Samuel Cutler Ward

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Samuel Cutler Ward, Jr.

Also Known As: "Sam"
Birthdate: (70)
Birthplace: New York, NY, USA
Death: May 19, 1884 (70)
near Naples, Italy
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Ward, III and Julia Rush Ward (Cutler)
Husband of Medora Ward (Grymes [or Grimes]) and Emily Ward
Father of Samuel A. Ward; Randolph G. Ward; John Randolph Ward and Margaret Astor Chanler
Brother of Julia Ward Howe; Annie Maillard (Ward); Louisa Cutler Ward and Henry Ward

Occupation: lobbyist, poet, and gourmand
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Samuel Cutler Ward

Samuel Ward (January 27, 1814–May 19, 1884), was a poet, 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.


  • 1 Early Life
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Later Life
  • 4 Legacy
  • 5 References
  • 6 Bibliography
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 External links

Early Life

Samuel Ward, the first of six children and called Sam by one and all, was born in New York City into an old New England family. His father, Samuel Ward (1786–1839), was a highly respected banker with the firm of Prime, Ward, and King. His grandfather, Col. Samuel Ward (1756–1832), was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. His mother, Julia Cutler Ward, was related to Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" of the American Revolution.

When Sam'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, from which he graduated in 1831, that Sam 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. Sam literally dined out for decades on stories of his experiences during these years.

Back in New York, he tried to settle into the life of a young banker. In January 1838, he married Emily Astor, the daughter of Margaret Armstrong Astor and William Backhouse Astor and the granddaughter of John Jacob Astor, the richest man in America. In November 1838, a daughter, Margaret, was born.

Sam's father died unexpectedly in November 1839. Next, his brother Henry died suddenly of typhoid fever. In February 1841, Emily Astor Ward gave birth to a son, but within days both she and the baby died. Sam was executor of his father's several–million–dollar estate, partner now in a prestigious banking firm, guardian of his three sisters, a widower, father of a toddler, and 27 years old.

In 1843, Sam married a beautiful fortune–hunter from New Orleans, Medora Grymes, who bore two sons in quick succession. Urged on by his wife, Sam began speculating on Wall Street. In September 1847, the financial world was stunned by news that Prime, Ward and Co. (King had wisely withdrawn) had collapsed.

Broke, Sam 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 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.

Sam 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 Howe, 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, Sam 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: "I differ from you. I found among the leaders a malignant bitterness and contemptuous hatred of the North which rendered this lesson necessary. Wthin two years they would have formed entangling free trade and free navigation treaties with Europe, and have become a military power hostile to us."[1]


At the war's end, Sam'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, where the coals were hot and ready for an era of unprecedented growth and corruption that became known as "the Great Barbeque" or "The Gilded Age."

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 Sam, who won for him a partial victory via cookery. Soon Sam 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. His plan de campagne for lobbying often began with pâté de campagne, with a client footing the bill.

Sam took great care in composing the menu and guest list for his lobby dinners. If his client's interests were financial, members of the appropriate House and Senate committees received invitations. Mining and mineral rights? That was another group of players. He also orchestrated the talk around the table and used stories from his variegated life like condiments at his dinners.

The results? "Ambrosial nights," gushed one guest. "The climax of civilization," another enthused. But how did these delightful evenings serve his clients' ends? Subtly, and therein lies what set Sam Ward apart as a lobbyist. He claimed, and guests agreed, that he never talked directly about a "project" over dinner. Instead, he let a good food, wine, and company educate and convince, launch schemes or nip them in the bud. 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.

Later Life

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. During Lent in 1884, he became ill near Naples. On the morning of May 19, he dictated one last light–hearted letter and died.


Within days of his passing, obituaries appeared in dozens of newspapers in the United States and England. The New York Times' obituary filled two entire columns. The New York Tribune correctly concluded that Sam Ward's "greatest achievement was establishing himself in Washington at the head of a profession which, from the lowest depths of disrepute, he raised almost to the dignity of a gentlemanly business....He never resorted to vulgar bribery; he excelled rather in composing the enmities and cementing the rickety friendships which play so large a part in political affairs, and he tempted men not with the purse, but with banquets, graced by vivacious company, and the conversation of wits and people of the world."

Sam's book of poetry, Lyrical Recreations, soon sank into obscurity. His hilarious anonymous magazine accounts of his stint in the gold fields were edited into a volume entitled Sam Ward in the Gold Rush in 1949. For years after his death, bar patrons ordered "Sam Wards," a drink he invented of cracked ice, a peel of lemon, and yellow Chartreuse. Restaurants carried Chicken Saute Sam Ward on their menus for decades. He was immortalized by his nephew author Francis Marion Crawford as the delightful Mr. Bellingham in Dr. Claudius. And Sam's name has been kept alive by scholars speculating upon the identity of the anonymous author of "The Diary of a Public Man," published in 1879.

The social lobby that Sam Ward perfected also lives on. Although entertaining by lobbyists has been circumscribed by legislation, it endures because, as Sam understood, bringing people together over good food, wine, and conversation remains a fruitful way to conduct business. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. noted 100 years after Sam's death, "...every close student of Washington knows half the essential business of government is still transacted in the evening...where the sternest purpose lurks under the highest frivolity." Sam Ward's art was to guarantee that the guests who enjoyed his ambrosial nights never focused on the purpose that lurked beneath his perfectly cooked poisson.


  1. ^ Allan Nevins, The War for the Union, vol. 1, The Improvised War, 1861-1862 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1959), p. 53.


Crawford, Francis Marion. Dr. Claudius. New York: Macmillan, 1883.

Crofts, Daniel W. A Secession Crisis Enigma: William Henry Hurlbert and "The Diary of a Public Man." Baton Rouge: Louisiana State university Press, 2010.

