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Bayard Taylor Putnam Family Papers

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Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

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Overview and metadata sections

Putnam, Bayard Taylor, 1854-1886

Born in 1854, Bayard Taylor Putnam of Newport, Rhode Island, was one of several children of George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872), founder of the publishing firm G.P. Putnam's Sons, and Victorine Haven Putnam (1824-1891). The Putnam's other children included: Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi (1842–1906), George Haven Putnam (1844-1930), Edith Grace Putnam (1845-1930), Ida J. Putnam (b. 1846), John Bishop Putnam (b. 1848) Amy Victorine Putnam Puiley (b. 1850), Irving Putnam (1852–1931), Ruth Putnam (1856-1931), Kingman Putnam (b. 1859), and Herbert Palmer Putnam (1861-1955).

Deciding not to go into the family publishing business, Putnam instead became a geological surveyor for the United States Geological Survey Division of Mining Geology upon the agency's founding in 1879 working under division chief, Raphael Pumpelly (1837-1923). Pumpelly had been appointed Special Agent of the Census Office in charge of gathering coal mining statistics for the Tenth U.S. Census (1880), and Putnam was made Expert Special Agent for the Census. As a surveyor for the U.S.G.S., Putnam was sent to several parts of the country, including Michigan, northern New Jersey and the surrounding area, Kentucky, and the "Far West," to survey largely iron-ore and coal mines.

Around 1881, Putnam became involved with the Northern Pacific Railroad's Northern Transcontinental Survey as the geologist in charge of the Upper Columbia Division. Organized by Pumpelly, this survey collected information on the topographical and economic features of Dakota, Montana, and Washington territories to identify the economic resources near the railroad lines.

Putnam spent much of the last few years of his life devoted to the manufacturing and selling of a patented combined protractor and chart-holder ("Chart Holder and Course Indicator") that he invented for sailors. In 1886, at age 30, Putnam allegedly committed suicide leaving his wife, Grace Sanderson Thacher Putnam (1855-1900), son, Worcester Putnam (born 1883), and daughter, Mary Putnam (born 1887).

Following Putnam's death, Grace Putnam continued attempts to market the chart holder. In order to make ends meet, she also rented out summer cottages on her property on Conanicut Island, Rhode Island, and also gave sailing and swimming lessons to local residents before her own death in 1900.

Organized into two series, "Bayard Putnam Papers" and "Putnam Family Papers," this collection consists of correspondence as well as diaries of field notes, legal documents, bills and receipts, and ephemera relating to Bayard Taylor Putnam (1854-1886). Most of the materials are professional in nature and document Putnam's work with the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.). They also relate to Putnam's combined protractor and chart holder, specifically his attempts to manufacture and market the device. Professional correspondence and field notes document Putnam's time in Michigan as well as northern New Jersey and surrounding areas of New York and Pennsylvania as Expert Special Agent for the Tenth U.S. Census as well as his time surveying mines in Montana for the Northern Transcontinental Survey.

Bayard T. Putnam's immediate family members, particularly his wife, Grace Haven Putnam (1855-1900) as well as his daughter, Dr. Mary Putnam (b. 1887), are also represented primarily through personal correspondence. Other materials include some legal documents, ephemera, receipts, and a few glass plate negatives.

Correspondence relating to Grace helps shed light on her life and that of her children after Putnam's death. Most are letters from her close friend, Bishop Henry Codman Potter (1834-1908), seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Letters to and from Mary Putnam, circa 1931 to 1934, are of particular interest as they document a contentious period within the history of the Putnam family and G.P. Putnam's Sons. Discussing the family's stock in and ownership of the publishing company, the correspondence relates to the recent merger of G.P. Putnam's Sons with Minton, Balch & Co., (1930) whereupon the owners of the latter became the majority stockholders.

The collection is organized into two series: "Bayard T. Putnam Papers" and "Putnam Family Papers."

Box 3 is oversized.

Purchased 2013 (AM 2014-51).

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 Faith Charlton in December 2013. Finding aid written by Faith Charlton in December 2013.

No material was separated during 2013 processing.

Publisher
Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Faith Charlton
Finding Aid Date
2013
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

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Collection Inventory

Scope and Contents

A large portion of the correspondence in this series is professional in nature and includes letters from Raphael Pumpelly to Putnam while the latter was surveying in the field. There is also a folder of correspondence, largely incoming, relating to Putnam's combined protractor and chart holder; and a few personal letters from Putnam to members of his family, including one to his sister Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi.

The series also includes three detailed diaries of field notes that Putnam kept while surveying various iron-ore and coal mines for the U.S.G.S. These volumes document his time in Michigan as well as northern New Jersey and the surrounding areas of New York and Pennsylvania as Expert Special Agent for the Tenth U.S. Census as well as his time surveying mines in Montana for the Northern Transcontinental Survey. Written primarily in pencil, they include geological and mineralogical notes, sketches of maps, mines, plats, plans, and cross sections.

Lastly, there are receipts, ephemera, and printed items relating to Putnam's chart holder.

Arrangement

This series is arranged chronologically by document type.

Physical Description

2 boxes

Letters to Putnam about Job Prospects, 1876-1877. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Correspondents include: Raphael Pumpelly, F.V. (Ferdinand Vandeveer) Hayden, (1829-1887), Oliver Wolcott Gibbs (1822-1908), and George Haven Putnam (1844-1930). Letters document a few failed attempts at finding surveying work as well as Putnam's decision to not work for the family business.

Physical Description

1 folder

Letters to Putnam, U.S.G.S. Surveys, 1879 October-1880 July. 2 folders.
Scope and Contents

Most letters are from Raphael Pumpelly with some letters from Andrew A. Blair, Disbursing Officer for the Tenth Census, that are interspersed throughout.

