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Collection E. B. Washburne Papers

About this Collection

The papers of United States representative from Illinois, diplomat, lawyer, and historian E. B. (Elihu Benjamin) Washburne (1816-1887) consist of 37,000 items in 144 containers. The material spans the years 1829-1915, with the bulk of the collection dating from 1852 to 1882. Bound volumes of letters received by Washburne constitute the largest part of the collection and relate to Washburne's career as a member of Congress (1853-1869) and as U.S. minister to France (1869-1877). Letterbooks with letterpress copies of outgoing correspondence and Washburne's notes during the Franco-Prussian War record his official responsibilities in the Paris legation and personal matters.

Subjects represented in Washburne's papers dating prior to his diplomatic appointment include politics nationally and in Illinois, his duties in the House of Representatives, his support for Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, and Reconstruction. Washburne's role as minister to France is documented by official letters and communications to secretaries of state Hamilton Fish (1808-1893) and William M. Evarts as well as by correspondence with European statesmen and diplomats. Topics include the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune, and politics at the beginning of France's Third Republic. Since Washburne was the only official representative of a foreign government to stay in Paris during the siege of the city in 1870-1871 and the Commune, his papers constitute a valuable record of that period. Washburne's diplomatic activities on behalf of German residents of France during the war are also represented in the letters.

Among the correspondents in the Washburne Papers are Cyrus Aldrich, Isaac Newton Arnold, Adam Badeau, George Bancroft, Otto Fürst von Bismarck, James Gillespie Blaine, William Harrison Bradley, Salmon P. Chase, J. C. Bancroft Davis, John A. Dix, William Maxwell Evarts, Jules Favre, Hamilton Fish, Antoine Alfred Agénor duc de Gramont, Ulysses S. Grant, Horace Greeley, Murat Halstead, John Jay (1817-1894), Joseph Medill, Benjamin Moran, Edwards Pierrepont, Charles H. Ray, Daniel Richard, Robert C. Schenck, John Sherman, William T. Sherman, Daniel Edgar Sickles, Charles L. Stephenson, and Washburne's brother, C. C. Washburn.

The collection is arranged by type of material and thereunder chronologically. The letterpress copies of Washburne's outgoing communications during his time as the American minister to France were arranged by recipient or category of material and then chronologically therein, and the letterbooks in this collection retain that original organization.

A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the E. B. Washburne Papers is available online with links to the digital content on this site. A card index to correspondents in part of the collection is currently only available in the Manuscript Division Reading Room in Washington, D.C.