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Collection Benjamin Harrison Papers

About this Collection

The papers of U.S. senator from Indiana and U.S. Army officer Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), who became the twenty-third president of the United States, consist of 69,600 items (178,479 images), most of which were digitized from 151 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years 1780 to 1948, with the bulk dating from 1853 to 1901, the collection contains correspondence, speeches, articles, notebooks in shorthand, legal papers, financial records, scrapbooks, memorials, printed matter, memorabilia, and other papers. The collection covers every aspect of Harrison’s life and career. Subjects include relations with his family, the Civil War, Indiana politics, Harrison’s senatorial career (1881-1887) and presidency (1889-1893), the political campaign of 1888, his Indianapolis law practice, and the Venezuela boundary dispute.

Notable correspondents include William B. Allison, Wharton Barker, James Gillespie Blaine, Andrew Carnegie, Schuyler Colfax, Stephen B. Elkins, James A. Garfield, Marcus Alonzo Hanna, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Louis T. Michener, William H. H. Miller, John W. Noble, Redfield Proctor, Matthew Stanley Quay, Whitelaw Reid, Clement Studebaker, Benjamin F. Tracy, Lew Wallace, and John Wanamaker.

The Index to the Benjamin Harrison Papers, created by the Manuscript Division in 1964 after the bulk of the collection was microfilmed, provides a full list of the correspondents and notes the series number and dates of the items indexed. This information is helpful in finding individual letters or documents in the online version. Additional letters received by the Library after 1964 are not listed in this index.

A current finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the Benjamin Harrison Papers is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Brief History of the Benjamin Harrison Papers

The story of the Benjamin Harrison Papers is largely that of Mrs. Mary Lord Dimmick Harrison’s search for a biographer of her husband. Inquiry about the papers on behalf of the Library of Congress was first made in 1903. After negotiations with several prospective biographers fell through, the first group of Harrison papers was deposited in the Library on March 1, 1915, under the restriction that the collection was not to be consulted without Mrs. Harrison’s permission. The deposit was converted to a gift on June 2, 1933, at which time the William Henry Harrison Papers were established as a distinct group.

Mrs. Harrison and the Library continued to cooperate in efforts to organize the collection for a biographer, as well as to locate a writer suitable to the undertaking. Through the efforts of Professor Albert T. Volwiler to provide materials for the long-planned biography, other significant additions were made to the collection over the two decades of his intensive and exclusive use of the papers. In 1928, at Volwiler’s suggestion, the Library engaged E. Frank Tibbott, Harrison’s stenographer and private secretary for twelve years, to transcribe over 7,000 letters from his own shorthand notebooks. These transcripts filled many important gaps in the collection for the years of Harrison’s presidency and after, and are indicated in the Index to the Benjamin Harrison Papers by the abbreviation “TT.”

On April 24, 1945, Mrs. Harrison requested that the Harrison Papers be opened to the public. After other Harrison descendants converted Harrison’s letters to his first wife Caroline during the Civil War to an unrestricted gift, restrictions relative to use of the combined collections were removed on July 14, 1947.

The long wait for a Harrison biographer ended in 1948 when the Reverend Harry J. Sievers, S.J., began his work with the Harrison Papers, ultimately producing a three-volume biography, Benjamin Harrison. Father Sievers has told the story of both the collection and the search for a biographer in the preface to the second edition External of his first volume.

A fuller history of the provenance of the collection was prepared for the Index to the Benjamin Harrison Papers, pp. v-vii, and was subsequently reproduced in the finding aid (PDF and HTML). A version appears on this website as the essay Provenance of the Benjamin Harrison Papers.

Description of Series

The Benjamin Harrison Papers are arranged in twenty-two series. A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the collection is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Series 1: General Correspondence and Related Material, 1787-1912 (Reels 1-43)
Consists primarily of correspondence, some of which is in transcript and photostat form. The material is arranged chronologically. Within each day, outgoing letters are arranged by the name of the addressee, whereas letters received by Harrison are arranged by the name of the sender. Where two transcripts are typed on one page, alphabetical arrangement is by the recipient of the first letter. Some related material, including essays and speeches, is included in the general chronological sequence with letters sent.

