Charles Jacobs Peterson was born in Philadelphia, July 20, 1819, the son of Thomas P. Peterson and his wife, Elizabeth Snelling Jacobs. He was a descendant of Erick Peterson, who migrated from Sweden and settled with a colony of the same nationality on the Delaware in 1638. He studied law at the University of Pennsylvania with the class of 1838, and was admitted to the bar although he was not graduated. He never practiced his profession.
Three of his brothers, Theophilus, Thomas, and George, founded the once well-known publishing house of T. B. Peterson and Brothers, of Philadelphia. In May, 1839, when Charles was less than twenty years of age, he was employed by George R. Graham, who had just purchased Atkinson's Casket, as associate editor, a position which he retained when this magazine became Graham's Magazine in 1840 or 1841. In 1840, also, Peterson purchased a part interest in the Saturday Evening Post, in which Graham also had a part. In the same year, he founded the Lady's World, afterwards called the Ladies National Magazine, and in 1848, Peterson s Magazine of which he was himself the editor until his death nearly fifty years later.
Peterson was an editorial writer for Joseph C. Neal's Saturday Gazette during the middle 1840's and for the Philadelphia Bulletin from its beginning in 1847. He wrote many sketches and poems for various newspapers and periodicals, and published a number of historical works. In 1848 his "Military Heroes of the Revolution, with a Motivation of the War of Independence" appeared, and later similar books on the War of 1812 and the War with Mexico were issued. A number of historical novels are credited to him, among them "Grace Dudley; or, Arnold at Saratoga" (1849) and "Kate Aylesford, a Story of the Refugees" (1855).
Under the pseudonym "Harry Cavendish" (q.v.) several stories were published by Beadle, and one appeared as by "Henry R. Shipley," but whether the latter was a name chosen by Peterson or one which was wished upon him by Beadle is unknown. "Harry Danforth" (see under Harry Cavendish in this supplement, II, page 50, col. 2) was also used by him.
Charles Peterson died in Philadelphia March 4, 1887, at the age of sixty-eight.
REFERENCES: E. A. Poe, "The Literati of New York City," Godey's Lady's Book, July, 1846; Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1943, 512-13.
Under the name "Henry R. Shipley" was published:
Irwin's American Novels, No. I (same as Dime Novels, no. 188 and Dime Novels, no. 398, by "Cavendish")
Under the name "Harry Cavendish" Beadle published the following:
Dime Novels. Nos. 2, 7, 188, 398, 506
Beadle's Fifteen Cent Novels. Nos. 2, 7
New and Old Friends. No. 11
Pocket Novels. No. 235
Half-Dime Library. No. 128
Boy's Library (octavo). No. 265
SPECIMEN OF CHARLES J. PETERSON'S STYLE
"The Young Privateer; or, The Pirate's Stronghold." Half-Dime Library No. 128, pp. 1-2.
The parting word had been said, the last look had been taken, and my traps had all been snugly stowed away in the narrow room which, for some years, was to be my home. I stood by the starboard railing gazing back on the dear city I was leaving and, despite the stoicism I had affected when bidding farewell to my friends, I could not now prevent a starting tear. Nor did my messmates seem in a more sportive mood; for they could be seen, some in the rigging and some leaning over the ship's side, looking back on the well-known landmarks of the town with a seriousness in their aspect which betokened the thought passing through the heart. Yes! we were about leaving the scenes of our boyhood to enter on a new and untried life—and who knew if any of us would ever return again to our homes? The chances of war are at all times dreadful, but in our case they were terribly increased by the flag under which we sailed. Who could tell whether the officers of the revolted colonies might not be considered as traitors as well as rebels? Who knew but that the very first enemy we should meet would either sink or hang us at the yard-arm? And yet, firm in the righteousness of our cause, and confiding in the God of battles, there was not one of our number who, having put his hand to the plow, wished to turn back. Sink or swim—live or die—we were resigned to either destiny.
Evening was closing fast around the scene, and, even as I gazed, the town melted into gloom, Copp's Hill alone standing up in solemn majesty over the shadowy city. The distant hum of the town died fainter and fainter on the darkness, the evening breeze came up fresher across the waters, the song of the fisherman and the dip of passing oars ceased, and, one by one, the white sails of the ships around us faded away, at first seeming like faint clouds, but finally losing themselves altogether in the darkness. All around was still. The low monotonous groundswell heaving under our counter, and rippling faintly as it went, alone broke the witching silence. Not a breath of air was stirring. The boatswain's whistle was hushed, the whisper had died away, no foot-fall rose upon the stillness, but over shore and sea, earth and sky, man and inanimate creature, the same deep silence hung.
Gradually, however, the scene changed. Lights began to flash along the town and from the ships in port, and, in a few moments, the harbor was alive with a long line of effulgence. A half-subdued halo now hung over the city. The effect produced was like that of magic. Here a ship lay almost buried in gloom—there one was thrown out in bold relief by the lights—now a tall warehouse rose shadowy into the sky, and now one might be seen almost as distinctly as at noonday. The lights streaming from the cabin windows and dancing along the bay, the swell tinged on its crest with silver, but dark as night below, and the far-off sails gleaming like shadowy specters through the uncertain light, added double effect to the picture. And when the stars came out, one by one, blinking high up in the firmament, and the wind began to sigh across the bay and wail sadly through our rigging, the weird-like character of the prospect grew beyond description. Hour after hour passed away, and we still continued gazing on the scene as if under the influence of some magician's spell; but, at length, exhausted nature gave way, and one after another went below, leaving only those on deck whose duty required their presence. For myself, though I sought my hammock, a succession of wild indistinct dreams haunted me throughout the livelong night.