Summary Information

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011
Fessenden Collection, 1786-1982, n.d. (bulk 1823-1869).
Date [inclusive]
7.5 linear feet.

Preferred Citation

Fessenden Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library.

Biographical/Historical Note

The collection focuses on the family and professional life of William Pitt Fessenden(1806-69), Senator from Maine and Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury from July 1864 to March 1865. Fessenden (Bowdoin 1823) was a lawyer in Bridgton, Bangor and Portland; a Maine legislator (1832,1840, 1845-46, 1853-54), member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1841-43); and Senator from Maine (1854-64, 1865-69). An early member of the Republican Party, he opposed slavery. In the Senate he served as chair of the Finance Committee and, as a member of the Reconstruction Committee, voted against the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Several other family members are also represented in the collection.

Samuel Fessenden (1784-1869, Bowdoin hon. 1846), Fessenden's father, studied law with Daniel Webster. He was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature (1814-16) and the Massachusetts Senate (1818-19). He was Major General of the Massachusetts (later Maine) militia, a temperance man, an ardent abolitionist, Liberty Party candidate for congressman and governor, and an early supporter of the Republican Party.

Ellen Maria Deering Fessenden (1809-57), Fessenden's wife and daughter of a prominent Portland citizen, remained in Portland and corresponded with her husband about their four sons and household matters.

Thomas Amory Deblois Fessenden (1826-1868, Bowdoin 1845), brother of William Pitt Fessenden, was elected to Congress in 1862, and was chosen as a presidential elector in 1866. He died of Bright's disease in 1868.

James Deering Fessenden (1833-82, Bowdoin 1852), a lawyer, was Captain of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters and, in 1862, organized the first regiment of African-American soldiers, mustering out as Brevet Major General of Volunteers. He later became Register in Bankruptcy for the 1st District of Maine (1868) and served in the state legislature (1872-75).

William Howard Fessenden (1835-98, Bowdoin 1855), also a lawyer, became head of the Portland Machine Works (1872) and later moved to California (1880).

Francis Fessenden (1839-1906, Bowdoin 1858) practiced law in New York. He was wounded at Shiloh while Captain of the 19th Infantry and lost his leg in the Red River campaign. Retired as Major General in 1866, he sat on the commission examining Wirtz's abuses at Andersonville and was assistant commander of the Freedmen's Bureau. He resumed his legal career (1867) and was mayor of Portland (1876).

Samuel Fessenden (1841-62, Bowdoin 1861) was in Kansas during the "Bloody Kansas" revolt (1856). As Lieutenant of the 2nd Maine Battery, he was mortally wounded at Second Manassas.

Elizabeth Caroline Fessenden Warriner (1821-1902), Fessenden's cousin, was one of his most intimate confidants.

Scope and Content

Correspondence, professional and personal records, publications, articles, addresses, reports, lectures, memoirs, a diary, documents, receipts, accounts, clippings, images, genealogies, and biographical material related to the Fessenden family.

Although mostly family correspondence, there are letters from more than 360 others, including prominent lawyers, politicians, reformers and soldiers. Among them are: James G. Blaine, Simon Cameron, Salmon P. Chase, Frederick Douglass, Neal Dow, Hamilton Fish, James Wilson Grimes, Joseph Hooker, Abraham Lincoln, Edwin M. Stanton, Daniel Webster and Gideon Welles. Most heavily represented, each with 10 or more letters are: John Lincoln Baxter; George T. Little, Bowdoin librarian; Theophilus P. Chandler, Bangor and Boston lawyer; Josiah S. Little, Maine legislator; and Edward S. Leland, Judge in Ottawa, Ill. See the Joseph Palmer and Phebe Beech Fessenden Papers for material on another branch of the Fessenden family.

Related material: A portable writing desk once owned by William Pitt Fessenden is held by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

 George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011

3000 College Station
Brunswick, Maine, 04011
(207) 725-3288

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

General Note

Selected correspondence also available on microfilm; see the series Correspondence on Microfilm.

