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Benson John Lossing Collection

An inventory of his collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Jun 1992

Biographical History

Benson John Lossing (1813-1891), historian, editor, and wood-engraver, was born at Beekman, Dutchess County, N.Y., son of John Lossing, a farmer, and Miriam (Dorland) Lossing. Benson's father and mother died when he was a child, and his formal education was limited to three years at a district school.

During his apprenticeship to a watchmaker at Poughkeepsie he read a number of history books, and over a period of several years pursued an independent study. At the age of twenty-two he was made joint editor and proprietor of the Poughkeepsie Telegraph, Dutchess County's official Democratic journal; and when he became joint editor of the Poughkeepsie Casket, a literary fortnightly, he began to learn the art of engraving on wood from J. A. Adams, illustrator for this paper. He went to New York in 1838 and in 1839 began two years of editing and illustrating for J. S. Redfield's Family Magazine.

His Outline History of the Fine Arts, prepared largely during spare moments, was published in 1840 as one of Harper's Family Library. For the Pictorial Field Book of the American Revolution (1850-52) Lossing traveled more than eight thousand miles in the United States and Canada, collecting information and dashing off hasty sketches from which he afterwards made block drawings for engravings. Harper & Bros. had advanced him the funds for this enterprise; the book was issued first in parts and later in two large octavo volumes.

During the thirty-five years that followed, Lossing published prolifically, and in all was either author or editor of more than forty titles. Among them were two more of the pictorial series, covering the War of 1812 and the Civil War. From 1872 to 1874 he was an able editor of the American Historical Record and Repertory of Notes and Queries. Lossing was twice married: in June 1833 to Alice Barritt; and during the year after her death, to Helen Sweet. The fact that Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the American Revolution is still interesting to the layman and authoritatively valuable to the antiquarian would seem to make its author more than a mere popularizer of American history.

[Adapted from American Authors 1600-1900 (1938)]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Benson John Lossing Collection comprises Correspondence-family, Correspondence-general, Drawings, Writings, and Memorabilia relating to the 19th century historian, illustrator, and editor of The American Historical Review (1813-1891). Predominantly correspondence, the collection centers around Lossing's information gathering for his popularizations of American history, while it also illuminates the early publishing industry in the United States.

Correspondence-family consists mostly of letters by Lossing to his wife Helen and includes single letters to and from Lossing's son, Edison. Arranged chronologically, the Correspondence-general consists of over 1000 incoming and outgoing letters written between 1843 and 1903, and includes those of artists (John C. Buttre, Thomas S. Cummings, T. Addison Richards, John Rogers, James Smillie, Robert W. Weir); antiquarians (Samuel G. Drake, Lyman C. Draper, John S. Fogg); authors (W. H. Bogart, Thomas Ewbank, Laura C. Holloway, Theodorus B. Myers, Caroline Frances Orne, Nathaniel Paine, Charles F. Richardson, James Riker, Edward M. Ruttenber, Prosper M. Wetmore, Andrew C. Zabriske); clergymen (Henry W. Bellows, Thomas B. Fairchild, Edward D. Neill, Samuel I. Prime, William B. Sprague); editors (Lyman Abbott, Henry M. Alden, Mary L. Booth, Henry B. Dawson, Evert A. Duyckinck, Sarah J. Hale); historians (Samuel G. Arnold, A. B. Berard, A. G. Brackett, Charles C. Jones, George H. Moore, Henry Onderdonk, Jeptha R. Simms, William Leete Stone, John W. Thornton, John F. Watson, Winslow C. Watson, William A. Whitehead); military figures (John W. De Peyster, Dennis H. Mahan, Brantz Mayer, William H. Morris, John E. Wool); physicians (John W. Francis, Samuel W. Francis, F. B. Hough, Usher Parsons); politicians (Charles S. Carter, Schuyler Colfax, Hiland Hall, A. B. Hasbrouck); and publishers (William H. Appleton, Henry C. Baird, Clarence W. Bowen, George W. Childs, Joseph W. Harper, Mason Brothers, George H. Putnam, George P. Putnam). There are also a number of letters written to Mrs. Lossing subsequent to her husband's death in 1891. In addition, Correspondence includes miscellaneous letters about Lossing, letter fragments, and envelopes. A selected index to the correspondence follows the box list.

Lossing's work as an illustrator and historian is represented by Drawings and Writings. The collection contains five pencil sketches, one watercolored, of mostly historical sites. Writings include various chapters from The Discovery of America and Side Lights of History, as well as an assortment of research material, notes, miscellaneous manuscripts, and clippings.

