Guide to the Research Collections

- Historical Records

Historical Records

With the exception of illuminated manuscripts and some literary collections, the greater portion of the manuscript materials which came to the library before the turn of the century were historical. These provide rich representations of original documents and transcripts, pertaining largely to early American history. Descriptions of these and later collections appear in the appropriate subject sections of this Guide and are merely noted here. Particularly important collections include the Rich collection (early Spanish America); the Chalmers collection (American colonies, mainly for the period leading to the Revolutionary War); the Hardwicke collection (British archives of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries relating to America, etc.); the Smyth of Nibley papers (Virginia papers, 1613-79);2 the Bancroft collection (British colonies and the American Revolution); the Emmet collection (one or more autographs of nearly every distinguished American of the colonial and revolutionary periods and early nineteenth century);3 the American Loyalists papers (claims for losses and services in the Revolution);4 the Myers collection

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(letters and documents of distinguished Americans of the colonial and revolutionary periods and of the nineteenth century, and of distinguished Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Hessian officers);5 the Ford collection (autographs of the colonial and American revolutionary periods and the nineteenth century); the William Livingston papers (correspondence of the revolutionary period); the Gansevoort-Lansing collection (military and other papers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries);.6 and the Schuyler papers (American Revolution, New York State, Indians, etc.). Among notable single manuscripts in the division are the Olive Branch Petition.7 Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, one of seven known copies of the original Bill of Rights, and George Washington's Farewell Address,8 as well as important holdings of diaries and personal narratives.

During the period from 1900 to 1914, the major increase in the manuscript holdings was in the field of New York City records. By 1915 it could be said that the library had become the depository of a vast aggregation of official records of the city of New York, most of these mayors' papers documenting more than fifty years of the nineteenth century. These official records of the city have been transferred to the Municipal Archives and Records Center, an agency under the Municipal Service Administration of the city of New York.

Among the collections bearing on American relations with other countries are the James Leander Cathcart correspondence (1785-1806) on Tripoli and the Barbary States: the George C. Foulk papers and the Horace N. Allen papers, both of which relate to Korean matters at the close of the last century;9 the John Bigelow letters (1856-68) relating to France; the Francis Vinton Greene papers relating to Turkey, the Philippines, and other countries at the close of the last century; the papers (1839-88) of William Frey, concerning Russian-American associations; and the Garrison-McKim-Maloney collection which deals, in part, with the role played by individuals in the United States during the struggle which culminated in the Irish Free State.10 The latter is supplemented by the John Quinn memorial collection, which includes Quinn's correspondence (1900-24) with members of the Irish Home Rule movement as well as international writers and artists.11

Pertinent to national affairs are the Gansevoort-Lansing collection, rich in sources for the study of early American history (national as well as state) for a period of 250 years;12 the Gideon Welles correspondence (1825-85) concerning his tenure as secretary of the Navy in Lincoln's and Johnson's cabinets; the Samuel J. Tilden papers (1830-86) of interest to New York and national history and to legal affairs; the Brigadier-General John Wolcott Phelps papers and scrapbooks (1838-72) relating to various American wars and troubles; the Horace Greeley papers (1842-70) dealing with politics and legislation in Indiana, New York, and the United States; the Levi P. Morton correspondence (1878-98) containing letters from various important officials and political figures; Charles James Folger's unofficial correspondence as a federal officer (1881-84); the James Schoolcraft Sherman correspondence (1896-1912) dealing in part with national and state matters; and the Sol Bloom papers (1920-49) covering his term as congressman from New York.

Of interest to the history of New York State are the Tilden and the Gansevoort-Lansing collections mentioned above; the William Smith papers (1763-83) of great value for the study of the administrative and political history of the province of New York;13 and the Timothy S. Williams papers, in part relating to Williams's activities as private secretary to Governors Hill and Flower (1889-94).

Among the library's rich collections of manuscript materials relating to local history are the George H. Budke papers, which are early records of the history of Rockland and old Orange Counties of New York State and of the adjoining Bergen County, New Jersey. The James Riker collection of original seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Dutch and English manuscript records (with translations) documents the villages of Harlem, Newton, New York, Brooklyn and others; it was collected by this local historian for use in his work. The Hon. Percy G. Childs papers (1817- 22) originate in the Cazenovia, New York region. The Stanley M. Isaacs (1889-1962) papers include materials concerning his activities as a New York City politician and leader, and the papers of Lillian D. Wald illustrate the social history of New York from 1894 to 1940. The Robert Moses papers (at present restricted) also bear on New York City history.

The Schomburg Center includes important manuscript and archival resources, such as the papers of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, the WPA Writers' Program study "Negroes of New York," a comprehensive collection of Haitian records from the library of Kurt Fisher, and the records of the Civil Rights Congress.

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