A chronological listing of correspondence (PDF file) is available here. An alphabetical listing of correspondents (PDF file) is available here.

Collection Inventory

M59.1: Correspondence, 1790-1917   3.25 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Approximately 2500 letters from 1790 to 1917, most to or from William Pitt Fessenden. Much of the correspondence deals with family matters, Fessenden's career, or his sons' Civil War experiences. Also included are typescripts of his son Samuel's letters.


Arranged chronologically.

General Note:

Selected correspondence also available on microfilm.

Item level chronological list of correspondence available here.




Jan. 1838-Feb. 1842 


March 1842-Dec. 1844 


Jan. 1845-Aug. 1851 


Sept. 1851-Aug. 1855 


Sept. 1855-Jan. 1857 


Feb. 1857-May 1859 


June 1859-Dec. 1860 


Jan. 1861-April 1862 


May 1862-Jan. 1864 


Feb.-Sept. 1864 


Oct. 1864-July 1866 


Aug. 1866-May 1868 


June 1868-undated 

Box Folder
15 1-4

Carbons of typescripts of the Sam Fessenden letters / prepared by John L. Baxter, Set 1 (pp. 1-184) 

15 5-8

Carbons of typescripts of the Sam Fessenden letters / prepared by John L. Baxter, Set 2 (pp. 1-142) 

15 9

Transcripts of correspondence with James Wilson Grimes 

15 10

Correspondence: misc. covers 


Correspondence-Carbon typescripts of the Sam Fessenden letters . . ., c. 3 

Vault-Box Folder
1 7

7/4/1864 letter from President Abraham Lincoln - original (photocopy of letter is in Fessenden correspondence, filed chronologically) [in Manuscripts box]; 7/2/1864 telegram forwarded to Mr. Fessenden from Abraham Lincoln - original (photocopy of telegram is in Fessenden correspondence, filed chronologically) [in Manuscripts box] 

M59.1.1: Correspondence on microfilm, 1820-1881, n.d.   5.0 items.

Scope and Content:

Microfilm service copies, 35 mm, filmed by the University of Virginia. Four of the five reels contain selected correspondence from the Fessenden Collection: Correspondence. Letters in the Fessenden Collection are arranged chronologically, while letters on the microfilm are arranged by correspondent. This series is linked here to a pdf file with the arrangement of correspondence on the microfilm, followed by the corresponding reel number. The fifth reel contains correspondence from the James Shepherd Pike Papers, including letters from William Pitt Fessenden to Pike. Bowdoin College does not hold the original James Shepherd Pike Papers.


Arranged by correspondent.

Fess. 1


M59.2: Legal documents, 1840-1864   5.0 items.

Scope and Content:

Documents concerning military and political appointments and estate settlements, together with certificates and passports. Dating from 1840 to 1864, most relate to William Pitt, Francis or James Deering Fessenden.


Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
15 11

Agreements settling the estate of James Deering 

15 12

Appointment of W.P. Fessenden as Secretary of the Treasury (1864) 

15 13

Certificate admitting W.P. Fessenden to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court (1848) 

15 14

Certificate of W.P. Fessenden's election as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1840) 

15 15

Memorandum re the will of W.P. Fessenden 

15 16

Notes re the disposition of the belongings of [Francis?] Fessenden 

15 17

Passports of Francis Fessenden 

15 18

Portland Renewal Authority, Munjoy South Urban Renewal Project, "Statement of Taking" re land inherited by Foxes and Fessendens 

15 19

Settlement of the estate of Nathaniel Deering 

M59.3: Biographical records, genealogies, and family history, 1823-1982   0.25 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Biographical information on members of the Fessenden family, including general records, memoirs, educational material, etc.; together with essays concerning family members by 20th century scholars, and genealogical records on the Fessenden and Fox families. The material dates from 1823 to 1982.


Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
16 1

Biographical: Charles Stewart Davies Fessenden 

16 2

Biographical: Frances Cushing Greeley Fessenden 

16 3

Biographical: Francis Fessenden - general 

16 4

Biographical: Francis Fessenden - memorials 

16 5

Biographical: Hewitt Chandler Fessenden 

16 6

Biographical: James Deering Fessenden, Sr. - general 

16 7

Biographical: James Deering Fessenden, Sr. - memorials 

16 8

Biographical: James Deering Fessenden, Jr. 

16 9

Biographical: Joseph Palmer Fessenden 


Biographical: Joseph Palmer Fessenden - Bowdoin autograph album, Class of 1851 

Box Folder
16 10

Biographical: Samuel Fessenden, Jr. - general 

16 11

Biographical: Samuel Fessenden, Jr. - education 


Biographical: Samuel Fessenden, Jr. - Bowdoin autograph/photograph album, Class of 1861 

Box Folder
16 12

Biographical: Samuel Fessenden, Jr. - ms. record of his disappearance into Kansas in 1856 

16 13

Biographical: Samuel Fessenden, Jr. - concerning people contacted by W.P. Fessenden in tracing him to Kansas in 1856 

16 14

Biographical: Samuel Fessenden. Jr. - Maine Historical Society newsletter 

16 15

Biographical: Samuel Clement Fessenden 

16 16

Biographical: Thomas Amory Deblois Fessenden 

16 17

Biographical: William Howard Fessenden 

16 18

Biographical: William Pitt Fessenden - general 


Biographical: William Pitt Fessenden, 1823 Bowdoin diplomas 

Box Folder
16 19

Biographical: William Pitt Fessenden - memorials [miss.] 

16 20

Biographical: William Pitt Fessenden - memorials [printed] 

16 21

Biographical: William Pitt Fessenden - Maine Historical Society Newsletter Family history: 

16 22

Biographical: Three Fessendens and Daniel Webster / by Samuel Fessenden [presented to the Science and Art Club of Germantown, Pa., January 25, 1982] 

16 23

Biographical: A vote of "Not Guilty": William Pitt Fessenden's role in the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson / by Carol Bolger[photocopy; for Gov. 43, May 15, 1978] 

16 24

Biographical: William Pitt Fessenden / by William Salter [reprint from the Annals of Iowa, 1908] 

17 1-6

Genealogies: Fessenden family - Account of Gen. Samuel Fessenden and Family / by Francis Fessenden 


Genealogies: Fessenden family - Account of Samuel Fessenden and Family / by Francis Fessenden 

Box Folder
17 7

Genealogies: Fessenden family - American Ancestry [of Francis Fessenden] 

17 8

Genealogies: Fessenden family - Excerpts from Genealogy on the Fessendens and Fosters / by Earl Foster Fessenden [and] Dorothy Fessenden Rodger 

17 9

Genealogies: Fessenden family - Fessenden Family in America / [by] John L. Baxter 

17 10

Genealogies: Fessenden family - Fessenden Genealogy / by Francis Fessenden 

17 11

Genealogies: Fessenden family: general 

17 12

Genealogies: Fox family 

M59.4: General addresses, speeches, reports and notes, 1825-1861, n.d.   0.5 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Published and unpublished essays, notes, reports, addresses and speeches bound in two volumes, including several presented before Maine societies. Many concern political subjects such as reconstruction, the Treasury and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson; others cover more general topics such as temperance and the fourth of July. The volumes were compiled by James D. Fessenden.


