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Townshend family papers

Call Number: MS 501

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, legal papers, financial papers, and business records of the Townsend and Atwater families of New Haven, Conn. The papers also contain records of the firms of Townsend & Maltby, Seneca Oil Co., and A.S. Griswold Co. The family name was changed from Townsend to Townshend in Henry Hotchkiss Townshend (Yale 1897)'s generation.


  • 1639-1947
  • Majority of material found within 1805 - 1869


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown, though much of the material in this collection is likely in the public domain. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Henry Hotchkiss Townshend; and transferred from the Yale Law School Library, 1983.


13.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, legal papers, financial papers, and business records of the Townsend and Atwater families of New Haven, Conn. The papers also contain records of the firms of Townsend & Maltby, Seneca Oil Co., and A.S. Griswold Co.

Biographical / Historical

William Kneeland Townsend, elder son of Hon. James Mulford Townsend, founder of the Townsend prize in the Yale Law School, and Maria Theresa (Clark) Townsend, was born in New Haven, Conn., June 12, 1848.

After his graduation and a year in Europe he entered the Yale Law School, receiving the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1874, and after further study winning the degree of Master of Laws in 1878, and Doctor of Civil Law in 1880. after his admission to the bar in 1874 he was for some years associated with Judge Simeon E. Baldwin. Later with Professor George Watrous (Y.C. 1879) he formed the firm of Townsend & Watrous. For several years he was active in the political life of the city, being elected a member of the Common Council in 1878 and of the Board of Aldermen from 1880 to 1882, and was Corporation Counsel of the city from 1889 to 1891.

In 1881 he was elected Professor of Pleading in the Yale Law School, also giving instruction in Contracts, and upon the foundation of the Edward J. Phelps Professorship of Contracts and Commercial Law in 1887 he was appointed to that chair, substituting for the subject of Pleading those of Admiralty and Sales. His thorough knowledge of the law and ready command of its resources and his consideration of the students' standpoint made him a favorite in the classroom.

March 28, 1892 he was appointed Judge of the United States District Court, District of Connecticut, and in 1902 was appointed to the office of Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Second Circuit, succeeding Judge Shipman (Y.C. 1848). After Judge Townsend's appointment to the latter office his duties obliged him to relinquish instruction in the Law School, but he retained his seat on the Governing Board, and was an active and helpful counselor in the general affairs of the institution.

He published the "New Connecticut Civil Officer" in 1881, which was adopted as a text book in the Law School, contributed to various magazines, and in 1901 wrote a "History of American Law of Patents, Trademarks, Copyrights and Admiralty," four valuable papers for the bicentennial volume of legal studies issued by the Law Faculty.

He continued his duties until a fortnight before his death, which occurred from pulmonary tuberculosis at his home, in New Haven, June 2, 1907, at the age of nearly 59 years. He was a member of the Center Church.

Judge Townsend married July 1, 1874, Mary Leavenworth, daughter of Winston John and Mary (Leavenworth) Trowbridge of New Haven. Mrs. Townsend survives him with one son, George H. Townsend, 2d, a member of the Junior class in the Academical Department. An older son died during his Freshman year in college, and in his memory Judge Townsend established the Winston Trowbridge Townsend prizes in the Freshman class. An only daughter died a short time after her marriage to Dwight Huntington Day (Y.C. 1899). His brother, James Mulford Townsend, LL.B. (Y.C. 1874), has been a Lecturer in the Law School since 1887.

Judge Townsend was universally beloved for his broad democracy, his kindly humor, his unconquerable spirit, and his devotion to the highest ideals of his profession.

(Taken from the Yale Obituary Record

Preliminary Guide to the Townshend Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Thomas J. Connors
July 1980
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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