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Vann collection

Call Number: MS 1182

Scope and Contents

The Vann Collection is a small collection of letters and miscellaneous papers. Irving Goodwin Vann (Yale 1863) was an avid book collector, and most of the papers were found inside various volumes when his library was given to Yale by his children, Irving Dillaye Vann (Yale 1897) and Florence Dillaye (Vann) Fowler, in 1934 and 1938. Most of the materials are of more interest for their autograph value than for their content. Many are letters of introduction or of financial business. However, one of the letters to Daniel Webster (that of Henry A.S. Dearborn) praises his speech on the proposed Congress at Panama; and the drafts of letters by Webster concern a law case and his views on slavery.

Perhaps the most intersting part of the collection is the volume of writings by Stephen Devalson Dillaye (1820-84). With one other item (concering Judah Lee Bliss), and its provenance is uncertain. (The Bliss item may have been placed in the collection because of its connection with Daniel Webster.) Dillaye may have been related to Vann's wife's family. He received an LL.B. from Harvard in 1845. He published several books and pamphlets on political subjects; the earliest, in 1858, was a pamphlet protesting the loss of his post as U.S. General Appraiser at New York. His writings here include drafts of political letters, speeches, and pamphlets written in the period 1864-1868. Dillaye was a Democrat who opposed radical abolitionism, but he sided with the North in the Civil War, and came to admire Lincoln, and to support Andrew Johnson against the Republican wing led by Thaddeus Stevens. His letters address Nathaniel P. Banks, Salmon P. Chase, Roscoe Conkling, William M. Evarts, William P. Fessenden, Horace Greeley, Johnson, and William H. Seward, among others.


  • 1778-1887
  • Majority of material found within 1822 - 1887


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is 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Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain.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 Irving Dillaye Vann and Florence Vann Fowler, 1934 and 1938.


0.25 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


A collection of autograph letters and facsimiles of which the largest number are letters to and from Daniel Webster. Also in the collection is a volume of drafts of letters, pamphlets, and speeches composed by Stephen Devalson Dillaye between 1864-1868 on current political issues. Dillaye was a Democrat who opposed radical abolitionism, but sided with the North in the Civil War.

Biographical / Historical

Irving Goodwin Vann, 1842-1921

Yale College

Irving Goodwin Vann, B.A. 1863

Born January 3, 1842, in Ulysses, N.Y.

Died March 22, 1921, in Syracuse, N.Y.

Irving Goodwin Vann, son of Samuel R. Vann, a farmer, who was born in New Jersey but spent most of his life in Ulysses, N.Y., and Catharine (Goodwin) Vann, was born in Ulysses, January 3, 1842. His paternal grandparents were Samuel and Mary (Bond) Vann, and his earliest known American ancestor on his father's side was his great-grandfather, Samuel Vann, a native of New Jersey and a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War. His mother was the daughter of Joseph Goodwin, a soldier in the war of 1812, and Ruth (Stout) a native of New England, whose son Richard, who was born in Pennsylvania, removed early in the nineteenth century to Goodwin's point on Cayuga Lake, N.Y.

He was fitted for college at Trumansburg Academy, about four miles from Ulysses, completing his preparation by a year of study at the Ithaca (N.Y.) Academy.

During the first year after graduation he was principal of the Pleasant Valley High School near Owensboro, Ky., resigning his position to begin the study of law in the office of Boardman & Finch (Douglass Boardman, '42, and Francis M. Finch, '49) in Ithaca. In the fall of 1864 he entered the Albany Law School, where he received the degree of LL.B. in 1865. For a few months he was a clerk in the Treasury Department, but resigned that position in October, 1865, and removed to Syracuse. He was a clerk in the law office of Raynor and Butler until March 1, 1866, when he began practice, and was subsequently a member of the firms of Vann & Fiske, Raynor & Vann, Fuller & Vann, and Vann, McLennan & Dillaye. In his practice he preferred to conduct cases after the facts had been settled, by arguing the questions of law in the appellate courts, and heard and decided many cases as referee until his practice became so large that he was obliged to confine himself to the business of his own office. In 1881 he was elected a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York and held office from January, 1882, until January, 1888, when he was selected by the governor of New York as one of seven justices of the Supreme Court constituting the Second Division of the Court of Appeals of that state. He served in that capacity until the division was dissolved four years later, and then returned to the circuit. In the fall of 1895 he was reelected a justice of the Supreme Court by the unanimous vote of his district, having been nominated by both parties. In the following January he was appointed by Governor Morton a judge of the Court of Appeals in the place of Rufus W. Peckham, who had resigned in order to accept the position of a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In September, 1896, he was unanimously nominated by the Republican party for the full term of fourteen years, and at the ensuing election was chosen by the largest majority ever received by a state officer at a contested election in the state. He was reelected in 1910, being nominated by both parties, and served until December 31, 1912, when he resigned on account of having reached the age limit. He continued, however, to act as official referee and as council until 1920. He was actively engaged in several political campaigns, and in 1879 was elected mayor of Syracuse. His administration was characterized by the lowest taxes that the city had known for many years, and he retired from office, after declining a renomination, with every debt contracted by his administration fully paid, and with a large balance left in the treasury. He was one of the founders of the Onondaga Bar Association and had served as second and first vice-president and as president. He was also one of the founders of the New York State Bar Association, the Century Club of Syracuse, the Yale Club of Syracuse, and the Alumni Association of the Albany Law School, and had held office as president of the last three organizations. He assisted in organizing Woodlawn Cemetery in 1881 and was its president for many years, was one of the founders and a trustee of the Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, and served as president of the Onondaga Red Cross Society at its inception. He was a member of the New York State Historical Association, the Onondaga Country Historical Society and the Albany Historical Society. He had been a lecturer at the Syracuse Law School, the Cornell School of Law, and the Albany Law School, and was a trustee of the last-named. He had served as a member of the Yale Alumni Advisory Board. The honorary degree of LL.D. Was conferred upon him by Hamilton in 1882, by Syracuse in 1897, and by Yale in 1898. He was very fond of books and had a library of more than 10,000 volumes, many of which are rare. He also had a collection of nearly two hundred guns, selected to mark the progress of invention in firearms.

He died March 22, 1921, at his home in Syracuse, from heart disease. Interment was in Oakwood Cemetery.

He was married October 11, 1870, in Syracuse, to Julie Florence, daughter of Henry Augustus and Sarah Jane (Birdsall) Dillaye, who survives him with their two children, Florence Dillaye (Mrs. Albert P. Fowler) and Irving Dillaye (B.A. 1897).

Yale Obituary Record,No. 22, 1921, pp. 33-35

Guide to the Irving Goodwin Vann Collection
Under Revision
compiled by John Espy
October 1982
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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