James Gilchrist Swan papers, 1833-1909  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Swan, James G., 1818-1900
Title
James Gilchrist Swan papers
Dates
1833-1909 (inclusive)
Quantity
3.42 cubic feet (13 boxes, 1 vertical file)
Collection Number
1703
Summary
Diaries, letters, writings, and other records of a Washington pioneer, lawyer, historian, and authority on Northwest Indians
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Open to all users.

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

James Gilchrist Swan -- anthropologist, judge, political advisor, artist, schoolteacher, and promoter of Port Townsend (to mention just a few of his occupations) -- was one of the most colorful personalities of Washington State's territorial period (1853-1889). Swan was born in Massachusetts in 1818 and married Mathilda Loning in 1841. He left his wife and two children in 1850, heading to gold rush San Francisco. In 1852 Swan departed for Shoalwater Bay (now called Grays Harbor). He learned the Chinook jargon, and this knowledge led Washington Governor Isaac Stevens to pick Swan as one of several translators for treaty negotiations with the Indians of Western Washington during 1854 and 1855. Swan then returned east and wrote a book, The Northwest Coast; or, Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory. He later worked as Isaac Stevens's personal secretary when Stevens served his first term as the Washington Territory's delegate to the U.S. Congress in 1857 and 1858.

When Congress adjourned, Swan returned to Washington. He spent the next three years shuttling back and forth between Port Townsend and the Makah Indian Reservation at Neah Bay, supporting himself by writing for a variety of newspapers. In 1862 the local U.S. Indian agent appointed Swan the first schoolteacher at the Makah Reservation. Swan supervised construction of the school while convincing Makah parents to send their children there. Believing in acculturation yet still valuing native ways, Swan taught English, farming, and sewing in his school. He was well liked and respected by the Makah. Swan, who was probably the first white person to learn the Makah language, spent his spare time writing an ethnography of the Makah, later published by the Smithsonian Institution. Under criticism for failing to teach Christianity to the Makah, Swan resigned in 1866 and moved to Port Townsend.

Swan was admitted to the bar in 1867 and began practicing admiralty law. The following year he was appointed to the Pilotage Commission of Puget Sound, the agency which examined sea pilots and issued licenses. In 1882 he became a U.S. commissioner (district court judge). He also took the postition of Hawaiian consul to the United States at Port Townsend in 1882. Swan held these jobs for the rest of his life, but he was not particularly fond of them. They paid poorly, and Swan frequently took leaves of absence to go in search of adventure. He worked as a special agent for the Northern Pacific Railway from 1867 to 1871, surveying potential terminuses. (Not surprisingly, he recommended Port Townsend). The Smithsonian Institution hired Swan to collect Indian artifacts for the 1876 world's fair in Philadelphia, the 1884 fair in London, and the 1893 exposition in Chicago. The Smithsonian thus funded Swan's collecting trips to British Columbia and Southeast Alaska in 1875 and 1883. Swan published two articles on the Haida Indians from the notes he took on these trips. An appointment as deputy customs collector for Neah Bay allowed Swan to live at the Makah reservation from 1878 to 1881. The U.S. Fish Commission asked Swan to write a series of reports on the fish and fisheries of the northern Pacific, permitting him to visit Neah Bay intermittently between 1882 and 1891. Swan spent the rest of his life in Port Townsend, dying there in 1900.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of diaries (1859-1898), correspondence, business records, reports, family genealogical material and correspondence, financial records, and historical and cultural writings relating to Swan's experiences as a pioneer in Washington, authority on Pacific Northwest Indians, and Indian artifact collector on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution. Includes papers on his appointment as a teacher at the Makah Indian Reservation in 1862, and his trips to Alaska, Great Britain, and the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia, to procure Haida Indian artifacts for the Smithsonian Institution.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Some restrictions exist on copying, quotation, or publication. Contact the Special Collections division, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation: James Gilchrist Swan Papers. Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, Washington.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Accession No. 1703-001: James G. Swan papers, 1841-1909Return to Top

3 cubic feet

Scope and Content: Accession no. 1703-1 is composed primarily of 63 volumes of Swan's diaries. The diaries run from 1859 to 1898, although Swan occasionally went many weeks without making an entry. This accession also contains typed transcripts of diary volumes #1-10 (January 1859-October 1866) and volume #33 (May-September 1883) prepared by Lucile McDonald in the course of research for her book, Swan Among the Indians. These transcripts are easier to read than Swan's often cramped handwriting.

