Charles Joseph Bonaparte, 1851-1921, MS.141

Charles Joseph Bonaparte, 1851-1921
Maryland Historical Society

(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)

Charles Joseph Bonaparte, 1851-1921
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105
[email protected]

Descriptive Summary


MS. 141

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674

REPORTED: February 27, 1973

Barbara Murray




This collection contains papers covering a broad spectrum of the life of Charles J. Bonaparte. Papers are arranged chronologically unless otherwise noted.



The Bonaparte Papers were originally NUCMC'd in 1966 as MS. 141-5. Xeroxes of all known material concerning their provenance are enclosed. Accession numbers known to be included in the collection are:







The collection also apparently contains material not mentioned in these accessions.

For unknown reasons, the Bonaparte Papers had been housed all together, regardless of accession numbers, and had only been partially labeled. By 1973, the different accessions were mixed and no longer were able to be separated clearly. Much of the material was unfoldered, uncatalogued and virtually unusable. A decision was made to folder the material and write a detailed inventory of it in order to make the collection more accessible. At the same time, due to the already confused state of the different accessions and out of a desire to make the papers more usable to readers, the Bonaparte Papers were divided into 5 separate collections--MS. 141 (Charles J. Bonaparte Papers), MS. 142 (Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Papers), MS. 143 (Jerome Bonaparte Papers), MS. 144 (Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte Papers), and MS. 145 (William Patterson Collection). A miscellaneous collection (MS 141.1, Miscellaneous Patterson-Bonaparte Papers) was also formed.



Arrangement of Boxes




























1919-March 1920





April 1920-Dec. 1920





Jan.-June 1921





July 1921-Nov. 1923








Copybook (Oct. 29, 1918-Feb. 28, 1919)





Mrs. Ellen C. Bonaparte Autograph Collection





Mrs. Ellen C. Bonaparte photo album, calling card album, and scrapbook





I. Collection contains 40 items dating from Charles' youth (dated 1860-1873). These include drawings, imaginary histories, an allegory, a poem about McClellan, essays, a phrenological character analysis of Charles at age 12 1/2, college diplomas, and correspondence. Correspondence is addressed to Charles' mother Susan M. Bonaparte, his father Jerome N. Bonaparte, and his brother Jerome N. Bonaparte, Jr. Topics covered include school work; health and illness; comments on the course of the Civil War, attendance at a charity fair, attitudes towards novels, advice to his mother about finances, numerous comments on criminality and the law, remarks on W.T.R. Saffell's book The Bonaparte-Patterson Marriage, etc. Also discusses James Brooks and Oakes Ames (who were involved with Credit Mobilier) and mentions deaths of Chief Justice Chase and John Stuart Mill. Letters reflect Charles Bonaparte's Catholic loyalties.




II. There are a few papers concerning Charles' early legal career, including a certification (1870, Sept. 14) of his qualifications for admission as an attorney, business correspondence with Jas. L. Baylies, and correspondence concerning a Smith vs. Seldner case. Also includes a partially filled in income tax form of March 1872.




III. From 1890 on Bonaparte was a member of the Indian Rights Association; in September 1902 he was appointed to the Board of Indian Affairs; in September 1903 he accepted a commission as Special Inspector of the Indian Territory. He resigned these last two posts in Nov. 1904.


This collection contains papers (c. 1882-c.1905) concerning the Indian Rights Association, the Board of Indian Affairs, investigations of Indian problems, etc. Papers are included that were written, received, or collected by Bonaparte concerning S.M. Brosius' accusations against the Dawes commission, testimony and reports concerning financial interests of Indian agents, notes on trust companies, allotment of Indian land, segregation of Delaware land, the Ogden land claim, drawing up of tribal membership lists, withdrawal of rations to Indian private school children, Indian contracts with parochial schools, Indian (esp. Navajo) boarding schools, expenditure of Indian trust funds, defects of the guardian system, directives and opinions of Ethan A. Hitchcock--Secretary of the Interior, etc. Newspaper clippings, pamphlets, and unsigned copies of letters are included.




IV. This collection also contains papers covering the period of Bonaparte's life (July1, 1905-Dec. 17, 1906) while he was Secretary of the Navy under Theodore Roosevelt. The majority of these letters are from Bonaparte to his wife, Ellen C. Bonaparte and are made up chiefly of personal notes, comments on family members, servants, neighbors, etc. These letters to Mrs. Bonaparte contain some mention of political affairs and personalities, such as the Cuban crisis, William Taft's mission to Cuba, ship movements, death of Judge Baer, reform speeches, investigation of the explosion on board the Bennington, the Republican National Convention, suffrage and women's rights, opposition to the Poe Amendment, the Portsmouth Conference, etc. During this time period are also included Bonaparte's letter of acceptance to Theodore Roosevelt of the office of Secretary of the Navy (1905, May 21), and two letters from Roosevelt, one showing pleasure at Bonaparte's acceptance (1905, May 22) and one sending a memorandum from Ambassador Steinburg (1906, Nov. 6). Papers also include letters from political figures, such as 4 from George B. Cortelyou concerning appointments and the campaign fund (1905, July 1; 1905, July 3; 1905, July 15; 1905, Aug. 21); 4 from Elihu Root concerning Navy business (1905, Nov. 9; 1906, June 8; 1906, June 25; 1906, Oct. 17); 2 from Ira Remsen of Baltimore concerning an invitation to speak at Johns Hopkins (1906, Jan. 20; 1906, Feb. 2); 1 from Brooks Adams urging federal railroad rate intervention (1906, Jan. 4); one from William H. Taft concerning the Jamestown Exposition (1906, July 6); and one letter of invitation from John D. Long (1906, June 2). Letters and papers on various governmental and political issues, such as the assassination of William McKinley by Czolgosz (Aug. 24, 1906); confidential information concerning Japanese naval growth and makeup (Nov. 6, 1906); and various miscellaneous issues involving the Secretary of the Navy are included.


