The complicated story of the A.A. Humphreys papers

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The complicated story of the A.A. Humphreys papers

2010-01-19 10:54

I have been working on processing the Andrew Atkinson Humphreys papers for the past month and a half, and am looking to finish them up by the end of this month.  This 111 linear foot collection consists of military records related to the Civil War, Humphreys' work as a surveyor and topographical engineer, papers related to the Bounty Fund and the Sanitary Fair, family papers, Humphreys' writings, and many other items.  One of the most puzzling things about this collection is the amount of material that is seemingly unrelated to A.A. Humphreys' life and work.

The first question I had about the collection was "why did Humphreys have so many of Frank Etting's papers?"  The first 40 linear feet of the collection I rehoused consisted of payment vouchers to Civil War soldiers signed by Frank Etting, General Paymaster.  I later learned that Humphreys was Meade's Chief of Staff during 1863-1864, which might explain some of these vouchers.  I didn't worry too much about these materials, though, since they fit in with Humphreys' work in the Army of the Potomac.

The next discovery was a run of 15 boxes of petitions that were collected in nearly every county in Pennsylvania during the 1830s and 1840s.  The language of the petitions covered topics like temperance, pleas for bounties on wildcats, requests for intervention in personal matters (this was usually on behalf of a widow or a woman who separated from her husband), and petitions against the death penalty.  Humphreys was not involved in politics, as far as I can tell, so these petitions are a puzzle in and of themselves.  When I started unfolding the bundles, the questions only got more complex.  I began to find letters, receipts, and other documents addressed to, or written by, Levi Hollingsworth.  HSP owns the Hollingsworth papers, so I did some detective work to try to uncover the connection between Humphreys and Hollingsworth.  I found out that Humphreys had married into the Hollingsworth family, and also that when the Hollingsworth papers were donated, they were called the Morris-Hollingsworth papers, suggesting that the Morris family papers may have also been part of the Hollingsworth family papers.  Cary and I wondered whether all of these collections were sitting near each other on the shelf when a massive rehousing project took place during the WPA, but we merely speculated about this....  This information about the Hollingsworth-Humphreys connection did little to help me understand why these petitions were included with the Humphreys papers, so I put them aside for the moment, and determined that they might be best housed with the Hollingsworth family papers.

More puzzles arose on Friday when I opened the small run of boxes labeled "Letters to Edward Armstrong, Secretary of North Pa. RR Co."  Silly me, I assumed that these boxes would contain letters between Humphreys and Armstrong, or from Humphreys to Armstrong, but NO.  Instead, what I found were letters addressed to Armstrong from many people, but not Humphreys.  I see no connection at all, in fact, nor can I find any information about Armstrong to help me understand the connection between the two men.  I did find a few petitions mixed in with Armstrong's letters, and the bit of information I found about him said that he was an attorney, so suddenly I started to wonder if the petitions were connected to Armstrong.  But, then, how was Armstong connected to Humphreys, and why would Humphreys have his papers?

I am writing this, primarily, as a plea for help.  If anyone out there in the reading audience has any idea how these pieces are connected, I would be more than pleased to hear your thoughts or know of any reference sources that could help.  In fact, if you can offer any useful information that can help me to make a coherent finding aid to this collection, I will personally pay for your next research visit to HSP.  I'm all ears...  And thank you.


AA Humpreys, as you probably know, was adjutant for the army of the potomac - the commander's chief secretary, as it were. As such he kept the records of the army, communicated for the army with the war department, etc. it's possible that his fastidious nature, so valuable in his wartime work (and in his engineering duties prior to the war) carried over in to the post-war period, and he took on the role of repository for a variety of friend's and relative's records when they died. My parents had a remarkable amount of other people's stuff, with the same sort of descriptions as you detail here about Humpreys' eclectic collection.

Submitted by Dean L. McLeod (not verified) on

I have no personal knowledge of these families, but I have blogging connections who get out to many thousands of people. I'll pass this along. Meantime, I wish I wasn't on the left coast and up to my ears in projects.

Submitted by Hyslop (not verified) on

My husband is descended from the Humphrey line ( from A.A.Humphrey he is a 3rd cousin). I've been researching them for years went to Philadelphia and Haverford in 2001 to research. Might be able to help based on source materials I've collected over the years. No family stories or papers though. Please let me know.

Submitted by Cary Majewicz (not verified) on

Feel free to send us any pertinent information you might have. We haven't yet connected all the dots in this collection, so any help is greatly appreciated!


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