Addresses and speeches on various subjects, and childhood short stories by W.P.Fessenden; together with a Samuel Fessenden Sr. address, and Francis Fessenden's memoir of his father 


Addresses, speeches, reports and notes on various political topics 

M59.5: Personal and professional records, 1786-1968   1.0 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Items relating to the history and careers of several family members, 1786-1968. Featured are materials relating to Bowdoin College, including two essays written by Thomas A.D. Fessenden (Bowdoin 1845) while a student; the Civil War (i.e. appointments, orders, documents, a diary, etc.); printed items on reconstruction and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson; the family's finances (i.e. contracts, receipts, accounts, etc.); family bibles, and family manuscripts, including many sermons by William Fessenden (1747-1805).


Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
17 14

Bowdoin College material: "The Fessenden Affair" / by John L. Baxter (Speech given before the Town & College Club, January 5, 1968) 

17 15

Bowdoin College material: Dedication of the Fessenden Room 

17 16

Bowdoin College material: Miscellaneous 

17 17

Bowdoin College material: Records concerning Samuel Fessenden, Jr. Civil War: 


Bowdoin College material: Account of a caucus of Republican Senators, held December 16, 1862 

Box Folder
17 18

Bowdoin College material: Confederate currency 

17 19

Bowdoin College material: Francis Fessenden, appointments and recommendations for promotion 

17 20

Bowdoin College material: Francis Fessenden, military retirement 

17 21

Bowdoin College material: James D. Fessenden, Sr., diary and account book James D. Fessenden, Sr., promotions and appointments 

17 22

Bowdoin College material: Samuel Fessenden, Jr., orders re 

17 23

Bowdoin College material: List of killed, wounded or missing members of the 30th Maine Vols. after Sabine Cross Roads, Pleasant Hill and Cane River Crossing 

17 24

Bowdoin College material: Manuscript maps 

17 25

Bowdoin College material: Miscellaneous material Family Bibles: 


Bowdoin College material: Bible given to "Thomas & Lirrie from their affectionate parents, Samuel and Deborah Fessenden, July 18, 1855." Inserted is a list of family members to whom the bible was passed, marriages, births, and deaths. 


Bowdoin College material: Bible given to Stephen D. Fessenden "with the love of his Aunt, Mary D. Sewall," March 1868 

Box Folder
18 1

Family Manuscripts: "The Conspiracy : a tragedy in four acts" / Samuel Fessenden, Sr. College 

18 2

Family Manuscripts: College essays (2) of Thomas A.D. Fessenden (Bowdoin 1845) 

18 3

Family Manuscripts: Diary of William Fessenden, January - April, 1786 

18 4

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on Acts 8:22 & 25, by William Fessenden 

18 5

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on 1st Corinthians 13:12, by William Fessenden 

18 6

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4, by William Fessenden 

18 7

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on Isaiah 55:6, by William Fessenden 

18 8

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on John 6:67, by William Fessenden 

18 9

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on Psalms 111:10, by William Fessenden [fragment] 

18 10

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on St. Matthew 24 [i.e.25]:46, by William Fessenden 

18 11

Family Manuscripts: Sermon on unknown verse, by William Fessenden [fragment] Financial material: 


Family Manuscripts: Account book of W.P. Fessenden, 1833-1839 

Box Folder
18 12

Family Manuscripts: Contracts, receipts, etc. re Francis Fessenden's Life and Public Services of William Pitt Fessenden 

18 13

Family Manuscripts: Loan agreement between Edward Fox and John W. and Wm. H. Day, April 1, 1879 [ms. copy] 

18 14

Family Manuscripts: Miscellaneous 

18 15

Family Manuscripts: Official and personal finances of W.P. Fessenden 

18 16

Family Manuscripts: Receipt for $10,000 to be used to start the Commission for the Promotion of Education in the South [founding Storer College] signed by W.P. Fessenden and N.C. Brackett 

18 17

Family Manuscripts: Valuation statements of W.P. Fessenden's personal and real estate properties Reconstruction and Presidential Impeachment. 

