TABLE OF CONTENTS
RG 069:011, Orville H. Platt Papers
Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library Staff.
Copyright © 2010 by the Connecticut State Library
Orville Hitchcock Platt, the son of Daniel Gould Platt and Almyra (Hitchcock) Platt, was born in Washington, Litchfield County, Connecticut on July 19, 1827. He grew up on a farm and attended public schools and graduated from Professor Gunn's Academy (later to become the Gunnery Academy) in Washington, Connecticut. In 1847-1848 he spent the winter as Gunn's assistant in a school in Towanda, Pennsylvania. Platt was admitted to the Litchfield County Bar in 1850. He married Annie Bull, of Towanda, on May 15, 1850. Orville and Annie had three children with one son, Judge James P. Platt, living into adulthood. He spent six months in the law office of Ulysses S. Mercur who would become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. At the end of the sixth month Platt was admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania but instead decided to move back to Connecticut. Platt in 1851 settled in Meriden, Connecticut where he lived and practiced law for the next five decades. His wife Annie died at the Arlington Hotel in Washington, D.C. on November 13, 1893. In 1897, Platt married the widow Jeannie Penniman Hoyt the daughter of former US Senator Truman Smith of Connecticut; they had no children.
Platt from 1851 to 1853 was the associate newspaper editor of the Whig. He was elected to a three year term as judge of probate for Meriden in 1853. He then served as clerk of the Connecticut State Senate from 1855 to 1857; Secretary of State of Connecticut in 1857; Connecticut State Senator from 1861-1862; and served as a representative in the Connecticut General Assembly in 1864, chairman of the judiciary committee, and was Speaker of the House in 1869. In 1864, as chair of the house judiciary committee he played a key role in securing legislative passage of a proposed amendment to the Connecticut constitution that would grant voting rights to the state's soldiers in the field during the Civil War. After serving as Speaker of the House he retired to his law practice. He was appointed the state's attorney for New Haven County from 1877 to 1879. Orville Hitchcock Platt was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1879.
Platt was a distinguished member of the United States Senate from Connecticut from 1879 until his death in April 1905. He served on the following committees on: Patents (chairman), Pensions, Territories, Cuban Relations, and Judiciary. Senator Platt is remembered chiefly today for the Platt Amendment to the Army Appropriation Act of 1901, a series of provisions to be added to the constitution of then recently liberated Cuba designed to keep that country free of control by countries other than the United States. As Chairman of the Committee on Cuban Relations, Platt secured the passage of the Amendment, which in 1903 was incorporated in a treaty with Cuba.1
During his long Senate career, Platt concerned himself actively with other foreign affairs questions (the Panama Canal, tariff matters, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Chinese exclusion) and with a number of other areas, including the patent system, international copyright, Indian affairs, the new western states, currency reform, and open executive sessions of the Senate. He was a strong supporter of Theodore Roosevelt for re-election in 1904 and was an acknowledged party leader as one of the United State Senate's "Big Four" (Platt of Connecticut, Aldrich of Rhode Island, Spooner of Wisconsin and Allison of Iowa).
Joseph Roswell Hawley a former United States Senator, General, and friend of Platt died in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 1905. Both had served and worked together as Senators from Connecticut for 26 years. Platt accompanied the funeral train back to Hartford, Connecticut for Hawley's burial. The funeral was held on a cold windy day and it is believed by several sources this led to Platt catching a cold which resulted in pneumonia. He returned back to Washington, D.C. for three days to finish Senate business and then returned to Meriden where he became ill at the end of March. United States Senator Orville Hitchcock Platt died at his home, Kirby Corners, in Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut on April 21, 1905 at age 77.
1Actually, although Platt's friends later claimed he wrote the amendment, it seems to have been drafted by Secretary of State Elihu Root and General Leonard Wood.
The papers in this collection represent only a fragment of Senator Platt's records, principally for the period 1900-1905; others - presumably much greater in bulk - were destroyed by a misguided clerk in the committee office immediately after the Senator's death. This collection also includes materials from Miss Lawler's own correspondence concerning Senator Platt and his records, as well as papers from Mrs. Jeannie P. Platt and from the State Library files.
The papers were arranged into eleven series which reflect Orville H. Platt's personal, political, legislative, and legal career in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The series include Correspondence, Memorial Volumes, Scrapbooks, Speeches, Katleen Lawler Papers, State Library File, Senator Albert Beveridge Correspondence, Alice M. Robertson Files, State Reception, Photographs, and Miscellaneous.
Series 1. Correspondence, 1880-1905, include eight folders and ten bound volumes of correspondence between Platt and President Roosevelt, Congressional colleagues, federal departments, political advisors, the Republican National Committee, Connecticut state officials, corporations, groups, and friends. The bulk of the correspondence is between Platt and John H. Flagg, a political advisor and lawyer from New York. The series also consists of clippings, memos, legislative bills, and statements.
Series 2. Memorial Volumes, 1905-1913, consist of two bound volumes and a scrapbook of correspondence, telegrams, notes, resolutions and clippings received or collected following Senator Platt's death. The two volumes are indexed by name. The scrapbook contains clippings of obituaries and stories on the dedication of memorial tablets in the Capitol and on the death of his son, Judge James P. Platt.
Series 3. Scrapbooks, 1902-1934, include two folders and four volumes of clippings, correspondence, invitations, programs, and other materials pertaining to politics and the elections of 1902 and 1904, and to Senator Platt and his interests.
