Press contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-921
Public contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

September 21, 2012

Gadfly of the Gilded Age Is Subject of Book Discussion

Born in 1819 in Cincinnati, Donn Piatt died in 1891 at the Piatt Castles that still stand in western Ohio. He was a diplomat, historian, journalist, judge, lawyer, legislator, lobbyist, novelist, playwright, poet, politician and well-known humorist, once called on to replace Mark Twain when Twain’s humor failed him. A staunch opponent of slavery, Piatt campaigned in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln, who briefly took a liking to him but found him too outspoken and later cursed him when, as a Union officer, Piatt recruited slaves in Maryland.

Peter Bridges, author of "Donn Piatt: Gadfly of the Gilded Age" (Kent State University Press, 2012), will discuss and sign his book on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Having served creditably as an American diplomat in France during the 1850s, Donn Piatt had a strong and influential interest in foreign affairs as a Washington insider. After the Civil War, Piatt became famous nationwide as an editor in Washington. In his newspaper, The Capital, Piatt attacked President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress fearlessly, and his witticisms and criticisms were carried in papers across the country.

Over the years, Piatt mocked both Catholics and Protestants and attacked millionaires and defended workers, yet ended his life as a Catholic and a rich man. He ridiculed both the Democratic and Republican parties. He wrote a play satirizing lobbyists, but his own ethics came into question after he became a Washington lobbyist while remaining a journalist.

Author Peter Bridges presents the life of an American who in his day was both famous and influential, and, through Piatt, sheds light on much of the corruption and injustice of the Gilded Age. Bridges is a retired Foreign Service officer. His book "Safirka: An American Envoy" relates his experiences as American ambassador to Somalia. "Pen of Fire: John Moncure Daniel, 1825 1865" is Bridges’ biography of the most influential Confederate editor during the Civil War. Bridges has published more than 70 articles and essays that deal mainly with history and foreign affairs.

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress ( has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to advance the knowledge and creativity of the American people through its collections, programs and services. Many of the Library's rich resources can be accessed through its website at

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PR 12-174
ISSN 0731-3527

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