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Erving-King Family papers

Call Number

MS 204


1709-1975 (bulk, 1780-1939), inclusive


King (Family)


19 Linear feet (36 boxes, 32 volumes)

Language of Materials

The documents in this collection are in English.


The collection consists of correspondence, diaries, maps, printed matter, genealogical material, etc., assembled by James Gore King V (1898-1979). The collection concerns the Erving and King families, other families from whom he directly descended, and some collateral branches. The following individuals are comparatively well documented: James Gore King (1791-1853), Edward King (1833-1908), Col. John Erving (1789-1862), John Erving (1833-1917), and William Van Rensselaer (1805-1872).

Historical Note

This collection, assembled by James Gore King V (1898-1979), records the history of his family from mid-eighteenth century to 1959 and traces his genealogy in America, Great Britain and Europe. The papers concern the Erving and King families; other families from whom JGK directly descended, and some collateral branches and connecting families are included. The papers of Fanny King [Mrs. Edmund] Ward were added in March 1980 by Mrs. Edmund M. Cocec.

The progenitors of James Gore King V's mother and father were early New England settlers. John Erving (1692-1786) made a fortune as a merchant in Boston. Richard King (1718-1775), son of John King, became a wealthy trader in the District of Maine. Many of their descendents and relatives were prominent in politics, diplomacy, military service, law, business, banking and letters; particularly in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Great Britain and Europe. Through circumstances of war, politics and marriage, the branches from whom JGK descended were established in and around New York City by the early nineteenth century. They were well-to-do, and connected by marriage with other distinguished and prominent New York families. Whether at home or on their frequent travels within the United States and abroad, they moved in the top social and political circles of their day.

The lives of five men are comparatively well documented in this collection. James Gore King (1791-1853) attended school in England and France while his father, Rufus King (1755-1827), was ambassador to London. After graduating from Harvard and studying law, he became a banker, and in 1818 with his brother-in-law, Archibald Gracie, established in Liverpool the firm of King and Gracie. Returning to New York in 1824, he became a partner in what became Prime, Ward and King, and built the family home, Highwood, in Weehawken, N.J. During the panic of 1837, he personally secured in England enough gold to enable the United States to resume specie payment. He was also active in politics and railroad development. His third son, Edward King (1833-1908), attended Harvard and while in Cambridge lived with the Agassiz family. He and his first wife, Isabella Cochrane, were married in Edinburgh in 1858. He became president of the Union Trust Co. and of the New York Stock Exchange and was active in the Harvard Club of New York. Col. John Erving (1789-1862), a career officer in the United States Army, served in the war of 1812 and the Mexican War. He was popular with his men, and with hostesses at his Army posts. When not accompanying him, his wife, Emily Sophia Langdon-Elwyn, and their children lived in Philadelphia; then settled in New York. Their son, John Erving (1833-1917), graduated from Harvard in 1853 and became a lawyer in New York. He managed the financial affairs of his family. He served in the Army during the Civil War and in 1862 married Cornelia Van Rensselaer. Their principal home was at Manursing Island, Rye, N.Y., where the Van Rensselaers also lived. William Van Rensselaer (1805-1872), Cornelia's father, was the second son of Stephen Van Rensselaer, "eighth patroon" of vast land holdings in Albany and Rensselaer Counties. He graduated from Yale in 1824, traveled and studied law in Europe, and after the death of his first wife in 1836 married her sister Sarah Rogers. He managed his estates from his home, Beverwyck, across the Hudson from Albany, until 1846, when the family moved to New York City and Manursing Island. The younger John Erving and Edward King were classmates at Harvard. They became the grandfathers of James Gore King V.


The Erving-King Papers are organized in three series:

Series I: Erving and related families

Series II: King and related families

Series III: Oversize Materials

Within Series I and Series II, individuals' papers are arranged alphabetically by first name, related families follow alphabetically by surname. Some volumes are placed with the individual; most are at the end of the series. Series III, Oversize Materials, is divided into three subseries.

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence (mostly among family members), diaries and journals (many from trips abroad), and various legal and financial documents (particularly wills). It is concentrated in the period from about 1795 to World War I. The papers delineate personal and social lives; they deal to a much lesser extent with public, political and business affairs. They document many aspects of the lives of women and men: birth, marriage and death, daily activities and events, visits and travels, and interpersonal relations among families and friends.

The collection contains many individual manuscripts relating to prominent historical figures. However, most papers of the best-known members of the Erving and King families (Rufus King, for example) are in other collections; those that are in this collection are, with some exceptions, copies.

There is voluminous genealogical material, much in the form of repetitious handwritten notations. The genealogies of connecting families are often indispensable to identifying individuals mentioned in the collection. There are also inventories of personal property, memorabilia, such as invitations, visiting cards, drawings and paintings, maps, pamphlets, newspapers, clippings, and photographs of people, of family homes and monuments, of family portraits, and of places visited.

Unless specified in the inventory as copies (typed copies, manuscript copies or photocopies), documents are assumed to be original.

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Erving-King Family Papers, MS 204, The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Related Materials

Further information about the Erving and King families is located at the New-York Historical Society within the Rufus King Papers and the King Family Papers.

Collection processed by

Processed by Caroline D. Bain.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:48:16 -0400.
Language: Description is in English.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derivedfrom erving.xml


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