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George H. Hoyt Papers on John Brown


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


George H. Hoyt (1837-1877) was an abolitionist and lawyer who represented John Brown (1800-1859) in the Virginia v. John Brown trial that followed Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry. Hoyt became involved in Brown's trial at the age of 21 when working as an attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. He later fought in the American Civil War under Kansas General Charles "Doc" Jennison, in Company K of the 7th Kansas Cavalry regiment, which was also known as "Jennison's Jayhawkers." After the Civil War, Hoyt served as Kansas Attorney General from 1867 to 1869. After returning to Massachusetts, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1871. He died in his hometown of Athol, Massachusetts, at the age of 39.

Consists of affidavits, clippings, correspondence, and photographs, mostly related to abolitionist lawyer George H. Hoyt's work as an attorney for John Brown (1800-1859). Materials shed light on the Virginia v. John Brown trial that followed Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, as well as Hoyt's participation in the American Civil War and abolitionist movements.

The collection includes a leather journal containing Ohio affidavits that Hoyt gathered on behalf of John Brown, which provide statements attesting to the supposed "insanity" of Brown and his family members. While it is unclear whether the evidence was presented during the trial or after, in seeking an appeal, Hoyt recorded affidavits from Brown's former neighbors and relatives residing in and around Akron, Ohio, in support of an insanity defense (a defense that Brown, himself, rejected). The journal's final written page contains a list of names of conspirators in the raid on Harpers Ferry, along with their respective fates. A separate scrapbook contains over 50 newspaper clippings featuring reportage of the trial and George Hoyt's life and death, including the front page of the November 12th, 1859, issue of Harper's Weekly featuring a drawing of Brown and Hoyt at the trial captioned "The Prisoner Brown and His Boston Counsel, Mr. Hoyt."

Correspondence, including both loose letters and those tipped into the scrapbook, include letters from George Hoyt to Clara Hoyt (Humboldt, Tennessee, June 30, 1862), James Redpath (1833-1891) to George Hoyt (Boston, Massachusetts, June 20, 1869), John Brown Jr. (1821-1895) to George Hoyt (Put-in-Bay Island, Ohio, June 25 and 26, 1869), Wendell Phillips (1811-1884) to George Hoyt (Boston, Massachusetts, July 5, 1869), Richard J. Hinton (1830-1901) to Clara Hoyt Burleigh (Washington, D.C, January 21, 1893), and Richard Hinton to George Hoyt (undated). These letters document the close friendship that Hoyt developed with Brown's son, John Brown Jr. (1821-1895); attestations from various people involved that Hoyt worked on the Brown case pro bono; as well as Hoyt's time serving under Kansas General Charles "Doc" Jennison, in Company K of the 7th Kansas Cavalry regiment, also known as "Jennison's Jayhawkers." There are also two unidentified tintypes of children, likely those of John Brown Jr. (1821-1895).

Purchased from Cowan's Auctions in 2021 (AM 2021-66).

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in May 2021. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in May 2021.

No materials were separated from the collection during 2021 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Delafield fund.
Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to Special Collections Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

Journal Containing Ohio Affidavits Regarding John Brown, circa 1859. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Scrapbook of Clippings and Letters on the Trial of John Brown, 1859-1893. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Newspaper Clippings, 1859-1877. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Letters, 1862-1893. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Tintype Photographs of John Brown Jr.'s Children, circa 1850s. 1 folder.
Physical Description

1 folder

Print, Suggest