Skip to main content

Waller Family Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Waller

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence and other materials related to the Waller family of Chicago and Frankfort, Kentucky, and the Alexander family of Frankfort, Kentucky.

The papers consist primarily of correspondence between Waller and Alexander family members, with a few related items. The bulk of the letters belong to James B. Waller, his wife Lucy Alexander Waller, and their children Mary (Minnie) Waller Osborne, Catherine Waller Peete, Lucy Waller Young, and Robert Alexander Waller. Also included are school compositions written by James B. Waller during his student days at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, a diary kept by Lucy Alexander Waller chronicling a 1848 trip to Italy, and a photograph of Lucy Alexander Waller and her daughters. Robert Alexander Waller studied at Washington College during Robert E. Lee's tenure as president of the school, and his letters home describe Lee's death and funeral, as well as the college's name change to Washington & Lee.

The collection also contains correspondence to and from other members of the Waller and Alexander families, primarily Eliza Weisiger Alexander and Robert Alexander, parents of Lucy Alexander; and William S. Waller, father of James B. Waller. Eliza Weisiger Alexander's correspondents include her father Daniel Weisiger, brother Joseph Weisiger, and nephew Daniel Weisiger Adams. There are also many letters to Lucy Alexander Waller from her brother, Robert S.C. Aitchison Alexander, and sister, Mary Alexander Deeds, and correspondence to William S. Waller from his children, particularly James B. Waller, Susanna Waller Lees and Edward Waller. A few items related to William S. Waller's positions in Kentucky government, with related correspondence from Henry Clay and other Kentucky officials are also in the collection, as well as a few family obituaries and clippings. Two slave bills of sale are also among the papers.


  • Creation: 1803-1938
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1803 - 1888



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Waller Family Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Waller Family Papers 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 Waller Family

The materials in this collection are primarily related to James B. Waller, lawyer and businessman from Frankfort, Kentucky and later Chicago; his wife Lucy Alexander Waller; their children, and extended families.

James B. Waller was born in Frankfort, Kentucky in 1817, to William S. Waller and Catherine Breckinridge Waller. He attended Center College in Danville, Kentucky, and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and received a law degree from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky in 1838. He practiced law in Kentucky for the next 20 years, but also began investing in real estate after an 1849 visit to Chicago. Around 1860, Waller relocated permanently to Chicago and established a real estate business with his brothers William, Edward, and Henry.

James built a large home for his family on the north side of Chicago known as Buena House, and developed the surrounding area into the Buena Park neighborhood. After retiring from business in 1867, James B. Waller turned his attention to managing the large estate of his brother-in-law, Robert S. C. Aitchison Alexander, of which he was appointed administrator. James B. Waller married fellow Kentuckian Lucy Alexander in 1847, and the couple had 11 children: Mary Eliza (Minnie) Waller Osborne, Robert Alexander Waller, Catherine Breckinridge Waller Peet, Lucy Alexander Waller Young, James Breckinridge Waller, Susanna Lees Waller, Isabel Waller Knott, Adele Waller Rogers, Virginia Waller, and James Alexander Waller. Robert Alexander Waller attended Washington & Lee College, and later became a successful and respected Chicago businessman. The Wallers entertained often at Buena House, and the residence was known among Chicago's upper class for fine hospitality and lavish social events. James B. Waller died at his home in Chicago in 1887; Lucy Alexander Waller died in Chicago in 1902.

James B. Waller was the son of William S. Waller (1785-1855) and Catherine Breckinridge Waller (1788-1864), both from prominent Kentucky families. William S. Waller was clerk of the First Bank of Kentucky and later Cashier of the Bank of Kentucky for nearly 40 years. James B. was the fourth of William & Catherine Waller's 7 children; the others were Henry Waller, Anna Maria Waller, Catherine Waller Carson, William Waller, Edward Waller, and Susanna Preston Waller Lees.

Lucy Alexander was the daughter of Robert Alexander (1767-1841) and Eliza Weisiger Alexander (1796-1840). Robert Alexander, an immigrant from Scotland, served as a private secretary to Benjamin Franklin in France, and for many years was President of the Bank of Kentucky. In 1814 he married Eliza Richardson Weisiger, daughter of Daniel Weisiger, a prominent Frankfort resident. In addition to Lucy, Robert Alexander and Eliza Weisiger Alexander had three other children: Robert S.C. Aitchison Alexander (1819–1867), Alexander John (A.J.) Alexander (1828-1887), and Mary Bell Alexander Deeds. Robert S.C. Aitchison Alexander studied in England, earning a degree from Trinity University, and while there became the beneficiary of a wealthy uncle's Scottish estate. Alexander lived at the estate for nine years then returned to Kentucky, where he established the Woodburn Stud Farm on his family's property. Robert S.C. Aitchison Alexander built Woodburn Stud into one of the leading horse breeding operations in the United States, known for producing champion Thoroughbred and Standardbred race horses throughout the remainder of the 19th century. A.J. Alexander took over the business upon his brother's death in 1867.


1.9 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


Primarily letters of the Waller family, a wealthy, large, educated family from Kentucky, and later Chicago, pertaining mainly to matters of family activity, family devotion to one another, and especially health. Also included are a family genealogy, biography, and letters from Henry Clay and P.G.T. Beauregard. Related family: Alexander


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: James B. and Lucy Alexander Waller Family, 1831-1902
Boxes 1-2
Series 2: Alexander and Waller Families, 1803-1938
Boxes 3-4

Collection Stack Location

1 35 6


Gift of David W. Dangler, 1986.

Processed by

Kelly Kress, 2009.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Waller Family Papers, 1803-1938, bulk 1803-1888
Kelly Kress
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