Elliot Christopher Cowdin
Papers, 1825-1908, bulk 1850-1880

SC22723

Quantity: 6 boxes (2.0 cubic feet)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase: Charles Apfelbaum, Rare Manuscripts & Archives, Watchung, N.J., April 1987 and October 2002. See provenance note for details
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts & Special Collections, December 2002 and July 2012.

View catalog record

Biographical Note:

Elliot Christopher Cowdin was born in Jamaica, Vermont, August 8, 1819, the son of Angier and Abiah Abby (Carter) Cowdin. His father died when he was quite young and shortly thereafter his mother apparently moved the family to Boston, Massachusetts, where he was educated and later entered business. During the 1840s he mastered the intricacies of the silk trade. About 1852 he moved to New York City to establish his own mercantile house, Elliot C. Cowdin & Company. He also set up a branch office in Paris, France, and thereafter he maintained a second residence there, making frequent journeys across the Atlantic.

He was also active in politics and government. In 1876 he was elected to represent the 11th district in the New York State Assembly. During his one term of service he introduced a number of bills related to government reform, taxation and finance, and trade and commerce. He declined to run for re-election and declined the opportunity to be the Republican Party candidate in a special election to fill an open seat in the United States House of Representatives. He also held appointed posts in government, most notably the position as U.S. Commissioner to the Paris Expedition in 1867.

Papers and records indicate Cowdin was actively involved in a number of learned societies and civic organizations throughout his life. Those in which he held prominent positions include the Union League Club, the New England Society of New York, and the New York Chamber of Commerce. He was active on the lecture circuit, delivering a number of speeches and addresses on an array of topics. Some of his addresses were published.

Elliot Cowdin was married September 13, 1853, to Sarah Katharine Waldron (1827-1903), the daughter of Samuel W. and Martha (Melcher) Waldron. They had six children: Katharine W., John Elliot, Martha G., Winthrop, Alice, and Elliot. Elliot Cowdin died at his home in New York, April 12, 1880.

Scope and Content Note:

The papers consist chiefly of correspondence between Elliot Cowdin and his wife, Kate, much of which concerns personal and family matters. Letters of Elliot also discuss his frequent travels at home and abroad. Many of his letters were written during his lengthy stays in Paris, providing a glimpse of life in the city during the Second Empire and its subsequent collapse after the city was besieged by Prussian troops during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.

Kate Cowdin in turn wrote to her husband with news about the family, friends, and related activities and events. She also sent many letters to her parents and siblings, detailing her experiences of living in Paris and her travels in Europe as well as news about the family.

The papers also include correspondence and other records related to Cowdin's careers in business and government. Maintaining offices in New York and Paris generated numerous letters from business associates who kept him informed of business activities in both cities. His service in the New York State Assembly is documented in correspondence, drafts of legislation, and notes and drafts of speeches. Likewise, there are letters, financial records, and speeches related to his service as U.S. Commissioner to the Paris Expedition in 1867.

The papers also include correspondence and memoranda detailing his involvement in numerous civic and learned societies, such as the New England Society of New York and the New York Chamber of Commerce; and copies of speeches and addresses he delivered on topics such as early settlers of New England, Franco-Prussian War, and history of currency and finance in the United States.

Provenance Note:

The bulk of the papers of Elliot Christopher Cowdin and family were purchased in October 2002 from Charles Apfelbaum, a dealer in manuscripts and archival materials. This group was processed and catalogued in December 2002 under the current collection call number. Later, an additional series of papers related to Cowdin was found to have been purchased from the same vendor in April 1987. This small series was accessioned as SC18812, but never had been processed or catalogued. The two collections were collated in June 2012 and fully processed at that time.

