Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Putnam, Bayard Taylor, 1854-1886
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Bayard Taylor Putnam Family Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
4 boxes and 1.8 linear feet
Storage Note:
This is stored in multiple locations. Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-3 Firestone Library (hsvm): Box 4


Bayard Taylor Putnam (1854-1886) was geological surveyor in the Division of Mining Geology for the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) from the founding of the agency in 1879 to the early 1880s. This collection consists of Putnam's professional papers, including correspondence and field notes, which document his work with the U.S.G.S, specifically his surveys of iron-ore and coal mines for the Tenth U.S. Census. His papers also relate to a patented combined protractor and chart holder that Putnam invented. Other Putnam family members, particularly his wife, Grace Haven Putnam (1855-1900), are also represented.

Collection Description & Creator Information


Organized into two series, "Bayard Putnam Papers" and "Putnam Family Papers," this collection consists of correspondence as well as diaries of field notes, legal documents, bills and receipts, and ephemera relating to Bayard Taylor Putnam (1854-1886). Most of the materials are professional in nature and document Putnam's work with the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.). They also relate to Putnam's combined protractor and chart holder, specifically his attempts to manufacture and market the device. Professional correspondence and field notes document Putnam's time in Michigan as well as northern New Jersey and surrounding areas of New York and Pennsylvania as Expert Special Agent for the Tenth U.S. Census as well as his time surveying mines in Montana for the Northern Transcontinental Survey.

Bayard T. Putnam's immediate family members, particularly his wife, Grace Haven Putnam (1855-1900) as well as his daughter, Dr. Mary Putnam (b. 1887), are also represented primarily through personal correspondence. Other materials include some legal documents, ephemera, receipts, and a few glass plate negatives.

Correspondence relating to Grace helps shed light on her life and that of her children after Putnam's death. Most are letters from her close friend, Bishop Henry Codman Potter (1834-1908), seventh Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Letters to and from Mary Putnam, circa 1931 to 1934, are of particular interest as they document a contentious period within the history of the Putnam family and G.P. Putnam's Sons. Discussing the family's stock in and ownership of the publishing company, the correspondence relates to the recent merger of G.P. Putnam's Sons with Minton, Balch & Co., (1930) whereupon the owners of the latter became the majority stockholders.


The collection is organized into two series: "Bayard T. Putnam Papers" and "Putnam Family Papers."

Box 3 is oversized.

Collection Creator Biography:

Born in 1854, Bayard Taylor Putnam of Newport, Rhode Island, was one of several children of George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872), founder of the publishing firm G.P. Putnam's Sons, and Victorine Haven Putnam (1824-1891). The Putnam's other children included: Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi (1842–1906), George Haven Putnam (1844-1930), Edith Grace Putnam (1845-1930), Ida J. Putnam (b. 1846), John Bishop Putnam (b. 1848) Amy Victorine Putnam Puiley (b. 1850), Irving Putnam (1852–1931), Ruth Putnam (1856-1931), Kingman Putnam (b. 1859), and Herbert Palmer Putnam (1861-1955).

Deciding not to go into the family publishing business, Putnam instead became a geological surveyor for the United States Geological Survey Division of Mining Geology upon the agency's founding in 1879 working under division chief, Raphael Pumpelly (1837-1923). Pumpelly had been appointed Special Agent of the Census Office in charge of gathering coal mining statistics for the Tenth U.S. Census (1880), and Putnam was made Expert Special Agent for the Census. As a surveyor for the U.S.G.S., Putnam was sent to several parts of the country, including Michigan, northern New Jersey and the surrounding area, Kentucky, and the "Far West," to survey largely iron-ore and coal mines.

Around 1881, Putnam became involved with the Northern Pacific Railroad's Northern Transcontinental Survey as the geologist in charge of the Upper Columbia Division. Organized by Pumpelly, this survey collected information on the topographical and economic features of Dakota, Montana, and Washington territories to identify the economic resources near the railroad lines.

Putnam spent much of the last few years of his life devoted to the manufacturing and selling of a patented combined protractor and chart-holder ("Chart Holder and Course Indicator") that he invented for sailors. In 1886, at age 30, Putnam allegedly committed suicide leaving his wife, Grace Sanderson Thacher Putnam (1855-1900), son, Worcester Putnam (born 1883), and daughter, Mary Putnam (born 1887).

Following Putnam's death, Grace Putnam continued attempts to market the chart holder. In order to make ends meet, she also rented out summer cottages on her property on Conanicut Island, Rhode Island, and also gave sailing and swimming lessons to local residents before her own death in 1900.

Collection History


Purchased 2013 (AM 2014-51).

Archival Appraisal Information:

No material was separated during 2013 processing.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Faith Charlton in December 2013. Finding aid written by Faith Charlton in December 2013.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Researchers interested in viewing glass negatives (Box 4) must obtain approval from the staff.

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:

Bayard Taylor Putnam Family Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184