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Goodrich Family Papers

Call Number: MS 242
Scope and Contents

The Goodrich Family Papers consist of correspondence, business and legal documents, sermons, lectures, and other writings of Elizur Goodrich (1734-1797), his descendants, and members of related Webster, Coe, Ellsworth, and Fowler families. The bulk of the papers concerns Chauncey Allen Goodrich's publication and copyright of an abridgement and revision of his father-in-law Noah Webster's dictionary and the ensuing negotiations and disagreements between Webster family members. The papers also highlight the land investments of Elizur Goodrich (1761-1849); family courtships, including that of Noah Webster and Rebecca Greenleaf; the ministerial careers of Elizur Goodrich (1734-1797), Noah Coe, Chauncey Goodrich (1817-1868), and William Henry Goodrich; Chauncey Allen Goodrich's teaching at Yale; Henry L. Ellsworth's purchases of land in Indiana; and the domestic affairs of several family households.

The bulk of the Goodrich Family Papers was given to the Yale University Library by Goodrich descendants Elizabeth G. Whitney, Chauncey S. Goodrich, Jr., Frances G. Leon, and Mrs. W. Dunham between 1942 and 1962. Additions have been made to the papers through purchase and other gifts between 1940 and 1981. The earliest papers are legal and financial records from the mid-eighteenth century and the latest include printed material from the twentieth century. However, the bulk of the papers dates from 1787 to 1860. The papers are arranged in two series: I. Correspondence, 1732-1878, and II. Topical Files, 1746-1905.

The series are of approximately equal size. Series I includes correspondence and legal and financial documents arranged in chronological order. Series II includes sermons, lectures, notebooks, business papers, and miscellanea arranged by record type.

Series I is divided into two sections:GeneralandSelect; Selectcontains undated letters arranged by correspondent. The chronologically arranged letters, indentures, wills, inventories, and other papers recount the lives of Goodrich, Webster, and Coe family members simultaneously. Folder 1 includes material of Elizur Goodrich (1734-1797) from Yale as well as love letters between Noah Webster in Philadelphia and Rebecca Greenleaf in Boston. Beginning in folder 2, and continuing through folder 11, there are numerous legal documents of Elizur Goodrich (1761-1849) relating to land transactions in the New Haven area, while folder 3 contains exchanges between Chauncey Goodrich (1759-1815) and Oliver Wolcott and between Noah Coe and his future wife Elizabeth Goodrich (1787-1864). Folders 2-8 contain additional letters from Noah Webster to his wife, and folder 4 includes letters between Chauncey Allen Goodrich, his future wife Julia Webster, and Noah Webster, Goodrich's prospective father-in-law. Letters of Chauncey A. Goodrich and Noah Coe predominate in folders 5-7 and include descriptions of Goodrich's travels to England and the continent from 1826 to 1827 and of Coe's attempts to learn the whereabouts of his runaway son Charles, who became a trapper and was probably killed by Indians in 1833, while on a hunting expedition in the upper Missouri valley.

Beginning in folder 7 the predominant subject in the correspondence is Noah Webster, his dictionary, and Chauncey A. Goodrich's work on this volume. Most of the correspondence concerns the legal and financial issues surrounding publication and copyright or the corrections of texts rather than technical discussions on lexicography. Correspondents include Sherman Converse, printer; Joseph E. Worcester; D. and J. Ames, printers; White and Sheffield; Harper & Brothers; and G. & C. Merriam. Noah Webster's estate is the subject of correspondence with William Wolcott Ellsworth, beginning in folder 17, and it is to Ellsworth that family altercations concerning the dictionary are submitted. Folder 20 contains material on the commencement of William Chauncey Fowler's protest of Chauncey A. Goodrich's intention to publish a revision of the dictionary. Material on this dispute continues to the end of the section and includes exchanges between Chauncey Goodrich (1817-1868), who had taken over some of his father's lexicographic endeavors, and Fowler. There are also exchanges between Julia Webster Goodrich and her niece Emily Fowler Ford. Correspondence of Chauncey Goodrich with Charles Merriam also concerns the dictionary.

