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Guide to the William Richardson papers 1977.169

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Robert Sink and Matthew Gorham

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 09, 2011
Englsih using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.). Common Council.
Creator: Richardson, William
Title: William Richardson papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1858-1895
Abstract: The William Richardson papers span the period 1858 to 1895 primarily document Richardson's ownership of the Atlantic Avenue Railroad Company and his prominent role in the development of rail transportation in the City of Brooklyn during the 19th century. Included in the collection are correspondence, government and legal records, newspaper clippings, business records, and other documents.
Quantity: 0.42 linear feet in one manuscript box
Text [Box]: 1977.169 1 of 1
Call Phrase: 1977.169
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

William Richardson (1822-1893) was a prominent post-Civil War resident of Brooklyn. Born in England in 1822, he emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1834 and settled in Ohio. At the age of 18, Richardson moved to Albany, New York, where he worked as a hotel clerk, umbrella maker, and paper hanger. He also became active in the new Republican Party, serving as a member of that party’s first state committee. From 1857-1860 he was appointed Clerk to the State Assembly. In 1844 Richardson married Mary Freeman.

After serving as Army paymaster during the Civil War, Richardson moved to New York City in 1864 to become Superintendent of the Dry Dock, East Broadway and Battery Railroad Company. Shortly thereafter he was elected President of the company. In 1867 Richardson moved to Brooklyn when the opportunity arose to lease the Atlantic Avenue, East New York and Greenwood Railroad from the Brooklyn Central and Jamaica Railroad. Originally, Richardson obtained a 40 year lease on the line, but in 1872 his holdings were jeopardized when the Brooklyn Central and Jamaica defaulted on its mortgage. However, Richardson was able to secure complete ownership of his line, and he reorganized it as the Atlantic Avenue Railroad Company. He continued to operate the company for two decades, earning a reputation as a hard-working and foresighted businessman. In 1877 Richardson leased his rights to the Atlantic Avenue surface route to the Long Island Railroad. At this time the Long Island Railroad began using steam engines on the route, thus involving Richardson in the controversy over their use within the Brooklyn city limits. Finally, in 1892 Richardson sold the company to the Brooklyn Traction Company.

As a Brooklyn resident, Richardson remained active in Republican Party activities. Elected to serve two terms as Alderman for Brooklyn’s 22nd Ward from 1870-1874, Richardson was active on issues involving water supply, illuminating gas and local improvements for his Ward. As a politician, Richardson was regarded as a lieutenant of Republican boss Benjamin Tracy who was an officer of the Atlantic Avenue Railroad.

Richardson also served on the Kings County Board of Supervisors. In 1874 as the result of the resignation of the chief medical officers of the Kings County Lunatic Asylum, the Board of Supervisors appointed a Committee of Investigation Relative to the County Institutions. Richardson chaired this committee’s inquiries into the conditions of the agencies run by the County Commissioners of Charities. The committee’s printed report, issued in December 1874, recommended a few reforms of operating procedures. Upon his death the Brooklyn Daily Eagle eulogized Richardson for his faith in and dedication to Brooklyn’s railroads, his honesty, and his active involvement in civic causes.

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Scope and Contents note

The William Richardson papers span the period 1858 to 1895 and measure 0.42 linear feet. The papers primarily document Richardson's key role in the development of railroads in Brooklyn and include correspondence, government and legal papers, news clippings, and other documents. Included in the collection are Brooklyn City Council reports, petitions, and copies of laws; documents pertaining to the Kings County Lunatic Asylum and the Children's Aid Society; miscellaneous programs, invitations, pamphlets, and circulars; Atlantic Avenue Railroad city and state charters and laws, dated 1868-1892; documents concerning employees of the Atlantic Avenue Railroad; miscellaneous legal documents pertaining to railroads, including articles of association, maps, clippings, and specifications; railroad broadsides and leaflets; and railroad tickets. The railroads documented in the papers include the Atlantic Avenue Railroad Company, the Long Island Railroad, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad, and the 7th Avenue Railroad, among others.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Richardson, William

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Maps
  • Pamphlets
  • Petitions
  • Programs (documents)

Subject Organizations

  • Brooklyn Central and Jamaica Railroad Company.
  • Brooklyn Children's Aid Society.
  • Brooklyn Elevated Railroad Company.
  • Kings County Lunatic Asylum (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • Long Island Railroad Company.

Subject Topics

  • Charities -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Legal documents -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Railroad companies -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Railroads -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Street-railroads -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Transportation -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) |x Politics and government |y 19th century

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access note

Open to users without restriction.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); William Richardson papers, 1977.169, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Other Finding Aids note

A paper finding aid with description to the folder level is available in the Othmer Library. Please contact library staff for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Ruth R. Richardson, 1953.

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