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Guide to the Cranston family papers and photographs 1994.013

128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11201
718-222-4111
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Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Lenge Hong and Leilani Dawson

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on March 20, 2015
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Cranston family
Creator: Cranston, Alfred
Creator: Cranston, Elizabeth Hollington Petford
Creator: Cranston, Ella
Creator: Morehouse family
Title: Cranston family papers and photographs
Dates [inclusive]: 1846-1923
Dates [bulk]: Bulk, 1860-1915
Abstract: The Cranston family papers and photographs comprise 2.5 linear feet of letters, clippings, books, certificates, ephemera, and photographs. The material originates from three generations of the Cranston and Morehouse families of Brooklyn, N.Y., who witnessed--among other events--the Civil War and Brooklyn's transition from an independent city to a borough of New York City. The majority of the collection relates to the lives of Alfred Cranston and his wife Elizabeth Petford Cranston, covering the period from 1846 to 1923 (bulk dates 1860 to 1915). The collection also contains items relating to their daughter Ella Cranston, the Morehouse family (from which family a daughter, Emma Louise, married the Cranstons' son, Alfred Petford Cranston), and the Oliver and Bellows families.
Quantity: 2.5 linear feet in two manuscript boxes, one half manuscript box, and one oversize box.
Graphic materials [Box]: Tintypes
Text [Box]: 3
Graphic materials [Box]: Cabinet cards
Text [Box]: 2
Graphic materials [Box]: Glass plate negatives
Text [Box]: 4
Text [Box]: 1
Graphic materials [Box]: Cartes-des-Visites
Call Phrase: 1994.013
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

Alfred Cranston (1840?-1919) and Elizabeth Petford (dates unknown)

Alfred Cranston was born in Savannah, GA around 1840, the eldest of seven children. At the age of four, his family moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. As a young man, he served with Engine 17 of Brooklyn's Volunteer Fire Department, and enlisted in Company 1 of the 14th Regiment of the New York State Militia in 1861. The regiment, known as Brooklyn's "Fighting Fourteenth," was in turn part of the 84th New York Infantry Regiment. Cranston fought in the Civil War from 1861 to 1864, eventually reaching the rank of Captain. Throughout the war, he maintained an active correspondence with his fiancée Elizabeth Hollington Petford. Cranston and Petford married in 1864 following his discharge, and Cranston became a member of Citizens Lodge No. 628, F. and A.M. (Free and Accepted Masons) in Manhattan. They had three children: Alfred Petford (b. 1865); Henrietta, or "Etta" (b. 1866); and Ella Maude (b. 1870). In 1865, Cranston was officially discharged from service as a firefighter during the reorganization of the Brooklyn Firefighters brigades, but seems to have remained a member of the Brooklyn Volunteer Firemen's Association until his death. In 1893, Cranston became superintendent of the Postal Telegraph Building in Manhattan, home of the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company. He retired in 1898.

Alfred Cranston remained active in veterans' affairs in the years after the Civil War. He served as Secretary of the 14th Regiment War Veterans Association, which held annual reunions and sponsored monuments such as the new 14th Regiment Armory at 8th Avenue and 15th Street in Brooklyn. Cranston was a charter member of the U.S. Grant Post No. 327 of the Grand Army of the Republic ("G.A.R."), Union Veterans of the Civil War. In 1909, the National Tribune, the official newspaper of the G.A.R., established a veterans' "colony" in the newly-founded town of St. Cloud, FL, having taken title to 35,000 acres of land through a subsidiary, the Seminole Land & Investment Company. In 1914, as a G.A.R. member and a Civil War veteran, Cranston received a "land script" worth $25 for purchase of a lot in the St. Cloud veterans' colony. The Cranston family began to spend summers in the Florida town, which, by 1914, boasted the second-largest G.A.R. post in the country. Cranston died in St. Cloud in 1919 at the age of 79. He had been a member of the Baptist church for over fifty years.

Elizabeth Hollington Petford Cranston was the daughter of Henrietta Hollington and the Rev. Charles Petford, a Baptist clergyman. The Petfords immigrated to the U.S. from Astwood, England shortly after their marriage. Charles Petford died of pneumonia in 1850 when Elizabeth and her sister, Emma, were children. Henrietta Petford later married a man named Richards, who imported needles manufactured in England by the Hollingtons. As Mrs. Alfred Cranston, Elizabeth Petford was active in the Society of the Wives and Daughters of the 14th Regiment War Veterans, serving as the Society's president from 1893 to 1915. After her tenure as president ended, she was named honorary president of the Society. She also took part in numerous church and charity activities.

