Russell A. Alger family papers  1842-1975 (bulk 1863-1865, 1888-1945)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Russell A. Alger papers contain personal and professional correspondence of Alger, who served as governor of Michigan (1885-1887), United States secretary of war (1897-1899), and United States senator (1902-1907). The collection also includes military correspondence related to the Spanish-American War, materials from a distant branch of the Alger family, and letters related to United States Representative Bruce Alger's experiences in the Army Air Corps during the Second World War.

The Russell A. Alger materials series contains three subseries: Correspondence, Documents, and Scrapbooks. The Russell A. Alger Correspondence subseries is made up of 5 sub-subseries.

The Russell A. Alger incoming correspondence sub-subseries (1842-1919; bulk 1863-1865 and 1885-1907) contains 1.5 linear feet of letters, documents, and other items received by Alger during his lifetime, with a particular focus on his military service in the Civil War, his political activities as a leading Republican Party member in Michigan, and his service and legacy as secretary of war under William McKinley during the Spanish-American War. The earliest letters in the collection are official correspondence from military leaders about the 5th Michigan Cavalry's service from 1862-1865. Several post-war letters concern Alger's reputation, which opponents called into question during his rise to political prominence.

Items from the 1880s and early 1890s include many written by the era's leading Republicans, such as Mark Hanna, James G. Blaine, and Benjamin Harrison, who wrote a series of approximately 20 letters about Alger's presidential campaigns in 1888 and 1892. Much of the later correspondence relates to Alger's service as secretary of war during the Spanish-American War, with letters from military personnel and political figures including J. Pierpont Morgan, Nelson A. Miles, William R. Shafter, Leonard Wood, Theodore Roosevelt, and William McKinley. Roosevelt wrote several letters to Alger during his own military service and during his presidency, regarding various political appointments. Two letters illustrate Roosevelt's hopes that Alger will support the reinstatement of the annual army-navy football match (August 17, 1897) and canal-building efforts in Panama (June 18, 1906). Much of William McKinley's correspondence (61 items) respects Alger's service as secretary of war, and includes the president's official acceptance of Alger's resignation from the cabinet (July 20, 1899). Much of Alger's incoming post-war correspondence pertains to efforts to secure his reputation following the Spanish-American War and to his published book on the conflict.

The Russell A. Alger outgoing correspondence sub-subseries contains items written by Russell A. Alger, including a small amount of Civil War-era correspondence and a larger number of letters written during his later political career. The bulk of the series, written from 1884-1907, represents Alger's tenure as governor of Michigan (1884-1887) and as secretary of war (1897-1899). Of interest is a letter of April 13, 1898, regarding the sinking of the Maine in Havana Harbor and the declaration of war against Spain. Other topics in Alger's letters include a shipment of reindeer from Norway (March 21, 1899), affairs in Alaska, the Panama Canal, and political endorsements for both local and national positions.

The items regarding the tour of officers & soldiers in the election of 1896, & the endorsement of Russell A. Alger as a member of President McKinley's Cabinet sub-subseries contains correspondence about Russell A. Alger and William McKinley's tour throughout Michigan during the presidential campaign of 1896, and about Alger's other efforts in the campaign. Of note is a letter from Senator Jacob H. Gallinger, who wrote to William McKinley, "I express the hope that you may invite General Alger into your official family. He will make a model Secretary of War, and will be a strong and reliable man in the Cabinet" (January 23, 1896).

The Letters and Telegrams from General Miles sub-subseries contains 564 once-bound pages of chronologically ordered copies of official military correspondence exchanged during the Spanish-American War. Army generals Nelson A. Miles and William R. Shafter are the most prominent correspondents in the subseries. They provided updates on the Cuban theater of the war. The series spans the entire calendar year of 1898.

