About this collection
The Charles Willoughby Dayton papers include diaries, composition books, speeches, miscellaneous writings, published materials, ephemera and photographs. Of the four volumes in the collection, two are composition books dated 1858 and 1862, containing prose and poetry on topics that include George Washington, Dayton's grandfather's death, the U.S., Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. All are by Charles Willoughby Dayton, and some are collaborations with his sister, Laura C.S. Dayton. There are also various children's drawings throughout the composition books. The two other volumes are Charles' diaries from 1863 to 1865, in which he made entries about the weather and war news. In the diaries, Dayton writes negatively about African-Americans, African-American soldiers, the Emancipation Proclamation, and Abraham Lincoln. He also mentions the New York Draft Riots and his fear of being killed by the mobs. Other events and topics noted by Dayton include the marriage of Tom Thumb, the death of Edwin Booth's wife, Mary Booth (ne Devlin), the New York Sanitary Fair of 1864, and the campaign leading up to the presidential election of 1864 (Dayton was a supporter of George McClellan, and makes many entries concerning the campaign and his fears that Lincoln will be re-elected). The diary for 1863 also includes a separate section that lists daily expenses, entered by month. Other materials in the collection include many of Dayton's handwritten speeches from 1862-1876, some undated writings, a manuscript of a novel written by Dayton in 1862 entitled ""Success"", various printed and ephemeral materials from the late 19th and early 20th century (including Dayton's appointment book from 1909), two tintypes, and a mounted photograph. The Charles Willoughby Dayton papers were donated to the New-York Historical Society by William Charles Willoughby Dayton Denby III, and the diaries were digitized thanks to his generosity.
Charles Willoughby Dayton was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on October 3, 1846. A graduate of Columbia Law School in 1868, Dayton went on to work as a lawyer, and served in the New York State Assembly in 1881. In his early career, Dayton was an anti-Tammany politician, and helped form the Harlem Democratic Club. He ran for president of the New York City Board of Aldermen in 1885, but lost. However, Mayor Hugh L. Grant eventually appointed him as a member of the Park Avenue Commission, which was charged with handling condemnation of properties in order to build the New York Central Railroad's viaduct. Dayton was appointed Postmaster of New York in 1893 by President Grover Cleveland, a position he held until 1897. Dayton later joined the Tammany party machine, and was nominated, along with former New York City mayor Robert A. Van Wyck, to the New York State Supreme Court in 1901. Dayton and Van Wyck both lost, but Dayton continued his Tammany affiliation and was elected Supreme Court Justice in 1906. Dayton was the director of the Empire City Savings Bank, as well as the United States Life Insurance Company, and a member of many clubs and organizations. He died of pneumonia on December 7, 1910, at his home at 13 Mount Morris Park West in Harlem.