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William Tappan Thompson

Southern Literature

William Tappan Thompson (August 31, 1812—March 24, 1882) Born in Ravenna, Ohio, Thompson left home at age 14 and gained newspaper experience working for the Philadelphia Daily Chronicle before heading south to work as a secretary with the territorial government of Florida. His experience among the Seminoles inspired some of his earliest humorous sketches. Thompson moved to Augusta, Georgia in 1834 where he studied law under Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and also worked at Longstreet’s newspaper, the States Rights Sentinel. He left briefly (1836) to volunteer in the Second Seminole War, but returned to Augusta and in 1838 established The Augusta Mirror, a literary magazine. Over the next several years, Thompson concentrated on literary editing and publishing. He served as editor or co-editor of the Family Companion and Ladies Mirror (Macon, Goergia), the Southern Miscellany (Madison, Georgia) and the Western Continent (Baltimore, Maryland) before accepting that the South would not support literary periodicals. In 1843, Thompson published a collection of humorous letters and stories, Major Jones’s Courtship, the first of several books featuring the popular title character. He also published Chronicles of Pineville (1845), John’s Alive; or the Bride of a Ghost (1846), and Major Jones’s Sketches of Travel (1848). He also wrote three plays that were produced in Baltimore. In 1850, Thompson founded The Savannah Morning News and remained the newspaper’s editor until his death. During the 1870’s, Joel Chandler Harris worked at The Morning News and William Tappan Thompson served as his mentor much the way Augustus Baldwin Longstreet had for him in Augusta many years earlier.

Stories

Major Jones Pops the Question

A Coon Hunt