Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

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 (scamss): 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

Scope and Contents

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 copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

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
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1