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Manuscripts by Subject - Family / Local History - #10164

Title: J. Dexter Peirce

Dates: 1795-1945

Collection Number: 10164

Quantity: .25 foot/microform + oversize

Abstract: Consists of correspondence concerning Peirce's appointment as Postmaster of Larimore (N.D.), Civil War, postmaster appointments, Larimore Commercial Club, politics, personal affairs, and research.  Correspondents include Jonathan Bourne, Usher Burdick, O. B. Burtness, Martin L. Davey, Asle J. Gronna, Thomas Hall, Louis B. Hanna, H. C. Hansbrough, H. T. Helgeson, Martin N. Johnson, Sveinbjorn Johnson, William Langer, William Lemke, Porter J. McCumber, Webster Merrifield, R. A. Nestos, Gerald P. Nye, Burleigh F. Spalding, W. N. Roach, Arthur Sorlie, Arthur Vandenburg, George Young, Milton Young, William H. Taft, George Shafer, John Hay, and Hamilton Fish, Jr.  Collection includes albums containing autographs of prominent 19th and 20th century political, military and literary persons. An article about this collection was published in North Dakota History, Vol. 13, 1946.

Provenance: The State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired the J. Dexter Peirce collection from his sister Mrs. William H. Coldwell in January 1946.
Copyrights: Copyrights to materials in this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs. Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U. S. Code and an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all bibliographic references.
Historical Sketch
“The J. Dexter Peirce Autograph Collection,” by Paul E. Barr, University of North Dakota. North Dakota History vol. 13, 1946.

The collecting of autographs has been a hobby through the centuries. As early as 435 B.C. the Egyptians were interested in collecting autographs. The signatures of famous men such as Sophocles, Socrates and Euripedes were in great demand and brought large prices.

The author of this article has not been able to find the motive that prompted Mr. Peirce to gather these autographs. Surely he had the opportunity and employed it, with no thought of monetary gain, as he left the entire collection to the State Historical Society at Bismarck. Unquestionably he knew that such a collection of autographs might readily sell for thousands of dollars. Also, he knew the propriety of such a gift and placed it where it belonged and would be treasured and safeguarded against fire, theft, mutilation and unsupervised examination.

J. Dexter Peirce’s “scrapbook” of autographs is of black leather, stamped in gold. It is 7 ½ inches by 9 inches and one inch thick. It contains sixty-six pages and one hundred seventy signatures, of which one hundred fifty-seven are mounted.

Acquaintances of J. Dexter Peirce state that he was a kindly, retiring man, almost timid. He was of the non-combative, non-pugnacious type. He was cooperative and especially considerate of youth, being vitally interested in their education and welfare. He was not ambitious personally but was a leader who was civic minded.

He served for eleven years as Secretary to the Commercial Club of Larimore. He was, for a long time, Chaplain of North Star Lodge No. 16 of Larimore F. and A.M., also Director of Masonic Service and Education of North Star Lodge. In this capacity he sponsored oratorical contests in Larimore and surrounding schools, making the program a meaningful one. In addition he served several terms in the North Dakota House of Representatives.

The first autograph is that of U. S. Grant, Civil War General and later the 18th President of the United States. The one hundredth autograph is that of Brigham Young, leader of the Mormons or Latter Day Saints, who with his followers, established Salt Lake City and “made the desert blossom like the rose.”

