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David Bates Douglass papers

Identifier: SC-009

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of the papers of David Bates Douglass. These papers encompass many of Douglass's professional activities, including professions as a soldier, engineer, professor, college president, and architect of cemeteries. This collection contains field notebooks, lecture notes, diplomas, engineering designs, maps, and correspondence to Douglass related to his professional duties with some copies of his letters in his own writing.


  • 1809-1912, 1999-2001

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder

Biographical Note

David Bates Douglass was born on March 21, 1790 in New Jersey. He prepared for college at Newark, New Jersey, and entered Yale College in 1810. He graduated from there in 1813.

After graduating Douglass went to Sacketts Harbor and obtained a commission as Second Lieutenant in the Engineering Corp. He also worked on the Morris Canal for a brief time. In 1833, he was appointed to survey and prepare an estimate for supplying New York City with water from the Croton River. His plans led to the creation of the Croton Reservoir, on which he worked until 1836. Despite leaving the project, his plans were retained. In 1838 he laid out Green-Wood Cemetery. He would later work on the Albany Rural Cemetery as well as the Quebec Provincial Cemetery.

David Bates Douglass also worked for many years in higher education. In 1815, he became a Professor of Mathematics at West Point, a position he held for sixteen years. In 1832, he was appointed Professor of Math at the University of the City of New York. Douglass next went to Ohio where he served as the President of Kenyon College from 1840 until 1844. His final position in education was as a Professor of Mathematics at Geneva College (now Hobart College).

It was during his time at West Point that Douglass met Anne Eliza Ellicott, daughter of fellow West Point Professor of Mathematics Andrew Ellicott. David Bates Douglass married Anne on December 15, 1815. Together they had four daughters (Sarah, Emily, Ellen, Mary Louisa) and four sons (Charles, Andrew, Malcolm, Henry), all of whom survived into adulthood. Their two eldest sons graduated from Kenyon College in 1837 and 1838, respectively. Their third son graduated from Trinity College in 1847, and their youngest son graduated from West Point in 1852.

David Bates Douglass died October 21, 1849.

One of David Bates Douglass’s sons, Malcolm Douglass, married Sarah Hale, daughter of Geneva College (now Hobart College) President Benjamin Hale.


11.4 Linear Feet (17 Boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of the professional papers of David Bates Douglass. These papers encompass many of Douglass's professional activities, including professions as a soldier, engineer, professor, college president, and architect of cemeteries.


This collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Professional materials
  3. Non-professional materials
  4. Diplomas
  5. Maps
  6. Moses Hale Douglass materials


Box 1-7, 10: Archives Storage / Range 23A / Section 1;

Box 8-9, 11-13: Archives Storage / Range 22B / Section 1;

Box 14-17: Archives Office / Section 4


With the exception of twenty-five letters (originally part of cor n-1-25) the provenance of these papers is unclear. These letters were presented to the Warren Hunting Smith Library Archives in October 1988 by Mr. Toby Jackson, Professor of History, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.

The remainder of the collection may have been part of President Hale's papers given to Demarest library in 1942. This is reported in the Hobart Herald on 9 April 1942 with no donor mentioned. President Hale was the father-in-law of Malcolm Douglass, David Bates Douglass's son. A large collection of books was given to the library, date unknown, by Miss Edith Douglass and Mrs. Mary Douglass Rackliff, granddaughters of David Bates Douglass; the papers may have belonged to that gift. The provenance is also unclear for the related Douglass-Hale papers (SC-10).

Recent additions to the collection include biographical information and photographs (G phot file p 45j), presented by Peter Ray, a descendant of David Bates Douglass. A letter from DBD to his son Andrew and articles from the Historical Magazine about the Niagara Campaign derived from DBD's notes and given for publication by his children are also included. A recent article about Green-wood Cemetery from the New York Times from August 29, 1999 with a copy of the letter sent to the writer have also been added. (These additions were part of misc 13.)

Related Archival Materials

A second collection of interest concerning David Bates Douglass is SC-10 Douglass-Hale papers. This second collection of papers includes the papers of Malcolm Douglass (son of David Bate Douglass), Benjamin Hale (father-in-law of Malcolm Douglass), Sarah Hale (daughter of Benjamin Hale and wife of Malcolm Douglass), and the Little Family.

David Bates Douglass papers, 1790-1850: A Finding Aid
Tricia McEldowney, Archivist
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Archives and Special Collections Repository

Warren Hunting Smith Library
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva New York 14456 U.S.A. US (United States)