Henry Vignaud papers (1840-1922, bulk 1860-1915 )

Collection processed and finding aid created by Ellen Poteet, Erin Platte, and Meg Hixon, October 2012
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Henry Vignaud papers
Creator: Vignaud, Henry, 1830-1922
Inclusive dates: 1840-1922
Bulk dates: 1860-1915
Extent: 3 linear feet
The Henry Vignaud papers are made up of letters, manuscript notes, and published works concerning Vignaud's diplomatic career and scholarly life in Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Letters and notes by his correspondents and fellow “Americanistes” Pierre Margry and Henry Harrisse comprise the bulk of the collection.
Language: The material is in French and 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

1953, 1962. M-940, M-1195.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Other Finding Aids:

The following books include manuscript items related to Henry Vignaud, many of which are tipped into or otherwise affixed to the volumes: Inventory of Henry Vignaud manuscripts located in books at the William L. Clements Library(.pdf).

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

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


The collection is arranged in the following series:
  • Series I: Henry Vignaud
    • Sub-series I: Correspondence
    • Sub-series II: Writings
    • Sub-series III: Writings of Ferdinand Denis
    • Sub-series IV: Printed Materials
  • Series II: Pierre Margry
    • Sub-series I: Correspondence
    • Sub-series II: Writings
    • Sub-series III: Biographical Portraits
  • Series III: Henry Harrisse
    • Sub-series I: Correspondence
    • Sub-series II: Writings
    • Sub-series II: Biographical Portraits
  • Series IV: Miscellaneous


Henry Vignaud

Jean-Héliodore Vignaud was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 27, 1830, the eldest of six children of Jean Lucien Vignaud and Clémence Godefroi. Jean- Héliodore later changed his name to Henry Vignaud. Vignaud taught school in New Orleans before founding two weekly journals, L'Union de la Fourche and La Renaissance Louisiannaise. During the Civil War, he served as captain of the Confederate Army's 6th Louisiana Regiment until his capture during the fall of New Orleans in 1862. Vignaud fled to France after his imprisonment and remained there for the rest of his life.

In 1863, Vignaud became secretary of the Confederate Diplomatic Commission to Paris, and, after the war, Chancellor of the Romanian Diplomatic Agency. From 1875 to 1909, he served as secretary to the American legation in Paris. Vignaud developed an interest in early American history and frequently corresponded with the self-styled "Americanistes" Pierre Margry and Henry Harrisse. He became president of the Société des Americanistes de Paris (1908), and he published many works on American history. He married Louise Compte in 1879 and lived in the Parisian suburb of Bagneux. Henry Vignaud died in 1922.

Pierre Margry

Pierre Margry was born in Paris in 1818 the son of a painter. Margry finished his studies at College Charlemagne in 1838. Against the advice of his father, Margry decided to embark on a literary career. He accepted a position in the government while also writing articles for newspapers and teaching Latin, French, and English. Margry was hired by General Cass, the American Ambassador to France, for three years and later at the advice of Cass, Margry was hired by M. Brodhead, who was looking for documents relating to the colonial history of the state of New York. This position launched Margry's research and publishing career and developing his interest in North American colonial history. Margry published several works on the subject throughout his career. He served as archivist to the Ministry of the Navy and Colonies Pierre Margry died on March 27, 1894.

Henry Harrisse

Henry Harrisse was born in Paris in 1829, but emigrated to the United States at a young age to live with his family. He practiced law in Chicago before returning to Paris, where he met Henry Vignaud, Pierre Margry, and other "Americanistes." He published works on American history and Egyptology. Henry Harrisse died in 1910.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Henry Vignaud papers are made up of letters, manuscript notes, and published works concerning Henry Vignaud's diplomatic career and scholarly life in Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection is divided into four series: Henry Vignaud, Pierre Margry, Henry Harrisse, and Miscellaneous. Groups of correspondence, writings, printed materials, and biographical portraits are arranged within each series.

