Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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RARE COLLECTION OF EARLY PAPERS
Contemporary Resume of Public Opinion in U.S. from 1825-1840
GIDEON WELLES, A TIMES EDITOR
Valuable Historical Summary of the Press is Now Owned by the State."
" An acquisition of great value to the recorded history of the first third of the nineteenth century, already in the Connecticut state library, is the collection of newspapers made by the late Gideon Welles of this state, secretary of the navy in the cabinets of Presidents Lincoln and Johnson, whose ability and sagacity during the trying times of the Civil war did much to bring success to the Union arms. The collection is of particular value as an expression of public opinion as presented, editorially, during the time the papers represent, and no other collection has been made, or could now be made, which would include such a representation of that time.Life of Collector
Andrew Jackson was then rallying the patriotism and liberal sentiment of the country for the victory which came to him and his followers in November, 1828. Mr. Welles was a tried and trusted friend of Jackson, and very soon became one of the leading editors of the country. After Jackson was inaugurated, Mr. Welles became his leading adviser and confident [sic] in this state, the Connecticut congressional delegation being opposed to him politically.
Mr. Welles severed his active connection with THE TIMES after the year 1836, but continued to write editorially for the paper until 1846. His active work was therefore practically contemporaneous with Jackson's presidency, March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837.
While Mr. Welles was editor of THE TIMES the exchange list was very large. Papers were received from many states of the union, may of which have long ago ceased publication. It is interesting to note, in even a cursory look at the volumes, that many of the papers he preserved were the first published, and there follow other early numbers. In faded ink appears on the upper left-hand corner of many papers the word "TIMES". Sometimes appears "G Welles".
The way in which Mr. Welles grouped and bound the papers indicates that he had in mind to have a resume of public opinion at different periods, for in many of the volumes are papers from all parts of the country, which to the reader today appear to have no coherence. Doubtless Mr. `Welles had clearly in mind his idea and so put the papers together as he wanted them.Paper of 1807
Mr. Welles took the volumes as he collected them and had them bound in the half-sheep of those days. The papers were clamped together. Slits were sawed into the backs, then twine was dipped in glue and placed in the slits. More glue was used to fill up the slits, and then a strip of sheep leather was placed on the back uniting the cardboard fronts and backs.Gift of Mrs. Peabody
In her letter accompanying the gifts, Mrs. Peabody showed appreciation of the unique character of the collection. The letter:LETTER INSIDE VOLUME 1 of the Welles Collection
Letter is a sheet of black-bordered mourning stationery, about 10" x 6 inches, folded.
1 " Glastonbury
3 " Mr George S. Godard
4 State Librarian--
5 "My dear Mr Godard:
6 "It has been with interest and pleasure I have noted the progress and
development of the
7 State Library. As a direct descendant of sevral [sic] of the early settlers of Connecticut,
8 and a Member of one of the families, which has been closely identified with the history
9 of our State and Nation ,I am interested in the Special Work which our States
10 "Library is doing-Now that it is housed in a beautiful and substantial
11 adapted to its sevral[sic] lines of Work, I am pleased to present to it, a collection of
12 newspapers,.books and pamphlets, which have accumulated and been carefully
13 treasured here in the old Welles Homestead in Glastonbury-It is my desire that they
14 should be known as-
15 "--The Gideon and Thaddeus Welles collection,--for it was through these two men that
16 most of the collection was brought together.
17 "The newspapers are exchanges received from all Sections of our
18 "country by my Uncle, Gideon Welles, while Editor of the Hartford Times.
19 they were bound by him in groups chronologically, rather than as files of separate
20 publications, it is my thought, that this collection of newspapers, which represent
21 quite fully the public press of the period, when our country was passing through
22 most trying experiences, May be of special value in showing what were the
23 tendencies and opinions in all sections of our country in those troublesome times.
24 "With great respect, I am her[e-]
25 by Sincerely,
26 "April the twenty sixth Mary J. Welles Peabody"
When Mr. Godard examined the volumes he found the bindings badly deteriorated by the passing years. Rebinding was essential to preserve the papers intact and to make them accessible for reference and examination.
He at once noticed the way the papers had been collated and, before beginning to rebind, conferred with Dr. Herbert Putnam, librarian of the Congressional library, and many other prominent librarians, asking if they thought the papers should be put together chronologically and each publication by itself, although the latter would not be necessary in al [sic] cases, as Mr. Welles had some volumes composed entirely of the same publication. Dr. Putnam and the others consulted strongly advised that the volumes be not disturbed; that they were a splendid mirror of contemporaneous public opinion and that a rearrangement would be destructive of the value of the collection.Some of the Exchanges
There are two volumes of THE TIMES.
In the collection are papers from all the New England states, New York,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio,
Kentucky, South Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, and from Washington, D.C. Between
each separate paper in each volume, in the new binding, Mr. Godard has had
inserted a heavy manilla sheet.
The sheets help to strengthen the volumes and are also used for indexing, each sheet being numbered.
A card index has been prepared giving names of all the papers, the date of each one and the volume and its name in the volume, as indicated on the manilla sheet.
To the present day reader the titles seem odd. "The Jeffersonian" was a popular name and papers from several states bore that name and upheld Jefferson's doctrines.
The Faithful and Fearless Chronicle, published in 1834, bore under the above
"This paper shall the people's rights maintain
Unawed by influence and unbribed by gain."
One volume of local interest in it is composed entirely of supplements to the Connecticut Courant of 1825. It is more like a book, as the supplement pages were only eight and a fourth inches long and five inches wide."
Transcribed from the original by the Connecticut State Library, 10/2004.