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Dwight family papers

Call Number: MS 187

Scope and Contents

The Dwight Family Papers consist of correspondence, financial records, writings, and other memorabilia of Yale President Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), his ancestors, descendants, and other relations. Relatives in the Edwards, Hooker, Strong, Woodbridge, and Woolsey families are represented. The largest quantity of correspondence documents the family life of John Williams Dwight (President Dwight's grandson), his wife Sophia Dwight Dwight, and children Mary Clarissa, Edward Strong, and Emily Cecilia Dwight. The papers also include courtship letters of Mary Alsop Dwight Patrick and professional papers of President Dwight and his grandson, President Timothy Dwight (1828-1916). Though the papers date from 1713 to 1937, most of the papers were produced in the nineteenth century.

The library received the Dwight Family Papers from numerous donors between the 1940s and 1985, and additional materials have been purchased from other sources. Additional Dwight family material is housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The two and one-half linear feet of papers are arranged in two series: I. Correspondence and Papers, 1713-1937 and II. Family Papers, 1788-1929.

Series I includes letters, financial and legal papers, and memorabilia arranged in chronological order, while Series II consists of other types of material arranged by individual. An index to selected correspondents is included at the end of this register.

Series I begins with legal and financial documents of the Dwight family in eighteenth century Northampton, Massachusetts, including deeds, accounts, and probate records (folder 1). There are also a 1748 account of W. B. Dwight's death and letters for Timothy Dwight (1694-1771) to the Rev. Dr. Thomas Foxcroft describing religious activities in the Northampton area. A 1795 letter invites Timothy Dwight to assume the presidency of Yale College, and several letters in folders 1-3 concern Yale matters. Other letters in these folders focus on family affairs and include exchanges between parents and children and husband and wife.

Folder 3 includes medical advice to Timothy Dwight (1816 Dec. 7) on treating a stricture of the urethra and a copy of the original minutes recorded by Benjamin Silliman at President Dwight's bedside on January 10, 1817, the day before his death. These minutes concern directions for the publication of Dwight's writings. Folder 3 also contains remarks by Dwight on the "comparative value" of his sermons and correspondence of his son Timothy Dwight (1778-1844) concerning the posthumous publication of his father's "System of Divinity". The folder also includes correspondence of Benjamin Dwight, Sereno Dwight, Mary Woolsey Dwight, and Theodore Dwight.

The majority of the correspondence in folders 4 and 5 relates to the courtship of Mary Alsop Dwight by Matthew A. Patrick, a career army officer serving in 1832 in South Carolina. His letters include comments on the nullification crisis, which delayed his wedding furlough. A few letters from Mary Alsop (Dwight) Patrick to her father Theodore Dwight describe her life as an officer's wife. Folder 5 also contains correspondence of Theodore Dwight, Jr., concerning the publication of his textbooks, and of Timothy Dwight's (1752-1817) heirs, concerning their claim for a Revolutionary War veteran's pension.

Correspondence between John W. Dwight and his future wife Sophia Dwight of Clinton, New York, begins in folder 5. There are numerous letters to "Sophy" in folders 6 and 7, and folders 8-12 are almost exclusively concerned with this branch of the Dwight family. For a period of a year and a half (1862-1863) John Dwight lived in New Haven, working at a saltpeter business, while his wife and family lived in Clinton, near her family. The almost daily letters between husband and wife concern family finances, weather, the eating habits and behavior of the children (Mary, "Minnie" or "Molly"; Edward, "Ned"; and Emily, "Cecily"), the death of son Louis, John's draft status, and the deteriorating nature of Sophia's health. Following Sophia's death in 1863 there are far fewer letters, but the correspondence through folder 25 is predominantly that of Mary and Edward with their father, now the president of the New Haven Fertilizer Company, uncle Benjamin W. Dwight, and other relations and school friends. Edward graduated from the Yale Medical School in 1886, and several letters concern attempts to establish his medical practice. From folder 17 on there are occasional letters from Timothy Dwight (1828-1916) to non-family members. The majority of these letters are dated after 1888 and concern Yale University business.

Folders 24 and 25 contain additional undated letters of John W. Dwight's family, while folders 26-29 include memorabilia, writings, and financial and legal papers of this same branch of the Dwight family. Folder 28 includes photographs of the Dwight family ancestoral property in Dudley, Massachusetts.

Series II includes papers of Margaret Dwight Bell, Benjamin W. Dwight, Henry Dwight, Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), Susan Edwards Daggett Dwight, and Timothy Dwight (1828-1916). The largest quantity of material relates to Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) and includes sermons and other writings, as well as notes of his sermons and discourses recorded by his son Benjamin W. Dwight, Alexander Phoenix, and an unidentified student in the Yale College seniors' recitation room. Folders 43 and 44 contain Dwight's journals of travels to Cape Cod, Newport, Portsmouth, and Vermont. These were later edited and form a small portion of the published version of Dwight's Travels in New England and New York. (A few additional journals are found in the Humphreys-Marvin-Olmsted Papers, MS 857.) The series includes both printed and manuscript sermons, many of which were delivered at Yale College, and Dwight's poetry.

Benjamin Dwight is represented through biographical writings on his father, some travel observations, and his account of a storm in the Catskills, which he copied and sent to Benjamin Silliman in 1820. Margaret Dwight Bell's papers relate to her 1810 journey from New England to Warren, Ohio. The handwritten copy of her original journal describes the bad roads, inns, and travelling companions she encountered. For Henry Dwight there is a notebook, in German, from studies abroad and a book of hand colored flower engravings. Susan Dwight's papers consist of an autograph album, and for Timothy Dwight (1828-1916) there is a copy of his address at the dedication of Osborn Hall and inscriptions from books presented by him to Battell Chapel. The series concludes with a box containing six pairs of eyeglasses which belonged to Dwight Family relatives.


  • 1713-1937


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the Dwight Family has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

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

Gifts and purchases, 1932-1989. Gift of Eunice Trowbridge, 2005.


Arranged in two series: I. Correspondence and Papers, 1713-1937. II. Family Papers, 1788-1929.


5.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, financial records, addresses, sermons, writings, photographs, and other memorabilia of Yale President Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) and his family. Relatives in the Edwards, Hooker, Lyman, Strong, Woodbridge, and Woolsey families are represented. The largest quantity of correspondence documents the family life of John William Dwight, a fertilizer manufacturer. Papers of Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) and Timothy Dwight (1828-1916) concern Yale University. The travels of various family members are highlighted.

Biographical / Historical

Timothy Dwight was born on May 14, 1752 in Northampton, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College in 1769 (B.A.) and 1772 (M.A.). He served Yale as tutor (1771-1777), Livingston Professor of Divinity (1795-1817), and President (1795-1817). He died on January 11, 1817 in New Haven, Connecticut.

Guide to the Dwight Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan and William E. Brown, Jr.
April 1986
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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