The Henry Vignaud series includes incoming and outgoing letters, manuscript notes, and published works related to Henry Vignaud.

The Correspondence subseries mainly consists of letters Vignaud received between 1866 and 1922 regarding his diplomatic work and academic interests. Correspondents, such as Pierre Margry and Henry Harrisse, often discussed articles and other publications about North American history. One 496-page letter book contains copies of Vignaud's outgoing correspondence from February 25, 1876, to June 1, [1888]. Written in both English and French, these letters relate to his appointment as secretary for the United States legation in Paris. The letter book contains a chart comparing the sizes and expenditures of the standing armies of European countries (p. 198) and a floor plan for the United States legation's new offices (p. 343).

The Writings subseries contains notes, speeches, and manuscript books by Henry Vignaud. He compiled notes about topics in American history and composed biographical sketches of Henry Harrisse. He entitled his manuscript books Lettre de Toscanelli à Martins (Texte et Traduction) and Notes de Ximenes sur la Lettre de Toscanelli. Additionally, his papers include the bottom portion of a colored map depicting the French-German border and a description of plans for an arc de triumphe to stand over the "Monument du Gen. Lafayette," accompanied by a photograph of the model of the monument. The second photograph is a of mock-up a statue of George Washington and Lafayette shaking hands; the statue now stands in Moringside Park,New York City. Both photographs are signed by [Frédéric-Auguste] Bartholdi.

The Writings of Ferdinand Denis , a fellow Americaniste and future librarian of the Saint Geneviève Library in Paris, consist of his manuscript notes on topics related to Portuguese exploration and colonies, particularly in South America.

The Printed Materials subseries includes articles that Benjamin Franklin Stevens wrote about unpublished manuscript collections in European archives and specimen pages from his annotated facsimile edition of Christopher Columbus: His Own Book of Privileges 1502…. Additional materials dated between 1895-1896 pertain to a legal case involving the former American consul to Madagascar, John L. Waller.

The Pierre Margry series of letters, writings, and other items relates to Margry's scholarly work on North America. The bulk of the Correspondence subseries comprises 381 incoming letters between June 1839 and October 1889 about his academic interests. Margry also composed Writings on various topics, such as Isle Royale, Canada, and Detroit. François-Edme Rameau de Saint-Père and Gabriel Gravier wrote Biographical Sketches about Pierre Margry shortly after his 1894 death; 4 engraved portraits of Margry accompany the biographies.

The Henry Harrisse series contains materials similar to those in the Pierre Margry series. The Correspondence subseries includes 11 letters, 3 undated and 8 sent between November 1866 and January 1904, Harrisse wrote about his academic work, discussion of publications by his colleagues, and his efforts to locate specific maps. The Writings subseries contains extensive manuscript notes related to his publications about the European discovery and early exploration of North America. This interest continue to be reflected in the Biographical Portraits subseries , which includes notes and proofs for Harrisse’s work on “Americus Vespuccius” and on the sixteenth-century explorers John and Sebastian Cabot, as well as a 1-page account of Harrisse written by John Johnson (June 23, 1891); Henry Vignaud's writings on Harrisse are located in the Henry Vignaud series.

The Miscellaneous series includes 13 additional letters, 3 postcards, 2 funeral invitations for Sigismond-Joseph-Marie-Louise de Pourcet, baron de Sahune and Antoinette Helin, an invitation to a ceremony honoring the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase on December 18-20, 1903, and other miscellaneous notes.

