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Briggs, Charles Frederick (1804-1877)

Editor, Journalist, Novelist

Before trying his hand at writing, Charles F. Briggs spent several years working as a sailor on voyages to Europe and South America. He also spent a few years as a merchant in New York City. In 1839 he published The Adventures of Harry Franco: A Tale of the Great Panic, which was based upon his adventures as a sailor. Retaining the pseudonym Harry Franco, Briggs went on to publish The Haunted Merchant in 1843. In 1844 he created the Broadway Journal, for which Edgar Allan Poe first worked as a contributor. This working relationship seemed to link the two writers together in friendship. After his death, Briggs was described by R. H. Stoddard as one of Poe's "Bohemian friends" (Parry 3). This relationship with Edgar Allan Poe prompted the publishers of Encyclopedia Britannica to even request that he write a biographical sketch of the author. While running the Journal, Briggs accepted several of Poe's submissions and eventually made him an associate editor. Briggs ran the Journal for only one year before retiring in 1845. There is some uncertainty about the dates, but between 1844 and 1850 Briggs also published Working a Passage, or Life in a Liner and The Trippings of Tom Pepper; or, The Results of Romancing, an Autobiography. After Trippings, Briggs stopped writing fiction, largely due to the displeasure of his friends when they recognized themselves within the novel (H. Howland).

In 1853 Briggs became an editor at Putnam's Magazine, a feat not accomplished without the help of and “veteran Fourierists like Parke Godwin, George Washington Curtis [a fellow Pfaffian], and George Ripley” (Lause 68). He remained at Putnam’s for three years and returned to it again in 1866. During the ten year interim between his jobs at Putnam's Briggs worked as an editor at the New York Times under Henry J. Raymond. When Raymond traveled to Europe, Briggs was given temporary control of the newspaper. In 1870 he became financial editor of the Brooklyn Union. Three years later he briefly became editor in chief of the Union before moving on to the Independent where he worked "until a few hours before his death, which came suddenly at his home in Brooklyn" (H. Howland). In his lifetime Briggs' also held a position in the New York Customs House and was one of three men to sit on the first Board of Commissioners for Central Park. Briggs, it seems, “tried to elevate tastes in the city for years before joining the crowd at Pfaff's" (Lause 52). Perhaps not a constant figure around the tables in the beer cellar, Briggs was at least named by one source as a member of those who were described to rally at Pfaff's (A. Maurice 396).