The Collins family papers (197 items) consist of personal correspondence between several members of the Collins family of New Haven, Connecticut, and Westfield, Massachusetts, in the early to mid-1800s. Much of the collection is comprised of the correspondence of Cynthia Painter Collins, primarily written between herself, her husband Simeon, and several of her children between 1829 and 1855; other early correspondence includes several letters to her brother, Alexis Painter. Many of the letters concentrate on family and social news. For example, Cynthia Collins wrote one letter to her mother proudly declaring her religious beliefs (December 12, 1829), and Simeon Collins frequently reported on his experiences selling books in Boston and Philadelphia. While in Boston, he became acquainted with Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). Collins occasionally attended Graham's lectures, sold Graham's books, and solicited medical advice for Cynthia, which Graham provided in a letter dated March 24, 1837. Simeon mentioned other aspects of the Grahamite movement and his bookselling career. In one letter, he described a visit to 2 Philadelphia schools for African Americans (December 23, 1840).
Other correspondence from this period includes several letters from Cynthia Collins to Alexis Painter, as well as a series of letters she exchanged with her son David. In her letters to David, she voiced her concerns about her son Thomas, who contemplated moving west to seek gold in California and wished for his brother to join him (December 12, 1848). David's letters contain occasional reports on his business affairs.
Much of the later correspondence (1856-1863) is comprised of incoming letters to Anna Maria Collins, Cynthia and Simeon's daughter, from acquaintances updating her on their families and social lives in New England. Though most of these letters pre-date the Civil War, Anna's friend Libbie wrote in June 1863 to report the arrest of a boarder for desertion.