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John Bell Papers
mssBell, John papers  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administration Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: John Bell Papers
    Inclusive Dates: 1855-1930
    Bulk Dates: 1871-1918
    Collection Number: mssBell, John papers
    Creator: Bell, John
    Extent: 3 boxes and 49 volumes.
    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: This collection contains the papers of Irish immigrant John Bell (born circa 1830), who was an insurance and loan agent in Richmond, Indiana, in the 1860s-1870s and in San Jose, California, beginning in 1875-6. Includes diaries chronicling Bell's oceanic travel to Central America and his overland journey from Indiana to California, as well as documents, correspondence, ephemera, and 49 volumes related to Bell's business in both San Jose and Richmond.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.

    Administration 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], John Bell papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased from William P. Wreden, July 24, 1963.

    Biographical Note

    John Bell was born about 1830 in Ireland and immigrated to the United States with his father before his 21st birthday. He was an insurance and loan agent in Richmond, Indiana in the 1860s and 1870s. He moved to San Jose, California between 1875 and 1876 and continued working as an insurance and loan agent. Sometime after 1881, he married Hannah B. Cooper, John L. Cooper's widow, and helped raise her two daughters, Elizabeth P. and Anna J. Cooper. John and Hannah B. Cooper Bell had a daughter of their own named Mary Elma.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains 330 items. The manuscripts and diaries are arranged alphabetically by author and consist of 13 items including John Bell's account of his ocean voyage from New York to Central America, his overland journey by train from Indiana to California and his stay in London. The correspondence is also arranged alphabetically by author and consists of 27 letters, most of which were written to either John or Hannah B. Cooper Bell. The ephemera is arranged alphabetically by type and consists of 219 items, most of which are receipts and statements for property taxes in both the states of New York and California. The ephemera includes the publications: "California Prune Surprise: 100 Recipes for Delicious Prune Dishes" published by the California Cured Fruit Association; "Divine Protection through Extraordinary Dangers, During the Irish Rebellion in 1798" by Dinah Wilson Goff who was John Bell's great-aunt; "An Appeal for the Ancient Doctrines of the Religious Society of Friends," written in 1847; "The Testimonies of Friends," written in 1860; and two insurance manuals. Other ephemera relate to John Bell's business and family life in San Jose. There are 71 items in the volume section arranged alphabetically by title and then chronologically. Forty-nine of these items are volumes relating to John Bell's business in both San Jose (Calif.) and Richmond (Ind.). The other items are notes included in the volumes.
    Subjects include: Acapulco Bay, Mexico; California Cured Fruit Association; Chinese in Nevada; American Christian Poetry; London; Colón, Panama; The Geysers, California; Home economics; Insurance agents; Irish Rebellion of 1798; Ocean travel; Prunes in California; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Quakers in California; Railroad travel; James Rolph; San Jose, California; Society of Friends; Sierra Nevada; Tabernacle of Salt Lake City, Utah; and Women from 1870-1920.
    Materials addressed to or written by Hannah B. Cooper are listed under Hannah B. Cooper Bell; materials referring to H. B. Bell are referring to Hannah B. Cooper Bell; some of the cash books include short entries regarding the Bell family.


    The collection is arranged in the following series: Documents, Diaries, Correspondence and Ephemera (Boxes 1-3); Volumes

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Personal Names

    Bell, John
    Goff, Dinah W. (Dinah Wilson), 1784-1856
    Rolph, James, 1869-1934

    Corporate Names

    California Cured Fruit Association (1900-1903)
    Tabernacle (Salt Lake City, Utah)


    Chinese -- Nevada
    Christian poetry, American
    Home economics
    Irish Americans -- Archives
    Insurance agents -- California
    Insurance agents -- Indiana
    Ocean travel -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    Prune -- California
    Railroad travel -- United States
    Society of Friends

    Geographic Areas

    Acapulco Bay (Mexico)
    California -- History -- Sources
    Colón (Panama)
    Geysers, The (Calif.)
    Ireland -- History -- Rebellion of 1798 -- Personal narratives
    London (England)
    Puntarenas (Costa Rica)
    San Jose (Calif.)
    Sierra Nevada (Calif. and Nev.)


    Business records -- United States
    Diaries -- United States
    Letters (correspondence) -- United States
    Manuscripts -- United States