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Collection Grover Cleveland Papers

About this Collection

The papers of New York governor and lawyer Grover Cleveland (1837-1908), who became the twenty-second and twenty-fourth president of the United States, consist of 108,200 items (192,602 images), most of which were digitized from 164 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years 1743 to 1945, with the bulk dating from 1885 to 1908, the collection contains correspondence, diaries, messages to Congress, speeches, writings, printed matter, and other papers relating chiefly to Cleveland’s presidencies and presidential campaigns. Most of the collection relates to Cleveland’s first presidential administration (1885-1889). Other subjects include Cleveland’s second presidential administration, presidential elections, and Democratic Party politics.

Notable correspondents include John Peter Altgeld, Chester Alan Arthur, Clara Barton, Thomas F. Bayard, Erastus Cornelius Benedict, Wilson Shannon Bissell, John Griffin Carlisle, Joseph Hodges Choate, Frances Folsom Cleveland, Rose Cleveland, George William Curtis, Donald McDonald Dickinson, Sanford B. Dole, William Crowninshield Endicott, Robley D. Evans, Melville Weston Fuller, Helena de Kay Gilder, Richard Watson Gilder, Walter Quintin Gresham, Charles Hamlin, Judson Harmon, Benjamin Harrison, Abram S. Hewitt, David B. Hill, Joseph Jefferson, L.Q.C. Lamar, Daniel Scott Lamont, Daniel Manning, Richard Olney, Alton B. Parker, Terence Vincent Powderly, William Gorham Rice, Theodore Roosevelt, Horatio Seymour, Edward Morse Shepard, Hoke Smith, Oscar S. Straus, Henry Watterson, James B. Weaver, and William C. Whitney.

The Index to the Grover Cleveland Papers, created by the Manuscript Division in 1965 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 1965 are not listed in this index.

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

Brief History of the Grover Cleveland Papers

An account of the Grover Cleveland Papers could more easily be written if the only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms had been more interested in preserving a written record of his activities. There is abundant evidence that the president wrote many of his letters in longhand and usually did not keep copies, and dispersed pages from drafts of official communications to autograph seekers. The somewhat casual attitude he took toward his papers was expressed in a January 16, 1897 letter he wrote toward the end of his second term to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of the Century Magazine and a longtime friend: “I have been so prodded by public duty for a number of years past that I have had no opportunity to look after the preservation of anything that might be useful in writing history.”

Records of Cleveland’s first presidential administration (1885-1889) probably were placed at the disposal of Daniel Scott Lamont, who served as the president’s private secretary during these years and as his secretary of war during the second administra­tion. It seems likely that the records of the second administration (1893-1897) were similarly placed at the dis­posal of Henry T. Thurber, private secretary to the president during those years. There are few papers dating from the years he served as sheriff of Erie County, N.Y. (1871-1873), as mayor of Buffalo (1882), and as Governor of New York (1883-1885).

In 1912, when the Library of Congress asked Cleveland’s widow, Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston, to deposit the late president’s papers, she agreed. The first shipment of Cleveland Papers arrived in 1915. Robert M. McElroy, Cleveland’s authorized biographer, received additional papers from Mrs. Preston and other sources, which he sent to the Library of Congress between 1923 and 1925.

The principal portion of the Cleveland Papers was organized in 1929-1931. A sizeable addition expanded the collection in 2005, and material previously withheld for conservation treatment was added in 2007. Other materials subsequently obtained by the Library of Congress are contained in the Addition series.

A fuller history of the provenance of the collection was prepared for the Index to the Grover Cleveland Papers, pp. v-vii. A version appears on this website as the essay Provenance of the Grover Cleveland Papers.

Description of Series

The Grover Cleveland Papers are arranged in twelve series. A finding aid (PDF and HTML) to the collection is available online with links to the digital content on this site.

Series I: Diaries, 1898-1905 (Reel 1)
Comprised of seven volumes of diaries kept by Grover Cleveland. The diaries were filmed in chronological order.

