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Colgate family papers, A1069

Identifier: A1069

Scope and Contents

The Colgate family papers contain documents by and about the Colgate family created between 1808 and 1974. It includes copies of documents that date from as early as the 1600s.

The largest series, Correspondence, consists mostly of letters sent between members of the Colgate family in the nineteenth century. A large portion is correspondence between James B. Colgate and Susan Colby Colgate, also referred to as Mrs. James B. Colgate. There are also a number of letters to William Colgate, including letters from Nathaniel Kendrick, George Eaton, Eugenio Kincaid, and Daniel Hascall. Also included is a smaller amount of correspondence from Mary Colgate, Charlotte Colgate Abbe and George Abbe, Robert Colgate, Samuel Colgate, and others.

The next largest series, Genealogical and biographical materials, contains notes, clippings, photographs, copies of genealogical documents held elsewhere, correspondence regarding Colgate family history, and other material. The collection also includes a smaller number of legal documents; photographs, including images of portraits; scrapbooks, journals, and diaries, including twenty years of diaries from Mary Colgate; and financial records in the form of account books and ledgers.


  • Creation: 1803 - 1984


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Historical note

Colgate University took its current name in 1890, after previously being known as Madison University and Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution. According to former University Archivist Howard Williams, the name was chosen to honor the significant financial contributions from the Colgate family, who had supported the university since 1823.

Howard Williams, A History of Colgate, 1819-1869 (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1969), 199,

Biographical note

William Colgate (1783-1857) inherited a soap and candle manufacturing business from his father. He moved to New York City and developed it in to a highly successful business. He also became a member of the Baptist Church and became involved in a number of Baptist churches and societies. This included Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, which would later become known as Madison University and then Colgate University, due to the significant support his family provided to the school.

James B. Colgate (1818-1904) was one of the most generous nineteenth century donors to Madison University, later known as Colgate University. He made his largest gift in 1889 with an endowment known as the Dodge Memorial Fund in honor of the institution's fourth president. In business, his many activities included founding and leading a large brokerage firm with several offices on the east coast and serving as President of the New York Gold Exchange from 1873-1875.

Susan Farnham Colby Colgate (1817-1919) was principal of New London Academy and later of Colby Academy. She also served as manager of New York's Colored Home and Hospital and Secretary of the Women's Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of New York. Susan Colby and James B. Colgate were married in 1851.

Truman Abbe and Hubert Abbe Howson, Robert Colgate the Immigrant: A Genealogy of the New York Colgates and some associated lines (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse, and Taylor, 1941), 49-59, 92-94.


8.6 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Material Cataloged Separately

Books found in this collection were removed and catalogued separately.

  • 920 C695e
  • 929.2 C685
  • BX6495.C567M86 1857
  • CS71.C695 1941
  • LD6329 1885
  • QC858.A2A6 1955
  • R154.C55A3

Processing Information

In most cases, the titles, dates, and phyical order of the folders that existed when processing of the collection began in 2015 have been retained.

Guide to the Colgate family papers
Lora J. Davis, Allyson Smally, Lisa King, and Nadine Mohamed
April 1, 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • May 6, 2016: Box 19 added by Allyson Smally

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Colgate University Libraries Repository

13 Oak Drive
Case Library and Geyer Center for Information Technology
Colgate University
Hamilton New York 13346 United States US
315-228-7934 (Fax)