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Harry Croswell Papers

Call Number: RG 258

Scope and Contents

Series I, Diaries or Journals, consists of fifteen bound volumes, of which fourteen are a diary faithfully kept from April 11, 1821, to March 6, 1858, a week before his death. In 1915 Franklin Bowditch Dexter (1824-1920), assistant librarian of Yale University and Learned Professor of American History, undertook an abridgement of the diary "containing the portions most adapted to printing." This manuscript itself runs to 975 pages with detailed biographical and other explanatory notes. Professor Dexter also made a partial index of 75 pages to the diaries which includes both names and subjects.

The diaries offer a daily record of Croswell's pastoral visits, comments on church politics, events at Yale College and civic affairs, providing an invaluable record of New Haven history over a period of more than 30 years. Although the entries tend to be brief and factual, Croswell's decisive opinions on such issues as church doctrine, politics, temperance and abolitionism emerge very clearly. He is equally vivid, and often acid, in brief sketches of visitors as well as of some of the permanent residents of New Haven. He was regularly in touch with the blacks of New Haven who were members of his church and in the spring of 1844 records the formation of a separate black congregation, St. Luke's. (See entries for 1844 Mar 12 to Jun 7, passim.) His occasional travels to upstate New York to visit his son, Sherman, contain descriptions of the towns and countryside as he found it then with comparisons of the region as he knew it in the early years of the century. (See entries for 1825 Jul and 1841 Jul.) He also visited Philadelphia in 1821 and describes his impressions. His more frequent visits to his son, William, in Boston also include references to local scenes and institutions. A particularly interesting entry is his description of his first railroad trip (1835 Aug 18) and his physical sensation on being aboard a train.

Other entries mentioning figures of national prominence include, among others, a description of the funeral services for Noah Webster (1843 May 31), the death of President William H. Harrison and its observance in New Haven, and the election of Zachary Taylor as president. The celebration of the Fourth of July is described with care each year. Although he was regularly invited to the Yale College commencement, Croswell avoided going, preferring to sit at home quietly in his study.

The last volume in Series I documents Croswell's participation in the General Conventions of the Episcopal Church 1838-1858.

The Sermons of Series II were received from the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in 2014. They include a numbered series, a dated series, a liturgical series related to different Sundays during the Church Year, and a series focused on special occasions.

Series III, Historical Records, includes two bound volumes, a genealogy and a church chronicle. The Croswell Family Record, begun in 1856, contains valuable if fragmentary information. Clearly intended to be more ambitious, it occupies only seventeen pages in a large folio volume. In the same year Croswell also began an Annals of the Parish of Trinity Church, in which he goes back to verbal traditions from 1740. The manuscript of 101 pages is in another large folio volume and reaches the year 1820. These volumes and fourteen volumes of diaries were given to the Yale Library in 1904 and 1905 by Edward C. Beecher.

Series IV and Series V include small amounts of unpublished writings by Croswell and correspondence respectively. Numerous published works by Croswell are in the Yale Library cataloged collection.


  • 1821–1858


Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Edward C. Beecher in 1904 and 1905. Collection transferred to Divinity Library from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library in 2013. Addendum received from Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in 2014.


  1. I. Diaries or Journals
  2. II. Sermons
  3. III. Historical Records
  4. IV. Writings
  5. V. Correspondence


6.5 Linear Feet (21 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Diaries, family records and history of the Parish of Trinity Church, New Haven (1740-1820) by Harry Croswell, journalist and later minister of Trinity Church from 1815 until his death. The diaries in 14 volumes (1821-1858), offer a daily record of his life in New Haven as well as accounts of his participation in the work of the church in the surrounding region and in the affairs of Trinity College, Hartford.Croswell also records the formation of the black congregation, St. Luke's, in 1844. Occasional trips to upstate New York (1825, 1841), to Boston and Philadelphia (1821) offer descriptions of these places. In 1915 F. B. Dexter made a transcript of large portions of the diary and also compiled an index.

Biographical / Historical

Harry Croswell: journalist; in 1802 founded a Federalist newspaper, Wasp, in Hudson, N. Y.; tried and found guilty of libel against the Republicans of the county; started another paper in Albany, N. Y., but it failed and he was jailed for debt; entered the ministry and was ordained in the Episcopal Church, 1814; became rector of Trinity Church in New Haven, Ct., 1815-1858.

Biographical / Historical

Harry Croswell, diarist, journalist and clergyman, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 1778, the seventh child of Caleb and Hannah Croswell. He was privately educated, and included as part of his education one year at Noah Webster's house doing odd jobs in exchange for instruction. Having launched himself on a journalistic career in Catskill, New York, he married Susan Sherman of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1800 and moved to Hudson, New York. There his career took a political turn when, in 1802, he founded a Federalist newspaper, the Wasp, which was highly critical of the dominant Republican forces in the county. He was eventually brought to trial for libel by the Republicans and in the ensuing proceeding Alexander Hamilton came to testify on his behalf. Despite the illustrious intervention, Croswell was found guilty and was forced to suspend publication of the Wasp. Encouraged by Federalist support, he moved to Albany, New York, where he started another paper, but since the support was verbal rather than financial, the paper failed, and Croswell was jailed for debt.

Leaving politics and publishing, he joined the ministry and was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1814. On January 1, 1815, he came to New Haven to be installed as rector of Trinity Church, and remained there to the end of his life. Of his seven children, four survived into adulthood. The death of his son, William, in 1851 at the age of 47, was a great grief to him, which he assuaged in the writing of a Memoirof William's life. It was published in 1853. His wife died in 1855 and he himself, although suffering from a painful bladder condition, lived till 1858, preaching and writing until the last week of his life.

A memoir based on Croswell's diaries was published by F. B. Dexter, assistant librarian of Yale University, in the Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society (vol. IX, 1918). For an account of the Croswell libel trial, see Speeches at full length of Mr. Van Ness, Mr. Caines, Mr. Harrison and Gen. Hamilton in the great cause of the People against Harry Croswell (1804).

Guide to the Harry Croswell Papers
Ruth Gay and Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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