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Guide to the Augustus Graham family papers ARC.033

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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Patricia Glowinski

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 22, 2011
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Additional content contributed by Emily Reynolds on January 13, 2011.  , January 13, 2011

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Coleman, Chester
Creator: Goddard, Elizabeth Hayes
Creator: Graham, Augustus, d. 1851
Title: Augustus Graham family papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1806-1965
Abstract: The Augustus Graham family papers consist of materials documenting the professional and family life of Brooklyn businessmen and philanthropist Augustus Graham (d. 1851). The collection spans the years 1806-1965. Augustus Graham, born Richard King in Modbury, Devon, England, was the son of John King and Mary King (nee Barrons). Modbury Parish Records list his baptism as April 15, 1776. It is unclear when Richard King began calling himself Augustus Graham. Also around 1808, Graham formed a business partnership with John Bell. Bell, a Scotsman originally from Northern Ireland, also adopted the surname of Graham. By 1822, Augustus and John had started the Brooklyn White Lead Company.
Quantity: 0.4 Linear feet in one manuscript box.
Mixed materials [Box]: ARC.033 1 of 1
Call Phrase: ARC.033
Sponsor: This finding aid was written by Cesar Garza in 2006. In 2010, the finding aid was revised and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Matthew Gorham. This collection was processed and described as part of the project, "Uncovering the Secrets of Brooklyn's 19th Century Past: Creation to Consolidation," funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, with additional support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

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Biographical note

Augustus Graham (d.1851), born Richard King in Modbury, Devon, England, was the son of John King and Mary King (nee Barrons). Modbury Parish Records list his baptism as April 15, 1776. It is unclear when Richard King began calling himself Augustus Graham. In 1806, Graham married Martha Cocke (sometimes written as Cock) in Frederick County, Maryland. By 1808, Graham had become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Also around that time, he left his wife and two children at her parents' family farm in Maryland. Graham continued to financially support his wife and children, though he would never live with them again. Only one of Graham's children, Elizabeth (Eliza), lived into adulthood.

Also around 1808, Graham formed a business partnership with John Bell. Bell, a Scotsman originally from Northern Ireland, also adopted the surname of Graham. As the Graham brothers, their initial business ventures included running a stagecoach line in Maryland, a lumber business in Delhi, N.Y, and a brewery and distillery in Norwich, N.Y. In 1815, Augustus and John moved their brewery and distillery to Brooklyn, N.Y. After the original distillery burned down in 1816, they built a larger distillery, this time to much financial success. By 1822, they had left the distillery business and started the Brooklyn White Lead Company. Incorporated in 1825, the white lead company grew to employ 90 people and was valued at $435,000.

Concurrently, while establishing the Brooklyn White Lead Company, both Augustus and John were also involved in philanthropic ventures. Augustus Graham founded the Apprentices' Library in 1823. The mission of the library was to educate and provide an intellectual outlet to tradesmen. The Apprentices' Library became the Brooklyn Institute in 1843. Augustus Graham served as president of the Brooklyn Institute until his death in 1851. The Brooklyn Institute would go through two more changes. In 1890, it was incorporated as the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and finally, in 1897, as the Brooklyn Museum. Today, the Brooklyn Museum is one of the largest museums in the United States.

While doing philanthropic work in New York, Graham also pursued philanthropic ventures in England. In 1840, Augustus Graham, using his birth name of Richard King, founded the Modbury Literary and Scientific Institution in Modbury, Devon, England. With goals similar to that of the Apprentices' Library, the institution was created to provide library and lecture facilities to the people of Modbury.

John Bell Graham founded the Brooklyn Society for the Relief of Respectable Aged, Indigent Females in 1851. The organization's name was legally changed to the Graham Home for Old Ladies in January of 1899. Today, the building, located at the corner of Washington and DeKalb Avenues in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, still stands but as condominiums. John Bell Graham died in Brooklyn in 1853.

Augustus Graham and John Bell Graham were close friends as well as business partners. They shared a residence at Front and Dock Streets (now the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn) for many years before each established separate households. For some time, Augustus and John also shared their residence with Maria Graham Taylor, sometimes referred to as Isabella Taylor. Though many believed her to be their sister, there is no substantiating documentation to prove this. Maria died in 1829 at the age of 53 years. Augustus Graham, John Bell Graham, and Maria Graham Taylor are all buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Sources:

  1. Stiles, Henry R. A History of the City of Brooklyn. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Published by subscription, 1869.
  2. Hoogenboom, Olive. "Augustus Graham." Unitarian Universalist Historical Society. http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/augustusgraham.html (accessed July 12, 2010).
  3. "The Death of John B. Graham." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March, 11, 1853, 2.

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Scope and Contents note

The Augustus Graham family papers consist of materials documenting the professional and family life of Brooklyn businessmen and philanthropist Augustus Graham (d. 1851). The collection spans the years 1806-1965.

Included in the collection are certificates, including the certificate of naturalization for Augustus Graham of Great Britain, issued by the state of Maryland, Frederick County Court, April 2, 1808; correspondence, 1845-1965; several poems including a poem written by Augustus Graham; a biographical manuscript and chronology of the life of Augustus Graham, 1965; genealogical research and related correspondence compiled by Elizabeth Hayes Goddard, 1941-1964; tickets to the coronation of King William IV and Queen Adelaide at Westminster Abbey, 1813; two passports issued to Augustus Graham, 1831 and 1843; a news clipping from 1886 regarding the "mystery" of the Graham brothers; legal documents pertaining to the contested will of Augustus Graham, 1854-1856; a Photostat negative copy of the will of John Bell Graham, 1853; documents and ephemera relating to the Brooklyn Institute, 1825-1887; documents relating to the Church of the Savior, now the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, including a discourse on Augustus Graham given by Pastor Frederick A. Farley after the death of Graham and Board of Trustees resolutions regarding the death of Augustus Graham, 1851; and photographs of a silver tea set, the monument of Augustus Graham located in Green-Wood Cemetery, and portrait painting of Augustus Graham and John Bell Graham. The original silver tea set and portrait paintings are located at the Brooklyn Museum.

The photographs are of oil portraits of Augustus Graham, John Bell Graham, Mrs. John Bell Graham (painted by Charles Nahl, 1850). The portraits are still in the possession of the heirs of Augustus Graham. There are also two black-and-white photographs of a silver tea set that was given the Brooklyn Museum by the Elizabeth Hayes Goddard and one black-and-white photograph of Augustus Graham's invitation to the coronation King William the 4th and Queen Adelaide, 1831. The actual tickets to the coronation are included in the collection.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Coleman, Chester
  • Graham, Augustus, d. 1851
  • Graham, John Bell, d. 1853

Document Type

  • Certificates
  • Correspondence
  • Legal documents
  • Passports
  • Photographs
  • Wills

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn City Hospital.
  • Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.
  • First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • Green-Wood Cemetery (New York, N.Y.).

Subject Topics

  • Charities -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Genealogy
  • Industrialists

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction rights for the photographs have not been evaluated. Please consult library staff for more information.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Augustus Graham family papers, ARC.033, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Other Finding Aids note

There is a detailed inventory list for this collection located in the Othmer Library at Brooklyn Historical Society. Please consult library staff for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Elizabeth Hayes Goddard, Nelson Hayes, and George M. Hayes, 1965.

Processing Information Note

Minimally processed to the collection level.

This collection combines the accessions 1974.261 and 1977.266.

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