writings, sorted; and about
Prentice Mulford (1834-1891) remains readable and interesting, for his ideas and for his adventures. He is sometimes characterized and/or dismissed as a New Thought pioneer; one source (article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1 October 1924) characterizes him as propounder of the auto-suggestion ideas of Émile Coué (1857-1926, wikipedia) before Coué had any fame). In these putterings, Gerald Stanley Lee (129), Annie Payson Call (033), even R. W. Emerson (017) come to mind; Horace Traubel (not yet included) does too.
Seventy-two essays are included in the six volumes of Your Forces and How to Use Them published in The White Cross Library over the years 1888-1892 (according to LoC) by F. J. Needham. A list of those essays appears in the back of each volume, e.g., here (hathitrust), and is shown below
The six volumes are available at google books and elsewhere, including hathitrust : link (Harvard and NYPL copies).
- Enoch Anderson’s lovely introduction to a recent reprint of Mulford’s Life by Land and Sea (Santa Ana River Press, Norco, California, 2004) : link
- That introduction draws on Anderson’s The morning after the Gold Rush: Prentice Mulford and the American Dream (Claremont Graduate University, dissertation, 2002) : Proquest 3046792
a preview of the first 20 pages is freely viewable.
- Charles Warren Stoddard, “Prentice Mulford, The New Gospeler,” in National Magazine 22:1 (April 1905) : 94-101 : link (University of Michigan copy, at hathitrust)
- “Prentice Mulford,” autobiography solicited for and included in (separately paginated) appendix of A History of Tuolumne County, California, Compiled from the most authentic records. (San Francisco, B. F. Alley, 1882) : 19-31 : link (LC copy at hathitrust)
- “It Was Prentice Mulford / Sheepshead Bay’s Mystery Was Solved Yesterday.”
A well-known newspaper man and author found dead in his canoe — the cause of death unknown — his was a wanderer’s life.
The New-York Times (Monday, June 1, 1891) : 1 : link (paywall)
transcription below :
The body found in the canoe lying at anchor in Sheepshead Bay Saturday afternoon was identified yesterday a that of Prentice Mulford, who for several years was editor of the New-York Graphic, and who was well known in the newspaper world from this city to San Francisco. The identification was made by F. J. Needham, who was Mr. Mulford’s publisher and who lives at 52 West Fourteenth Street. He saw the body as it lay in Deputy Coroner E. C. Stilwell’s barn at Gravesend.
How or why Mulford should have died in an open boat within easy reach of assistance and where the sound of his voice could have been heard ashore is the only mysterious feature that remains of this remarkable case. He was last seen alive Monday morning, when, with a parting good-bye to his friend Needham, with whom he had been living for a week, he left the publisher’s office in Fourteenth Street and went aboard his canoe. He had arranged with Mr. Needham to contribute his regular weekly essay to the White Cross Magazine, and as he said that he needed solitude in which to finish his work, he determined to combine business wiith pleasure by making a trip in his canoe from this city to his old hom at Sag Harbor, L. I. This sort of recreation was no unusual thing with Mulford.
Mr. Needham says that he spent all his spare time in the canoe, sleeping and eating there, in fact more often than anywhere wlese. It slockers were well sored with provisions, and several blankets and an oil stove, together with a banjo, artist’s materials, pens, ink, and paper, completed the outfit. Mulford liked this nomadic sort of life, and as he had nobody to care for, he paddled, sailed, and drifted aimlessly about as best suited him. This accounts for the fact that his old friends and associates in this city have not seen much of him in the last few years. When he left the White Cross office Monday morning Mr. Needham says that Mulford was as well and as happy as could be. He never was known to be ill, in fact, and he had no heart trouble of which the publisher was aware. Mr. Needham expected to receive the manuscript of the essay by mail soon after Mulford reached Sag Harbor.
After leaving this city Mulford must have sailed directly to Sheepshead Bay, where he dropped anchor just off the mouth of the big Oriental Hotel sewer, and there, within a stone’s throw of the shore, he died. From the condition of the body, it is inferred that he died very soon after that time, probably before Tuesday morning. No marks are to be found on the body and no traces of poison are anywhere in the boat. The man could not have starved to death, for the after locker was full of provisions. A pint of St. Croix rum was found in the forward locker. If he wanted anything to eat or drink he could have purchased it with the $25 that was found in his pocket. The only theory that remains is that Mulford died of apoplexy or heart disease.