Series 2: Additional Correspondence and Related Items, 1853-1909 (Reels 43-97)
Contains correspondence omitted from Series 1 and some enclosures to letters in that series. Included is important correspondence for the 1888-1889 period, some Tibbott transcripts (identified as “TT” in the Index to the Benjamin Harrison Papers), invitations, and some legal correspondence. The arrangement is the same as that of Series 1.

Series 3: Letter Press Copy Book, 1880-1892 (Reels 97-98)
Comprises letters sent by Harrison from December 16, 1880, to May 28, 1888, which are generally followed by transcripts. Letters of Harrison’s law partners and Howard Cale, dating from March 13, 1889, to January 2, 1892, are not transcribed. The volume contains an index.

Series 4: Telegrams, 1888-1889 (Reels 98-99)
Consists primarily of telegrams received by Harrison related to four important political events: the Republican National Convention at which Harrison was nominated for president, June 22-30, 1888; the election, November 2-12, 1888; cabinet formation, February 6-March 6, 1889; and the inauguration on March 4, 1889. The telegrams are arranged chronologically and within each day alphabetically by correspondent. When two telegrams appear on the same page, the alphabetical arrangement is by the writer of the first telegram.

Series 5: Social, 1889-1897 (Reels 99-100)
Composed of two bound volumes and unbound correspondence. One volume consists of reception lists, while the second contains dinner and luncheon lists and seating arrangements. Correspondence mainly includes replies to White House invitations, arranged under the date of the function and alphabetically within that day.

Series 6: Shorthand Notebooks, 1884-1901 (Reels 100-116)
Contains the shorthand notebooks of stenographers Charles Watson (1884-1886), Alice Sanger (1888-1889), and E. Frank Tibbott (1889-1901). Letters by Watson and Tibbott transcribed by Tibbott can be found in Series 1 and 2. Letters of Alice Sanger and other notes of legal cases, speeches, etc., are not transcribed.

Series 7: Record of Letters Received at the White House, 1889-1893 (Reels 116-117)
Entries in each bound volume include the name of writer, a notation on the subject of the letter, the date it was received, and the department or agency to which the letter was referred. The entries are listed alphabetically by first initial of surname and therein by the date of receipt.

Series 8: Speeches, 1878-1901 (Reels 117-121)
Includes Harrison’s notes, drafts, reading copies, and printed copies of campaign speeches, special messages to Congress, and post presidential lectures and speeches. The material is arranged chronologically.

Series 9: Writings, 1895-1897 (Reels 121-122)
Consists of manuscript drafts of a series of articles written for the Ladies Home Journal (Dec. 1895-May 1897) entitled “This Country of Ours.” In some instance, page proofs of the articles as they appeared in the magazine follow the respective manuscript draft. Following the Ladies Home Journal articles is the revised and supplemented text that formed Harrison’s book, This Country of Ours (1897). Galley and page proofs with annotations of the book follow the manuscript.

Series 10: Legal Instruments, 1852-1898 (Reels 122-123)
Encompasses deeds, petitions, agreements, and other legal documents, which are arranged chronologically.

Series 11: Legal Cases and Firm Letter Press Copy Books, circa 1855-1900 (Reels 123-135)
The cases in this series are arranged alphabetically by the first party named. Case files include briefs, counter briefs, records of trials, notes and memoranda, and, in the Morrison will case, shorthand notebooks. The letter press copy books, to which consecutive numbers have been assigned, concern business handled by the legal firms of [William] Wallace & Harrison and Harrison & [William P.] Fishback, as well as some individual business of Harrison and of Fishback as pension agents. The letter press letterbooks contain their own indexes and letters generally appear chronologically.

Series 12: Financial, 1836-1900 (Reels 135-140)
This series contains eight sections dealing with financial records for Benjamin Harrison’s personal finances and those relating to his legal work.

  • Record Book, Wallace & Harrison, 1856-1862 (Reel 135)
  • Cash and Account Books, Wallace & Harrison, 1854-1862 (Reel 135)
  • Account Book, Harrison & Fishback, 1861-1865 (Reel 136)
  • Record Book, Harrison & Fishback, 1862-1867 (Reel 136)
  • Cash Book, Indiana Reports, 1865-1870 (Reel 136)
  • Pocket-book Diaries Containing Occasional Notes and Accounts, 1858-1872 (Reel 136)
  • Bank Books, Personal, 1867-1884 (Reel 136)
  • Personal Business and Legal Practice Finances, 1836-1900 (Reels 136-140). This section includes checks, notes, bills, receipts, and accounts deriving from Harrison’s personal business and legal practice. The material is arranged chronologically, and therein alphabetically by signer.

