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Collection Overview

Mahan, A. T. (Alfred Thayer), 1840-1914
Alfred Thayer Mahan Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1883-1977 (mostly 1883-1913)
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1


Consists chiefly of letters by Alfred Thayer Mahan to his publisher regarding his writings about United States naval history. Mahan was a U.S. naval officer in the Civil War, and his work on the importance of adequate navies and merchant marines influenced the policies and philosophies of national leaders across the globe, including those of the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists chiefly of letters by Mahan to staff members of the New York publisher Charles Scribner's Sons. The major correspondents are Edward L. Burlingame, first editor of the firm's most successful magazine, Scribner's Magazine, to whom Mahan writes about his manuscript of "Gulf Island Waters," his article "Campaign on Lake Champlain of 1776," and galleys and proofs of other works; and Joseph Hawley Chapin, head of the firm's Art Department, to whom Mahan wrties regarding captions for book illustrations. Other material includes a letter (1897) by the writer Robert Bright Marston regarding publishing a book titled History of the Royal Navy, two letters (1908) by Mahan to Robert Mountsier declining an invitation to deliver an address at the University of Michigan due to ill health, a prospectus for a biography about Mahan by Charles Carlisle Taylor titled The Life of Admiral Mahan (1920), and a partial genealogy of Mahan's family, dated June 1977.


Arranged chronologically.

Collection Creator Biography:

Mahan, A. T. (Alfred Thayer), 1840-1914

Alfred Thayer Mahan was a U.S. naval officer and historian. A Union naval officer in the Civil War, he later lectured on naval history and strategy at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., of which he was president (1886-89, 1892-93). Out of his lectures came his two major works on the historical significance of sea power: The influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890) and The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812 (2 vols., 1892). In these he argued that naval power was the key to success in international politics; the nation that controlled the seas held the decisive factor in modern warfare. Theodore Roosevelt and other proponents of a big navy and overseas expansion were influenced by Mahan's writings. Among his many works are biographies of David Farragut and Horatio Nelson and the autobiographical From Sail to Steam.

Collection History


Acquired in 1985 .


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Dina Britain on June 30, 2006. Finding aid written by Tenley Eakin on July 5, 2006. Folder inventory added by James Clark '14 in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Alfred Thayer Mahan Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184