Among the signatures are those of:
Five United States Presidents, namely, Grant, Johnson [Andrew], Hayes, Fillmore and John Quincy Adams, and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy.
Six Vice Presidents of the United States.
Four great American humorists, Mark Twain, Petroleum V. Nasby, A. M. Griswold and Josh Billings.
Five outstanding American Poets, Longfellow, Holmes, Bryant, Whittier and John G. Saxe.
The President of the Great Northern Railway, James J. Hill.
A Brigadier-General of Volunteers at Chapultepec, Mexico City, General Cadwalader.
A refugee from Germany in 1848, Carl Schurz, who became Secretary of the Interior in the Cabinet of the United States.
The famous woman suffragist, Susan B. Anthony.
The Arctic explorer, I. I. Hayes.
A Consul to Norway and Sweden, H. Bendeke.
Three orators and abolitionists, Wendell Phillips, John B. Gough, and William Lloyd Garrison.
A temperance advocate, W. A. Buckingham, who became Governor of Connecticut and donoto to Yale University.
Two historians, John S. C. Abbott and J. T. Headley, the latter being the author of “Washington and His Generals” and “Napoleon and His Marshals.”
Three scientists, M. C. Meigs, L. O. Howard, who long served as Permanent Secretary of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and L. Agassiz, geologist, whose name is assigned to the Red River Valley lake bed.
A showman of outstanding note, P. T. Barnum.
America’s first great cartoonist, Thomas Nast, who as cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly had much to do with exposing the Boss Tweed Ring in New York politics.
A Secretary of State under Lincoln and Johnson, William H. Seward, who in 1867 bought Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000.
An African traveler, Henry M. Stanley, who went into uncharted regions and found the long unaccounted for Livingstone.
Four Secretaries of State, Seward, Hay, Fish and Davis.
Three Secretaries of the United States Treasury, Richardson, John Sherman, brother of General William T. Sherman, and John Allison whose signatures appeared on all greenbacks and resembled Arabic script.
Three Secretaries of the Navy.
Three Secretaries of the Interior.
Three Attorney Generals.
The founder of Cooper Union, Peter Cooper of New York.
Ten State Governors, one being Maj. Gen. C. C. Washburn, founder of Washburn Observatory at the University of Wisconsin, and also the founder of Washburn Mills.
An outstanding financier, Cornelius Vanderbilt.
An anti-slaver advocate and prominent philanthropist, Gerrit Smith.
Two temperance lecturers and advocates, John B. Gough and William A. Buckingham.
Five foreign ministers to Turkey, Russia, Spain, England and Brazil.
Two inventors, General A. S. Burnside, West Point graduate who invented the breech loading rifle, and Brig. Gen. Albert J. Myer, inventor of the army signal system. A meteorologist, Brig. Gen. Myer also developed weather forecasts.
A philanthropist, H. W. Corbett, of Oregon, who gave $200,000 to benevolent and educational institutions.
Twenty-two U. S. Senators, among whom is the first colored Senator, H. R. Revels of Mississippi, and Cornelius Cole of California, not withstanding defective eyesight and hearing became a brilliant lawyer and lived to be on hundred and two years old.
Five Admirals of the United States Navy.
Twenty-seven Generals of the Civil War, both Union and Confederate. The Union Generals are Sherman, Sheridan, Butler, Hawley, Hooker, Nichels, McClellan, Cooke, O. O. Howard, who lost his right arm at Fair Oaks and later became Commandant at West Point, Myer, John C. Robinson, who became Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R., Schofield, Burnside, Rosecrans, Banks, Gillmore, John A. Logan, first head of the G.A.R., Sigel, Porter and Washburn. Confederate Generals were Pemberton, Terry, Mosby, Longstreet, Johnston, Johnson and Hampton.
A letter of November 21, 1801 was written by H. Dearborn, a Revolutionary soldier who became Secretary of War under Jefferson, third President of the United States.
The earliest contribution to this book of autographs, a letter dated April 9, 1775, is written and signed by Oliv. Wolcott, one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.
1873 was the date of greatest activity in procuring these names.
The latest contribution is a letter to J. Dexter Peirce written from Washington, D.C. under date of January 23, 1931, and bears the signature of Rep. O. B. Burtness, M.C.
The autographs run a wide range in legibility—from fine penmanship to indecipherable scrawls. They offer splendid material for study in character analysis.

Box    / Folder Inventory

Box 1:
1 Autographs, Incoming Correspondence  1873-1945
2 Outgoing Correspondence 1929-1945
3 Correspondence (Civil War), certificate, check, post cards, post master examination, autographs, railway cards, "wheat - the remedy for the surplus," Larimore Commercial Club material, clippings, misc. 1864-1937
4 Autograph book 1871-1933
5 Autographs 1876-1937

Oversize
Certificate, American Road Congress appointment, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by John Burke) 1911
Certificate, American Road Congress appointment, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by John Burke) 1912
Certificate, Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics (Harry F. Guggenheim and Charles A. Lindbergh signatures) n.d.
Certificate, First American Congress of Road Builders appointment, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by John Burke) 1909
Certificate, J. Dexter Peirce member of American Association for th Advancement of Science 1916
Certificate, National Good Roads Association appointment, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by John Burke) 1912
Certificate, Postmaster at Larimore, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by Calvin Coolidge) 1927
Certificate, Postmaster at Larimore, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by Herbert Hoover) 1931
Certificate, Postmaster at Larimore, J. Dexter Peirce (signed by Warren Harding) 1923
General Land Office certificate, J. Dexter Peirce 1905
General Land Office certificate, James McHaffie 1883
General Land Office certificate, John K. Tyler 1883

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