The Ira J. Patch letter book (56 pages) contains around 45 letters that Patch wrote from March 24, 1856-February 5, 1857, about his interest in collecting and trading autograph documents and signatures by prominent American politicians. He discussed possible trades with fellow collectors, provided lists of material he wished to acquire, and expressed his desire to receive copies of publications regarding the history of Massachusetts.
Patch most frequently wrote to fellow autograph collectors, sometimes providing lists of famous individuals whose autographs he desired and those which he was willing to send in return. He often discussed specific trades and provided names of other collectors. Patch's letter to Lewis J. Cist of St. Louis, Missouri, dated March 28, 1856, lists United States presidents, vice presidents, cabinet secretaries, attorneys general, and postmasters general, as well as signers of the Declaration of Independence. In other letters, Patch referred to his interest in collecting signatures from governors of Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island. He explained his attempt to focus on specific subjects, and also mentioned some areas that he did not collect in, such as Revolutionary War generals' manuscripts and paper money. On at least two occasions, Patch purchased items by British monarchs.
Patch sometimes wrote to publishing firms about his desire to obtain copies of publications such as the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the Records of Massachusetts, and the History of Boston. Two letters to his uncle, Alvah C. Smith of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, pertain to transactions with Smith's acquaintance "Mr. Morse"; Patch shared his initial displeasure and subsequent satisfaction with the items that Morse offered (April 14, 1856, and April 17, 1856). Patch wrote letters to former Massachusetts governors Marcus Morton and George S. Boutwell on May 8, 1856, requesting the names of council members who had served during their administrations; he later thanked Morton for his prompt response (May 14, 1856). One personal letter from Patch to a friend concerns the Know-Nothing Party, the 1856 presidential election, and Patch's pride in voting for John C. Frémont and "liberty" (July 17, 1856).