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Leffingwell family papers

Call Number: MS 320

Scope and Contents

The Leffingwell Family Papers contain correspondence, diaries, legal and financial papers, and memorabilia created by or relating to the descendants of Lieutenant Thomas Leffingwell, one of the founders of Norwich, Connecticut. The earliest item in the collection is a deed given by Thomas Leffingwell, Jr., in 1688 and the latest item is a letter sent to Russell Cornell Leffingwell in 1954. Since many family members are represented in the collection the researcher may find it useful to refer to The Leffingwell Family Record, 1637-1897by Albert Leffingwell and Charles Wesley Leffingwell. (Bcl 148)

Most prominent among the family members represented in the collection is Christopher Leffingwell (1734-1810), a merchant in Norwich who built the first paper mill in Connecticut. Christopher Leffingwell was also a colonel in the state militia commanding troops in the Revolutionary War and an advisor to Governor Jonathan Trumbull and Silas Deane. The majority of the papers in the collection relate to Norwich and New London County though there are papers for William Leffingwell's company, Leffingwell and Pierpont, in New York City. There are also several letters to Augustus Russell Street in New Haven from Thomas Dunlap, a Yale classmate, in Philadelphia.

The papers are divided into three series as follows: I. Legal and Financial Papers; II. Correspondence; and III. Diaries, Journals, and Other Memorabilia.

LEGAL AND FINANCIAL PAPERS, dating from 1688 to 1902, includes deeds, leases, bills, receipts, citations, warrants, accounts, writs, stock certificates, summons, promissory notes, daybooks, and other similar types of records created by or relating to the Leffingwell family. Many of the presentments, warrants, and summons bear the signatures of Christopher Leffingwell in his capacity as justice of the peace or of Samuel Leffingwell as a grand juror. These legal records calling persons before the court for disturbing the peace and for swearing or appointing an overseer for a person "likely to be reduced to want" are an interesting reflection of colonial social customs. The numerous deeds in the series do not all involve the transfer of Leffingwell property. In many instances, rather, a Leffingwell would have signed his name as a witness. Several items such as account books and bills relate to the shipping trade. A "Cargo" book from the firm of Leffingwell and Pierpont contains forms or policies for marine insurance.

The series is arranged chronologically. Most items in the series dated prior to 1800 relate to Norwich, Connecticut. After 1800 many items relate to William Leffingwell's business interests in New York and New Haven.

CORRESPONDENCE is composed of eight letterbooks and several folders of correspondence dating from 1761 to 1954. Three of the letterbooks contain handwritten copies of outgoing letters written by Christopher Leffingwell. These letterbooks are interesting for their information on Leffingwell's business dealings and the uncertainties of the shipping trade. The letterbook beginning in 1776 contains letters to George Washington, Jonathan Trumbull, Samuel Huntington, Silas Deane, Matthew Griswold, and others. Letters concerning the conditions of military forces in Connecticut, deprivations suffered by the civilian population during the war, and the varieties of medical treatment will be found in this large volume. A fourth letterbook, belonging to the firm of Leffingwell and Pierpont, contains handwritten copies of outgoing letters mainly dealing with company business. There are also four volumes of letterbooks containing copies of William Leffingwell's outgoing letters. These deal mainly with business and some family matters.

The correspondence, arranged chronologically in the folders that follow the letterbooks, is not sizeable or full for any time period. Nevertheless, there are some items of interest. During the Revolutionary War period there are letters containing complaints about persons considered to be "inimical to the United States of America." Two letters in 1794 to Leffingwell and Pierpont describe an American's impressions of London. Thomas Dunlap's letters to Augustus Russell Street contain comments on a soldier's life in the War of 1812 and on the life of a young lawyer in Philadelphia after the war. In 1817 Susan Dwight wrote Sally Beers Leffingwell about her visit to Washington, D.C., having seen the president at a ball and heard John Randolph speak. The latest letters in this series are to Russell Cornell Leffingwell from a dealer offering items for the Leffingwell family collection.

DIARIES, JOURNALS AND OTHER MEMORABILIA contains items dating from 1779 to 1894. The first item in this series is Christopher Leffingwell's orderly book for July - August 1779. Captain Leffingwell and the Norwich Light Infantry Company had been ordered to guard duty at Millstone Point near New London. The book contains orders and lists of supplies and the detailing of guards for this assignment. There are four diaries or "minute books" belonging to Christopher Leffingwell. The volumes contain only brief entries dealing with weather observations and notes on personal activities. Two volumes with similar contents were written by William Leffingwell. The series also contains journals kept by two young women, one by Caroline Augusta (Street) Foote recording her life during her winter's residence in Savannah, 1834-1835, and a second kept by Frederica Russell Street from 1843 to 1847 concerning the family's "grand tour" of Europe. Christopher Starr Leffingwell's own handwritten "literary magazines" are included in this series as is the auction catalogue for E. H. Leffingwell's autograph collection. The series also includes engravings, portraits, clippings, and family histories and genealogies.

Note: A few items relating to the Leffingwell family are in Manuscripts and Archives though not kept in the collection: 1. Yale Scrapbook of Russell Leffingwell - Yez 8991 (class of 1899); 2. Pamphlets by Russell Leffingwell - Yz 1 899; and 3. Russell Leffingwell's family photo album - Yca 899 L5.

Provenance note

The Leffingwell Family Papers were created in Manuscripts and Archives from the donations of several persons, including Russell Cornell Leffingwell and Mrs. Kenneth Mackenzie. Additional items were purchased from dealers. The first items were donated in 1940 and materials were added to the collection steadily through 1961. In 1975 several items were transferred from the Beinecke Library to the Leffingwell Family Papers. Most of these items had been given to the Yale University Library by Mr. Roger S. White, II, in 1913.


  • 1688-1954


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

A major portion of collection is the gift of Russell Cornell Leffingwell and Mrs. Kenneth MacKenzie between 1940-1961; other items were acquired by purchase and as a gift from Roger S. White, II, in 1963.


Arranged in three series: I. Legal and Financial Papers. II. Correspondence. III. Diaries, Journals, and Other Memorabilia.


5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Correspondence, diaries, legal and financial records and memorabilia by and about the descendants of Lieutenant Thomas Leffingwell, one of the founders of Norwich, Connecticut. The major groups of papers are those of Christopher Leffingwell (1734-1810), a merchant in Norwich and William Leffingwell (1765-1834), a stockbroker in New York and later a resident of New Haven. These groups contain papers on legal, financial and business transactions. Family correspondence during the Revolutionary War describes civilian life and medical treatment of the period. National politics are discussed all through the nineteenth century. Also of interest are travel diaries kept by Caroline Augusta Foote in Savannah in 1834 and by Frederica Russell Street during a grand tour of Europe, 1843-1847.

Biographical / Historical

Christopher Leffingwell: manufacturer in Connecticut; built first paper mill in Connecticut in 1776; colonel in the state militia during the Revolution; member of the Connecticut Committee of Correspondence.

Guide to the Leffingwell Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane Kaplan
December 1975
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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