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William Lyon Papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 79

Scope and Contents

The William Lyon Papers consist of fifteen folders of correspondence and personal papers relating to the life and career of William Lyon (1748-1830). A New Haven native, Lyon was a merchant with Atwater and Lyon until 1795, when he became Cashier of the newly organized New Haven Savings Bank. He was also one of the founders of the Second Company of the Governor's Foot Guards.

There are two folders of letters in the collection, mostly by Lyon himself. Several date from his 1795 trip to Litchfield as Agent of the Lottery for the Encouragement of Manufacturing and discuss his travels, lottery business, and family news. Letters to his children contain advice and topical comments; for example, in March 1818 he noted that "Republicanism is triumphant throughout the state. Even in New Haven it is not so infamous to be a friend to the rights of man as it once was." There are also single letters by his wife, Lois Mansfield Lyon; his daughter Sarah Lyon Law; and Jared Mansfield, whose 1799 letter from Philadelphia discusses the possibility of war with France.

The personal papers fill thirteen folders, and include Lyon's militia commissions; a proposal for the unification of area churches; the minutes of the Lottery Commission for 1794-75; two circular letters from the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, with two brief drafts of papers on the shape of the earth and decimal currency; and pieces of Lyon's membership certificate in the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. A typescript of Lyon's journal for May-July 1823 is located in folder 8. This is a detailed record of his travels through upstate New York and Canada, and Lyon comments on such topics as the visible wreckage from the Battle of Plattsburgh; his impressions of Irish immigrants in Canada; his surprise at the courtesy of the British officers he encountered; and the damage to a Montreal house looted during a charivari, which he thought "appeared pretty much as my own house had in 1779 after the British visit." The collection also contains his eldest son's Yale diploma, several grocery accounts, and a biographical sketch of Lyon written in 1926.


  • 1745-1926
  • Majority of material found within 1791 - 1833


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The William Lyon Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased on the Cecil J. Harribine Fund, 1987.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers contain correspondence and personal papers documenting the family life, business activities, and travels of William Lyon. Also included is a twentieth-century biographical sketch of Lyon.

Guide to the William Lyon Papers
by Diane J. Ducharme
May 1987
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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