Queer Places:
Columbia University (Ivy League), 116th St and Broadway, New York, NY 10027
Pegli Communal Cemetery Pegli, Città Metropolitana di Genova, Liguria, Italy

Samuel Cutler "Sam" Ward (January 27, 1814 — May 19, 1884),[1] was an American poet, politician, author, and gourmet, and in the years after the Civil War he was widely known as the "King of the Lobby." He combined delicious food, fine wines, and good conversation to create a new type of lobbying in Washington, DC — social lobbying — over which he reigned for more than a decade.[2]

Ward was born in New York City into an old New England family and was the eldest of seven children. His father, Samuel Ward III, was a highly respected banker with the firm of Prime, Ward & King. His grandfather, Col. Samuel Ward, Jr. (1756—1832), was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Sam's mother, Julia Rush Cutler, was related to Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" of the American Revolution. When Ward's mother died while he was a student at the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, his father became morbidly obsessed with his children's moral, spiritual, and physical health. It wasn't until he was a student at Columbia College, where he joined the Philolexian Society and from which he graduated in 1831, that he began to learn about the wider world. The more he learned, the less he wanted to become a banker. He convinced his father first to let him study in Europe. He stayed for four years, mastering several languages, enjoying high society, earning a doctorate degree from the University of Tübingen, and, in Heidelberg, meeting Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who became his friend for life.

In January 1838, he married Emily Astor, eldest daughter of businessman William Backhouse Astor, Sr. and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong of the Livingston family. In November 1838, Emily gave birth to their daughter, Margaret Astor Ward, who married John Winthrop Chanler, son of John White Chanler and Elizabeth Shirreff Winthrop. Together, they had ten children, including William Astor Chanler, Sr., Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler, and Robert Winthrop Chanler.

His father died unexpectedly in November 1839. Next, Ward's brother Henry died suddenly of typhoid fever. In February 1841, his wife gave birth to a son, but within days both she and the newborn died. Sam was executor of his father's several-million-dollar estate, partner now in a prestigious banking firm, guardian of his three sisters (among them Julia Ward Howe), a widower, father of a toddler, and 27 years old. Ward tried to settle into the life of a young banker.

In 1843, Sam married Marie Angeline "Medora" Grymes.[4] Before their marriage, Medora had been "engaged to a young, handsome and rich Frenchman, bearing a title, though a member of a wealthy house in Paris, of which he was the representative in New York."[5] Reportedly, Ward wooed her, convincing her to end her engagement and marry him. Medora, "the daughter of the celebrated lawyer, John R. Grymes of New Orleans," was considered "the most brilliant woman of her age that America has ever produced".[5] After bearing Ward two sons in quick succession, she went to Europe with their two sons for their education. She became prominent at court, and "was an especial favorite with both Napoleon III and Eugénie."[5]

Ward, urged on by his new wife, began speculating on Wall Street. In September 1847, the financial world was stunned by news that Prime, Ward and Co. had collapsed.

Broke, Ward joined the '49ers rushing to California. He opened a store on the San Francisco waterfront; plowed his profits into real estate; claimed he made a quarter of a million dollars in three months; and lost it all when fire destroyed his wharves and warehouses. For a time he operated a ferry in the California wilderness; he alluded to mysterious schemes in Mexico and South America; and he bobbed up in New York a wealthy man again. He plunged back into speculating and lost all of his money again, and with it went Medora's affection. This time he finagled a berth on a diplomatic mission to Paraguay. When he sailed home in 1859, he brought with him a secret agreement with the president of Paraguay to lobby on that country's behalf and headed to Washington, DC, to begin a new career.

