Top of page

Collection Franklin Pierce Papers

About this Collection

The papers of Franklin Pierce (1804-1869), army officer, representative and senator from New Hampshire, and fourteenth president of the United States, contain approximately 2,350 items dating from 1820 to 1869. They include correspondence, a photostatic copy of a diary kept by Pierce while serving in the Mexican War, drafts of Pierce’s messages to Congress, and an engraved portrait. Pierce’s correspondence relates chiefly to his service in the Mexican War, public affairs, and national politics. Also of note is a paper, entitled “The Influence of Circumstances on the Intellectual Character,” written by Pierce in 1824 while still a student at Bowdoin College, and a manuscript of an address he wrote for his father, Benjamin Pierce (1757-1839), delivered as the governor’s message to the legislature of New Hampshire, June 6, 1829, which are included in part A of series 6.

Notable correspondents include Edmund Burke, Lewis Cass, Jefferson Davis, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William L. Marcy, and James K. Polk.  The Index to the Franklin Pierce Papers, created by the Manuscript Division in 1962 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 1960 are not listed in this index.

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

Brief History of the Pierce Papers

Franklin Pierce’s papers were acquired by the Library of Congress by gift and purchase during the years 1902-1984.  Most of the materials were purchased from Pierce’s nephew Kirk D. Pierce in the early 1900s.  The Library organized the manuscripts and published a calendar or list of them in 1917.  In the 1920s, the New Hampshire Historical Society acquired other manuscripts from the Pierce family, which the society permitted the Library to copy.  Similarly, the Henry E. Huntington Library in 1924 permitted the Library to copy a diary in its possession that Pierce had kept during the Mexican War.  In 1959, the Library of Congress microfilmed these various originals and copies.  This film was released in 1960, with a related index published in 1962.  In the years since, scattered extant original documents and copies of originals have been added to the collection.  Presented on this website are digital scans of both the microfilm and the original addenda. A fuller history of the provenance of the collection was prepared for the Index to the Franklin Pierce Papers, pp. v-vi, and subsequently reproduced in the finding aid (PDF and HTML).  A version with hyperlinks appears on this website as the essay Provenance of the Franklin Pierce Papers.

Description of Series

The Franklin Pierce Papers are arranged into six series, the first five of which were reproduced on seven reels of microfilm, scans of which comprise the bulk of this online collection. The Addenda in series 6 was scanned from the originals. A list of the series follows.