Although blessed with a fine mind and a facile pen, Mulford’s friends say that in recent years he has grown somewhat eccentric, his weak point being a tendency to Spiritualism and kindred fancies. Within a year he has written thirty-seven essays for the White Cross Magazine, nearly all of them having to do with what he was pleased to call “the force of thought and the silent power of the mind.” The titles of a few of these essays are “The Process of Re-embodiment,” “Laws of Health,” “Laws of Marriage,” “The Slavery of Fear,” and “The Art of Forgetting.”
The letters found in the canoe close beside Mulford’s body prove very conclusively that the spiritual world had a firm hold on him. He wrote them, I appears, from their context, at the dictation of a Spiritualistic being who chose this means of communicating with him. The letters are filled with assurances that the “spirit” was close beside him, watching over him and guarding him from harm, and that brighter days were in store for him. Various incidents in his past life are mentioned in his rambling conversation with the unknown, and some persons whose names appear as “L.,” “Mrs. L,” and “G.,” are frequently mentioned. Mr. Needham, the publisher, was very anxious to get possession of all this manuscript, which, he said, was part of the essay which Mulford was to have mailed to him from Sag Harbor.
Coroner Rooney of Brooklyn will hold an inquest on the body this morning, and it will then be sent to Mulford’s old home at Sag Harbor, where his father and mother are buried. He has two sisters living there. One of the sisters was in Brooklyn yesterday, when she learned of her brother’s death, and she, with Mr. Needham, will take charge of his effects. Mulford was married about fifteen years ago, but he was separated from his wife and her present address couldd not be learned. Mr. Needham positively declined to say anything about her yesterday, because, he said, it was Mulford’s private affair.
Mulford’s life had been one of constant changes and many disappointments. He was born in Sag Harbor between 1835 and 1840, and his early years were spent among the ships and sailors that once frequented that busy whaling port. The California gold fever became epidemic when yet a lad, and his writings show his eagerness to join the young men who left Sag Harbor for the mines.
In 1855 he shipped before the mast on the clipper ship Wizard, bound from New-York to San Francisco, making the trip around the Horn in the double capacity of cabin boy and deckhand. For several months he drifted aimlessly about San Francisco, finally shipping as a cook and steward of the schooner Henry, whose destination was the Lower California coast. The next few years he spent as a place miner in the wildest of the then partially populated gold fields.
Unsuccessful as a miner, Mulford next taught school in a mining camp in Tuolumne County, Cal. In 1862-3, when the copper fever broke out in Stanislaus County, he was one of the first to shoulder a pick and stake a claim near the then promising town of Copperopolis. This place lived and died in ten years, and with its death perished Mulford’s fortunes in the copper business. He was by no means disouraged, however, for in the next year, when silver leads were first discovered in Nevada, he was promptly on the spot. He organized the Mulford Mining, Prospecting, and Land Company, staked out claims and trusted to luck. In one year his company had failed and Mulford was again reduced to poverty. In the Winter of 1864 the impoverished miner began a long tramp on foot from the scene of his Nevada misfortunes to his old claim at Sonora, in Tuolumne County, Cal. On the way he became lost in the Sierras, and suffered terribly from cold and hunger. At one time all his toes were frozen and death stared him in the face, but he pulled bravely along and in the Spring he reached Sonora. His next year was spent in that town in the capacity of a digger of post holes. While thus engaged he wrote a lecture with which one day he astonished and delighted his fellow-diggers. His reception at the hands proved so enthusiastic that he abandoned the post-hole digging business altogether, and spent the next few years as an itinerant comic lecturer.
In 1866 he conceived the idea of running for the Legislature from the Sonora district. His friends encouraged him, and he set upon the task of making a hot canvass of the county, but his reception outside of Sonora not proving encouraging, he gave it up as a bad business. Then he wrote letters for the Golden Era, a weekly newspaper published in San Francisco, and eventually the editor of that sheet offered him a position as associate editor, which he was glad to accept. His services on the Golden Era were so satisfactory that in a few years he was made editor in chief. In the meanthime he wrote for other papers and achieved a reputation which was more than local. Finally, after sixteen years in California, he came to this city.
At the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876 Mulford acted as correspondent for a number of newspapers and magazines. Subsequently he served as correspondent at the Paris Exposition, and then at the vienna Exposition, his letters from each of these places being of such a nature as to win for him an excellent reputation. For several years he was the London correspondent of a number of Americannewspapers, and his letters were widely copied and admired. Some of his best newspaper work was done for the San Francisco Chronicle. He was the author of “The Swamp Angel” and of “Life by Land and Sea; or, Prentice Mulford’s Story,” both of which books were published in this city.
more of Prentice Mulford, likely ahead.
12 August 2022