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Guide to the Charles Edwin West Scrapbooks
 MS 2807

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 January 24, 2020
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: West, Charles Edwin, 1809-1900
Title: Charles Edwin West scrapbooks
Dates [inclusive]: circa 1838-1898
Abstract: 32 scrapbooks and loose papers maintained by Charles Edwin West (1809-1900), an administrator at the Rutgers Female Institute (1839-1951), Buffalo Female Academy (1851-1860), and Brooklyn Heights Seminary (1860-1889) who was especially known for his inclusion of mathematics and science in his educational programs for women. The scrapbooks are primarily filled with newspaper clippings, but there is also a sizable amount of ephemera. The scrapbooks are subject-oriented and relate to education, science, art and literature, and necrologies.
Quantity: 4 Linear feet in 4 record cartons
Call Phrase: MS 2807

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Biographical / Historical

Charles Edwin West was born in 1809. He began teaching in 1827 in Massachusetts. After various other moves among schools, in 1839 he became a founder, and principal, of the Rutgers Female Institute in New York City. Here he earned a reputation for running against convention by teaching mathematics and science to the school's woman students.

In 1843, West married Elizabeth Giles (1816-1864). He remained at Rutgers Female Institute for 12 years before moving to Buffalo to start a new school for women in 1851. After nine years at the Buffalo Female Academy, in 1960 he moved to Brooklyn and took charge of the Brooklyn Heights Seminary, where he remained for 29 years. West retired in 1889, continuing to live at 76 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn and summering in Buffalo. He died in 1900.

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Scope and Contents

The collection includes 32 subject-oriented scrapbooks and several folders of loose documents maintained by Charles E. West. The bulk of the documents are newspaper clippings, but a sizable amount of ephemera can be found as well. Much of this ephemera relates to the Rutgers Female Institute and, later, Rutgers Female College. Overall, the scrapbooks concern education (e.g., school administration, finances, notable teachers, principals and other educational figures, and perhaps especially women in education as students, teachers and administrators); scientific matters (microscopy, astronomy); art, archaeology, culture, and literary matters; and obituaries (necrologies) of those well-known and those more likely to have been known personally by West. Individual volumes are noted below in the container list.


The collection is organized by scrapbook topic. Generally the books that lean more heavily toward ephemera (rather than clippings) and hold material more directly related to West's life and career are presented first and are in the first box.

In the container list, labels enclosed in "quotation marks" are original titles as found on the scrapbook cover or spine. Labels without quotation marks were devised by the processing archivist.

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Clippings (information artifacts).
  • Obituaries
  • Printed ephemera.
  • Scrapbooks.

Subject Organizations

  • American Numismatic and Archæological Society
  • New England Society in the City of Brooklyn
  • Rutgers Female College (New York, N.Y.)
  • Rutgers Female Institute (New York, N.Y.)

Subject Topics

  • Learned institutions and societies
  • Women -- Education

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to qualified researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.) This collection is owned by the New-York Historical Society. The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Charles Edwin West scrapbooks, MS 2807, New-York Historical Society.

Separated Materials

A loose leaf binder in the collection held a number of documents related to the historian, Martha Lamb. These included two manuscripts (one with Lamb's reflections about herself and one on the Berkshires), publicity material, ephemera, and clippings. The appearance was that these were actually part of N-YHS's Lamb papers that had somehow gotten mixed with the West scrapbooks. These Lamb documents were removed from West and placed in the Lamb collection (MS 362) in January 2020.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were found on collection shelves in January 2020. The source of the acquisition is unknown.

Processing Information

One scrapbook, that concerning the American Numismatic Society, was cataloged as a standalone item sometime before 2008, using call phrase "BV West, Charles". In January 2020 all the remaining volumes were processed by archivist Larry Weimer and the standalone scrapbook and its catalog record were consolidated with the others.

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Container List

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1-7 Rutgers Female Institute (7 folders)

Scope and Contents

Documents found together in a loose leaf binder. Includes published Act of Incorporation and By-laws (1938); address of Isaac Ferris at opening (1939); catalogue of library books (1849); a handwrtten list of students by department, categorized primarily by attendance (1851); programs, newspaper accounts, and tickets for various commencements (1841-1862); ephemera and clippings related to examinations, lectures, reunions, and other school matters (1841-1864); a farewell poem to West; a few letters (1838-1848); Boston's report on the use of medals (prizes) for recognizing educational accomplishment (1848); and West's recollections in 1897 of the founding of the Brooklyn Female Academy (1840s-50s).

1838-1864, 1897
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Rutgers Female College

Scope and Contents

Includes a statement of the "System of Instruction" (1886); program for the school year 1887-88; charter (as of 1888); commencement program (1886); financial solicitation letter (1871); and tickets for various commencement and related events.

Box: 1 Folder : 9 "Circulars, etc."

Scope and Contents

Includes a broad range of printed circulars, advertisements, receipts, form letters, business cards, commencement admission tickets, and financial solicitations. The materials are from educational institutions (e.g. Perry Academy; Orange, NJ, Female Seminary; Young Ladies Institute of Pittsfield, Mass.; City University of New York), lecturers, scientific associations (Smithsonian Institution, American Association for the Advancement of Science) product manufacturers (e.g., reaping and mowing machine, school furniture, Abbott's horometer), book advertisements, and much more. Includes some letters.

