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Harlow N. Higinbotham Letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Higinbotham

Scope and Content of the Collection

Contains 49 letters primarily to Harlow Higinbotham along with one newspaper clipping and one incomplete diary account. Letters are from Higinbotham’s parents, friends from Joliet, and other soldiers in the Civil War.

See Info File for photocopies of contextual information on Higinbotham’s correspondents.


  • Creation: 1861-1865



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Harlow N. Higinbotham Letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Harlow N. Higinbotham Letters are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Harlow N. Higinbotham

Chicago merchant, businessman, and philanthropist.

Harlow Niles Higinbotham was born near Joliet, Illinois on Oct. 10, 1838 to Henry Dumont Higinbotham and Rebecca Wheeler Higinbotham. He was educated at Lombard University in Galesburg, Illinois, and the Commercial College of Chicago. During the Civil War, Higinbotham was a private with the Mercantile Battery of Chicago in the Union Army, and served as a clerk for the Department of the Ohio and the Quartermaster’s Department in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

After the war, he returned to Chicago and began working for the dry goods firm Field, Palmer & Leiter in 1865. He became a partner in that firm’s successor, Field, Leiter & Co., in 1868, and then a partner of Marshall Field & Co. Higinbotham served as president of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 and was president of the Field Columbian Museum from 1898 to 1908. His leadership and business skills proved to be instrumental in the success of the Exposition and the Museum. He made the second-largest individual donation to the Field Museum and purchased several collections from the Exposition, including the George Frederick Kunz Gemology and Mineralogy Library and Tiffany gems.

Higinbotham married Rachel Deborah Davison of Joliet on Dec. 7, 1865. They had six children, four of which survived infancy: Harlow Davison, Henry Mortimer, Florence (married Richard T. Crane, Jr.), and Alice (married Joseph Medill Patterson). Higinbotham was involved in supporting several charities and organizations, including the News Boys and Boot Blacks’ Association, Chicago Free Kindergarten Association, Chicago Home for Incurables, and the Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium. He was active until his death in an accident in New York, New York on Apr. 18, 1919.


0.2 Linear Feet (51 items in 1 box)


Collection of 49 letters primarily to Chicago merchant and businessman Harlow Niles Higinbotham from friends, family, and associates during the Civil War.


Arranged alphabetically with miscellaneous at the end.

Collection Stack Location

1 22 3


Purchase, 2005.

Processed by

Catherine Grandgeorge, 2017.

Inventory of the Harlow N. Higinbotham Letters, 1861-1865
Catherine Grandgeorge
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States