This collection is made up of correspondence, legal and financial documents, and other items concerning several generations of the Lee family of New York and New Jersey from the early 18th century to the late 19th century.
The earliest items (1701-1840) largely consist of legal and financial documents, receipts, accounts, and other financial records related to Thomas Lee, his nephew Thomas (ca. 1728-1804), his grandnephew William (1763-1839), and, to a lesser extent, other members of the Lee family. Many pertain to land ownership in New York and New Jersey. Some legal documents, such as Thomas Lee's will (May 16, 1767), concern decedents' estates. In the 1820s and 1830s, the Lee siblings, including Henry, William, Cyrus, and Phebe, began writing personal letters to one another. Cyrus Lee and his wife Emily Fisher received letters from her mother, E. Fisher of Humphreysville, Connecticut. One letter contains teacher Samuel Squier's response to accusations of drunkenness and inappropriate behavior (February 25, 1774). Additional early materials include a contract related to the establishment of a singing school in Boston, Massachusetts (ca. 1745), medicinal recipes (October 31, 1789), poetry (undated), articles of apprenticeship (February 25, 1796), a daybook reflecting construction costs for a school house in Littleton, New Jersey (October 2, 1797-May 1, 1799), records of William and Isaac Lee's labor at a forge (September 5, 1809-October 24, 1914), and a manuscript copy of an act to incorporate part of Derby, Connecticut, as Humphreysville (May , 1836).
After 1840, the bulk of the collection is made up of personal letters between members of the Lee family. Incoming correspondence to Cyrus and Emily Fisher Lee makes up the largest portion of these letters. Emily's mother wrote about life in Humphreysville, Connecticut, frequently discussing her health and that of other family members. Emily's sister Elizabeth discussed her travels in Indiana and Ohio and her life in Ogden, Indiana. After the mid-1850s, many of the letters pertain to Cyrus and Emily's son Robert. He received letters from his grandmother, aunt, and cousins. He sent letters to his sister Emily while he lived in Ogden, Indiana, in the late 1850s and early 1860s. A cousin, also named Emily, wrote to Robert about African-American and white churches in Princeton, New Jersey, and her work as a schoolteacher (February 15, 1858).
Robert Lee wrote one letter about camp life and his poor dental health while serving in the 3rd Indiana Cavalry Regiment (October 3, 1861), and Emily shared news of Littleton, New Jersey, while he was away. Cyrus's sister Phebe wrote to her brother's family during this period. After the war, Cyrus and Emily Fisher Lee continued to receive letters from Emily's mother and sister. Elizabeth Benjamin, living in Lecompton, Kansas, sent letters on January 22, 1871, and March 13, 1871, discussing the death of her son Theodore, who died of a gunshot wound. The final letters, dated as late as 1903, are addressed to Elizabeth M. Lee, likely Cyrus and Emily's daughter. Later items also include a calling cards and a lock of hair.
The collection includes five photographs of unidentified individuals, including cased tintypes of a man and a young child, each with an ornate oval matte and preserver, as well as a third similar tintype portrait of a young boy which no longer has a case. A photograph of a United States soldier is housed in a hard metal frame that includes a fold-out stand; the frame bears the insignia of the United States Army infantry. The final item is a photographic print of a man, woman, and young child posing beside a house.
The collection contains a group of 13 printed and ephemeral items, including sections of the New-Jersey Journal and Political Intelligencer (April 21, 1790), True Democratic Banner (October 9, 1850), and New York Sun (May 9, 1936). Other items of note are a colored drawing of a house (1861 or 1867), printed poems ("Napoleon Is Coming" and "The Lass of Richmond Hill," undated), a price list for the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, a Hungarian Fund bond, and an advertisement for men's shirts and shorts with attached fabric samples. Three additional items pertain to births, deaths, and marriages in the Lee family.