Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Robert Anderson (1781-1859) was born in Gloucester County, Virginia, on October 22, 1781, to James Anderson (b. 1740) and Hannah Tyler (b. 1740). His father was a blacksmith in Williamsburg, Virginia, and served as Public Armorer and Captain of the Company of Artificers. Robert was the youngest of eight children born to the couple. In 1814 he married Helen Maxwell Macauley Southall, daughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Macauley and widow of Peyton Southall. She brought four children from her previous marriage.
Throughout his life, Anderson lived and owned property in various parts of Virginia, notably Williamsburg and Yorktown, and was involved in mercantile ventures throughout the state. He was secretary and later director of the James River Steamboat Company and an insurance agent for the Mutual Assurance Society (1811-1857) and the Aetna Insurance Company (1838-1857). He continually ran for various Virginia political offices and served three one-year terms as mayor of Williamsburg (1812, 1820, and 1828). He was very involved in both the personal and professional lives of his extended family and regularly financed living expenses, trips, and education for his children, nieces, and nephews until his death in Yorktown, Virginia, on January 25, 1859.
The collection primarily consists of correspondence and documents sent to Robert Anderson (1781-1859) by various members of his extended family. His nieces and nephews were frequent correspondents, writing detailed updates on their daily lives, family, and friends. They also consulted "Uncle Bob" for advice on important decisions and regularly solicited money for personal and professional needs and wants.
Nearly a third of the collection is correspondence from one nephew in particular, William Tyler Anderson (1799-1876), who lived in Princeton, New Jersey, and served as cashier for the Delaware & Raritan Canal (D&R); many of his letters are written on D&R letterhead and include information on the company and its management. A number of other nephews were doctors who wrote about their medical training and respective practices. Of note are three letters from nephew Washington F. Anderson, who wrote a detailed account of his journey to the California goldmines followed by an 1857 letter explaining his conversion to Mormonism and describing the religious community under Brigham Young.
Anderson's personal papers include diaries dating from 1836 to 1858 in which he meticulously noted his location and activities, and copies of printed broadsides he distributed to voters while running for political office. Other documents in the collection relate to Anderson's role as investor and executor of various estates.
The majority of the letters were sent from three locations where outposts of the family lived: Yorktown, Virginia; Princeton, New Jersey; and Alabama. As many of the family members wrote about daily life, the letters provide information on nineteenth-century life in these locations, often touching on issues of food and illness. The letters also provide a view of the treatment of household slaves and suggest the Andersons considered them to be part of the family; many members sent regards and asked after the slaves' health and well-being in their letters to Robert.
Robert Anderson arranged the documents by correspondent and his arrangement has remained largely undisturbed. The correspondents are filed alphabetically with the exception of William Tyler Anderson whose letters are housed in a separate box due to volume. As many of the family members share names, researchers may wish to clarify identities by consulting the family genealogy in Box 1, Folder 1.
Purchased in December 2007 from the family of Ernie Dale (Princeton Class of 1939), who received the collection from his godfather, Sackett Dickinson, one of the last directors of the Delaware & Raritan Canal.
For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.
This collection was processed by Rebecca Garcia in January 2008. Finding aid written by Rebecca Garcia in January 2008.
No appraisal information is available.
- Delaware and Raritan Canal Company (N.J.)
- Mutual Assurance Society Against Fire on Buildings of the State of Virginia
- Conversion -- Mormonism -- 19th century
- Medicine -- Practice -- History -- 19th century --Sources
- Gold mines and mining -- California -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
- Mormons -- Utah -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
- African Americans -- Social conditions -- To 1964
- Slavery -- United States -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
- Manuscripts Division
- Finding Aid Author
- Rebecca Garcia
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
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Organized alphabetically by name.
Consists primarily of the papers of the Anderson family, including genealogy and correspondence, as well as some papers from the Ashburn and Welling families.Physical Description
Anderson family tree and two related documents.Physical Description
Letters concerning family news and the business of running a boarding house.Physical Description
Letters to her husband (Robert Anderson) updating on daily affairs of health and food. Includes a pass for a slave.Physical Description
Chiefly legal papers regarding land transactions and law suits.Physical Description
Three letters written by Jessie to various members of the Anderson family.Physical Description
Letters updating on life in Alabama and Tennessee. Included is a printed circular concerning typhoid fever written and distributed by Leroy, who served as President of the Alabama State Medical Association.Physical Description
Letters dealing with local news, his enrollment at Edgehill School, and his preparation for the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University).Physical Description
Letters primarily focused on family news, a housing dispute, and the running of a school.Physical Description
Documents pertaining to the deaths of the three siblings--wills, inventories, and estate papers. Robert Anderson served as executor for all three. Includes a list of named African American slaves and their dates of birth.Physical Description
Succinct daily notations of location and activities.Physical Description
Papers related to insurance sales, particularly the Mutual Assurance Society.Physical Description
Papers related to Anderson's political viewpoints and campaigns for Congress including multiple printed Virginia election addresses (kept with papers but cataloged separately) and an 1844 Elizabeth County Election Tally with names and votes of voters.Physical Description
Miscellaneous letters and documents from family and business associates.Physical Description
Reporting on life as a medical student and practicing doctor. Later letters include a detailed account of an overland journey to the California gold mines and an 1857 letter explaining his conversion to Mormonism, describing the religious community under Brigham Young.Physical Description
Financial and estate papers.Physical Description
Reporting on family life in Alabama.Physical Description
WTA served as an employee of the Delaware & Raritan Canal (D&R, offices in Princeton, NJ); many letters written on D&R letterhead. Subject matter includes much on the company and its management and operation as well as local Princeton and New Jersey news, local/state/national politics, and family updates.Physical Description
Letters from Harriet updating on family news and from Robert addressing business affairs. Included is a printed announcement for a "Private Infirmary" opened at Mobile, Alabama, treating African Americans and whites (separately). Names Robert A Ashburn, M.D., as Resident, also lists William H. Anderson, M.D.Physical Description
Appraisals, inventories and other papers of Henry Ashburn's estate. Robert Anderson served as administrator.Physical Description
Financial documents.Physical Description
Letters from Catherine. Robert Anderson served as her guardian.Physical Description
Wedding invitation and announcement.Physical Description
Series of letters regarding a business venture to build a saw mill in Yorktown, Virginia.Physical Description
Letters concerning business matters and White's move to Yorktown, Virginia. Included is a printed circular advertising "Wickersham's Wire Fence" with accompanying illustrations and prices, as well as a printed advertisement for "Ripley's New and Improved Brickmachine."Physical Description