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Dr. Charles Osgood papers

 Collection
Identifier: RHC-185

Scope and Contents

Of the more than 900 items in the Dr. Charles Osgood Papers, 600 are correspondence from individuals and businesses. The majority of these are letters sent to Osgood from family, other relatives, friends, and business and professional associates, while a few are copies of letters Osgood has written. Most of the material relates to the time that Osgood spent in Monroe, Michigan (Territory and subsequently State). Other materials include receipts, financial accounts, medical miscellany, deeds and other legal documents, submissions to newspapers, stock certificates, insurance policies, and other miscellaneous items.

All correspondence and documents in the collection were docketed by Osgood, which in a number of cases clarified the senders' names when handwriting was difficult to decipher. All documents had been folded into a uniform size (approximately 3½ x 7½ inches) and were banded together with thick brown paper by dates or subject, for example, "Letters of 1838" and "Miscellaneous – Principally Obsolete." Some of the docketing texts refer to Osgood's letter book in which he kept copies of his outgoing correspondence; this letter book apparently did not survive.

The correspondence documents a number of subjects relating to Michigan in the 1830s and 1840s. Osgood's interest in land speculation began soon after his arrival in Monroe, and the establishment of a new town, Havre, in Monroe County became an important part of his investments as is reflected in many letters from two associates, Salmon Keeney and William Wadsworth. The town's subsequent failure through the action of the state legislature and financial issues resulting from the Panic of 1837 is documented. Some of his Monroe friends were active in Canada's Patriot War (1837-1838) and provide descriptions. A series of letters from a patient describe the current medical treatments for venereal disease. A few letters refer to Osgood's amatory relationship with a young woman in Monroe, Catherine Haff. The numerous letters from Osgood's parents and siblings in Connecticut give details of their quotidian doings about visits, births, deaths, and marriages; each of these letters usually contain combined messages from his father, mother, and sister. Letters from his fiancée, Sarah Larned, begin shortly after their engagement in the fall of 1838 and are accompanied by copies of Osgood's letters to her. After Osgood formulated his anti-fever medicine in 1840, the correspondence turns to the marketing of the product, primarily in Michigan and other western lands.

Among the letters are ones from future governors of the State of Michigan, Alpheus Felch and William L. Greenly. Two letters of recommendation from friends in Connecticut are addressed to Salmon P. Chase in Cincinnati and Gurdon S. Hubbard in Chicago.

Two other aspects of the collection are important to note. Nearly all of the correspondence consists of letter sheets folded, sealed, and put in the mail stream; many of these have either stamped or manuscript postmarks, some of which are rare and therefore have philatelic value. The printed legal forms from Monroe and Detroit are examples from the pioneer printing presses of Michigan.

Charles Osgood's personal and business correspondents amount to more than 190 separate entities. Listed here are those individuals with two or more letters in the collection, along with short biographical information along with the nature of their relationship with Charles Osgood and subjects of their letters. An asterisk (*) denotes noteworthy correspondence, in number and/or content:

