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Guide to the Charles Henry Wenman papers ARC.104

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Tanya Elder

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 12, 2016
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Last revised by John Zarrillo  , May 2016

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Hilfers, Kathleen
Creator: Wenman, Charles Henry, 1869-1957
Title: Charles Henry Wenman papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1798-1951
Abstract: Charles Henry Wenman was born in Rensselaerville, N.Y. in 1869. By 19, he had already secured a clerkship and within a few years, had become General Bookkeeper for the Illinois Central Railroad. By the time Wenman left the company in 1906, he had held various positions at the railroad. Wenman then became secretary to Stuyvesant Fish (1851-1923), the former president of the Illinois Central Railroad. Wenman held this position until Fish's death in 1923 and continued as secretary to the Fish family into the 1940s. Apart from Wenman's work with the Fish family, he also ventured into business on his own. In 1923, he formed the Stenciltype Company, which made mimeograph stencil machines for advertising and duplication. The company dissolved in 1925. Wenman also helped his cousin run the Crea-Mont Country Club in Culver Lake, N.J. from 1925-1927. Besides investing in the Stenciltype Company, Wenman also invested in a fraudulent motion picture company, Century Motion Picture Company, as well as several other ill-fated business ventures. Charles Henry Wenman was a long-time Brooklyn resident and lived most of life at his home in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Wenman died in 1957.
Quantity: 9.0 linear feet in six record cartons, two manuscript boxes, one half manuscript box, and one photograph album.
Text [Carton]: 1 of 9
Text [Carton]: 2 of 9
Text [Carton]: 3 of 9
Text [Carton]: 4 of 9
Text [Carton]: 5 of 9
Text [Carton]: 6 of 9
Text [Box]: 7 of 9
Graphic materials [Box-folder]: Photograph album 1981.013
Call Phrase: ARC.104
Sponsor: 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

Charles Henry Wenman (1869-1957) was the eldest son of Reverend Charles Aldis Wenman (b. 1841) and Anna Helena Hilfers Wenman (1851-1936). Rev. Wenman and Anna Hilfers were married at Grace Church in Brooklyn on October 15, 1868. Rev. Wenman served as a clergyman at Protestant Episcopal Church, also in Brooklyn. Due to a chronically weak and sore throat, he had to resign his position as Assistant Rector. Following his resignation, the Wenmans left Brooklyn and moved to Rensselaerville, N.Y. located about 150 miles north of New York City. Charles Henry Wenman was born there on December 23, 1869.

The family did not remain long in Rensselaerville and next moved to Cleveland, N.Y. where Eugene Hoffman Wenman was born on June 3, 1871 and Frederick Huntington Wenman was born on Dec. 22, 1872. After three years, the family moved again, this time to Cambridge, N.Y. Rev. Wenman's tenure at Cambridge lasted less than a year and the family then moved to Theresa, N.Y. A local sheriff tried to prevent the financially strapped Wenmans from leaving Cambridge, but a last-minute reprieve allowed the family to proceed to Theresa. Wenman's sister, Gertrude Wenman Castellanos, was born in Theresa on August 30, 1874.

At the age of 14, Wenman had already become self-supporting, and by 19 had secured a clerkship after finishing school. His uncle, John P. Ritter, introduced Charles to his friend, railroad baron Stuyvesant Fish, Sr. (1851-1923), then acting president of the Illinois Central Railroad. Within a few years, Wenman became the general bookkeeper of the company. By the time Wenman left in 1906, he had held various positions at the railroad, and after Fish's forced retirement from the railroad, Wenman became his secretary until Fish's death in 1923. Wenman continued in that position to the Fish family into the 1940s. As secretary to the family, Wenman helped Stuyvesant Fish, Jr. compile a genealogy of the Anthon Family. Fish's mother, Marian Graves Anthon (1853-1915), married Stuyvesant Fish, Sr. on June 1, 1876.

Fish was forcibly retired from the railroad by Western and Central Railroad president, and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, Edward H. Harriman (1849-1909). Harriman coveted Fish's Illinois Central due to the railroad's excellent development and assets. Harriman sought to obtain Illinois Central by accusing Fish of mishandling and padding the funds of the Commonwealth Trust Company, a holding company under the Fish banner. Wenman, along with several other employees, resigned from the railroad.

