firm became the New York branch of Houghton, Mifflin & Company. Osgood remained in Boston, where he founded a second J.R. Osgood & Company.

Osgood published an edition of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in 1881 that was attacked by the Boston district attorney as "obscene literature".[1] Osgood gave in and refused to bring out another edition, forcing Whitman to find another publisher.

By this time Osgood had befriended Samuel L. Clemens, whose pen name was "Mark Twain." In 1882 the company published Twain's The Prince and the Pauper and The Stolen White Elephant. That same year, Osgood accompanied Clemens on a riverboat trip collecting material for Life on the Mississippi, which was published by Osgood in 1883.

Osgood's firm was reportedly one of the most successful in Boston. However, in 1885 the company went bankrupt. Osgood's young partners, Thomas and Benjamin Ticknor, found a third partner and started a new firm. Osgood went to work for Harper's Magazine. In 1891 Osgood went into business again, with the magazine's permission, in partnership with Clarence McIlvaine as Osgood, McIlvaine, & Company. The firm had its greatest success with Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but Osgood died before the volume went on sale. 

As I did a quick search for the ancestry of James Osgood, I found his ancestry as I've indicated in this chart that I've prepared:  
It shows that I'm the 5th cousin, 5 times removed of James Ripley Osgood.

Fields, Osgood, & Co, 124 Tremont St., Boston
The thing that amazes Larry and me so much about this discovery is that for the last 3 weeks I've been doing a lot of research on my Phelps/Lovejoy/Osgood ancestors! That's why, when I read James' name on his portrait at the Cracker Barrel, I remarked that he's probably my cousin! 

I know that's why I was drawn to the portrait (even though it was displayed 3 feet behind my seat) and arose from my chair to study it more closely. It was nice to have his company for lunch today!
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