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James H. Flanagan Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 26 Feb 2008

Biographical History

James Flanagan (b. 1854) was a New York politician and businessman who began his business career as a boat-builder with his brother Peter. He became active in the New York Democratic Party, represented the 3d Oneida District at the State Assembly in 1875, ran unsuccessfully for state senator in 1889, and was a member of the State Democratic Committee of the 25th Congressional District. He was elected Town Supervisor for Vienna in 1885 and served as Oneida County Treasurer, and for several years was Assistant Superintendent of Public Works for the Middle Division of the New York canal system in the mid-1890's, under Edward Hannan.

According to the New York Times, this was a low period for the canal system:

[One can see] the degradation of the canal system to the basest political methods at the hands of Gov. Hill and his Superintendent of Public Works, Edward Hannan of Troy...It is no exaggeration to say that the system is rapidly reaching the point where it was seventeen years ago, when Samuel J. Tilden applied the club of reform and crushed the disgraceful and audacious ring that for years had been robbing the State, ruining the canals, and enriching themselves. The same methods that led to the overthrow of the ring in 1874 are being practiced now.
["Hill's Canal Machine," New York Times, April 13, 1891

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The James Flanagan Papers consists of correspondence, legal and financial documents, printed material, photographs and miscellany, largely related to his business and political career as Vienna Town Supervisor, Oneida County Treasurer, and Assistant Superintendent of Public Works for the Middle Division of the New York State Canals.

Correspondence-subject files contains correspondence, almost entirely incoming and largely related to politics and to Flanagan's work on the canal system, as well as Democratic party material and a ledger of the "Young Men's Litterary [sic] Society of North Bay." Correspondents include Utica attorney Samuel Beardsley and canal superintendent Edward Hannan.

Legal and financial material relates to Flanagan's various government positions for the Canal system, town of Vienna, and Oneida County, and a few of Flanagan's personal records. Canal system records contains Flanagan's commissions as Assistant Superintendent, canal maps and diagrams, reports from Flanagan to Superintendent Edward Hannan, legal papers relating to former Superintendent Thomas O'Brien's lawsuit, and miscellany, including an "Ice Permit Book" noting who was allowed to harvest ice on various portions of the canal. Oneida County records includes two Democratic party canvass books and some miscellaneous items. Vienna, New York records include bonds, canvass books, an elector register, records of receipts and expenses, and miscellaneous items. Personal records including a room-by-room household inventory.

The Memorabilia in the collection consists entirely of photographs -- daguerreotypes, tintypes, and other formats. Most appear to be personal in nature, but a few are business-related, including one labelled "Board of Supervisors of Oneida County, 1885". Apart from the latter, none of the photographs are captioned.

Printed material comprises a variety of pamphlets, advertisements, periodicals, clippings, and other items including an 1895 RFP (request for proposals) issued by the U.S. Engineer Office for "the construction of dams and shore protections between Hamburg, Illinois, and Cap Au Gris, Missouri," and a booklet outlining "Reasons and Authorities favoring Educational Unification under the Regents of the University" (1894), arguing that the New York State Board of Regents should have the power to appoint the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction.

A small amount of Miscellany completes the collection, including a daily diary of Mrs. Dexter Nichols. Another item of particular interest is an annual register of Spanish immigrants, possibly in the town of Vienna, from 1924-1935, which contains names, dates and places of birth, and local addresses, and occasionally the date(s) of departure from Spain and arrival in America.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. All other items are arranged alphabetically by topic and/or type.


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

Several books were removed from the collection and transferred to Rare Books for separate cataloging. These are:

An Illustrated Descriptive Catalogue of the New York State Reformatory at Elmira (undated but probably 1890)
Journal of Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of Oneida County (1878, 1880, 1886, 1890, 1893)
Public Papers of Governor Flower, 1892 and Public Papers of Governor Flower, 1893 (Roswell Flower was governor of New York 1892-1894 and a U.S. Representative)
State of New York Report on the Barge Canal, 1901
State of New York Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Works on the Canals of the State for the Year Ending September 30, 1892 and on Trade and Tonnage of the Canals for the Year 1892 (1893)
Twenty-second Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of New York (1876)

See also the John Daniel McMahon Papers.

Subject Headings


Flanagan, James H., Jr.

Corporate Bodies

New York (State). -- Superintendent of Public Works.


Business enterprises -- New York (State)
Democratic Party (N.Y.)
New York State Canal System (N.Y.)


New York (State) -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
Oneida County (N.Y.) -- Politics and government.
Vienna (N.Y. : Town) -- Politics and government.

Genres and Forms

Maps (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

James H. Flanagan Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Robert Snyder, 2008.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files

Legal and financial records


Printed material