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David Bates Douglass papers, 1813-1873, 1999-2001

Identifier: SC-09
This collection consists of the papers of David Bates Douglass. These papers encompass all of Douglass's professional activities, from soldier, engineer, professor, college president to architect of cemeteries. These include field notebooks, lecture notes, diplomas, designs, maps and correspondence to DOuglass related to his professional duties with some copies of his letters in his own writing. The earliest date in the collection appears on Douglass's Yale diploma from 1813. The last dates appear on letters of condolence sent to his son, Malcolm Douglass, in 1849 on the subject of David Bates Douglass's death in Geneva, New York.


  • 1790-1873, 1999-2001


8 Linear Feet (20 Boxes)

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.


The materials are arranged in the following series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Diplomas
  3. Maps
  4. Personal items
  5. Pamphlets
  6. Lecture notes


Box 1-3: Archives Storage, Range 22A, Section 1

Box 4-6: Archives Storage, Range 22B, Section 1

Box 7-18: Archives Storage, Range 22A, Section 1

Box 19-20: Archives Office, Section 4

Box 21: Archives Storages, Range 22A, Section 1


With the exception of twenty-five letters (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, 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 Douglass-Hale Papers A collection.

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 are in misc 13.

Related Archival Materials

There is another collection of Douglass-Hale Papers in the Hobart and William Smith Archives titled Douglass-Hale Papers A. This second collection of papers includes the papers of Malcolm Douglass (MD, son of DBD), Benjamin Hale (BH, father-in-law of MD), Sarah Hale (wife of MD and daughter of BH), and the Little Family. A link to this finding aid is available on the Archives website.
David Bates Douglass papers, 1790-1850: A Finding Aid
Tricia McEldowney, Archivist
Description rules

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)