Ward was a Democrat with many friends and family in the South. He also believed in gradual emancipation, which put him at odds with his sister, Julia Ward, who would later write "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe. But there was no question that he would remain loyal to the Union. He put his dinner table at the disposal of his neighbor Secretary of State William Henry Seward. His elegant meals, which had already begun to be noticed, provided the perfect cover for Northerners and Southerners looking for neutral ground. In the early days of the war, Ward also traveled through the Confederacy with British journalist William Howard Russell, secretly sending letters full of military details back to Seward for which he surely would have been hanged or shot if exposed. In 1862, he told Seward he was wrong to think that the Confederacy would have rejoined the Union had war been averted.[3] At the war's end, Ward's friends in high places, his savoir faire, his trove of anecdotes and recipes, and his talents for diplomacy augured well for his success in Washington. His entrée into the Johnson administration was Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch, who, faced with the colossal task of financial reconstruction, turned for help to Ward, who won for him a partial victory via cookery. Soon he was boasting to Julia that he was lobbying for insurance companies, telegraph companies, steamship lines, railroad lines, banking interests, mining interests, manufacturers, investors, and individuals with claims. Everyone, he crowed, wanted him. What they wanted was a seat at his famous table.

At these evenings new friendships developed, old ones were cemented, and Sam's list of men upon whom he could call lengthened. This was the hallmark of what reporters labeled the "social lobby," and, by the late 1860s, Sam was hailed in newspapers across the country as its "King." And yet nowhere in this age of corruption and scandal—not in the press, in congressional testimony, or in his own letters or those of his clients—was there any hint that "the King" ever offered a bribe, engaged in blackmail, or used any other such methods to win his ends.

By the late 1870s, the "King of the Lobby" was slowing down. Although friends urged him to retire, the truth was that he couldn't. Sam was famous, but he was not rich. He lived well—very well indeed—but on other men's money. But then his luck changed once again. Years earlier, a wealthy Californian, James Keene, had been a poor, desperately ill teenager in the California gold fields and Sam had nursed him back to health. Keene never forgot his kindness. He manipulated railroad stock with his good "SAMaritan" in mind, and, when he came East in 1878, he gave Sam the profits—nearly $750,000. With this dramatic change in his circumstances, the "King" abdicated his crown, decamped for New York, and naively backed unscrupulous strangers developing a grand new resort on Long Island. To no one's surprise but Sam's, the project failed and Sam's final fortune evaporated. In order to evade creditors, Sam sailed for England. He bobbed up in London and was straightaway entertained by his many friends there and then moved on to Italy.

One of the high points for gay men in Boston was the 1882 visit of Oscar Wilde during his tour of the US. Julia Ward Hove, then the presiding doyen of Boston aristocratic society, hosted a brunch in his honor with guests such as Isabella Stewart Gardner. Thomas Wentworth Higginson publicly attacked Howe for hosting Wilde, prompting her to take to the press to defend herself and her guest. Higginson's opposition wasn't because he was straight; he was madly in love with journalist William Henry Hurlbert despite being married. Hurlbert and Wilde hit it off and the two spent private time together. This may have sparked jealousy in Higginson as Hurlbert had a notorious reputation as a womanizer and a flirt with men. Wilde and Hurlbert in New York and later in Washington were mutually attracted to each other as intensely as Wilde and Higginson in Boston were not, and all the intensity that made Higginson so formidable an abolitionist burst out in jealous rage against Wilde. At a stag dinner honoring Wilde hosted by Hurlbert at the Merchants’ Club in New York, “the first homeward-bound carriage left the portals long after midnight.” Higginson was, of course, excluded from these festive evenings, as he was not privy to more intimate outings between Samuel Ward, his beloved Hurlbert, and the “unmanly” Wilde. Thus, Higginson’s attack on Wilde’s aesthetic style may have been a more personal and complicated reaction, a jealousy bound up with Higginson’s own homoerotic and suppressed identity.

During Lent in 1884, he became ill near Naples. On the morning of May 19, he dictated one last lighthearted letter and died.[1] He is buried at the Pegli Communal Cemetery in Italy. His tombstone was erected at the expense of Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery; William Henry Hurlbert; and Francis Marion Crawford.

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