Walbridge Family Papers, 1844-1905; bulk, 1850-1875

Quantity:  1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase: Carmen Valentino, August 1997
Processed By: Fred Bassett, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts and Special Collections, June 2012

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Biographical Note

George B. Walbridge was born in Vermont about 1814. Eventually he settled in Buffalo, Erie County, New York, where he became engaged in wholesale grocery trade. At first, he worked alone, but about 1835 he entered into a partnership, establishing the firm Walbridge & Harvey. About 1847, he began to diversify the scope of his enterprises, entering into partnership with his nephew, Wells D. Walbridge, to form a commercial shipping and mercantile firm, George B. Walbridge & Company.

For at least four years, Walbridge & Co. operated steamers between Buffalo and other major ports on Lake Erie. Freight was off-loaded at Buffalo and transferred to the railroad for further shipment. The flush days of the firm, however, were quite brief. George Walbridge died in 1852 or 1853 and, although Wells attempted to maintain the business for another two years, by 1856 he had accepted a position with the American Transport Company.

Public records indicate that George R. Walbridge married Wilhelmina Louisa Colson and they had seven children: Sarah C., Louisa H., Charles E., George A., Wilhelmina C., Anna R., and Harry.

Charles E. Walbridge was born in Buffalo on July 24. 1841. Shortly after the death of his father, he left school and entered the employ of Pratt & Co., which, at that time was the largest hardware dealer in the city. He remained with them until September 1861, when he enlisted for military service.  He was mustered in with the 100th New York Infantry Regiment as a second lieutenant of Company H and served with the regiment until 1864, being promoted to first lieutenant in July 1862 and captain in January 1863. In February 1864 he was commissioned as captain and assistant quartermaster of volunteers. In February 1865 he was brevetted major and shortly after was appointed chief quartermaster of the Tenth Army Corps, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.  

In 1866 he returned to Buffalo and re-entered the service of the Pratt company, remaining until 1869, when he went into business for himself. In 1884 the firm of Walbridge & Co. was formed and was, for many years, one of the largest hardware firms in Buffalo.

Charles married Annie F. Noble in 1868 and they had three daughters: Wilhelmina (b. 1871), Isabel E. (b. 1873), and Louise H. (b. 1877).  The two younger daughters apparently never married and remained in their parents’ home for much of their lives. Charles E. Walbridge died February 13, 1913.

Scope and Content Note

The Walbridge family papers consist chiefly of correspondence related to the personal lives and business careers of George B. Walbridge and his son, Charles E. Walbridge.  The letters of George B. Walbridge were written mostly from November 1851 to August 1852, at which time he was living and working in either Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida. During this time, he received several letters from his wife, Wilhelmina; daughter, Sarah; and son, Charles, who were living in Buffalo. The letters generally concern personal and family matters. He, in turn, sent letters home which indicated that he was suffering to some degree from ill health.

George Walbridge also received several letters from Wells D. Walbridge, and other business associates. These letters concern the routine but fairly diverse business interests of Walbridge & Company and include some commentary of the commercial climate in Buffalo and details of the Lake Erie shipping and rail lines that served the city. There is considerable evidence in the letters suggesting that the Walbridges were speculating in the cotton market.

Letters written between 1855 and 1875 are addressed chiefly to Charles E. Walbridge and his wife, Annie F. Noble Walbridge. Included are several letters Charles sent to Annie when he was away on business, primarily in New York City, which generally detail personal and family matters. Likewise, Charles received letters from his wife as well as his brother, George, and sisters, Sarah and Louise, and other relatives and friends. In all of Charles’s correspondence there is little mention of the hardware business. Annie also received several letters from her friends and relatives, including a cousin who was living in Oregon. After 1875, most letters were addressed to her.

Related Resources

The holdings of this repository also include a collection of letters related to the military service of Charles E. Walbridge (22710) during the Civil War. Papers related to the business interests of George B. Walbridge are found at the William L. Clements Library, located on the campus of the University of Michigan; papers related to Charles Walbridge’s military service during the Civil War and post-war involvement in veterans and patriotic societies can also be found in the manuscript holdings of the University of South Carolina.

Box and Folder List

Box Folder Description
1 1 Letters to George B. Walbridge from Wilhelmina Walbridge (wife), 1851-1852 (10 items)
1 2 Letters to George B. Walbridge from family – mostly daughter, Sarah, and son, Charles, 1851-1852 (11 items)
1 3 Letters to George B. Walbridge from siblings and relatives, 1851-1852; includes letters from Wells D. Walbridge (11 items)
1 4 Letters to George B. Walbridge from business associates, 1851-1852 (13 items)
1 5 Letters to Wilhelmina (Mrs. George B.) Walbridge from family, 1850-1854 (5 items)
1 6 Letters to Charles E. Walbridge from his mother and from his sisters, Sarah and Louise, 1855-1860 (15 items)
1 7 Letters to Charles E. Walbridge from friends, relatives, etc., 1857-1859 (14 items)
1 8 Letters to Charles E. Walbridge from friends, relatives, etc., 1860-1868 (11 items)
1 9 Letters to Charles E. Walbridge from George A. Walbridge, 1850-1868 (9 items)
1 10 Letters to Annie Walbridge from Charles E. Walbridge, 1868-1875 (5 items)
1 11 Letters to Annie (Mrs. Charles E.) Walbridge from friends and relatives, 1855-1869 (5 items)
1 12 Letters to Annie (Mrs. Charles E.) Walbridge from friends and relatives, 1870-1875 (10 items)
1 13 Letters to Annie (Mrs. Charles E.) Walbridge from friends and relatives, 1880-1905 (6 items)
1 14 Letters to Annie (Mrs. Charles E.) Walbridge from friends and relatives, undated, ca. 1855-1880 (10 items)
1 15 Letters from and to Isabel (Ishbel) Walbridge, ca. 1880-1900 (4 items)
1 16 Noble family letters,1844-1869; includes several letters to Anne Noble, the mother of Annie Noble (9 items)
1 17 Letters of A.M. Stowe to Mrs. W.H. Barclay, 1869 (3 items)
1 18 Miscellaneous letters and fragments (10 items)
Last Updated: May 24, 2021