Series 13: Venezuela Boundary Dispute, 1895-1899 (Reels 140-143; some digital content not yet available; some material not filmed or scanned)
Includes notes and information compiled for the boundary dispute case between Venezuela and Great Britain argued before the Arbitration Tribunal in Paris, France, May-September 1899. Of particular interest are the notes Harrison compiled for his argument on behalf of Venezuela before the tribunal, as well as printed copies of the argument (first in printed form, followed by the manuscript), the typed and printed materials compiled for the case, and descriptions of the meetings extracted from letters and newspapers. The series is arranged by type of material with overlapping dates.

Bound copies of the published text of the proceedings were neither microfilmed nor scanned. With the exception of any accompanying atlases, the following published volumes are available online through HathiTrust.

Series 14: Miscellaneous Manuscripts, 1814-1901 (Reels 143-144)
Features records of the 70th Regiment Indiana Infantry, Republican Party code book and lists, Western trip file (1891), and papers related to the Chilean crisis (1891). Undated material contains presidential office cross-reference memoranda. The materials are arranged chronologically.

Series 15: Volwiler Collection of Harrisoniana, 1864-1938 (Reel 145)
Contains copies and photostats of letters pertaining to Benjamin Harrison. The series also includes extracts from Elijah W. Halford’s diary, letters from E. Frank Tibbott and members of the Harrison family, and notes and reference tools made by Albert T. Volwiler. The materials are arranged chronologically.

Series 16: Scrapbooks, 1853-1908 (Reels 145-151)
Consists of fifty-three scrapbooks, mainly containing newspaper clippings. Most of the scrapbooks focus on Harrison’s presidency (1889-1893), but every major event in Harrison’s mature years are covered in the series. The volumes are arranged by subjects, such as personal, social, political, and speeches. The materials within each volume appear in roughly chronological order. The contents of former volumes 54 and 55 were removed and filed in series 2 subsequent to the preparation of the Index to the Benjamin Harrison Papers but prior to microfilming.

Series 17: Certificates, Memorials, and Printed Invitations, 1882-1896 (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Comprised of certificates, memorials, and printed invitations presented primarily to Benjamin Harrison. The material is arranged mainly chronologically.

Series 18: Pamphlets, 1840-1916 (Not filmed, not scanned)
Encompasses pamphlets largely on political subjects, such as campaign publications and Mississippi River Commission and Senate documents, as well as background material for messages, and miscellaneous items from enclosures. The materials are arranged chronologically. These materials in this series were not scanned for online presentation. Researchers should consult the collection finding aid for a list of printed materials contained in Series 18 of the Benjamin Harrison Papers.

Series 19: Photographs and Drawings, 1889-1892 (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Consists of two bound volumes of illustrated material related to the Harrison White House. One volume contains interior and exterior photographs of the White House taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston between 1889 and 1890. The second volume contains architectural drawings reflecting First Lady Caroline Harrison’s ideas for enlarging the White House.

Series 20: Miscellaneous Printed Matter, 1840-1910 (Not filmed, not scanned)
Contains broadsides, loose clippings, cards and souvenirs, and assorted printed matter. The material is arranged chronologically. The materials in this series were not scanned for online presentation. Researchers should consult the collection finding aid for a list of printed materials contained in Series 20 of the Benjamin Harrison Papers.

Series 21: Additions, 1780-1948 (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Includes original correspondence and some typewritten transcripts, Treasury Department records, writings about Harrison and his family, mementos, and miscellaneous items relating to Benjamin Harrison and the Harrison family. The materials are organized according to the year each addition was processed and thereunder by type of material.

Oversize (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Consists of atlases from the Venezuelan boundary dispute, miscellaneous printed matter, and material relating to Caroline Harrison’s proposed extension of the White House. The material is arranged according to the series and container from which the items were removed.