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Richard W. Thompson collection

Identifier: L158

Scope and Contents

The collection consists principally of Richard W. Thompson’s political correspondence, including correspondence regarding state and national Whig and Republican party politics, and Thompson’s role in political campaigns (1840s-1880s); letters from constituents during his terms in Congress regarding political appointments and local politics (1841-1849); Civil War correspondence, including correspondence regarding state and national politics and Thompson’s duties in Terre Haute (1861-1865); his correspondence as Secretary of the Navy, including letters from Congressmen and others making recommendations for appointments and correspondence regarding naval contracts and policies (1877-1880); and his correspondence regarding a canal across Panama (1880-1881). Also included is correspondence regarding his legal work, including the settlement of Shawnee, Menominee, and other Indian claims (1850s), railroads and the Wabash and Erie Canal (1850s-1880s), and Vigo County land; his correspondence with his wife and parents (1830-1853); correspondence with Harper and Brothers regarding The Papacy and the Civil Power (1876-1880); political speeches; his essay on Henry A. Wise; his notebook of expenses and speech notes(1865); his wife’s diary (1838); correspondence between relatives in Adair County, Kentucky, and Culpeper County Virginia (1818-1830); and newspaper clippings.

The volumes include a Civil War scrapbook containing printed orders and clippings from Thompson’s service in the Indiana militia; a political scrapbook containing clippings and Thompson’s notes on domestic and international political affairs; and a manuscript of Thompson’s commentary on Letters on the Spanish Inquisition by T. J. O’Flaherty, Catholic Pastor of Salem, Massachusetts (V207).

There is also an oversize folder containing a certificate from Oliver P. Morton commissioning Richard Thompson as a Brigadier General dated November 1, 1861; a newspaper clipping, titled "Another Installment of the Johnson-Grant Correspondence"; and a 1827 Statement of reports received from road commissioners (OBC081).


  • 1818-1931


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

Richard Wigginton Thompson was born on June 9, 1809, in Culpeper County, Virginia. In 1831, he moved to Kentucky and settled shortly thereafter in Lawrence County, Indiana. He began practicing law in Bedford, Indiana, after being admitted to the bar in 1834. Thompson served in the Indiana House of Representatives (1834-1836) and the Indiana Senate (1837-1838). In 1836, he married Harriet Eliza Gardiner with whom he had eight children. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1841 and 1847. The Thompsons moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1843. He served as the city attorney there in 1846 and 1847. During the Civil War, he was the commander of Camp Thompson, Indiana, and provost marshal of the Terre Haute district. President Lincoln appointed him collector of internal revenue for the seventh Indiana district, a post that Thompson held for one term (1864-1866). From 1867 to 1869, Thompson was judge of the fifth circuit court. President Hayes appointed Thompson Secretary of the Navy. Thompson resigned from this post in 1881 to become chairman of the American Committee of the French Panama Canal Company. He also served as a director of the Panama Railroad Company (1881-1889). In addition to his life of public service, Thompson was the author of four books including The Papacy and the Civil Power. He died on February 9, 1900, in Terre Haute, Indiana.


"Thompson, Richard Wigginton." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Accessed January 19, 2005.

Shepherd, Rebecca A., Charles W. Calhoun, Elizabeth Shanahan-Shoemaker, and Alan F. January, comp. A Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly, vol. 1, 1816-1899. Indianapolis: The Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1980.


1.06 Cubic Feet (2 manuscript boxes; 3 volumes; 1 large oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from several donors in 1931-1948.


No further additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

OBC081: Richard W. Thompson oversize collection

V207: Richard W. Thompson volumes

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2006 January by Christina Baich. EAD finding aid created 2006 January by Christina Baich. EAD finding aid revised 2015/10/30 by Bethany Fiechter. EAD finding aid revised 2021/08/26 by Lauren Patton.
Richard W. Thompson collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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