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Guide to the Naval History Society Collection
1721-1995 (bulk 1781-1936)
  MS 439

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Celia Hartmann.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 29, 2018
Description is in English.

Container List

Series 5. John Barry (1781-1939)

Scope and Content

The collection includes loose letters Commodore Barry received, letters from him collected and edited by John Sanford Barnes, Martin's extra-illustrated biography of Barry that includes letters, a manuscript of James Fenimore Cooper's Barry biography later published in Graham's Magazine, and a letter book of transcribed correspondence. Barnes's edition also includes newspaper clippings related to the finding of Barry's materials in his home in Philadelphia, and the Barnes family connection to Barry: John Sanford Barnes's wife Susan Bainbridge Hayes was Admiral Barry's grandniece. The typescript of Barry's will includes copies of correspondence to Barnes from a descendent, Sarah Smith Stafford (see Series 42), that provide genealogical information about the Barry family. Barry's book detailing naval signals includes some autograph letters tipped in.

The 1800-1802 correspondence is available on microfilm.

Biographical Note

1745: John Barry born County Wexford, Ireland

1760: Takes up residence in Philadelphia

1775: Ship Black Prince purchased by US government and renamed  Alfred, becoming the first ship in the Continental navy. Aboard this, Lt. John Paul Jones raises the first American flag to receive foreign recognition.

1776: Takes command of Lexington. In April, captures tender to British man-of-war  Liverpool and brings it to Philadelphia, in first American naval victory. In October, Congress establishes relative ranks for Continental Navy officers: Barry is listed seventh. In December, participates in the Trenton campaign and in the defense of Philadelphia.

1777: British take possession of Philadelphia; Barry sails the unfinished frigate Effingham up the Delaware River, where it is sunk to prevent its use by the British.

1778: Commended for gallantry after a 9 hour fight on Raleigh against the British in Penobscot Bay.

1780: Takes command of Alliance, during voyages on which he captures various privateers and merchant vessels.

1781: Wounded in an eventually victorious engagement against Britain's Atalanta. Refits   Alliance and transports the Marquis de Lafayette to France.

1783: Last naval engagement of the Revolutionary War fought by Barry on Alliance against Britain's   Sybil. After the War, petitions Congress on behalf of benefits for seamen equivalent to those of soldiers, and works to persuade Congress to adopt a new federal system to replace the Articles of Confederation.

1787-1789: Becomes master of merchant ship Asia, aboard which he makes a profitable journey to China.

1794: Congress creates U.S. Navy and Barry is appointed first on the list of captains. He superintends construction of United States.

1798-1801: United States serves as flagship of the West Indies Squadron during the Quasi-War with France. Captures various French vessels in the West Indies while providing security for American commercial interests. Under his command young naval officers, the so-called "Barry's boys," are trained who will come to prominence in the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812.

1801-1802: Tests cannon for the U.S. government. Is selected to command the Mediterranean Squadron, but cannot serve due to illness.

1803: Dies 13 September at his country estate "Strawberry Hill" near Philadelphia.

Related Material at the New-York Historical Society

"A calendar of the John Barry Papers in the collections of the New-York Historical Society" was prepared in 1959 by Christopher McKee and is available in the repository. It lists, in date order, all materials in the Society's collections at that time, including item-level descriptions of documents in the Naval History Society's collections.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Letters to Barry
1800-1802
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Typed transcript of 1803 last will and testament of John Barry, esq.; copies of letters to J.S. Barnes from Sarah Smith Stafford
1877
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Program for memorial to Commodore John Barry, Society of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick
1907
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Letters about Barry
1908, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Photocopies of letters, signatures; leaf from auction catalog
1931, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 6 "The Barry Collection and Other Historical Americana" auction catalog
1939
Volume: 1 Letter book
1781-1782
Volume: 2 Signals
1802
Volume: 3 "Sketch of Commodore Barry", manuscript by James Fenimore Cooper
1845
Volume: 4 "Commodore John Barry", by Martin L.J. Griffin; extra-illustrated
1903
Volume: 5 "Original Public & Private Correspondence of Commodore John Barry," edited by J.S. Barnes
1908
Box: OS 1 Folder : 3 Letters to Barry
1782-1799
Box: OS 1 Folder : 4 Reprints of J. S. Barnes's preface to "Original Public and Private Correspondence of Commodore John Barry"
1908

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