George D. Prentice

George D. Prentice Poems

George D. Prentice Bio

George D. Prentice was a 19th century American poet and newspaper editor who created an unfavourable reputation for himself by often writing in what was considered to be a bigoted, sometimes racist way.

He was born George Dennison Prentice on the 18th December 1802  in Preston, Connecticut.  He did well enough at school to earn a place at the Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, graduating from there in 1823.  He was interested in literature in that he contributed a number of pieces to various periodicals but he saw himself, at first, as a lawyer.  He studied for this in Connecticut and joined the state bar in 1827.  He practiced for a short time but the lure of writing took him to a publication called the 

where he became editor in 1828.

He moved on to the editorship of the Louisville Journal in 1830 which, under his keen stewardship, became a major newspaper in Kentucky.  He used satire in his writing while occasionally slipping into a more strident style of reporting which was often influenced by his support of the so-called

an organisation also called the

Their ideals were no Catholics and no immigrants and Prentice supported these policies enthusiastically.  It was even said that Prentice’s

views contributed to a riot sometime during an election campaign in August 1855.  Protestants attacked German and Irish-Catholic neighbourhoods and at least 22 people lost their lives.  Prentice whipped up this hatred with statements describing Catholics as the

loyal to a pope that he called

When General Burbridge took control of Civil War forces in Kentucky in 1864 Prentice, a supposedly Unionist supporter, ridiculed him in print with a fictional character called “Sue Mundy” who purported to be one of the guerrillas that Burbridge was fighting against.  He continued his antipathy when politicians attempted to reconstruct the country post-war and, despite his often bigoted stance, remained as a newspaper editor up to the time of his death in 1870.

His reputation as a fearsome newspaperman overshadowed his ability as a poet who often wrote lyrical, even romantic, verse.  Take for example his poem New England which is reproduced below.  It is his portrayal of a land of dramatic scenery, lashed by stormy seas, and it is clear how much he loved the land of his birth:

Such verse seems out of step with a man often accused of “raw bigotry” but, in truth, his ire was only ever directed at those he was violently opposed to.  Away from his editorial desk he was more than capable of sentimental thoughts and words, as evidenced in a poem called Memories where he is writing to a long lost love – his dear Mary – about their times sitting by a stream, whispering loving thoughts to each other while the birdsong was heard all around them.

George D. Prentice contracted influenza and died on the 22nd January 1870 at the age of 67.  A statue was erected in his honour five years later in Louisville, Kentucky and a wartime liberty ship was named the SS George D. Prentice in 1943, remaining in service for 26 years.