Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Divie and Joanna Bethune Collection, 1796-1853

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff, August 2006, and Meg Hixon, November 2011

Summary Information
Title: Divie and Joanna Bethune collection
Creator: Bethune, Divie, 1771?-1824 and Bethune, Joanna, 1770-1860
Inclusive dates: 1796-1853
Extent: 23 volumes and 59 items
The Divie and Joanna Bethune collection contains correspondence, religious diaries, and an autobiography pertaining to the New York couple.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1973-2007. M-1616; M-2783; M-2975.5; M-4179; M-4558.4; M-4581, M-4594.11.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Alternate Format:

Portions of Joanna Bethune's diaries have been microfilmed.

Preferred Citation:

Divie and Joanna Bethune Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Diaries
  • Series III: Joanna Bethune Autobiography

The Correspondence and Diaries series are arranged chronologically.


Joanna Graham was born in Fort Niagara, Canada, on February 1, 1770, and spent her formative years in Scotland and the Netherlands before moving to New York City in 1789. She taught school with her sister Isabella and married Divie Bethune (1771?-1824), a wealthy Scottish immigrant and merchant, in 1795. She became increasingly spiritual during her married life and widowhood and often participated in charity work. She and her husband helped found New York City's first Sunday school in 1802 and the New York Orphan Asylum in 1806. The couple had six children, including George Washington Bethune, a minister, and Isabella Bethune, who married George Duffield III. Joanna Graham Bethune died on July 28, 1860.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Divie and Joanna Bethune collection contains correspondence, religious diaries, and an autobiography pertaining to the New York couple.

The Correspondence series is made up of 58 incoming letters to Divie and Joanna Bethune, which primarily relate to Divie's business interests, and 1 letter by Joanna Bethune to George Duffield (February 9, 1837). Arthur Dalton of New Orleans, Louisiana, wrote the bulk of the early correspondence, discussing the local tobacco trade and ships' movements near the city. Divie Bethune & Co. received letters from Thomas Masters about financial affairs in Liverpool and London, England. Personal letters include letters between members of the Bethune family, such as a letter from Joanna Bethune to her daughter Isabella, which alludes to the possibility of Canadian annexation (January 6, 1850).

The 22-volume Diaries series comprises the bulk of the collection, and contains material written by both Divie and Joanna Bethune. Divie Bethune filled the first 16 volumes with devotional prayers, religious poetry, hymns, and occasional daily diary entries. Each of these volumes has an identical inscription. Joanna Bethune kept 6 diaries after her husband's death, in which she reflected upon her emotions and wrote about her charity work and religious life.

Joanna Bethune's Autobiography , written in 1814, concerns her early life, emphasizing her religious conversion and religious convictions.

Subject Terms

    • Charity.
    • Christianity--Prayers and devotions.
    • Christian life--United States.
    • Great Britain--Commerce.
    • New Orleans (La.)
    • New York (N.Y.)
    • Tobacco industry--United States.
    • Dalton, Arthur.
    Genre Terms:
    • Autobiographies.
    • Diaries.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-6
     January 1819-January 1850 (60 items)
    Diaries [series]
    Volumes   1-16  
    Divie Bethune diaries,  February 1796-December 1823
    Volumes   17-22  
    Joanna Bethune diaries,  September 1824-October 1853
    Autobiography [series]
    Volume   23  
    Joanna Bethune autobiography,  1814
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library has several publications related to Divie and Joanna Bethune, to their children, and to Isabella Bethune Graham.

    The Lewis Cass papers hold material written by George W. Bethune.

    The Masters-Taylor-Wilbur papers contain 3 letters addressed to Divie Bethune & Company


    Boylan, Anne M. "Bethune, Joanna Graham." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press, 2000.