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Collection Overview

Gelston, David
David Gelston Family Correspondence
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
4 boxes and 2.0 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-000887 to B-000889, P-000077


Primarily includes correspondence kept by New York merchant and politician, David Gelston, during his time as Collector of Customs for the Port of New York along with some correspondence of Floyd and Delafield family members.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection primarily includes correspondence kept by David Gelston during his tenure as Collector of Customs for the Port of New York, which coincided with the passing of several embargo acts along with other trade and tariff legislation passed by the Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe administrations. A good deal of correspondence relates to these embargoes and other customs violations. Correspondents include Treasury Secretaries and Comptrollers, including a significant number of letters from Albert Gallatin, Richard Rush, and Joseph Anderson. Also included are outgoing drafts from Gelston to various Secretaries of State, primarily James Monroe, James Madison, and John Quincy Adams; a letter from Vice President Aaron Burr; and a few receipts, shipping orders, and legal documentation.

Some correspondence of related Floyd and Delafield family members is also included. Those represented include William Floyd (1734-1821), Mary Floyd, likely the sister of William Floyd, and Augustus Floyd (1795-1878) and U.S. Representative John Gelston Floyd (1806-1881), sons of Nicoll Floyd (1762-1851) and Phoebe M. Gelston (1770-1836). Richard Delafield (1798-1873), who is also represented, was the brother of Edward Delafield (1794-1875) who married Julia Floyd (1808-1879), the daughter of Nicoll Floyd and Phoebe M. Gelston.

Collection Creator Biography:

Gelston, David

A merchant, who was born in Suffolk County, Long Island, David Gelston (1744-1828) served as Collector for the Port of New York from his appointment by President Thomas Jefferson in July 1801 through 1820. Previous to this position, Gelston served in the New York provincial congress from 1775 to 1777; was a member of the New York state constitutional convention in 1777; and held other positions in state government, including speaker of the assembly in 1784 and 1785. Three years after moving to New York City in 1786, he became a member of the last Confederation Congress; and represented the Southern District in the state senate for several terms between 1791 and 1802. An Anti-Federalist who became an ardent Republican, Gelston succeeded James Nicholson as president of New York City's Democratic Society in 1794; and was among the political associates whom Burr recommended for office in 1801.

Upon his retirement until his death eight years later, Gelston battled with the Treasury Department over claims that he owed the U.S. government tens of thousands in unsettled accounts. His estate continued to confront the situation more than a decade after his death.

Gelston married Phoebe Mitchell (1753-1836). Their daughter, Phoebe Gelston (1771–1836), married Nicoll Floyd (1762-1851), the son of William Floyd (1734-1821) and Hannah Jones.

Collection History


Purchase, 2016 (AM 2017-84).


Published materials, including books, pamphlets, newspapers, and disparate New York legislative imprints and New York Assembly journals, were transferred to Rare Books during 2017 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Faith Charlton in February 2017, with assistance from Sophia Alvarez '18, Fiona Bell '18, and Rachel Dubin (GS). Finding aid written by Faith Charlton in February 2017.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

David Gelston Family Correspondence; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-000887 to B-000889, P-000077