Lot 108 of 222:
Archive of President John Tyler descendants  

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Archive of approximately 265 letters, documents, writings, and other items from and relating to the family and descendants of U.S. President John Tyler, including manuscripts, typed material, partially printed forms, and more, plus silver cups and spoons, an engraved gold watch, and other family memorabilia


Various places




The papers are housed in plastic sleeve in six binders, arranged chronologically in fourteen different subject categories, or sections. 

Important archive of papers and other items passed down by the descendants of President John Tyler through his eldest son Robert Tyler, who married Priscilla Cooper, and whose daughter Priscilla C. Tyler married Albert T. Goodwyn. The Tylers and the Goodwyns were old Southern families, from South Carolina, Virginia, and Alabama, long involved in the political, economic and social life of the South, and were owners of slaves and plantations. One of the earliest letters is from John Tyler in 1834, to his then 18-year old son Robert, when the elder Tyler was a senator from Virginia, discussing primarily matters of politics and state. The archive includes letters, deeds, wills, bills of sale, and other records detailing numerous transactions in slaves, and in large holdings of land. These latter include the sell-off of land after the Civil War, and re-acquiring assets in the succeeding decades. There are also three letters written by Albert T. Goodwyn while he was a prisoner of the Union forces during the Civil War, held on Johnson’s Island, in Lake Erie off the north shore of Ohio. Following the Civil War, business practices of necessity changed, but large land-owners and slave-holders such as the Goodwyns were able to adapt, and the documents reveal the share-cropping practices that kept the freed slaves in virtual if not actual bondage. There are also a number of papers relating to the curious ownership of a bridge by the Goodwyn family, acquired in the early 20th century. During this period members of the Goodwyn family became more involved in politics, and various papers and speeches reveal the efforts of the Democratic Party in the south to keep power firmly in the hands of white men. Some of the family were of a literary bent, though more whimsical than serious in nature, and there are several stories and essays by Robert Tyler Goodwyn, some treating in “humorous” fashion the relationships between the white patricians of the south and African Americans. There are, finally, artifacts of the family, including a gold pocket watch from the American Waltham Watch Company, with initials and dates of three family members, beginning in 1852. Provenance: Descended in the family.

