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William J. Hamilton letter

 Collection — Folder: S2121
Identifier: S2121

Scope and Contents

This collection includes the March 6, 1930 letter written by William J. Hamilton, head librarian of the Gary Public Library, and sent to Miss Ester U. McNitt at the Indiana State Library. The letter mentions a statement by an old resident of Porter County, Indiana that the farm houses of Ben Crisman and Norman Tanner were used as underground railroad stations.


  • 1930/03/06


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

William James Hamilton (1884-1974) had a 50-year career as a librarian. He was a graduate of the University of Minnesota and the New York State Library School at Albany. Hamilton began working in the Minneapolis Public Library in 1906 and later worked in New York City and Washington, D.C. before moving to Indiana. He served on the Indiana Public Library Commission from 1918 to 1922 and as director of the Gary Public Library from 1922 to 1936. The last twenty years of his library career were spent as director of the Dayton, Ohio public library. His wife, Alice May (Wessburg) Hamilton, was also a former librarian, and both his sons became directors of libraries.


"Library Secretary Named." Indianapolis Star (Ind.), March 6, 1918.

"New Library Head Arrives." Hammond Times (Ind.), October 27, 1922.

“William Hamilton, Retired Librarian.” Indianapolis News (Ind.), July 20, 1974.

Historical Note

The Underground Railroad, a network of people who aided slaves escaping to freedom from the southern U.S. before the Civil War, was conducted through a number of counties in Indiana. The farms of Ben Crisman (1814-1904) and Norman Tanner (1829-1912), located in Porter County in the northwest corner of the state, were said to have been used as stations. Mr. Tanner was also a conductor and from the age of 24 until the end of the Civil War was believed to have helped an average of 100 slaves a year escape to freedom.


Indiana Historical Bureau. "Levi Coffin." State Historical Markers. Accessed December 23, 2020.

"Liberty Man Once Helped Slaves Flee." Valparaiso Vidette Messenger (Ind.), February 2, 1957.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of one letter.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2020/12/23 by Laura Eliason. EAD finding aid created 2020/12/23 by Laura Eliason.
William J. Hamilton letter
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

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