Box and Folder List:


Box Folder Description
    Family Correspondence, 1843-1858
1 1 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin, Sarah Kate Waldron, and other family members, 1843-1851 (7 items)
1 2 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to Kate Waldron, 1851 (8 items)
1 3 Letters of Kate Waldron to Elliot Cowdin, and Martha Waldron to daughter, Kate, 1852 (12 items)
1 4 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to Kate Waldron, 1852 (11 items)
1 5 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to Kate Waldron Cowdin, 1853 (16 items)
1 6 Letters of Kate Waldron to Elliot C. Cowdin, 1853 (20 items)
1 7 Letters of Kate Waldron to her mother and siblings, 1853 (16 items)
1 8 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, 1854 (18 items)
1 9 Letters of Kate Cowdin to Elliot C. Cowdin, 1854 (8 items)
1 10 Letters of Kate Cowdin, to and from her parents and siblings, 1854 (20 items)
1 11 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, 1855 (17 items)
1 12 Letters of Kate Cowdin to Elliot C. Cowdin, 1855 (14 items)
1 13 Letters of Kate Cowdin to her mother and siblings, 1855-1858 (21 items)
1 14 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, 1856 (10 items)
1 15 Letters of Kate Cowdin to Elliot C. Cowdin, 1856 (12 items)
1 16 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, January-September, 1857 (19 items)
1 17 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, October-December, 1857 (16 items)
    Family Correspondence, 1858-1908
2 1 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, January-February 1858 (11 items)
2 2 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, March 1858 (15 items)
2 3 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, April-June 1858 9 items)
2 4 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, July 1858 (8 items)
2 5 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, August-December 1858 (10 items)
2 6 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, April-July 1859 (13 items)
2 7 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, August 1859 (17 items)
2 8 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin to wife, Kate, September-December 1859 (7 items)
2 9 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, 1860-1864 (12 items)
2 10 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, 1865-1869 (12 items)
2 11 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, 1870 (18 items)
2 12 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, January-March 1871 (19 items)
2 13 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, April-June 1871 (15 items)
2 14 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, November-December 1871 (12 items)
2 15 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, January-March 1872 (16 items)
2 16 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, October-December 1872 (24 items)
2 17 Letters of Elliot C. Cowdin and family, 1873-1879 (11 items)
2 18 Letters of Kate Cowdin and family, 1880 (8 items)
2 19 Letters of Kate Cowdin and family, 1881-1889, 1908 (11 items)
2 20 Undated and incomplete letters of Elliot and family, ca. 1853-1880 (27 items)
2 21 Letter book of Elliot C. Cowdin, 1851-1852; contains copies of letters sent to Kate Waldron from Paris (1 v., ca. 100 p., 16 cm.)
    Business and Professional Correspondence, 1841-1880
3 1 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1845-1850 (12 items)
3 2 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1851-1859 (16 items)
3 3 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1860 (8 items)
3 4 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1861 (9 items)
3 5 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1862-1863 (14 items)
3 6 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1864-1865 (8 items)
3 7 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1866 (15 items)
3 8 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1867 (12 items)
3 9 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1868 (18 items)
3 10 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1869-1871 (12 items)
3 11 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1872 (19 items)
3 12 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1873-1874 (9 items)
