The records consist mainly of notebooks in which Safford recorded observations, calculations and notes. Materials include Safford's teaching files from the Chicago University, astronomical observations, computations regarding celestial objects, extracts from astronomical catalogs and two manuscripts. One file contains biographical material.
The notebooks are arranged according to the bulk of their contents, however all of the volumes were used to record a variety of observations, calculations and notes, and they should thus be consulted as a body rather than individually. Materials include Safford's teaching files from the University of Chicago, astronomical observations, computations regarding celestial objects, extracts from astronomical catalogs and two manuscripts.
The first four volumes pertain principally to Safford's teaching at the first University of Chicago. They include lecture notes, problems, class lists, and grades for his classes in astronomy and mathematics. The next seven notebooks record primarily astronomical observations made by Safford at the Dearborn Observatory and other facilities in the period 1854-1875. Many of the observations are of the planets Neptune and Saturn, various nebulae, and the star Polaris. The next four volumes consist chiefly of Safford's computations of the locations, magnitudes, and motions of various celestial objects. The last five volumes include extracts copied from various astronomical catalogs. Safford used these tables for comparisons with each other and with the positions and motions he observed directly.
Following the notebooks are two manuscript essays dealing with education. The first concerns the German Gymnasium system and the second speculates on the future of the public schools in the United States. The published articles that follow the essays span the period 1861-1864 and deal with the positions and motions of stars and planets based upon his observations at the Harvard College Observatory. They represent the principal type of astronomical research being conducted in the mid-nineteenth century. The articles were published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Science.
A final folder contains a small amount of biographical material, none of which is original or contemporary with Safford's life.