Guide to the Oliver Marcy (1820-1899) Papers

Collection Title: Oliver Marcy (1820-1899) Papers
Dates: 1794-1969
Identification: 3/7
Creator: Marcy, Oliver, 1820-1899
Extent: 6 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The Oliver Marcy Papers comprise biographical materials; correspondence; copies of articles and addresses by Marcy; and materials relating to the Northwestern University Museum of Natural History. Marcy's correspondence concerns a variety of subjects, including his early career as a science teacher at Wilbraham Academy and at Amenia Seminary; his career as a faculty member and his two separate terms as Acting President of Northwestern; Northwestern's faculty and administration, campus life, and Evanston's early growth. The addition contextualizes Oliver Marcy's accomplishments within the story of the Smith and Marcy families, 1794-1911. They consist of biographical materials; family correspondence; family manuscripts and publications; a research notebook; and family-related ephemera.
Acquisition Information: This series was derived form the University Archives' Faculty Biographical Files (Accession #81-52). The addition to the Oliver Marcy Papers was separated from Accession #99-77, which was donated to the University Archives by the Evanston Historical Society on May 23, 1999. The addition arrived as one full-size archival box of biographical materials and a large, tin box of papers. Half of the papers were bundled by decade; the other half were unbound.
Processing Information: Kevin Barry Leonard; March, 1981. Addition processed by Rae Sikula; July, 1999.
Separated Materials: The two maps mentioned in the letter to Dr. Marcy from W. C. Dandy, dated July 18, 1882 and sent from Waukegan, were transferred to the Northwestern University Library Map Department on September 9, 1976 by Patrick M. Quinn.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

Oliver Marcy

Oliver Marcy was born February 13, 1820 in Coleraine, Massachusetts, the seventh of eleven children. Marcy attended Wesleyan Academy for his preparatory work and graduated from Wesleyan University in 1846. To work his way through school, he spent a few years and summers in teaching and his first job upon graduating from Wesleyan University was instructor in mathematics at Wilbraham (Wesleyan) Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts. Marcy also taught geology, although he had little training in that field For a short period in 1851, Marcy taught at Amenia Seminary in Dutchess County, New York.

Marcy took the position of professor of natural science at Northwestern University in 1862. He taught at Northwestern for thirty-seven years and held a number of faculty posts. In addition to the sciences, Marcy taught natural theology, moral science, philosophy, logic, and Greek.

Marcy established the Northwestern University Museum of Natural History and served as its curator from 1871 to his death. He also held several administrative positions at Northwestern. He was Dean of the College of Technology from 1873 to 1876 and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1890 to 1899. Twice he served as Acting President of the University, from 1876 to 1881 and again from May to September, 1890.

Marcy was active in professional organizations including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. His scholarly writings were few and included newspaper articles and a monograph entitled, “Enumeration of Fossils Collected in the Chicago Limestone,” written in collaboration with Alexander Winchell in 1865. In 1866 the United States government sent Marcy as a geologist on a survey expedition from Virginia City, Montana to Lewiston, Idaho.

Marcy was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the old University of Chicago in 1873.

Marcy married Elizabeth Eunice Smith in 1874 (see biographical sketch of Elizabeth on Page 3). They had four children of whom only one, Annie, survived. Mrs. Marcy was very active in temperance causes and Methodist social work; Chicago's Methodist-sponsored settlement house, the Marcy Center, was named in her, honor. Oliver Marcy died March 19, 1899 in Evanston, Illinois. Elizabeth Marcy died in 1911. Both are buried at Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth Marcy

Since this addition contains a substantial amount of materials relating to his wife, Elizabeth Eunice Smith Marcy (1821-1911), it seems appropriate to add a concise overview of her life.

A descendant of New England's founding families, Elizabeth Eunice Smith was born in 1821 in East Hampton, Connecticut. She attended first the public schools and later, Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts, where she became a teacher of French and botany. There she made the acquaintance of Oliver Marcy, a mathematics instructor with interests in natural science The two became engaged in the early 1840s, and in 1847 they married and settled in Wilbraham to teach. One son, Edwin, was born and died in 1854. In 1862 the Marcys moved to Evanston, Illinois, where Oliver Marcy obtained a position at Northwestern University.

Elizabeth Marcy appears to have concentrated her energies on society and motherhood until 1875, when the death of her twelve year old daughter Maude and the marriage of her daughter Anna left the home empty. At this point Mrs. Marcy threw herself into temperance and church work, joining the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Woman's Home Missionary Society (WHMS), and the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Often she served as an officer in these organizations, planning events, corresponding with local chapters, and associating with such well-known leaders as Frances Willard and Annie Wittenmeyer. In the late 1890s Mrs. Marcy's interest in the settlement movement prompted her, with the WHMS, to found the Elizabeth Marcy Home (now known as the Marcy Center) in Chicago's Bohemian district. Always she wrote poetry, and her contributions to the Methodist hymnal were popular.

Elizabeth Smith Marcy outlived husband Oliver and daughter Anna Davis. At her death in 1911 she was eulogized as “a devout disciple of her divine Master... loving to go about doing good.”

Scope and Content

The Oliver Marcy Papers comprise biographical materials; correspondence; copies of articles and addresses by Marcy; and materials relating to the Northwestern University Museum of Natural History.

Biographical materials include clippings, memorials, and obituaries pertaining to Marcy and his wife.

The Correspondence, which forms the bulk of the series, is separated into Oliver Marcy's correspondence and that of other members of the Marcy family. Oliver Marcy's correspondence spans the years from 1845 to 1898 with the bulk falling in the period from 1871 to 1892. This correspondence is arranged into folders by decade, and within folders by date. A few undated letters have been placed at the end of the correspondence.

Marcy's correspondence consists of both incoming letters and copies of outgoing letters and concerns a variety of subjects, including his early career as a science teacher at Wilbraham Academy and at Amenia Seminary. Marcy's later correspondence pertains to his career as a faculty member and his two separate terms as Acting President of Northwestern. His letters to his wife discuss, along with family matters, Northwestern's faculty and administration, campus life, and Evanston's early growth. There are also a number of letters from Marcy to his daughter and from his brother Ichabod, a Methodist minister in Georgia. Marcy's correspondence with Northwestern's business agent Thomas C. Hoag concerns salary and expenses mainly connected with the operation of the Museum of Natural History. Related correspondence refers to Museum catalogs and the acquisition and loan of Museum specimens. Letters pertaining to the Museum from Horace Mann (June 4, 1868), William Deering (May 21, 1890; October 14, 1890), Charles W. Deering (November 21, 1888; December 5, 1888; December 13; 1889), and the secretaries of the Smithsonian Institution Spencer F. Baird (December 9, 1861; March 29; 1866; June 30, 1880; August 3, 1880) and Joseph Henry (January 21, 1874) are included. Marcy's interest in the geology of the Chicago region is documented by pertinent correspondence from the 1890s.

The Marcy family correspondence includes a typed copy of a letter from one of Marcy's cousins to another concerning family genealogy. Copies of letters between Mrs. Elizabeth D. Morris, Marcy's granddaughter, and the Northwestern University Archives, concerning disposition of Marcy family papers comprise the bulk of the family correspondence.

A few of Marcy's articles and addresses concerning farm labor, natural theology, science education, and botany, plus an article and a pamphlet on the genealogy of the Marcy family are included in the series.

A small amount of materials, excluding correspondence, that pertains to the Museum and the Laboratory of Natural History, the Biological Laboratory, and the Dr. Oliver Marcy Artifacts Collection is contained in one folder.

The Archives' reference shelves in Room 110 hold a copy of a memorial book printed on the occasion of Marcy's death and a copy of a Marcy family genealogy. The Archives also holds a number of photographs of Marcy and his wife.

Description of the Addition

The addition contextualizes Oliver Marcy's accomplishments within the story of the Smith and Marcy families, 1794-1911. The bulk of the papers, comprised mostly of family correspondence, date between 1840 and 1911. The papers consist of biographical materials; family correspondence; family manuscripts and publications; a research notebook; and family-related ephemera.

Biographical materials date between 1844 and 1911 and include newspaper clippings, eulogies, and obituaries pertaining to Oliver Marcy; his wife, Elizabeth Eunice Smith; his daughters, Maude and Anna (Mrs. Frank Davis); his brother, Rev. Ichabod Marcy, and his relative, the statesman William L. Marcy. Also included are biographies of Oliver and Elizabeth Marcy prepared by the Evanston (Illinois) Historical Society, locks of Oliver Marcy's hair, a sketch of his grave site, and a portrait of aunt Chloe Marcy's husband, Noah Perrin.

Arranged chronologically, the Marcy family correspondence dates from 1840 to 1911 and includes incoming and some outgoing correspondence of Oliver Marcy, Elizabeth Marcy, and their daughters Maude and Anna. The bulk of the correspondence belongs to Elizabeth Marcy, a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union who also was active in missionary and settlement organizations. Letters spanning the decades of the 1840s through the 1870s pertain mainly to family matters, documenting the Marcys' courtship; the family's years at Wilbraham, Massachusetts and Evanston, Illinois; the daily lives of relatives and friends in New England, California, and the Southern states; and, in 1875, Maude's death and Anna's marriage.

Most of the correspondence dating between 1875 and 1890 reflects Elizabeth Marcy's interests in social reform. Letters from Annie Wittenmeyer, first president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union appear frequently throughout this period; other correspondents of note include Julia Ward Howe (14 July 1875), Frances Willard (6 September 1876, 19 February 1881), and Rutherford B. Hayes (17 February 1883). The Marcy family correspondence also yields perspectives of Elizabeth Marcy's nephew Norton Goodrich (5 April 1873) and friend George Nicholson (19 May 1872), both Union soldiers, while letters from Mrs. Marcy's brother, Sparrow Smith, detail his life in Sacramento, California between 1859 and 1890.

Generally undated, the manuscripts include Elizabeth Marcy's poems and position papers; Anna Marcy's school compositions; Miry tales by Maude Marcy; and what is apparently the draft of an article by Oliver Marcy. Also included is a notebook, dated 1794, containing arithmetic exercises, surrounded by sketches and notes, belonging to Thomas Marcy. Oliver Marcy acquired his father's notebook in 1875.

Family publications date from 1856 to 1906 and consist of published writings by Oliver Marcy; Elizabeth Marcy; Oliver's brother, Rev. Thomas Marcy; and Noah Perrin, the husband of Oliver's aunt Chloe Marcy. Oliver Marcy's materials include newspaper clippings of his scientific articles, two pamphlets of Marcy family genealogy, and reports concerning Northwestern University and the Department of Natural History. Dated and undated clippings of Elizabeth Marcy's poetry also are included, as well as poems by Rev. Thomas Marcy (1856) and Noah Perrin (1880).

Research materials comprise a notebook kept by Oliver Marcy throughout his research trip to Idaho and Montana in 1866-67. His notations include geological and meteorological data. Journal entries, newspaper clippings, and other related materials are interspersed among the pages. These papers retain the Evanston Historical Society's original order. Pertinent information may be found in the Marcy family correspondence from the years 1866-69.

Three folders of ephemera include calling cards, financial receipts, and other small items of interest to Oliver and Elizabeth Marcy and their daughters. The first folder contains the largely undated household notes, pamphlets, advertisements, and clippings of poetry and scientific news. For what it's worth, collected by the Marcy Family. The second, also undated, contains social calling cards. The third comprises household financial receipts dating from 1879 to 1882.

Arrangement of Materials

The Correspondence, which forms the bulk of the series, is arranged into folders by decade, and within folders by date. A few undated letters have been placed at the end of the correspondence. The family correspondence in the addition is arranged chronologically.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)--Administration

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Department of Natural History--Faculty

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Museum

Personal Name

Marcy, Oliver, 1820-1899

Subjects

Natural history--Study and teaching (Higher)--United States


Container List / Contents

  • Biographical MaterialsBox 1, Folder 1
  • Correspondence, 1840sBox 1, Folder 2
  • Correspondence, 1850sBox 1, Folder 3
  • Correspondence, 1860sBox 1, Folder 4
  • Correspondence, 1870sBox 1, Folder 5
  • Correspondence, 1880sBox 1, Folder 6
  • Correspondence, 1890sBox 1, Folder 7
  • Correspondence, n.d.Box 1, Folder 8
  • Marcy Family CorrespondenceBox 1, Folder 9
  • Articles and AddressesBox 1, Folder 10
  • Museum and Laboratory of Natural History, Biological Laboratory, and the Dr. Oliver Marcy Artifacts CollectionBox 1, Folder 11
  • Biographical Materials, 1844-1969Box 2, Folder 1
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1840-1846Box 2, Folder 2
  • Marcy family Correspondence, 1847-1849Box 2, Folder 3
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1850-1859Box 2, Folder 4
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1860-1864Box 2, Folder 5
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1870Box 2, Folder 6
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1871Box 2, Folder 7
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1872Box 3, Folder 1
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1873-1874Box 3, Folder 2
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1875, January-JuneBox 3, Folder 3
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1875, July-DecemberBox 3, Folder 4
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1876Box 3, Folder 5
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1877-1879Box 3, Folder 6
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1880-1881Box 3, Folder 7
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1882Box 3, Folder 8
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1883, January-JuneBox 3, Folder 9
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1883, July-DecemberBox 4, Folder 1
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1884, January-AugustBox 4, Folder 2
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1884 Sept-DecBox 4, Folder 3
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1885, January-JuneBox 4, Folder 4
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1885, July-DecemberBox 4, Folder 5
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1886, January-JuneBox 4, Folder 6
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1886, July-DecemberBox 4, Folder 7
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1887Box 4, Folder 8
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1888-1889Box 5, Folder 1
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1890-1899Box 5, Folder 2
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, 1900-1911Box 5, Folder 3
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, n.d.Box 5, Folder 4
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, n.d.Box 5, Folder 5
  • Marcy Family Correspondence, n.d.Box 5, Folder 6
  • Marcy Family Correspondence: Social Reform, n.d.Box 5, Folder 7
  • Marcy Family Correspondence: Social Reform, n.d.Box 5, Folder 8
  • Marcy Family Manuscripts, 1794-c.1911Box 6, Folder 1
  • Marcy Family Publications, 1856-1906Box 6, Folder 2
  • Research Materials: Oliver Marcy, 1866-1867Box 6, Folder 3
  • Clippings, n.d.Box 6, Folder 4
  • Calling Cards, n.d.Box 6, Folder 5
  • Financial Receipts, 1880-1882Box 6, Folder 6