Washington M. Smith papers, 1830-1916 and undated

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Smith, Washington M., ca. 1820-1869
Planter, banker, and lawyer, of Selma, Alabama Business and personal correspondence and other papers of Washington M. Smith and the Smith family, containing information on Smith's interests in banking, law, and agriculture, on economic conditions in Alabama after 1840, public schools and their establishment in Alabama, tax collection in the Confederate States, social life and customs in Selma, economic conditions during Reconstruction, Smith's successful efforts to reestablish in New York and England his former affluency, and family affairs. Includes a series of letters of Smith's daughter, Ella, and her husband, Hilary A. Herbert. Most of the items before 1850 and after 1869 are family letters and papers.
11.4 Linear Feet
8,578 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

Personal, legal and financial papers of Washington M. Smith, lawyer, planter, and president of the Bank of Selma, relating to his law practice; his appointment as legal advisor for the Bank of Alabama in Tuscaloosa; his presidency of the Bank of Selma; the development of his plantation in Dallas County; exports of cotton and naval stores through brokers in Mobile; his real estate ventures in Selma and in Minnesota, and the inheritance by his wife, Susan (Parker) Smith, of property in Texas; the movement in the 1850s for public schools; his service on the school board of Selma, 1865-1868; his service as state representative in 1844 and in 1861-1863; his struggle after the Civil War to rebuild his estate; his efforts to establish a private banking house in Selma his partnership with John McGinnis in a general banking and stock and gold brokerage business in New York; attempts to restore the prosperity of his plantation, including contracts with many of his former slaves; his journey to England to establish cotton markets; his despondency over economic conditions in Alabama; and his consideration of migration to California. Arranged in the following series: Correspondence, Legal Papers, Financial Papers, Printed Material, and Volumes.

Included are personal correspondence between Smith and his wife while on his travels; records of slave purchases and sales; correspondence, bills, and receipts relating to the running of the plantation; scattered price current bulletins for Mobile, Alabama, 1848-1866, and for Liverpool, England, 1865-1869; Smith's petition for pardon to Andrew Johnson explaining his feelings about secession and his activities during the war, and other miscellaneous items pertaining to Smith's activities. After Smith's death in 1869, the papers chiefly relate to the education of their seven children at various schools and academies, including Virginia Military Institute (Lexington, Virginia), Moore's Business College (Atlanta, Georgia), the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), and Shorter College (Rome, Georgia); to the settlement and administration of the Smith estate; to a family quarrel between Susan (Parker) Smith and her children over disposal of the property in Minnesota; and to the children's efforts at various occupations. Also included are letters of Colonel Hilary A. Herbert (1834-1919), U.S. congressman from Alabama, 1877-1893, and secretary of the navy, 1893-1897, and husband of Smith's daughter, Ella, chiefly concerning family matters; letters from Leila Herbert, daughter of Hilary A. Herbert and Ella (Smith) Herbert, Washington hostess, and author of The First American, His Homes and Households (1900), discussing family matters and Washington social activities; numerous account books of Susan (Parker) Smith containing records of household expenses; course of study of the Selma Study Club, 1907-1908; catalog of the San Souci girls' school near Greenville, South Carolina, 1902-1903; the annual report of Beta Theta Pi for 1896; and other miscellaneous items.

Acquisition information:
The Washington M. Smith Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library in 1957.
Processing information:

Processed by Rubenstein Library staff

Encoded by Ted Holt and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, August 2008

Accession 56-376 is described in this finding aid.

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


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Preferred citation:

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