The Livingston Family Papers spans the eighteenth through the twenty-first centuries, and represents six generations of descendants of John Livingston (1750-1822) and their relatives by marriage in the Curran, Mulford, Hopkins, and Rogers families. The correspondence, legal and land records, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, graphics, ephemera, and printed material chronicle the families’ business and social lives, travels, interests, and investments. Also documented are their participation in local government, their service in the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II, and their decades of student and alumni involvement with Yale University. Among the papers are deeds, ledgers, indentures, and other business records which provide detailed accounts of the Livingstons’ financial transactions and land holdings, with particular regard to their Oak Hill Iron Mining and Paramount Oil companies, and their ancestral estate, Oak Hill, all situated along the Hudson River in New York State’s Columbia County.
As is often the case with family papers, the scope and content of the collection is as varied as the careers and interests of the Livingston men and women themselves. Some of the earliest material in the collection (in Series I) concerns land holdings and family commerce in the Hudson River Valley and other areas of New York State; these records include John Livingston’s late eighteenth-century account book and other documentation of his speculative projects on both sides of the Hudson. Later, shipping and mining investments became prominent concerns, as seen in the papers of Herman Livingston (III) and his son Henry (VII). Cattle ranching in Montana and Wyoming attracted Edmund Livingston, while mining and the military were the chosen careers of his younger brother Archibald (V). Just one of several family members engaged in exploiting natural resources, his papers hold images of mines in the American West. After his college 1909 graduation Henry Livingston (VII) worked in the oil fields of West Virginia and Ohio and took photos while he was there, but closer to home and decades earlier, his father Herman (III) owned and operated a company which removed spathic ore from the mountains near his home. The records of the Oak Hill Iron Mining Company (IX) contain both substantive correspondence files and a variety of accounts detailing finances and production; family members were also investors and officers in a fuel oil distribution corporation, the Paramount Oil Company (X). Further south down the Hudson, three members of the New York City-based Curran family established literary careers in addition to those in law, education, and public service, and their series (XI) holds manuscripts, tear sheets, and other published works as well as their legal case files and political campaign memorabilia. Henry H. Curran, in particular, authored several books and regularly published columns and essays in New York City newspapers. Still further south, the life of a cotton buyer working below the Mason-Dixon Line is documented in the papers of the Mulford family (XI), another group of Livingston relatives by marriage.
There is a concentration of military-related material, both manuscript and visual, particularly for the Spanish-American War and World War I. Archibald Livingston (V) was a career army officer and a photographer, so his series, and that of his sister Anna, contain many images of his service and surroundings in both wars, as well as on Pershing’s Punitive Expedition into Mexico. His nephews Henry (VII) and Edmund Livingston both served in the military, as did Henry’s brother-in-law Henry H. Curran (XI) and cousin Charles V. Hopkins; their narratives are present in a few series via their letters and photographs. Anna Livingston’s wartime contribution documented here was also literary, as her files (IV) hold letters and photographs from Belgian pen-pal soldiers and from her friend Clyde V. Simpson, an American career officer. The American Civil War is present in the Curran family papers (XI), and World War II is represented in the papers of Henry H. Livingston (VIII), who served with the United States Army Air Corps.
Records documenting every family member or generation are not complete or even comprehensive, yet the records that exist give both snapshots and longer views of activities, domestic affairs, and home economics. A set of invoices kept by Susan R. Livingston (II) from just a few years in the early twentieth century detail expenses for keeping her two households and for some of her charitable donations, while the diaries kept by Herman Livingston (III) cover his daily activities between 1887 and his death in 1936. The Mulford family (XI) has the most extensive personal correspondence files, particularly Eliza (Lilla) Mulford Curran’s five boxes of letters from her parents, childhood friends, and husband. Commonplace and school exercise books are present in a few series, as well as a range of typical souvenirs of nineteenth-century society including invitations to balls and parties, at-home cards (two examples with their engraved printing plates are in Series XI), and autograph fans and albums. While there are good family portrait resources and genealogical charts, biographical writings on the Livingstons are rare until the mid-twentieth century, and then are largely dedicated to a review of the Oak Hill estate, the many Livingston homes, or the extended Livingston family, including Robert Livingston, the first Lord of Livingston Manor. Autobiographical works are also scarce, but include one essay in Herman T. Livingston’s papers (II) and several in the Curran family papers (XI).
