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Phelps (William Walter) Papers
mssHM 27329-27485  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Processing Information
  • Arrangement

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
    Title: William Walter Phelps papers
    Creator: Phelps, William Walter, 1839-1894
    Identifier/Call Number: mssHM 27329-27485
    Physical Description: 2.66 Linear Feet (3 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1800-1925
    Date (bulk): 1876-1893
    Abstract: A collection of material related to the life and work of William Walter Phelps, American lawyer, politician, and diplomat.
    Language of Material: Materials are in English.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.

    Conditions Governing Use

    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]. William Walter Phelps papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Purchased from Mrs. Frances Phelps Penry, December, 1963.

    Biographical / Historical

    William Walter Phelps (1839-1894), was a lawyer, businessman, arboriculturist, and diplomat. Phelps was born in New York, New York, and graduated from Yale University as valedictorian in 1860; in the same year he married Ellen Maria Sheffield. He was active in Republican politics and a good friend of James G. Blaine, Speaker of the House and Senator from Maine. Phelps represented New Jersey in the Forty-third (1873-1875), Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth, and Fiftieth Congresses (1883-1889). In 1881-1882, he served as Ambassador to Austria-Hungary, and from 1889-1893 Phelps served as United States Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Germany. In 1888 President Harrison appointed him as one of the commissioners to represent the United States at the Joint Conference on the Samoan Question, which met in Berlin in 1889. Phelps died in his home in Teaneck, New Jersey on June 17, 1894.

    Scope and Contents

    A collection of political, business, diplomatic, social, and family correspondence of William Walter Phelps, chiefly letters addressed to him. The collection numbers 199 items, including items related to American politics and the Republican party, Phelps' diplomatic service, his family, social life and literary interests. Correspondents include, among others, Herbert Nikolaus von Bismarck, James Gillespie Blaine, Benjamin Harrison, Eugene Field, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and Joseph Pulitzer. Also included is the correspondence of John Jay Phelps, a poem by Eugene Field dedicated to Phelps, an 1882 letter containing an eye-witness account of the battle of Battle of Chapultepec, Mexico (1847), ephemera, photographs, and newspapers clippings. The collection also contains papers related to John Chester Eno's embezzlement from the Second Bank of New York (of which Phelps was a director) and Phelps' negotiations with Eno's father, Amos Richard Phelps, to make good the loss (1884).
    Materials created by US presidents in this collection include: Rutherford B. Hayes autograph letters signed to William Walter Phelps, 1879 July and December (HM 27382-27383); James A. Garfield and James G. Blaine signed appointment of William Walter Phelps as minister to Austria Hungary, 1881 March 5 (HM 27376); Theodore Roosevelt autograph letter signed to William Walter Phelps, approximately 1888 April 10 (HM 27406); Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine signed appointment of William Walter Phelps as commissioner to Berlin Conference on Samoan Affairs, 1889 March 19 (HM 27450); Benjamin Harrison and James G. Blaine signed appointment of William Walter Phelps as minister to Germany, 1889 June and December (includes passport and letter of credit, HM 27484-27485); Benjamin Harrison letters to William Walter Phelps, 1888-1892 (HM 27480-27483); William H. Taft letter signed to Marian von Rottenburg Phelps, 1910 and 1911 (HM 27413-27414).

    Processing Information

    Processed by Huntington Library Staff, circa 1970. In 2020, Gayle Richardson created the finding aid derived from legacy in-house summary report. In 2022, Melissa Haley enhanced description of the presidential material present in the collection as part of the American Presidential Papers Project.


    Chiefly arranged alphabetically by author: General correspondence, A-Ph (box 1); General correspondence, P-T and miscellaneous (box 2); Berlin Conference on Samoan Affairs (box 3); Second Bank of New York (box 3).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Chapultepec, Battle of, Mexico City, Mexico, 1847
    Diplomats -- United States
    Embezzlement -- New York (State) -- New York
    Politicians -- New Jersey
    Samoan question
    Berlin (Germany) -- Social life and customs
    Germany -- Foreign relations -- United States
    Samoan Islands -- History
    United States -- Foreign relations -- Germany
    United States -- Politics and Government -- 1865-1900
    Ephemera -- United States -- 19th century
    Family papers -- United States -- 19th century
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 19th century
    Personal papers -- United States -- 19th century
    Photographs -- United States -- 19th century
    Professional papers -- United States -- 19th century
    Bismarck, Herbert, Fürst von, 1849-1904
    Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893
    Clemens, Samuel Langhorne, 1835-1910
    Field, Eugene, 1850-1895
    Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881
    Harrison, Benjamin, 1833-1901
    Hayes, Rutherford B., 1822-1893
    Phelps, John J. (John Jay), 1810-1869
    Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
    Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930
    Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) -- History -- 19th century
    Second Bank of New York