The Catholic University of America

Ryan Family Papers

An inventory of The Ryan Family Papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The American Catholic Research Center and University Archives
Creator: The Ryan Family
Title: Ryan Family Papers
Dates: 1803-1951 (1992)
Extent: 5 linear feet; 4 boxes
Abstract: This is a collection of this Irish American family's correspondence, majority of which is from the Antebellum Period through the Civil War. The content of most is the Ryan Family's business interests, family in Philadelphia, Virginia, and Connecticut. There is also correspondence concerning the family's political connections to many prominent Jacksonian Democrats including John Ryan's active involvement during the 1876 election and campaigning for Democrats in Connecticut. Lastly, there is correspondence from family members in the Army and within the government.
Collection Number: 364
Language: English

Biographical Note

The history of the Ryan family in America begin with John, Charley, and Matthew Ryan who were Irish immigrants who were Massachusetts mill workers at the time of the beginning of this collection in 1827. The family immigrated to the United States a few years prior to this in Philadelphia. In 1836, Matthew and Charley Ryan moved to Norfolk, Virginia to begin working in the woolen industry. They would eventually run their own mill in Norfolk, and invested heavily in local railroads and canals. Also, in 1836 John Ryan and his family moved to Connecticut where he became invested in railroads, the New York Central, and the textile industry. The focus of the collection does move towards John Ryan during this period when he becomes actively involved in Connecticut Democratic Party politics and becomes involved with Irish Patriot Thomas D. McGee. For most of the 1840s John Ryan's textile business prospered and he and his family became part of a small group of Irish-American immigrants to enter the middle-class. In 1846 John Ryan started hiring predominately Irish immigrant labor, and also hired a close life long friend, Thomas Grey, who was also a staunch Irish patriot and involved in local Democratic Politics. In 1849 he and his wife lose their one year old son Charles, followed by their three year old son Thomas Michael to a fever.

The 1850s begins with John Ryan opening a four story mill in 1851 in Connecticut. Throughout the 1850s, John Ryan and his brothers remain staunch defenders of the Democratic Party and fall on the side of Stephen Douglas' wing of the party. In 1857 John Ryan begins a new career, after financial difficulty in Connecticut, in 1852-1853, in Norfolk Virginia with his brothers. His nephew George Ryan also begins his career as an officer in the United States Army this year. During the 1860 election the Ryan family is staunch supporters of Stephen Douglas' candidacy and the maintaining of the Union.

The Civil War brought business uncertainty for John Ryan and George Ryan, of Virginia, becoming a Colonel in the Union Army instead of joining the Confederate Army. John weathers the 1861 fiscal year and is able to maintain his industries in Norfolk and Connecticut for the meantime. Also, during the war John Ryan moves to Decatur, Illinois and George Ryan is in the western theatre of the war in Tennessee. In 1864 Matthew Ryan becomes a soldier in the Union Army and George Ryan dies May 8 at the Battle of Spotsylvania. The end of the war in 1865 brought Matthew Ryan a new wife, Nancy Lawrence.

In 1866 John Ryan and Matthew Ryan's family relocate from Illinois to St. Louis Missouri. They still maintain their previous antebellum industries however. During the early 1870s Matthew Ryan partners with his wife's brother, Nat Lawrence, to begin a successful logging company in Southern Illinois. During the 1876 election John Ryan is heavily involved in the Missouri campaign for Samuel Tilden and the Democratic Ticket because of a promise of a large political appointment if the Democrats had won. In 1880, after several years of declining health, Matthew and Charles Ryan die in Norfolk, Virginia. They had relocated back to Norfolk following the end of Reconstruction. John Ryan dies in 1887, ending the first generation of Ryan's in America.

The rest of the collection focuses on Matthew and John's sons, mainly Matt Ryan and the Lawrence family. During the 1890s, Mat becomes heavily invested in gold and silver mining and becomes even more wealthy then his father and his uncles. By the 1920s the only family left in Norfolk Virginia is Augusta and Nancy Lawrence; during this time she begins to compile the Ryan/Lawrence family histories. This genealogy would taper off with the death of this second generation in the 1930s-1940s. In 1970, Susan Ryan turned over the family papers, in St. Louis Missouri to Jerome Goeber, her great-nephew, who spent the next twenty-two years organizing and writing a history of the Ryan family. This project was completed by Goeber in 1992. Overall, the Ryan family is an example of an Irish-American family who rose to become influential in business and politics during nineteenth century America.

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Scope and Contents

The Ryan Family Papers consists of two series of family correspondence, primarily dated 1827-1951, organized by Jerome Goebel in 1992. This twenty year personal project concluded with a four-hundred page synopsis of each of the 1200 letters given in the collection. All of the letters are arranged in alphabetical order and have a typed copy with the original letter as well. The main content of the letters are family correspondence and with business partnerships and investments in railroads and textile mills in Connecticut, New York, Missouri, and Illinois. Overall, there are 739 letters with different businesses associated with the family. The majority of the papers are from John Ryan who was a mill worker in Massachusetts. He had moved from Philadelphia, and was also in the Army during the Civil War. The family had several members in the family that were career army men during the antebellum period.

