This collection contains approximately 430 items, nearly all of which are incoming letters addressed to Artemas Hale, an agent for a cotton gin manufacturer and a politician from Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Hale received correspondence from acquaintances and political contacts throughout southeastern Massachusetts, as well as from politicians serving in Washington, D. C., and from family members residing in Mississippi. Most letters concern mid-19th century politics on both national and local levels, and writers address issues such as the Whig Party, education, the Mexican War, and slavery. Approximately 10 items are letters by Artemas Hale, invitations, and a manuscript poem.
The majority of Hale's incoming letters concern political matters in Massachusetts and throughout the United States, particularly between 1839 and 1860. Most authors wrote from the area near Hale's home in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, or from Washington, D. C. Several politicians were frequent correspondents, and many discussed their involvement with the Whig Party, as well as other aspects of party politics. Others commented on local and national elections; the collection contains commentary on each presidential election between 1844 and 1860. Additional frequent topics include the Mexican War, slavery and sectionalism, and the affairs of the United States Congress. Early letters often concerned the budget and workings of the Massachusetts State Normal School (now Framingham State University), as well as national affairs. Notable contributors include Julius Rockwell, Horace Mann, Samuel Hoar, Samuel J. May, John S. Pendleton, Robert C. Winthrop, Daniel P. King, and Joseph Grinnell.
Personal letters Hale received from family and friends are interspersed throughout the collection, including family letters written before 1839 and 2 letters written in 1840 by Thophilus P. Doggett, a minister in Bridgewater, regarding his travels to Florida and throughout the Caribbean. Hale's brother Moses wrote of his life as a farmer in Westport, Mississippi (June 5, 1843). Another relative, Harrison Hale, wrote 4 letters between 1847 and 1851, providing his impressions of southern life and, particularly in his letters dated April 8, 1859, and February 3, 1861, about the upcoming Civil War. In addition, 2 of Thomas B. Lincoln’s letters concern railroad construction in Texas (December 23, 1855) and the outbreak of military hostilities (December 11, 1860), and [Keith A.] Bartlett wrote 1 letter about his Union Army service at Camp Brightwood (October 8, ). The collection also holds two pages of indexes, possibly taken from a letter book, and a patriotic poem entitled "Sleeping for the Flag" (undated).