Correspondents

Abell, William Hawks (1814-1887).
Fredonia, N.Y. Sale of land.
Arnold, Salmon Augustus, M.D. (1797-1878).
Providence, R.I. Former medical mentor to Osgood and land speculator.
Balch, Ebenezer H. (1806-1878).
Providence, R.I. Land speculator.
Brotherson, Philip Charles Hamilton (1811-1852).
Lewiston, N.Y. Land speculator and Havre shareholder.
Coburn, David Nichols, Rev. (1808-1877).
Providence, R.I. Osgood's brother-in-law.
Cornett, William (1812-1893).
Providence, R.I. Emigration to Michigan.
*Dabney, Charles Henry (1807-1879).
Providence, R.I. Partner with Osgood in land speculation. Later went into the banking business with J. Pierpont Morgan.
*Daugherty, Joseph T. (1802-1842).
New York, N.Y. Partner with Osgood in land speculation.
DeWolf, William Frederick (1811-1896).
Providence, R.I. lawyer. Lands in Michigan and possible emigration.
*Dodge, David S., M.D. (1803-1869).
Hartford, Conn. Consultant and possible business partner in manufacture and distribution of India Cholagogue.
*Dodge, William Warren (born ca. 1816).
Monroe, Mich. Participant in Canada's Patriot War; taken prisoner at Malden, incarcerated at Quebec, and ultimately escaped.
*Drake, F. A. (b. ca. 1816?).
Monroe, Mich. and Lockport, N.Y. Land speculator and Havre shareholder. Elliott, Smith (1794-1861). Rome, Mich. Sale of land.
*Felch, Alpheus (1804-1896).
Monroe, Mich. Havre stockholder. Governor of Michigan, and other state and federal political offices.
Folger, William B. (d. 1889).
New York, N.Y. Printer and engraver.
*Ford, Charles W. (1818-1873).
Detroit, Mich. Law clerk and patient of Osgood.
*Gay, Joseph Bates (1802-1859).
Thompson, Conn. Family: Uncle of Sarah Larned Osgood; investor in Osgood's medicine.
Gilbert, Solomon (1780-1857).
Utica, N.Y. and Providence, R.I. Family: Uncle of Charles Osgood; land speculation.
Greene, Samuel W.
Monroe, Mich. and Perrysburg, Ohio. Land speculation.
*Grosvenor, Ira Rufus (1815-1899).
Monroe and Ionia, Mich. Sale of lands; personal.
*Haff, Catherine (1819-96).
Monroe, Mich. Although only one letter from her to Osgood, she and her notoriety is mentioned in a number of letters from other correspondents.
Hoppin, William Jones (1813-1895).
New York, N.Y. and Providence, R.I. lawyer. Land speculation.
*Humphrey, Levi S. (1797-1868).
Monroe, Mich. Stage coach magnate, merchant, member of Michigan legislature, and mayor of Monroe. Havre railroad; Patriot War.
*Keeney, Salmon (1794-1847).
Erie, Mich. Monroe County judge and postmaster. Havre stockholder.
*King, William Jones (1803-1885).
Providence, R.I. cotton merchant. Medical, land speculation, Havre.
*Larned, Sarah Smith (1822-1891).
Providence, R.I. Family: Fiancée (later spouse) of Charles Osgood.
Monroe, Henry (d. 1836).
Cleveland, Ohio. Married Lucinda Eliza Dabney in Providence, R.I. Havre.
Morgan, Elisha, Jr., M.D. (1811-1897).
Providence, R.I. and Lawrenceburg, Ind. Family: Cousin of Charles Osgood. Medical career.
*Osgood, Erastus, M.D. (1780-1867).
Lebanon, Conn. Family: Father of Charles Osgood. Erastus' letters are almost always accompanied by additions from his wife Martha and daughter Olive.
*Osgood, Erastus S. (1813-1854).
New York, N.Y., Ohio, and Norwich, Conn. Family: Brother of Charles Osgood.
*Osgood, Martha Morgan (1787-1876).
Lebanon, Conn. Family: Mother of Charles Osgood. See Erastus Osgood, M.D., above.
*Osgood, Olive Morgan (1810-1906).
Lebanon, Conn. Family: Sister of Charles Osgood; married Israel Taintor Otis in 1838.
Osgood, Samuel Coit (1819-1870).
Norwich, Conn. Family: Brother of Charles Osgood.
*Osgood, Sarah Smith Larned.
Thompson, Conn. Family: Spouse of Charles Osgood. See Larned, Sarah Smith.
Osgood, Solomon Gilbert (1823-1871).
Lebanon, Conn. Family: Brother of Charles Osgood.
Osgood, William Coit (1816-1909).
Lebanon, Conn. Family: Brother of Charles Osgood.
*Otis, Olive Morgan Osgood.
Lebanon, Conn. Family: Sister of Charles Osgood. See Osgood, Olive Morgan.
Peirce, Josiah.
Shiawassee, Mich. Land taxes.
Potter, Benjamin Dyer (1814-1840).
Providence, R.I., Bristol, Pa., and Natchez, Miss. Land speculation.
Poucher, Anthony (1801-1870).
Columbia Lake, Mich. postmaster. Land taxes and sale.
Savage, Thomas Staughton, M.D. (1804-1880).
Durham and Middletown, Conn. and Cincinnati, Ohio. Medical friend and colleague.
*Savage, William (b. ca. 1810).
Detroit and Monroe, Mich. and New York, N.Y. Merchant? Village news; Patriot War; Catherine Haff; politics.
Seymour, William.
New York, N.Y. Sale of lands in Michigan.
Thompson, B.
Buffalo, N.Y. lawyer. Barton and Wesley lawsuit concerning Havre stock.
Underwood, Daniel Kingsley (1803-1875).
Adrian, Mich. merchant. Agent for fever medicine.
*Van Deusen, Joshua Belden (1791-1869).
Stockholder and postmaster of Havre, Mich.
*Wadsworth, William Murray (1812-1840).
Monroe, Mich. and New York, N.Y. lawyer. Yale. Havre stockholder; writer, reporter on Michigan legislature. Died of tuberculosis in Savannah, Ga.
Wesley, Edward Barton (1811-1906).
Buffalo, N.Y. Havre; lawsuit in 1841.
*Worthington, Elias Morgan, M.D. (1799-1840).
Colchester, Conn. and Monroe, Mich. Relocation from Connecticut and medical practice proposal for partnership.
Wright, Azaniah.
Colchester, Conn., Jonesville and Monroe, Mich. Purchase and sale of Michigan land.

