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Unitarian minister Henry Whitney Bellows wrote this letter to actor Edwin Booth in 1869 to express interested about an actress who had joined his company. Bellows was president of the United States Sanitary Commission, which improved the lives of Union soldiers and helped treat the wounded during the American Civil War.
Autograph letter signed "Henry W. Bellows". 2 pages, 5x7¾, 1 sheet folded, front and verso. New York, Jan. 25, 1869. Addressed to Edwin Booth, Esq. In full: "Dear Sir I am much interested from the reports of common friends of acute & honorable minds , in the fortunes of Mrs. Kilbourne, who had just joined, in a very humble capacity, you Company. I feel sure that you will be as kind to her as her merits will justify, and I beg to ask your favorable and friendly notice of her qualifications and aspiring temper. I shall keep an interest eye upon her, knowing her antece-dents, & every step she makes upwards, will be hailed by many anxious friends with lively interest &gratitude. Wishing you perfect success in your magne-fecent [sic] Theatre and high [illegible] I remain respectfully yours". American actor EDWIN BOOTH (1833-1893), the son of English-born actor Junius Booth, was a talented performer of Shakespearean tragedies and renowned especially for his Hamlet. However, modern audiences probably know him best for his brother, also a fine actor: John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. American Unitarian clergyman and author HENRY WHITNEY BELLOWS (1814-1882) is probably best remembered today for co-founding the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) during the American Civil War. The USSC, officially created on June 18, 1861, was one of the largest soldier's aid agencies during the war and improved camp conditions and food for Union and captured Confederate soldiers and assisted evacuation and treatment of the wounded. Before it was disbanded in 1866, it also helped Union veterans secure bounties, back pay and pensions. Bellows was the USSC's first and only president. He graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 1837. A brief pastorate in Mobile, Alabama (1837-1838) turned him into a moderate abolitionist. However, Bellows reportedly refused to call slave owners evil like other abolitionists, as he'd been tempted by the good life of the South's white upper class himself. He was then made pastor of the First Congregational Church (Unitarian) in New York City, which he held until his death. An influential voice in Unitarianism, he founded the newspaper the Christian Inquirer in 1847 and edited it and its successor, the Liberal Christian for over three decades. His greatest influence on Unitarianism was his proposing and organizing the National Conference of Unitarian Churches in 1865. He served as president of the National Conference, with short breaks, until 1880. The organization was later absorbed into the American Unitarian Association. Lightly toned, stained and creased. Body of letter, but not signature, has smeared and bled lightly in places, but is legible. Ink transference inside letter (does not touch signature). Lightly soiled on verso (no show-through). Folded twice and unfolded. Otherwise in fine condition.

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Born: June 11, 1814 in Boston, Massachusetts
Died: January 30, 1882 in New York City, New York

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