Apart from Wenman's work with Fish, he also ventured into businesses of his own. In 1923, he formed, with his nephew Frederick Wenman, and with patent attorney and inventor Thomas Hill, the Stenciltype Company. The company produced mimeograph stencil machines for advertising and duplication. According to documents within the collection, Hill turned out to be fraudulent, and by 1925, the company had dissolved. Upon the dissolution of the company, Wenman was plunged into a court battle for non-payment of wages. In addition, Wenman helped his cousin run the Crea-Mont Country Club in Culver Lake, N.J. from 1925-1927. Besides investing in the Stenciltype Company, Wenman also invested in a fraudulent motion picture company, Century Motion Picture Company, as well as several other ill-fated business ventures.

Wenman lived for a time at 436 Macon Street before moving to his life-long residence located at 990 Park Place in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1905. His mother lived with him until her death in 1936, as well as his sister, Gertrude Wenman Castellanos, who had been abandoned by her spouse, Paul Castellanos Sr., in the early 1900s. In 1909, his brother, Frederick Wenman, previously committed to the Kings County Hospital, died due to health complications. Frederick's son, Frederick Jr., died in the 1930s, after suffering from a heart ailment. Charles Henry Wenman died on June 15, 1957, and is buried in the Wenman family plot in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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Scope and Contents note

The Charles Henry Wenman papers span 1798-1951. The collection has been arranged into six series, with several series further arranged into subseries. These series are: Personal correspondence, 1899-1950;  Fish business records, 1947-1951;  Wenman business records, 1915-1925;  Wenman legal and real estate papers, 1936-1950;  Wenman business and personal ledgers, 1843-1947;  Wenman personal writings, 1901-1949;  McFarland Family photographs, 1944-1947; and  Genealogical papers, 1798-1951.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Fish, Stuyvesant, 1851-1923
  • Harriman, Edward Henry, 1848-1909
  • Hilfers, Kathleen
  • McFarland, Beatrice, 1930?-
  • McFarland, William, 1931?-
  • Wenman, Charles Henry, 1869-1957
  • Wenman, Frederick Huntington, 1872-1909
  • Wenman, Mary

Document Type

  • Balance sheets
  • Business records
  • Bylaws (administrative records)
  • Constitutions
  • Correspondence
  • Deeds
  • Diaries
  • Financial records
  • Ledgers (account books)
  • Legal documents
  • Letter books
  • Minutes
  • Mortgages
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs
  • Reports
  • Tax records

Subject Organizations

  • Illinois Central Railroad Company.
  • Stenciltype Corporation.
  • Telautograph Corporation.

Subject Topics

  • Brownstone buildings -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Business enterprises -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Genealogy
  • Real property
  • Real property -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • East Village (New York, N.Y.)
  • Japan
  • Long Island City (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); Charles Henry Wenman papers, ARC.104, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Other Finding Aids note

A folder-level inventory of the collection is available in the collection's accession file. For access to this inventory please contact our reference staff at

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of James Hurley, date unknown.

Processing Information note

The Charles Henry Wenman papers were originally arranged in 1978. At the time of original arrangement, the papers were placed in 35 archival boxes, and loosely categorized by personal correspondence, business correspondence, Fish family papers, Wenman real estate papers, and Wenman business records. Two boxes of genealogical notes and data gathered by Wenman were placed in a separate genealogical collection. No finding aid or description was written, but over 100 catalog cards were placed in the manuscript area of the card catalog, under the name of Wenman, Charles.

In 1996, with the aid of a grant from the Delmas Foundation and the National Historic Publications and Records Commission, Holly McCammon was hired as the Project Archivist. Her mission entailed enhancing access to the manuscript collections of the Brooklyn Historical Society. McCammon surveyed the Wenman collection, deeming it to be a collection that could be placed in storage during the final phases of the Brooklyn Historical Society building restoration.

In 1997, Tanya Elder was hired as Project Archival Assistant to McCammon, and was subsequently assigned the task of arranging and describing the Wenman papers in preparation for the move to storage. Elder combined many of the materials that were placed in separate folders, so that the total number of archival boxes was reduced from 35 to 17. The records were processed from July 1997 to September 1997.

Minor updates to the finding aid were made by Leilani Dawson, December 29, 2005.

In 2007 the boxes were transferred from manuscript boxes to six record cartons, but the original box scheme to identify folders was retained.

In 2010, the collection was combined with a related collection. The combined accessions are 1977.335 and 1981.013. This finding aid was further revised and entered into Archivists' Toolkit by Patricia Glowinski in September 2010.

In 2014, the McFarland Family photographs were returned to the collection by John Zarrillo. They had been removed in 1997 (V1997.092). In January 2016, the two manuscript boxes of genealogical notes compiled by Wenman were found and reintegrated into the collection by Katie Bednark and John Zarrillo (Series 8).

