Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Lewis L. Delafield, Eugene D. Hawkins and Affiliated Attorneys Records
circa 1856-1921 (bulk, 1880s-1910)
 MS 157

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 27, 2022
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents

The collection holds the records of two law firms, dating principally from the 1890s to about 1910. These two firms evolved over that time in terms of its partners and associated attorneys, eventually merging in 1909. One firm was Delafield and Gould (later Delafield, Gould and Longfellow; then Delafield and Longfellow). The second was Hawkins and Delafield (for a time known as Hawkins, Delafield & Sturgis; then after the firms merged, Hawkins, Delafield & Longfellow). See the biographical note for further information about the attorneys and firms, and for the relationship of the collection scope to each.

The files include court filings (drafts, finals and printed versions) of various types; correspondence; legal analyses; wills; agreements and contracts of various types (e.g., partnerships, mortgages, property sales, etc.); corporate matters (e.g., incorporations, debt offerings); patents; securities certificates (e.g., capital stock, coupon bonds); insurance policies; title abstracts; and more. Many of the case records have supporting documentation, such as property maps, financial records, reference material from related or precedent cases, etc. Some records relate to the administration of the law offices, with case diaries, activity calendars, and expense-related documents. There are some personal records of the attorneys and their dependents/families, such as those concerning expenses, investments and property holdings.

The collection is unprocessed. In 2022, the collection was rehoused (see the Arrangement/Processing Note for more information) and during that process the documents were surveyed to glean as much information as possible within severe time constraints. The result is that the finding aid's container list provides extensive information about the collection's content in terms of the names of the cases/matters and individuals/organizations involved in the matters. However, the nature of the matter in dispute was only determined in a few instances. The dates shown for matters was based on an often-limited peek at accessible documents; consequently all date ranges should be considered as approximate with the likelihood of earlier and later documents in the files. The bulk of the matters pertained to New York City and State courts, though this was not explicitly confirmed and documented for each matter; when a federal court or non-New York court was observed, it was noted in the finding aid.

The bulk of the legal matters seem to be other than criminal cases. These seem most often to be civil disputes, including financial claims involving individuals, former partners, bankrupt parties, etc. There are business/commercial disputes concerning securities, payment obligations, and the like. Many of the cases concern estate work: naming trustees, guardians, executors; pursuing (or perhaps warding off) financial claims; real estate mortgages and property sales. Estate work for the principals' families (Delafields, Primes, Hawkinses, etc.) are found here. A sizable number of cases involve claims by individuals against the rapid transit railway companies of New York City around the turn of the twentieth century.

Not all the matters are disputes. There are commercial matters such as partnership agreements, incorporations, business contracts, and securities offerings and underwriting agreements. Real estate transactions are found throughout. Aside from acting on behalf of a plaintiff or defendant in various matters, the attorneys also worked as receiver in some cases, and as referees in arbitrations. In a number of heavily-documented instances, Lewis Delafield was appointed by New York to provide recommendations as to the solvency of insurance companies seeking to do business in the state. Many of the cases reflect the attorneys providing analyses or other consultation on an "of counsel" basis to other lawyers, perhaps especially on securities/investment trust matters, for which they seem to be noted experts.

Arrangement / Processing

The collection is not processed. The arrangement as presented in the finding aid is rough and follows to the extent possible the arrangement suggested by the collection's original containers, most of which were discarded in 2022 because of their deteriorated condition.

The collection was received by N-YHS in 1947, housed in about 400 original containers of various sizes and with various labels, holding documents related to the various legal (and some personal) matters of the various attorneys and law firm combinations represented in the collection. From 1947 to 2022, the collection was not processed or cataloged and the bulk remained in its original containers. By 2022, some material had been transfered to new containers, likely because of the condition of the original boxes. In 2022, from the labels on the original boxes, some level of coherence could be perceived for the collection as a whole, at least to a sizable extent. However, in 2022, most of the original boxes were crumbling, and the collection also required rehousing to be shipped to offsite storage.

In 2022, working with preliminary box lists prepared in 2019 by project archivist Elise Winks, archivist Larry Weimer rehoused the entire collection into 168 record cartons. Some original boxes were retained, notably small "pigeonhole" boxes and some slightly larger flat boxes. But most boxes were too deteriorated, or had other limitations, to retain. Weimer transfered the content of those original boxes into plastic enclosures, then placed multiple plastic enclosures within a record carton.

Given that the visual clues/labels provided by most of the original boxes are now absent, the finding aid is constructed to reflect those original boxes/labels. Accordingly, the collection/finding aid is organized in the following series:

Series I. Boxes labeled D-L (Delafield-Longfellow)

Series II. Boxes labeled LLD (Louis L. Delafield)

Series III. Boxes labeled H-D (Hawkins-Delafield)

Series IV. Numbered pigeonhole boxes

Series V. Contents of boxes with various labeling

The arrangement note at the series level for each of these series provides further detail about the nuances of arrangement of each.

As can be discerned from the titles, the first three series generally translate to an arrangement by attorney or law firm. (Though, to some extent, even these first three series include documents related to firms/lawyers from the other series.) But Series IV and, especially, Series V are a mix. Beyond this rough original sort, there is no perceptible organization across the collection as a whole, within a particular series, and often not within a particular box. Consequently, documents related to a particular matter may be found in multiple locations in the collection, and often a given box holds multiple, unrelated matters.

Most of the collection documents remain in their original tri-folded condition. Related documents are often tied together with ribbon in one or more small bundles. While rehousing the collection in 2022, archivist Larry Weimer surveyed the content of all the boxes in the collection in order to develop a preliminary inventory for this finding aid. All content of any notable volume or content that was readily identifiable was documented in the finding aid. Many boxes held some miscellaneous documents that were not readily identifiable (e.g. notes, drafts) or were too few to dwell on within time constraints. The presence of such miscellany was noted in the inventory, but these amount to a fairly small portion of the collection.