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Joseph Glover Baldwin

Joseph Glover Baldwin was born in Virginia on January 21, 1815. He was educated in Staunton schools until family finances forced withdrawal, and he became a deputy clerk for the Staunton courts. He started studying law, and earned his license to practice at age twenty-one. A supporter of the Whig party, Baldwin co-owned and edited several newspapers. The failure of one of these papers, the Advocate and Commercial Advertiser, and heartache from a rent romance sent him westward. He practiced law in DeKalb, Mississippi, where he often represented Choctaw Indians, and moved on to Alabama, where he served one term as a Whig in the Alabama House of Representatives (1843). He ran for Congress, but lost.

Baldwin started writing sketches in the Southwestern humor style about his adventures as a frontier lawyer. These sketches were first published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1852, and later collected and published in book form in 1853. The sketches described the boom time, the flux time, the “flush” times of the newly expanding Southern frontier. Confidence men and sketchy lawyers became the targets of much of Baldwin’s humor while others were biographical in nature, often moralistic. The Flush Times, supposedly one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite books, was Baldwin’s most popular book—though the Messenger perhaps exaggerated when it claimed the book was nearing sales of 20,00—but he also published another work, Party Leaders: Sketches, which was popular but not as widely read as Flush Times.

Baldwin followed the gold miners to California, arriving in the post-flush times era, but he wrote sketches about California, which were not published until 1966. He died on September 30, 1864, in California.

(Article updated 4 September 2002)

Related Links & Info

Pastoral and Politics in the Old South
Baldwin is one of five writers with political interests detailed in John M. Grammer's book Pastoral and Politics in the Old South, published in 1996 by the Louisiana State University Press.

Publications

Sketches:

  • The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi. New York: D. Appleton, 1853.
  • Party Leaders: Sketches of Thomas Jefferson, Alex’r Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, John Randolph of Roanoke, Including Notices of Many Other Distinguished American Statesmen. New York: D. Appleton, 1855.
  • The Flush Times of California. Ed. Robert E. Amacher and George W. Polhemus. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1966.

Bibliography

Criticism:

  • Current-Garcia, Eugene. “Joseph Glover Baldwin: Humorist or Moralist?” Alabama Review 5 (April 1952): 122-41.
  • Farish, Hunter Dickson. “An Overlooked Personality in Southern Life.” North Carolina Historical Review 12 (October 1935): 341-53.
  • Grammer, John. Pastoral and Politics in the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.
  • Grammer, John. “The Republican Historical Vision: Joseph Glover Baldwin’s Party Leaders.” Southern Literary Journal 25.2 (1993 Spring): 3-13.
  • Lynn, Kenneth. Mark Twain and Southwest Humor. Boston: Little, Brown, 1959. 115-124.

Internet Resources

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