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Series One: The Papers of Jay Cooke (1821-1905) from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Part 2: General Correspondence, May 1865-December 1867

"No study of politics or finance in Civil-War America would be complete without Jay Cooke's papers.  The leading banker of his day, Cooke managed to involve himself in just about everything: from the endowment of churches and charities to the building of railroads and the sale of securities.   Because of his Philadelphia banking house, the United States was able to market the bonds that paid for the Union war effort; the Northern Pacific railroad was begun, from Lake Superior to the Pacific Northwest; and Minnesota and the Dakotas were opened for white settlement."  
By Mark W Summers, Professor of History, University of Kentucky at Lexington, Consultant Editor

The strength of the Cooke collection lies in the 106 boxes of correspondence it contains. These are a vital source describing politics, finance and metropolitan culture in Civil War and Gilded Age America.  

Part 2 covers the period from 1865 to 1867, when correspondence between Jay, Henry and Pitt Cooke was at its peak. The letters were full and frank.  Jay Cooke retained copies of his own correspondence as well as those sent to him, and these now provide a unique historical record of a period in which they wielded considerable power.  In addition to their own letters, there are also reports from contacts all over America - from congressmen to newspaper reporters, and from foreign emissaries to land agents.   

There is much on life in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia; both gossip and accounts of a country still reeling from the assassination of Lincoln and struggling to meet the costs of the Civil War.  There are also reports from Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Missouri and California.  There is material on:

  • Reconstruction and the condition of the Southern States; 
  • Investments in coal, gold and silver mines;
  • The purchase of land in areas designated for expansion;
  • Rivalry between the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads;
  • The clash between President Johnson and Congress, and the threat of impeachment;
  • Friendship with General Grant;
  • Relations with Sioux.

Editorial introduction
Digital Guide
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