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Guide to the Naval History Society Records
1907-1943(bulk 1909-1936)
  MS 439.53

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


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Celia Hartmann

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 02, 2011
Description is in English.

Historical Note

According to the 1915 catalog of the library of Naval History Society founder John Sanford Barnes (see Series 3), "The Naval History Society has been established for the purpose of publishing and preserving manuscripts, documents, and writings relating to our naval history, naval art and science, and the surroundings and experiences of seamen in general and of American seamen in particular."

The Naval History Society Collection began with the donation to the Society in 1915 of Barnes's personal collections by his son, Col. James Barnes (see Series 4). The donation included library materials now cataloged in the XN classification in the New-York Historical Society Library, artifacts now included in the New-York Historical Society's museum collections, as well as the manuscript materials described in Series 1-52 of this Collection. The entire collection was donated to the New-York Historical Society, where the Naval History Society collections and office were then located, in 1925. Additional materials were donated by Naval History Society members and others or acquired by purchase after that date, some from the Naval History Fund established at the New-York Historical Society from the Naval History Society's monies.

A chronology of the Society's publishing activities is provided in Subseries VI. Manuscript collections and Society publication records.

Chronology of the Naval History Society

1909 Meeting convenes at the New York Yacht Club to discuss formation of a naval history society. Attendees include Admiral Caspar Goodrich (see Series 21), William Conant Church (biographer of John Ericsson [Series 16]), Col. James Barnes (see Series 4), and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who serves as the meeting's secretary. John Sanford Barnes is unanimously elected president and Robert Neeser secretary-treasurer. A committee is authorized to inquire if the New-York Historical Society would serve as the Naval History Society's home.
1911 John Sanford Barnes dies.
1912 Naval History Society incorporated. Its offices are located at 247 Fifth Avenue, although some early meetings are held in Washington, DC.
1915 James Barnes donates the collections of his father John Sanford Barnes to the Naval History Society in June. They include original manuscripts, letters, and logbooks as well as published books, pamphlets, and prints (approximately 3,570 volumes and separate items). The Society rents space in Aeolian Hall on West 42nd Street to house the collection.
1915 Secretary Robert Neeser corresponds with New-York Historical Society President John Abeel Weekes in May to ask if the Historical Society is interested in acquiring the Naval History Society collections and providing a room where it can be preserved for research and exhibition. Naval History Society, "being primarily a publication society...has...no habitat or place where these priceless and unique books could be preserved."
1915 New-York Historical Society Executive Committee responds to Neeser's request: "Owing to the crowded condition of the present building, the Captain Barnes collection was respectfully declined as a deposit."
1915 The John S. Barnes Memorial Library is transferred to the Naval History Society in September.
1916 John S. Barnes Memorial Library of the Naval History Society opens January 10 in Aeolian Hall. Marie Bayless serves as librarian.
1916 The Society holds an exhibition of the Library's books, prints, and manuscripts of John Paul Jones [see Series 28] in April, and in May of its Gustavus Conyngham memorabilia [see Series 10).
1917 The Society holds an exhibition of its Revolutionary War books, prints, and manuscripts in March, and in April on the War of 1812.
1918 Col. James Barnes elected President, a position he holds until his death in 1936.
1920 Alice M. Kyte becomes librarian.
1923 Franklin D. Roosevelt is deputized by the Building Committee to contact New-York Historical Society about collaborating on space and collections.
1925 Naval History Society relocates to New-York Historical Society, which was expanding its storage and exhibition spaces, and its members automatically become Associate members of New-York Historical Society. The $15,000 Naval History Fund is also transferred, to be used to purchase additional materials for the collection.
1930 Naval History Society participates in the restoration of gravestone for William Paul (brother of John Paul Jones; see Series 28), in St. George's Churchyard, Fredericksburg, VA.
1932 Naval History Society materials are represented in New-York Historical Society's "Ships and Steamboats" exhibition.
1936 Collection of dues and publication activities are suspended following the death of Col. James Barnes and insufficient Naval History Fund monies to purchase additional materials.