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Schuyler Colfax collection

Identifier: L036

Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection consists of Schuyler Colfax's correspondence from 1841 to 1884 regarding Whig and Republican Party politics in Indiana and nationally. Also included are letters from Indiana officers in the U.S. Civil War regarding promotions and assignments; Colfax's letters on routine business as Speaker of the House and Vice President; his letters regarding speaking engagements; letters to his wife regarding his role in the "Credit Mobilier" affair in 1875; and letters regarding his inheritance from his grandfather, William Colfax in 1841. Also included are a memorandum of a meeting with Stephen A. Douglas on the Kansas issue in 1857; notes and drafts to a bill in 1857 increasing Congress's power to subpoena witnesses; invitations to dinners and parties in Washington D. C.; and the manuscript of a speech on Colfax written by Lew Wallace in 1898.

The collection also includes papers of Colfax's grandfather, William Colfax, including papers relating to his Revolutionary War Service and militia posts in Bergen County, New Jersey, his letter regarding New Jersey troops in the War of 1812, and letters to his son, Schuyler Colfax; letter of Colfax's father, Schuyler Colfax, to his wife from St. Croix, Virgin Islands in 1822; letters to Colfax's son, Schuyler Colfax Jr. regarding correspondence of introduction for a trip to Europe in 1907.

Some of the prominent individuals include: P. T. Barnum; Henry Ward Beecher; Albert J. Beveridge; Abraham L. Brick; Anson Burlingame; William Henry Calkins; Robert Carter; John C. Clark; Roscoe Conkling; Charles A. Dana; John D. DeFrees; Charles Dick; Stephen A. Douglas; John C. Fremont; Lucretia Rudolph Garfield; Ulysses S. Grant; Horace Greeley; Benjamin Harrison; Horatio King; Henry Smith Lane; Abraham Lincoln; Benson J. Lossing; Alexander K. McClure; Robert H. Milroy; Daniel D. Pratt; Whitelaw Reid; Elihu Root; Winfield Scott; William H. Seward; John Sherman; Kline Shryock; H. S. Spaulding; Edwin Stanton; Charles Sumner; Lew Wallace; and R. W. Woodbury.

Genealogical research was conducted by Barbara Colfax and Fred Tolasco; documents range from circa 1782-1970.


  • 1782-1970


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Schuyler Colfax was born in New York City on March 23, 1823. In 1836, the family moved to New Carlisle, Indiana. After education in local schools, he was appointed deputy auditor of St. Joseph County in 1841. He married Evelyn Chase in 1844. Colfax became a legislative correspondent for the Indiana State Journal; he then became part owner of the South Bend Free Press and changed its name in 1845 to the St. Joseph Valley Register. He also served as a member of the Indiana Constitutional Convention in 1850.

Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1854, he served seven terms. From 1859 to 1861 he was chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, and was responsible for reorganizing the overland mail service to California. In 1863, Colfax was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, and held this office for three terms. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1868 since he was the Republican nominee for vice president. He was elected vice president of the United States on the ticket headed by General Ulysses S. Grant in 1868.

Colfax was an unsuccessful candidate for the vice presidential nomination in 1872 due to his being implicated in the "Credit Mobilier" scandal. He was among those members of Congress accused by Oakes Ames of receiving stock and dividends in the company in tern for their influence. This incident effectively ended his political career. Colfax continued on as a lecturer, speaking both about his travels and various other subjects. He died in Mankato, Minnesota on January 13, 1885 and was interred in South Bend, Indiana.


0.3 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence, 1782-1927

Series 2: Subject files, 1782-1970

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from A. G. Mitten on 1928/03/23; Mrs. Harold C. Townsen on 1931/08/22; F. Vernun Smith 1932/05/04; J. K. Smith on 1935/11/25; Arthur Pforzheimer on 1943/02/10; Andrew Reed on 1944/05/03; Walter Benjamin on 1947; 1942/05/25; and circa 1940s; Forest H. Sweet on 1951/02/13; P. Kingston Galleries on 1967/01/20; Kenneth Rendell on 1971/08/09; 1970/09/05; 1971; and from auction purchases on 2003/10/15 and 2013/09/24.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing and original finding aid completed during 2003 by Elizabeth Wilkinson. Collection addition processing and EAD finding aid completed on 2014/11/24 by Bethany Fiechter; revised on 2017/01/06 by Bethany Fiechter. EAD finding aid updated by Lauren Patton 2021/08/25.
Schuyler Colfax collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.