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The Seward Family Digital Archive provides unprecedented insight into the life and career of William Henry Seward, and into 19th and early 20th century political, cultural, and family life.The depth and breadth of the collection – which boasts large numbers of pamphlets, broadsides, and other ephemeral materials rarely seen in such numbers in an archival collection of this period – has long attracted the attention of scholars from around the world, and has made it UR’s most consulted and prized collection. The Seward Collection offers students and faculty the rare opportunity to examine, often through firsthand accounts, the central issues and topics in the 19th century that have shaped the identity of America: abolitionism, states’ rights, universal suffrage, access to education, and freedom of expression, among others.

Traditionally, historians were interested in public figures and official papers, and not in family records, correspondence, or memorabilia. Thus, in the 1960s, when Seward’s official papers were first catalogued and organized, little to nothing was done with the family material. In recent years, however, there has been a shift from the traditional study of politics and diplomacy to social and cultural history with the emergence of fields like gender studies and race and class relations. Historians now appreciate that family papers provide a unique resource to inform understanding of the era in ways that public papers cannot.

Our goal is to digitize the Seward letters and transcribe, annotate and edit the letters to display them to users on a forthcoming website. Powerful new search engines like Ancestry.com and Findagrave.com, and greater access to census records, enable unprecedented study and ability to annotate family records. Both undergraduate and graduate students at the University transcribe, annotate and edit the letters, as well as prepare supporting independently researched capstone projects to be displayed on the website.

PI: Thomas P. Slaughter, Department of History

 

Research Reports

The Seward Family Letters

By Serenity Sutherland

The Seward project is a documentary transcription project that focuses on the letters William Henry Seward’s family wrote to each other spanning a time period from 1820s to the 1870s. Seward is best known as United State Senator, governor of New York, Secretary of State to Lincoln and Johnson, and his final claim to fame, purchasing Alaska… more »

The Family We Thought We Knew: How Digital Annotations Challenge Historians’ Assumptions

By Camden Burd

In the five years since the project’s inception students and employees of the Seward Family Digital Archive have turned over every historical stone to find the people, places, and literature mentioned in the Seward Family Papers… more »