Abigail Allen family papers (1829-1838, bulk 1837)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Erin Platte and Meg Hixon, October 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Abigail Allen family papers
Creator: Allen, Abigail M.
Inclusive dates: 1829-1838
Bulk dates: 1837
Extent: 8 items
The Abigail Allen family papers contain seven letters written to Allen by various family members, who discussed the economic impact of the Panic of 1837, 19th-century education, and social news from New Haven, Connecticut.
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

1999, 2001. M-4040, M-4163.5.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation

Abigail Allen Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Abigail M. Allen was the daughter of James Brewster of New Haven, Connecticut. In the 1830s, she lived in Medway, Massachusetts, with Captain Samuel Allen.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Abigail Allen family papers contain 8 letters written to Allen by various family members, who discussed the economic impact of the Panic of 1837, 19th-century education, and social news from New Haven, Connecticut. Abigail knew several teachers, who shared information about their schools, including recent lectures; they also remarked about the education of Abigail's younger sister. Her father, James Brewster, mentioned his business affairs several times, including the "dreadful conflagration which we have experienced," which destroyed much of his shop's stock (March 1, 1836). In another letter, he described the economic mood of New Haven just prior to the Panic of 1837, and told Abigail, "It is awful times here, there have been a great many failures" (May 5, 1837). Abigail's mother echoed the sentiments, but concentrated her letters more on family news and on domestic updates about mutual friends, including a discussion about a difficult local birth (May 11, 1837). The letters depict social and economic life in New Haven in the late 1830s.

The final letter in the collection, by Joseph B., relates a lengthy tale about being attached by "a party of Robbers & assassins." The writer walked though a wood near his uncle Lester's farm is near a forest, when he was attacked. " … a party of Robbers & assassins surrounded me … Instead of presenting their pistols to my throat & demanding my purse as I often heard they did--they attacked me with daggers--plainly shewing their object my blood & not my purse." He tried to resist but the group of three robbers had reinforcements, which caused him to flee. He fell in the swamp and sustained injuries from the robbers' knives before nearby farm hands heard his cries for help. In a postscript, Joseph B. reveals his jest when he states that the suspect of the crime "is discovered to be one of that murderous gang, so celebrated in both novels & [?] as the New Rochelle musquitoe " (September 4, 1838).

Subject Terms

  • Education--United States--History--19th century.
  • Jokes.
  • Mosquitoes--New York (State)
  • New Haven (Conn.)
  • United States--Commerce--History.
  • United States--Social life and customs--1783-1865.
  • Brewster, James.
Genre Terms:
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   17, Small Collections  
Abigail Allen family papers [series]
Folder   14-15  
  March 23, 1829-September 4, 1838