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Guide to the George Frederick Seward Papers
1883-1910 (Bulk 1890-1910)
  MS 557

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Heather Mulliner

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 23, 2014
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Biographical/Historical note

George Frederick Seward (1840-1910) was born in the town of Florida in Orange County, New York in 1840. A member of the prominent Seward family, he was the son of George W. Seward and the nephew of noted Secretary of State William H. Seward.

As a boy he attended the Seward Institute, which was founded by his grandfather physician Samuel S. Seward. At the age of fifteen Seward began studying at Union College in Schenectady, NY, but left before the end of his first term to help direct the family estate.

In 1861 Seward was appointed as the U.S. Consul to Shanghai in China. For the next fifteen years Seward worked in various positions within the consular service in China until he was eventually appointed as the U.S. Minister to China in 1875. An advocate of westernization, he held the position of Minister to China until 1880 when he was replaced by James Agnell after expressing his unwillingness to undertake the negotiation of the treaty restricting Chinese immigration to the United States. After Seward left his position as U.S. Minister to China in 1880 he remained interested in United States policy in China and continued to express his opinion on the subject in scholarly books and a variety of public forums. His most notable work on American policy toward China, Chinese Immigration in Its Social and Economical Aspects, was published in 1881.

After Seward returned to the United States he moved to New York City where he began a career in the insurance industry. In 1887 he was appointed as the vice president of the Fidelity and Casualty Company in New York, NY, and became president of the company in 1892. Seward served as president of the Fidelity and Casualty Company for the next 18 years until his death in 1910. During his career as president, Seward helped raise the company from a struggling insurance firm to a commanding position within the casualty insurance industry.

Seward was also highly involved in the affairs of Union College later in his life. Although he never formally graduated from the institution, Seward became a member of board of trustees at Union College and was granted the honorary degree of LL.D. in 1904. He served on the Board of Trustees and as chairman of the building committee until 1910.

Seward died on November 28, 1910 after suffering from a longstanding illness at his home on 136 W. 73st in Manhattan.