W. L. Alden

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W. L. Alden was an American lawyer and editorial writer who was present at the founding of the Theosophical Society in September, 1875. According to Theosophical historian Josephine Ransom:

Editorial Writer on the New York Times, and of great repute for caustic and humorous criticisms upon current topics. He later held important Consular appointments under the American Government. He did not seem to last very long as a member, and in 1881 said he had been dragged into The Society, and cared nothing for it. He ridiculed The Society in the newspapers and in one article referred to the Founders as "Dead-heads." These articles were reprinted in some Ceylon papers during Col. Olcott's second visit in 1881.[1]

Personal life

William Livingston Alden was born October 9, 1837 in Williamstown, Massachusetts.[2]. His parents were Rev. Joseph Alden and Isabella Graham Livingston Alden; Joseph was descended from the Pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden. William studied in Lafayette College, then Jefferson College and was graduated in 1858. He studied law with William M. Everts and joined the Bar in 1860. In 1865 he married Agnes McClure. They had a son named after his father, and a daughter Violetta.[3][4]

Alden was a writer and diplomat as well as an attorney. "He was U.S. consul at Rome in 1885-'89, and received from the king the cross of chevalier of the order of the Crown of Italy. He was leader writer on the Paris Herald in 1890-'3, when he retired to London."[5] He was an early promotor of the sport of canoeing to the United States, and founded the New York Canoe Club in 1871. He was also a founding member of the American Canoe Association and served as its first Commodore.[6][7]

He died on January 14, 1908 in Buffalo, New York.


In addition to writing for the New York Times, Alden wrote for Scribner's Monthly, The Atlantic, New York World, Daily Graphic, and The New York Herald.

Books for children

He also wrote books for children:

  • Domestic Explosives. 1878.
  • Shooting Stars. 1879.
  • A New Robinson Crusoe. 1880.
  • Canoe and Flying Proa. 1880.
  • The Moral Pirates. 1881.
  • Life of Christopher Columbus. 1882.
  • The Cruise of the Ghost. 1882.
  • The Cruise of the Canoe Club. 1883.
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Brown. 1885.
  • The Loss of the Swansea. 1889.
  • Trying to Find Europe. 1889.
  • A Lost Love. 1892.
  • Told by the Colonel. 1893.
  • Freaks. 1895.
  • The Mystery of Elias G. Roebuck.
  • His Daughter.
  • Van Wageners Way.

Additional resources


  1. Josephine Ransom, A Short History of The Theosophical Society (Adyar, Madras, India: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 110.
  2. "William Livingston Alden, "The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1847-2011 Volume 62 (April, 1908)212.
  3. Ebenezer Alden. Memorial of the Descendants of the Hon. John Alden (Randolph, Mass: William P. Brown, 1867), 69, 114.
  4. 1880 U.S. Census.
  5. "ALDEN, William Livingston" Biographies of Notable Americans, 1904. Volume I. Available at Hathitrust.
  6. C. E. Chase, "The Cruising Canoe and its Outfit" Harper's New Monthly Magazine. August, 1880. Available at Harper's website.
  7. "History of the ACA" at the American Canoe Association website.]