Phoenix family papers  1776-1884 (bulk 1808-1814)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Phoenix family papers consist of 67 letters, 32 legal documents, 10 financial records and receipts, 2 drawings of land lots, and a printed bill. The materials span 1776-1884, though the bulk centers on the periods between 1808 and 1814, and 1826 and 1833. Early letters and documents relate primarily to the firm Phoenix, Ingraham, & Nixon. They include a letter from Alexander Hamilton to Nathaniel G. Ingraham, denying him financial assistance because of other obligations (March 5, 1801); the firm's articles of agreement (February 15, 1803); and 27 letters written by Nathaniel Ingraham to Alexander Phoenix concerning business acquaintances and hardships faced by the company, and its eventual bankruptcy (1810-1811). A document of October 11, 1811, gives a full account of the firm's losses.

Between November 1811 and March 1813, nearly all of the 20 letters and documents relate to attempts to free Phoenix from debtors' prison; his attorney, Silvanus Miller, wrote many of them. Also of interest is a manuscript, dated November 1811, containing copied extracts from letters by Phoenix during his imprisonment. In several of the letters, he criticized Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, and discussed other political matters. A copy of a congressional act of March 3, 1813, documents the release of Phoenix and several associates.

Of note is a series of 11 letters written to Phoenix's daughter, Elizabeth, by a young Harriet Beecher in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Many of the letters are undated, but can be traced to this period based on their postmarks. Beecher and Phoenix had been schoolmates at Hartford Female Seminary around 1823, and in her letters, Beecher frequently reminisced about their time at the school, including how strange she must have seemed to the other girls, and discussed mutual friends. Much of Beecher's correspondence is very introspective in nature, and consists of her religious and philosophical thoughts, including a recommendation that Phoenix read the works of Joseph Butler in order to develop her argumentation. Several of the later letters include postscripts written by Catharine Beecher, Elizabeth's teacher in Hartford. A letter of June 11, 1833, mentions their plans to open a "small school" in Cincinnati, where they had moved with their father, Lyman Beecher. Overall, the letters shed light on Harriet Beecher's intellectual and religious development during her young adulthood.

Only four items postdate 1836; two of these relate to the estates of Alexander Phoenix and Shearjushub Bourne, a relative of Edgar Ketchum. Two other documents, located in the "Miscellany" series, illustrate land lots.

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