A much earlier diary, entitled Journal of a Voyage to Liverpool and Notes of a Journey Through Great Britain in 1841, may be found in box 9, folder 7, along with a transcription prepared by Swan scholar Richard Berg in 1987.

In addition to the diaries, the Swan papers contain drafts of his articles on the Makah and Haida, as well as drafts of some of his fisheries reports and newspaper articles. The collection includes an apparently unpublished manuscript written in 1881: "History of the Commencement of the Makah Indian Agency at Neah Bay, Washington Territory." Also present are a sketch and notebook dealing with Haida mythology and art (box 11, folder 1), a handful of Swan's correspondence (1869-1900), financial records of Swan's collecting for the Smithsonian (1875-1876), and business records of the Hawaiian consulate (1884-1889).

Digital Content/Other Formats: Diaries no. 20, Journal of Cruise of U.S. Revenue Steamer Wolcott, and no. 33, Journal of Trip to Queen Charlotte Islands, are available in the division on microfilm as James Swan Accession no. 1925-1.

View selections from this collection in digital format.

Restrictions on Access: Diaries are to be used one volume at a time.

Restrictions on Use: The creator's literary rights have not been transferred to the University of Washington Libraries. Contact the repository for details.

Custodial History: The bulk of this accession was given to University of Washington professor Edmond S. Meany by Hamilton Platt, an executor of Swan's will.

Acquisition Info: Gift of Edmond S. Meany, 1927; Lucile McDonald (6 items), 1971; and Richard Berg (transcript of 1841 journal of visit to England), 1987.

Processing Info: Accession no. 1703-1 was reprocessed in 2000.

Processing Info: Swan's annotated copy of John Mears's Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789, from China to the North West Coast of America, 1790, is available in the division's rare book collections.