While most of the Livingstons remained based in the northeastern United States, some were adventurers, and their letters home describe their experiences. Because the collection is organized by provenance, with intergenerational correspondence between parents and children and between siblings filed by recipient, it may be necessary to consult two or more series to follow one story. For example, letters from the first Livingston to move west of the Mississippi, Edmund P. (1857-1888), can be found in both the papers of his father Herman T. (II) and his brother Herman (III); they tell of his journey, his start-up career in cattle ranching, and his illness before his early death. Edmund’s brother and sister Archibald (V) and Anna (IV) were the next to go west and their letters home appear in several series. Fortunately, the siblings were proficient and prolific amateur photographers who documented their lives and activities in snapshots, and composed the photograph albums present in their series.
The collection is rich in other visual materials, including posters and European campaign maps from World War I (IV, V, and XI), and European and Japanese prints (XI and IV), but primarily in photographs. Among the earliest of these are three daguerreotype and five ambrotype portraits; the former group (II) includes an image of the painter Frederic Edwin Church, and the latter (III) features three examples of rare double-sided viewing cases. Mid-nineteenth-century formats abound, including cartes de visite, tintypes (plus a gem album), and cabinet cards, along with samples of the mailing boxes (V) in which they were delivered. The Curran (XI) family members, particularly Eliza (Lilla) Curran, were regular patrons of commercial portraitists, as were her friends, as documented by the two boxes holding her pictures. Personal travel and tourism is another thread throughout the papers which is supported by a wealth of images, from the deluxe photograph album acquired by John Elliott Curran (XI) during his 1870 visit to Italy, to his wife’s excursions to England and Europe in the early twentieth century. In addition to photographs, John Curran also collected more than seventy-five Italian drawings by Maggiotto and Tiepolo, and more than fifty early nineteenth-century French engravings and lithographs. Anna (IV) and Archibald (V) Livingston’s trips to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and most especially throughout the American West, resulted in hundreds of images made between the 1880s and the 1950s, many of which were organized into albums. Anna often chose to travel by horseback and stopped to document the landscape and her campsites during her trips. As well as creating their own images, several Livingstons and Currans accumulated them in the form of commercial postcards purchased as souvenirs, and housed them in boxes and albums. Another collecting focus was maritime imagery; several series in the papers contain nineteenth- and twentieth-century prints and photographs of yachts, sloops, and schooners issued by notable marine artists.
Certain strong and common bonds span the generations and appear in almost every series: a love for and preservation of family heritage and local history; a reverence for the Hudson River and the navigation of it; and an equal reverence for Yale University, from which ten members of the family graduated between 1870 and 1945. Two large nineteenth-century bibles, one Livingston (II) and one Curran (XI), contain genealogical annotations which document family births, marriages, and deaths, and several of the Livingston women joined and participated in national heritage societies such as the Colonial Dames of America. The family was also proud of its ancestral material culture objects, and allowed their silver, paintings, and other items to appear in exhibitions ranging from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to historical society displays, as well as in other publications. Livingston Manor and Columbia County history materials are especially prominent in the papers of Henry Livingston (VIII), who was an important participant in the Livingston Tercentenary celebrations of 1986, and whose series holds other groups of papers he acquired: the files of two Columbia County historians, and a set of translations from the Dutch of Robert Livingston’s seventeenth- and eighteenth-century correspondence. Each generation of John Livingston’s descendants produced one or more sailors, with most investing in both pleasure and commercial craft as well as crewing for a school, particularly Yale University. Including their collateral relatives in the Curran and Hopkins families, three generations of Yale alumni appear in the Livingston Family Papers, and chose to carefully preserve the student and alumni photographs, documents, and ephemera present here.