Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Henry Ellsworth Wood Papers
mssWood, Henry papers  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (76.17 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Henry Ellsworth Wood Papers
    Dates: 1853-1935
    Collection Number: mssWood, Henry papers
    Creator: Wood, Henry Ellsworth, 1855-1932
    Extent: 726 items in 5 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The collection spans several generations of the Wood family, focusing on the personal life and business activities of Colorado assayer Henry Ellsworth Wood (1855-1932). The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, including some 300 pieces from Henry Ellsworth Wood to his wife, Belle Matteson McGinnis Wood. Subject matter includes the Woods' family life, mining in Colorado, business affairs, and the Colorado River expedition with John Wesley Powell.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.

    Administrative Information


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Henry Ellsworth Wood papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The collection was purchased from Joseph W. Jones on April 29, 1955.


    Henry Ellsworth Wood (1855-1932) was born in 1855 in Joliet, Illinois, the son of William Cowper Wood and Hannah Tucker Lawrence. The Woods hailed from a prominent Connecticut family which included Oliver Ellsworth, the third Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. In 1868, William accompanied Major John Wesley Powell’s expedition to explore the headwaters of the Colorado River, hoping a trip to the West might improve his health. Thirteen-year old Henry joined his father for much of the journey. Having entered Yale University with the class of 1876, Henry left after two years of study in mineralogy for a job with the Edgar Thompson Steel Works in Braddocks, Pennsylvania.
    In 1876, Henry Ellsworth Wood returned to Colorado where he began work in the Boulder County mines as a miner, ore assorter and assayer. He arrived in Leadville, Colorado, in 1878, partnering with Maurice Hayes before establishing his own assay office and laboratory. Life in Leadville proved difficult for his family and in 1889 Henry moved the business to Denver. In 1898, he expanded his professional activities with the formation of the Henry E. Wood Ore Testing Works. He patented the Wood Ore Flotation process in 1909 and in 1912 turned his attention toward the concentration of Molybdenite. During the First World War, Henry shipped the product to England, France and the United States from the largest Molybdenite mine in Canada. His finances suffered following the war and eventually Henry joined his sons in their general oil business.
    Henry Ellsworth Wood married Belle Matteson McGinnis on November 1, 1880, in New York City. The Woods established a residence in Colorado, though each traveled extensively. Belle, granddaughter of former Illinois governor Joel Aldrich Matteson, possessed her own Colorado ties. Her aunt, Mary Jane Matteson, married mining and real estate broker Roswell Eaton Goodell and the pair became prominent Leadville residents. The Goodells had five daughters with whom both Henry and Belle were close. In 1881, Mary Matteson Goodell married mining engineer James Benton Grant, operator of the Grant Smelter at Leadville and later first Democratic governor of Colorado. The Woods had three children: Katharine Earle Wood, Oliver Ellsworth Wood, and Lawrence Matteson Wood. The death of their daughter Katharine shortly after the birth of her daughter Katharine Wood Manice in 1902, involved the Woods in a protracted dispute with her widower, Arthur R. Manice, regarding both the upbringing of their granddaughter and various financial entanglements. The Woods celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1930. Having fallen on hard times financially, Henry Ellsworth Wood died in Sacramento, California, in 1932.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains 27 manuscripts and 4 manuscript fragments generated by Henry Ellsworth Wood, 533 letters written by 114 different authors, 87 photographs, 23 negatives, 51 pieces of ephemera and 1 assay book. The collection spans several generations of the Wood family, focusing on the personal life and business activities of Henry Ellsworth Wood.
    The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, including some 300 pieces from Henry Ellsworth Wood to his wife, Belle Matteson McGinnis Wood. These letters, composed over the fifty year period of their marriage, cover a wide range of aspects of their lives, including their immediate and extended family, their day-to-day activities, trips to visit family and friends, financial hardships, mining affairs in Colorado and Canada, and assorted business activities. Four generations of the Wood family are represented in the correspondence, including 69 letters composed between 1853 and 1856 by William Cowper Wood, his parents and siblings.
    The collection includes various drafts of Henry Ellsworth Wood’s reminiscences of his childhood and early days in Leadville, the most comprehensive manuscript of this type being “I Remember”. Also of note is the manuscript “Colorado in 1868”, reproduced with commentary by Henry Ellsworth Wood from a notebook kept by his father, William Cowper Wood, during the 1868 John Wesley Powell expedition.
    The collection contains one assay book kept by Maurice Hayes between the years 1873-1878. Maurice Hayes arrived at Leadville no later than 1873, serving as one of the first assayers in the area and many early Leadville notables are entered in this record book.


    The collection is organized into five sections, with materials arranged alphabetically:
    • 1. Manuscripts (28 folders)
    • 2. Correspondence (149 folders)
    • 3. Photographs (6 folders)
    • 4. Ephemera (15 folders)
    • 5. Assay Book (1 volume)
    A detailed container list is available through the Manuscripts Department.

    Indexing Terms

    Personal Names

    Hayes, Maurice.
    Herter, Christian Archibald, 1895-1966.
    Lyman, Chester Smith, 1814-1890.
    Mudd, Harvey Seeley, 1888-1955.
    Newell, Frederick Haynes, 1862-1932.
    Powell, John Wesley, 1834-1902.
    Wood, Henry Ellsworth, 1855-1932.
    Wood, William Cowper, 1821-1889.


    Currency question.
    Mines and mineral resources--Canada.
    Mines and mineral resources--Colorado--Boulder County.
    Mines and mineral resources--Colorado--Leadville.
    Mining engineers--Colorado--Denver.
    Mining engineers--Colorado--Archives.
    Silver mines and mining--Colorado--Leadville.
    Silver question.

    Geographic Areas

    Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)--Description and travel.
    Leadville (Colo.)--History.
    West (U.S.)--Description and travel.


    Letters (correspondence)--Colorado.
    Letters (correspondence)--United States--19th century.
    Letters (correspondence)--United States--20th century.
    Personal papers--Colorado.
    Reminiscences--20th century.