Henry B. Dawson papers (1836-1913)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Manuscript Division Staff
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Henry B. Dawson papers
Creator: Dawson, Henry B., 1821-1889
Inclusive dates: 1836-1913
Extent: 69 items (0.25 linear feet)
The papers of Editor and historian Henry B. Dawson primarily regard editorial tasks such as solicitations for subscriptions and inquiries about research materials. Many of the manuscripts focus on Dawson's work on the American Revolution.
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: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1936. M-296.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Preferred Citation

Henry B. Dawson Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan

Biographical/Historical Note

Born in England in 1821, Henry Barton Dawson emigrated to New York City with his parents in 1834. His formal education ended two years later, but his interest in literary pursuits was stimulated by his brief employment in a publishing a book-selling house in Ithaca, N.Y. From 1839 to 1856 he pursued a business career in New York City and became involved in social reform movements and politics. His concern with the perils of strong drink led him to a short stint as editor of the temperance newspaper, The Crystal Font and Rechabite Recorder in 1847. Later in that decade, he worked for the Free Soil Party and, in subsequent years, was an early supporter of the Republican Party. His allegiance to Republicanism and his interest in politics waned when he concluded that Republican policies were fostering a degree of governmental centralization that he considered to be unconstitutional.

His reputation as a historian began to form in the late 50s with the publication of a number of historical essays and of his first book, Battles of the United States by Sea and Land (2 vols., 1858) This latter work demonstrated Dawson's inclination to challenge accepted historical assumptions through revisionist analysis. In 1863 he published an edition of The Federalist which created controversy with James A. Hamilton and John Jay. Three years later he purchased the Historical Magazine which he edited until it ceased publication in April, 1876. His term as editor was marked by his desire to debunk fondly-held myths about local history. His interest in this subject led him to complete his most famous work, "Westchester County, New York during the American Revolution" which appeared in 1886 in J.T. Scharf's History of Westchester County .

Collection Scope and Content Note

Unfortunately, the letters and manuscripts in this collection reveal little about Dawson's participation in various historiographical controversies. Most of the letters deal with the tasks assumed by an editor--soliciting subscriptions or articles, inquiring about research materials, and related matters. The most famous of Dawson's correspondents was Abner Doubleday, who submitted--or intended to submit--an article to the Historical Magazine. There are several letters in the collection by a Joseph Sabin, who is probably the son of Dawson's contemporary, Joseph Sabin (1821-81), the author of the Dictionary of Books Pertaining to America from its Discovery to the Present Time. An intriguing, but somewhat mysterious inclusion is a set of letters from Charles Grey, son of Charles, the second Earl of Grey, and private secretary to his father, to Prince Albert from 1849 to 1861, and to Queen Victoria from 1862 to his death in 1870.

The manuscripts included here deal primarily with Dawson's work on the Revolutionary Period. Among them is a biographical sketch of Daniel Morgan, who led troops in North Carolina and Virginia and supported Washington against his early domestic opponents. Also included is a fragment of a memoir of Levi Hanford who fought in the Revolution and was captured by the British.

Subject Terms

  • Canadian invasion, 1775-1776.
  • Presidents--United States--Election--1844.
  • Hanford, Levi.
  • Historians--United States.
  • Morgan, Daniel, 1736-1802.
  • United States--Historiography.
  • United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
  • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Prisoners and prisons.
Genre Terms:
  • Memoirs.

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Box   59, Small Collections Folders   25-43
Henry B. Dawson papers,  July 8, 1836-May 28, 1913 [series]     Journal kept in Small Collections Box 59 - not in a numbered folder. 

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

Dawson, Henry B. The library of the late Henry B. Dawson, LL.D. To be sold at auction by Bangs & co. ... New York ([New York, D. Taylor, printer, 1890])

The Foederalist: a collection of essays ... Under the editorial supervision of Henry B. Dawson (New York, C. Scribner, 1867)

Jay, John Correspondence between John Jay and Henry B. Dawson ... concerning the Foederalist (New York, Printed by J.M. Bradstreet & son, 1864)

Partial Subject Index

Canadian invasion, 1775-1776
  • undated
Presidents--United States--Election--1844
  • undated
Hanford, Levi
  • undated
Historians--United States
  • passim
Morgan, Daniel, 1736-1802
  • undated
United States--Historiography
  • undated
United States--History--Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775
  • undated
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783
  • undated
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Prisoners and prisons
  • undated