Series II: General Correspondence, 1846-1910 (Reels 1-100)
The largest series in the Cleveland Papers, Series II consists of letters received and sent, primarily by Grover Cleveland. The material is arranged chronologically.

Series III: Additional Correspondence, 1828-1945 (Reels 100-145)
Contains additional letters received and sent, including letters received by Frances Folsom Cleveland. The material is arranged chronologically.

Series IV: Letterpress Copybooks, 1885-1889 (Reels 145-157)
Composed of letterpress copybooks containing copies of outgoing letters. Two letterbooks include letters signed by Grover Cleveland (August 1, 1885-February 1, 1889) or typed copies of incoming letters and telegrams (October 10, 1886-February 8, 1887). The copybooks are arranged chronologically.

Series V: Speeches, 1883-1907 (Reel 157)
Consists of speeches and addresses given by Grover Cleveland. The material is arranged chronologically.

Series VI: Messages to Congress, 1885-1897 (Reels 157-162)

  • Subseries A, 1885-1897 (Reels 157-160) Contains Grover Cleveland’s messages to the U.S. Congress. The material is arranged chronologically.
  • Subseries B, 1885-1888 (Reels 160-162) Comprised of transcripts by clerks of the U.S Senate and House of Representatives communications from the president. The material is arranged chronologically, although there is some overlapping of dates.

Series VII: Cleveland Writings, 1884-1907 (Reel 162)
Composed of handwritten and typed manuscripts authored by Grover Cleveland. The material is arranged chronologically.

Series VIII: Richard Watson Gilder, 1908-1909 (Reel 162)
Contains a poem and notes used by Richard Watson Gilder in writing “Grover Cleveland: A Record of Friendship” for The Century Magazine.

Series IX: Miscellany, 1743-1906 (Reels 163-164)
Includes indexes, biographical material, financial records, tickets, invitations, notes, cards, and papers of Frances Folsom Cleveland. The series is arranged into subseries by type of material.

  • Subseries A (Reel 163): Subject index to letters received by Grover Cleveland.
  • Subseries B (Reel 163): Incomplete card index of Grover Cleveland’s correspondents.
  • Subseries C (Reel 163): Biographical material.
  • Subseries D (Reel 163): Manuscripts by Frances Folsom Cleveland in French and German, papers concerning her family genealogy, and a roster of Wells College students.
  • Subseries E (Reels 163-164): Personal and household bills, 1885-1896, in two groups, one covering 1885-1893 and the other spanning 1894-1896.
  • Subseries F (Reel 164): Miscellaneous notes not written by Cleveland.
  • Subseries G (Reel 164): Calling cards, of which only those with inscriptions were filmed.
  • Subseries H (Not filmed, digital content not yet available): Tickets and invitations to events to which Grover and Frances Cleveland were invited.
  • Subseries I (Some digital content not yet available; some materials not filmed or scanned): Duplicates, checks, a checkbook, and memorabilia.

Series X: Printed Matter, 1786-1924 (Not filmed, not scanned)
Consists of a pamphlet file, clippings file, scrapbooks, and an 1897 atlas from the Venezuelan Boundary Commission. The pamphlet file is arranged chronologically with titles listed, while the clippings file is arranged chronologically. The scrapbooks have overlapping dates.

Series XI: Additions, 1878-1922 (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Comprised of previously undescribed parts of the original collection and material received by the Library after 1970. The materials are organized in subseries according to the year each addition was processed. The Addition series includes correspondence, printed matter, financial records from Cleveland’s work with the Association of Life Insurance Presidents, an autograph album, campaign ephemera, and newspaper clippings. The 2005 Addition, by far the largest of the additions, is primarily concerned with the presidential election of 1892 and contains correspondence, campaign ephemera, printed matter, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous material.

Oversize, 1892 (Not filmed; digital content not yet available)
Composed of posters, broadsides, songs, and poems from the 1892 presidential campaign, and blueprints of a lodge at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. The material is arranged according to the series and container from which the items were removed.