Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)


Profile images of Amos Bronson Alcott (b.1799- d. 1888) and one of his daughters, Louisa May Alcott (b.1832- d. 1888), photographed by A.W. Hosmer (b. 1851- d. 1903).
Amos Bronson Alcott (Photograph by A.W. Hosmer) (The Paul Brooks Collection)

Born on November 29, 1799 on a farm near Wolcott, Connecticut, Amos Bronson Alcott came from humble beginnings. His father, Joseph Chatfield and his mother, Anna, had eight children, with Amos Bronson being the eldest. After Alcott’s formal education came to a halt at age thirteen, his dreams of attending Yale were also ceased. Despite these setbacks, Alcott still embraced his curious mind and became a self-educated reader and writer. While Alcott always held a passion for education, he initially struggled to find work as a teacher. He worked odd jobs, ranging from the clockmaking business, to being a traveling salesman. Alcott’s experience as a salesman provided access to the world around him, as he witnessed the horrors of slavery. This inspired him to join the antislavery movement, and to also embrace other humanitarian causes.

Orchard House and the School of Philosophy from the Paul Brooks Collection.
Orchard House and the School of Philosophy (The Paul Brooks Collection)

Alcott moved to Boston after parting with a short term, but difficult teaching position in Connecticut. There, he met Abigail May, and the pair married in 1830. Together, they had four daughters: Anna, Louisa May (who went on to write Little Women), Elizabeth, and later Abby May. Throughout their married life, Abigail and Bronson moved from Connecticut, down to Pennsylvania, then back up to Massachusetts where he became involved in the Transcendental movement, alongside his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. While being praised as one of the major influences in Transcendentalism, Alcott is also known for his unconventional teaching fundamentals, his experimental project “Fruitlands,” and founding the successful Concord School of Philosophy. After suffering a stroke in 1882, Alcott’s health deteriorated until he passed away on March 4, 1888. Alcott and his family are buried in Concord, Massachusetts in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

Texts by Amos Bronson Alcott