Collection inventory

Special Collections home page
printer friendly version

Gerrit Smith Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Special Collections Research Center
Title: Gerrit Smith Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1832-1874
Quantity: 0.25 linear ft.
Abstract: Collection of material to, from, or about Gerrit Smith, American social reformer and philanthropist from Peterboro, New York. Collection created by Special Collections Research Center through purchase and donation.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Gerrit Smith (1797-1874) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Born in Utica, New York, he spent much of his life in nearby Peterboro. Smith's grandfather, Colonel James Livingston, fought in the American Revolution and his first cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was a founder and leader of the women's suffrage movement. Smith was non-sectarian in his religious views, active in the temperance movement, an avid and outspoken abolitionist (he was a financial backer of John Brown of Kansas, whose raid on Harper's Ferry nearly led to Smith's prosecution), and three times ran for President of the United States. His philanthropic gifts are said to have exceeded $8 million over his lifetime. Although he rarely ventured far afield from his central New York village, and spent less than two years in elected public office, his biographer Ralph Volney Harrow says, "He and a few others like him furnished the oratory, the written propaganda, and the emotional fervor necessary to keep good causes constantly before the public" (Harlow, Ralph Volney, Gerrit Smith, Philanthropist and Reformer, New York, Henry Holt and Co., 1939, p.v.)

Because Special Collections Research Center is the repository of the Gerrit Smith Papers, we occasionally purchase additional material related to Gerrit Smith, which becomes part of this auxiliary collection.

Return to top

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Gerrit Smith Collection consists of correspondence and legal material.

Correspondence contains letters to, from, or about Gerrit Smith, including one letter from Franklin Sanborn to Smith's wife.

Legal material contains ballots, a copy of a lawsuit, and some blank indenture forms.

Return to top


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.

Return to top

Related Material

For Gerrit Smith's own papers, see the Gerrit Smith Papers.

For the papers of other members of the Smith family, see also the Gerrit Smith Miller Papers, the Peter Smith Papers, and the Greene Smith Papers.

The Madison County Historical Society (435 Main Street, Oneida, N. Y., 13421, has family correspondence, manuscripts, documents, published writings of and publications on Gerrit Smith, along with Smith family paintings, furniture etc. covering a period of over 100 years.

Return to top

Subject Headings


Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846.
Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917.
Smith, Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, 1805-1875.
Smith, Gerrit, 1797-1874.
Talcott, Wait.
Talcott, William, 1784-1864.


Abolitionists -- United States.
Antislavery movements -- United States.
Social reformers -- United States.


Madison County (N.Y.) -- History.
New York (State) -- History -- 1775-1865.

Genres and Forms


Return to top

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Gerrit Smith Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, various years.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 27 Mar 2013
Revision history: 1 Nov 2013 - adds P-13-198 (MRC); 9 May 2016 - updated related material (MRC); 21 Feb 2017 - additions, promoted to regular collection (MRC)

Return to top


Box 1 Clapp, John 1862 - letter from Smith, concerning conduct of the Civil War and the slavery question
Box 1 Clarkson, Thomas 1848 - strand of Clarkson's hair, presented by Smith to Mary E. Brown, Peterboro
Box 1 Peters, Onslow 8 Mar 1854 - to John C. Newkirk of Hudson, New York, pertaining to a land deed from Ebenezer Montagu to Gerrit Smith in February 1842
Box 1 Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin 16 Jan 1874 - to Mrs. Ann C. Smith, wife of Gerrit Smith, concerning the existence of incriminating letters of the Secret Six who financially supported John Brown before the raid on Harper's Ferry and the advent of the Civil War
Box 1 Talcott, William 1832, 1835 - letters from William Talcott to his brother Wait Talcott
The 1835 letter refers to the Utica meeting to establish a state antislavery society that was disrupted by a mob. Gerrit Smith resolved the problem by having the meeting resumed the following day in Peterboro. William Wait has this commentary on Gerrit Smith: "I like the ground G. Smith has taken, tis the height on which I'll plant my feet & tis you see the production, or the result of the Utica Mob (for tis the first time I ever saw it advocated just in that style & he says 'twas this mobbing that made him leave his bed at night to write it)." William Talcott would eventually move to Illinois and continue the radical abolitionism that was inspired by the speeches and writings of Gerrit Smith.
Legal papers
Box 1 Ballots 1858, 1862 - two slip ballots for New York State
Box 1 Indentures - blank forms, made out in the name of Gerrit Smith
Box 1 Lawsuit 1862 - "Dr. Doubleday against Gerrit Smith"

Return to top