About this collection
- The New-York Historical Society has an extensive collection of broadsides that document the American Revolution and the tumultuous events leading up to it. Broadsides, the technical term for any document, large or small, printed on one side of a single sheet of paper, served as posters, handbills, official proclamations, advertisements, and conveyors of ballads and poetry. They were plastered on walls, distributed by hand or read out loud and are especially important for the study of the Revolutionary period. At a time when newspapers were published one or two times a week, broadsides served as the immediate vehicle for late-breaking news.
- This series of field sketches and finished maps of projected battle sites in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary war was begun by Robert Erskine, geographer and surveyor-general to the Continental Army, and completed by his successor, Simeon De Witt. Erskine (1735-1780) was appointed Geographer to Washington’s army in 1777. He surveyed both sides of the Hudson River and a large area covering the adjoining states. Many of the maps are rough field sketches, from which more detailed maps were later drawn. Simeon DeWitt (1756-1834) succeeded Erskine as Geographer-in-Chief in 1780, and oversaw surveys of the roads heading south through Maryland and Virginia to Williamsburg and Yorktown, aiding in Washington’s decisive victory at Yorktown.
- These selected papers of William Alexander, spanning the years 1767 to 1782 (with a gap between late December 1779 to June 1781), consist of correspondence sent and received, military orders and reports, and bulletins to the Continental Congress. The earliest documents relate Lord Stirling's early commercial dealings, but the bulk of the papers chronicle his activities during the American Revolution. Alexander's baptism by fire emerges from the records of numerous campaigns and conflicts; the Battles of Long Island and Trenton in 1776, and of Brandywine the following year are well documented. Also covered in the Alexander Papers are civil and military affairs in New Jersey; military intelligence and troop movements in New Jersey and the Hudson Highlands; communication with enemy forces; and various matters of army administration. Alexander's frontier command is particularly well documented., Notable correspondents include the most of the military and political leaders of the new state and national governments, as well as prominent merchants in New York and New Jersey. Exemplifying the caliber of the material is a report dated June 12, 1781, from General Washington to a board of general officers at New Windsor. In this signed document, Washington outlines plans for a Franco-American assault on New York and requests advice on seven specific points from his officer corps., Items have each been inlaid into two folio volumes. The papers are extensively described in Sotheby's catalog "The Library of H. Bradley Martin, Highly Important Printed and Manuscript Americana: Auction Wednesday, January 31, 1990" (Lots 2506-2553) and are available to researchers on microfilm. Additional manuscripts relating to William Alexander can be found in the extensive Alexander Papers and the Rutherfurd Papers as well as in other gatherings of William Alexander's own correspondence, in The New-York Historical Society Manuscripts Department., Available online via the Witness to the Early American Experience website,, Estate of H. Bradley Martin 06-07-94 01/--/90 Papers Purchase, Known as the "Republican Earl", William Alexander, "Lord Stirling", was born in 1726 to James and Mary Sprat Proovost Alexander in New York City. Though he studied law with his father, he later joined his mother in her New York merchant house. He solidified his ties to the merchant and political elite with his marriage to Sarah Livingston., During the Seven Years' War, Alexander served as an aide to Governor Shirley. In 1756, he accompanied the Governor to England, remaining there until 1761. During this time, Alexander applied to Parliament to assume his family title as the sixth Earl of Stirling and to claim the substantial North Amercan land grants accruing to it. His request was denied, but Alexander adopted the title nonetheless. Upon his return to the colonies, he became involved in land speculation and iron manufacturing and built a county seat at Basking Ridge, NJ. He served on the Provincial Councils of New York and New Jersey, and in 1775, joined the Whigs in rebellion against the Crown., After serving as colonel of the 1st New Jersey Regiment, in March 1776 Alexander was appointed brigadier general and took chief command of the defense of New York City. In this capacity, he advised General Washington. In 1777, he was promoted to major-general. In October 1782, Alexander received his first independent field command, the Northern Department headquartered at Albany. He died in January 1783 of fever and gout., Purchased Jan. 31, 1990 at Sotheby's sale of the library of H. Bradley Martin., CAT Papers 05/20/94 SEA, The collection is described in the Sotheby's catalog for the sale of the library of H. Bradley Martin.