Alfred Morehouse (1838-unknown) and Mary Elizabeth Coward (1838-unknown)

Alfred Morehouse, son of Calvin Morehouse and Elizabeth Van Riper, was born in Brooklyn in 1838. Like Alfred Cranston, he served as a volunteer firefighter, and worked in Harding's Tea Store as either an associate or partner. He and Mary Elizabeth Coward (b. 1838, in Tom's River, N.J.) were married in 1859 or 1860 and celebrated their golden anniversary in 1909. They had two daughters, Emma Louise and Minnie, both of whom were eventually buried with them in the same plot in Green-Wood Cemetery.

Alfred Petford Cranston and Emma Louise Morehouse

Alfred Petford Cranston and Emma Louise Morehouse were married in 1888, and had two daughters--Lillian Elsie and Marion Morehouse--before divorcing circa 1902. Alfred went on to marry his pregnant mistress. Like his father, Alfred Petford Cranston worked for the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company.

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Scope and Contents

The Cranston family papers and photographs comprise 2.5 linear feet of letters, clippings, books, certificates, ephemera, and photographs. The material originates from three generations of the Cranston and Morehouse families of Brooklyn, N.Y., who witnessed--among other events--the Civil War and Brooklyn's transition from an independent city to a borough of New York City. The majority of the collection relates to the lives of Alfred Cranston and his wife Elizabeth Petford Cranston, covering the period from 1846 to 1923 (bulk dates 1860 to 1915). The collection also contains items relating to their daughter Ella Cranston, the Morehouse family (from which family a daughter, Emma Louise, married the Cranstons' son, Alfred Petford Cranston), and the Oliver and Bellows families.

The collection is organized into three series: Manuscript Materials,  Books, and  Photographs.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Cabinet photographs
  • Cartes-de-visite (card photographs)
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Negatives (photographic)
  • Photographs
  • Printed ephemera
  • Tintypes (prints)

Subject Organizations

  • Postal Telegraph-Cable Company.
  • United States. Army. New York Infantry Regiment, 84th (1861-1864).

Subject Topics

  • Fire fighters -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • New York (State) |x History |y Civil War, 1861-1865 |x Regimental histories
  • Saint Cloud (Fla.) |x History

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use note

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

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Cranston family papers and photographs, 1994.013, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials note

The Brooklyn Firefighting Collection (1989.006) at the Brooklyn Historical Society offers a more in-depth look at the history of Brooklyn's volunteer and professional fire departments. Additionally, BHS holds a number of collections from Civil War soldiers and veterans' groups, such as the Grand Army of the Republic and various Brooklyn regiments. See, for example, Records of the Henry R. Lee Post #21 of the Grand Army of the Republic (1977.078), and the Josiah M. Grumman diary (1973.110). Grumman was a member of the 14th Regiment, Co. H., and kept the diary while a prisoner in Libby Prison, Richmond, VA from 1861 to 1862.

Other Finding Aids note

Series-level description and digital version of images from the collection are available for viewing via the Emma catablog.

A detailed finding aid, including box and folder lists for the Manuscript Materials and  Books series, is available in paper format and on the library's catablog via this link.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Beverly Wright Bastian, 1994. Alfred Cranton Civil War items (2000.002) were donated by Ann Bastian and Ellen McHenry in 1999.

Processing Information note

Fully processed to the folder level.

This collection combines three accessions: 1994.013, V1995.020, and 2000.002.

Finding aid authored and collection processed by Lenge Hong and Leilani Dawson in August 2006. Additional content contributed by Emily Reynolds on January 13, 2011. Finding Aid revised by Twila Rios in May 2013 under the supervision of Julie May.

Accession 2000.022 was added to the collection by John Zarrillo in February 2015. The accession consists of five Alfred Cranston Civil War documents, which were added to Series 1: Manuscripts, Sub-series 1: Alfred Cranston Papers. Three of the documents were placed in box 2, while two oversize documents were placed in the oversize box.

Photograph Records

Series-level description and digital version of images from the collection are available for viewing via the Emma catablog.

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Container List

Series 1: Manuscript Materials, 1846-1923. 2.3 linear feet in one and a half manuscript boxes.

