CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION: THE MAKING OF MODERN AMERICA
Series One: The Papers of Jay Cooke (1821-1905) from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Part 5: General Correspondence, January 1872-June 1874 and n.d.
The years between 1843 and 1874 witnessed many important changes in American life and society. In the Civil War the Union was tested and survived. In 1865 the Thirteenth Amendment was passed abolishing slavery. The Reconstruction Acts and the Fourteenth Amendment paved the way for universal manhood suffrage (excepting Native Americans) and wider access to public office. Railroads opened up the West and led to the rapid development of towns and cities along their routes. The first transcontinental railway was completed in 1869, symbolically linking the nation.
The Papers of Jay Cooke show how many of these developments were bound up with commerce, from his successful handling of the sale of 'seven-thirty' Treasury notes which helped to bankroll the Union war effort, to his speculations on distant lands and railroads, fuelled by the promises of land agents.
At the heart of the collection is a remarkable body of letters, mainly between Jay Cooke, the great financier, in Philadelphia and his brothers Henry, in Washington, DC, and Pitt, in New York. Henry was famous for his lavish entertaining of politicians and newspapermen and his letters provide valuable insights into lobbying practices. Pitt's correspondence enables scholars to see the web of contacts connecting the main financial centres of Gilded Age America.
There are also many letters from:
- Henry C Fahenstock (Henry's partner in Washington)
- Salmon P Chase (Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)
- John Russell Young and Samuel Wilkeson of the New York Tribune
- Senator John Sherman
- William E Chandler (Treasury official, Republican operative, and paid lobbyist for Cooke's interests)
- W J Barney (Western Land Agent based in Chicago)
- J W Weir of the Harrisburg National Bank
- H Durant (Vice President, Union Pacific Railroad)
- W B Sloan (Attorney and Land Agent in Ohio)
- W C Ralston of the Bank of California
- W L Banning of the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad Company, St Paul
- E P Smith of the American Missionary Association, working among coloured people in Atlanta
- W L Bancroft of the Port Huron and Lake Michigan Railroad Company
- J K Moorhead from the House of Representatives
- George B Sargent (Banker and Land Agent in Duluth)
- Robert Schenck (head of the House Ways and Means Committee and, thanks to the well-documented lobbying of the Cookes, Minister to England)
This is an important collection of papers for all those interested in US History during the American Civil War, Reconstruction and Gilded Age periods, with much on American Economic History and Westward Expansion.