3 13 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1875-1878 (11 items)
3 14 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1879 (17 items)
3 15 Letters to Elliot Cowdin, 1880 (7 items)
3 16 Drafts of letters by Elliot Cowdin, 1841-1848 (3 items and booklet)
3 17 Copies of letters by Elliot Cowdin, 1850-1860 (6 items)
3 18 Copies of letters by Elliot Cowdin to Eckhardt, 1858 (5 items)
    Sundry business and personal papers
4 1 Financial statements relative to Elliot C. Cowdin & Co. of Paris, 1869 (8 items)
4 2 Invoices, 1865-1870; many in French (ca. 65 items)
4 3 Income taxes, 1867-1868 (12 items)
4 4 Boston Mercantile Library Association: letters, memorandum, etc., 1843-1844 (11 items)
4 5 Membership certificates, honoraria, etc., for various clubs and societies, ca. 1866-1877 (19 items)
4 6 Rosters of names, including "List of prominent New Yorkers (n.d.)," "List of calls, Jan. [?], 1873," and an invitation list of guests for a reception, and a resolution adopted by the New York Municipal Society, March 19, 1877 (5 items)
4 7 Receipts, 1825-1860 (17 items)
4 8 Speech: "Merchant in the American Revolution," ca. 1870s (2 items, 24 p. and 19 p.)
4 9 Invitations, 1847-1853 (13 items)
4 10 Invitations, 1866 (20 items)
4 11 Invitations, 1867-1880 (22 items)
4 12 Calling cards, ca. 1850-1880 (26 items)
4 13 Menus and invitations to special events, 1845-1880 (20 items)
4 14 Book listing the names of persons invited to social events held by Elliot Cowdin, 1862-1866 (1 v. ca. 100 p.)
4 15 News clippings, ca. 1866-1877 (ca. 15 items)
4 16 Account memorandum books, ca. 1879 (2 items)
4 17 Envelopes and miscellaneous papers (ca. 20 items)
5   New York State Assembly Papers, 1877
5 1 Correspondence, January 1877 (9 items)
5 2 Correspondence, January 1877 (15 items)
5 3 Correspondence, February 1877 (14 items)
5 4 Correspondence, February 1877 (17 items)
5 5 Correspondence, March 1877 (18 items)
5 6 Correspondence, March 1877 (19 items)
5 7 Correspondence, April 1877 (11 items)
5 8 Correspondence, April 1877 (10 items)
5 9 Correspondence, May 1877 (7 items)
5 10 Bills introduced by Elliot C. Cowdin, 1877 (10  items – printed)
5 11 Bill introduced by Elliot C. Cowdin authorizing the taxation of stockholders of banks and surplus funds of savings banks, 1877 (3 items – printed copies, annotated)
5 12 Drafts and notes related to legislation, 1877 (4 items)
5 13 Memorandum and notes related to legislation, 1977 (11 items)
5 14 Roster of members, petitions, etc., 1877 (15 items)
5 15 Notes and drafts of speeches, writings, etc., 1877 (4 booklets)
5 16 Miscellaneous notes and drafts, 1877 (30 items)
    Speeches, writings, and other papers, ca. 1840-1880 (Contents of this container comprised much of the group originally accessioned as SC18812)
6 1 Biographical sketch of Elliot C. Cowdin, ca. 1877 (8 p.); portrait of Elliot C. Cowdin, ca. 1870s (1 item)
6 2 Speech relative to early settlers of New England, ca. 1860s; draft (38 p.) and revised text (23 p.)
6 3 Speech: "Agriculture: Its Dignity and Progress. An Address Delivered Before the Westchester County Agricultural Society at the Annual Fair at White Plains, September 20, 1866." (34 p.)
6 4 Speech: "Agriculture, Its Dignity and Progress," 1866 (48 p.)
6 5 Speech relative to the presidential election campaign of 1868 (46 p.)
6 6 Speech: "The Franco-Prussian War, Part I: Its Probable Consequences," ca. 1872 (28 p.)
6 7 Speech: "The Franco-Prussian War, Part II: The Present State and Future Prospects of France," ca. 1872 (68 p.)
6 8 Speech: "The Franco-Prussian War," ca. 1872 (draft, 68 p.)
6 9 Speech: untitled, but possibly a draft of address "Our Country," which was delivered at a public banquet, July 4, 1872 (34 p.)
6 10 Speech: "Historical Sketch of Currency and Finance in the United States," an address delivered at Cincinnati, Ohio, 1876 (91 p.)
6 11 Speech relative to economic history of the United Stares, ca. 1876 (95 p.)
6 12 Correspondence and reports relative to the New England Society of New York, 1863-1877 (11 items)
6 13 Correspondence relative to the Chamber of Commerce of New York, 1867-1880 (10 items)
6 14 Drafts of letters, speeches, etc., 1841-1848 (ca. 15 items)
6 15 Newspaper clippings: Silver question, ca. 1877 (3 packages)
6 16 Miscellaneous notes (2 booklets)
Last Updated: March 24, 2014