New York State Library
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Reuben Eaton Fenton
Papers, 1854-1887


Quantity: 4 boxes (1.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: See Provenance Note.
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, December 1985; revised December 1993, and April 2006.

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Biographical Note:

Reuben Eaton Fenton was born near Frewsburg, Chautauqua County, New York, on July 4, 1819. At the age of twenty he entered the lumber business and soon became a prosperous merchant. He also studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841. Fenton entered politics in the 1840s when he was elected supervisor of the Town of Carroll. In 1852 he was elected to Congress as a Democrat, where he distinguished himself as an opponent to the extension of slavery in passionate speeches against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. For this reason, he left the Democratic Party to help organize the Republican Party in 1854. He was elected to Congress again in 1856, and served continuously until 1865, when he became governor of New York State. Both as a congressman and as governor, he was a strong supporter of the Lincoln administration and its policies. In 1869 he was elected to the United States Senate and held that office for one term. He failed in his attempt to be re-elected because of a patronage dispute with Roscoe Conkling. In 1878 he was appointed chairman of the International Monetary Conference in Paris. He died in Jamestown, New York, August 24, 1885.

Scope and Contents Note:

The Reuben Eaton Fenton papers contain manuscripts and printed material related to his career in politics and government. Manuscripts include an outline and select chapters for a proposed biography, written circa 1869; letters written by Fenton concerning official business and political matters; and speeches on a variety of topics. The most interesting speeches discuss the issues of the federal election campaign of 1868 and an endorsement of James G. Blaine for president in 1884. In addition, there are a bound folio containing telegrams he received as governor of New York that concern the post-Civil War mustering out of volunteer militia regiments and matters of political patronage, and a scrapbook containing newspaper clippings related to Fenton's nomination for vice president on the Republican Party ticket of 1868.

The printed documents in these papers relate chiefly to Fenton's official duties as a member on Congress. Included are speeches on such issues as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Revolutionary War veterans' pension claims, and Federal government finances. Non-Congressional material includes election campaign speeches and addresses related to the rift between Fenton and Roscoe Conkling.

Provenance Note:

Most of the documents in these papers were donated to the New York State Library in December 1937 by Cecile Gifford (Mrs. John W.) Minturn of Jamestown, New York. She was the granddaughter of Reuben Eaton Fenton. Accretions were made to the series in 1993 and 2006 with the transfer of several items previously accessioned separately by this repository. The original accession number of these items is indicated in parenthesis following the description of the item in the box and folder list. Further information regarding the acquisition of a particular item is found in accession logs, which are made available upon request.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Contents
1 1 Biographical sketch of the life of Reuben Eaton Fenton from 1819 to 1869; includes an outline in the form of a table of contents and excerpts of select chapters, some of which may have been compiled by Josephine Fenton, ca, 1869. (30 p.)
1 2 Letters written by R.E. Fenton, 1854-1885; original accession number in parenthesis. (18 items )
  1. James C. Dobbin, Washington, [D.C.], January 13, 1854. (13527)
  2. Myron H. Clark, Frewsburg, [N.Y.], August 6, 1855. (14033)
  3. Napoleon Cheney, Frewsburg, [N.Y.], December 14, 1855. (4447)
  4. T.A. Cheney, Frewsburg, [N.Y.], August 20, 1860. (994)
  5. E.D. Morgan, [?], July 22, 1861. (1534)
  6. [William C.J.] Hall, Washington, D.C., December 3, 1863. (14610)
  7. Charles A. Darling, Albany, [N.Y.], March 21, 1866. (6893)
  8. John King Foy, Albany, [N.Y.], March 27, 1866 (8896)
  9. Charles A. Darling, Albany, [N.Y.], December 10, 1866. (6893)
  10. To the legislature, Albany, [N.Y.], February 4, 1867. (7573)
  11. John T. Hoffman, Frewsburg, [N.Y.], August 1869. (18783)
  12. [?], Washington, [D.C.]. February 1, 1873. (3534)
  13. [William] W. Belknap, Washington, [D.C.], March 25, 1873. (6554)
  14. M.D. Phillips, Jamestown, [N.Y.], September 17, [1877?] (18335)
  15. M.D. Phillips, Jamestown, [N.Y.], November 8, [1877] (14417)
  16. Dr. M.B. Anderson, Jamestown, [N.Y.], June 28, 1879. (4623)
  17. Draft of letter declining invitation to speak at G.A.R. meeting, Jamestown, [N.Y.], September 9, 1884.
  18. Draft of letter to F.W. Hyde regarding political matters, August 3, 1885.
1 3 Speech: "Rebellion Losses," U.S. House, May 15, 1862 (printed)
1 4 Speeches , manuscript drafts and news clippings, Governor of New York, 1865-1868 (5 items)
  1. Address of Governor Fenton to President Johnson on occasion of his visit to the State Capital in August 1866 (news clipping – 2 copies)
  2. New York Tax Levy, April 7, 1868. (news clipping)
  3. News clipping detailing speech given in New York regarding his intentions to seek another term as governor, November 26, 1866.
  4. "To increase fares on street railroads," April 18, 1865. (2 p.)
  5. "In reference to the streets in Albany," April 18, 1865 (4 p.)
1 5 Speech at Jamestown, New York, September 19, 1868, regarding issues of the U.S. Senate campaign. (10 p. Printed; with annotation)
1 6 Speech endorsing James G. Blaine for President, 1884. (9 p.)
1 7 Speech: Eulogy of Bishop Simpson, A.S. cut signature, n.d. (13 p.)
1 8 Speech to Chautauqua Agricultural Society, September 28, 1853, Ms, ca.35 p.
1 9 Speech on agricultural matters. A.S. cut signature, n.d. (47 p.)
1 10 Speech at a ceremony for laying a cornerstone of an orphanage in Jamestown, New York. A.S. cut signature, n.d. (10 p.)
1 11 Speech delivered at a memorial service and unveiling of a monument in honor of soldiers from Cattaraugus County, New York, who died in action during the Civil War. A.S. cut signature, n.d. (5 p.)
1 12 Speech delivered to Saint James School, [Jamestown, N.Y.?] (43 p.)
2 1 Printed Speeches: U.S. House of Representatives (8 items)
  1. Democratic Test and the Nebraska Bill. February 15, 1854. (8 p.)
  2. Invalid Pensions-Immigration and New Party Issues.