Section One - Photographs
  • Twelve photographic images, some from paintings, mostly portraits of family members.
Section Two - John Tyler Letter
  • Letter from John Tyler to his son Robert Tyler. Regards negotiations with France and their promised payment of $5,000,000 to the U.S. government for violations of trade agreements. Dated Washington, May 13, 1834. 1½ pp on 4-page stampless cover. Silked repairing some tears and fold splits, etc., with some splits not repaired. “…Yesterday the we expected a message from the President as regards our relation with France – by the late treaty, negotiated through Mr. Reins(?), that government stipulated to pay $5000,000 on account of certain violations committed on our commerce during the time of Bonaparte – the king submitted to the chamber of deputies the propriety of making the appropriations and they refused to do so by a vote of 176 to 168… I received a few days ago a letter from a committee of gentlemen in Williamsburg requesting me to deliver an address at James Town… I am relieved also that you resolved to have nothing to do with this part of the ceremony, I prefer that you go on in silence until you graduate…” Signed “Yr. Father, John Tyler.”
Section Three - Slavery
Twelve manuscript letters, documents, bills of sale, etc., relating to slavery. 1838-c.1850.
  • May 16, 1838. 1½ page agreement of indemnity between Robert H. Goodwyn of South Carolina and A.A. McWhorter for sums totaling $108,000 in the sale of “certain negro slaves, jointly purchased by the said James L. Beck, Albert G. Goodwyn, John A. Elinore and James G. Stewart, who are the principals in the said bond…” Two following letters from 1838 follow up on this massive purchase of slaves.
  • February 8, 1841. Document affirming sale of a large number of slaves to William A. Goodwin for $1, “the following negroes, towit, Prince, Surry, Shmail, Dinah, Elveniah, Jane, Sam, Little Sarah, Mimy, and her child Sally, Susan with her children, Little Judy and Peggy. Rose, with her son Jeffry, her Daughter Mainah, Little Mainah, … To have and to hold the above described Negroes with their future increase, to the said William A. Goodwin…”
  • February 17, 1842. Deed of sale from William H. Taylor to William Bibb, for Harriet M. Goodwin, of the “following described negroes viz Rose, and her child Ben, Mariah, Judy, Prince Surry, Dina, Elveniah, or Vene…” 3+ pages. 
Section Four - Civil War
Five items relating to the American Civil War, including three letters from Albert T. Goodwyn to family members when he was a prisoner-of-war at Johnson’s Island, Ohio, in 1864 (two having their envelopes with stamps). Also a Confederate muster roll from 1863, with Albert T. Goodwyn listed as a 1st sgt.
  • May 30, 1864. From Albert T. Goodwyn, writing from Johnson’s Island, Lake Erie, Ohio, to his parents. “…Lieut Jones arrived here, direct from the regiment…and [said] that Bro. Sam was severely wounded in the fight near Resucer(?), and hopes you will write and give particulars as to his condition… I am doing well at present and amuse myself by writing to different lady correspondents in Kentucky. They have proved very useful to me, and furnished many needed articles. I received yesterday a box of eatables from Woodford Co. Ky. which contained ten pounds of ___? Cake, strawberry preserves, pickels, ham and other luxuries…” With note added by A.T. Goodwyn in 1882, “This letter was written while a prisoner of war at Johnson’s Island… I was captured on the battlefield of Missionary Ridge, November 1863, and was taken to the island where I remained until June 1865… I was Captain in the 58th Alabama Regiment CSA when I was captured with almost my entire command…” With the original envelope having the stamp still present, canceled.
Section Five - CSA Veterans
Fourteen items relating to Confederate veterans and veteran organizations. 1903-1935.
  • In a ten-page typewritten speech, c.1910, apparently by Albert T. Goodwyn, he expounds “We surrendered at Appomattox our arms and our rights of secession, but we did not surrender our right and duty to honor martyred dead, nor to show to the world the causes that led to the war, and to the manner and spirit in which the war was conducted… its justice, its unselfish patriotism, its unparalleled endurance, and its unsurpassed bravery in warfare…”
  • 1928 typed list of “those who have already been appointed to positions on the staff of General A.T. Goodwyn”
Section Six - Land
Forty-three documents, deeds, quit claims, and other items relating to land and land transactions. 1832-1939. Nine of the documents are from 1832 to 1852; eleven are from 1869 to 1878; thirteen are from 1881 to 1896; the remainder from 1902 to 1939.
  • Indenture agreement between Albert G. Goodwyn of Montgomery County, Alabana, and Zachariah Lamar of Baldwin County, Georgia, for sale of land in Alabama from the latter to the former, for the "sum of two dollars to him in hand... Provided always and these present upon this express condition that if the said party of the first part pay to the said party of the second part the just and full sum of $1280.40 on or before the third day of August , 1833, and $1280.40 before... 1834, with lawful interest..." Obviously the land was being used as collateral for a loan. The document is dated August 9, 1832.
Section Seven - Business and Finance
Forty-five document, letters, insurance forms, contracts and other items relating to finance and business, including some involving sharecropping. 1867-1966
