Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Creator:
Blair family
Collector:
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Title:
Blair Family Papers
Repository:
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/ww72bf564
Dates:
1829-1977 (mostly 1829-1945)
Size:
5 boxes and 3.5 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Boxes 5; B-000996; P-000087; B-000997; B-000998
Language:
English

Abstract

Consists of a group of family papers and genealogical research collected by members of the Blair family, a prominent political family in the United States in the 19th century. Materials relate to Francis Preston Blair Sr. (1791-1876) and his descendents, including Frank P. (Francis Preston) Blair Jr., Apolline Alexander Blair, Francis Preston Blair III, Andrew A. Blair, James L. Blair, Gist Blair, Emily Blair Henrotin, and others. Included are correspondence, documents, genealogical research, photographs, printed materials, and writings related to politics, military service, family history, and domestic life.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Description:

The collection consists of a group of family papers and genealogical research pertaining to various Blair family members descended from Francis Preston Blair Sr. (1791-1876), the American newspaper editor, journalist, and politician. Family members represented include Francis Preston Blair Sr. (1791-1876); General Frank P. (Francis Preston) Blair Jr. (1821-1875), his wife Apolline Agatha Alexander Blair (1828-1908), and their children Francis Preston Blair III (1856-1914), Andrew A. Blair (1848-1932), and James L. Blair (1854-1904); Emily (Hockaday) Blair Henrotin (1883-1965), the daughter of Francis Preston Blair III; Gist Blair (1860-1940), the son of Montgomery Blair (1813-1883); along with others who are documented to a lesser extent, including Christine Biddle Blair Graham (1852-1915) and Violet Blair Janin (1848-1933). Materials include correspondence between family members and friends, personal and legal documents, military orders, photographs, printed materials and clippings, obituaries, family trees, genealogical charts and notes, and typewritten and published narratives detailing family history. Genealogical research files primarily pertain to the Blair family, but also include research on the Alexander, Cromwell, De la Porte, Hockaday, Madison, Price, Ceary (Cary), de Tuboeuf, Payson, Royall, Willis, Sterling, and Gist families.

Earlier materials in the collection shed light on the family's active role in 19th century American politics. Of note within the papers of General Frank P. Blair Jr. is a four-page letter, dated December 21, 1860, from Blair's father, Francis Preston Blair Sr., in which the elder Blair describes an exchange with United States Senator John J. Crittenden (1787-1863). Blair Sr. relates the advice he gave Crittenden regarding the Crittenden Compromise, the senator's ultimately unsuccessful proposal to resolve the secession crisis. In the same letter, Blair Sr. also discusses his attempts to find a position for his other son Montgomery Blair within the administration of Abraham Lincoln. Additionally, there is a small group of campaign materials from the 1968 Democratic presidential campaign of Horatio Seymour and General Frank P. Blair Jr.

The largest group of papers relate to Francis Preston Blair III. These mainly pertain to his time as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point in the 1870s, and to a lesser extent, his first military assignment in the United States Army at Fort Hamilton, New York. Letters between Blair and his parents from his years at West Point reveal the high expectations the family set for their son. Supportive letters to Blair from notable figures such as General William Tecumseh Sherman, General Benjamin F. Butler, and General John Schofield show the reach of his family's connections.

Francis Preston Blair III was also in the same 1877 graduating class as Henry Ossian Flipper (1856-1940), the first African American man to graduate from West Point. One of General Frank P. Blair Jr.'s letters to his wife, Apolline Alexander Blair, mentions the admission of Henry O. Flipper and another African American cadet to West Point and indicates that Flipper passed the entrance exam with the highest score of any applicant. There are also newspaper clippings about Flipper filed with materials related to a centennial celebration for West Point's Class of 1877. Military orders from 1880 refer to an incident in which Johnson Chesnutt Whittaker (1858–1931), another African American cadet, was violently assaulted by his fellow cadets; Whittaker was ultimately expelled from West Point after being falsely accused and convicted of faking the incident.

Materials collected by Gist Blair (1860-1940) and others also document the family homes of the Blairs, including the Silver Spring estate in Montgomery County, Maryland, and the Blair House in Washington, D.C. Among other topics, Gist Blair's narratives include romanticized depictions of enslaved servants on his grandparents' estate. Another similar depiction of enslaved persons on a Virginia plantation can be found with genealogical research related to the Royall family.