(See also Box 11, Ellen C. Bonaparte Autograph Collection).




V. These papers also include letters covering the time period (Dec. 17, 1906--1909) during which Charles Bonaparte was Attorney-General under Theodore Roosevelt. Collection contains papers relating to governmental and political activities, including several such letters and memorandums concerning proposed compromises in the case of U.S.A. vs. Standard Oil Co. (of N.J.) et al; copy of an amendment to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act; 4 letters from Theodore Roosevelt (1907, March 18; 1907, April 9; 1907, July 17; 1908, May 23) concerning the Cabinet and political appointments; and two letters from William Howard Taft (1909, Jan. 22; 1909, Feb. 25) concerning the make-up of his new Cabinet. The remaining papers are miscellaneous in nature, including Republican convention plans, letters to Mrs. Ellen C. Bonaparte, one letter from Bonaparte's nephew Jerome N. C. Bonaparte, etc.


(see also Box 11, Mrs. Ellen C. Bonaparte Autograph Collection).




VI. This collection also includes about 3 boxes of miscellaneous correspondence, chiefly incoming, from 1919-1921. During this period, Bonaparte was involved in his Baltimore law practice and also rented out numerous properties. His correspondence deals with trusteeships, wills, real estate transactions, litigations over purchases, paying taxes, etc. Correspondence with tenants involves requests for repairs, reactions to raising rents, requests for charity, etc. Numerous advertisements and stock reports are also included, which comment on the raising interest rates, condition of the market, etc. of the early 1920's. This collection contains many charity appeals, local, national, and international. Some of these letters are marked with notations of the amount to be donated. There are also numerous letters and circulars from reform and good will organizations, such as Baltimore Reform League, National Civil Service Reform League, Baltimore Alliance, Traveler's Aid Society, National Tuberculosis Association, Md. Social Hygiene Society, etc. Especially during 1920, letters and circulars are found which solicit political support for Leonard Wood, Senator Poindexter, Calvin Coolidge, women voters, the American Defense League, League for the Preservation of America, etc. Also included are several letters from Charles' nephews Newbold Edgar and Jerome N. Bonaparte.




VII. Copybook, Oct. 29, 1918-Feb. 28, 1919. This copybook (700 pp.) is made up of signed copies of business and political letters of Charles J. Bonaparte between Oct. 29, 1918 and Feb. 28, 1919. In the front of the copybook is an index of addressees. Some letters are to tenants concerning payment of rent, repairs etc. Other letters concern wills, trusteeships, sale of real estate, management of Bonaparte's own country estate Bella Vista etc. In reply to requests for political support of candidates and involvement in activities are remarks about the future of the country, the League of Nations, the merit system, the Republican convention and the next election, etc. This copybook is heavily damaged and illegible in many areas; parts of some letters are legible.




VIII. Mrs. Ellen C. Bonaparte Autograph Collection (c. 1897-1909). Collection of letters saved by Mrs. Bonaparte, mostly taken from those received by Charles J. Bonaparte while he was Secretary of the Navy and Attorney General. These letters are from famous and semi-famous people such as American governors, senators, congressmen, ambassadors, bishops, admirals, judges, cabinet members, authors, etc. Letters consist chiefly of letters of introduction; invitations; requests for information and copies of publications, etc. Among others, this collection contains letters from the following people:




Atkinson, Edward


Bancroft, George


Cannon, Joseph Gurney


Chandler, William


Choate, Joseph


Dewey, George


Eliot, Charles W.


Fuller, Melville W.


Flagg, Ernest


Gilman, Daniel Coit


Gompers, Samuel


Holmes, Oliver Wendell


Leupp, Francis Ellington


Lodge, Henry Cabot


Pinchot, Gifford


Roosevelt, Alice Lee


Roosevelt, Edith Kermit


Roosevelt, Theodore


Root, Elihu


Taft, William H.


Tarbell, Ida M.


Wanamaker, John


Washington, Booker T.


Wilson, Woodrow






IX. Scrapbook, photo album, and calling card album of Mrs. Ellen C. Bonaparte. Photo album is housed in the Graphics Division of the Maryland Historical Society.




X. Although there are major time periods into which the papers of this collection fall, there are also miscellaneous materials of personal, political, and governmental natures scattered throughout the collection under various dates. Miscellaneous political correspondence includes a letter from Elihu Root (1920, Oct. 22); a letter from James Bryce (1913, Jan. 23) concerning the Panama Canal; and a letter from George W. Wickersham (1911, June 17) discussing the Tobacco Trust case. Letters of invitation to speak and dine, letters requesting favors and appointments, letters concerning Republican political plans, and materials concerning civil service reform and reforms in general can be found throughout the collection.





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