Thomasson Family Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This collection contains one large volume containing over 90 letters, believed to have been collated by Elizabeth, first wife of Franklin Thomasson. Correspondents include Richard Cobden, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Carlyle, William Gladstone, Lajos Kossuth, Benjamin Disraeli, Robert Dale Owen, Edmund Yates, George Brown, Charles Pelham Villiers, Lord Charles Russell, Martin Farquhar Tupper, William Howitt, Thomas Milner Gibson, Sir John Pakington, Francis P. Cobbe, Charles Darwin, Basil Wilberforce, Henry Ward Beecher, Florence Nightingale, Ellen Terry, John Bright, Joseph Chamberlain, John E. Gorst, Sir Eldon Gorst, Reginald McKenna, Joseph A. Pease, Walter Runciman and Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Many of the letters are of a political nature and provide an insight into the political friendships of Franklin Thomasson and Samuel Lucas. There is also some personal correspondence. Other records include a Thomasson family pedigree and an article entitled 'Franklin Thomasson and the Tribune: a case study in the history of the liberal press, 1906-1908' by Alan J. Lee.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Thomassons were a family of cotton-spinners form Bolton who had successfully built up a thriving business during the nineteenth century. John Thomasson, who died in 1837, left one son Thomas (1808-76). He became President of the Bolton Liberal Asosciation, and in the middle years of the century a good friend and benefactor of Richard Cobden. His son John Pennington Thomasson (1840-1904), married John Bright's niece, Katherine Lucas, the daughter of Samuel Lucas, editor of the radical Morning Star (1856-69). J.P. Thomasson became a noted local dignitary and philanthropist, Liberal MP for Bolton from 1880-1885 and freeman of the borough in 1902.

His son was Franklin Thomasson, born 16 August 1873. At nineteen he was made a manager in the family firm, and three years later he married Elizabeth Lawton, daughter of an American named Caleb Coffin.

He tried several times, unsuccessfully, to enter parliament for different constituencies but was eventually successful in winning the seat for Leicester for the Liberal Party in a by-election in 1906. By this time the Tribune was well under way. The Liberal daily newspaper ran from 15 January 1906 until 7 February 1908.

His parliamentary career was uneventful, cut short by the collapse of the Tribune, and he continued to sit in the House of Commons until he retired in 1910.

Franklin Thomasson commanded the 25th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during the First World War and died on 29 October 1941.

Samuel Lucas, born in 1811 to a Quaker family, was a British Journalist and abolitionist. He married his cousin, Margaret Bright, in 1839.

Lucas was a great supporter of abolition and attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. He also supported the establishment of secular schools, an interest he shared with Richard Cobden, and was active in the Anti-Corn Law League, which had been founded by Cobden and John Bright.

In 1856, Bright and Cobden created the newspaper the Morning Star and appointed Lucas as editor. Lucas became heavily involved in the running of the paper as managing proprietor but illness eventually forced him to hire a sub-editor, although he continued to oversee the paper very closely. Under his leadership, the Morning Star took a strong anti-slavery line and was the only national paper to support the Unionist side from the beginning of the American Civil War.

In 1859 he became editor of the newly established Once A Week, a weekly illustrated literary magazine. Lucas died on 15 April 1865, living long enough to receive the news of the end of the American Civil War and slavery in the United States.

Conditions Governing Access

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

Donated by Barbara Platts, Jersey, November 1983