18 18

Family Manuscripts: "Impeachment : Opinion of Hon. W.P. Fessenden on the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson ..., 1868" 

18 19

Family Manuscripts: "Joint Committee on Reconstruction. Journal: 39th Congress 1st Session [2 copies] 

18 20

Family Manuscripts: "President Johnson and His War on Congress" / by Carl Shurz Treasury Department. 

18 21

Family Manuscripts: Translation of a portion of an article on W.P. Fessenden, prepared for a Swiss French language journal by George Harrington U.S. Senate. 

18 22

Family Manuscripts: Rules of the U.S. Senate, Hon. W.P. Fessenden copy 

M59.6: Ephemeral notes, [18--]   3.0 folders.

Scope and Content:

Miscellaneous items including one folder on the northeast boundary controversy and an 1869 map of Munjoy Hill in Portland.


Arranged alphabetically.


Map of Munjoy Hill (Portland, Maine), 1869 

Box Folder
18 23


18 24

Re Northeast Boundary controversy 

18 25

Printed Ephemera 

M59.7: Fessenden Association and John L. Baxter Archive records, 1955-1969   0.25 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Material relating to the Fessenden Association and family archive created by John Lincoln Baxter. It includes correspondence from 1955 to 1969, Bowdoin College news releases, and material concerning the dedications of the Treasury Department portrait of William Pitt Fessenden and of the Fessenden Room at Bowdoin.


Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
19 1-9

Correspondence, 1955-1969 

19 10

Material re dedication of Fessenden Room, Bowdoin College 

19 11

Material re W.P. Fessenden portrait in the Treasury Dept., Washington, D.C. 

19 12

Membership and address lists 

19 13

Miscellaneous manuscript material 

19 14

News releases, Bowdoin College 

M59.8: Clippings, 1858-1909   0.75 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Newsclippings, 1858-1909, on various subjects, comprised of items about 19th century notables, members of the family, the Civil War, politics, William Pitt Fessenden's legislative career, and his tenure at the Treasury Department.


Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
20 1

Articles and Addresses: "Jay Cooke and the Financing of the Civil War" / by Ellis Paxon Oberholzer 

20 2

"Mrs. Abraham Lincoln and Her Friends" / by Willis Steell 

20 3

"The Tariff in Our Times" / by Ida M. Tarbell Biographical, re: 

20 4

Charles Stewart Daveis Fessenden 

20 5

Francis Cushing Greeley Fessenden 

20 6

Francis Fessenden 

20 7

Hewitt Chandler Fessenden 

20 8

James Deering Fessenden, Sr. 

20 9

Joseph Palmer Fessenden 

20 10

Mary Turner Peterson Fessenden 

20 11

Samuel Fessenden, Sr. 

20 12

Samuel Fessenden, Jr. 

20 13

Samuel Clement Fessenden 

20 14

Thomas Amory Deblois Fessenden 

20 15

William Howard Fessenden 

20 16-19

William Pitt Fessenden 

20 20

Miscellaneous distantly related Fessendens and others Civil War: 

20 21

"Abraham Lincoln's Rise to Greatness" (from the Evening Post, Feb. 13, 1909) 

20 22

"Chase to Greeley: some hitherto unpublished letters" (from the [New York?] Daily Tribute, Jan. 20, 1895) General, re: 

20 23

Family homes (Deering/Fessenden) 

20 24

W.P. Fessenden research 

20 25

Memorials to W.P. Fessenden 

20 26


20 27

Provenance of collections 

20 28

Restoration of the Treasury Department's portrait of W.P. Fessenden 

20 29-31

Reviews of Francis Fessenden's "Life and Public Services of William Pitt Fessenden" 

20 32

Political: W.P. Fessenden and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson 

20 33

Political: W.P. Fessenden's speech re the Lecompton Constitution (Feb. 8, 1858) 

20 34

Political: "Reminiscences of Maine Politics", nos. 14 and 15 / by Judge Henry Carter (no. 14 discusses W.P. Fessenden) 

20 35

Political: "Reminiscences of Neal Dow..." (Portland Evening Express, Nov. 28, 1903) 


Political: Scrapbook on various political subjects 

Box Folder
20 36

Political: "They Were Seven...the story of the famous deadlock in the Maine Legislature [1854]" (Lewiston Weekly Journal, Jan. 19, 1893) 


Political: Treasury Department-scrapbook re W.P. Fessenden's tenure, together with obituaries of Francis Fessenden 


Political: Scrapbook on the Civil War and aftermath 

M59.9: Images, 1841-1966, n.d.   1.0 linear feet.

