Lectures & Programs

The following is a list of programs that Seward House staff can offer upon request, either as a Zoom presentation or on-site for locations in Central New York. A modest donation of $50-$100 is requested to cover staff time and various travel expenses.

Call 315-252-1283 or email education@sewardhouse.org to book a Seward House speaker today!


“The Two Made an Odd Couple”: Lincoln, Seward, and a Civil War Friendship

  • This presentation discusses the fight for the presidency and eventual friendship/collaboration between Abraham Lincoln and William Seward. It traces how Seward emerged from Lincoln’s chief rival to his closest confidant during the Civil war.

W.H. Seward’s Travels Around the World

  • This presentation discusses Seward’s 1870-1871 travels at the end of his life, and the best-selling book he produced as a result with the help of Olive Risley. It also explores how Seward was a citizen of the world and early advocate of American globalization and empire.

“My Principles Are Too Liberal for my Party": The Gubernatorial Career of William Seward

  • An examination of William Seward’s beginning in law and politics, and his values and accomplishments as Governor of New York. It further reflects upon how his career in New York State presaged his national ambitions and priorities.

The Mystery of Margaret: Unraveling the Story of Harriet Tubman’s “Daughter”

  • Based on original research into the life of Harriet Tubman, this program follows her story from enslavement in the Antebellum South to her relationship with Auburn and the Seward family during her years as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. It does so through the life of Margaret Stewart, a young child very close to Tubman who was entrusted with Lazette and Frances during the Civil War.

“Conceited Old Notions”: The Changing Times of Fanny Seward

  • Pulling from her diary and other firsthand accounts, this narrative-based presentation provides an analysis of Fanny Seward’s lived experiences, convictions, and position in society.

The Voice of Fanny Seward

  • This dramatic performance relies upon a living history interpreter to fully explore the life and legacy of Fanny Seward. A reenactor performs using Fanny’s direct diary quotes and correspondence.

Changing Times, Changing Minds: The Powerful Friendship of Frances Seward and Martha Coffin Wright

  • This presentation discusses the intertwined lives and ideals of Auburnians, Frances Seward and Martha Coffin Wright. Together, they petitioned for women’s rights, linked their homes onto the Underground Railroad, and fought for social justice on the community and national level.

"This must be a fearful dream!": The Tragic Attack on the Sewards

  • A stirring recounting and an overview of Seward’s controversial politics which eventually led to a dramatic assassination attempt in Washington with tragic consequences.

William H. Seward Junior: The Politics of Home and the Civil War

  • This presentation focuses on the life, military career, banking career, family, and civic leadership of Seward’s youngest son. Though his father’s namesake and heir to 33 South Street, Will Jr. deliberately modeled himself into his father’s opposite.

“The Threshold of National Politics”: William Seward and the Legacy of Union College

  • Beginning in William Seward’s student years, this talk explores the impact of his alma mater, Union College. The education he received there in the 1810s shaped his political career and, in particular, made him a lifelong champion of education and scholarship.

Seward In Love: A 19th Century Political Romance

  • This presentation tracks Seward’s romantic prospects, ideas of love, and almost 50 year relationship with Frances Miller. Through the written love language and mutual respect, these two maintained a loyal romance often from afar.

“I Cannot Exist Without Books”: The Sewards and Their Library

  • This presentation explains the culture of reading in the 19th century, and the extreme importance of this activity for the Seward family. WHS, Frances, Fred, and Fanny are all analyzed based on their feelings and preferences involving books.

Around the World with Mr. Seward

  • This presentation offers a glimpse of the international artifacts and influence gathered by Seward on his four trips around the world. As the secretary of state for two administrations and purchaser of Alaska, Seward’s international experiences and relations are extremely interesting to explore.

Charlotte Cushman: Seward Family Friend and Symbol of an Age

  • This presentation discusses the incredible life of actress and change-maker Charlotte Cushman. Her public romantic life, relationship to the Seward family, and legacy as a member of the LGBTQ community are explored.

William Seward and the National Mind

  • A history of William Seward as a writer, scholar, and intellectual. This program considers Seward’s contributions to American letters as well as the way he employed ideas and intellectuals as weapons to achieve his political ends, including in Civil War policy and the Alaska purchase.

Seward Feminism

  • This presentation talks about the long-dismissed strength and intelligence of the Seward matriarch, Frances. Throughout her life, Frances fought for the rights of women and abolition from behind her husband’s pen and the walls of her Auburn home.

Women of the Seward House

  • This presentation is very similar to Seward Feminism, but focuses on the lives of Lazette, Frances, and Fanny.

A Most Fortunate Folly: William Henry Seward & The Alaskan Purchase

  • This presentation highlights the purchase of Alaska and Seward’s preoccupation with westward expansion and Manifest Destiny. It also discusses Seward and Frederick’s voyage and impressions of Sitka, Alaska.

Slavery to Emancipation: The Seward Legacy and the Politics of Anti-Slavery

  • This presentation follows the Seward family’s involvement in the fight against slavery by highlighting relationships and political moves. The Sewards participated in controversial trials, pushed the bounds of New York and national slavery laws, and offered their house as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Frances was also very good friends with Harriet Tubman and supported her in various ways.

Calling on the Sewards

  • This presentation describes some of the people who visited the Sewards. It talks about the social custom of “calling” and how intensely the Sewards considered hosting visitors.

Seward and the Law

  • This presentation discusses Seward’s career as a lawyer. Though he got his start as a small town lawyer in pioneer-era Auburn, Seward brought the lessons of his legal training and upbringing with him as a New York Governor, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State.

The Seward Family in The Civil War

  • This presentation relays how WHS and his three sons participated in the Civil War and related politics.

“Blessings of Fruitful Fields and Healthful Skies”: Lincoln, Seward, and Thanksgiving

  • After examining the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and William Seward, this presentation explores how establishing Thanksgiving as a National holiday was emblematic of their relationship during the Civil War. Creating this holiday helped unite a country, nationalized previously-local customs, and created our modern Thanksgiving.

Upstairs Downstairs: The Servants of the Seward House

  • This presentation sheds a light on the lives and responsibilities of the Seward House servants as well as on the class system of the 19th century. Notable servants are introduced, and their relationships with the Seward family are discussed.

Seward Family Road Trip:  William and Fanny Seward's 1860 Cross Country Campaign

  • This presentation highlights the loss of the Republican nomination for Seward, and the subsequent campaign stumping trip he takes with Fanny in support of Lincoln. Fanny records this trip around the country in her diary, providing an insightful look into the historic moment.

Grounds of Expansion: The Seward Surveys of New York’s Natural History

  • This presentation discusses the Seward Surveys, which was a geological/botanical/zoological/mineralogical/paleontological study of New York State (which Governor Seward ardently supported).

"Half a Mind to Go Back to Westfield": William Seward, Chautauqua County, and the Making of a Political Identity

  • When a 35 year old William Henry Seward arrived in Westfield in 1836, his career stood at a crossroads. He had just lost an upstart bid to become Governor of New York and was still reeling when he sought a chance to reinvent himself by going west to Chautauqua County. During the next two years, Seward charted a return to politics that would see him rise to a meteoric level: Governor, U.S. Senator, almost-President, and Secretary of State. Every step was anticipated by Seward's choice to reset himself in Westfield.

An Auburn Founder: The Contradictory Life of Elijah Miller

  • An exploration of the role of Elijah Miller - William Seward's father-in-law - in the early founding of Auburn. Miller's story is one of many contradictions: a man capable of equal parts great generosity and petty vindictiveness.