Guide to the John Humphrey Small Papers, 1720-1946, bulk 1850-1870, 1912-1937


Lawyer and U.S. Representative from North Carolina. Correspondence, legal documents, and other papers (chiefly 1850-1870 and 1912-1937) of John Humphrey Small; of his father-in-law, Col. Rufus W. Wharton, lawyer and planter; and of Col. David M. Carter, lawyer, planter, businessman, and court official, of Fairfield, N.C. Small's papers form the bulk of the collection and concern his North Carolina agricultural interests, his legal practice, his activities in Congress, river and harbor improvements, the Intracoastal Waterway, patronage, Southern financial conditions, U.S. and North Carolina politics, World War I labor problems, and the 1929 Depression. The papers before 1850 are mainly deeds, family papers, and legal documents. Wharton's and Carter's papers relate largely to the legal profession and to their agricultural interests.

Collection Details

Collection Number
John Humphrey Small papers
1720-1946, bulk 1850-1870, 1912-1937
Small, John H. (John Humphrey), 1858-1946
13 Linear Feet, 9,721 Items
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Material in English

Collection Overview

Papers of John Humphrey Small (1858-1946), attorney, planter, and U.S. congressman, 1899-1921; of his father-in-law, Colonel Rufus W. Wharton (1827-1910?) attorney and planter; and of Colonel David M. Carter (d. 1879), attorney, planter, businessman, and court official of Fairfield, North Carolina. Arranged in the following series: Correspondence, Financial Papers, Legal Papers, Miscellaneous Papers, Printed Material, and Volumes.

The papers centering around Rufus W. Wharton and David M. Carter, principally legal and financial papers, include deeds and indentures; wills; inventories; estate and settlement papers; note collections; papers relating to the sale of corn by commission merchants; stock transactions; charter of the Dismal Swamp Canal Company, 1787; papers relating to the Albemarle Swamp Land Company, 1879, the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Company, 1881, and swamp land transactions for Carter heirs, 1879-1890; papers dealing with the administration of the estate of David M. Carter by Rufus W. Wharton, and after Wharton's death, by John Humphrey Small; correspondence concerning lumbering and farming in North Carolina during the 1890s; and personal correspondence, including letters from Frances (Carter) Schaeffer from Germany, Austria, and North Carolina.

The bulk of the papers focuses on the career of John Humphrey Small in the United States Congress, his interest in the development of rivers and harbors and the Intra-Coastal Waterway, his membership on the National Rivers and Harbors Congress, and his legal practice. Papers relating to his congressional campaign in 1898 concern North Carolina politics, especially in the 1st Congressional District, civil service abuses, the Light House Service, and the vote of Populists, Republicans, Quakers, and Negroes.

Correspondence during his years in Congress discusses plans for a white grade school in Washington, North Carolina, 1903-1904; conditions of large scale farming at Edgewater, North Carolina, including descriptions of seeds, fertilizer, prices, machinery, crop conditions, and marketing, 1903-1912; problems of railroads, especially the Norfolk and Southern Railroad; the presidential campaign of 1916; coastal highway development; various rivers and harbors bills; the Inlet Waterway project; transportation via an inland waterway; the National Rivers and Harbors Congress; railroad and water transportation in relation to national defense during World War I; land acquisition and construction plans for the Intra-Coastal Waterway from Norfolk, Virginia, to Beaufort, North Carolina; problems of labor, including the movement for the eight hour day; labor shortages in eastern North Carolina during World War I; prohibition; woman suffrage; the National Guard; military service and the draft; coal shortages during the war; army camp sites; home guards; rising prices; excess profits tax; the Red Cross; various agricultural bills, national and North Carolina politics; a Congressional trip of inspection to the Far East in 1920, including Japan, Korea, and the Philippines; the Railroad Act of 1920; and routine matters such as patronage, post office appointments, appointments to West Point and Annapolis, and pensions for Spanish-American War veterans.

Correspondence after Small's retirement from Congress concerns the postwar economic depression; immigration legislation in the 1920s; the membership of the State Geological Board; the vice-presidency of the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association; business conditions during the early 1920s and during the depression; condition of eastern North Carolina banks, 1920-1922 and 1932; Small's service as president of the National Rivers and Harbors Congress, 1920-1922; the promotion of the port of Wilmington, North Carolina, by the state; Democratic politics; the presidential campaign of 1932; the National Recovery Act; railroads in 1935; the development of airmail service; conditions during World War II; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Other correspondence pertains to the opening and building of his law practice in Washington, D.C.; his partnership with Angus W. McLean, governor of North Carolina, 1925-1929; and specific legal cases. Miscellaneous papers consist of the minutes of the Tri-State Aviation Corporation, photographs, invitations, and Small's speech on the inland waterway.

Legal papers include the papers relating to various estates, including David M. Carter, Charles Adams, and others; papers concerning income tax; papers dealing with the development of Washington Park, North Carolina; papers pertaining to specific cases; incorporation papers of the Tri-State Aviation Company and All-American Aviation, Inc.; deeds, indentures and wills; and papers of the legal practices of David M. Carter and Rufus W. Wharton.

Financial papers include bills and receipts, 1830-1940, consisting of household accounts, clothing bills, promissory notes, tax receipts, court costs, estate inventories, medical bills for family and slaves, and records of slave sales; material on Confederate taxation; papers, 1870s, of a Baltimore, Maryland, cotton factor; records, 1880s, of corn sales; tobacco warehouse receipts, 1890s, from Greenville, North Carolina; business papers dealing with Jonathan Havens, Jr., commission merchant in corn and grain in Washington, North Carolina, and founder of the Havens (cottonseed) Oil Company and receivership papers of the St. Paul (North Carolina) Cotton Mills, 1939-1941.

Among the printed materials are clippings on the Depression, 1930-1934; personal items; biographical material on Senator Joseph E. Ransdell of Louisiana and on Rear Admiral Colby N. Chester; copies of the Greenville (North Carolina) Daily Reflector, December 27, 1913, and the Red Triangle, Paris, April 5, 1919; seed catalogues; reprints of the House of Representatives reports and bills on immigration, 1921, and airways, 1937; broadsides of the 1920 election; plan of organization of the Democratic Party in Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1896; the "Declaration of Principles" of the National Rivers and Harbors Congress, 1916, and its officers for 1916-1917; and a bond pamphlet for the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal Company, 1879.

The volume is the Individual Voting Record by Roll Calls in the House of Representatives for John H. Small during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd sessions of the 66th Congress, 1919-1921.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], John Humphrey Small Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Contents of the Collection

Box 1
Box 2
1907-1916 Aug.
Box 3
1916 Sept.-1917 Apr.
Box 4
1917 May-Aug.
Box 5
1917 Sept.-1918
Box 6
1919-1921 Aug.
Box 7
1921 Sept.-1922 June
Box 8
1922 July-1923 Mar.
Box 9
1923 Apr.-Dec.
Box 10
1924 Jan.-Sept.
Box 11
1924 Oct.-1929
Box 12
Box 13
Box 14
Box 15
Box 16
Box 17
Box 18
Bills and Receipts
Box 19
Box 20
Box 21
Box 22
Box 23
Misc. papers
Box 24
Printed Material
Box 24
Box 24
Box 24

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The John Humphrey Small Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library from 1949-1954.

Processing Information

Processed by Rubenstein Library staff

Encoded by Ted Holt and Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, August 2008

Accessions 48-564, 48-1904, and 66-130 are described in this finding aid.