Elliott, Maud Howe. Uncle Sam Ward and His Circle. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938.

Jacob, Kathryn Allamong. King of the Lobby, the Life and Times of Sam Ward. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Thomas, Lately (pseudonym of Robert Steele). Sam Ward "King of the Lobby". Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965.

Ward, Samuel. Lyrical Recreations. New York: D. Appleton, Boston, 1865.

Ward, Samuel. Sam Ward in the Gold Rush. (edited by Carvel Collins) Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1949.


External links

   * Kathryn Allamong Jacob, King of the Lobby. The Life and Times of Sam Ward at Google Books
   * Samuel Ward, Alias Carlos Lopez UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER LIBRARY BULLETIN Volume XII · Winter 1957 · Number 2

Source: Downloaded May, 2011, from

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In New York we were welcomed by Uncle Sam Ward, my mother's oldest and only surviving brother. Another radiant uncle, and my true uncle this time, though all the world called him Uncle Sam. He had visited us in Rome when I was a child; but there I had seen little of him and our real friendship and mutual devotion began with this second meeting.

Here I should like to make a digression and speak the praises of delightful people. They are generally so much better than famous ones. There have been so many ignored by history and the biographical dictionary....

Uncle Sam [Ward] was one of these favored ones. His life had been varied and checkered; oldest son of a rich New York banker, well endowed and well connected, he had been sent abroad with an unlimited letter of credit after he had graduated from Columbia University. We are not told whether he abused this paternal trustfulness. On his return he married Emily Astor, oldest daughter of William B. Astor, granddaughter of the original John Jacob. The marriage was happy while it lasted, but the young wife died in giving birth to a daughter, Margaret. The young widower grieved and then consoled himself by marrying a showy and fascinating Creole, the beautiful Medora Grimes. This was not at all to the taste of the staunchly respectable Astors, who had carefully selected their wives among the best families; and the grandparents took little "Maddie," who was not much younger than the youngest of their own large brood, and brought her up with the rest of their children. The marriage with Medora Grimes turned out badly; perhaps the Astors were right in their disapproval.

Sam Ward went west in the '49 gold rush. He had lost a great deal of money. The bankruptcy of his father's firm was attributed to him. He was not fortunate, or perhaps not skillful, in money matters; he lost three fortunes in the course of his life. But he never lost his zest for living and giving, and in California he found no gold but much adventure. At one time he bought a canal boat and fitted it up as a hotel and restaurant where food and drink were of the best.

There were legends about these years, romantic tales of which the family knew only whispered fragments; there were young women — one lived with him disguised as a boy; wild doings for those prim Victorian days — startling, considering the sober old New York background from which he sprang. One does not wonder the Astor family was shocked. Then he came East again without a fortune, but always living sumptuously. He went to Washington, where he made himself useful to Senators and Congressmen in bringing them together always, always with the help of excellent food and rare wine; he was everybody's friend and was proclaimed King of the Lobby.

When he arrived in an apartment on the ground floor of the old Brevoort House on Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, speculating, and at that time very successfully, on the stock market. He was, as I have said, a real connoisseur of wines, and, and to keep his palate delicate, he never drank spirits or seasoned his food with pepper or mustard. The only liquor he approved was yellow Chartreuse, and he invented a drink called a "Sam Ward," concocted with this and the peel of a lemon laid around the inside of a glass filled with cracked ice. He told me he was satisfied to have given his name to this as a claim to remembrance, pointing out that only a very few names were permanently associated with food and drink.

He took my mother and me to Newport on the Fall River Line. On the way he gave us our first taste of soft-shell crabs, among what seemed to me curious surroundings. The dining saloon of those days was surrounded by bunks over which hung green baize curtains like those with which we are so unpleasantly familiar in Pulman cars. It was very hot and stuffy, and negro waiters fanned us with palm-leaf fans. Nevertheless, Uncle Sam managed to convey the sense of a banquet. Whenever he was host it was a dinner with Maecenas.

He had another passion which I should perhaps have mentioned first. He was not quite so successful in it as in the giving of little dinners, but poetry was very dear to his heart and he wrote many verses which fluttered a little in the breeze of friendly intercourse and then took their way down the stream of forgetfulness.

He was something of a scholar and Horace was his favorite. He was never without a copy of the Odes in his pocket; his next choice was Omar Khayyam.

In Newport we stayed with Aunt Julia and the lovely Maud, who was at that time being courted by a handsome young English painter, John Elliott, whom she later married. They lived in a pleasant house about seven miles from Newport, not far from Portsmouth, Rhode Island. There I came to know and love another of Aunt Julia's daughters, dear Laura Richards, who had already written a number of happy children's books and delightful nursery nonsense giving joy to her many little readers — and herself an exquisite joy to all who knew her. Uncle Sam had given them a telephone, a comparatively new invention, and one evening we were called up and told that President Garfield had been assasinated.

Source: Margaret [Mrs Winthrop] Chanler (Terry), Roman Springs Memoirs, Kessinger Publishing, 2005 [originally published in 1934 by Little, Brown, & Co.], 368 pages, pp. 99-102, downloaded 2011 from On Google Books's page introducing this book is the notation, "This scarce antiquarian book is a selection from Kessinger Publishings Legacy Reprint Series. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment to protecting, preserving, and promoting the worlds literature. Kessinger Publishing is the place to find hundreds of thousands of rare and hard-to-find books with something of interest for everyone!"

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Samuel Cutler Ward's Timeline

January 27, 1814
New York, NY, USA
November 9, 1838
Age 24
New York, New York, United States
Age 32
May 19, 1884
Age 70