Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Alexander Papers
1665-1883 (bulk 1717-1786)
 MS 8

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Richard Fraser

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 23, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Content Notes

Scope and Content for the Alexander - Stuyvesant - Rutherfurd Collections

The Alexander Papers is one of four discrete but closely related collections. The largest and the smallest of the four collections, the Alexander Papers and the John Rutherfurd Papers, were originally a single donation, made in the late 19th Century. The remaining two collections, the Rutherfurd Family Papers and the Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers, were donated separately in the 1970's.

Together, these collections chronicle seven generations of an extended family in New York an d New Jersey over the course of two centuries. The founders of the family were James and Mary Alexander, who married in 1721. James Alexander had merchant business, but was primarily active as an attorney and government official in New York and New Jersey. Most of the material in the Alexander Papers derives from James Alexander's legal practice in both colonies, and from his tenures as Surveyor General of New Jersey, and Attorney General of New York. Other material in the Alexander Papers documents Mary Alexander's merchant business in New York, and the business activities and pre-Revolutionary military service of their son, William Alexander (Lord Stirling).

While the daughters of James and Mary Alexander are underrepresented in these collections, their husbands are represented to a greater or lesser extent in each of the collections described below. The Alexanders' four daughters married men who were or would become leading figures in New York and New Jersey. Mary married Peter Van Brugh Livingston, Susanna married John Reid, and Elizabeth married John Stevens. Catherine Alexander married Walter Rutherfurd.

The marriage of Catherine and Walter Rutherfurd also produced a son, John Rutherfurd, who evidently inherited the bulk of his father's and grandfather's papers. In 1847, Stuyvesant Rutherfurd (a grandson John Rutherfurd and nephew of Peter Gerard Stuyvesant), changed his name to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant in accordance with a provision of Peter Gerard Stuyvesant's will. Rutherfurd Stuyvesant evidently inherited at least some of the papers of his uncle. The Rutherfurd collections contain material created by or pertaining to the Alexander family, and the Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers contain material created by or pertaining to the Alexanders and the Stuyvesants.

The material the Rutherfurd collections relates primarily to the landholdings and business undertakings of a wealthy and socially prominent family. The Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers documents the activities of later generations of that family. By the mid-nineteenth century, the family had become more occupied in strictly leisure activities.

Various descendants of John Rutherfurd donated the collections described in these finding aids to the New-York Historical Society, and the collections extensively document the business dealings, professional activities, and family relationships of the Alexanders during the 18th Century, and the Rutherfurds from the 18th until the early 20th centuries.

For finding aids to the other three collections, click on the following links:

The Rutherfurd Family Papers

The John Rutherfurd Papers

The Stuyvesant-Rutherfurd Papers

Scope and Content for the Alexander Papers

The Alexander Papers consists of the papers of James Alexander, James' wife, Mary Alexander, and their son, William Alexander (Lord Stirling). Material includes correspondence, surveys of tracts of land, mostly in New Jersey, contracts, wills, deeds, conveyances, accounts, bills, receipts, invoices, sight drafts, time drafts, promissory notes, memoranda, writs, warrants, depositions, affidavits, briefs, legal opinions, legal arguments, judgments, minutes, and petitions. The papers of William Alexander includes a few documents relating to the sale, sickness, and burial of slaves.

Series 1, 2, and 3 contain correspondence, personal papers, and material such as accounts, bills, receipts, and invoices, that document the merchant businesses of James, Mary, and William Alexander.

Series 5, 6, and 7 contain material arranged by type, and in addition to items that relate to James, Mary, and William Alexander, contain items that relate to other persons. In the Court Papers series, for example, no distinction is made between suits or cases in which a member of the Alexander family was a litigant or counsel and those in which other persons were litigants or counsel. Similarly, indentures (excepting servant indentures) to which one Alexander Family member was a party, are interfiled in the Legal Papers series with those to which no family member was a party. Surveys made for members of the Alexander family are interfiled alphabetically with those of other landowners in the Surveys series.

Most of the material in the collection pertains to, or was created as a result of, James Alexander's various careers as a merchant, attorney, and agent of the Council of Proprietors of the Eastern Division of New Jersey. Although James Alexander was intimately involved in the defense of John Peter Zenger who was tried for seditious libel in New York in 1735, there is no material in the collection relating to the Zenger trial.

Similarly, the collection contains no material regarding William Alexander's suit in the late 1750's to have himself recognized as Earl of Stirling.

Very little of the material was in original order. When enclosures could be identified as belonging with letters, the enclosures were kept with the letters that enclosed them. Thus, a deed or will enclosed with a letter would remain with the letter in the Correspondence series; the letter would not be placed with the deed or will in the Legal Papers series. The only exceptions to this are papers relating to the court cases of DePeyster vs. Prevoost (Box 50), and Medina vs. Het (Box 51). In these instances, correspondence and legal papers have been kept in the Court Papers series, because this material appears to have been kept as a unit by James Alexander.

In all series, William Alexander appears in the alphabet under the name Alexander, William rather than under the name Stirling.


The Alexander Papers are organized into the following twelve series:

Series 1: James Alexander, 1686-1764

Series 2: William Alexander, 1744-circa 1786

Series 3: Mary Alexander, 1726-1766

Series 4: Other Correspondents, 1697-1815

Series 5: Legal Papers, 1665-1817

Series 6: Surveys, [1681]-1804

Series 7: Court Papers, 1684-1818

Series 8: New Jersey Proprietors, 1707-1797

Series 9: Colony/State of New Jersey, 1674-1787

Series 10: Colony/State of New York, 1683-1785

Series 11: Business Papers, 1699-1813

Series 12: Miscellaneous Items, 1712-[1883]