      February 9, 1855. (7 p.)

  1. Design of State Power. February 24, 1858. (13 p.) (2 copies)
  2. Invalid Pensions. April 22, 1858. (8 p.)
  3. Revolutionary Claims. June 11, 1858. (16 p.) (2 copies)
  4. Revolutionary Claims. May 18, 1860. (8 p.) (accession number: 10011)
2 2 Printed Speeches: U.S. Senate, 1870-1873 (6 items)
  1. The Currency and Funding Bill. January 25 and February 24, 1870. (15 p.)
  2. Custom Service. March 18, 1871. (8 p.)
  3. Custom Service. January 8, 1872. (16 p.) (2 copies)
  4. The Financial Problem. December 17, 1873. (8 p.) (2 copies)
2 3 Printed Speeches: General
  1. Issues of the Campaign. Jamestown, [N.Y.], September 19, 1868. (16 p.)
  2. Our National Finances. How Are They Managed? Who Pays the Debt? Albany, New York. July 18, 1872. (8 p.)
  3. The Political Issues Fairly Stated: Mr. [Roscoe] Conkling's Cooper Institute Speech Reviewed and His Misstatement Corrected. Frewsburg, New York. October 12, 1872. (8 p.)
  4. Agriculture. Address of R.E. Fenton before the Agricultural Society of Cattaraugus County, New York. Randolph, [N.Y.]. September 29, 1879. (8 p.)
  5. The Liberal Republican Movement. The Address of the Cincinnati Convention, The Platform, Mr. Greeley's Letter of Acceptance, Speech of Mr. Schurz at Cincinnati, Letter of Mr. Fenton of the Great New York Meeting, [1880]. (7 p.)
2 4 Congressional Documents (printed)
  1. U.S. House of Representatives, 34th Congress, 3rd Session Department No. 259. Invalid Pensions [to accompany Bill No. H.R. 862]. March 3, 1857. (10 p.) (accession number: 10012)
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, 36th Congress, 1st Session Report No. 250. Claims of Officers and Soldiers - Revolutionary Army. [to accompany Bill H.R. No. 13]. March 29, 1860. (18 p.) (accession number: 10010)
  3. U.S. House of Representatives 50th Congress, 1st Session. Misc. Doc. No. 2 Standing and Select Committees of the House of Representatives of the United States Fifteenth Congress, First Session, commencing Monday, December 5, 1887. (10 p.)
2 5 Documents bearing the signature of Reuben Fenton, 1865-1868; original accession number in parenthesis. (4 items)
  1. Proclamation of Governor Fenton designating April 14, 1865 a day for commemorating the end of the Civil War, [April 1865]. (11028c)
  2. Certificate of Appointment: George J. Gardner of Syracuse to be Notary Public in and for County of Onondaga. February 12, 1868. (6630)
  3. Certificate of Appointment: Byron Townsend of Troy to be a Notary Public in and for the County of Rensselaer. January 31, 1866. (6641)
  4. Certificate of Appointment: Charles W. Darling to rank of Colonel. N.G.S.N.Y. May 1, 1866. (6894)
2 6 Portraits of Reuben Eaton Fenton as Governor of New York State, 1865-1969 (2 items)
  1. Engraving (accession number: 8896)
  2. Illustration made from a photograph by Brady
3   Telegram Book, 1865-1868. (1 v. folio, 114 p. 41 cm.) (accession number: BD3925); Received by R.E. Fenton concerning official business and political matters.
4   Scrapbook of news clippings related to the nomination of Reuben Fenton for Vice President of the United States on the Republican party ticket, 1867-1868.
(1v. 202 p. 32 cm.) (transfer from book collection; accession number:  A330790A)
Last Updated: January 4, 2022