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Container List

Series 1: Personal correspondence, Bulk, 1915-1940 1899-1950. 2.0 linear feet in two record cartons.

Scope and Contents

This series contains over 2,000 letters written mostly to Charles Wenman from his extended family members. Of particular interest are letters to and from the Hilfers, Wenman's relatives in Australia on his mother's side. Kathleen Hilfers kept up a correspondence with Charles from 1918-1949, relating events in the Outback of Australia, where she lived, as well as genealogical ties between English, Australian, and American relatives.

The series also contains correspondence to and from various Fish family members. Of particular interest is an obituary written by Wenman following the death of Edward Harriman in 1909. Stuyvesant Fish's response to Wenman's obituary and to the death of Harriman, his one time friend turned foe, can also be found in folder 8. Upon the death of Stuyvesant in 1923, Wenman inherited $5,000. Wenman was also invited to the marriage of Marion Fish Gray on September 12, 1907, and inherited money from her estate as well. Throughout the family correspondence, the picture of Wenman's personal and family life can be seen. An avid gift-giver to his family members, Wenman kept in close contact with relatives, particularly nieces, nephews, and cousins. The correspondence chronicles the ups and downs of a family through war, hardships, arguments, and happy moments. Some non-family related letters deal with Wenman's membership in the Saint Nicholas Society, the Australian Eucalyptus Chemical Company, and Wenman's protest against the American Association Favoring Reconsideration of War Debt.

Series 2: Fish business records, 1837-1947. 1.5 linear feet in one and a half record cartons.

Scope and Contents

Series 2 is divided into three sub-series: Correspondence, legal, and financial records, 1937-1947; Telautograph Corporation, 1915-1926; and Real estate, 1847-1939.

Sub-series 1: Correspondence, legal, and financial records, 1937-1947

Scope and Contents

This sub-series includes five letter books maintained by Wenman, 1897-1942. These letters represent correspondence sent by Wenman on behalf of Fish, as well as personal business and genealogical correspondence of Wenman's. In addition, as secretary and accountant to the Fish enterprise, there are also balance sheets of income taxes paid by Fish, inquiries into business ventures, and copies of mortgages and deeds. Also included are legal documents concerning the alliance made between Fish family members after the death of the elder Fish, in their "Union-That-Nothing-Be-Lost" corporation deal of 1924-1926; and correspondence and balance sheets involving the Illinois Central Railroad, the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, the Continental Railroad, and the Commonwealth Trust Company (also know as the Mercantile Trust).

Sub-series 2: Telautograph Corporation, 1915-1926

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 2 concerns the Telautograph Corporation, 1915-1926, a venture concerning the use of the telegraph system to reproduce handwritten messages. This sub-series includes balance statements, progress reports, stockholder statements, correspondence, and stockholder notices.

Sub-series 3: Real estate, 1837-1941

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 3, Real estate, 1837-1941, contains an abstract of Fish land holdings on 6th Street to 9th Street between Avenues C and D in Manhattan. Minutes, audits, rental assessments, and a rent collection ledger for 194-196 East 3rd Street in Manhattan are included under the Petersfield Realty Firm. A deduction of title and map of the Petersfield Farm area of Manhattan, now the Gramercy Park neighborhood, is also included in this subseries. While there are deeds, mortgages, and titles in sub-series 1, they deal with property owned or lived on by the Fish family. The items in this sub-series constitute land that was rented or sold by the Fish family through the Petersfield Realty Firm.

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Series 3: Wenman business records, 1915-1930. 1.5 linear feet in one and a half record cartons.

Scope and Contents

This series is arranged into two subseries: Stenciltype Corporation, 1923-1925; and  Wenman investment records, 1915-1930.

Sub-series 1: Stenciltype Corporation, 1923-1925

Scope and Contents

This sub-series consists of the business records of the Stenciltype Corporation, 1923-1925. Included are correspondence, the agreement to form the company, receipts, minutes, patent and dispute of patent records, legal documents pertaining to lawsuits, tax records, and Board of Directors records.

Sub-series 2: Wenman investment records, 1915-1930

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 2, Wenman investment records, 1915-1930, includes correspondence, balance sheets and legal documents concerning several investments made by Wenman, including investments in the Ace Motorcycle Company, 1924-1925; Century Motion Pictures, 1915; and the Dual Gap Spark Plug Company, 1924.

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Series 4: Wenman legal and real estate papers, 1936-1950. 1.5 linear feet in one and a half record cartons.

