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Guide to the Taylor & Genet Letters
  MS 613

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

@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jan Hilley

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 04, 2011
Description is in English.

Scope and Content Note

With a few exceptions, this collection consists entirely of correspondence. There are more than 330 letters, almost all of a personal nature. The primary recipients are Joseph Gazzam Taylor; his wife, Elizabeth; his son, Rivers; his mother, Mary Alice Gazzam Taylor; and his father, William Taylor, Jr. There are nineteen letters (Folder 14) written to Phillip Burrows who appears to have been an agent for the family in its financial transactions. These letters, written in the 1840's, deal with land purchases and dealings in Iowa. Throughout the collection are descriptions of daily activities and events and topical references that offer a firsthand account of early and mid-nineteenth century family life.

Folder 1 contains many letters written to William Taylor, Jr. from members of his family in England. There are also a number of bankruptcy notices regarding individuals in debt to Mr. Taylor. Of particular interest is a letter written on January 24, 1845, from Lucius Q.C. Elmer who was, at that time, a New Jersey representative to the 28th U.S. Congress. Mr. Elmer comments about the possibility of statehood for Iowa and Texas.

The second folder consists primarily of letters written by William Taylor, Jr. to his wife Mary. He wrote from London and Dublin, while visiting there, and from New York, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Trenton and other U.S. cities. He also wrote to Mary while she was visiting in England in 1798. It was during that year that both their mothers were dying, and the letters refer to the sad, final days of each.

There are three folders of letters (Folders 3-5) written to Joseph Gazzam Taylor. Most of them were written by his brothers. Several are from a school friend, R.W. Tilson, and among these are a few of particular note. One, written in Philadelphia on August 16, 1834, gives a vivid first-person account of a serious race riot in the city. Subsequent letters discuss a murder committed on election day with probable political motives (October 6, 1834); Tilson's interest and focus on mathematics and science (February 16, 1835); and employment at the newly established Newark College (January 1, 1836, Newark, Delaware).

Joseph also received letters from his wife, his father, his brothers-in-law and other relatives and friends. One nephew, E.C. Genet, who served in the Navy, wrote a number of times. In 1843, Joseph and his family, along with Henry J. Genet and his family, moved to Iowa and attempted to set up homesteads there. Things apparently did not work out well. A letter from Henry Genet (September 10, 1843) reveals a serious rift between the two families and announces the departure of the Genets. Finances, a continuing concern, are referred to in many of the letters and a number of account sheets may be found within the correspondence.

Two folders (6 and 7) contain letters written to Elizabeth M. Tallmadge Taylor. Many are from her husband, Joseph. Letters describing his initial days in Iowa (1843) paint a clear picture of the primitive conditions in the territory. She eventually joined him there and received letters from friends and relatives in the East. After a relatively short time the family left Iowa and returned to New York, near Albany. After the death of her husband in 1853, most of the letters were from his brothers and sisters, her nieces and nephews and her children. Letters from Thomas William Taylor discuss the sale of the Iowa land. The final letter to Elizabeth in this collection, written by her son, Rivers, on August 20, 1874, describes his cousin Cornelia Genet's wedding and gives a humorous update on other family members.

Folders 8 through 11 contain a few letters sent to brothers of Joseph Taylor -- Thomas William, Benjamin Cook, Othniel Hart and Isaac Ebenezer. Folder 12 contains letters received by A. Rivers Taylor from his mother, siblings and cousins as well as a few letters that he wrote. One, for example, written on December 22, 1866, seeking a temporary position in New York and joking about how the Democrats will have to "act a little conservative."

Another son of Joseph and Elizabeth Taylor, Clinton T. Taylor, served in the Navy and a number of letters and orders related to his service are included in Folder 13.

Folder 14 contains the letters to Phillip Burrows who handled financial matters for William Taylor, Jr. and his son Joseph during their Iowa Territory episode. The letters contain detailed financial information and reveal many of the difficulties they faced.

The final folder (Folder 15) includes several letters , a March 15, 1842, receipt for board at the Pacific Hotel in New York City for General H.J. Genet, and a "Family Record" containing the birth, marriage and death dates of certain Taylor family members.

Most of the letters are in good condition. The ink has faded on some of them and there are those with handwriting that is difficult to decipher, in particular those with cross-writing.


The letters are arranged chronologically by family member.