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Chauncey M. Depew Letters

An inventory of his letters at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Oct 1987

Biographical History

Chauncey Mitchell Depew (1834-1928) was an American lawyer, politician, and railroad man. He served as a United States Senator from New York State from 1899 to 1911.

Depew was born April 23, 1834 in Peekskill, New York to Isaac and Martha (Mitchell) Depew. His mother was the great-niece of Roger Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Depew went to a classically-based private school before attending the Peekskill Academy for high school. In 1852, Depew enrolled at Yale University. When he graduated in 1856, Depew was asked to be an orator at the Commencement Day activities.

The future senator went on to have a successful career. He began by studying as a lawyer under the direction of Edward Wells in Peekskill. An active Republican, Depew attended the New York state convention in 1858 as a delegate, served on the New York State Assembly in 1862 and 1863, and filled the role of New York Secretary of State from 1863 to 1865. While in this position, Depew had the honor of escorting President Lincoln's body from the New York State border to Buffalo, New York on its way to Springfield, Illinois to be interred. In 1866, Depew was appointed minister to Japan by President Andrew Johnson. However, Depew shortly left the position in favor of an offer to be attorney for the Hudson River and Harlem railroad lines. In 1882, Depew began serving on the executive board of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad lines. Three years later he served as president of the railroad, before taking a position as chairman of the board of directors in 1898. Remaining involved in politics, Depew was elected U.S. Senator for the state of New York, serving from 1899-1911.

Depew married Elise A. Hegeman in 1871, with whom he had one son, Chauncey Mitchell Depew, Jr. After being widowed in 1893, Depew was remarried to May Palmer. He died on April 5, 1928 at 27 West 54th Street, New York.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Chauncey M. Depew Letters consist of correspondence and memorabilia.

The correspondence contains 40 outgoing items written between 1864 and 1927. The letters reflect Depew's careers as a U.S. Senator from New York and the President of the New York Central Railroad. There are a few items to constituents (Ernest R. Ackerman, George W. Kittredge) reporting on the status of legislation and the procedure for obtaining passports. The correspondence relating to the New York Central Railroad (A. C. Brown, Benjamin P. Fairchild) concerns property appraisals and the renewal of leases. In his career as both Senator and New York Central Railroad president, Depew recommended individuals for various appointments, writing letters to New York Governor Benjamin B. Odell on behalf of Ashley W. Cole's reappointment as Railroad Commissioner, and to Abraham Lincoln seeking consideration of Colonel James Ryden as Provost-Marshall of the 10th district of New York. Depew also recommended Charles W. Kohlsaat for an appointment in the diplomatic service.

The correspondence also contains items of a more social nature, including acceptances and refusals of speaking invitations (Clarence W. Bowen, Edward Hagaman Hall, Gilbert H. Scribner, Francis Hopkinson Smith) as well as requests for meetings, arrangements for social engagements, and personal notes (Warren Church, John P. Clarke, George G. Frelinghuysen, Gerry W. Hazelton, Samuel Koenig, Mary Patten, Francis Beatty Thurber). There are also a number of items associated with Depew's retirement years, during which he was frequently approached for reminiscences about various individuals (James Waldo Fawcett, Raymond Fellows, Julius Strouse).

There is also one item of memorabilia, a program for a dinner commemorating Depew's 80th birthday.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Ackerman, Ernest R.
Bannard, Otto Tremont, 1854-1929.
Bowen, Clarence Winthrop, 1852-1935.
Clarke, John Proctor.
Depew, Chauncey M. (Chauncey Mitchell), 1834-1928.
Fairchild, Benjamin P.
Fawcett, James Waldo, 1893-1968.
Frelinghuysen, George G., 1851-1936.
Hall, Edward Hagaman, 1858-1936.
Harding, Earl, 1880-1965.
Hazelton, Gerry W. (Gerry Whiting), 1829-1920.
Kittredge, Geo. W. (George Watson), 1856-
Koenig, Samuel S., 1872-1955.
Miller, John DeWitt.
Odell, Benjamin B. (Benjamin Barker), 1854-1926.
Scribner, G. Hilton (Gilbert Hilton), 1831-1910.
Smith, Francis Hopkinson, 1838-1915.
Thurber, Francis B. (Francis Beatty), 1842-1907.
Wakeman, Wilbur F.

Corporate Bodies

New York Central Railroad Company.
Republican Party (N.Y.)


Legislators -- United States.
Politicians -- New York (State)


New York (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs.
New York (State) -- Officials and employees -- Selection and appointment.
New York (State) -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.

Genres and Forms

Letters (correspondence)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Chauncey M. Depew Letters
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

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