Charles Woodberry McLellan papers, 1780-1953

(bulk 1901-1927)

John Hay Library, University Archives and Manuscripts
Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: Manuscripts: 401-863-3723; University Archives: 401-863-2148
Email: Manuscripts:; University Archives:

Published in 2015

Collection Overview

Title: Charles Woodberry McLellan papers
Date range: 1780-1953, (bulk 1901-1927)
Creator: McLellan, Charles Woodberry, 1836-1918
Extent: 1.0 linear foot
Abstract: The Charles Woodberry McLellan papers (1780-1953 (bulk 1901-1927)) consist primarily of correspondence between Charles McLellan, his sons Hugh and Malcolm, and collectors and dealers of Lincoln memorabilia. Also included is the correspondence between the McLellan family and Brown University regarding Brown's acquisition of the collection in 1923. In addition to a small collection of personal documents, the papers also include an assortment of facsimiles of documents in Lincoln's handwriting; transcriptions (typed and handwritten) of various documents by or about Abraham Lincoln; and inventories, want lists, and bibliographies of Lincolniana.
Language of materials: English
Repository: John Hay Library, University Archives and Manuscripts
Collection number: MS.CWM

Scope & content

The Charles Woodberry McLellan papers (1780-1953 (Bulk 1901-1927)) contain primarily correspondence relating to the acquisition of the McLellan Lincoln Collection and its eventual sale to Brown University. The papers include correspondence to and from Charles McLellan, as well as his sons Hugh and Malcolm. Also included in the collection are copies of documents by and about Abraham Lincoln, collection inventories, and biographical information about Charles W. McLellan.

The papers are organized into three series.

Series 1, (1894-1926) comprises one folder (Box 1, Folder 1) of miscellaneous personal, autobiographical, and biographical material relating to Charles W. McLellan. Included is a short biographical sketch describing his early career as a bookkeeper in Springfield, Illinois, where he knew Abraham and Mary Lincoln before Lincoln’s election to the presidency. Another short incomplete autobiographical sketch describes his beginnings as a collector of Lincolniana.

Series 2, Correspondence (1893-1953) is a collection of business and personal letters relating to McLellan’s acquisition of particular items of Lincolniana. Much of this correspondence occurs after Charles McLellan’s death in 1918, when his son Hugh assumed oversight of the collection. Correspondents include other major collectors of Lincolniana, such as Joseph Oakleaf (Box 1, Folder 25), Judge Daniel Fish (Box 1, Folder 9), Judd Stewart (Box 1, Folder 28), William H. Lambert (Box 1, Folder 15), and Frederick Meserve (Box 1, Folder 23). Also included is the correspondence between Hugh McLellan and Brown Librarian H. L. Koopman regarding the acquisition and contents of the collection in 1923 (Box 1, Folder 5). The series also contains a folder of personal correspondence between McLellan family members and friends (Box 1, Folder 21).

Series 3, Lincolniana (1780-1952) contains Lincolniana bibliographies, want lists, and inventories (Box 1, Folders 40, 42-43); facsimiles of documents in Lincoln’s hand (Box 1, Folder 35); transcriptions of documents by and about Abraham Lincoln (Box 1, Folders 36-38); and shelving plans for the Lincoln Room at the John Hay Library (Box 1, Folder 41).


  • Series 1. Personal documents.
  • Series 2. Correspondence.
  • Series 3. Lincolniana.

Biographical note

Charles Woodberry McLellan was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, on November 25, 1836. After graduating from Boston English High School he moved to Springfield, Illinois, in 1856, where he worked as a clerk for N. H. Ridgely and Company, a banking firm. During this time he met both Abraham Lincoln and his law partner William Herndon. According to a short memoir, McLellan "transacted business with Mr. Lincoln over the counter of the Ridgely Bank where I was a clerk, besides greeting him constantly and attending little social gatherings at his home."

In 1860, McLellan moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he eventually worked in the Quartermaster's Department of the Confederate Army until the end of the Civil War. During this time he corresponded with Abraham Lincoln's son Robert, who had left Springfield for Harvard University. In 1865 McLellan moved back north to New York City after obtaining a pass from his friend John Hay, now secretary to Abraham Lincoln. There he worked for A. M. Kidder and Company before founding the brokerage house Boody, McLellan and Company with David Boody.