The Russell A. Alger semi-official letters, semi-official orders, and telegrams sub-subseries contains 28 bound volumes of carbon copies dating from Alger's service as secretary of war. The series contains 20 volumes of semi-official letters (March 9, 1897-July 24, 1899), 2 volumes of semi-official orders (June 4, 1898-August 1, 1899), and 6 volumes of telegrams (July 9, 1897-August 1, 1899).

The Russell A. Alger documents subseries contains four sub-subseries.

The Russell A. Alger Civil War service documents sub-subseries includes original and manuscript copies of documents related to Alger's Civil War service record and actions during the conflict. The subseries also contains two postwar documents. One of two postwar documents is a list of Civil War battles in which Alger participated.

The Testimony of General Alger Before the War Investigation Committee is a typed copy of Russell A. Alger's testimony regarding the hygiene of American soldiers and camps during the summer of 1898, given before the Dodge Commission later that year. The testimony includes manuscript annotations.

The Gervasio Unson proclamation and affidavits sub-subseries contains the original Spanish text and a translated English copy of Provisional Secretary Gervasio Unson's proclamation and accusations regarding the treatment of guerillas in the Philippines and the general conduct of American officials in the islands. Several documents appended to the proclamation lend factual support to the various allegations.

The Correspondence and documents regarding Florida, Puerto Rico, and Cuba sub-subseries is made up of the following items: correspondence describing rail systems in Florida in the early 20th century; a report on the island of Puerto Rico made on March 14, 1898; letters related to military supplies during the Spanish-American War; several letters regarding the publication of Washington the Soldier by General Henry B. Carrington, including a printed copy of the book's preface; the typescript of an interview given by Russell A. Alger to Henry Campbell of the Milwaukee Journal, March 24, 1900; a booklet on regulations for import/export officers; and a printed copy of the Cuban census of 1900.

The Russell A. Alger scrapbooks subseries contains six volumes of newspaper clippings:

  • Alger's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, April-June 1888
  • Alger's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, February-April 1892
  • "Presented to General Russell A. Alger by the Citizens of Detroit upon his return to his home. August Second, 1899," July-August 1899
  • "Politics: Detroit Newspapers," regarding Alger's campaign for Michigan's vacant Senate seat, August 1902-May 1903
  • "Politics: State Papers," pertaining to Alger's campaign for Michigan's vacant Senate seat, August 1902-May 1903
  • "In Memoriam Hon. Russell A. Alger," January 1907

The Alger family materials series contains eight subseries.

The Alger family correspondence subseries is divided into the seven sub-subseries: David Bruce Alger correspondence, Bruce Alger correspondence, Clare Fleeman Alger correspondence, Oberlin college correspondence and documents, Richard Edwin ("Eddy") Alger correspondence, Albert W. Alger correspondence, and Miscellaneous Alger family correspondence.

The David Bruce Alger correspondence contains numerous letters from Alger to his parents, Richard Edward Alger and Esther D. Reynolds, about David's time at Oberlin College in the early 20th century; the birth and early childhood of his son, Bruce Reynolds Alger; and about St. Louis, Missouri, in the 1920s, including descriptions of "plucky boy" and celebrated pilot Charles Lindbergh. Incoming correspondence consists of Civil War-era receipts; documents and letters of David Baker Alger; a letter from Russell A. Alger, Jr., to a sibling; a letter from an American soldier serving in France in 1917; several letters from David Bruce Alger's father written in 1943; and a 1975 letter regarding recent physical problems.

David Bruce Alger's Oberlin College correspondence and documents consist of items associated with Oberlin College in the 1910s, including ephemera. Of interest are a program from an Oberlin Glee Club concert (1912), three copies of a pamphlet for the "Eezy Cheezers," and an 1882 promotional thermometer.

The Bruce Alger correspondence consists primarily of Bruce Reynolds Alger's letters to his parents, written during his time in the Army Air Corps in the Second World War. Bruce wrote about his training at Kerry Field, Texas, and in California. In a number of letters from 1945, he described the end of the war as he experienced it in the Pacific theater. The sub-subseries also includes the annotated text of a 1937 chemistry examination from Princeton University, reports of Alger's academic progress at Princeton, and a newspaper article about his football career.

