The Pearce Atkinson papers consist of 295 letters, primarily between Atkinson and his parents, written mostly in the 1890s. In several letters written to their father in 1879, a young Pearce and his brother Clarence told of their daily lives, and frequently mentioned their newborn brother Arthur. Most of the correspondence, however, dates from the time that Pearce entered Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and covers his collegiate years as well as his early career as a railroad engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad Company. While in Pennsylvania, he frequently wrote his parents about his coursework, financial situation, and social life, which often included visits to Philadelphia. His father sometimes sent him money, and occasionally offered advice on education and other topics; in one letter, he suggested five possible thesis topics, all related to railroads (March 18, ). Additionally, several academic progress reports are interspersed among the letters (June 22, 1888, January 1889, et al.). After graduation, Atkinson wrote his parents from various locations in the western United States, and described his career and life while based in Salt Lake City, Utah; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Denver, Colorado; and several locations throughout California. Along with discussing his engineering work, he also wrote vivid descriptions of the local scenery and occasionally commented on politics. On May 30, 1894, he mentioned a group of Coxey's army members encamped near Denver, and he continued to report about strikers and additional unrest throughout June. Atkinson's final letters were written in early 1895, though his parents received a handful of later correspondence, including condolences for his death (July 19, 1898) and a letter from Charles Pollak, a family friend, regarding the death of Pollak's father (November 14, 1903). The ephemera item is a bloodstained handkerchief, labeled "Pearce Atkinson."