Thomas E. Watson papers, 1863-1996.

Creator: Watson, Thomas E. (Thomas Edward), 1856-1922.
Collection number: 755
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Abstract: Thomas E. Watson of Thomson, Ga., was a lawyer; politician and Populist Party candidate for U.S. vice-president in 1896 and for president in 1904 and 1908; senator, 1921-1922; author; and newspaper and journal publisher. Chiefly business and professional papers of Thomas E. Watson, including correspondence, largely about politics and writings; legal and financial papers relating to his law practice and writings; drafts of his books and articles; printed versions of articles and pamphlets; diaries and commonplace books; scrapbooks and clippings about Watson and subjects of interest to him; writings by others, most of whom were associated with Watson’s publications; family photographs; and miscellaneous other materials. There is good coverage of the Populist Party and of Georgia politics in general; scrapbooks, clippings, and speeches provide documentation for Watson’s national political campaigns. Correspondence with Watson’s book publishers and employees, along with book and article manuscripts, provide extensive coverage of his work as writer and editor. Watson was most influential through his publications, which included the People’s Party Paper (1891-1898). His editorials espoused such Populist causes as antitrust legislation, railroad regulation, and monetary policies favorable to agrarian interests, including the coinage of silver. Materials also relate to Watson’s initial support of the inclusion of African Americans in the agrarian movement, and his later shift to race baiting, support of black disfranchisement, and virulent anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic sentiment. Draft copies of Watson’s books include a history of France (1899); biographies of Napoleon (1902), Jefferson (1903), and Andrew Jackson (1912); and a novel (1904), all of which were written from the Populist perspective. Correspondents include William Jennings Bryan, Marion Butler, William Randolph Hearst, James Ryder Randall, Theodore Roosevelt, and Upton Sinclair. Watson’s private life is documented in a few personal letters and some diary entries. Also included is a long interview with Georgia Watson Craven about Tom Watson; the Watson family; and life in Thomson, Ga.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: Included are Watson’s attack on President Grover Cleveland for dining with Booker T. Washington in 1904 (Folder 16) and letters of support and defamation of Watson’s editorials on race, which reflect his initial support of the inclusion of blacks in the agrarian movement and his later shift to black disenfranchisement ¬†between 1905-1907 (Folders 28- 37; 38-82). Also included are letters of praise from the Ku Klux Klan in 1921 (Folder2 126-152).

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