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Series 02: Edward E. Ayer papers, 1847-1978, bulk: 1860 - 1934

Identifier: NL Archives 02/15/02

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, writings, photograph albums, photographs, etc., dating primarily from the last thirty years of Ayer's life. Ayer Collection related papers include correspondence between Ayer, Ayer librarians and curators Clara Smith and Ruth Lapham Butler, and prominent historians, writers, librarians, and collectors (Ballou, Engelhardt, Hodge, Lummis, Nute, Robertson, Thwaites, Victor, Wagner, etc.) and collection lists, (c.1900). Personal correspondence is primarily greetings from family, friends, and associates, but also contains letters concerning Ayer's association with the Field Museum and the Board of Indian Commissioners. Ayer's western travels and automobile trips to North Africa and Europe are documented in his writings and the photograph albums containing snapshots and panoramic views taken by his wife, Emma Burbank Ayer.


  • Creation: 1847-1978
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1860 - 1934


Conditions Governing Access

The Newberry Library Archives are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Unprocessed records are available by appointment only. Advance notice is necessary, particularly for administrative files, so that files may be screened for personnel records that are removed when records are processed.

Files containing personal or confidential information about individuals (including individual files on members of the Board of Trustees, individual donor files and records reporting the donations of an individual, personnel records, payroll records, and individual accepted fellows files) are closed for 30 years.

Biography of Edward E. Ayer

Railroad lumberman, bibliophile, and collector. Raised in Harvard, Illinois, Ayer went West to California in 1861 and served in the military in Arizona. Ayer's western experiences stimulated lifelong collecting interests which culminated in an extensive accumulation of books, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts about the exploration and settlement of the Americas, the American West, American Indians, the Hawaiian Islands, and the Philippines. From 1892 to 1911, Ayer served as a Trustee of the Newberry Library, and in 1911 he donated his collection to the Newberry and endowed it. Ayer was also a Field Museum of Natural History founder, trustee, and donor, and a member of the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners.


9.5 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 4 oversize boxes, and 3 oversize folders)


Arranged by document type.


Papers were acquired with the Ayer Collection. Correspondence discovered in the Ayer vault, 1971.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States