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Henry C. Murphy collection

Call Number



1700-1880, inclusive
; 1830-1880, bulk


Murphy, Henry Cruse


1.25 Linear Feet in 3 manuscript boxes and 1 oversize folder

Language of Materials

The bulk of the materials are in English. Some documents are in Dutch, some of those with English translations. Other languages in the collection include French and Latin.


Henry Cruse Murphy (1810-1882) was a Brooklyn lawyer, Democratic Party politician, U.S. Minister to the Netherlands (1857-1861), officer of the New York Bridge Company, and historian. The bulk of the collection reflects Murphy's interest in history, and is comprised of his research notes, transcriptions, translations, abstracts, and draft writings concerning the European exploration and colonization of the Americas. The research material relates to both Murphy's intended works and his published works concerning Henry Hudson, Verrazano, and others. There is substantial correspondence from E. B. O'Callaghan concerning Bohemia Manor, the Labadist settlement in Cecil County, Maryland. The collection also includes many documents related to Murphy's political and commercial interests, such as two letters from candidate and president-elect James Buchanan and a letters-patent for a horse wheel to propel boats, and his observations on the Netherlands while representing the U.S. in that country. The bulk of the collection is in English, but some documents are in Dutch, French, or Latin.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Cruse Murphy (1810-1882) was a Brooklyn lawyer, Democratic Party politician, U.S. Minister to the Netherlands, businessman, editor, and historian. Murphy was the eldest son of John Murphy and Clarissa Runyon, a couple originally from New Jersey who had moved to Brooklyn after their marriage. John Murphy became a leading figure in Brooklyn's public and commercial life; among other notable accomplishments, Murphy, with Rodman Bowne, invented and patented a horse-powered wheel used to propel ferries across the East River.

Henry Murphy, born in Brooklyn on July 5, 1810, graduated from Columbia College in 1830. He studied law under Peter W. Radcliffe of New York, and started his own practice in 1833, with offices in the Apprentices' Library Building at Pineapple and Fulton. Murphy became actively involved with the newly-incorporated city of Brooklyn in several ways, including as corporation counsel and as mayor. Murphy was active in local Democratic Party circles as a partner in the politically influential firm of Lott, Murphy and Vanderbilt. On the national political stage, he served two terms in the U.S. Congress (1843-1848) and was an active supporter of James Buchanan in his successful candidacy for U.S. President in 1856. Murphy's support was rewarded in 1857 with his appointment as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands (1857-1861). After returning to Brooklyn, Murphy was elected to the New York State Senate six times, beginning in 1863. As a state senator in the late 1860s, Murphy was involved in the creation of the New York Bridge Company, the corporate entity responsible for building the Brooklyn Bridge, and later became an officer of the company.

Throughout his adult life, Murphy also pursued an interest in literary and historical matters. He amassed a large library; translated historical works, notably those written in Dutch; and conducted research concerning colonial American history in various archives, including the Dutch Archives while he was in Europe. Murphy authored several works, including monographs on Henry Hudson, Giovanni da Verrazano, and Jacob Steendam, a Dutch poet in New Netherlands. Murphy was a founder of the Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society), which published his translation of the Journal of a Voyage to New York by Jaspar Dankers and Peter Sluyter.

Murphy died on December 1, 1882, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

(Principal source: Memoir of Hon. Henry C. Murphy, LL.D., of Brooklyn, N.Y. by Henry Stiles. Available in the Brooklyn Historical Society library, call number CT275.M87.S85.1883).


Murphy's research notes, translations, abstracts, drafts, correspondence concerning research, and the like comprise about two and one-half of the three manuscript boxes of material in the collection. This material is presented first and is arranged in rough historical order by chronology and topic (from first European explorations to later colonial periods). The date range within the folder description indicates the approximate period covered by the topic of the documents; the date range of the folder itself indicates the approximate date that Murphy prepared the material.

The final one-half box of material principally holds material related to Murphy's political and commercial interests, and his position as Minister to the Netherlands. The final folder holds miscellaneous documents.

The material is not necessarily in its original order. Several of the documents appeared to be disordered or incomplete, and a best effort was made during processing to put related documents and loose pages of documents together, but there can be no assurance that this was done with complete accuracy.