  • Promissory note promising to pay John Whiting $2,195.58, signed by H.N. Goodwyn & A.G. Goodwyn, with vignette of African-Americans picking cotton – attached to printed form accomplished in ink, agreeing, in the case of failure to pay Whiting said amount, to convey to Whiting “all the crop of cotton, corn, oats, potatoes, fodder, etc. to be raised by us on the plantation of the undersigned A.G. Goodwyn…” 1869.
  • Typed letter from Robert Tyler Goodwyn, to U.S. Senator from Alabama John H. Bankhead, on letterhead of the law offices of Goodwyn & Goodwyn, bemoaning how “’Relief’ has brought on a drought in the farm labor field.” “…Operating two farms occupied by thirty odd families I am acutely aware the government work has taken the farm day worker away from farm work. He is paid more for half time work than the farmer can possibly pay him for full, and he can hardly be blamed for scorning the plow and the hoe. Both my farms are in sections where ‘Cuffie’ largely exceeds ‘Bukra’ in number. The regular loafing class is rolling around day and night in rattling jalopies exuding prosperity which aroused envy and yearning for the fleshpots among the ordinary hard working croppers and small farmers. The spirit of unrest is growing even among the best tenants and small owners. We are becoming concerned about the ultimate results…” June 30, 1939.
Section Eight - Bridge
Twenty-five letters and documents relating to the Montgomery Toll Bridge Company. 1915-1934.
Section Nine - Politics
Sixteen documents, speeches, and other items relating to politics, including voter suppression in the 1930’s and 1940’s. 1892-1942.
  • In a c.1925 draft of a letter or speech, likely by Robert T. Goodwyn II, he writes, "Of course I am for Governor Kilby for Senator. He is a Democrat of courage and conviction... In Mr. Black's political philosophy it appears that 'Every little movement has a meaning all its own'. He gaffed  the Alabama democracy in 1928, when such gaffing was a popular sport. He gaffed the Ku Klux Klan, his political sponsor, when that kind of gaffing began to be cheered; and then in 1932 less than a month ago he gaffed the Prohibitionists of Alabama after taking their vote in the May primary. I am afraid he may later do some more gaffing..."
  • In a c.1940 draft of election rules for the Democratic primary, it is stated that “the following persons, and none others, shall be eligible to be candidates for nomination or election in said Primary Election, namely: Qualified white electors…”
Section Ten - Literary and Education
Thirty essays, stories, school tests, diplomas, and other fictional and factual writings, a number of them relating to race relations. 1867-1942.
  • In a 1928 political essay. Robert T. Goodwyn writes, “The white people of this great state now enjoy peace and tranquility. They have enjoyed it for more than fifty years. With many hundreds of thousands of negroes in our midst we have lived in security and happiness. No cloud of racial discord even as large [as] a yellow jacket’s shadow has appeared upon our Alabama sky since the Democratic Party drove out of power in 1876 the corrupt gangs which fattened upon the people of our great state under Republican control. The negroes have been contented. The white people have been contented… Now, my friends, here in Alabama; here, where we can still trace red scars from Republican butcher blades, they seek to arouse race prejudice against the Democratic nominee with foul deceptions and gross defamations… They are dressing up the Alabama Republican Party in snow white garments and seeking to put it in charge of the white man’s temple of hope in Alabama. They tell us to forget the Republican orgies of reconstruction days…”
  • In a 1939 2½-page typed story, Tyler Goodwyn begins “Tobe was a round shining faced darky about fifty years old. He had been married to Sue for thirty years and had sixteen children by her… Tobe was one of the best natured darkies, I ever knew…”
Section Eleven - Family Letters
Twenty-one letters between members of the Tyler-Goodwyn extended family. 1834-1945.
Section Twelve - Genealogy and Family History
Thirty-two items relating to the genealogy of the Tyler-Goodwyn extended family, including family trees, memoirs, obituaries, newspaper articles, two books, etc. 1884-1988.
Section Thirteen - Wills
Thirteen wills and related testaments of members of the Tyler-Goodwyn extended family. 1900-1951.
Section Fourteen - Miscellaneous
Thirteen items of miscellaneous nature, including several relating to the 1918 military service of Robert Tyler Goodwyn, Jr. 1891-1962.
  • Gold pocket watch, from the American Waltham Watch Company, the case made by John Campbell of Montgomery. The case with engraved initial monograms AGG, 1852; ATG, 1874; ATG II, 1931. The watch mechanism seems not currently operational.
  • Silver fork that once belonged to Major James Fairlie (1757-1830) who served the Continental Army in the American Revolution on the staff of Baron von Steuben, with ink note on accompanying card, “Fork belonged to Major Fairlie on staff of Baron Steuben, who was Washington’s ‘Drill Man’. Major Fairlie was the great-great-great-great grandfather of Robert Tyler Goodwyn III.“
  • Sterling silver cup presented to A.T. Goodwyn Jr. by his grandfather, 1912.
  • Sterling silver cup with engraved initials ATG Jr.
  • Sterling silver sugar bowl.
  • Sterling silver cream pitcher.
  • Sterling silver bowl, shallow, perhaps an ashtray.
  • Four sterling silver spoons, engraved to family members
Due to the size and/or weight of this lot extra shipping and/or handling charges may apply.

Lot Amendments

Overall the archive is in very good condition, with normal wear associated with age, use, and storage, some of the earlier papers with neat archival tape repairs.

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