There is correspondence with various political figures; the Ryan family were prominent Philadelphia and Connecticut Democrats during the Antebellum Period and during the Civil War. John Ryan was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party retaking Congress in 1874, and was an important fundraiser for Samuel Tilden in Missouri during the 1876 Presidential Election. The papers also include newspaper clippings on different family members, land deeds, and United States Army Documents. Lastly, there are some letters that do mention new Irish Immigrants that the members of the Ryan family helped, with a job or financially, during the 1840s-1850s. Most of the political correspondence pertains to tariff issues, the Ryans were involved in the textile industry, and railroads.

The Civil War correspondence is with John Ryan and other members of the Ryan family who were in the Union Army. This is fairly interesting because it gives insight to how upper-middle class Irish-American viewed the war. The rest of the correspondence following the death of John Ryan and his generation in 1887 saw a decline in the number of letters. There are only seventy-six letters from 1900-1943 and one booklet of a family history from 1951. These letters are lergely general family correspondence, but also includes correspondence concerning genealogical research on the Ryan family, as well as the history of Irish discrimination in America.

Overall, this collection is a great window into a rare well to do and politically connected Irish-American Family, as well as an insight into Irish-American political leanings from ca. 1830-1900.

The second series consists of family documents such as John Ryan's postmaster commission by President Andrew Johnson and George Ryan's Army Commission.

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Arrangement

The Ryan Family Papers consists of one series:



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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

None

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

This collection was given to the CUA Archives in 2002 by Jerome M. Goeber after finishing a collection synopsis in 1992.

Processing Information

Processing completed in 2013 by Raymond Moore. EAD markup completed in 2013 by Raymond Moore. Revised by M. Jane Stoeffer in 2014.

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Related Material

Fenian Brotherhood and O'Donovan Rossa Papers

John W. Hayes Papers

Richard Robert Madden Papers

Terence Vincent Powderly Papers

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Persons:
Franklin Pierce
George McClellan
Lyman Trumbull
Samuel Tilden
Winfield Scott

Organizations:
Democratic Party
New York Central Railroad
United States Army

Places:
New Haven, Connecticut
Norfolk, VA
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Subjects:
American Civil War
Antebellum Period
Irish Americans
Nineteenth Century American Politics