Charles McLellan retired in 1906 to his home in Champlain, New York. By this time he had begun to amass one of the largest collections of Lincolniana in the United States, which included correspondence, official documents, broadsides, books, pamphlets, ballots, and engravings. He spent the final years of his life developing this collection, until his death in 1918.

Access & Use

Access to the collection: There are no restrictions on access, except that the collection can only be seen by prior appointment. Some materials may be stored off-site and cannot be produced on the same day on which they are requested.
Use of the materials: Although Brown University has physical ownership of the collection and the materials contained therein, it does not claim literary rights. Researchers should note that compliance with copyright law is their responsibility. Researchers must determine the owners of the literary rights and obtain any necessary permissions from them.
Preferred citation: Charles Woodberry McLellan papers, Ms.CWM, Brown University Library.
Contact information: John Hay Library, University Archives and Manuscripts
Box A
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: Manuscripts: 401-863-3723; University Archives: 401-863-2148
Email: Manuscripts:; University Archives:

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchased from Stephen A. Resnick in 1982.
Author: Finding aid prepared by Deborah Peterson.
Encoding: This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2015-06-30
Descriptive rules: Finding aid based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)

Additional Information

Related material: The Charles Woodberry McLellan Collection of Lincolniana, Brown University Library. Charles W. McLellan papers (1860-1921), New York State Historical Documents.


Series 1. Personal documents, 1894-1926

Container Description Date
Box 1, Folder 1 Charles W. McLellan: Miscellaneous personal, autobiographical, and biographical documents

Series 2. Correspondence, 1893-1953

Container Description Date
Box 1, Folder 2 American Art Association
Box 1, Folder 3 Truman H. Bartlett
Box 1, Folder 4 Truman H. Bartlett
Box 1, Folder 5 Brown University
Box 1, Folder 6 A-B: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 7 C-D: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 8 E-F: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 9 Daniel Fish
Box 1, Folder 10 Worthington C. Ford
Box 1, Folder 11 A.W. French
Box 1, Folder 12 G-H: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 13 I-J: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 14 K-L: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 15 William H. Lambert
Box 1, Folder 16 Lincoln Club
Box 1, Folder 17 Lincoln Farm Association
Box 1, Folder 18 Lincoln Fellowship
Box 1, Folder 19 M-N: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 20 Isaac Markens
Box 1, Folder 21 McLellan family personal correspondence
Box 1, Folder 22 J.B. Merwin
Box 1, Folder 23 Frederick Hill Meserve
Box 1, Folder 24 O-P: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 25 Joseph B. Oakleaf
Box 1, Folder 26 D.L. Passavant
Box 1, Folder 27 Q-R-S: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 28 Judd Stewart
Box 1, Folder 29 T-U-V: miscellaneous
Box 1, Folder 30 Francis D. Tandy
Box 1, Folder 31 Thomas J. Taylor
Box 1, Folder 32 Gilbert A. Tracy
Box 1, Folder 33 W-X-Y-Z: miscellaneous

Series 3. Lincolniana, 1780-1952

Container Description Date
Box 1, Folder 34 Letter of Abraham Lincoln in reply to an invitation to attend a festival in honor of the birthday of Thomas Jefferson: corrected proofs, Hugh McLellan's notes on Lincoln's views on slavery
Box 1, Folder 35 Facsimiles of Lincoln letters and related documents
Box 1, Folder 36 Transcriptions of Lincoln letters and related documents
Box 1, Folder 37 Miscellaneous Lincoln tributes, sermons, etc.
Box 1, Folder 38 Miscellaneous recollections about Lincoln
circa 1907
Box 1, Folder 39 Newspaper and journal clippings about Lincoln
Box 1, Folder 40 McLellan Collection: inventory and notes
Box 1, Folder 41 McLellan Collection: shelving plans for Lincoln Room, John Hay Library, and supply invoice
Box 1, Folder 42 Lincoln want lists
Box 1, Folder 43 Lincoln bibliography, annotated