|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
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At a Glance
This collection is arranged in four series.
The collection is composed of photographs, letters, diaries, legal documents, books and personal items from the estate of Helen Leale Harper Jr., great-great-grand daughter of James Harper, one of the four brothers that founded Harper & Brothers. Some of the items in the collection are albums, photographs and Bibles recording the history of Harper family in-laws-- the Copcutt, Meade, Hyde and Leale families. While part of the collection's articles document Harper firm activity, others are miscellaneous personal chronicle items as: letters, drawings, locks of hair, diaries and photographs. Some of the items of particular historic value include the marriage certificate of James Harper and Maria Arcularius, Bibles belonging to Philip Harper, James Harper and Copcutt family - with records of births, marriages and deaths in the family, and books printed by the Harper and Brothers firm in the first years of activity.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
This collection is located on site.
This collection has no restrictions.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); James Harper Papers; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material-- At Columbia
Harper & Bros. Records, 1817-1929 Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Harper & Row, Publishers Records, 1935-1973. Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Ownership and Custodial History
All items in the collection from the estate of Helen Leale Harper, Jr.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed Cela Peterson, Pratt Institute School of Library and Information Science 12/2009.
Finding aid written Cela Peterson, Pratt Institute School of Library and Information Science 12/2009.
2010-04-07 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Harper & Brothers was one of most prestigious American printing houses of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The original company, named J&J Harper, was established in 1817 in offices on Dover Street in New York by the two eldest of the four Harper brothers, James and John. The brothers were the sons of an English Methodist schoolmaster and carpenter who settled in Newtown, New York in 1740. Though James and John started the company, other members of the Harper family soon became involved in the business. After being apprentices for several years, the two younger brothers, Joseph Wesley and Fletcher, were included into the firm, which became in 1833 Harper Brothers with offices and printing house at 81 and 82 Cliff Street, New York. James, the eldest of the brothers, was perceived as the nominal head of the company while Fletcher was recognized as the authentic head of the business. James was the initiator of Harper's Magazine while Fletcher controlled the business and was responsible for the Weekly and the Bazaar. In 1844 James was also elected mayor of New York. He was a prominent figure of New York political life and enjoyed an exceptional repute. He died in a carriage accident in 1869.
After the death or retirement of the founders, the sons and grand-sons of the original Harper brothers continued their legacy. The later generations continued the tradition of coordinating the business as a family company under the strict rule of non acceptance of partners unrelated with the family. Until the middle of the twentieth century the company remained under the sole authority of the Harper family descendents. As directly instructed by Fletcher, the youngest of the first four initiators of the firm, all the sons entering the family business had to receive the highest education and after traveling through Europe for the purpose of learning foreign languages they had to enter the composition room. Under the direction of the foreman they had to learn to set a page as any compositor in the office and be able to earn a living in case of any vicissitudes.
In 1896, at the death of the last survivor of the second generation of Harpers, Philip Jacob Arcularius, the firm was under the control of seven cousins, each with separate responsibilities in a distinct department. Philip, born on October 21st 1824 was the son of James, one of the four founders of the company. He married Harriet Meade (Hyde) on June 30th 1846 and had a son James born in 1847. James married Lillie Mercein (Hyde) and had a son James Harper Jr. (1879 -1944) and a daughter Lillie Hyde Harper (1881-1941). James Harper Jr. married Helen Leale and had a son, James Harper (Jamie) born on 4th of July 1919. The present collection reflects mainly the lives of these members of Harper family and of the families related to them.