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James E. Babb Memorial collection

Call Number: MS 44

Scope and Contents

Series I, CORRESPONDENCE, holds five hundred and eighty-seven letters (1860-1942). Nearly five hundred of these letters were written to or by James Elisha Babb. The remaining letters were written to or by Babb's father-in-law, Charles Johnson Tinkham.

James Babb's correspondence deals primarily with state and national politics. His most prominent correspondents were Senator William E. Borah (one hundred and ninety-three items 1898-1933) and William Jennings Bryan (forty-five letters 1880-1924). Borah and Babb wrote each other about many national issues including women's suffrage, the League of Nations, the World Court, Roosevelt's National Recovery Act and the executive branch's influence over the judiciary. Borah also occasionally asked Babb to act as an intermediary between him and special interest groups in Idaho.

William Jennings Bryan also wrote to Babb about national politics. Babb and Bryan attended Illinois College together, and both had served on the college's debating team. Although Bryan was a Democrat and Babb was an equally staunch Republican, the Commoner insisted that their political views were not so different (1882). He also wrote candidly about his decision to move to Nebraska and enter politics (1889). Later, Bryan sent his friend a short note about his decision to resign as Secretary of State, and in 1919, he outlined his stand on the League of Nations. During the 1920's, Bryan drafted several letters defending fundamentalist Christianity against the onslaught of evolutionary thought (1923) and warned Babb to protect his son from agnostic professors at Yale.

Throughout his career Babb received letters from a variety of Idaho Republicans, including three governors, four senators, and numerous congressmen. All discuss the Republican party and politics in Idaho.

Babb's correspondence contains few family letters. The single letter from his wife, Daisey, concerns her observations of the 1892 Democratic National Convention. Through the influence of Bryan, she was allowed to attend the Democratic gathering in Chicago.

In addition to the correspondence of James E. Babb, this series contains eighty-nine letters to and from Charles Johnson Tinkham and his wife (1860-(1861-1862)-1891). Tinkham wrote fifty-three letters to his wife, Carrie, when he served as a Union officer in the Civil War. As a Lieutenant-Colonel in General Rosecrans' Army of the Mississippi Valley, Tinkham described the sights and sounds of army camp life, the movement of enemy troops, and the experiences of battle.

Tinkham was shot in the right hand in May 1862 while leading his troops into battle near Corinth, Mississippi. He convalesced for several months and then abruptly left the army. After reporting "a difficulty with Major Gillmore" over a military arrest he had made, Tinkham told his wife: "I could not have the matter arranged in a manner I considered satisfactory...(therefore) I tendered my resignation and had it accepted." The retired Lieutenant-Colonel returned to Homer, Illinois, and resumed work as a merchant.

The remaining letters in this series come from officers and enlisted men in the Union Army. Most wrote about the details of army life.

Series II, WRITINGS AND MEMORABILIA, contains over twenty-five documents pertaining to the Civil War. Most are written orders to Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Tinkham. This series also includes an autograph collection with twenty-one manuscripts signed by such diverse public figures as General Pierre DuPont (1821) and A1 Jolson (1921). Finally, this series holds eighteen folders of memorabilia including two photographs of William Jennings Bryan, genealogical records of local Idaho families, Mrs. Babb's scrapbook, two receipt books from the brokerage house of McAlister and Warren, and several folders of newspaper clippings about William E. Borah and his role in United States foreign policy.

The James E. Babb Papers were given to Yale University Library by James T. Babb. There were also donations to several other institutions: memorabilia of Daisy (Tinkham) Babb to St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Terre Haute, Ind. [now a college under a different name], where Mrs. Babb and her mother were educated; and diaries and memorabilia of James E. Babb to Illinois College, Jackson, Ill. [founded by one of the "Yale Bands"], and Union College of Law [now Northeastern University Law School].


  • 1847-1942


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 James T. Babb, 1942-1968.


Arranged in two series: I. Correspondence. II. Writings and Memorabilia.


1.5 Linear Feet (4 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


A double collection of the papers of James Elisha Babb, a lawyer prominent in Idaho politics, and of his father-in-law, Charles Johnson Tinkham. Babb's correspondence, which was devoted largely to politics, included both local and nationally prominent figures. Among the most important were William E. Borah, with whom he corresponded from 1898 to 1933 on issues such as women's suffrage, the League of Nations and the Roosevelt Administration; and William Jennings Bryan, who wrote between 1880 and 1924. Of particular interest are Bryan's early letters explaining his reasons for entering politics and his letters in the 1920s defending fundamentalist Christianity. Charles Johnson Tinkham's papers are significant for his own Civil War letters and those from his fellow soldiers and officers in the Union Army. Included also in his papers are miscellaneous official documents relating to his war service and an autograph collection.

Biographical / Historical

James Elisha Babb was born on 1864 January 11, the son of Milton and Elizabeth (Littler) Babb. Raised in Champaign County, Illinois, Babb attended Illinois College and graduated in 1882 with a B.S. In 1884 he received his law degree from Union College of Law, Northwestern University, and then entered private law practice in Chicago. Four years later he married Daisey Tinkham, the daughter of a Northern Civil War veteran, Charles Johnson Tinkham.

Babb moved to Lewiston, Idaho, in 1892 and soon became one of the most prominent lawyers and Republicans in the State. He was often asked to run for Justice of the State Supreme Court, Congressman, Senator, and Governor. Each time he turned down the requests. Nevertheless, he did play a prominent role in Idaho politics as close advisor to Senator William E. Borah and many other Republican office holders.

Babb died 1934 May 26.

Guide to the James E. Babb Memorial Collection
Under Revision
compiled by Peter Bollier
December 1976
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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