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Guide to the Naval History Society Collection
1721-1995 (bulk 1781-1936)
  MS 439

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

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Celia Hartmann.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 09, 2019
Description is in English

Container List

Series 28. John Paul Jones (1776-1976; bulk 1907-1930)

Scope and Content

The series includes five 18th century documents from the collection of John Sanford Barnes (Series 3) related to the exploits of John Paul Jones; and supporting material about Jones either produced or collected by both Barnes and his son Col. James Barnes (Series 4). The series documents Jones himself, the history of the Barnes's collecting of Jones-related information and objects, and their efforts to determine the authenticity and veracity of these. It includes John Sanford Barnes's correspondence with various Jones biographers and collectors, typed transcripts of Jones's ships' logbooks and personal correspondence, photoreproductions of original items in Barnes's and other collections, clippings and other published materials, Col. James Barnes's writings on Jones, and undated and unattributed notes about the provenance and acquisition of Jones-related material.

The original documents carry the signatures of Jones himself on a letter to DeNeufville introducing John Barry and, on his commission aboard Providence, that of John Hancock. The clippings document a report of the finding of Jones's body in Paris in 1903, the 1909 appearance of   Ranger's logbooks and a separate auction of Jones material, information from the Russian archives in 1926, and the Naval History Society's participation in placement of a new headstone at the grave of Jones's brother William Jones in Fredericksburg, VA, in 1930. It is not clear who added the 1976 clipping on the purported finding of the wreck of   Bon Homme Richard.

The correspondence documents organizations and individuals interested in Jones material, including the Library of Congress (the Manuscripts Division published "A calendar of John Paul Jones manuscripts in the Library of Congress" in 1903); biographer Anna deKoven (author of the 1913 "The letters of John Paul Jones"); and Grenville Kane, the Naval History Society's treasurer who was acknowledged as the greatest collector of Jones material. There is both a clean and an edited version of the typed transcript of Jones's correspondence, which Col. James Barnes may have planned to publish.

Some of the photocopied material shows penciled notes on the original items' provenance and history. The Beaumont Groube material documents John Sanford Barnes's effort to determine, through a handwriting comparison, the writer of Serapis's logbook (see Series 49). Photocopies of Jones's sealing wax imprint on the DeNeufville letter fueled continuing speculation about whether the seal itself had originally been a gift to him from Marie Antoinette.

The commission signed by Hancock, Jones's letter to DeNeufville, and correspondence to and from Barnes about Jones are available on microfilm.

Historical Note

John Paul Jones is among the most romantic and written-about figures in Revolutionary history. His raising of the first American flag aboard a naval vessel in 1776, his response to the British call to surrender Bon Homme Richard of "I have not yet begun to fight," and his victory aboard that vessel over   Serapis in 1779 are elements of American nation-building with almost mythic significance. John Sanford Barnes's Jones collection was a product of his general interest in naval history (with a focus on heroic exploits) magnified by his often-mentioned family connection with Jones's contemporaries Commodore Bainbridge (see Series 1) and Admiral Barry (see Series 5): Barnes's wife's grandfather James Hayes was a nephew of and adopted by John Barry; his wife's mother was Bainbridge's daughter, Sarah Bainbridge Hayes.

The early 20th century saw the publication of many biographies and articles about Jones's personal life and exploits. Their prevalence is perhaps attributable to the general increased focus on naval contributions to military victories after the Spanish American War in 1898 and efforts to build a "new American navy" for the new century. In 1900 August Buell published the widely quoted and later disparaged "Paul Jones: Founder of the American Navy"; in 1905 James Barnes's own "The personal appearance of John Paul Jones" was published in Appleton's Booklover's Magazine. The Naval History Society's first publication was "Logs of the   Serapis,   Alliance, and   Ariel under the Command of John Paul Jones, 1778-1780," edited by John Sanford Barnes, and printed by De Vinne Press, New York, in 1911, based on the original and transcribed logbooks (see Series 49) in his personal collection. Anna deKoven's biography (for which she consulted Barnes and his collection) was published in 1913, and in 1917 Don Seitz published "Paul Jones: His exploits in English seas during 1778 to 1780." Each added new information and raised further questions about details of Jones's life and genealogy, accomplishments, death, and burial, which were discussed both privately in correspondence among authors and collectors, and publicly in newspaper letters columns.


The 18th century materials are arranged chronologically. The thematic organization of Barnes's collection-related material in its original housing has been retained and those folders are arranged chronologically. The undated material is ordered with original writings first, followed by transcripts and photoreproduced images.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Additional correspondence received by John Sanford Barnes about John Paul Jones can be found in the Naval History Society's Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection (see Series 52).

Series 49 (Logbooks: US Navy) of the Naval History Society Collection includes transcripts of the logbooks of Ranger and   Bon Homme Richard and the original one-volume logbooks of   Serapis,   Alliance, and   Ariel.

Barnes described the history of his collecting of Jones-related and other naval memorabilia in his 1902 lecture "Naval Literature" to the U.S. Naval Institute, published in Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute, vol XXIX, no. 2, whole no. 106 (XN E182 .B26).

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Jones letter to Admiral E. Hopkins
1776 September 4
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Commission to command sloop Providence
1776 Oct 29
Box: 1 Folder : 3 DeMartine letter on outfitting Bon Homme Richard
1779 January 30
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Jones letter introducing John Barry
1783 June 4
Box: 1 Folder : 5 John Browne letter
1789 February 25
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Correspondence to J.S. Barnes about Jones
1905, 1909, 1910, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Printed material: general
1906-1939, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Clippings and correspondence: Jones's appearance and portraiture
1907-1909, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Clippings: General
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Material on logbooks: Correspondence, photoreproduction
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Material on Bon Homme Richard's flag: Clipping, photograph
1923, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Visual materials: Photographs, postcard, commemorative stamps
1931, 1936, 1940
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Material on Jones's naval commission: Correspondence, clippings, photoreproduction
1931, 1940, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Material on Hancock-signed commission
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Miscellaneous notes
Box: 1 Folder : 16 "Miscellaneous writings by Col. James Barnes about John Paul Jones"
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Transcripts of Jones's letters
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Typescript: Letters of John Paul Jones
Box: 1 Folder : 19 Corrected typescript: Letters of John Paul Jones
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Typescript: "An Alphabetical List of Letters to Sundry Persons Contained in the Book"
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Photoreproductions of Jones documents
Box: 1 Folder : 22 Photoreproduction, Beaumont Groube letter; J.S. Barnes note
Box: 1 Folder : 23 Photoreproductions of Jones's letter introducing Barry, and Barry's seal
Box: OS 1 Folder : 13 DeKoven article on Jones; correspondence with J.S. Barnes
Box: OS 1 Folder : 14 Transcripts and photostats of Jones's letter to Admiral Hopkins

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