Special Collections Department
403 Parks Library
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-2140

MS 244
John Jay Chapman (1862-1933)
Correspondence, 1932, undated

Descriptive summary

creator: Chapman, John Jay (1862-1933)
title: Correspondence
dates: 1932, undated
extent: 0.21 linear feet (1 half-document box)
collection number: MS 244
repository: Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.


Administrative information

access: Open for research
publication rights: Consult Head, Special Collections Department
preferred citation: John Jay Chapman Correspondence, MS 244, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.



John Jay Chapman was an American author, poet, and political crusader in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His subject matter was varied, ranging from political and literary commentary to several children's plays. This collection contains biographical information from two separate publications. Both detail his personal and professional life. Also included is a letter from Chapman to his friend, Arthur M. Huntington.


Biographical note

John Jay Chapman was born March 2, 1862 in New York City to Henry Grafton Chapman and Eleanor Jay. Chapman was distinguished even when young because of his family background. He was the grandson of Maria Weston Chapman, an antislavery worker in Boston, and great-grandson of John Jay, first chief justice of the United States. In his later life, Chapman was described by some as a "belated abolitionist" and he wrote much about his thoughts on the subject.

Chapman received his degree (1885) from Harvard University after years of private tutoring at home. He enrolled in Harvard Law School but was unable to finish due to the purposeful burning of his left hand (so badly that it later had to be amputated). His reason for this self-inflicted harm was punishment after beating a man who he believed was showing inappropriate attention to his girlfriend. He later married the woman, Minna Timmins, and together they had three sons. Chapman became an ardent supporter of local politics and wrote two books, Causes and Consequences and Practical Agitation, on the relationship between government and business in America. Minna died January 25, 1897, but Chapman remarried two years later to Elizabeth Chanler who was the oldest daughter of John Winthrop Chanler and Margaret Astor Ward. Together John and Elizabeth had one son.

Chapman developed a personal friendship with Theodore Roosevelt after receiving his approval to run with other Independents for the governorship of New York after the Spanish War. However, Roosevelt would later vehemently deny any association with the group, which angered Chapman. He found emotional release in writing an infrequent journal, Political Nursery, where he harshly critiqued Roosevelt and his actions in government. This argument would stop all contact between the two for over twenty years, at which time both men lost a son during World War I. Both their sons were aviators in France, Victor Chapman being the first American aviator killed in World War I. After this tragic event, they resumed their relationship out of shared grief.

During the last few decades of Chapman's life, he suffered a severe breakdown which caused him to retreat into solitude only to be nursed back to health by his second wife, Elizabeth. During this time, he wrote increasingly on religious topics, claiming that his turn to religion was the vehicle for his recovery.

Chapman's writing was very sporadic and his subject matter varied, which is why some argue that his work never received much attention by any mainstream audience. His topics range from politics to religion, from children's plays to literary criticism. He also kept up a consistent correspondence with many friends and colleagues, which is evidenced in John Jay Chapman and His Letters (call number PS1292.C3 Z53).

Chapman died November 4, 1933 following a brief illness in Poughkeepsie.


Collection description

This collection (1932, undated) contains biographical material and a letter from 1932.  Two biographical entries from the publications Who Was Who Among North American Writers and The Dictionary of American Biography detail Chapman's writing career as well as his personal life. Also in this collection is a short letter written by John Jay Chapman to his friend, Arthur M. Huntington. In the margin of the letter is a handwritten note from Huntington, remarking that he responded the next day.


Related materials

Books and essays by John Jay Chapman can be found by using the University Library's online search system.


Container list







Who Was Who Among North American Writers and The Dictionary of American Biography: biographical entries




Correspondence from John Jay Chapman to Arthur M. Huntington