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Collection Montgomery C. Meigs Papers

About this Collection

The papers of army officer, engineer, architect, and scientist Montgomery C. Meigs (1816-1892) consist of 11,000 items (42,508 images), most of which were digitized from 51 reels of previously produced microfilm. Spanning the years 1799 to 1971, with the bulk concentrated in the period 1849 to 1892, the collection is composed mainly of correspondence, diaries, journals, notebooks, military papers, family papers, scrapbooks, drawings, maps, plans, sketches and studies, photographs, and other papers.

Collection materials relate primarily to Meigs’s work in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, his service as quartermaster general during and after the Civil War, and family matters. The collection also documents his work supervising construction in Maryland and Washington, D.C., on the Washington Aqueduct, additions to the U.S. Capitol, and the Pension Office building. Meigs’s journals contain detailed notes in mid-nineteenth century Pitman shorthand on the planning for the aqueduct as well as the expansion of the Capitol and the construction of the Pension Office building. The collection also includes material relating to the death of his son John Rodgers Meigs in 1864, and travels in Europe and Texas after the Civil War. Family papers include correspondence of Meigs’s wife, Louisa Rodgers Meigs, his father, Dr. Charles D. Meigs, and his brother, Emlen, as well the papers of his son Montgomery Meigs (1847-1931), who followed in his father’s footsteps as a public works engineer.

Prominent correspondents include Spencer Fullerton Baird, James Buchanan, Bernhard Ernst von Bülow, Ambrose Everett Burnside, Simon Cameron, Adolph Cluss, Jefferson Davis, John B. Floyd, Horace Greeley, Joseph Henry, Joseph Holt, Charles P. Manning, George Brinton McClellan, Helmuth Graf von Moltke, David D. Porter, Frederick William Seward, William Henry Seward, William T. Sherman, Edwin M. Stanton, and Joseph Gilbert Totten.

Some photographs, and drawings of plans for the Pension Office building (now the National Building Museum) were transferred to the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, where they are identified as part of the Montgomery C. Meigs Papers.

The Meigs Papers were arranged and described in 1963. Various additions were processed from 1979 to 2004. Portions of the collections were microfilmed in 1981 and 1985. Reels from the first portion of the collection are identified with a single asterisk (*). The reel numbers started over again in the second portion of the collection (Addition I), and are identified with two asterisks (**). It is important to use the appropriate number of asterisks when citing reel numbers in the Meigs Papers to identify which section of the collection the reel number represents.

For a fuller overview of the collection, please consult the Scope and Content Note in the collection finding aid to the Montgomery C. Meigs Papers, which is available online (PDF and HTML) with links to the digital content on this site.

Description of Series

This collection is arranged in ten series:

Diaries, Journals, and Notebooks, 1850-1891 (Reels 1-15*)
Consists of pocket diaries, bound diaries, unbound diary entry sheets, extracts of diaries, and memoranda notebooks and journals with writings, notations, photographs, and drawings. Meigs wrote journal entries largely in Pitman shorthand. The materials are arranged by type of material and therein chronologically. Users may also wish to consult transcribed excerpts from Meigs’s shorthand journals as they relate to the Capitol extension project. Printouts are available in Addition II in this collection, and in published form as Capitol Builder: The Shorthand Journals of Montgomery C. Meigs, 1853-1859, 1861

Family Papers, 1850-1968 (Reels 16-17*)
Contains correspondence, diaries, clippings, printed matter, reminiscences, wills, obituaries, and related matter. The material is arranged alphabetically by the name of the individual family member, and therein by type of material.

Correspondence, Military Orders, and Related Matter, 1853-1892 (Reels 17-23*)
Includes correspondence sent and received, with related printed matter, army decrees, and memoranda and copies of bound outgoing correspondence by Montgomery C. Meigs. The material is arranged alphabetically by type of material and therein chronologically.

Miscellany, 1849-1960 (Reels 23-27*)
Comprised of account books, financial records, drawings, maps, photographs, printed matter, reminiscences, scrapbooks, miscellaneous notes and writings, and sketches. The material is arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Addition I: Diaries, Journals, and Commonplace Book, 1836-1888 (Reel 1**)
Includes unbound diary entries, a journal of a trip to Texas in 1867, consisting of letters sent by Meigs and sketches he compiled, and a commonplace book containing what may be the key to his shorthand code. The material is arranged by type of material.

Addition I: Family Papers, 1799-1967 (Reels 1-11**)
Consists of correspondence between family members, with additional items such as wills, school papers, military reports, and reminiscences. The material is arranged alphabetically by the name of the individual, and therein by type of material. The correspondence is organized in chronological order.

Addition I: Correspondence, Military Orders, and Related Matter, 1836-1890 (Reels 11-20**)
Comprised of correspondence sent and received by Meigs with related printed matter, military orders and decrees, financial data, and official memoranda. The material is divided into a general file of papers sent and received, and a letterbook file containing only copies of letters sent by Meigs. The material is arranged chronologically.

Addition I: Miscellany, 1815-1971 (Reels 20-23**)
Contains biographical data; insurance, estate, and financial matter; specifications and contract material regarding the building of the Washington Aqueduct; drawings, sketches, and watercolors; house design data collected by Meigs; and miscellaneous photographs and printed matter. The series is arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Addition II: Miscellany, 1845-1891 (Not filmed; scanned from originals)
Composed of an inscribed Book of Common Prayer, correspondence, poetry by John Rodgers Meigs, and translated texts of shorthand journals. The series is arranged alphabetically by title or type of material. Only the paper wrapper, covers, endpapers, title page and one newspaper clipping stored within the Book of Common Prayer have been scanned.

Oversize, 1835-1885 (Containers OV 1-OV 10; selected drawings, watercolors, architectural plans, and photographs were scanned in full color from the original materials)
Includes drawings, watercolors, architectural plans, photographs, maps, and printed matter, some of which were removed from bound volumes. The material is arranged and described according to the series, containers, and folders from which the items were removed after filming. Some items from Addition I: Miscellany were filmed as separated oversize material rather than in their original locations.