Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Benson J. Lossing Collection, 1850-1904

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, August 2012

Summary Information
Title: Benson J. Lossing collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1850-1904
Bulk dates: 1850-1891
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
This collection is primarily made up of Benson J. Lossing's incoming and outgoing correspondence concerning his writings about and interest in numerous subjects in American history. Essays, newspaper clippings, and ephemera are also included.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1935-2017. M-263, M-1187, M-1210, M-1240, M-1717, M-2629, M-2769.1, M-2812.3, M-2889.2, M-3184, M-3445.3, M-4935, M-6072.

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:

Benson J. Lossing Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Writings and Biographical Sketches
  • Series III: Printed Items

Each series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Benson John Lossing was born in Beekman, New York, on February 12, 1813, the son of John Lossing and Miriam Dorland. He received little formal education and worked on a farm after being orphaned at the age of 11. A few years later, he was apprenticed to Adam Henderson, a watchmaker and silversmith from Poughkeepsie, New York, and in 1833 he became Henderson's business partner. Lossing left the watchmaking business in 1835, and subsequently edited and published the Poughkeepsie Telegraph, Poughkeepsie Casket, and Family Magazine. He became a prolific author, and wrote extensively on American history and biography. He married Alice Barritt in 1833 and, following her death (1855), married Helen Sweet in 1856; he and Helen had four children. Benson J. Lossing died in Dover Plains, New York, on June 3, 1891.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is primarily made up of Benson J. Lossing's incoming and outgoing correspondence (179 items, 1850-1904) concerning his writings about and interest in numerous subjects in American history. Essays, newspaper clippings, and ephemera are also included (18 items, 1849- ca. 1884).

The Correspondence series (179 items) mostly contains incoming letters to Lossing about his career as a historian. Some writers thanked Lossing for sending them copies of his books or otherwise commented on his works, such as his Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812. Others offered biographical details on historical figures, notes on family genealogies, and information about historical events. Some older correspondents provided firsthand accounts of events, and other writers shared information about potential primary source material. The American Revolutionary era and War of 1812 were common topics, though at least one letter was written during the Civil War. Historical figures discussed included John André and Oliver Hazard Perry; one man wrote about busts of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Some authors enclosed newspaper clippings in their letters, and two made drawings: one of an unidentified building (June 2, 1851) and one of the grave of James Ross (May 11, 1852). One letter from a publisher postdates Lossing's death.

Benson Lossing wrote occasional letters about his work, and at least one of his letters contains a printed form letter requesting historical information.

The Writings and Biographical Sketches (8 items) are brief essays about historical topics, mostly in Benson J. Lossing's handwriting. Subjects include copied inscriptions from a monument marking the Battle of Red Bank and biographies of Colonel Anthony White, William H. Winder, and Alexander Lillington. One item is a copied "Parole of Honor," with Lossing's added notes on some of its signers. Two signed manuscript drafts of articles include "The British Flag and the American Sailor Boy," which was later published as "Anna Van Antwerp and John Van Arsdale" in the Christian Union, and "Mr. Lincoln A Statesman," which appeared in Osborn H. Oldroyd's The Lincoln Memorial: Album-Immortelles. An essay about William H. Winder is attributed to Mrs. A. W. Townsend of Oyster Bay, New York.

The Printed Items series (10 items) is comprised of programs, newspaper clippings, obituaries, a chapter in a published volume, and engravings. One clipping is a reprint of an article written by Benson J. Lossing.

Subject Terms

    • André, John, 1751-1780.
    • Historians--United States.
    • Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
    • Perry, Oliver Hazard, 1785-1819.
    • Red Bank, Battle of, N.J., 1777.
    • United States--Historiography.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States--History--War of 1812.
    • Washington, George, 1732-1799.
    • White, Anthony Walton, 1750-1803.
    • Winder, William Henry, 1775-1824.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Lossing, Benson John, 1813-1891.
    • Sepulchral monuments.
    • Lossing, Benson John, 1813-1891.
    Genre Terms:
    • Biographies.
    • Clippings (information artifacts)
    • Engravings (prints)
    • Essays.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Obituaries.
    • Programs (documents)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Box   1 Folders   1-18
     June 18, 1850-March 25, 1904, and  undated
    Writings and Biographical Sketches [series]
    Folders   19-20  
     1882 - [1884] and  Undated
    Printed Items [series]
    Folder   21  
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library holds many published items by Benson J. Lossing. These are available by searching the University's catalog, Mirlyn.

    Other manuscript collections at the Clements Library with Benson J. Lossing materials include:

    • American Travel collection: Samuel S. Forman ALS to Benson J. Lossing (March 17, 1853)
    • Jared Sparks collection: Jared Sparks ALS to Benson J. Lossing (March 19, 1853)
    • Peter Force papers: Benson J. Lossing ALS to Peter Force (June 9, 1857) and Benson J. Lossing ALS to Peter Force (October 11, 1858)
    • George and Samuel B. Fales collection :

      • Robert R. Carson ALS to Benson Lossing; April 7, 1862. encouraging Lossing to utilize the Union Volunteer Refreshment Committee's business card in a projected pictorial history of the war, and attached a newspaper clipping reporting a grand jury's approval of the project.
      • Arad Bellows ALS to Benson Lossing; August 6, 1866. Providing a list of corrections and additional information about the Union Refreshment Saloon, in response to Lossing's recent work.
      • James S. Schoff Civil War Letters and Documents: Charles Stone ALS to Benson J. Lossing (November 5, 1866)
    • Handy family papers: Benson J. Lossing ALS to Moses Handy (December 6, 1877); Benson J. Lossing ALS to the Philadelphia Times (March 4, 1879); and Benson J. Lossing to Moses Handy (April 30, 1879)
    • John André, The Cow Chace: Benson J. Lossing ALS to George W. Childs (March 21, 1881)

    Marks, Alfred H. "Lossing, Benson John." American National Biography Online. Oxford University Press: 2000. DOI: 16-01021