While materials in this collection were accumulated and passed along by various Blair family members descended from Francis Preston Blair Sr., the primary family historians involved in assembling this group of materials were Emily Blair Henrotin, the daughter of Francis Preston Blair III and Florence Price Blair; and Henrotin's cousin Violet Blair Janin (1848-1933), the daughter of James L. Blair (1819-1852) and Mary Serena Eliza Jesup Blair (1825-1914). Janin appears to have passed her genealogical notes and collection of family papers onto Henrotin, whose annotations and explanatory notes can be found on a number of items. To a lesser extent, Gist Blair and Francis Preston Blair III were also involved in collecting genealogical materials related to the Blair family. One of the collectors, possibly Henrotin, was also invested in documenting African American history, as materials that relate to African Americans are often notated throughout the collection. There is also a file related to a 1916-1917 effort to create a memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring African American soldiers.

Arrangement:

Arranged by family member, followed by a group of genealogical research materials and unassociated files.

Collection Creator Biography:

The Blairs were a prominent United States political family based in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. Along with members of the related Lee family, individuals in the Blair family were active in American politics, business, journalism, law, and philanthropy throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Francis Preston Blair Sr. (1791-1876) was an American newspaper editor, journalist, and politician. Blair was born in Virginia, raised in Kentucky, and later made a home at an estate he named Silver Spring in Montgomery County, Maryland, where his descendants lived after his death. He was a member of Andrew Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet and advised Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. From 1831 to 1845, Blair ran The Globe (Washington, D.C.), a newspaper that promoted the interests of the Democratic Party during the administrations of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Blair married Eliza Violet Howard Gist (1794-1877), with whom he had five children, Montgomery Blair (1813–1883), Juliet Blair (1816-1819), Elizabeth Blair (1818-1906), James Lawrence Blair (1819-1852), and Francis Preston Blair Jr. (1821–1875). His son Frank P. (Francis Preston) Blair Jr. (1821–1875) was a politician, lawyer, and major general in the United States Army during the Civil War. He became a member of the Missouri House of Representatives from 1852 to 1856 and later represented Missouri in the United States House of Representatives (1857-1864) and Senate (1871-1873). He and his wife, the philanthropist and organizer Apolline Agatha Alexander Blair (1828–1908), had eight children, including chemist Andrew A. Blair (1848-1932), Christine Biddle Blair Graham (1852-1915), James Lawrence Blair (1854-1904), and Francis Preston Blair III (1856-1914). Elizabeth Blair Lee (1818-1906), who was also active in Washington, D. C., political and philanthropic circles, married Samuel Phillips Lee (1812-1897), a naval officer, in 1843. They had one son named Blair Lee (1857-1944), who became a lawyer, legislator and social reformer.

Collection History

Acquisition:

Purchase, 2017 (AM 2017-163).

Archival Appraisal Information:

No materials were separated during 2017 processing.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in July 2017. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in July-August 2017, with assistance from Julia English '19.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

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:

Blair Family Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/ww72bf564
Location:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184

Find More

Related Material:

Blair and Lee Family Papers (C0614)

Blair Family Papers (Library of Congress, MSS12930)

Subject Terms:
African American military cadets -- United States -- 19th century -- Sources.
Military cadets -- United States -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Politicians -- United States -- 19th century -- Sources.
Slavery -- Extension to the territories -- United States -- Sources.
Slaves -- United States -- 19th century -- Sources.
Genre Terms:
Card photographs -- 19th century.
Correspondence -- 19th century.
Daguerreotypes (photographs) -- 19th century.
Genealogical tables -- 19th century.
Genealogies (histories) -- 19th century.
Orders (military records) -- 19th century.
Photographs -- 19th century.
Names:
United States Military Academy
Carey family
Cromwell family
De la Porte family
De Tuboeuf family
Alexander family
Willis family
Sterling family
Royal family
Hockaday family
Gist family
Price family
Payson family
Madison family
Blair, Andrew Alexander, 1848-1932
Blair, Apolline Alexander, 1828-1908
Blair, Francis Preston, 1791-1876
Blair, Francis Preston, III, 1856-1914
Blair, Frank P., Jr. (Francis Preston), 1821-1875
Blair, Gist, 1860-1940
Blair, James L. (James Lawrence), 1854-1904
Blair, Violet, 1848-1933
Graham, Christine Biddle Blair, 1852-1915
Henrotin, Emily Blair, 1883-1965
Places:
Fort Hamilton (N.Y.) -- 19th century -- Sources.
Missouri -- Politics and government -- 19th century -- Sources.
Silver Spring (Md.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Sources.
United States -- Politics and government -- 19th century -- Sources.