Box: 1 Folder : 10-18 "New England Society of Brooklyn" (9 folders)

Scope and Contents

Virtually all the documents from this scrapbook were loose, and the scrapbook binding was broken. The binder was discarded and the documents foldered roughly as found throughout the scrapbook. In addition to the Society of Brooklyn, there is material on the New England Society of Buffalo, Pilgrim Day generally, and the Pilgrim Statue in Central Park. There is also ephemera on other organizations West was a member of, especially the Hamilton Club and the Rembrandt Club, as well as some related to the Century Association, Long Island Historical Society, American Astronomical Society, and others. The earliest document is the booklet "Confession of Faith and Covenant of the Church of the Puritans" (1846), with its principles, rules and by-laws.

Box: 1 Folder : 19 "American Numismatic and Archaeological Society"

Scope and Contents

Clippings concerning coins and meetings of the Society. There are many circulars, invitations, receipts, and letters related to the Society, with some concerning the Grolier Club and the Bailey Microscopial Club. Holds a booklet "The Feuardent Collection of Antiquities, Coins and Gems" offered for sale at 30 Lafayette Place (1880); a brochure "Coins of the New Testament" published by Marcus Ward & Co, with textured images of the coins; and the catalog for Scott & Company's 55th auction sale of coins (1883). This scrapbook was cataloged at one time at N-YHS with the call phrase "BV West, Charles."

Box: 1 Folder : 20 Agriculture and Breeding

Scope and Contents

Clippings concerning prizes awarded at the Erie County, N.Y., and Agricultural Society fairs, trotting horse sales, and other such matters. Includes a ribbon from the 1857 New York State Agricultural Society, Buffalo.

1857, 1870s-1880s
Box: 1 Folder : 21 "Feuardent & Cesnola Controversy"

Scope and Contents

Relates to charges that Cypriot antiquities at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were fraudulent. Mostly clippings with one original letter from Gaston L. Feuardent transmitting a transcription of a letter from G.W. Stillman.

1878, 1882-1884
Box: 2 Volume : 1 "Education No. [?]"
Box: 2 Volume : 2 "Education No. 111[?]"
Box: 2 Volume : 3 "Education No. 11-[?]"

Scope and Contents

Includes, among other topics, the dedication of the new chapter house at the Buffalo Female Academy (1884), which West attended and made remarks at; his remarks are summarized and recorded in some of the articles. The volume includes many items of ephemera (invitations, commencement programs, a brochure advertising lectures by George Willis Cooke on British women in literature, etc.). One letter to West from the New York Local Committee of Harvard Examinations for Women transmits a circular describing changes to the exams (1876).

Box: 2 Volume : 4 Education

Scope and Contents

Includes clippings (and some ephemera) on, among other topics, the death of West's wife, Elizabeth, in 1864; dinners and other events honoring West (some articles include his remarks); and the death of Mary A. Brigham (1830-1889), a longtime teacher at Brooklyn Heights Seminary, who was killed in a train wreck shortly after being named president of Mount Holyoke Seminary and Female College.

Box: 2 Volume : 5 Education

Scope and Contents

Primarily includes biographical sketches and articles on education, including women's education. Two articles at the front of the volume are biographical notes on West.

Box: 2 Volume : 6 "Andover Theology, etc."

Scope and Contents

Clippings concerning the "Andover" school of theology (a belief in "probation after death") within Congregationalism, and various other theological matters.

Box: 2 Volume : 7 Henry Ward Beecher

Scope and Contents

Clippings primarily concerning the death of Beecher and the building of a memorial to him. Some original invitations and related letters concerning a meeting of the Brooklyn Clerical Union featuring the Rev. Dr. Joseph Parker.

Box: 3 Volume : 1 Travel Accounts from Philadelphia Public Ledger

Scope and Contents

Primarily includes clippings of two serialized travel accounts, the first (1890) through New York State, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and the second (1892) along the coast from Massachusetts to Prince Edward Island in Canada. There are a small number of other clippings, including those concerning President James Garfield.

Box: 3 Volume : 2 China, Japan, Korea
Box: 3 Volume : 3 "Japan"
Box: 3 Volume : 4 "China and Korea"
Box: 3 Volume : 5 Science and Microscopy
Box: 3 Volume : 6 Microscopic and Telescopic

Scope and Contents

Primarily clippings, but also has a ribbon "American Society of Microscopists, Chautauqua, N.Y., 1886" with image, and also the meeting's exhibition list and the reprint of West's remarks at the meeting "Forty Years' Acquaintance with the Microscope and Microscopists"; booklet "On the Preservation of Animal Substances" by Henry Goadby, inscribed by the author to West (1852); booklet "A Theory of the Constitution of the Sun" by Charles S. Hastings, inscribed by the author to West (1880); and a printed "Table Showing the Actual Magnifying Power of Thirty-Five Microscopial Objectives of Various Makers" by the Bailey Microscopial Club (1870).

Box: 3 Volume : 7 "Natural History"
Box: 3 Volume : 8 "Archaeology"

Scope and Contents

Clippings on various Roman, Greek, and other archaeological matters. Includes an announcement card, with image, concerning the placement of the Alexandrian obelisk ("Cleopatra's Needle") in Central Park by Henry H. Gorringe (1881).

Box: 3 Volume : 9 "Astronomy"
Box: 3 Volume : 10 Art
Box: 3 Volume : 11-12 Various (2 volumes)

Scope and Contents

Primarily includes clippings on libraries, books, collections, and public lectures.

Box: 4 Volume : 1-8 "Necrology" (8 volumes)

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