Scope and Contents

Wenman legal and real estate papers, 1836-1950, is organized into four subseries: Client legal papers and lawsuits, 1836-1939;  Household construction and maintenance records for 990 Park Place, 1905-1950;  Real estate, 1914; and  Crea-Mont Country Club, 1925-1927.

Sub-series 1: Client legal papers and lawsuits, 1836-1939

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 1, Client legal papers and lawsuits, 1836-1939, consists of family estate papers of the Hamilton family, Wenman's aunt, Nellie Hilfers, papers from the estate of Peter Stuyvesant, and two lawsuits brought against Wenman because of his connections with the Fish business. Also included is correspondence relating to the commitment of Frederick Wenman, Sr., an application for declaration of mental incompetence, and detailed bills for the housing and treatment of Frederick, which were paid by Charles from 1904-1909. Also included is a letter of introduction signed by P.T. Barnum. The letter, addressed to Eugene Schuyler, introduces the brother of the famous 19th century Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind. How this letter came into the possession of Wenman is unknown.

Sub-series 2: Household construction and maintenance records, 1905-1950

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 2, Household construction and maintenance records, 1905-1950, chronicles the construction and maintenance of Wenman's brownstone located at 990 Park Place in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Of particular interest are letters between Wenman and the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn and problems Wenman had with the New York City Building Codes department. The correspondence also illuminates the transformation of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood with the arrival of new ethnic groups, particularly European immigrants and African Americans.

Sub-series 3: Real estate, 1914

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 3, Real estate, 1914, includes correspondence and building specifications of property owned by Wenman at Academy and Webster Streets in Long Island City, New York.

Sub-series 4: Crea-Mont Country Club, 1925-1927

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 4, Crea-Mont Country Club, 1925-1927, details Wenman's business venture with his cousin's wife, Mary Wenman, in the maintenance of a country club she built on Culver Lake in New Jersey. Of interest in this sub-series are papers relating to the running and maintenance of a large country club during the 1920s. Wenman dealt with many different aspects of running a hotel and restaurant, including selection of menu printing, room counts and departures, memberships, staff hiring, and rules of conduct. Also of interest is a photograph album showing exterior and scenic views of and around the Crea-Mont Country Club, as well as photographs of people at the country club. All photographs are black-and-white prints.

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Series 5: Wenman business and personal ledgers, 1843-1947. 1.5 linear feet in one and a half record cartons.

Scope and Contents

Series 5 is arranged into three sub-series: Account ledgers, cash books, and check registers, 1881-1940; Personal expense ledgers and daily journals, 1911-1947; and Gulick Guards, 1843-1848.

Sub-series 1: Account ledgers, cash books, and check registers, 1881-1940

Scope and Contents

This sub-series consists of account ledgers, cash books, and check registers, 1881-1940.

Sub-series 2: Personal expense ledgers and daily journals, 1911-1947

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 2, Personal expense ledgers and daily journals, 1911-1947, is of particular interest because it includes Wenman's daily journals for the years 1925 and 1933-1935. The journals chronicle the whereabouts of Stuyvesant Fish, Jr. on a daily basis, weather for the day, entries of calls made to and by Wenman, and some personal notations of appointments.

Sub-series 3: Gulick Guards, 1843-1848

Scope and Contents

Sub-series 3 contains the Gulick Guards book of members, bylaws, constitution and minutes, 1843-1848. Several members of Wenman's family were members of the Gulick Guards. The Gulick Guards were an organization associated with Fire Engine Company #40 of Brooklyn, New York.

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Series 6: Wenman personal writings, 1901-1949. 0.5 linear feet in one record carton.

Scope and Contents

Series 6 contains writings by Wenman including autobiographical notes, letters to various editors of New York newspapers, historical essays and notes, and Wenman's protestations of the taxation system in the United States.

Series 7: McFarland Family photographs, 1944-1947. 0.01 linear feet in one folder (box 7)

Scope and Contents

Series 7 contains four photographs relating to two members of the McFarland family, namely William McFarland and Beatrice McFarland. It includes two photographs taken in Japan, while William was visiting in 1947.

Series 8: Genealogical papers, 1798-1951. 1.0 linear feet in two manuscript boxes

Scope and Contents

Series 8 is comprised of genealogical notes compiled by Wenman, and is arranged into two sub-series: Fish family papers, 1913-circa 1950; and Wenman family papers, 1798-1951.