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Bibliography

The Ryan Family Papers Synopsis, Jerome M. Goeber, 1992

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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Chronological Family Correspondence, 1827(1827-1951)1992 3 Box
Contains family correspondence with different business interests, Democratic Politicians, and United States Army Correspondence. Also included is a print synopsis by Jerome Goeber of a description of each of the two-thousand letters, as well as a history of the family in context with America's history from 1827-1943. There are also newspaper clippings with some of the letters on different family members. Goeber also included a typed copy of each individual letter. The rest of the content of the letters are on different family matters, members of the family who were in the American Civil War, and on assisting recent local Irish immigrants. Lastly, each folder has the original chronological number, created by Goeber, of the letters.
Box Folder
1 1 Synopsis of the Ryan Papers 1, 1992
        A 482 page document written by Goeber of a brief synopsis of each individual letter as well as a family history within the context of the period's American History.
  2 Synopsis of the Ryan Papers 2, 1992
  3 Synopsis of the Ryan Papers 3, 1992
  4 John Ryan Family Correspondence, 1803-1844
        Documents 1-42
  5 Edward and John Ryan Correspondence, 1844-1846
        Documents 43-84, mainly business correspondence concerning John Ryan's mill in Connecticut
  6 Family Business Correspondence Documents 85-147, 1846-1848
  7 Family Correspondence, 1848-1849
        Documents 148-204, correspondence on Irish Immigration and different family events that took place throughout the year
  8 Irish Immigration Correspondence, 1849-1850
        Documents 205-245, correspondence with Irish immigrants from the Connecticut mill as well as different Irish politicians
  9 Military and Political Correspondence, 1850-1852
        Documents 246-295, correspondence with United States Army Officials and Democratic politicians including future president Franklin Pierce
  10 Political and Military Correspondence, 1852-1853
        Documents 296-338, mainly correspondence obtaining a commission for George Ryan, and other Army business
  11 Business and Political Correspondence, 1853
        Documents 339-367, correspondence with John Ryan and business interests concerning his Norfolk, Virginia Woolen Mill, and other Virginia Democrats
  12 Business Correspondence, 1853-1854
        Documents 368-412, mainly more Norfolk business correspondence as well as railroad correspondence
  13 Army Correspondence, 1854-1855
        Documents 413-455, correspondence with George Ryan
  14 General Family Correspondence, 1855-1856
        Documents 456-498
  15 Irish Immigration Correspondence, 1856-1857
        Documents 499-549, correspondence with different Irish politicians and mill employees
  16 Family Business Correspondence, 1857
        Documents 550-589, mainly concerning investments following the Panic of 1857 and mill operations in Connecticut, Norfolk, and railroad investments
  17 Commissary Papers, 1857
        Documents 590-591, George Ryan's personal Army reports
Box Folder
2 1 Commissary Papers, 1857
        Documents 592-594, George Ryan Army reports
  2 Commissary Papers, 1857-1858
        Documents 595-597, George Ryan Army Reports
  3 Quartermaster and Army Muster Rolls, 1858
        Documents 598-599, from the Army Regiment George Ryan commanded
  4 The Irish News Serial Story, 1858
        Document 600, A serial on a fictitious Irish immigrant and their adventures
  5 Serial Newspaper Story and Irish Immigration Correspondence, 1858
        Documents 600-622, mainly correspondence from the previous folder's serial story, and thoughts on the state of Irish Immigration by various family and friends of John Ryan
  6 Business Correspondence, 1858-1859
        Documents 623-660, correspondence on railroad investments
  7 Army Correspondence, 1859-1860
        Documents 661-696, George Ryan correspondence
  8 Political Correspondence, 1860
        Documents 697-720, on the election of 1860 and the secession crisis
  9 Army Correspondence, 1860
        Documents 721-732, correspondence on the secession crisis with George Ryan
  10 Army Correspondence, 1860
        Documents 733-744, correspondence on the secession crisis with George Ryan
  11 Succession Correspondence, 1860-1861
        Documents 745-763, correspondence on the economic consequences of the crisis and the firing on Fort Sumner, also an insight into Democrats views on the crisis
  12 Civil War Correspondence, 1861
        Documents 768-805, correspondence on future of John Ryan's mill in Norfolk
  13 General Family Correspondence, 1861-1862
        Documents 806-834, correspondence on family who are now in the Union Army
  14 Commissary Papers, 1862
        Documents 835-836, George Ryan Army reports
  15 Business Correspondence, 1862
        Documents 837-867, correspondence on investments during the war
  16 Railroad Business Correspondence, 1862
        Documents 868-881, railroad investment correspondence
  17 Civil War Family Correspondence, 1862-1863
        Documents 882-902, family correspondence with those members in the Union Army
Box Folder
3 1 Civil War Correspondence, 1863
        Documents 903-939, correspondence with George Ryan in the western campaign and then in Virginia
  2 John Ryan Correspondence, 1864
        Documents 940-966, correspondence with George Ryan and his death at the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 8, 1864
  3 Army Correspondence, 1864-1868
        Documents 967-1018, correspondence with the relatives in the war and business, railroad investments, correspondence following the war
  4 Land Correspondence, 1866-1874
        Documents 1019-1043, investments in land in Illinois and in St. Louis Missouri
  5 Political Correspondence, 1875-1877
        Documents 1045-1069, mainly on the election of 1876, and the Compromise of 1877
  6 Political and General Correspondence, 1877-1879
        Documents 1070-1092, mainly correspondence on the Hayes Administration and on Matthew and John Ryan's declining health
  7 General Family Correspondence, 1879-1898
        Documents 1093-1123, obituary and death correspondence of Matthew, Charles, and John Ryan
  8 General Family Correspondence, 1898-1925
        Documents 1124-1177
  9 General Family Correspondence, 1926-1943
        Documents 1178-1199, includes newspaper clippings
  10 The Lawrence family booklet, 1951
        Document 1200, A booklet put together by the family, also includes notes
  11 St. Louis Republican Newspapers, 1881
        Newspapers on the Ryan family in St. Louis
                       
Series 2: Oversize Family Documents, 1803-1870 1 Box
Contains oversize family documents such as John Ryan's Postmaster Commission from President Andrew Johnson and George Ryan's Army Commission. There are also other forms and old prints saved through the years.
Box Folder
4 1 Diploma from St. Louis Central High School, 1803
        Gal Lawrence Ryan
  2 A Map of Norfolk, Virginia, 1853
  3 Army Commission signed by Abraham Lincoln, 1861
        A copy of a Colonel commission given to George Ryan
  4 New York Volunteers Certificate, 1863
        Commission to George Ryan by Governor Horatio Seymour
  5 Postmaster Commission Certificate, 1865
        George Ryan's Appointment as Postmaster of Decatur Illinois by Andrew Johnson.
  6 Dedication Letter about George Ryan, 1870
        Addressed to John Ryan as a memorial to George Ryan's service during the Civil War

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Bibliography

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Chronological Family Correspondence, 1827(1827-1951)1992

Series 2: Oversize Family Documents, 1803-1870

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