Elihu Burritt

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Elihu Burritt

Elihu Burritt (December 8, 1810 – March 6, 1879) was an American diplomat, philanthropist and social activist.[1]


Elihu Burritt was born December 8, 1810, in New Britain, Connecticut, he is a descendant of William and Elizabeth Burritt from Stratford, Connecticut.[2] As an adult he was active in many causes, opposing slavery, working for temperance, and trying to achieve world peace, these accomplishments caused President Lincoln to appoint him as United States consul in Birmingham, England. He first trained as a blacksmith, and had "Learned Blacksmith" as a nickname.

Burritt was appointed United States consul in Birmingham by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 United States consul, a role that required him to report regularly on "facts bearing upon the productive capacities, industrial character and natural resources of communities embraced in their Consulate Districts" and as a result travelled widely from his home in Harborne, largely on foot, to explore the local area.[3] Burritt's association with Birmingham dated back 20 years and he was highly sympathetic to the industrial and political culture of the town as well as being a friend many of its leading citizens, so his portrait of the surrounding area was largely positive,[4] during his time in Birmingham he lived in Harborne, then a rural village of to the west of the city, in a house which he named New Britain Villas which was later home to another author Edward Chitham who also wrote a book on the Black Country.[5] He was actively involved the local community, taking part in the committee for the rebuilding of the nearby St. Peter's Church.

During a trip abroad in 1846–47, he was touched by the suffering of the Irish peasantry, he also founded the peace organisation the League of Universal Brotherhood in 1846.[1] He organized the first international congress of the Friends of Peace, which convened in Brussels in September 1848.[1] A second "Peace Congress" met in Paris in 1849, presided over by Victor Hugo. Burritt attended the "Peace Congresses" at Frankfurt in 1850, London in 1851, Manchester in 1852 and Edinburgh in 1853. The outbreak of the Crimean War and the American Civil War jolted his views.

Burritt advocated that Britain, which introduced the Uniform Penny Post in 1840, should introduce an international "ocean penny post" and reduce the cost from one shilling (12 pence) to threepence. He argued this would increase international correspondence, trade, and hence universal brotherhood, he urged the use of illustrated propaganda envelopes. Postal rates were gradually reduced, but his objective was not entirely achieved in his lifetime.

Elihu Burritt died on March 6, 1879 in New Britain, Connecticut.


Burritt published at least 37 books and articles, including Sparks from the Anvil and Ten Minute Talks; in 1847, his pamphlet A Journal of a Visit of Three Days to Skibbereen made residents of the United States more aware of the potato famine in Ireland. He recorded his thoughts on the industrialization of communities in the Black Country in his book Walks in the Black Country, which brought the term "the Black Country" into widespread common usage,[6] this was the third, longest and most important of the travel books he wrote about Britain for American readers, his 1868 work Walks in The Black Country and its Green Borderland.[4] He was the author of the famous early description of the Black Country as "black by day and red by night", adding appreciatively that it "cannot be matched, for vast and varied production, by any other space of equal radius on the surface of the globe".[7]


Each August the Town of New Marlborough, Massachusetts hosts an annual crafts and community fair in honor of Elihu Burritt. Burritt resided in the Berkshire County Town in 1830, he is one of several blacksmiths who may have inspired the poem "The Village Blacksmith" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.[8]

Burritt College, which operated in Spencer, Tennessee, from 1848 to 1939, was named in his honor.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Arthur Weinberg and Lila Shaffer Weinberg. Instead of Violence: Writings by the great advocates of peace and nonviolence throughout history.New York,Grossman Publishers, 1963.(p. 340-45).
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-04. Retrieved 2012-03-27.  Genealogy Central
  3. ^ Chapman, Gordon (23 February 2006). "'Ackle' – a word causing some hassle!". Black Country Bugle. Staffordshire Newspapers. Archived from the original on 23 November 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Marsh, Peter T. (Sep 2013). "Burritt, Elihu (1810–1879), peace campaigner and American consul". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  5. ^ E. Chitham, The Black Country Amberley Publishing, ISBN 1848684525
  6. ^ Mugridge, Stuart (2007). "Mapping The Black Country" (PDF). Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Press Pack" (pdf). Black Country Living Museum. p. 3. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Della Valle, Paul. Massachusetts Trobulemakers: Rebels, Reformers, and Radicals from the Bay State. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2009: 140. ISBN 978-0-7627-4850-1
  9. ^ Francis Marion West, ‘’Pioneer of the Cumberlands: A History of Burritt College’’ (master’s thesis, Tennessee Technological University, 1969). Accessed at ‘’Restoration History’’ website, 4 March 2015.

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