Guide to the Scovill-Beecher Letters, 1816-1864


William H. Scovill (1796-1854) of Waterbury, Connecticut, businessman and founder of the Scovill Manufacturing Company; and Rebecca Beecher (1800-1876), of Kent, Connecticut. The collection includes twenty-nine letters, chiefly the courting letters of William H. Scovill and Rebecca Beecher during a long period of geographic separation and secret engagement from 1817 to 1820. Materials in the collection range in date from 1816 to 1864.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Scovill-Beecher Letters
1816-1864 bulk 1817-1820
Scovill, William H.
0.2 Linear Feet, 29 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

The collection includes twenty-nine letters, chiefly the courting letters of William H. Scovill and Rebecca Beecher during a long period of geographic separation and secret engagement from 1817 to 1820. Also included are four letters to Rebecca from acquaintances including William's sisters, Caroline and Sarah; one letter from William to his brother, James; and one unrelated letter written in 1864? to a Miss Fannie R. Sissons. The letters between William and Rebecca are roughly balanced in number, at first alternating between the two until March of 1818. Thereafter, only Rebecca's letters to William are included in the collection until June of 1819, and only William's letters to Rebecca are included from August, 1819, until August, 1820, although it is clear they each continued to receive replies from the other.

William and Rebecca wrote to each other about their letter writing; their own social life, activities, and plans; and the activities and temperament of mutual acquaintances. Whereas William writes openly of his love for Rebecca and his hope of becoming worthy to be her public suitor, Rebecca's letters are more circumspect, although encouraging in her professed pleasure at receiving his letters and concern for his well-being as he deals with homesickness and loneliness. In November of 1818, Rebecca writes of reports she received concerning William's behavior in Pennsylvania. She claims not to believe the rumors, but cautions him that it is important to associate with reputable people. Although in August of 1820, William is still clearly hopeful in his letter and addresses her as "My Dear Rebecca," the next and last related letter in the collection is from Sarah and Caroline Scovill to Rebecca, congratulating her profusely on her marriage to Mr. Foote.

More Biographical / Historical Info


Materials are arranged chronologically.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Scovill-Beecher Letters, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Contents of the Collection

Letters, 1816-1817
Box 1
Letters, 1818
Box 1
Letters, 1819
Box 1
Letters, 1820, 1864
Box 1

Historical Note

William H. Scovill (1796-1854) was born in Waterbury, Connecticut. At seventeen he began working as a clerk, first in New Haven, then in Waterbury. In 1817, he relocated to Berwick, Pennsylvania, in an attempt to gain some measure of financial success, but abandoned this venture in 1819 to travel to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, where he hoped to enter into business with his uncle. In 1820, disappointing news about the business resulted in his return to Waterbury for a short time before establishing a successful business in Turner's Crossroads, Halifax County, North Carolina. Scovill returned to Waterbury in 1827 and bought a half interest in the firm of Leavenworth, Hayden and Scovill. Together with his older brother, James Mitchell Lamson Scovill, he established the firm of J.M.L. and W.H. Scovill which consolidated with other branches of the company in 1850 to become the Scovill Manufacturing Company, a leading supplier of fasteners.

Scovill married twice, in 1827 to Eunice Ruth Davies (d. 1839) and in 1841 to Rebecca Smith. He had two surviving daughters with his first wife and one surviving son with his second wife.

Source consulted: Anderson, Joseph, and Anna L. Ward, eds., The Town and City of Waterbury, Connecticut, from the Aboriginal Period to the Year Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Five, Volume II (New Haven: The Price & Lee Company, 1896), 278-82.

Rebecca Beecher (1800-1876) resided in Kent, Connecticut, until 1817 when she relocated to New Haven to board with Mr. and Mrs. David Hoadley. In 1820, she married Jared Foote (1800-1873). They settled in North Haven, had six children, and later moved to a farm in Hamden, Connecticut, where they remained until their deaths.

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The Scovill-Beecher Letters were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2003.

Processing Information

Processed by Danielle Moore, June 2010

Encoded by Danielle Moore, June 2010

Accession 2003-0235 is described in this finding aid.