Subject Terms

  • Louisiana Purchase.
  • Columbus, Christopher.
  • Vignaud, Henry, 1830-1922.
  • Margry, Pierre, 1818-1894.
  • Harrisse, Henry, 1829-1910.
  • Denis, Ferdinand, 1798-1890.
  • Paris (France)
  • Bagneux (Hauts-de-Seine, France)
  • United States. Legation (France)
  • America--Discovery and exploration.
  • Waller, John Lewis, 1850-1907.
  • Société des américanistes de Paris.
  • Société des américanistes (France)
Subjects - Visual Materials:
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834.
  • Margry, Pierre, 1818-1894.
  • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
  • Monuments.
  • Bartholdi, Frédéric Auguste, 1834-1904.
  • Margry, Pierre, 1818-1894.
  • Harrisse, Henry, 1829-1910.
  • Denis, Ferdinand, 1798-1890.
  • Stevens, Benjamin Franklin, 1833-1902.
Genre Terms:
  • Articles.
  • Biographies.
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Engravings (prints)
  • Letter books.
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Notes.
  • Pamphlets.
  • Photographs.
  • Portraits.
  • Speeches.
  • Treatises.

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Henry Vignaud [series]
Correspondence [subseries]
Box   1 Folders   1-29
 June 21, 1866-July 7, 1906
Box   2 Folders   1-9
 December 13, 1906-August 19, 1922, and  undated
Letter Book,   February 25, 1876-June 1, 1888
Writings [subseries]
Box   2 Folders   10-18
 December 18, 1890-1912 and  undated
Box   2 Folder   19
 June 30, 1912
Manuscript books
Box   2 Folders   20-21
Writings of Ferdinand Denis [subseries]
Box   2 Folders   22-27
Box   3 Folders   1-7
Printed Materials [subseries]
John L. Waller legal case
Box   3 Folders   8-10
Volumes   1-2  
Benjamin Franklin Stevens specimen pages
Pierre Margry [series]
Correspondence [subseries]
Box   3 Folders   11-31
 June 14, 1839-October 22, 1869
Box   4 Folders   1-24
 December 8, 1869-October 30, 1889, and  Undated
Writings [subseries]
Box   4 Folders   25-40
Box   5 Folders   1-3
Biographical Portraits of Pierre Margry [subseries]
Box   5 Folders   4-8
 1894-1897 and  undated
Henry Harrisse [series]
Correspondence [subseries]
Box   5 Folders   9-10
 November 16, 1866-January 19, 1904, and  undated
Writings [subseries]
Notes (Several of these items are located in Oversize Manuscripts)
Box   5 Folders   11-18
Biographical Portraits of Henry Harrisse [subseries]
Box   5 Folders   19-24
Miscellaneous [series]
Box   5 Folders   25-28
 May 15, 1871-December 1923

Additional Descriptive Data

Alternate Locations

La Carte du Musée S. Borgia (Premiere moitie du XVe siècle), which contains a complete 10 page manuscript by Henry Vignaud, is housed in the Clements Library's Map Division.

The Clements Library's Graphics Division holds Stephen Seymour Thomas's Henry Vignaud, First Secretary, American Embassy, Paris, 1905 and a photograph of Henry Vignaud at a ceremony at Lafayette's tomb.

Related Materials

The University of Michigan purchased Henry Vignaud's library after his death. The collection is currently housed in the William L. Clements Library, the Special Collections Library, the Stephen S. Clark Library, and the University's general collections.

In addition to the Henry Vignaud papers, the William L. Clements Library holds additional maps, publications, and other materials related to Henry Vignaud. The following books include manuscript items related to Henry Vignaud, many of which are tipped into or otherwise affixed to the volumes: Inventory of Henry Vignaud manuscripts located in books at the William L. Clements Library (.pdf)


Growoll, Adolf. Henry Harrisse: Biographical and Bibliographical Sketch. New York: Printed for the Dibdin Club, 1899.

Nowell, Charles E. "Henry Vignaud: Louisiana Historian." The Louisiana Historical Quarterly. 38.1 (January 1955): 1-25.

Parsons, Edward Alexander. "Henry Vignaud: A Personal Sketch." The Louisiana Historical Quarterly 5.1 (January 1922): 63-75.

Parkman, Francis. Pioneers of France in the New World. The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century. La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West. The Old Regime in Canada. Library of America: 1983.

"Vignaud, Henry." Dictionary of American Biography. Volume X. Scribners: 1995. 268-270.