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Rockwell (John A.) Papers
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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
  • General
  • Arrangement

  • Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
    Title: John A. Rockwell papers
    Creator: Rockwell, John A. (John Arnold), 1803-1861
    Identifier/Call Number: mssRO
    Physical Description: 43.59 Linear Feet (39 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1770-1871
    Abstract: A collection of professional and personal material related to John Arnold Rockwell, American lawyer, author, and politician.
    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]. John A. Rockwell papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Purchased from George D. Smith Book Company, March 1925.

    Biographical / Historical

    John Arnold Rockwell (1803-1861) was an American jurist, Whig politician, and businessman. A native of Norwich, Connecticut and a graduate of Yale University, class of 1822; he married Mary Watkinson Perkins on September 28, 1831. Rockwell was a member of the Connecticut State Senate in 1839, and the judge of the New London County Court in 1840. He represented the state, as a Whig, in the Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth United States Congresses. Rockwell served as the chairman of the Committee on Claims in the Thirtieth Congress, and was the Chief Founder of the Court of Claims in Washington (established 1855). Having lost his re-election bid in 1848, Rockwell practiced law before the Court of Claims of the United States until his death in Washington, D.C. on February 10, 1861. Rockwell and his brother Charles William Rockwell were actively involved in various enterprises having to do with the westward expansion, including land development, railroads, transportation, and banking. In 1836 they founded the Rockwell Land Company with the purpose of land development in La Salle County, Illinois.

    Scope and Contents

    A collection of approximately 3000 items from 1770 to 1871, it consists of the personal and professional papers of John Arnold Rockwell, chiefly his incoming and outgoing correspondence. The papers document Rockwell's legal career; the development of the U.S. Court of Claims; politics; the Constitutional Union Party of 1860; land development, particularly in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan; transportation, including land grants in aid of canals and railroads such as the Illinois Central and the projected Pacific Railroads; mining; and banking. Correspondents include, among others, John William Allen, Reverdy Johnson, Charles William Rockwell, and Dixwell Lathrop, who was a member of the Rockwell Land Company and one of the founders of Rockwell Colony in La Salle, Illinois. Also included are a letter book, plats, Dixwell Lathrop's notebooks, newspaper clippings, and the 1857 legal brief in the case of the United States, appellants vs. Charles Fossatt, regarding the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines. The earliest portion of Rockwell's correspondence includes letters from his father Charles Rockwell and brother Charles William Rockwell who had moved to Savannah, Georgia in 1817 to run a shipping business. The post-1861 part of the collection consists mainly of the incoming correspondence of John A. Rockwell's youngest son Alfred Perkins Rockwell, a Yale graduate, mining engineer, Civil War veteran, and businessman. Also included is correspondence of the Perkins and Tisdale families, including Rockwell's father-in-law Joseph Perkins who died in 1832 and was a Revolutionary War soldier, a Major in the Connecticut militia, physician, and businessman; also, Simon Perkins, John Tisdale, Elkanah Tisdale, and others. This correspondence deals chiefly with the properties in Connecticut and the Western Reserve. Also present is an autograph letter signed from Millard Fillmore to John A. Rockwell, 1852 January 14 (RO 2376).

    Processing Information

    Processed by Huntington Library Staff, circa 1935. In 2020, Gayle Richardson created the finding aid derived from a legacy summary report. In 2022, Melissa Haley enhanced description of the presidential material present in the collection as part of the American Presidential Papers Project.


    Individual call numbers included in the collection: mssRO 1-2651.


    Arranged chronologically.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Businessmen -- Connecticut
    Land grants -- California
    Land grants -- Northwest, Old
    Lawyers -- United States
    Legislators -- United States
    Politicians -- United States
    Railroads -- Northwest, Old
    Transportation -- Northwest, Old
    Real property -- Northwest, Old
    Connecticut -- History
    La Salle (Ill.) -- History
    Norwich (Conn.) -- History
    Northwest, Old -- Commerce -- History
    Rockwell (La Salle, Ill.) -- History
    Savannah (Ga.) -- History -- 19th century
    Western Reserve (Ohio) -- History
    Family papers -- Connecticut
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 18th century
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States -- 19th century
    Personal papers -- United States
    Professional papers -- United States
    Allen, John W. (John William), 1802-1887
    Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874
    Johnson, Reverdy, 1796-1876
    Lathrop, Dixwell
    Perkins, Simon, 1771-1844
    Rockwell, Alfred Perkins, 1834-1903
    Rockwell, Charles William, 1799-1866
    Tisdale, Elkanah, 1768-1835
    Constitutional Union Party (U.S.)
    New Almaden Quicksilver Mines (Calif.)
    United States. Congress (29th, 1st session : 1845-1846)
    United States. Congress (30th, 1st session : 1847-1848)
    United States. Court of Claims
    Whig Party (U.S.)