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Guide to the Henry C. Murphy papers ARC.189

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Brooklyn Historical Society

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This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 19, 2011
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Biographical/Historical note

Henry Cruse Murphy (1810-1882) was a Brooklyn lawyer, Democratic Party politician, U.S. Minister to the Netherlands, businessman, editor, and historian. Murphy was the eldest son of John Murphy and Clarissa Runyon, a couple originally from New Jersey who had moved to Brooklyn after their marriage. John Murphy became a leading figure in Brooklyn's public and commercial life; among other notable accomplishments, Murphy, with Rodman Bowne, invented and patented a horse-powered wheel used to propel ferries across the East River.

Henry Murphy, born in Brooklyn on July 5, 1810, graduated from Columbia College in 1830. He studied law under Peter W. Radcliffe of New York, and started his own practice in 1833, with offices in the Apprentices' Library Building at Pineapple and Fulton. Murphy became actively involved with the newly-incorporated city of Brooklyn in several ways, including as corporation counsel and as mayor. Murphy was active in local Democratic Party circles as a partner in the politically influential firm of Lott, Murphy and Vanderbilt. On the national political stage, he served two terms in the U.S. Congress (1843-1848) and was an active supporter of James Buchanan in his successful candidacy for U.S. President in 1856. Murphy's support was rewarded in 1857 with his appointment as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands (1857-1861). After returning to Brooklyn, Murphy was elected to the New York State Senate six times, beginning in 1863. As a state senator in the late 1860s, Murphy was involved in the creation of the New York Bridge Company, the corporate entity responsible for building the Brooklyn Bridge, and later became an officer of the company.

Throughout his adult life, Murphy also pursued an interest in literary and historical matters. He amassed a large library; translated historical works, notably those written in Dutch; and conducted research concerning colonial American history in various archives, including the Dutch Archives while he was in Europe. Murphy authored several works, including monographs on Henry Hudson, Giovanni da Verrazano, and Jacob Steendam, a Dutch poet in New Netherlands. Murphy was a founder of the Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society), which published his translation of the Journal of a Voyage to New York by Jaspar Dankers and Peter Sluyter.

Murphy died on December 1, 1882, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

(Principal source: Memoir of Hon. Henry C. Murphy, LL.D., of Brooklyn, N.Y. by Henry Stiles. Available in the Brooklyn Historical Society library, call number CT275.M87.S85.1883).