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Gerrit Smith Collection

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 27 Mar 2013

Biographical History

Gerrit Smith (1797-1874) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, politician, and philanthropist. Born in Utica, New York, he spent much of his life in nearby Peterboro. Smith's grandfather, Colonel James Livingston, fought in the American Revolution and his first cousin, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was a founder and leader of the women's suffrage movement. Smith was non-sectarian in his religious views, active in the temperance movement, an avid and outspoken abolitionist (he was a financial backer of John Brown of Kansas, whose raid on Harper's Ferry nearly led to Smith's prosecution), and three times ran for President of the United States. His philanthropic gifts are said to have exceeded $8 million over his lifetime. Although he rarely ventured far afield from his central New York village, and spent less than two years in elected public office, his biographer Ralph Volney Harrow says, "He and a few others like him furnished the oratory, the written propaganda, and the emotional fervor necessary to keep good causes constantly before the public" (Harlow, Ralph Volney, Gerrit Smith, Philanthropist and Reformer, New York, Henry Holt and Co., 1939, p.v.)

Because Special Collections Research Center is the repository of the Gerrit Smith Papers, we occasionally purchase additional material related to Gerrit Smith, which becomes part of this auxiliary collection.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Gerrit Smith Collection consists of correspondence and legal material.

Correspondence contains letters to, from, or about Gerrit Smith, including one letter from Franklin Sanborn to Smith's wife.

Legal material contains ballots, a copy of a lawsuit, and some blank indenture forms.

Arrangement of the Collection



Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

For Gerrit Smith's own papers, see the Gerrit Smith Papers.

For the papers of other members of the Smith family, see also the Gerrit Smith Miller Papers, the Peter Smith Papers, and the Greene Smith Papers.

The Madison County Historical Society (435 Main Street, Oneida, N. Y., 13421, has family correspondence, manuscripts, documents, published writings of and publications on Gerrit Smith, along with Smith family paintings, furniture etc. covering a period of over 100 years.

Subject Headings


Clarkson, Thomas, 1760-1846.
Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917.
Smith, Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, 1805-1875.
Smith, Gerrit, 1797-1874.
Talcott, Wait.
Talcott, William, 1784-1864.


Abolitionists -- United States.
Antislavery movements -- United States.
Social reformers -- United States.


Madison County (N.Y.) -- History.
New York (State) -- History -- 1775-1865.

Genres and Forms


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Gerrit Smith Collection,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, various years.

Table of Contents


Legal papers