Scope and Contents

Manuscript Materials includes all items in the collection, excluding the family's books and visual items. This series is divided into three sub-series:  Alfred Cranston Papers,  Elizabeth Petford Cranston Papers, and  Other Family Members Papers.

Sub-series 1: Alfred Cranston Papers, 1861-1919. 2.0 linear feet in 36 folders.

Scope and Contents

Alfred Cranston Papers, dated 1861 to 1919, contains all items other than books belonging to Alfred Cranston. Included is all correspondence written by Cranston, including a large number of letters written during his time in the 14th Regiment to his then-fiancée, Elizabeth H. Petford. These letters were transcribed by Beverly Wright Bastian prior donating the collection and the transcriptions are included, both in hard copy and as word processor files on a CD-ROM. Cranston's pocket-size edition of the Book of Psalms, likely issued to him during his military service, and a diary from 1864 are also included. Other items related to the Civil War include his Sergeant appointment certificate (1862), his Second Lieutenant certificate (1862), two discharge certificates (1862, 1863), and a leave of absense certificate (1864).

Cranston's firefighting activities, his employment by the Postal Telegraph Cable Company, and his participation in the St. Cloud Veterans' Colony in central Florida are represented by material in this sub-series.

Sub-series 2: Elizabeth Petford Cranston Papers, 1846-1923. 0.2 linear feet in six folders.

Scope and Contents

Elizabeth Petford Cranston Papers, dated 1846 to 1923, contains all items belonging to Mrs. Elizabeth Hollington Petford Cranston. Two folders include material from her early adulthood, such as a letter to her husband soon after their marriage, and ephemera related to her housekeeping, religious, and charitable activities. The bulk of this sub-series, however, concerns her extensive involvement with the Society of the Wives and Daughters of the 14th Regiment War Veterans, including handwritten drafts of her annual welcoming addresses to the Society, the constitution and by-laws of the organization, clippings of the Society's participation in various celebrations, membership certificates (with Cranston's original, hand-drawn design for them), and printed ephemera.

Sub-series 3: Other Family Members Papers, 1851-1912. 0.1 linear feet in five folders.

Scope and Contents

Other Family Members Papers, dated 1851 to 1912, includes correspondence and ephemera belonging to Ella Cranston (daughter of Alfred and Elizabeth Petford Cranston), clippings of marriage and anniversary announcements, and ephemera from the Morehouse family. This sub-series also contains one folder of material pertaining to the Oliver and Bellows families, relatives through Alfred Cranston's mother, Susan Ann Oliver. These items primarily relate to the funeral arrangements and interment in Green-Wood Cemetery of Sarah Ann Oliver Bellows, a cousin of the Cranstons.

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Series 2: Books, 1849-1906. 0.5 linear feet in one manuscript box.

Scope and Contents

Books contains 13 volumes, dated 1849 to 1906, that belonged to various members of the Cranston and Morehouse families. The majority were either inscribed to the owner or labeled with the owner's name by the donor prior to arrival at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The condition of volumes in this series varies from very good to poor.

Series 3: Photographs, circa late 19th century. 125.0 items in one folder, two cabinet card sleeves, and one negative storage box.

Scope and Contents

Photographs contains portraits, photo albums, cartes-de-visite, tintypes, cabinet cards, and glass plate negatives from the Cranston family. Images show Alfred Cranston, Sarah Ann Oliver and her mother Mrs. Oliver, Ella Cranston, her daughter Elsie, and Alfred Petford Cranston. Photographs related to Alfred Cranston's Civil War duty include images of General and Mrs. E.B. Fowler, W.H. Tigney, Ramon Cardona, the U.S. Grant Post No. 327 of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the 14th Regiment of the Grand Army of the Republic's anniversary celebration.

Several photographs in the collection, as well as items in the photo album, were taken by Ella Maude Cranston, an amateur photographer. Glass plate negatives in the series include images of the interior and exterior of Alfred and Elizabeth Petford Cranston's home at 524-526 Quincy Street, numerous members of the family and friends in individual and group portraits both formal and casual, Brooklyn city scenes, General Fowler's grave in Green-Wood Cemetery, and gardens and outdoor scenes. Includes two photos with Alfred Cranston and his bike, one photo of two young girls (Elsie and Lillian Cranston) playing in backyard with tea sets and dolls, circa 1900, and several photos of the family at home in their parlor.

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