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Edwards family papers

Call Number: MS 191

Scope and Contents

The Edwards Family Papers consist of letters, a diary, financial and numismatic material, genealogical notes, and miscellaneous papers of Jonathan Edwards, Sr. (1798-1875), Maria (Champion) Edwards (d.1867), Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (l841-1886), and their Edwards and Champion relations.

Jonathan Edwards (1798-1875), a prominent upper New York State politician, was defeated as a Whig candidate for Secretary of New York State but elected Mayor of Troy in 1838. In 1837 he married Maria Champion of Colchester, Connecticut, and thus acquired for a brother-in-law the Reverend George Champion, one of the first missionaries to the Zulus. The Edwards' only child, Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1841-1886), graduated from Yale in 1863, proceeded to obtain a medical degree only to be called home to tend his declining father, a guardianship which prevented the resumption of his profession. In 1875 he removed to New Haven where he devoted much time to the College's numismatic collection. Largely at his own expense he edited and published the Catalogue of Greek and Roman Coins.

The bulk of the letters in this collection are exchanges between the elder Jonathan Edwards, his wife, and their son, pertaining primarily to their frets - "Today I am afflicted with a cold" - and joys - "Your chirography has certainly improved." Rather than focusing on the specifics of political life, they convey a sense of endurance in the face of hardship: death, fire, and business failure. Spotted throughout the collection are insights into community life: the Know-Nothings (1854 Nov 8, Dec 27), the risk of business in New York (1841 Feb 9, Apr 1), religious conversions (1838 Aug 24), appropriation of wartime rhetoric by temperance advocates (1861 Feb 22, May 10). Letters from the engineer, Albert Hamilton Emery (1834-1926), give carefully detailed descriptions of his new inventions for the cannon (1861 Jul 22, 1862 Jul 30); and a letter from Jeremiah Clemens (1814-1865), senator from Alabama, concerns his desire to redress Aaron Burr's unfavorable reputation resulting from his involvement in setting up another government in the Southwest. Letters from George Champion (1810-41) describe conditions in Natal in 1838, shortly after the Zulu chief Dingaan had killed the Boer leader Piet Retief and begun his effort to wipe out the rest of the Boers as well.


  • 1805-1874


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. 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 Jonathan Edwards, 1962. Transferred from the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 2014.


5.25 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 1 half archive box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence and scrapbooks of the fourth and fifth generations of the family of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) chiefly relating to their health and welfare. Includes the correspondence of Jonathan Edwards (1789-1875), a politician from upper New York State; his brother-in-law, George Champion, a missionary to the Zulus in 1838; and his son, Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1841-1886), who studied medicine but did not practice and who edited Yale's catalogue of Greek and Roman coins. Subjects covered in the letters include the Know Nothing movement, business risks in New York in the 1840's, religious conversions, the Civil War, temperance, and descriptions (1861-1862) of Albert Hamilton Emery's inventions for the cannon. Includes a letter from Jeremiah Clemens, Senator from Alabama, relating to Aaron Burr.

Biographical / Historical


JONATHAN EDWARDS was born in Hartford, Conn., Sept. 27, 1798, and was the eldest son of Jonathan Walter Edwards (Y. C.1789), a distinguished lawyer of Hartford, and son of the younger President Edwards. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Capt. Moses Tryon, of Wethersfield, Conn.

After leaving college, he studied law with Chief-Justice Zephaniah Swift (Y. C. 1778), of Windham, Conn., was admitted to the bar in 1824, and was for a few years a practicing attorney in Hartford. In 1830 he went to the island of Cuba to reside, but the death of his father in April, 1831, changed his plans, and induced him to return to his native city. In 1835 he was appointed by the state legislature judge of probate for the district of Hartford, and held the office for one year. In 1836 he was nominated by the Whigs for secretary of state, but was defeated, with all his associates on the ticket. He removed in 1838 to Troy, N. Y., where he was subsequently mayor of the city (1854 and 1855) as well as a member of the state legislature in the same years.

He was married, March 1, 1837, to Maria Champion, of Colchester, Conn. After her death he removed in the spring of 1867 with his son to New Haven, Conn., where he spent the remainder of his life in invalid retirement. He died in this city, quite suddenly, of a congestive chill, Aug. 23, 1875, in his 77th year. His only son graduated at this college in 1863.

Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale College Deceased from June, 1870, to June, 1880. p. 209


*JONATHAN EDWARDS, son of Jonathan (Y.C., '19) and Maria (Champion) Edwards, was born at Troy, N. Y., October 5, 1841. He was prepared for college in the city of New Haven.

Immediately after graduation he made a tour through some of the Western States, and commenced the study of medicine in Troy, in January, 1864. Later he attended lectures in the Albany Medical College, and from October, 1865, to March, 1867, was a member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in the latter month.

He never practised his profession, but devoted all his time to the care of an invalid father, with whom he fixed his residence in New Haven. For several years he acted as Class secretary, and edited the first history of the Class. During his residence in New Haven he was greatly interested in the collection of coins, devoting much of his time and labor gratuitously to the care and increase of the college collection, and also having a valuable collection of his own. He prepared a catalogue of Greek and Roman coins in the numismatic collection of Yale College, which he edited and printed, largely at his own expense. He also devoted considerable time to making a collection of facts for the history of the Edwards family. He made several trips to Europe, from the last of which he returned with his constitution undermined by Roman fever, passing the rest of his life in New Haven in increasing weakness, where he died June 19, 1886.

He married, February 28, 1882, Marion Collins, daughter of Clarissa and the late David C. Collins.

A History of the Class of 1863, Yale College. New York, 1889. p.58

Guide to the Edwards Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Manuscripts and Archives Staff
November 1979
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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