Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Franklin Pierce Collection, 1823-2010, n.d. (bulk 1823-1869)

Franklin Pierce Collection, 1823-2010, n.d. (bulk 1823-1869)

0.5 linear feet

Catalog Number: M148

Series List:


Agency History / Biographical Note:
Franklin Pierce, the fourteenth president of the United States (1853-1857), was born in a log cabin in Hillsboro, New Hampshire on Nov. 23, 1804. He was the fourth son of Benjamin Pierce (1757-1839), who had fought in the Revolution, and later became governor of New Hampshire (1827-1829), and his third wife, Anna Kendrick Pierce. Pierce was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1824, and was a friend of schoolmates Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Pitt Fessenden, Calvin E. Stowe, and John P. Hale, who later became Pierce's greatest political rival. Before becoming president, Pierce served in the New Hampshire Legislature (1829-1832), where he was speaker of the House (1832); in the U.S. Congress as a representative (1833-1837) and a U.S. senator (1837-1842); and as brigadier general of volunteers, Mexican War (1846-1848), during which he was wounded at the Battle of Contreras.

While a student at Bowdoin College, Pierce met Jane Means Appleton (b. March 12, 1806, Hampton, NH), the third daughter of Rev. Jesse Appleton, who was president of Bowdoin College from 1807 to 1819. The couple married in 1834, but throughout their marriage were plagued by personal and political misfortunes. They had three sons, all of whom died young: Robert (b. 1836); Frank (b. 1839); and Benjamin (b. 1842). Although a brilliant lawyer, Pierce damaged his political career when, as president, he signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the 1820 Missouri Compromise.

Jane Pierce, who never recovered from her frail health, died in 1863. Pierce died at his home in Concord, New Hampshire on October 8, 1869.

Scope and Content:
The collection contains letters, mostly to and from Franklin Pierce spanning the period from his election to the New Hampshire legislature to his death in 1869; oratory exhibitions from Pierce's Bowdoin years; newsclippings; commemorative materials; photographs; and ephemera. Correspondents include Pierce's classmates and friends Horatio Bridge and George Washington Pierce, both of the Class of 1825, Bowdoin professors Nehemiah Cleaveland and Alpheus Spring Packard, and Jane Pierce. Also included are indices and articles relating to the former president.

Cite as: Franklin Pierce Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library.
Access Restrictions: None.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421 · scaref@bowdoin.edu · (207) 725-3288