The Buffum-Bartlett papers contain correspondence addressed primarily to cousins David Buffum and Elisha Bartlett. Buffum's incoming letters frequently concern news of his brothers Horace, John, and James, who moved west during the mid-19th century, and Bartlett's incoming letters pertain to his career as a medical practitioner and lecturer.
Several early items have political content; for example, in a letter to his father, Thomas, one of the Buffum brothers described a visit to Washington, D.C., that included a meeting with President Martin Van Buren in the White House and two trips to the United States Capitol, where he and his companions heard Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, and Franklin Pierce (September 11, 1837). Much of the Buffum correspondence consists of letters by Maria Buffum, who shared news of her sons' lives in Illinois and California. In one of her letters, to David and his wife Maria, she passed along a story that James had told her about a Virginia slave owner on the hunt for slaves who had stolen $1500 from him (November 28, 1839). During the late 1840s, Maria wrote to her husband David, who was working in New York, about acquaintances and family members, particularly their infant child.
Doctor Elisha Bartlett's incoming correspondence consists of both professional and personal letters, many of which pertain to his work as a medical educator throughout the 1840s. Items include several schools' recommendations and solicitations and letters about medical practices and family news. Many of the personal letters between the Buffums and Bartletts mention news of each family, suggesting that the families remained close.