Scope and arrangement
The collection consists of correspondence, family papers, speeches, biographical materials, political memorabilia, photographs, and scrapbooks. Correspondence, 1842-1920, relates to civil reform, Morton's political campaigns, his service as Minister to France, and his activities as businessman, banker, congressman, vice-president, and governor. Also, correspondence, 1871-1915, of his wives, Lucy K. Morton and Anna Livingston Morton; papers of the Morton, Parsons, Street, and Kearney families; memorabilia from Morton's political campaigns; and biographical sketches, speeches, photographs, and scrapbooks of clippings, 1859-1913.
The Levi Parsons Morton papers document the political and professional career, personal life, and family background of the businessman and politician. The date span of the papers is 1818-1920, with the bulk of the materials dating from the period 1878-1898. The papers include personal and professional correspondence, political and legal memoranda, biographical sketches, scrapbooks, family and genealogical papers, clippings, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts. They form an important resource for the study of American political history, the rise of American Imperialism, the financial history of the United States government, diplomacy, New York history, and the culture of the Gilded Age.
Morton's correspondence includes incoming letters from businessmen and politicians who depended on Morton's interests for their political existence. The correspondence is concentrated around Morton's political victories; first to Congress in 1878, then vice-president in 1888, as governor of New York in 1895 and finally his unsuccessful bid for Republican presidential nominee in 1896. Morton's success in finance and trusted moral character was converted into political gain for the Republican Party. His correspondents during the last two decades of the nineteenth century include James G. Blaine, George Boutwell, Roscoe Conkling, Hamilton Fish, Theodore Freylinghuysen, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore A. Havemeyer, Thomas Collier Platt, Sir John Rose, Benjamin H. Tracy, Frederick W. Wurster.
The political papers include a selection of documents relevant to Morton's political career. The biographical materials contain manuscript, printed and typed biographies of Morton, as well as personal reminiscences by Morton himself, his colleagues and daughter. The family and genealogical papers consist of printed family histories as well as original documents from the nineteenth century. There are photographs of Morton and his family and a collection of political memorabilia. The 1888 presidential campaign is well documented in buttons, ribbons, and programs of the inaugural celebration. Pamphlets are also included from ceremonies in both France and New York celebrating the gift and construction of Bartholdi's Statue of Liberal Enlightening the World. The scrapbooks include clippings from newspapers in New York and around the country which mention Morton's name, financial dealings or political decisions. They are a useful research tool for the period, covering such topics as finance, national politics and international affairs.
The Levi P. Morton papers are arranged in seven series:
Morton's correspondence is arranged chronologically and consists chiefly of incoming letters. The earliest letters are from his parents, Daniel O. Morton and Lucretia (Parsons) Morton. However, the bulk of the correspondence dates from the years of Morton's political career. Politicians wrote confidentially to Morton, from the 1870s, as he began to play a larger role in New York City and national politics. Thus the correspondence provides context to the political decision making of the Republican party of New York at a time when it held a direct influence on national affairs. Letters include comments on speeches and hints at the motivation behind negotiations missing from the public record.
Beginning in 1876, there are notes relative to the announcement of Morton's run for the 11th Congressional District of New York City. Remarkable correspondence relates to Morton's diplomatic position in Paris, including a document of June 1883 featuring the signatures of American citizens in Paris. From 1888 are found letters to Morton from American political and social dignitaries congratulating him on the success of the 1888 presidential campaign. Beginning in June 1888, the series includes typed transcriptions, added to the collection by Prof. Robert McNutt McElroy, and of letters by Morton to Benjamin Harrison held in the Harrison manuscripts collection at the Library of Congress. There are also many congratulatory letters received upon his election as governor of New York in 1894.
