Marker Monday: William Tappen Thompson

William Tappan Thompson Marker

Image credit: David Seibert

This week’s #MarkerMonday highlights the William Tappan Thompson marker in Morgan County. William Tappan Thompson was born in Ravenna, Ohio, on August 31, 1812. Thompson’s career in the newspaper business started at a young age and his work with Georgia newspapers began in 1834 when he moved to Augusta to study law. Thompson also wrote short stories about the rural South and gained recognition as a southern writer.

Following Thompson’s move to Augusta in 1834, he established the literary magazine, the Augusta Mirror. He also edited the Southern Miscellany (Madison, Georgia) and the Western Continent (Baltimore, Maryland). On March 15, 1842, Thompson merged the Augusta Mirror with the Family Companion (Macon, Georgia). The merged works became known as the Family Companion and Ladies’ Mirror and was a popular antebellum periodical for female readers. Not long after the merge, conflict arose between Thompson and the Family Companion’s owners regarding the content published, and Thompson left the periodical. After moving to Savannah, Thompson founded the Savannah Daily Morning News (now the Savannah Morning News) in 1850, where he served as editor for many years until his death in 1882. While at the paper, he also mentored Joel Chandler Harris and provided political commentary for the post-Civil War South.

In addition to his newspaper and periodical career, William Thompson authored several plays, short stories, and books, such as Major Jones’s Courtship (1843) and Major Jones’s Sketches of Travel (1848). Thompson’s Major Jones works were humorous pieces centered around the character Major Joseph Jones, a Georgia planter, in which Major Jones sent letters to Thompson that were rife with southern dialect and bad grammar. These works of literature were wildly popular, and Thompson became most famous for his humorous southern literature, which he hoped would confront and contrast with the strict, formal writing in most periodicals during that time.


Explore the links below to learn more:

Full Marker Text

New Georgia Encyclopedia – William Tappan Thompson

New Georgia Encyclopedia – Savannah Morning News

New Georgia Encyclopedia – Georgia Humorists

Early Georgia Magazines: Literary Periodicals to 1865

Savannah Morning News – William Tappan Thompson: our creator

Digital Library of Georgia – William Tappan Thompson (1812-1882)

Ellis, Michael. “The Treatment of Dialect in Appalachian Literature.” In Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, edited by Amy D. Clark and Nancy M. Hayward, 163–82. University Press of Kentucky, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jckk2.13.

GHS houses several collections related to William Tappen Thompson.

Daily morning news.

The Savannah morning news.

Augusta mirror; a semi-monthly journal, devoted to polite literature, useful intelligence, and the arts.

Major Jones’ chronicles of Pineville: embracing sketches of Georgia scenes, incidents, and characters/by the author of “Major Jones’s courtship,” “Sketches of travel,” etc.; with twelve illustrations from original designs by Darley.

Georgia voices, Fiction / edited by Hugh Ruppersburg.

The Georgia Historical Quarterly has published several articles relating to William Tappan Thompson which can be accessed on JSTOR. If your library does not have access to JSTOR, you can go to www.jstor.org and create a free MyJSTOR Account.

Miller, Henry Prentice. “The Background and Significance Of Major Jones’s Courtship.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly 30, no. 4 (1946): 267–96. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40577024.

Gilmer, Gertrude. “A CRITIQUE OF CERTAIN GEORGIA ANTE BELLUM LITERARY MAGAZINES ARRANGED CHRONOLOGICALLY, AND A CHECKLIST.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly 18, no. 4 (1934): 293–334. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40576340.