Scope and Content:

Photographs and engravings of the Fessenden family are supplemented by Francis Fessenden's Civil War album, which contains cartes-de-visite of Union and Confederate Army and Navy officers; most are identified. There are also pocket-size cartes-de-visite, organized alphabetically, of John C. Fremont, Ulysses S. Grant, Hannibal Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Seward and other Civil War era government and military figures. Place images, mainly connected with the Civil War are also included in the series, as well as photographs from the 1966 dedication ceremony of the William Pitt Fessenden Room in Hawthorne-Longfellow Hall, Bowdoin College.


Arranged alphabetically.

Box Folder
1 1

Fessenden Family: Francis Fessenden, 1858 

1 2

Fessenden Family: Francis Fessenden, n.d. 

1 3

Fessenden Family: Francis Fessenden and General Henry Anderson, n.d. 

1 4

Fessenden Family: Francis Fessenden in uniform, n.d. 

1 5

Fessenden Family: James Deering Fessenden, Sr., n.d. 

1 6

Fessenden Family: James Deering Fessenden, Sr. in uniform, n.d. 


Fessenden Family: James Deering Fessenden, Sr. in uniform, n.d. 

Box Folder
1 7

Fessenden Family: Samuel Fessenden, Jr., 1841 

1 8

Fessenden Family: Samuel Fessenden, Jr. in uniform, n.d. 

1 9

Fessenden Family: Samuel Fessenden, Sr., n.d. 


Fessenden Family: Samuel Fessenden, Sr., n.d. 

Box Folder
1 10

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden, 1854, and 1863 with currency and IRS cigar stamp 

1 11

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden, 1868 

1 12

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden, n.d. (early years) 

1 13-15

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden, n.d. (mid-late years) 


Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden, n.d. (mid-late years) 

Box Folder
1 16

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden and his sons, n.d. 

1 17

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden portrait (bust), n.d. 

1 18

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden portrait (Treasury Department,post restoration), n.d. 

1 19

Fessenden Family: William Pitt Fessenden portrait (Treasury Department, pre-restoration), n.d. 


Fessenden Family: Francis Fessenden Civil War Album 

Box Folder
1 20

People (other than Fessenden family): A - D (cartes-de-visite), n.d. 

1 21

People (other than Fessenden family): F - K (cartes-de-visite), n.d. 

1 22

People (other than Fessenden family): L - P (cartes-de-visite), n.d. 

1 23

People (other than Fessenden family): R - W (cartes-de-visite), n.d. 

1 24

People (other than Fessenden family): Unknown people and miscellaneous groups (cartes-de-visite), n.d. 

1 25

Places: Falls Church, Virginia, n.d. 

1 26

Places: Fort Pulaski after the bombardment, n.d. 

1 27

Places: Fort Western, Augusta, Maine, 1862 

1 28

Places: Mount Kineo, Moosehead Lake, Maine, n.d. 

1 29

Places: U.S. Revenue Steamer William P. Fessenden, n.d. 


Places: U.S. Revenue Steamer William P. Fessenden, n.d. 

Box Folder
1 30

Places: U.S. William Pitt Fessenden Room, Hawthorne-Longfellow Hall, Bowdoin College, n.d. 

1 31-34

Places: William Pitt Fessenden Room, Hawthorne-Longfellow Hall, Bowdoin College, dedication ceremony, 1966 Aug 16