Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Corporation of the City of New York Collection, 1798-1873

Finding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray and Meg Hixon, January 2012

Summary Information
Title: Corporation of the City of New York collection
Creator: New York (N.Y.). Common Council.
Inclusive dates: 1798-1873
Bulk dates: 1806-1865
Extent: 1 linear foot
This collection contains receipts, bills, accounts, court documents, and other materials related to the expenses and operations of the Corporation of the City of New York between 1798 and 1873.
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:

1991-1998. M-2709, M-2747.2, M-3460.9.

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.

Preferred Citation:

Corporation of the City of New York Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically, with undated items and fragments placed at the end.


New Amsterdam was founded by the Dutch in 1625 and quickly grew into a center of commerce between North America and Europe. In 1664, the British seized control of the island from Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant, and renamed it New York City. In 1686, British Governor Thomas Dongan received a royal charter for the city. Governor John Montgomerie's charter of 1730/1731 established the city as a local government and as a corporation, allowing the city to own land and to hold legislative authority over its citizens. The Corporation of the City of New York took on an expanded bureaucratic role following the city's growth after the American Revolution. In the early 1800s, the Corporation began to fund public works projects such as road construction and repair, maintenance of the city's docks, procurement and delivery of fresh water, and the employment of night watchmen. The Corporation of the City of New York sustained this role throughout the 19th century.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains receipts, bills, accounts, court documents, and other materials related to the expenses and operations of the Corporation of the City of New York between 1798 and 1873. The first 6 documents, written in 1798 and 1799, are minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, concerning a bill to provide the city with fresh water in order to improve public health. The council's deliberations, with the input of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, focused on whether the water supply should be a municipal or a privately funded project. The council resolved to permit a private company, under direction of the city recorder, to provide the city with water on February 28, 1799 (paving the way for the unsuccessful waterworks enterprises of the Manhattan Company).

The bulk of the collection, dated between 1806 and 1865, pertains to the efforts of New York City's governing body to build and sustain a local infrastructure. Approximately 1,250 bills, receipts, requests for payments, and miscellaneous administrative documents provide financial information about the construction and repair of roads, wharves, piers, slips, and docks; the supply of fresh water; the employment of men for the night watch; the dredging of the river; and the regulation of city lighting. Some receipts and accounts reflect the Common Council's 1811 plan to fix block and lot sizes, which resulted in Manhattan's gridded street pattern, and many documents, bills, and accounts provide insight into the city's interactions with individuals for goods and labor. The collection illustrates the increasing responsibilities and expenditures of the city government in the first half of the 19th century.

The collection also includes approximately 90 documents produced by the Marine Court of New York between 1872 and 1873. These summonses, affidavits of merit, and other court documents primarily regard individual complaints related to unpaid debts.

Subject Terms

    • City planning--New York (State)--New York.
    • Debtor and creditor--New York (State)--New York.
    • Infrastructure (Economics)--New York (State)--New York--History--19th century.
    • Municipal services--New York (State)--New York.
    • Municipal water supply--New York (State)--New York.
    • New York (N.Y.)--Appropriations and expenditures.
    • New York (N.Y.)--History--18th century.
    • New York (N.Y.)--History--19th century.
    • Public works--New York (State)--New York.
    • Roads--New York (State)--New York.
    • Marine Court (New York)
    • New York (N.Y.) Board of Aldermen.
    • New York (N.Y.) Office of the Comptroller. New York (State)
    • Varick, Richard, 1753-1831.
    Genre Terms:
    • Bills of sale.
    • Civil court records.
    • Financial records.
    • Legal documents.
    • Minutes.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Documents and financial records [series]    [Note: Additional items housed in Oversize Manuscripts]
    Box   1 Folders   1-31
     December 27, 1798-December 1829
    Box   2 Folders   1-31
     January 11, 1830-October 1873 and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds David T. Valentine's manuals for the Corporation of the City of New York and other related works. Search for "Corporation of the City of New York" in the University's online catalog.


    Lankevich, George. "New York City." Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012.

    Reubens, Beatrice G. "Burr, Hamilton and the Manhattan Company: Part I: Gaining the Charter." Political Science Quarterly 72:4 (December 1957), 578-607.

    Schopieray, Cheney J. "Public Infrastructure." The Quarto 29 (Spring-Summer 2008), 2-4.