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection is comprised of Murphy's research notes, transcriptions, translations, abstracts, and draft writings concerning the European exploration and colonization of the Americas. Much of this material is related to Murphy's published works on Henry Hudson, Giovanni da Verrazano, and Jacob Steendam, a Dutch poet in New Netherlands. Yet much is also related to broader research he conducted, apparently in anticipation of writing a more encompassing history of the period. Accordingly, material on the explorers Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, Ponce de Leon, Estevan Gomez, and Champlain, among others, is in the research notes. Murphy's analyses of various maps of the New World are in the notes, along with correspondence indicating the sources of some of the maps he used. New Netherlands is one point of Murphy's research emphasis, and his notes include his English language abstracts from the Dutch colonial records held in the New York State Archives at Albany and from Bushwick town records of the late Dutch period. Writings related to the English period of colonization in New York are in the notes. The research material also includes substantial correspondence from New York State Librarian E. B. O'Callaghan and others concerning Bohemia Manor, the Labadist settlement in Cecil County, Maryland. Although most of the research material is in English, or has English translations, some of the notes are in Dutch or Latin.

In addition to research notes, the collection includes some documents related to Murphy's career. Political correspondence includes two letters to Murphy from candidate and president-elect James Buchanan concerning the 1856 election, references and invitations from presidents Tyler and Polk, and draft remarks on the importance of a local election to the country. Correspondence from the colonel of the 1st New York Infantry Regiment stationed in California during the Mexican War requests funds from Congress for transport of the regiment back to Brooklyn and includes many observations about the poor economic prospects of California for a Northerner. Murphy's time in the Netherlands is represented with documents recording his observations and conclusions, summaries of what appear to have been discussions with others about the country, anecdotes and folktales, and a small amount of correspondence, some of which is in Dutch and French.

A few documents represent Murphy's business interests, including some notes concerning the Brooklyn Bridge, a list of payments made by Murphy as treasurer of the Atlantic Bank Association (1836-1838), and a letters-patent granted to Murphy's father and Rodman Bowne for a horse-wheel to propel boats (1818), signed by President James Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. The collection also includes a commonplace book of literary matter, certifications of Murphy's elections to the New York State Senate, a copy of his appointment letter from President Buchanan as Minister to the Netherlands, his diploma of graduation from Columbia College, and other such documents.

The collection also includes various original artifacts collected by Murphy. These include inscriptions taken from a Dutch cemetery in Brooklyn; a birthday ode, original document in Dutch, with English translation (1700s); two letters, from Edward Bridgen to John Adams and to Benjamin Franklin (1786); two pages from a published index of New York marriages (circa 1664-circa 1783); an advertising flier for property in a temperance village in Brooklyn (circa 1849), and a draft agreement for a teacher in Newtown and Bushwick (circa 1701).

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection are in the public domain.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Henry C. Murphy papers, ARC.189, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the collection was given to the Long Island Historical Society (now the Brooklyn Historical Society) by Murphy's son, Henry C. Murphy, Jr., in 1901.

Related Materials

Material at BHS

The Henry Onderdonk papers (ARC.045) includes correspondence from Murphy to Onderdonk.

The Thomas N. Schroth and Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., Brooklyn Eagle collection (ARC.093) holds at least one image of Murphy, a founder of the paper.

The Davenport family papers (1977.345) includes material concerning Murphy.

The Danckaerts and Sluyter journals (1974.024), acquired by Murphy, are held by BHS. The journals are in Dutch. Murphy's published translation is available in the BHS library at call number E162.D36 J68 1966.

Several of Murphy's published works and his speeches, as well as material about Murphy, are available on the BHS library shelves. These can be found by searching Murphy's name in the on-line catalog, Bobcat.

A property map related to the South Brooklyn temperance village flier found in the miscellaneous folder of the collection can be found in the BHS map collection at call number B P-[184?].Fl.

Material Outside BHS

Correspondence from Murphy is found in the papers of E. B. O'Callaghan at the Library of Congress and in the papers of Thomas S. Bocock at the University of Virginia.

Collection processed by

Larry Weimer

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:26:57 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English.

Processing Information

Collection arranged and described by Larry Weimer, April 2011.

This collection combines the following 14 accessions: 1973.119, 1973.204, 1973.205, 1973.206, 1973.207, 1973.208, 1973.209, 1973.210, 1973.211, 1974.163, 1974.167, 1977.004, 1977.421, and 1977.645.


Brooklyn Historical Society
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201