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“Honest Independence”: The Life of Norton Strange Townshend

Norton Strange Townshend

Norton Strange Townshend (1815-1895). Daguerreotype by Thomas Easterly.

Norton Strange Townshend (1815-1895) had a long and multi-faceted career in politics, medicine, social reform, and agricultural education. His accomplishments included antislavery activism, political involvement at the local level and in the U.S. House of Representatives, work on the Underground Railroad, a role as a Medical Inspector in the Civil War, and advocacy of scientific training for farmers. The latter earned him the nickname, “the father of agricultural education in the United States” and allowed him to shape Ohio State University as a co-founder and its first Professor of Agriculture. He also participated in the women’s suffrage movement, had a deep interest in botany and archaeology, and was a co-founder and trustee of the Ohio State Asylum for Idiotic and Imbecile Youth, which educated and trained children with intellectual disabilities. Focusing his daunting energy and ever-present practicality on achieving reform in many arenas, he was able to bring his deeply humane and progressive views to bear on nineteenth century society.

This online exhibit illuminates many aspects of Townshend’s career and life through biographical information and digitally scanned manuscripts, images, and printed materials from the Norton Strange Townshend Family Papers. The papers include a wealth of primary sources, such as the diaries of Townshend and his wife, Margaret Bailey Townshend, essays and lectures by Townshend on dozens of political, social and personal topics, correspondence between Townshend and his family members and colleagues such as Salmon P. Chase, printed matter, and rich visual resources, including daguerreotypes by Thomas M. Easterly, who was Townshend’s brother-in-law. The materials document not only Townshend’s life and work, but also the everyday lives of his immediate family and descendants, and this exhibit highlights many of its treasures.

The Papers are housed and open for research at the William L. Clements Library. Please see the Finding Aid or contact the library for additional information on the collection.