Olcott family papers  1819-1915 (bulk 1870-1898)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The correspondence encompasses both business and personal matters. The main recipients were George H. and his daughter Adelaide Olcott, the former having received 20 and the latter 32. Most business correspondence includes receipts for the purchase of large quantities of grocery items, advertising flyers for canned goods, asbestos building materials, an offer for a subscription to the "Library of Wit and Humor," and employment agencies supplying references for people of various trades. Another item that George received was a letter from Charles L. Webster & Co., publishers of the book, The Table: how to buy food, how to cook it, and how to serve it (1889), by Alessandro Filippini, who retired as the chef of Delmonico's Restaurant in New York City in 1888. The letter was accompanied by two advertisements for Filippini's book, one of which contains several of his recipes.

Other business correspondence was from patrons, who were arranging a stay at the Olcott House or discussing financial matters. Adelaide, on the other hand, received more personal correspondence from friends and relatives. She did, however, also receive some business correspondence related to the hotel. Like her father, she ordered supplies for the hotel and collected payment from patrons.

As the Olcott family received advertisements from various businesses, so they too made an effort to make their hotel known to the public. In particular, George advertised in New York City. He utilized such services as "J.W. Gray's Agency of Country Resorts," which advertised "Summer Homes for 1886 within a radius of 500 miles of New York" (April 1, 1886). On George's own business letterhead, he advertises, "Families Taken in at Moderate Rates," and "Good Fishing and Hunting in the Vicinity" (July 25, 1889). The Olcotts also kept in touch with and befriended many of their patrons.

Letters from friends and acquaintances are filled with local and family news. One such letter to Adelaide from her niece of the same namesake, mentions experiencing electric lighting for the first time (January 17, 1892). Some discuss illnesses and deaths, while others relate recent travel plans, or news in their own lives. The letters also reveal details about the Olcott's lives. For instance, the fire that destroyed part of the hotel in September of 1903 and the hardships Adelaide endured as a result are alluded to in a letter that she received from her friends Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Rayner (October 11, 1903).

The collection also includes several letters written to or from members of the Helm family. Although it is possible they are relatives, their connection to the Olcott family is not clear. A deed for a land sale in Sullivan County from Jacob and Laura Helm to George Olcott (September 6, 1837 and May 7-10, 1839) is evidence of a business tie. One other letter written by a woman named Olive Newman to her niece is dated January 8, 1915. Their relationship to the Olcott family is also uncertain.

This collection contains a great deal of information on the interpersonal interactions between members of the Olcott family and their acquaintances. The many advertisements also give insight into the services and products that were available to the Olcotts, and especially how supplies were marketed to hotels in the 19th century.

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