Samuel Calvin papers, 1792-1929

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Calvin, Samuel, 1811-1890
Lawyer and political leader, of Hollidaysburg (Blair Co.), Pa. Personal, legal, and business correspondence, legal papers, reports, notices, and other material. The political material relates to Blair Co. and Pennsylvania Whig politics, to Calvin's service as U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania (1849-1851), patronage, service to constituents, and national problems and issues. The legal papers largely concern collection of clients' debts. Business records and papers relate to a mining concern in Colorado, industrial firms in Pennsylvania; canal, railroad, and road transportation; westward expansion in Iowa and elsewhere, and the price of land in the West.
15 Linear Feet
2761 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Personal correspondence and legal papers of Samuel Calvin. Main items of the collection are: letters pertaining to local and state "Whig" politics in Pa., 1846-1851 especially; letters, reports, and maps concerning the Rico Reduction and Mining Co. of Rico, Colorado (1881-1883); ledgers and daybook of the Allegheny Force and the Rebecca Furnace Co. of Hollidaysburg, Blair Co., Pa. (1849-1857) and letters concerning the business of the company; letters and notices relating to transportation in Pa. by railroads, canals, and roads (for example, letters of 1851 Feb. 10; 1855 July 24; 1856 Feb. 21-22; and notice of 1836 Feb. 17); letters by Robert Williams and others in Iowa regarding westward expansion, roads to the West, and prices of land in Iowa (for example, letter of 1853 Oct. 18 and land tax receipts for 1856-1857); a series of letters from 1859 written by Lorin Blodget, Thomas B. Lincoln, and Samuel Calvin (son-in-law of John A. Blodget) with reference to a plan for recovering real estate in Washington, D.C., formerly own by Samuel Blodget (1757-1814), noted Washington architect and land speculator; numerous bills and receipts; and legal documents. The collection is strongest for the years 1838-1883. There are about 15 letters in the collection written by Samuel Calvin.

For the years before 1846, the collection consists largely of letters to Calvin from persons desiring legal aid in the collection of debts. In addition, there is an interesting 13-page letter by William Smith, written from Philadelphia on 1793 Oct. 22, regarding the cholera epidemic in that city. Also, legal documents are abundant. These include indentures; wills; accounts of settlements of estates; a commission of bankruptcy (1803); powers of attorney; articles of agreement (business contracts); a paper of apprenticeship (1839); citizenship papers (1838 and 1840); mortgages; court dockets (Courts of Common Pleas of Huntington and Blair counties); written statements of witnesses in civil and criminal cases; printed copies of the record in certain cases argued by Calvin. Such legal documents will be found throughout the collection. Other items are: a plan of Hollidaysburg, Pa. (1840); bills and receipts (foodstuffs, fabrics, hardware, medicines, and drugs); a copy of the constitution of the Old Warrior and Clay Club of Hollidaysburg (1844), with 148 signatures and the minutes of the meetings, March through August, 1844; a map of Texas drawn by the U.S. War Department (1844); a copy of the Williamsport Lycoming Free Press (1836 July 9).

For the period 1846-1851, the correspondence bears upon details of Calvin's election to Congress in 1848, matters of patronage and other services to his constituents once he entered into office (especially military pension applications), Calvin's decision not to be a candidate in 1850, and issues from Blair Co., Pa., in particular. A series of letters in early 1846 concern measures taken to assure the passage through the Senate of a bill forming Blair Co. out of Bedford and Huntington counties.

Some reference is made in the letters to problems and politics. Letters from 1848 suggest Josiah Randall of Philadelphia as an excellent man for a position in President Taylor's cabinet. Several letters to Calvin in 1850-1851 contain references to the tariff, particularly advising increased dutied on iron. A long letter of 1850 July 11 concerns the Compromise of 1850, with the writer predicting that if the compromise failed and California were admitted to the Union, the result would be "disunion and civil war." A letter from 1860 March 2 states that people were much in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and that slavery, not the tariff, was the primary political issue.

Calvin expressed his views on slavery and its expansion into the territories in a letter from 1848 Oct. 3: he was, he wrote, opposed to slavery as an institution in general, and to the Missouri Compromise in particular. Miscellaneous items of this type include: notes of lectures (1850) and drafts and printed copies (1860) of speeches given by Calvin on the subject of the tariff; copies of supplements of the Hollidaysburg Register (1880 June 16 and Oct. 1) containing articles written by Calvin on the currency question.

Numerous references (1859-1860, 1867) in the letters to Calvin's participation in state politics and elections after 1861 show that he remained influential in Pa. There is no indication, however, of his role in the state constitutional convention of 1872-1873. Nor does the Civil War receive mention. There is a muster roll of the 2nd Regt., Pa. Vols (1847), stationed in Mexico. A letter of 1867 Oct. 30 speaks enthusiastically of the potential development of Washington, D.C., after the Civil War as a commercial and industrial center.

Noticeable are Calvin's business activities after 1850. He invested money in a great variety of new enterprises: Patton's Ville and Woodberry Turnpike Road Co. (1854); Morrison's Cove Turnpike Road Co. (1852); Hollidaysburg and Bedford Plank Road Co. (1853); Hollidaysburg Altoona Plank Road Co. (1854); Juniata Steam Boat Co. (1864); Hollidaysburg Gas Co. (1856); Hollidaysburg and Bennington Railroad and Mining Co. The collection contains 2 mortgages (1864) of this last company, as well as Calvin's shares in most of the others. In 1856 he purchased lands in Hardin and Muscatine counties, Iowa. He sold these properties in 1866-1867, evidently for a large profit. Calvin was interested in mining, primarily, and therefore in lands containing mineral deposits.

A series of letters (1881 Oct.-1883 Dec.) concern the Rico Reduction and Mining Co. Samuel Calvin was vice-president. Letters from Rico, Co., report on the wealth of silver, salt, and sulphur deposits in that area; describe the processes used for the mining and smelting of silver; discuss expenses and profits, labor problems, incidents in the life of a mining camp, and legal troubles with claims. The collection also includes maps, deeds, and charters from the Rico Reduction and Mining Co., as well as income and special tax receipts for Calvin from the year 1863-1871.

Miscellaneous items in the collection include: single copies of various newspapers; printed materials and circulars; small account books; maps of land holdings in Pa.; clippings.

Biographical / historical:

Samuel Calvin (1811-1890) was a lawyer, member of the 31st Congress (March 1849-March 1851), and member of the Pennsylvania State Constitutional Convention of 1873. Calvin was admitted to the bar in 1836; he established his practice at Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Acquisition information:
The Samuel Calvin Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a purchase in 1955-1957.
Processing information:

Processed by Rubenstein Library Staff, 1989

Encoded by Meghan Lyon, May 2011

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Samuel Calvin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.