The Clare Fleeman Alger correspondence is made up of correspondence and documents related to David Bruce Alger's wife, Clare Fleeman Alger. In letters to her parents and to other friends and family, Clare described her life as a newlywed and, later, as a new mother. Miscellaneous items in this series include several religious tracts, drafts of poetry and essays, and documents regarding Bruce Reynolds Alger's academic progress at Princeton.

The Richard Edwin ("Eddy") Alger correspondence contains incoming letters, 1885-1921, written by family members to "Eddy" or "Cousin Ed." The group also includes a typed collection of several of his short poems.

In the Albert W. Alger correspondence are a number of letters written to various family members by Albert W. Alger.

The Additional Alger family correspondence, documents, and printed items consists of seven Civil War-era documents by various Alger family members, items related to the St. Louis Writers' Guild, invitations to various weddings and graduation ceremonies, a marriage certificate for Melvin C. Bowman and Mary H. Parcell, and a commemorative stamp from Lundy Island. Of note are two pages of a Civil War-era letter by John H. Houghes, who described a military engagement and the burial of a fallen soldier in the surrounding mountains. The group also contains books, pamphlets, and newspapers. Books include the Student's Reference Work Question Manual and Russell A. Alger's copy of Roswell Smith'sEnglish Grammar on the Productive System . The pamphlets are promotional material for a 1904 World's Fair exhibit, issues of various periodicals belonging to Clare Fleeman Alger (many of which contain her writing), and a copy ofAn Outline History of Richfield Township, 1809-1959 . Other items are newsletters from 1916 and 1921, with contributions by Clare Fleeman Alger; a printed map of the Alger Park neighborhood in Dallas, Texas; a newspaper clipping from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; a program from a piano recital; and scripts for two radio-based language-learning programs (French and German).

The collection includes 40 volumes of Alger family diaries . Six volumes include a book kept by David Bruce Alger and five volumes belonging to Esther Reynolds Alger, written between 1878 and 1881. Among other materials are an early item likely composed by Richard Edwin Alger (1891), a "Note Book for Sunday School Teachers and Workers" probably kept by Esther Reynolds Alger in the late 19th century, and an Esther Reynolds Alger diary from 1900.

The remainder of the series contains material, spanning 1905-1973, that belonged to David Bruce Alger. His early diaries include a "Foxy Grandpa" notebook (1905) and a series of annual daily journals written from 1910 to 1919. Two five-year diaries chronicle 1920-1924 and 1926-1930, followed by single and two-year volumes kept between 1931 and 1937. An uninterrupted series of five-year volumes covers 1938-1975, although his entries taper off around 1973. David Bruce Alger kept his diaries regularly, composing a few lines about the weather and his activities on a near-daily basis.

The Clare Fleeman Alger manuscript submission records are a series of index cards. They are filed alphabetically by poem or essay title. Each record contains the name of a work, the publication to which the manuscript was submitted, and the date. The records pertain to works written in 1917 and from 1931 to 1943. Occasional rejection letters and drafts are interfiled within the subseries.

The Receipts subseries consists of 9 items dating to the 19th century.

In the Documents subseries are manuscript copies of correspondence regarding Alger's Civil War service, made and authorized by the War Department at a later date. The subseries also includes two typed copies of Lieutenant Philip H. Sheridan's "Account of the Battle of Booneville," and two copies of a "Statement of the Military History of Russell A. Alger."

The Photographs subseries contains four photographs. One is a portrait of Russell A. Alger's wife, Annette Henry Alger, labeled "Aunt Nettie."

The Newspapers and clippings subseries contains a small number of short articles, dating primarily in the 1930s. The clippings relate to various members of the Alger family; for example, one item pertains to the death of Russell A. Alger's son, Frederick Moulton Alger, in 1934. The subseries also includes three full size Kansas City, Missouri, newspapers from 1883, 1897, and [1898].

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