Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Erving-King Family Papers
1709-1975 (bulk 1780-1939)
  MS 204

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


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Caroline D. Bain.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 28, 2020
Description is in English.

Historical Note

This collection, assembled by James Gore King V (1898-1979), records the history of his family from mid-eighteenth century to 1959 and traces his genealogy in America, Great Britain and Europe. The papers concern the Erving and King families; other families from whom JGK directly descended, and some collateral branches and connecting families are included. The papers of Fanny King [Mrs. Edmund] Ward were added in March 1980 by Mrs. Edmund M. Cocec.

The progenitors of James Gore King V's mother and father were early New England settlers. John Erving (1692-1786) made a fortune as a merchant in Boston. Richard King (1718-1775), son of John King, became a wealthy trader in the District of Maine. Many of their descendents and relatives were prominent in politics, diplomacy, military service, law, business, banking and letters; particularly in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Great Britain and Europe. Through circumstances of war, politics and marriage, the branches from whom JGK descended were established in and around New York City by the early nineteenth century. They were well-to-do, and connected by marriage with other distinguished and prominent New York families. Whether at home or on their frequent travels within the United States and abroad, they moved in the top social and political circles of their day.

The lives of five men are comparatively well documented in this collection. James Gore King (1791-1853) attended school in England and France while his father, Rufus King (1755-1827), was ambassador to London. After graduating from Harvard and studying law, he became a banker, and in 1818 with his brother-in-law, Archibald Gracie, established in Liverpool the firm of King and Gracie. Returning to New York in 1824, he became a partner in what became Prime, Ward and King, and built the family home, Highwood, in Weehawken, N.J. During the panic of 1837, he personally secured in England enough gold to enable the United States to resume specie payment. He was also active in politics and railroad development. His third son, Edward King (1833-1908), attended Harvard and while in Cambridge lived with the Agassiz family. He and his first wife, Isabella Cochrane, were married in Edinburgh in 1858. He became president of the Union Trust Co. and of the New York Stock Exchange and was active in the Harvard Club of New York. Col. John Erving (1789-1862), a career officer in the United States Army, served in the war of 1812 and the Mexican War. He was popular with his men, and with hostesses at his Army posts. When not accompanying him, his wife, Emily Sophia Langdon-Elwyn, and their children lived in Philadelphia; then settled in New York. Their son, John Erving (1833-1917), graduated from Harvard in 1853 and became a lawyer in New York. He managed the financial affairs of his family. He served in the Army during the Civil War and in 1862 married Cornelia Van Rensselaer. Their principal home was at Manursing Island, Rye, N.Y., where the Van Rensselaers also lived. William Van Rensselaer (1805-1872), Cornelia's father, was the second son of Stephen Van Rensselaer, "eighth patroon" of vast land holdings in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. He graduated from Yale in 1824, traveled and studied law in Europe, and after the death of his first wife in 1836 married her sister Sarah Rogers. He managed his estates from his home, Beverwyck, across the Hudson from Albany, until 1846, when the family moved to New York City and Manursing Island. The younger John Erving and Edward King were classmates at Harvard. They became the grandfathers of James Gore King V.