Dates

  • 1792 - 1881
  • Majority of material found within 1835 - 1841

Creator

Access to the Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Publication Rights

The collection is the physical property of Grand Valley State University, but all literary rights are retained by the original creators of materials, their estates, heirs, or third parties. It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure appropriate permissions for publication beyond the bounds of fair use.

Biographical and Historical Note

Charles Osgood was born in Lebanon, New London County, Connecticut on 13 February 1808. He was the eldest child of Erastus Osgood, M.D. (1780-1867) and Martha Morgan Osgood (1787-1876), both of whom were from prominent Connecticut families. Charles Osgood had one sister and five brothers: Olive Morgan Osgood Otis (1810-1906), Erastus S. Osgood (1813-1854), William Coit Osgood (1816-1909), Samuel Coit Osgood (1819-1870), Gilbert Osgood (1823-1871), and Edward S. Osgood (1826-1871). Charles Osgood attended the Bacon Academy (Colchester, Connecticut) and subsequently learned medicine from his father before graduating from the medical school at Yale College in 1833. By the summer of 1835 it appears that Charles Osgood had decided to move his medical practice to the west, and by early September 1835 he was living in Monroe, Monroe County, Michigan Territory. He remained there, apart from yearly trips back to Connecticut, until the beginning of 1841 when he relocated permanently to Norwich, Connecticut.

Besides his medical practice in Monroe, Charles Osgood became very active in land speculation for himself and friends and relatives in Connecticut, as well as friends in Monroe. He also seems to have been an important stockholder in the Havre Company, a group involved in the founding and promotion of a new town by that name, located in Section 33 of Erie Township, Monroe County. Both of these ventures became financially tenuous because of the Panic of 1837. Osgood also was a sometime agent for the Aetna Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut while in Monroe. Sometime in 1840 Osgood had formulated a medicine for the treatment of bilious fevers and ague, which he named "Dr. Osgood's India Cholagogue," the subsequent commercial success of which was probably an important factor in Osgood's return to Connecticut.

In Norwich, Connecticut, where he lived for the rest of his life, he established his pharmaceutical company that soon provided as substantial income. He later founded the Shetucket Bank and was prominent in the operations of the Norwich Savings Society and the New London Mutual Fire Insurance Company, among other civic and educational interests. These later years are more detailed in Osgood's biographical entry in Genealogical and Biographical record of New London County Connecticut (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1905).

After about a year's engagement, Charles Osgood married Sarah Smith Larned on 7 October 1839 in Providence, Rhode Island. Sarah Larned was born in Providence, Rhode Island on 4 June 1816 to William Green Larned (1787-1871) and Mary Gay Larned (1786-1875). Her father was variously an accountant, publisher of a newspaper, and farmer, and appears to have met Osgood when the latter resided in Providence after attaining his medical degree. Sarah Larned had three siblings: Thomas A. Larned (1810-1841), Elizabeth Hasey Larned Coburn (1812-1900), and William Henry Larned (1818-1894).

Charles and Sarah Osgood had four children: Thomas Larned Osgood (1840-1841), Charles Henry Osgood (1842-1925), Frederic Larned Osgood (1849-1923), and Cornelia Osgood Tyler (1856-1931). Charles Osgood died in Norwich on 18 March 1881; his son, Charles Henry Osgood as trustee of the estate, continued the various Osgood business ventures. Sarah Larned Osgood died on 11 September 1891. Charles and Sarah Osgood are buried in Yantic Cemetery, Norwich, Connecticut as are their children and the parents and siblings of Charles.

Extent

4.58 Linear feet (6 boxes + 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials

English

Other Finding Aids

To better access the quantity of correspondence in the Osgood collection, four additional finding aids are available in the archives. The first is an index of Osgood's correspondents with dates of their letters; the second is a calendar of the correspondence, listing the letters in chronological order from 1828 to 1841 and in many cases noting the subjects of the correspondence; the third lists copies of letters sent to Osgood's correspondents; the fourth is an itemized contents list of the oversize documents of Series 4.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was acquired from Swann Auction Galleries (New York, N.Y.) on 16 April 2019 in its Auction Sale 2505. The collection had been consigned by Diane Albertine Norman, whose mother, Virginia Chase Albertine, an antiques dealer in Norwich, Connecticut, purchased the contents of the Osgood house in the 1950s. The two India Cholagogue bottles were donated by Robert Beasecker in 2021.

Title
Guide to the Dr. Charles Osgood Papers
Status
Completed
Author
Robert Beasecker
Date
2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Contact:
Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States
616-331-8726