The George William Taylor papers contain 103 items, ranging in date from 1823 to 1862. The collection includes 92 letters, 1 diary, 4 legal documents, 2 photographs, several sheets of obituary clippings, and some miscellaneous items.
Taylor wrote most of the letters to his family during his periods abroad. The first major section of letters contains letters he wrote home to his parents and family during his time in the Navy while sailing the Mediterranean from 1828 to 1831 on the U.S.S. Fairfield . In these letters, Taylor gave descriptions of naval life, as well as observations of the ports he visited around the Mediterranean, including Gibraltar, Smyrna, Minorca, Venice (July 23, 1829: ". . . that most supurb city so appropriately stiled the 'Ocean Queen' at once spread out before us and free to feast our eyes on her unequaled singularity of beauty."), Palermo, and Marseilles (January 10, 1831: "The French are indeed a very warlike people you see it everywhere, every body is a soldier and there is no doubt that the military science is more generally diffused in France than in any other country.").
The next section of letters contains correspondence written during his time in the army in the Mexican War, from 1847 to 1848, and over the course of his trip to California during the Gold Rush, from 1849 to 1851. Though he saw little action during the Mexican War, his letters give some rich descriptions of a traveler’s view of the country (in particular, see July 21, 1847). Taylor’s California letters detail life in a California mining town, as well as his struggles to make money. After a fire destroyed part of San Francisco, Taylor wrote, "Confidence is destroyed and many will gather together what little they can and go home tired of the struggle . . . Thank God I owe nobody here I have never compromised my honour or self respect and if I carry home nothing it will be with some satisfaction to come out of the ordeal of Ca. untarnished" (May 5, 1851). A large portion of the letters during this period are from Taylor to his wife Mary, who remained in New Jersey during his travels. The collection also contains occasional responses from her, in which she gave news from home and expressed her loneliness over Taylor’s absence.
In the final section are several documents and letters from 1862, during Taylor’s brief time in the Union Army before his death. Several letters are addressed to Taylor from Union General Philip Kearny (1815-1862). Included are Taylor’s will (March 2, 1862) and an October 1862 letter of condolence, addressed to his daughter Mary.
Also in the collection are a 144-page journal from Taylor’s time in the Mediterranean, in which he wrote daily observations about his travels and life in the Navy; two photos of Taylor in Civil War uniform; and a collection of obituary clippings.