Of particular note are the letters addressed to Governor Morton concerning the consolidation of New York City. Letters were received from Brooklyn's mayor Frederick Wurster, from St. Clair McKelway, editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, and from Senator Luxow of the New York State legislature; from civic groups such as the Loyal League of Brooklyn and the City Club of New York, and various ranking Republican party members from the city and state including Republican party boss, Thomas C. Platt. The plan for consolidation had been advanced by Andrew H. Green in 1868 to combine the territories of Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island and was endorsed by New York Mayor Abram S. Hewitt in 1888. Republican politicians, in control of the state and city by 1896, saw consolidation as politically advantageous. Despite vetoes by the mayors of New York and Brooklyn, Morton signed consolidation in to effect, making New York the largest and most populous city in the United States.
The seven letter books contain Morton's outgoing correspondence from two periods in his career. The two letter books covering the years 1881 and 1884-1885 contain letters regarding confidential business matters exchanged with partner George Bliss. The remaining five letter books, 1895-1896, include official and confidential letters composed by Morton and his private secretary, Gen. Ashley W. Cole, while Governor of New York. Much of the communication is with city and state officials. Issues covered include the Brooklyn Charities Bill, the Raines Bill, the Albany Police Bill and the Greater New York Bill, as well as appointments to and administration of the Forestry Commission, Quarantine Commission, Bronx River Sewer and Highway Commission, the Prison Commission and offices of the coroner and state historian. There is also confidential correspondence addressed to Thomas C. Platt at his office at 49 Broadway, New York City.
Morton's social correspondence, filed separately at the end of the series, contains invitations to dinners and the opera which the Mortons received, as well as responses to invitations to parties held at the American legation in Paris. The correspondence, in French, is often addressed to Mrs. Anna Livingston Morton. Other letters to Morton's first and second wives are filed in the family and genealogical papers.
A collection of somewhat random documents saved by Morton's family have been gathered here as "political papers." They are grouped into four sections corresponding to the offices held by Morton as Congressman, Minister to France, Vice-President, and Governor of New York. The documents include bills, programs, appointments, addresses, resolutions, protocols, and reports. Notable documents include the program of the International Congress of Electricity held in Paris in 1881, a manuscript copy of Morton's speech dedicating the buildings of the 1892 Chicago World Fair, a report of the Tenement House Committee inscribed by the chairman, Richard Watson Gilder, to Governor Morton, and documents comprising the governor's dossier for the bill consolidating Greater New York.
The biographical materials include manuscript, printed and typed biographies of Morton, in addition to personal reminiscences by Morton, his colleagues, and his daughter, Edith Eustis. There are also letters addressed to Morton's daughter from individuals who wished to write biographies of the one time vice-president of the United States. Other materials include a cigarette package insert with a biographical sketch of Morton and a program from his memorial service.
The family and genealogical papers include histories of the Morton, Parsons and other families researched and collected during his lifetime. The series includes information connecting Morton to his first American ancestor, George Morton, a character of import to the local history of colonial Massachusetts and its territories in Maine. Family history was of enough importance to Levi Parsons Morton to influence his purchase of a will signed by John Morton, May 1, 1713, in "Middleborough county of Plymouth in New England" and a summons to witnesses signed by John Morton, November, 8, 1766 as Sheriff of the County of Chester, Pennsylvania. Other original documents include his sermons, letters and notes created by members of the Morton and Parsons families, including his father, Daniel O. Morton, and Levi Parsons, the missionary and uncle of Morton's mother. Correspondence of Morton's wives, Lucy Kimball Morton and Anna Livingston Street Morton, is also present here.
This series contains chiefly photographs of the Morton and his family taken during the 1880s while Morton was serving as foreign minister in Paris. There are also two daguerreotypes of Morton's parents.
The ephemera and artifacts include autographs, badges, political memorabilia, clippings, books, gifts, and artifacts from Morton's career in politics.
Morton's scrapbooks include a near comprehensive collection of clippings concerning his professional and political career. The scrapbooks are arranged chronologically and include multiple newspapers clippings for every day that Morton's name appeared in the newspapers.