Nathan Sanford
Papers, 1799-1865


Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift; John Lord O’Brian, 1957/1958; accretion, 1972
Processed By: Manuscripts and Special Collections, April 1972; revised June 2017

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Biographical Note:

Nathan Sanford (November 5, 1777-October 17, 1838) was born in Bridgehampton (Suffolk County), New York. Admitted to the bar in 1799, he commenced practice in New York City. Over the course of his career, Sanford served as United States commissioner in bankruptcy (1802); United States attorney for the district of New York (1803-1816); member of the New York State Assembly (1808-1809, 1811, serving as speaker in the latter year); member of the New York State Senate (1812-1815); and member of the United States Senate (March 4, 1815, to March 3, 1821). He also served as a delegate to the 1821 New York State constitutional convention and as chancellor of New York (1823-1826), succeeding James Kent. He resigned from the chancellorship when he was again elected to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy in the term commencing March 4, 1825; he served from January 14, 1826, to March 3, 1831. He did not run for re-election, resuming the practice of law in Flushing (Queens County), New York. Sanford married three times – Mary E. Isaacs (1781-?); Elizabeth Van Horn (?-1811); and Mary Buchanan (1781-1879), whom he married in May 1828 – and fathered seven children, including Edward, who was born in 1805. He died in Flushing on October 17, 1838, and was interred in St. George’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Flushing.

Edward Sanford (July 8, 1805-August 28, 1876) was born in Albany (Albany County), New York. He graduated from Union College in 1824 and studied law, but never practiced, preferring journalism, politics, and literature. He worked for newspapers in Brooklyn, New York City and Washington, D.C. Returning to New York City in 1838, he was made assistant naval officer at that port. Edward represented New York City in the New York State Assembly (1843 and 1844) and in the New York State Senate (1846 and 1847). His prose and poetry were published in the New York Mirror, the Spirit of the Times, and the Knickerbocker magazine. He died in Gowanda (Cattaraugus County), New York.

Scope and Content Note:

The collection consists chiefly of certificates, commissions, licenses, and diplomas related to the public and professional careers of Nathan Sanford and his son, Edward, but does include four letters from Nathan to Edward.

Documents related to Nathan Sanford include certificates admitting him to practice as an attorney at law in the Supreme Court of Judicature (1799) and in the Court of Common Pleas, that is, the Mayor’s Court in the City of New York (1799); a counsellor at law in the Court of Common Pleas (1801); and a solicitor of the Court of Chancery (1802. Also included are the notice of his appointment as General Commissioner of Bankruptcy, District of New York (1802); and his appointment as Chancellor of the State of New York (1823), as well as his diploma for the degree of Doctor of Laws from Columbia College (1823).

Documents related to Edward Sanford are his diploma from Concord College, Schenectady, New York (1824); his appointment as commissioner of deeds for the City and the County of New York (1830); and his license as a solicitor in the Court of Chancery of the State of New York (1827). Of particular interest are several broadsides dealing with the Tammany Society; a diagram of the New York State Senate Chamber in 1846; and documents relative to a mock trial of the fraternal club in New York City known as the "Honorable and Ancient Court of Dover."

Related Collections:

