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Battell family papers

Call Number: MS 906

Scope and Contents

The Battell family papers consist of correspondence and the diaries of Sarah (Robbins) Battell, Anna Battell, Urania (Battell) Humphrey, and Irene (Battell) Larned. According to Memories of Irene Battell Larned (Yca/826/L3m), the habit of keeping the diaries developed in the following manner:

"An interesting custom which prevails in Mrs. Larned's family—one which was introduced by her mother, who faithfully adhered to it through all her married life—is that of keeping a brief record of the most interesting events of every day on fly leaves inserted in the yearly almanac. The children and grandchildren have been taught to regard this as almost a sacred custom; and so extensively has it been observed that throughout the different branches of the family, one might find, in these little books, the definite story of their doings and experiences for three quarters of a century."

The book goes on to say that "Mrs. Larned used to claim as her special New Year's prerogative the pleasure of sending large numbers of the new almanac to her brothers and sisters, nieces, and other relatives." (page 39)

Sarah Battell's diary entries begin in 1818 and record her day-to-day life, notes of births and deaths, recipes, and so forth, until the day of her death. On August 7, 1854, her daughter Anna records Sarah's last illness and death; Anna continues the diary until 1885. Also in the collection are segments of diaries, kept in the same style as those of Sarah and Anna, of Urania (Battell) Humphrey of Louisville, Kentucky, and of Irene (Battell) Larned of New Haven, Connecticut. Supplementing the diaries are approximately ninety-five family letters. These are for the most part letters of Sarah Battell to and from her husband and children, and of her son Robbins Battell to his wife, Ellen Mills. The letter discuss events in the family's daily life, as well as mentioning occasional financial matters.

There are also twenty-seven letters, dated 1889 to 1894, mainly concerned with various artworks, and addressed to Robbins Battell.

The Battell Family Papers were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives from the Yale Music Library.


  • 1810-1894


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are 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Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain.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

Transferred from the Yale University Music Library; gift of Nina Rosenbloom, 2016.


2.08 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

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 ninety-four family letters (1810-1853), the diaries of Sarah Robbins Battell and three of her daughters, and twenty-seven letters (1889-1894) to Robbins Battell.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph Battell (1774-1841) was born in Milford, Connecticut on July 21, 1774. As a young boy his family moved to Woodbury and again to Torringford. At the age of eighteen Battell began a mercantile career. He married Sarah Robbins (1779-1854), the daughter of Ammi Ruhamah Robbins, the first minister of Norfolk, Connecticut. Joseph and Sarah had nine children:

Joseph (1806-1874), Philip (1807-1897), Sarah (1810-1878), Irene (1811-1877), Urania (1814-1887), Anna (1816-1889), [Ammi Ruhamah] Robbins (1819-1895), John (1822-1892), Ellen (1825-1893).

Joseph Battell (1806-1874) graduated from Middlebury College in 1823. He became a merchant and a was a business associate of Thomas Egleston. Battell was a benefactor of Yale College and Battell Chapel is named in his honor.

Sarah Battell married Joseph Eldridge.

Irene Battell was born on November 14, 1811. In July, 1843 she married William Augustus Larned, a professor of rhetoric and English literature at Yale. Irene Larned was a leading patroness of the musical arts in New Haven and at Yale.

Urania Battell married James Humphrey, a cousin of Noah Porter's.

Robbins Battell was born on April 9, 1819. He graduated from Yale in 1839. Following the death of his father in 1841, Robbins Battell took on the responsibility for the family estate and investments, a task to which he devoted much of his life. He served as the representative from Norfolk in the state legislature in 1852, 1858, and 1860. In the years of the Civil War he devoted his time and means largely to the support of the government, and in 1865 served as a member of the state senate and in 1866 as state comptroller. On August 15, 1849 Robbins Battell married Ellen Ryerson Mills (1825-1851).

Ellen Battell (1825-1893) married Azariah Eldridge.

(Information for this sketch was taken from Memories of Irene Battell Larned and the Yale Obituary Record.)

Guide to the Battell Family Papers
compiled by staff of Manuscripts and Archives
August 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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