The James M. Smith family collection (121 items) contains letters and other materials related to James Murdock Smith of northern New York. The Correspondence series (114 items) includes Smith's correspondence from 1834-1889. Smith received 33 letters from his father, H. D. Smith, whose letters often pertain to politics, railroad construction and finance, and economic conditions in New York State. Among other subjects, he mentioned improvements to the town of Gouverneur (September 3, 1856), "unusually frequent" bankruptcies in Ogdensburg (January 3, 1854), Democratic Party factions, the Know-Nothings, and slavery and abolitionists. Smith's professional correspondence includes letters from New York Congressman Solomon G. Haven, who discussed the Dred Scott case (January 13, 1857), and from philanthropist Philo Parsons, who wrote about his plans to build a large park in Detroit, Michigan (December 8, 1873).
The series also contains personal letters that Smith received from family members, including his mother, Harriet Smith; his sisters, Esther M. Thrall and Louisa L. Anthony; and his aunt, Esther Doty. The Smith family reported news of Gouverneur, New York, and Doty commented on life in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in the 1850s, where she encountered mixed-race Native Americans (December 3, 1851). Many of the later letters concern James M. Smith's interest in genealogy. Smith also wrote 6 letters to his wife, Margaret, mentioning a cholera epidemic (August 28, 1852) and travel in southern Wisconsin (November 16, 1862), among other topics.
The Genealogy, Writings, and Ephemera series (7 items) includes 3 essays about the family of H. D. Smith, a political speech, and a newspaper clipping and printed advertisement regarding a historical work by R.W. Judson.