Series 4. Speeches, circa 1890-1904, include addresses at Woodstock Academy, the library building in Meriden, convention at Hartford; drafts; notes; statements on patent extension for dredging and death of Vice President Garret A. Hobart; and texts of speeches on the US Senate, Cuban intervention, education, extinction of meeting houses, and Panama.
Series 5. Kathleen Lawler Papers, 1903-1929, include correspondence between Lawler and the following people: Connecticut State Librarian George S. Godard, Jeannie P. Platt, Annie R. Chaffee, Louis Coolidge, Hiram Bingham, Jannette P. Nichols, John C. Brinsmade, Senator Albert J. Bevridge, Mary D. Smith, Ruth B. Smith, Norris E. Pierson, and Burr A. Hollister. The bulk of the correspondence is between Lawler, Godard, and Jeannie P. Platt. The correspondence also contains Jeannie P. Platt's "last will and testament." The series also consists of materials on the memorials in the Connecticut State Capitol to Senator Platt and Senator Hawley, material on Senator Platt's views concerning executive sessions of the US Senate, material on "Platt National Park," notes, and articles.
Series 6. State Library File, 1927-1950, contains correspondence between State Librarian George S. Godard and Kathleen Lawler about the acquisition, processing and servicing of the Platt papers.
Series 7. Senator Albert Beveridge Correspondence, 1916-1924, contains correspondence between Senator Albert Beveridge and Jeannie P. Platt.
Series 8. Alice M. Robertson File, 1900-1931, consists of correspondence between Alice M. Robertson, Jeannie P. Platt and Kathleen Lawler. The series also includes clippings, memorandum, and publications. Alice M. Robertson (1854-1931) was an Oklahoma educator and worker for the Indians and a member of the United States House of Representatives. She worked with Senator Platt on Indian affairs.
Series 9. State Reception, 1903, includes state library correspondence, scrapbook pages, invitations, clippings, and ribbons.
Series 10. Photographs, undated, include small photographs of a woman with a young child in Washington, D.C., portrait photographs of Jeannie and Orville Platt, and Platt in a rocking chair and study.
Series 11. Miscellaneous, undated, consists of draft biographical information, research notes, clippings, draft legislation, correspondence, autographs, and an empty leather writing portfolio.
Series 1. Correspondence, 1880-1905
Series 2. Memorial Volumes, 1905-1913
Series 3. Scrapbooks, 1902-1934
Series 4. Speeches, circa 1890-1904
Series 5. Kathleen Lawler Papers, 1903-1929
Series 6. State Library File, 1927-1950
Series 7. Senator Albert Beveridge Correspondence, 1916-1924
Series 8. Alice M. Robertson File, 1900-1931
Series 9. State Reception, 1903
Series 10. Photographs, undated
Series 11. Miscellaneous, undated
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
See the Reproduction and Publications of State Library Collections policy.
In the catalogued manuscript collection:
Letter from O.H. Platt to Governor Bulkeley, March 9, 1889, declining the Governor's suggestion that he nominate Platt for Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. 920 B867
Lawler, Kathleen. "Courageous and Daring Women of America." 1926. Includes biographical sketch of Mrs. Jeannie Penniman Platt. 920.7 L423
Other manuscript collections:
RG 069:150, Truman Smith Papers, Connecticut State Library.
Alice M. Robertson Collection, McFarlin Library Special Collections, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK.
Theodore Roosevelt Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Connecticut -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950
Connecticut -- Politics and government -- 19th century
Legislators -- Connecticut
Legislators -- United States
Meriden (Conn.) -- History -- 19th century
Panama -- Foreign relations -- United States
Platt National Park
Republican Party (Conn.)
Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )
Speeches in Congress
United States -- Politics and government -- 1897-1901
United States -- Politics and government -- 1901-1909
United States -- Relations -- Cuba
United States -- Territorial expansion
United States. Congress. Senate
Whig Party (U.S.)
Yale College (1718-1887)
Beveridge, Albert Jeremiah, 1862-1927
Coolidge, Louis A. (Louis Arthur), 1861-1925
Flagg, John H.
Godard, George S. (George Seymour), 1865-1936
Gunn, Frederick, 1787-1852
Hawley, Joseph R. (Joseph Roswell), 1826-1905
Platt, Annie (Bull)
Platt, James P. (James Perry), 1851-1913
Platt, Jeannie Penniman Hoyt, 1835-1927
Platt, Orville Hitchcock, 1827-1905
Robertson, Alice, 1854-1931
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
Root, Elihu, 1845-1937
Smith, Edmund Dickinson, 1857-1900
Smith, Maria Cook
Smith, Mary Ann Dickinson
Smith, Truman, 1791-1884
Smith, Truman, 1893-1970
The present files, presented to the State Library by Jeannie P. Platt, were preserved and arranged largely by Kathleen Lawler, who was Senator Platt's secretary, assistant, and devoted friend beginning in 1902(?). Another group, relating to Alice M. Robertson, was presented to the Library in 1931 by Austin H. Murchison, of Muskogee, Oklahoma. Accession 2009-042 was donated by Katharine Truman Smith Coley to the State Library in 2009.
Allen Ramsey processed and added accession 2009-042 to the papers in April 2010.
Coolidge, Louis. An Old Fashioned Senator: Orville H. Platt. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1910.
Cutter, William Richard, et al. Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut: A Record of Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. Vol. 2. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911.
Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds. American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Malone, Dumas, ed. Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935.
Hartford Courant, 1764-1922.
New York Times, 1851-2006.
Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Platt, Orville Hitchcock, (1827-1905)