Physical Description

2 folders

Correspondence, Combined Protractor and Chart Holder, 1883-1884. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Correspondents include: Robert E. Sherman of New York, Putnam's lawyer; Commander John Henry Upshur of the U.S. Navy; and Josiah P. Fitch, patent attorney. There are also letters from map and atlas companies about making the device, and a few letters from Putnam regarding the sale and marketing of the chart holder to yachtsmen. Putnam was unsuccessful in his attempt to market his invention to the U.S. Navy.

Physical Description

1 folder

Letters from Putnam to His Mother, Victorine Haven Putnam, and Sister, Mary Putnam Jacobi, 1873-1876, 1881. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Diary, Survey Work in Michigan, 1879 October-1879 December. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Volume contains detailed field notes of mine surveys and ore samples with sketches of mines, plats, plans, cross sections, etc., in northern Michigan, including Marquette District, Ishpeming, and other locations. Largely inscribed in pencil and ink, there is also one map colored with watercolor wash.

Physical Description

1 folder

Diary, Survey Work in New Jersey and Surrounding Area, 1880 February-1880 May. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Dating from the time Putnam was stationed in Hackettstown, New Jersey, this volume contains field notes of surveys and samples of mines in New Jersey, and surrounding areas of New York and Pennsylvania. Written in pencil, it includes some sketches and plat maps.

Physical Description

1 folder

Diary, Survey Work in Montana, 1882. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Kept while Putnam was working as a surveyor for the Northern Transcontinental Survey, this volume includes sketches of maps and cross sections, etc. as well as highly detailed descriptions of the towns he visited and mines surveyed.

Physical Description

1 folder

Papers Relating to Combined Protractor and Chart Holder, 1883-1887. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes Putnam's official patent papers, annotated instructions for using the device, handwritten notes (written on the back of a Tenth Census circular), and an issue of Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office, volume 23 number 26 (June 26, 1883).

Physical Description

1 folder

Receipts, 1880-1886. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Relate mostly to Putnam's combined protractor and chart holder.

Physical Description

1 folder

Ephemera, 1876-1886. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Items include business cards, a circular, an invitation, and a handwritten menu.

Physical Description

1 folder

Arrangement

This series is arranged chronologically by family member.

Scope and Contents

This series consists largely of personal correspondence that relates to Grace Thacher Putnam. Other Putnam family members are also documented, in particular, Grace's daughter, Mary Putnam.

Physical Description

3 boxes

Scope and Contents

This subseries is primarily correspondence and also includes some receipts, legal documents, and photographs.

Correspondence, which is mostly letters to Grace from Bishop Henry Codman Potter, document the family's activities after Putnam's death, including Grace's means of earning an income.

Several legal documents and early letters, including a few from Grace's brother-in-law, Kingman N. Putnam, relate to Grace gaining title to Putnam's chart holder. They also relate to her attempts to market the device to organizations such as the U.S. Navy.

Arrangement

The subseries is organized chronologically by document type.

Physical Description

3 boxes

Correspondence, 1885-1900. 2 folders.
Physical Description

2 folders

Letters and Empty Envelopes, Undated. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Receipts, Legal Documents, and Clippings, 1886-1900. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Photographs, circa 1897 September. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

This folder consists of seven photographic prints of glass plate negatives, circa September 1897. (The prints were made in 2014.)

Three of the photographs are likely exteriors of the properties on Conanicut Island that Grace Putnam owned and rented out. The other four depict the family's row boat; one includes Grace (likely) seated in the boat, and another shows Worcester Putnam (likely) seated in the boat.

Physical Description

1 folder

Glass Plate Negatives, circa 1897 September. 1 box.
Scope and Contents

Consists of 7 negatives. Three are likely exteriors of the properties on Conanicut Island that Grace Putnam owned and rented out. The other four depict the family's row boat; one includes Grace (likely) seated in the boat, and another shows Worcester Putnam (likely) seated in the boat.

Physical Description

1 box

Scope and Contents

Besides Mary Putnam, Putnam's sister, Amy V. Putnam Puiley, his son, Worcester Putnam, and his mother, Victorine Haven Putnam are also represented in this subseries.

Arrangement

Materials are arranged by family member.

Physical Description

1 box

Mary Putnam Correspondence, 1916-1934 (1932-1934). 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Letters about the family's stock in the publishing business, reveal antagonisms between Mary and her brother, Worcester, and their cousin, George Palmer Putnam (1887-1950). Correspondents include: Worcester Putnam, Mary's uncle, Herbert Palmer Putnam, and Mary's lawyer, John E. Larson of McKenney, Flannery, & Craighill (D.C.).

Also included are some letters that relate to the family's estate, in particular, the estate of Mary's aunt, Ruth Putnam, as well as a few letters that document Mary's involvement with Comité Franco-American pour la Protection des Enfants de la Frontier during WWI in Glasgow, including letters from the organization's president, August F. Jaccaci.

Physical Description

1 folder

Amy Putnam Puiley, Letters from Family, 1870-1886. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Victorine Haven Putnam, Letters from Daughters, 1875-1886. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Consists of letters from Victorine's daughters Edith, Amy, and Ruth, including one about Bayard and Grace Putnam's engagement and one from Amy about Putnam's death.

Physical Description

1 folder

Miscellaneous Ephemera, 1872-1931. 1 folder.
Scope and Contents

Includes a transcribed letter, 1872, that Noah Worcester wrote to his brother in 1797, as well as a couple of Worcester Putnam's report cards, 1895.

Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest