Cephas Brainerd Papers

Cephas Brainerd was born in Haddam, Connecticut in 1831 and moved to New York City at the age of twenty-two to become a lawyer. At the outset of his career he worked in the law office of Sen. Truman Smith of Connecticut. He was drawn to politics and was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Young Men's Republican Union. It was in this capacity that he helped bring Abraham Lincoln to New York in 1860 to speak at Cooper Union, a speech that helped secure Lincoln's nomination. Brainerd would later open his own practice and develop a particular interest in claims and international law. He is best known in this period for representing the African-American citizens of New York who lost property in the Draft Riots of 1863 and establishing municipal liability as a constitutional principle. Brainerd also served for twenty-five years as chairman of the International Committee of the YMCA, a period that saw dramatic growth and professionalization of the organization.

The collection was assembled by Cephas Brainerd's daughter Eveline Warner Brainerd, a librarian and local historian in Haddam. It includes correspondence, recollections and documents related to the publication of a facsimile of Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech, manuscripts and publications by Cephas, and drafts of a biography of Cephas by his son Ira. The correspondence is primarily among members of the immediate Brainerd family, but includes letters to Cephas by Republican officials. The largest part of the correspondence is comprised of letters from Cephas to his wife Eve, including nearly five dozen letters written between the late 1850s and late 1870s reporting on the political, social, and military situation and over two dozen letters written between 1900 and 1905 as Cephas was traveling extensively in Europe on behalf of the YMCA. The collection also includes extracts of correspondence from Eveline from a YMCA mission she undertook to France during World War I.