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Guide to the Martha J. Lamb Papers
1756-1892 (Bulk 1876-1892)
  MS 362

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

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Melissa Haley

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on October 26, 2011
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

The Martha J. Lamb Papers contain a variety of material relating mostly to Lamb's professional life as historian, author, and editor. The bulk date from 1876 through 1892. Much of this collection pertains to Lamb's tenure as editor of the Magazine of American History (1883-1893) including submissions, letters from readers and contributors, and correspondence dealing with internal production matters. The collection also contains letters received by Lamb regarding her work as a historian and author of the  History of the City of New York, and a journal of Lamb's (1878-1879) detailing her workdays. Material for a number of Lamb's articles and addresses, including drafts, notes, correspondence, and proofs, illustrate her research, writing, and publication processes, as do drafts of her  History of the City of New York. Twenty-seven scrapbooks kept by Lamb include clippings of her published articles and reviews of her work, documenting her career from 1863-1883.

Martha Lamb's prodigious involvement in numerous organizations is reflected in this collection. Material relates to activities of the Huguenot Society of America, where Lamb served as chairman of the Ladies Committee, various historical societies, scientific organizations, trade groups, and social clubs. The collection also includes items pertaining to Lamb's charity work in New York, conducted through the Madison Square Presbyterian Church led by the reformer Rev. Charles Parkhurst.

In addition, the Martha J. Lamb Papers contain poetry, notes, financial material (bills and receipts), genealogical material, and ephemera, including advertisements, tickets, invitations, and calling cards. A small amount of material relates to an 1888 excursion to Marietta, Ohio. Miscellaneous items in Lamb's possession include a collection of mostly late eighteenth century letters, copies of historical diaries and letters, and a Metropolitan Museum catalog. This collection also contains a few photographs (including cabinet cards of Lamb), prints, sketches, watercolors, tintypes, glass negatives, and printing blocks, many of which relate to her historical work. Assorted artifacts include a small cache of rocks, a sprig of heather, and a key.

The collection contains little personal material of Lamb's—a few items can be found among her correspondence, financial material, ephemera, and artifacts. In addition, Lamb's diary contains some personal information, though it deals mostly with her professional life as a writer and historian. The great bulk of the correspondence in this collection is letters received, with only a few copies and drafts of Lamb's letters and responses.

Martha J. Lamb, in her capacity as historian, published author, and magazine editor, effectively represents a public Victorian woman. This collection of mostly professional papers supports research in the history of nineteenth century women editors, writers, journalists, and historians. Although much of the material does not delineate the complexities faced by Lamb as a career woman, she does occasionally divulge her strategies. In an 1884 letter to Esther Herrman, for example, Lamb writes: "I am quite sure that you fully understand why I deem it the wiser course to do my work in the  quietest possible way. Mine is a notable field, and if I provoke any opposition, there are plenty of aspiring men who would take the opportunity to get astride my pathway—thus making obstacles all the harder to overcome. My hope is to so triumph in the end that all womenkind will be benefitted [sic]."

This collection, with its abundance of Magazine of American History material, also broadly supports research in American historiography, and the histories of publishing and journalism. In addition, articles, notes and ephemera pertaining to New York City can be found in Lamb's papers.

Note: Lamb used a number of pennames, most of which were derived from family names. The names "Nash Vinton" and "Vinton Reade" appear in this collection. She also used the names "Nash Reade," "Emogene," and, probably, "Crisp."


Arrangement within each series varies, usually alphabetical or chronological. See series descriptions for details.

A small amount of material is housed in oversize cabinets, marked as "Ov" on container list. Call phrase for these items is Y-Lamb.

The Martha J. Lamb Papers are organized into the following nineteen series:

  1. Series I. Magazine of American History, 1883-1893, undated
  2. Series II. Lamb, Correspondence, 1769-1892 (bulk 1876-1892), undated
  3. Series III. Lamb, Journal, Oct. 18, 1878-April 21, 1879
  4. Series IV. Lamb, Articles and Addresses, 1874-1890, undated
  5. Series V. History of the City of New York, drafts, undated
  6. Series VI. Clippings, 1756-1892 (bulk 1876-1883), undated
  7. Series VII. Huguenot Society of America, 1879-1892, undated
  8. Series VIII. Madison Square Presbyterian Church, 1882-1889, undated
  9. Series XIX. Organizational Material, 1854-1892, undated
  10. Series X. Poetry, 1869-1883, undated
  11. Series XI. Notes, undated
  12. Series XII. Financial Material, 1882-1891
  13. Series XIII. Genealogical Material, 1891-1892, undated
  14. Series XIV. Ephemera, 1873-1890, undated
  15. Series XV. Excursion: Marietta, Ohio, 1888
  16. Series XVI. Copies of Documents, undated
  17. Series XVII. Huntington Collection catalog, 1883
  18. Series XVIII. Visual Materials, [18]81, 1886, undated
  19. Series XIX. Artifacts, 1881, undated