Sep 24, 2020 - Sale 2546

Sale 2546 - Lot 169

Price Realized: $ 3,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(NEW YORK CITY.) Papers of congressman and philanthropist Abram S. Hewitt. 244 items (0.4 linear feet) in one box, mostly letters addressed to Abram Hewitt; condition generally strong. Vp, 1854-1902

Additional Details

Abram Stevens Hewitt (1822-1903) was in the first rank of powerful New Yorkers during the Gilded Age: a Columbia University graduate, iron and railroad magnate, Democratic United States Congressman from 1875-1879 and 1881-1886, New York City mayor from 1887-1888, and builder and trustee of the Cooper Union design school (founded by his father-in-law Peter Cooper). He helped launch the New York City subway system, and his daughters founded the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. Offered here is a substantial archive of his correspondence.
Most of 39 letters from the 1854-56 period are addressed to the manufacturing firm of Cooper & Hewitt, and relate to rails supplied to the railroad industry. One 1856 letter from Edward M. Clymer is illustrated with a manuscript map of a proposed network of Pennsylvania rail lines connecting to New York. Among the many noteworthy correspondents in the later files are railway magnates James Fisk and Jay Gould; historian Henry Adams (2 letters); forestry pioneer Gifford Pinchot (2 letters); mayor and Columbia president Seth Low (2 letters); theologian Alexander MacWhorter III; Admiral Stephen B. Luce; mayor Daniel Tiemann; Columbia University president and Barnard College namesake Frederick A.P. Barnard (2 long letters); British radical Richard Cobden (2 letters); petroleum pioneer Benjamin Silliman Jr. (4 letters); mountaineer and geologist Clarence King (a letter to Silliman dated 1870 on his exploits); politician Carl Schurz (3 letters, one just 4 days before his patron Rutherford B. Hayes's election); diplomats August Belmont and his son Perry Belmont; brother-in-law and future mayor Edward Cooper (3 long letters); politician Horatio Seymour; Museum of Natural History founding president Morris K. Jesup (7 letters, some on museum business); ex-mayor A. Oakey Hall (seeking a gift to rescue him from bankruptcy); educator Anna Botsford Comstock; Bishop Henry Codman Potter (8 letters); and railroad magnate Collis Potter Huntington.
The most controversial moment of Hewitt's career related to a document from the 1880 presidential campaign known as "the Morey letter." A letter from Republican candidate James Garfield was shared with the press which expressed support for unlimited Chinese immigration, and nearly cost Garfield the election. Hewitt proclaimed the signature to be authentic, and was widely reviled when the letter was proven to be a forgery. 67 items in this lot relate to the controversy. Among those writing to support or advise Hewitt are New York Tribune publisher Whitelaw Reid; fellow Democratic Congressman Hiester Clymer; and Connecticut Governor Marshall Jewell. On the other hand are vicious letters from anonymous constituents. One begins "Abraham S. Hewitt, you villain"; another has "lost all confidence in you, your character, your honesty and your integrity"; and another suggests that "the best use you can make of your corrupt carcass is to make one grand plunge from the deck of a ferry boat in mid river." The file also includes 6 post-election letters from campaign operative Henry H. Hadley, often considered to be the forger of the Morey letter. Hadley does not admit to his forgery in this correspondence, but makes increasingly desperate pleas for compensation from Hewitt and other Democratic leaders, and urges Hewitt to clear his name. Hewitt's 4 retained responses deny ever having met or employed Hadley. Also included are 9 clippings, 4 retained draft letters by Hewitt, and 2 legal documents relating to the Morey letter. An intimate look at New York and national politics.