Sub-series 1: Fish family papers, 1913-circa 1950

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 1 "Address at the Unveiling of a Tablet Near the Site of Beverley House" by Stuyvesant Fish
Box: 8 Folder : 2 Anthon family
circa 1920-1950
Box: 8 Folder : 3 Astor family
circa 1920-1950
Box: 8 Folder : 4 Fish family
circa 1920-1950
Box: 8 Folder : 5 "The Life of Stuyvesant Fish, Jr."
circa 1920-1950
Box: 8 Folder : 6 Kip family
circa 1920-1950
Box: 8 Folder : 7 Rogers family
circa 1920-1950

Sub-series 2: Wenman family papers, 1798-1951

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 8 Bagley family
Box: 8 Folder : 9 Braine family
Box: 8 Folder : 10 Bras/Brass family
Box: 8 Folder : 11 Bush family
Box: 8 Folder : 12 Castellanos family
1902, 1937
Box: 8 Folder : 13-14 Coddington family (2 folders)
Box: 8 Folder : 15 Contoit family
Box: 8 Folder : 16 Coutant family
1902, 1910
Box: 8 Folder : 17 Cox family
circa 1909-1940
Box: 8 Folder : 18 Dann family
Box: 8 Folder : 19 deBouillon family
Box: 8 Folder : 20 Dimmick family
Box: 8 Folder : 21 Dobson family
Box: 8 Folder : 22 Dyckman/Dikeman family
circa 1930-1950
Box: 8 Folder : 23 Elliot family
1901, 1933, 1938
Box: 8 Folder : 24 Farrington family
1933, 1939, 1944
Box: 8 Folder : 25 Green family
Box: 8 Folder : 26 Gundlach family
circa 1900-1940
Box: 8 Folder : 27 Gunther family
Box: 8 Folder : 28 Hilfers family
Box: 8 Folder : 29 Wenman's Notebook "Genealogical Notes"

General note

Notebook with cover in poor condition containing Charles H. Wenman's genealogy notes on various family names. Notebook has alphabetic tabs and names are organized alphabetically under appropriate letter tab by surname. Loosely inserted is a document dated 1858, titled "Table of Relations & Connections of Rev. Wenman."

circa 1900s-1920s
Box: 8 Folder : 30-31 Hyer Correspondence (2 folders)

General note

Correspondence between Charles Wenman and Richard Hyer, a genealogist in New Hampshire, concerning Wenman family research.

Box: 9 Folder : 1 L'Hommedieu family
Box: 9 Folder : 2 Langdon family
Box: 9 Folder : 3 Lawrence family
Box: 9 Folder : 4 Lear family
Box: 9 Folder : 5 Lester family
Box: 9 Folder : 6 Limberger family
1900, 1942
Box: 9 Folder : 7 Lyman family
1902, 1940-1945
Box: 9 Folder : 8 Morris family
circa 1900-1945
Box: 9 Folder : 9 Mott family
circa 1890-1940
Box: 9 Folder : 10 Nicholl family

General note

Includes small book, "The Nicoll Family and Islip Grange" by Rosalie Fellows Bailey, No. 29, Publications of the Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America, 1940.

1940; circa 1940-1950
Box: 9 Folder : 11-13 Martling family (3 folders)
1900-1901, 1932-1949
Box: 9 Folder : 14 Pardee family
1885, 1947
Box: 9 Folder : 15 Penny family
1847, 1857, 20th century
Box: 9 Folder : 16 Randall family
Box: 9 Folder : 17 Robinson family
1904-circa 1940s
Box: 9 Folder : 18 Rutan family
Box: 9 Folder : 19 Schuyler family
circa 1920s-1940s
Box: 9 Folder : 20 Seely family
circa 1920s-1940s
Box: 9 Folder : 21 Sigison/Sigerson family
Box: 9 Folder : 22 Smart family
Box: 9 Folder : 23 Southark family
Box: 9 Folder : 24 Stebbins family
Box: 9 Folder : 25 Suydam family
Box: 9 Folder : 26 Swan family
Box: 9 Folder : 27 Taylor family
Box: 9 Folder : 28 Van Beuren family
Box: 9 Folder : 29-31 Wenman family (3 folders)

General note

Includes chart of Suydam, L'Hommedieu, Hepburn, and Wenman connections. Also contains manuscript titled, "The Wenman Family of the First and Original Founders Families," compiled by B.B. Allen, 1905.

Box: 9 Folder : 32 1798 Seal inquiry
1798, 1927
Box: 9 Folder : 33 Multiple families

General note

This file contains papers that are relevant to more than one family name being researched by Charles Wenman.


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