The correspondence also concerns Chauncey A. Goodrich's personal finances and the lives of his children. From the 1840s on there are exchanges and accounts with Henry L. Ellsworth, who was investing in Indiana lands for his classmate and brother-in-law. (Land certificates are filed in folios 10 and 11.) The files also contain numerous and lengthy exchanges between Chauncey A. Goodrich and his wife Julia (who signs her letters 'JWG') and their children. Following Chauncey Goodrich's (1817-1868) marriage to his cousin Elizabeth Coe in 1843 the files contain letters from both the Goodrich and Coe parents to their children in Malden, Massachusetts, where Chauncey Goodrich was a pastor. Letters concern ministerial duties, religious sentiments, health, and the births and deaths of children. Julia Goodrich was a most faithful correspondent, and probably wrote weekly letters. Most of her letters, however, are inSelectas they are undated. Beginning in 1850 there is similar correspondence with William Henry Goodrich, now a pastor in Bristol, Connecticut and newly wed to Mary Pritchard. Letters in folder 25 tell of the death of Julia Goodrich Hill. Folders 26-31 contain frequent letters from Julia W. Goodrich to her daughter Frances, known as Fanny. These letters, sometimes six to eight per month, are full of the domestic concerns of Fanny, who had moved to Hartford as the wife of Henry K. Welch. Letters in folder 31 relay the news of Fanny's death to her brothers.

Files following the death of Chauncey A. Goodrich in 1860 are far less numerous. They contain some material about his estate and the estates of other family members and also letters to Chauncey Goodrich (1817-1868) relating to Goodrich family history.

Selectcontains undated letters written by Noah and Elizabeth Coe and Chauncey A. and Julia W. Goodrich. The Coe files contain letters between husband and wife, but most are from Elizabeth Coe to her daughter Elizabeth Coe Goodrich. Many of the Chauncey A. Goodrich letters are also to his children, and there are five folders of undated letters by Julia W. Goodrich to her children. Folder 42 contains copies of correspondence with William Chauncey Fowler and Emily Fowler Ford which document the intrafamily dispute over the dictionary.

Series II includes sermons, lectures, notebooks, business papers, and miscellanea which are representative of the careers of several family members Box 5 contains sermons by Chauncey A. Goodrich and his son Chauncey, while box 6 includes sermons and other religious writings by Elizur Goodrich (1734-1797). The files for Elizur Goodrich contain a translation of Dante, letters on texts of scripture, including analyses of Greek and Hebrew phrases exchanged between "Philomous" and "Mordecai," and a dissertation on Genesis.

Lecturesis composed of Chauncey A. Goodrich's notes, reading notes, and manuscripts for his lectures, as well as notes on his lectures by others. Most of the lectures are on topics relating to language, public speaking, or the pastoral charge and were probably presented to students in Yale College or the theological department.

Notebooksincludes diary volumes and journals as well as notebooks. The section includes material for three family members whose careers are not otherwise well documented in the papers. For Chauncey Goodrich (1759-1815) there is a court docket for actions occurring in the various Hartford courts between 1805 and 1807. Folders 94-95 contain Charles Goodrich Coe's notes on Dr. Dwight's law lectures, while a notebook containing puzzles, which belonged to Henry Whittlesey, is in folder 96. The section also includes Chauncey Goodrich's (1817-1868) notebook containing his essays for several Yale student prize competitions and a travel notebook from Chauncey A. Goodrich's year in France, Italy, Switzerland, and England. Noah Coe's, work as a city missionary is recorded in a journal containing reports of persons visited, religious meetings, a prayer at the execution of a murderer, and statistics. The file also contains a memoir written by Coe of his service to the church in Greenwich.

TheBusiness Paperssection is composed of deeds, agreements, licenses, wills, inventories, mortgages, receipts, and tax forms, of several family members, arranged in chronological order. Folder: 98 contains deeds for land belonging to Daniel Allen, the father of Elizur Goodrich's (1761-1849) wife, in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. The early files also contain deeds of Elizur Goodrich (1761-1849) for land in New Haven and similar documents of Chauncey Goodrich (1759-1815) and Elihu Goodrich for land in Durham, Connecticut. Folios 10 and 11 contain additional records for land transactions in Indiana. There are also papers relating to Elizur Goodrich's (1761-1849) work as a lawyer and judge. Later files contain accounts, agreements, and copyrights for Noah Webster's and Chauncey A. Goodrich's published works.

Miscellaneaincludes certificates, fragments, lists of correspondence, additional writings and letters on family history, poems, and printed material. The printed material includes pamphlets relating to the dispute among the heirs of Noah Webster over the dictionary.

Additional papers of Goodrich family members are located in the Fowler Family Papers (MS 221) and the Webster Family Papers (MS 527). Additional material on Chauncey Allen Goodrich's work on Webster's dictionary is located in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the Webster Papers and the records of the G. & C. Merriam Company.

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

Primarily gifts of Elizabeth G. Whitney, Chauncey S. Goodrich, Jr., Frances G. Leon, and Mrs. W. Durham, 1942, and Chauncey S. Goodrich, Jr., 1962. Other gifts and purchases, 1940-1981.


Arranged in two series: I. Correspondence, 1732-1878. II. Topical Files, 1746-1905.

Associated Materials

Related material: Henry Leavitt Ellsworth Papers (MS 196), Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

3.5 Linear Feet
Related Names
Goodrich family
Language of Materials