An additional series of papers related to the family of Nathan Sanford is held by this repository: Sanford Family Papers (SC23075). These papers include journals written by Mary Buchanan Sanford (1800-1879), Nathan’s third wife, and their son, Robert Sanford (1831-1908), that detail their personal and social lives. Also includes registers of court cases, ca. 1799-1812, kept by Nathan Sanford (1777-1838); and a group of scrapbooks and photograph albums which appear to have been compiled by Henry Gansevoort Sanford and family from 1897 to 1919. A finding aid is available.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Contents
1 0 Historical, biographical and genealogical information – photocopies from books and printouts from websites.
1 1 Papers re: Nathan Sanford:
  1. Certificate in which John Lansing, Jr., chief justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of New York, authorizes Nathan Sanford to practice in that court as an Attorney at Law, January 25, 1799. D.S.
  2. Certificate in which Richard Varick, mayor of the City of New York, authorizes Nathan Sanford to practice as Attorney at Law in “the Court of Common Pleas called the Mayor’s Court of the City of New York,” February 26, 1799. D.S.
  3. Certificate in which Richard Varick, mayor of the City of New York, authorizes Nathan Sanford to practice in “the Court of Common Pleas called the Mayor’s Court of the City of New York” as a Counsellor at Law, February 4, 1801. D.S.
  4. Commission as Public Notary, August 26, 1801; “Passed the Secretary’s Office the 1st day of September 1801.” D.S. Signed by [Governor] George Clinton. Attached seal.
  5. Certificate in which John Lansing, Jr., chancellor of the State of New York, authorizes Nathan Sanford practice as a Solicitor of the Court of Chancery, March 15, 1802. D.S.
  6. Appointment as Chancellor of the State of New York, August 1, 1823. D.S. (printed form). Signed by [Governor] Joseph C. Yates.
  7. Notice of appointment of Nathan Sandford [Sanford] as a Commissioner of Bankruptcy for the District of New York, along with John Broome, William Edgar, [Jon]athan Pearsee, Jr., Daniel D. Tompkins, James Fairlie, Abraham G. Lansing, Nicholas V. Quackenbush, and George Merchant. [1802]. D.S. (printed form). Signed by James Madison, Secretary of State.
  8. Commission appointment as General Commissioner of Bankruptcy, New York District, July 15, 1802. Signed by Thomas Jefferson (with United States Declaration of Independence Signers Collection, VC17270)
  9. Certificate of membership in the Free-School Society of New-York, December 17, 1810. D.S. (printed form). Signed by DeWitt Clinton, president. Membership entitled him “to send one child to be educated at any School under the care and direction of the said Society.”
  10. Diploma from Columbia College, August 5, 1823 (printed form).
1 2 Papers re: Edward Sanford:
  1. Diploma from Concord College, Schenectady, August 5, 1824 (printed form)
  2. Appointment as a Commissioner of Deeds in and for the City and County of New York, January 22, 1830 (printed form)
  3. Appointment as a Commissioner of Deeds for the City of New York, February 18, 1836 (printed form)
  4. License as a Solicitor in the Court of Chancery of the State of New York, August 28, 1827
1 3 Letters to Edward Sanford, living in New York City, from his father, Nathan Sanford, living in Washington, D.C. (4 items)
  1. April 27, 1828. A.D.S. 2(4)p.: “My Dear Edward … I expect to be married at Baltimore at the close of the session, and Miss [Mary] Buchanan wishes that you should attend, on that occasion. …”
  2. May 16, 1828. A.D.S. 1(4)p. Requests Edward to meet him in Baltimore at Barnum’s Hotel.
  3. December 6, 1828. A.D.S. 3(4)p. “… If you ever attain fortune or distinction, it must be by your own exertions … You say that you hate the law, but you do not suggest any thing else which you would prefer …”
  4. March 15, 1829. A.D.S. 2(4)p.  Asks Edward “to engage lodgings for us at Mrs. Wilkinson’s. … If there is no place at Mrs. Wilkinson’s we should prefer that part of the town, or the upper rather than the lower part …”
1 4 Broadsides:
  1. Diagram of the Senate Chamber, 1846, indicating Sanford’s seat (printed item)
  2. Tammany Society “invitation to assist at its Celebration of the approaching Anniversary of National Independence,” June 24, 1865. 1(4)p. (printed form)
  3. An appeal “to the Democratic Portion of the American Republican Party”
1 5 Records of the Honorable and Ancient Court of Dover, ca. 1834 (5 manuscripts and 2 typewritten transcriptions)
  1. Envelope or cover sheet addressed to George L. Davis Esq., Deputy Collector, Custom House, New York with indication the letter was sent via Ship Switzerland; on verso: “Records of Court of Dover, 1834” 1 p.
  2. “A correct translation of the original law of the Honorable & Ancient Court of Dover by J. Kinzasktinski, A.D. n.d. 3(4) p. (w/accompanying typewritten transcription)
  3. Document in Syraic text, n.d. 1 p.
  4. Certificate of appointment of John McKeon as prosecutor, A.D.S. George Davis, 12 August 1834 1(4) p.
  5. Speech of George Davis, A.D. n.d. 4 p. (w/accompanying typewritten transcription)
Further information and analysis of documents is available in  : “The Ancient and Honorable Court of Dover: Serious Mock, Solemn Foolery, and Sporting Wit in Nineteenth-Century New York State,” / Angela Fernandez, January 18, 2011; published Australian & New Zealand Law and History E-Journal, (2012) Referred Paper No 7, p. 194-239 SRRNexternal link(photocopy found in folder 0)
1 6 Discharge paper of Private Alexander G. Anderson from the Second Regiment, New-York State Artillery, May 22, 1829. [Connection to the Sanfords is unknown.]
Last Updated: May 24, 2021