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Guide to the New-York Historical Society Field Exploration Committee Photographs

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Margaret Kaczorowski

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on May 23, 2018
English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: New-York Historical Society.
Title: New-York Historical Society Field Exploration Committee photographs
Dates: 1891-1930s
Abstract: The New-York Historical Society Field Exploration Committee photographs record group primarily includes images of materials resulting from the excavations for historical artifacts conducted by members of the Committee, mostly in the early twentieth century. These images are primarily from sites in upper Manhattan and the Bronx and include such materials as buttons from American and British uniforms and coins from the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. Also included are images of Native American materials discovered. These materials informed and illustrated the many articles written by William L. Calver and Reginald P. Bolton and published in N-YHS's Quarterly Bulletin during the Committee’s existence from 1917-1938. The record group also includes a catalogue of objects compiled by Calver, with handwritten descriptions and drawings.
Quantity: 4.33 Linear feet in 17 containers of various sizes
Call Phrase: NYHS-RG 6
Sponsor: This record group was processed as part of the 2015-2016 N-YHS Institutional Archives project, made possible by a generous grant from the Leon Levy Foundation.

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Biographical/Historical Note

The Field Exploration Committee (FEC) was appointed in 1918 by the N-YHS Executive Committee and was comprised of six members of N-YHS: William L. Calver (Chairman), Samuel V. Hoffman (Vice-Chairman), Reginald P. Bolton (Secretary), Alexander J. Wall (Treasurer), Charles M. Lefferts, and Dr. William S. Thomas. The Committee continued the work done over the years by dedicated individuals living mainly in Washington Heights, Inwood, and the Bronx to collect colonial and Revolutionary War military artifacts. The FEC extended this work to the Hudson Highlands (Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester counties). Calver and Bolton and others associated with them over the years excavated areas known to have been Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites. They prepared annual reports of their explorations as well as published a series of articles for the Society's Quarterly Bulletin. The FEC discovered a great number of military relics, including buttons from soldier uniforms and coins.

For further reading:

Vail, R.W.G. Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of The New-York Historical Society 1804-1954. New-York Historical Society, 1954.

New-York Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin, vol. 1-4, 1917-1921, New-York Historical Society.

History written with pick and shovel: military buttons, belt-plates, badges and other relics excavated from Colonial, Revolutionary, and War of 1812 camp sites by the Field Exploration Committee of the New-York Historical Society. By William Louis Calver and Reginald Pelham Bolton, with an introd. by Richard J. Koke; compiled and indexed by Roberta Leighton. New-York Historical Society, 1950. (This is a compilation of Calver and Bolton’s work published in the  Bulletin.)

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Scope and Contents Note

The New-York Historical Society Field Exploration Committee (FEC) photographs record group consists mainly of photographs and other images of objects of military character (e.g., American and British soldier uniform buttons, caps, leaden seals, and coins) connected with the events of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. These objects were photographed and mounted for exhibitions (alongside labels included in the record group) at N-YHS and Morris-Jumel Mansion, which had served as Washington's headquarters during the Revolution. Much of the record group consists of glass plate negatives of various sizes, as well as film negatives of the military sites explored and objects discovered.

In addition to the photographs, the record group includes a catalogue of "objects found and studied by the Field Exploration Committee of the New-York Historical Society; also similar objects donated to, or otherwise acquired by, the Society." This catalogue was compiled by FEC Chairman William L. Calver and includes handwritten descriptions, drawings, and some photographs of the various found objects. This catalogue was formerly held within N-YHS's Museum Department and inventoried under the number INV.5765.

The majority of objects found and photographed were discovered at former Revolutionary camp sites in upper Manhattan (Washington Heights and Inwood) and the Bronx by the FEC at a time before construction of housing in those areas. These photos and accompanying documentation informed the series of articles written by William L. Calver and Reginald P. Bolton for the N-YHS Quarterly Bulletin publication between 1918 and 1938. Box 1 holds copies of the  Bulletin issues that contain these articles. Included is   Relics of the Revolution, an agreement between Bolton and the Washington Headquarters Association (Morris-Jumel Museum) transferring ownership of Bolton's Collection of Revolutionary relics on exhibition in the Guard Room of Washington Headquarters to the Association.

The bulk of the negatives are 4 x 5 glass plates of photographs taken primarily by William L. Calver. Box 15 contains 5 x 7 film negatives of photographs taken by Calver and other individuals, and box 16 contains 8 x 10 glass negatives of photographs taken by various individuals. Each negative is held in an envelope that includes identifying information.

