Solomon G. Haven family papers  1839-1895
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Solomon G. Haven family papers contain the business and personal letters of Solomon Haven, as well as many letters of his wife and daughters. The collection holds 185 letters.

The Solomon Haven Correspondence series consists of 103 letters written from Haven to James Smith, his law partner in Buffalo, New York; 33 letters to his wife; and several letters addressed to various political acquaintances. Most of the letters were written during the period of Haven's congressional career, with the heaviest concentration being from 1853 to 1856.

The letters to Smith contain scattered commentary on the Supreme Court, before which Haven argued three times, on Erie County politics, and on their legal practice in Buffalo. These also offer extensive commentary on New York state politics, including discussions of most of the major figures in the state at the time; references to the various intraparty factions; and discussion of the role of political newspapers during this period of political volatility. Of particular note is the detailed commentary on congressional politics surrounding the struggle over the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, the election of the Speaker of the House (1855-56), and a description of various party conventions in 1856, especially the Know Nothing convention in Philadelphia. By this time, Haven had become a fierce American Party supporter, a fiscal conservative, and an ardent critic of the political games being played by most of the Democratic, Whig, and Republican schemers in Washington and Albany. In a letter to his friend James Osborne Putnam (1818-1903), Haven wrote: "You ask for the Whig party. You would as yet ask in vain for any party here -- there is but little doing effective here for the future -- Cass and Douglass are playing high at the game of Weasel" (December 20, 1851).

Solomon’s letters to his wife Harriett (Hatty) were written between 1839 and 1858, and have an affectionate tone; their focus is largely on the many Washington, D.C., social events, such as parties, celebrations, balls, dinners, and other social/political gatherings, which he typically found tiresome. He was a regular guest for dinner at the White House. His letters relay information about who attended the parties, such as the wives of generals, congressmen, and the President, what the ladies’ were wearing and how they interacted with the men. An 1856 letter mentions the reaction of Elizabeth Spencer Cass (wife of lawyer and politician Lewis Cass) to the caning of Charles Sumner (1856).

The Mary and Ida Haven Correspondence series (39 items) documents two trips taken by Mary Haven to Europe. The first commenced sometime before December 1877 and ended in 1879. Mary spent her time primarily in Paris, leaving only for short excursions to Cannes, France, and Geneva, Switzerland. Her second trip began in June 1884, and lasted until sometime after August of the same year. This trip started with short visits to several cities in Germany and Switzerland, and, by August 29, 1884 (the last letter of her correspondence), she had returned to Paris.

Mary, also known as Ninnie, wrote her letters to her sisters, Ida and Antoinette, and to her mother, all of whom lived at the same address in Buffalo, New York. She traveled with other Americans including a traveler named “Puss,” who, as internal evidence suggests, is her husband, Charles Day. She often discussed her activities in Paris and the differences between life at home and life in Paris, her membership in an Art club, other social engagements, and her trips to other European countries. Her letters show, however, that she spent much of her time socializing with other Americans and British friends. While in Europe, she attended “English church.” As a member of an Art Club, Mary spent some of her time painting and taking art classes.

In two letters from Paris (April 29 and May 16, 1878), Mary wrote about attending the opening of the Exposition Universelle: she waited amidst hordes of other people and saw celebrities who passed near her, such as Queen Isabella and her daughter; the Prince of Wales; the Prince of Denmark; foreign ambassadors and generals of the French Army; and many others. Mary wrote a particularly interesting anecdote about a dressmaker, Madame Connelly from New York, who, in a state of drunkenness, told her that she purchased dresses and belts in France very cheaply and re-sold them in New York for an enormous profit (March 26, 1878). A letter from May 16, 1878, mentions the divorce of a woman whose husband cannot support her, possibly because he was an alcoholic. When traveling to Europe in 1884, Mary noted that writer Mariana Griswold Schuyler Van Rensselaer was on the same ship.

Seven incoming letters to Mary and a single miscellaneous item complete the series. Her sister Ida wrote two letters while she traveled abroad in Germany in the summer of 1880. At this time, Mary was living in New York. Alice Craven Jones, a family friend in Hampstead, London, wrote five letters in the 1890s. Alice offered hopes that her family would come to visit them overseas, offered condolences for the death of a loved one in 1890 (likely Mary’s sister, Antoinette), and related the news of Minnie Jones’ marriage to a lawyer by the name of Perks (1895). Finally, an 8-page unsigned letter to Ida Haven describes visits to small villages in Italy; the writer worked with the Red Cross and commented extensively on the manner, dress, and religion (Catholic) of the citizens.

Two items contain decorated letterheads: the letter from August, 24, 1879, has scenic pictures of famous locations on stationary from a hotel in Zurich, and an undated item (marked only July 15) features printed pictures of the buildings Sprudel-Colonnade and Muhlbrunn-Colonnade.

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