Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Wright Family Collection, 1835-1940

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, November 2011

Summary Information
Title: Wright family collection
Creator: Morfit, Campbell, 1820-1897
Inclusive dates: 1835-1940
Bulk dates: 1835-1868
Extent: 18 items
The Wright family collection consists primarily of correspondence related to the Morfit family and to Wilbur and Orville Wright's uncle, John Wright.
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:

1995. M-3168.2.

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:

Wright Family Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Henry Mason Morfit was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1793. After his capture at sea in 1810, Morfit escaped from his French captors and returned to the United States, where he became a lawyer and Andrew Jackson's commissioner to Texas in 1836. In 1857, he moved to Maryland, where he remained until his death. He and his wife, Catherine Campbell, had 15 children.

Campbell Morfit (1820-1897), the son of Henry M. Morfit, was a chemist and worked for a time as a professor of chemistry at the University of Maryland before moving to England during the Civil War. Morfit authored several notable works on the science throughout his life.

John Wright, the uncle of Wilbur and Orville Wright, lived in Chicago, Illinois, in the mid-1850s, and attempted to secure a patent for improvements in reaping knives and mining machines.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Wright family collection consists primarily of correspondence related to the Morfit family and to Wilbur and Orville Wright's uncle, John Wright. Several of the items in the collection relate to Henry Mason Morfit, John Wright's attorney, and to his son Campbell, including a series of letters from mid-1853 chronicling Wright's attempt to secure a patent for improvements to reapers and mining machines. Also included is a document dated May 26, 1852, in which Wright formally gave Morfit power of attorney in the matter. Other Wright items include a letter from Danforth P. Wright to Henry Wright, dated October 24, 1842, asking for genealogical information to be added to a history of the family. In addition to the John Wright letters, the collection also holds several items written to Campbell Morfit, Henry's son, mentioning his academic work at the University of Maryland. Later material in the collection includes a 1919 letter detailing the provenance of the John Wright papers, written on stationary from the Aero Club of America, and a 1940 letter composed by Orville Wright's secretary, confirming the Wright brothers' appreciation for the work of Lilienthal and Chanute.

Subject Terms

    • Education--United States--History--19th century.
    • Patents--United States.
    • Wright family.
    • Morfit, Henry Mason, d. 1868.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Powers of attorney.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   20, Small Collections  
    Wright family collection [series]
    Folder   27  
     February 15, 1835-June 2, 1853
    Folder   28  
     July 22, 1857-October 23, 1940, and  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The following volume once belonged to Orville Wright: Jeffries, John. A Narrative of the Two Aerial Voyages of Doctor Jeffries With Mons. Blanchard; With Meteorological Observations And Remarks: The First Voyage, On the Thirtieth of November, 1784 From London Into Kent: the Second, On the Seventh of January, 1785, From England Into France. London: Printed for the author and sold by J. Robson, 1786.

    The Keith Hook collection contains a recollection by Ira Hook, who witnessed one of the Wright brothers' early flights.


    Callahan, James Morton. Genealogical and Personal History of the Upper Monnogahela Valley, West Virginia. Volume 3. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912.