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Hamilton Fish Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: PRB
Date: 1994-11-21

Biographical History

Hamilton Fish (1808-1893) was an American statesman, politician and lawyer.

Fish was born in New York City to Nicholas Fish and Elizabeth Stuyvesant, graduated from Columbia in 1827, and was admitted to the bar in 1830. He was elected to the House of Representatives (Whig Party) and served there from 1843 and 1845, then as lieutenant governor (1847-1848) and governor (1849-1850) of New York.

In 1851 he was elected to the United States Senate where, among other things, he was a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and part of a moderately anti-slavery faction. During the Civil War Fish was a member of the Union Defence Committee which raised and equipped troops, and was appointed by President Lincoln to the board of commissioners for the relief and exchange of Union prisoners of war.

After the war President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Fish Secretary of State, a position he held from 1869 to 1877. In this capacity he negotiated a number of treaties between the United States and various foreign powers, and presided at the peace conference between Spain and the allied republics of Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, which resulted in a general truce between those countries. He also advocated testing for consular candidates to determine if they were truly qualified for duty at a consulate.

In addition to his goverment service, Fish was President of the New York Historical Society (1867-1869), trustee of the Lenox Library and the Astor Library (which evolved into the New York Public Library), and served as a trustee of Columbia University for more than fifty years. His namesake son, grand-son, and great-grandson all served in the House of Representatives for the state of New York; other descendants include diplomat Nicholas Fish, New Jersey Senator Hamilton Keane, governor of New Jersey Thomas Kean, and railroad executive Stuyvesant Fish.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Hamilton Fish Collection includes correspondence, account books, and memorabilia. Correspondence spans more than forty years and includes outgoing and incoming. The latter contains photocopies only and most is from Fish's wife, Julia Kean Fish, and other family members. Financial material contains account books covering the years 1844-1851. Memorabilia contains miscellaneous items.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is divided into incoming and outgoing. Outgoing is further divided into originals and photocopies and then arranged chronologically, while incoming is arranged alphabetically by sender. Account books are arranged chronologically.


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.

Related Material

See also Stuyvesant Fish Letter.

Subject Headings


Baker, Sarah.
Fish family.
Fish, Hamilton, 1808-1893.
Fish, Hamilton, II, 1849-1936.
Fish, Julia Kean.
Fish, Stuyvesant, 1851-1923.


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

Genres and Forms

Account books.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Hamilton Fish Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents


Financial material