Memorabilia includes financial and legal documents and an Anderson Galleries auction catalog from 1917 containing Lossing manuscripts and drawings.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is subdivided into Family, arranged alphabetically, and General, arranged chronologically. Writings and Memorabilia are in no particular order.


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


Abbott, Lyman, 1835-1922.
Alden, Henry Mills, 1836-1919.
Appleton, William Henry, 1814-1899.
Arnold, Samuel Greene, 1821-1880.
Atlee, Samuel Yorke, b. 1809.
Atlee, William Yorke.
Baird, Henry Carey, 1825-1912.
Bellows, Henry W. (Henry Whitney), 1814-1882.
Berard, A. B. (Augusta Blanche), 1824-1901.
Bogart, W. H. (William Henry), 1810-1888.
Booth, Mary L. (Mary Louise), 1831-1889.
Bowen, Clarence Winthrop, 1852-1935.
Brackett, Albert G. (Albert Gallatin), 1829-1896.
Brooks, N. C. (Nathan Covington), 1809-1898.
Buckingham, Stephen M.
Buttre, John Chester, 1821-1893.
Carter, Charles S.
Childs, George William, 1829-1894.
Colfax, Schuyler, 1823-1885.
Cummings, Thomas Seir, 1804-1894.
Dawson, Henry B. (Henry Barton), 1821-1889.
De Peyster, J. Watts (John Watts), 1821-1907.
Drake, Samuel G., 1798-1875.
Draper, Lyman Copeland, 1815-1891.
Duyckinck, Evert A. (Evert Augustus), 1816-1878.
Emmet, Thomas Addis, 1828-1919.
Ewbank, Thomas, 1792-1870.
Fairchild, Thomas B., 1811-1879.
Fairlie, Frederick.
Fogg, J. S. H. (John Samuel Hill), 1826-1893.
Francis, John W. (John Wakefield), 1789-1861.
Francis, Samuel W. (Samuel Ward), 1835-1886.
Gourlie, John H. (John Hamilton), 1807-1891.
Hale, Sarah Josepha Buell, 1788-1879.
Hall, Hiland, 1795-1885.
Harper, Joseph W. (Joseph Wesley), 1830-1896.
Hasbrouck, Abraham Bruyn, 1791-1879.
Holloway, Laura C. (Laura Carter), 1848-1930.
Hough, Franklin B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1822-1885.
Jones, Charles C. (Charles Colcock), 1831-1893.
Lossing, Benson John, 1813-1891.
Mahan, D. H. (Dennis Hart), 1802-1871.
Mayer, Brantz, 1809-1879.
McAllister, John A. (John Allister), 1822-1896.
Moore, George Henry, 1823-1892.
Morris, William H. (William Hopkins), 1827-1900.
Myers, Theodorus Bailey.
Neill, Edward D. (Edward Duffield), 1823-1893.
Onderdonk, Henry, 1804-1886.
Oram, Elizabeth.
Orne, Caroline F. (Caroline Frances), 1818-1905.
Paine, Nathaniel, 1832-1917.
Parsons, Usher, 1788-1868.
Prime, Samuel Irenæus, 1812-1885.
Putnam, George Haven, 1844-1930.
Putnam, George Palmer, 1814-1872.
Redfield, Justus Starr, 1810-1888.
Richards, T. Addison (Thomas Addison), 1820-1900.
Richardson, Charles F. (Charles Francis), 1851-1913.
Riker, James, 1822-1889.
Rogers, John, 1829-1904.
Ruttenber, Edward Manning, 1825-1907.
Saunders, Frederick, 1807-1902.
Schuyler, Eliza H.
Schuyler, George Lee, 1811-1890.
Sedgwick, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1795-1882.
Simms, Jeptha Root, 1807-1883.
Smillie, James, 1807-1885.
Sprague, William B. (William Buell), 1795-1876.
Stevens, John Austin, 1827-1910.
Stone, William L. (William Leete), 1835-1908.
Thornton, John Wingate, 1818-1878.
Van Rensselaer, Adeline.
Watson, John F. (John Fanning), 1779-1860.
Watson, Winslow C. (Winslow Cossoul), 1803-1884.
Weir, Robert Walter, 1803-1889.
Wetmore, Prosper Montgomery, 1798-1876.
Whitehead, William A. (William Adee), 1810-1884.
Wilson, Archibald.
Wool, John Ellis, 1784-1869.
Zabriskie, Andrew C. (Andrew Christian), 1853-1916.

Corporate Bodies

Harper & Brothers.
Mason Brothers.


Artists -- United States.
Editors -- United States.
Historians -- United States.
History publishing -- United States.
Illustrators -- United States.
Publishers and publishing -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Drawings (visual works)
Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Benson John Lossing Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents






Selected index to correspondence


Selected index to correspondence