William L. Alden

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William Livingston Alden
Born(1837-10-09)October 9, 1837[1]
DiedJanuary 14, 1908(1908-01-14) (aged 70)[1]
Parent(s)Joseph Alden

William Livingston Alden (1837–1908) was a prominent American journalist, fiction writer, humorist and canoe enthusiast. He was a US diplomat in Rome from 1885 to 1890 and thereafter lived in Europe until shortly before his death.


William Livingston Alden was born in Williamstown, Massachusetts on October 9, 1837. He attended Lafayette College and transferred to Jefferson College after his father, Joseph Alden, was elected president.[2]

He graduated from Jefferson in 1858 and read law in New York City with William M. Evarts, joining the bar in 1860.[3] He practiced law until 1866.[3][4] He then became a journalist, writing for the Scribner's Monthly, The Atlantic, New York World and Daily Graphic.[1][3] He later worked on the editorial staff of The New York Times and produced a weekly column called "Minor Topics".[5] He also wrote humor pieces and juvenile fiction.[6] While in New York City he became an early member of the Theosophical Society, an esoteric organization founded by Helena Blavatsky in 1875.[7]

Alden is also credited with bringing the sport of canoeing to the United States.[6][8] He founded the New York Canoe Club in 1871, which was the first canoeing organization in America.[9] He was a founding member of the American Canoe Association and served as its first Commodore.[6][10]

Alden was appointed Consul General in Rome, Italy, by President Grover Cleveland in 1885, a position he held until 1890.[6] He then lived in Paris, writing for the New York Herald, and later living and writing in London.[1] He died in 1908.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d Riley, Sam G. (1995). "Alden, William Livingston". Biographical dictionary of American newspaper columnists. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 6.
  2. ^ "Jefferson College 1802–1865". U. Grant Miller Library Digital Archives. Washington & Jefferson College. Archived from the original on 2009-05-02.
  3. ^ a b c Jennings Coffin, Selden; William Baxter Owen. "William Livingston Alden, A.M.". Record of the men of Lafayette: Brief biographical sketches of the alumni of Lafayette College from its organization to the present time. Lafayette College. p. 210.
  4. ^ Biographical and Historical Catalogue of Washington and Jefferson College. Elm Street Printing Company. 1889. pp. 211.
  5. ^ The column was renamed "Topics of the Times" in 1896 with Frederick Craig Mortimer as the author until 1926, when it was taken over by Simeon Strunsky until 1946.
  6. ^ a b c d e "THE LIFEWORK OF WILLIAM L. ALDEN: Highly Esteemed Both Sides the Atlantic for His Clever Writings. FAMOUS AS A HUMORIST: Consul General at Rome Under Cleveland – First Commodore of American Canoe Association" (PDF). The New York Times. January 16, 1908. Retrieved 2016-11-10.
  7. ^ Gary Lachman (2012). Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. p. 136.
  8. ^ "The Cruising Canoe and its Outfit". Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Harper & Brothers. August 1880. Archived from the original on 2010-12-11. That is an undated reprint by the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association, Ltd (wcha.org).
  9. ^ Hoffman, Ronald C. (June 1967). "The Formation and Growth of the American Canoe Association" (PDF). Ph.D. Dissertation. American Canoe Association.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Commodores / Presidents". American Canoe Association. 2008.[dead link]

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