The William B. Sprague and Joseph H. Hedges collection is made up of 132 letters, notes, and fragments largely dating between 1842 and 1899. The correspondence, largely outgoing letters from W. B. Sprague and J. H. Hedges, concerns the autograph and other collecting activities of William B. Sprague of Albany, New York; Eliza H. A. Allen of Providence, Rhode Island; Eliza's cousin Elizabeth Rotch Arnold of New Bedford, Massachusetts; and Joseph H. Hedges of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The papers are arranged in three groups: letters by William B. Sprague; correspondence of Joseph H. Hedges; and other correspondence, notes, and fragments. William B. Sprague's primary recipients were Eliza H. A. Allen (80 letters) and her cousin Elizabeth Rotch Arnold (19 letters), with an additional six letters to other recipients. Joseph Hedges's correspondence includes 19 incoming and outgoing letters. An additional eight miscellaneous letters, notes, and fragments complete the collection.
William Sprague's letters largely related to the contents of his, Allen's, and Arnold's collections, recent acquisitions, desiderata, and trades/gifts of autographs between Sprague and Allen and between Sprague and Arnold. They also touch on other collecting activities. On multiple occasions Eliza Allen and Elizabeth Arnold sent Sprague contributions to his wife Henrietta's collection of shells (see for example W. B. Sprague to Elizabeth R. Arnold, November 2, 1842, and January 21, 1843), which Sprague often reciprocated with gifts of autographs. He also discussed with them his use of the franking privilege of various friends in Congress.
William B. Sprague's 80 letters to Eliza H. A. Allen date from 1840 to 1875 (bulk 1840-1850). They are mostly in his own hand (with the exception of four letters in the hand of an amanuensis), and signed variously "WB Sprague" and "WBS." He sent them largely from Albany, New York; other locations include Boston, Massachusetts; Flushing, New York; and Andover, Connecticut. Toward the end of their correspondence, multiple years passed between letters.
Correspondence with Elizabeth R. Arnold in this collection is comprised of 19 incoming letters from Sprague. They are entirely in his own hand and signed variously "WB Sprague" and "WBS". He sent them from Albany, New York, 1842-1849.
The Sprague miscellaneous correspondence contains six letters dating from 1828-1862:
- One letter from Sprague to Robert Gilmore, of Baltimore, Maryland, another pioneer of American autograph collecting, regarding an exchange of autograph specimens.
- One letter to Sprague from C. F. Mercer, likely Charles Fenton Mercer, son of Revolutionary politician James Mercer, regarding Mercer's potential gift of autographs to Sprague.
- One letter to Sprague from Isaac Taylor, of Stamford, Essex, another autograph collector, regarding their collections.
- Three letters from Sprague to unknown recipients, likely other collectors, regarding various exchanges and gifts of autographs.
The incoming and outgoing letters of Joseph Hedges date from 1843 to 1899 and pertain to a variety of subjects. Many of his correspondents were autograph dealers and other autograph collectors, and wrote about the purchase and trade of autographs. Hedges signed his letters variously "JH Hedges" and "JHH."
The collection includes eight additional letters, notes, and fragments. It includes five letters sent by Bangs, Merwin and Co.; John J. Morris; Adrian H. Joline; Charles H. Morse; and Lyman C. Draper. It also includes a list of autograph materials, an autographed note mounted on cardstock, and a cardstock folder fragment bearing fragments of notes.