Arrangement Note

This collection is arranged into 16 boxes consisting of documents and photo negatives. Documents, primarily photographic prints, are housed in one records box containing 17 individual folders and Quarterly Bulletin journals. Photo negatives are housed in 11 boxes containing 4 x 5 glass plate negatives; one box containing 3 x 4 glass negatives; one box containing 5 x 7 glass negatives; one box containing 5 x 7 film negatives; and one box containing 8 x 10 glass negatives and one 8 x 10 film negative.

All negatives were assigned a control number at some point by N-YHS and within each box the negatives are in sequence order, though there are gaps. The container list refers to the range of sequence numbers within each box.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Acetate negatives
  • Glass negatives
  • Photographic prints

Subject Organizations

  • New-York Historical Society. Field Exploration Committee. -- Photographs
  • New-York Historical Society. -- Archives

Subject Topics

  • Archaeology
  • Buttons
  • Learned institutions and societies -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Military uniforms

Subject Places

  • New York (N.Y.) -- History -- Societies, etc.
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Photographs

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024.

Preferred Citation Note

This record group should be cited as New-York Historical Society Field Exploration Committee photographs (NYHS-RG 6), The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

This finding aid relates to just one record group of the New-York Historical Society archives. For information about the other record groups and for overall information about the archives, please see the Guide to the New-York Historical Society Archives (NYHSRG Archives). Other record groups that are processed and available to researchers and are especially related to the New-York Historical Society Field Exploration Committee record group (NYHS-RG 6) are as follows:

The New-York Historical Society General Correspondence record group (NYHS-RG 2) contains a variety of materials related to the Field Exploration Committee, William L. Calver, and Reginald P. Bolton.

In addition to N-YHS’s institutional archive, the manuscript collections hold related material including the William Louis Calver Papers, 1894-1940 (bulk 1900-1940), MS 96.

Processing Information Note

The negatives were arranged and housed in boxes by conservation intern Sara Belasco in 2015. The image and writings files were processed and the entire record group described by Margaret Kaczorowski in November 2016. Calver's catalogue (INV.5765) was transferred to the archives from the Museum Department in December 2017 and was added to the record group at that time by archivist Larry Weimer.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1a Folder : 1-17 Image Files & Writings
Box: 1b Folder : 1 Catalogue of Field Exploration Material, Compiled by William L. Calver

Scope and Contents Note

This item was transferred to the archives from the Museum Department in December 2017; in the Museum, the object was inventoried under number INV.5765.

Box: 2 Envelope : 1-18 Negatives, 5504-5508, 21473-49215. Glass, 5 x 7
Box: 3 Envelope : 1-8 Negatives 40971-43902. Glass, 3 x 4

Scope and Contents Note

Negatives are of watercolor drawings photographed by William L. Calver.

Box: 4 Envelope : 1-25 Negatives 39281-39306. Glass, 4 x 5

Scope and Contents Note

Subjects include West Point, NY and Inwood.

Box: 5 Envelope : 1-21 Negatives 39308-39687. Glass, 4 x 5

Scope and Contents Note

Subjects include Indian Falls, Cold Spring, NY, Inwood, Washington Heights, and Hunt's Point Road.

Box: 6 Envelope : 1-20 Negatives 39688-40147. Glass, 4 x 5

Scope and Contents Note

Subjects include American Block House, Fort Putnam, Lusk Reservoir (West Point, NY), and Washington Heights areas.

Box: 7 Envelope : 1-23 Negatives 40148-40205. Glass, 4 x 5

Scope and Contents Note

Negatives of Constitution Island, Hunt's Point Burial ground, and Inwood (upper Manhattan).

Box: 8 Envelope : 1-22 Negatives 40206-40304. Glass, 4 x 5
Box: 9 Envelope : 1-24 Negatives 40305-40338. Glass, 4 x 5
Box: 10 Envelope : 1-22 Negatives 40340-40790. Glass, 4 x 5
Box: 11 Envelope : 1-21 Negatives 40791-41393. Glass, 4 x 5
Box: 12 Envelope : 1-21 Negatives 41394-42071. Glass, 4 x 5
Box: 13 Envelope : 1-19 Negatives 42072-43482. Glass, 4 x 5
Box: 14 Envelope : 1-22 Negatives 43483-44315. Glass, 4 x 5

Scope and Contents Note

Negatives of military uniforms (badges and sword belt plates).

Box: 15 Envelope : 1-60 Negatives 2847-60543. Film, 5 x 7

Scope and Contents Note

Subjects include Inwood Hill Park and Fort Washington.

Box: 16 Envelope : 1-16 Negatives 32084- 48734. Glass, 8 x 10; 34757. Film, 8 x 10

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