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Unidentified Family Papers: Fragments, Letters, and Writings, 1836-1919
Collection Description & Creator Information
This collection provides documentation of the United States Navy during the early and mid-nineteenth century; and in particular, naval medicine, diplomacy, and rank. In addition, the collection documents the families of naval officers, both from the perspective of the officer, and the family who remained at home, coping with typical family issues, as well as sickness and death. The collection is arranged in three series, "Dr. George Willing Clymer," "William Branford Shubrick," and "Clymer, Shubrick, and Wethered Families."
The bulk of the collection is contained within the first series, "Dr. George Willing Clymer, 1829-1882," which is divided into "Letters from Dr. George Willing Clymer, 1829-1871," "Letters to Dr. George Willing Clymer, 1829-1877," and "Other Papers, 1851-1882." The "Letters from Dr. George Willing Clymer" are directed almost entirely to his family, including his father, his mother, his brothers and sister, and his wife. Clymer was highly educated, literate, and fluent in French and Italian. His letters are extremely vivid, informative, and lively, relating his impressions of the various places visited while serving in the United States Navy, including the Mediterranean, Europe, the Middle and Near East, Africa, South America, Mexico, and California. The letters from California, during the period of its acquisition, and those from the west coast of Mexico during the Mexican War are of especial interest. Through his letters, he provides a picture of the United States Navy as it was just beginning to serve as a projection of America's power and of the naval officer as an agent in America's pursuit of its interests. In addition, Clymer's letters are very informative as to the daily life and shipboard routine and duties of a naval surgeon. Finally, Clymer's letters provide candid and frank assessments of some of his superior officers and of persons encountered during his travels: his descriptions and critiques of the conduct of Commodore James Biddle and General Lewis Cass are of great interest. The "Letters to George Willing Clymer" are a mix of professional and personal letters, arranged alphabetically by author. The authors of the letters are largely from immediate and extended family, but also from doctors, naval officers, reverends, and friends; and cover a broad range of topics. "Other Papers" include financial records, estate records, and a few United States Navy documents. Of interest in this section are the papers relating to the Herndon Monument erected on the grounds of the United States Naval Academy, a project on which Clymer worked during the 1850s and 1860s.
The second series, "William Branford Shubrick, 1818-1882," is significantly less comprehensive, but still contains valuable material which details the lives of naval personnel during this period. Included is correspondence (letters to and from Shubrick), estate information, financial records, land warrants, newspaper clippings and writings. Of particular interest is the correspondence relating to the United States Navy. Researchers will find letters from Samuel Francis Du Pont; and Secretaries of the Navy, John Young Mason and William Ballard Preston; to name only a few. Caroline M. Phinney, daughter of James Fenimore Cooper, also corresponded with Shubrick. Also of interest is "Proportions of the Lengths and Diameters of Masts, Yards, etc. Taken from the English Master Carpenters' Books of Proportions at the Navy Yard at Mahon," which was written by Shubrick in 1818.
The final series, "Clymer, Shubrick and Wethered Families, 1814-1919," provides documentation on the women family members of Shubrick and Clymer, particularly Clymer's wife (and Shubrick's daughter), Mary Shubrick Clymer, who developed and maintained strong relationships with her sister-in-law, Mary Willing Clymer, as well as many other extended family members. These materials are arranged alphabetically by family member, and include, in addition to Clymer's wife; his daughter Mary Willing Shubrick Clymer; his mother-in-law (and wife of Shubrick), Harriet Wethered Shubrick; and Harriet's father, John Wethered.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No appraisal information is available.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
The collection is open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
Unidentified Family Papers: Fragments, Letters, and Writings; George Willing Clymer Papers, C1417, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA(609) 258-3184
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box 5