Ambrose Bierce's Top Hat

St. Bonaventure University Archives

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born on June 24, 1842 in Megis County, Ohio to Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood Bierce. Bierce was the tenth of thirteen children, whose names all began with the letter "A". Bierce grew up in a poor, but literary, family who encouraged his love for books. Bierce was presumed dead circa 1914, age 71, after disappearing in Chihuahua, Mexico. Bierce was a soldier, journalist and writer.

Bierce enlisted in the Union Army's 9th Indiana Infantry when the American Civil War began in 1861. Bierce was involved in Operations in the Western Virginia campaign, Battle of Philippi, and Battle of Rich Mountain. Bierce also fought in the Battle of Shiloh and later wrote short stories about the battle and a memoir called "What I Saw of Shiloh". In 1862, Bierce was commissioned as a first Lieutenant and served as a topographical engineer (making maps of likely battlefields). Bierce received a head wound at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain and was discharged in January of 1865.

Bierce moved to San Francisco in 1866 and became a well known contributor and editor for several local newspapers and periodicals. Those papers included The San Francisco News Letter, The Argonaut, The Overland Monthly, The Californian and The Wasp. Between 1872 and 1875, Bierce lived in England. While there he published his first book, The Friend's Delight, in 1873 under the pseudonym "Dod Grile". Within a few years of returning to San Francisco, Bierce became the editor of The Wasp from January 1881 until September 1885. Bierce became one of the first regular columnists and editors working for The San Francisco Examiner.

In October of 1913, Bierce left on a tour of his former Civil War battlefields. In December, Bierce crossed in Mexico to join Pancho Villa's (Mexican revolutionary general) revolutionaries. Bierce accompanied Villa's army and witnessed the Battle of Tierra Blanca. Bierce disappeared on or after December 1913, and his disappearance has never been solved. Bierce's last letter was dated December 26, 1913 and was postmarked in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Bierce's top hat is part of the Jim Bishop Collection. It appears that Bierce's daughter, Helen Bierce Cowden, gave it to a family friend in 1915. That family held onto it for nearly 60 years when it ended up in Bishop's hands. He donated it to St. Bonaventure in 1980 and it is now on display in the Jim Bishop Room of Friedsam Memorial Library. (1980.1)

Top Hat
The inside of Ambrose Bierce's Top Hat
Amanda Brogan (great-niece of Bierce) holding the Top Hat
180° view of Ambrose Bierce's Top Hat

Bierce Bibliography

Site Bibliography

Biography.com Editors. "Ambrose Bierce Biography.com." The Biography.com 
     website. Last modified April 2, 2014. Accessed April 21, 2017. 

http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/eaf/authors/ab.htm#Other, EAF Author: Ambrose Bierce Collection, Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.

McGill, Frank, Christina J. Moose, and Mark Rehn. "Ambrose Bierce-Biography." 
     eNotes.com, Inc. Last modified 1999. Accessed April 21, 2017. 

Merriman, C. D. C. D. Merriman to The Literature Network web forum, "Ambrose 
     Bierce," 2007. Accessed April 21, 2017. 

This page was created by Amanda Brogan during the Spring of 2017 as part of her History 495 Internship.

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