Biography and History

Jeter Allen Isely was born on 4 November 1913 in Morristown, Tennessee. He studied at the United States Naval Academy from 1935 to 1937, and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1937. Isely then went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton in 1939 and 1941, respectively. His Ph.D. thesis was titled “Horace Greeley, Apostle of Social Democracy, 1853-1861.”

After instructing in Princeton's History Department for a year, Isely entered the Navy in 1942 and taught at the Naval Academy and the Naval War College during World War II. In 1946 he returned to teaching at Princeton, became an assistant professor of History in 1947, and then an associate professor from 1951 until his death of a heart attack in 1954. Isely conducted historical studies of first rank importance, and carried forth a full-length biography of Horace Greeley. At the time of his death, he was in the midst of writing a biography of George Ripley, one of the founders of the Brook Farm literary circle and the Literary Editor of the New York Tribune for four decades. Isely was the author of Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1853-1861 (1947); co-author with Philip Axton Crowl of The US Marines and Amphibious War (1951); and co-author with Commander John Meigs of German Military Power.

Isely married Elizabeth [“Lisette”] Catherine Riggs in 1943. Together they had five children, two sons and three daughters. Elizabeth collaborated with her husband on his George Ripley research, particularly by sharing her Ph.D. thesis, “George and Sophia Ripley” (1942), written while she studied at the University of Maryland. She died in May 1957.

Source: From the finding aid for C0465

  • Jeter A. and Elizabeth Riggs Isely Collection. 1842-1940 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C0465

    The Jeter A. and Elizabeth Riggs Isely Collection consists of manuscripts, notes, notebooks, and correspondence relating to research by the American historian and Princeton professor Jeter A. (Jeter Allen) Isely (1913-1954) and his wife, Elizabeth ["Lisette"] Riggs Isely (1914-1957).