Container(s) Description Dates
Personal Papers
Diaries
Box/Folder Accession
1/1 1703-001
#1 Daily Journal
1859
1/2 1703-001
#2 Daily Journal
1859
1/3 1703-001
#3 Daily Journal
1860
1/4 1703-001
#4 Daily Journal
1861
1/5 1703-001
#5 Daily Journal
1861-1862
5/1 1703-001
#6 Daily Journal
1862-1864
1/6 1703-001
#7 Daily Journal
1863
5/2 1703-001
#8 Daily Journal
1864
5/3 1703-001
#9 Daily Journal
1865-1866
6/1 1703-001
#10 Daily Journal, Invoices, Letters and "General Descrition of Country West of Hoods Canal"
1866-1880
6/2 1703-001
Enclosures from Dairy #10
1861, 1880, undated
1/7 1703-001
#11 Daily Journal
1867
1/8 1703-001
#12 Daily Journal
1868
1/9 1703-001
#13 Daily Journal
1869
1/10 1703-001
#14 Daily Journal
1870
1/11 1703-001
#15 Daily Journal
1871
1/12 1703-001
#16 Daily Journal
1872
1/13 1703-001
#17 Daily Journal
1873
1/14 1703-001
#18 Daily Journal
1874
1/15 1703-001
#19 Daily Journal
1875
6/3 1703-001
#20 Account Book [and] Journal of Cruise on U.S. Revenue Steamer Wolcott
1867-1869, 1875
2/1 1703-001
#21 Daily Journal
1876
2/2 1703-001
#22 Daily Journal
1877
4/1 1703-001 1878-1879
2/3 1703-001 1879
7/1 1703-001
#25 Daily Journal
1879
2/4 1703-001
#26 Daily Journal
1879
2/5 1703-001
#27 Daily Journal
1879-1880
2/6 1703-001
#28 Daily Journal
1880
7/2 1703-001
#29 Daily Journal
1880-1881
2/7 1703-001
#30 Daily Journal
1881
2/8 1703-001
#31 Daily Journal
1882
2/9 1703-001
#32 Daily Journal
1883
4/2 1703-001
#33 Journal of Trip to Queen Charlotte Islands
1883
4/3 1703-001
Enclosures from Diary #33
1883
Enclosure from Diary #33
VF:oversize Accession
OSVF 156 1703-001
"Statement of the Sealing Business at Neah Bay"
1880
Box/Folder Accession
2/10 1703-001
#34 Daily Journal
1883-1884
2/11 1703-001
#35 Daily Journal
1884
2/12 1703-001
#36 Daily Journal
1884
2/13 1703-001
#37 Daily Journal
1884
2/14 1703-001
#38 Daily Journal
1885
2/15 1703-001
#39 Daily Journal
1886
2/16 1703-001
#40 Daily Journal
1887
2/17 1703-001
#41 Daily Journal
1887
2/18 1703-001
#43 Daily Journal
1888
3/1 1703-001
#44 Daily Journal
1888
3/2 1703-001
#45 Daily Journal
1888-1889
3/3 1703-001
#46 Daily Journal
1888-1889
3/4 1703-001
#47 Daily Journal
1889
3/5 1703-001
#48 Daily Journal
1889
3/6 1703-001
#49 Weather Data
1889
3/7 1703-001
#50 Daily Journal
1890
3/8 1703-001
#51 Daily Journal
1890
3/9 1703-001
#52 Daily Journal
1890
3/10 1703-001
#53 Daily Journal
1890
3/11 1703-001
#54 Meteorological Record
1890
3/12 1703-001
#55 Daily Journal
1891
3/13 1703-001
#56 Daily Journal
1892
3/14 1703-001
#57 Daily Journal
1892
3/15 1703-001
#58 Daily Journal
1892
3/16 1703-001
#59 Daily Journal
1893
3/17 1703-001
#60 Daily Journal
1894
3/18 1703-001
#61 Daily Journal
1895
3/19 1703-001
#62 Daily Journal
1896
3/20 1703-001
#63 Daily Journal
1897
3/21 1703-001
#64 Daily Journal
1890, 1898
Diary Transcripts
Box/Folder Accession
8/1 1703-001
Table of Contents
undated
8/2-12 1703-001
Transcript of Diaries 1-6, 8-10 (by Lucile McDonald)
1859-1866
9/1 1703-001
Extract from Diary of Cruise to Queen Charlotte Islands, BC. for Smithsonian
1883
Box/Folder Accession
9/2 1703-001
Swan Family Histories
undated
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder Accession
9/3 1703-001
Holden, Luther L.
1901
9/3 1703-001
McKeon, W. J.
1892
9/3 1703-001
Newman, H. W.
1901
9/3 1703-001
Washington World's Fair Commission (Blalock, Nelson G.)
1891
Outgoing Letters to
Box/Folder Accession
9/4 1703-001
Blinn, Marshall
1869
9/4 1703-001
Race, H.
1892
9/4 1703-001
Swift, Emily
1888,1892
9/4 1703-001
Swift, J. H.
1886
9/4 1703-001
Tolmie, William F.
Scope and Content: Transcript.
1879
9/5 1703-001
Swan, Ellen M.
Scope and Content: Transcript and photocopies.
1893-1894, 1897
General Correspondence
Box/Folder Accession
9/6 1703-001
H. Race to Lucile McDonald, Re: Family History
undated
Writings
Box/Folder Accession
9/7 1703-001
"Journal of a Voyage to Liverpool & Notes of a Journey Through Great Britain in 1841," manuscript and transcript by R.W. Berg
1841
9/8 1703-001
"History of the Commencement of the Makah Indian Agency at Neah Bay"
1881
9/9 1703-001
Trepang Fisheries
undated
9/10 1703-001
"The Haidah Indians of Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C."
undated
9/10 1703-001
"Tattoo Marks of the Haidah Indians of Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C."
undated
9/11 1703-001
Index to Haidah Indian Memoirs
undated
9/12 1703-001
"Reminicence of a Pipe"
undated
9/12 1703-001
Miscellaneous Fragments
undated
Reports
Box/Folder Accession
10/1 1703-001
The Eulachon or Candle Fish
undated
Financial Records
Box/Folder Accession
10/2 1703-001
Swan's Collections for 1876 World's Fair
1875-1876
10/3 1703-001
Expense of Propagation of Food Fishes
1882
10/4 1703-001
Rent Book (#42)
1884
10/5 1703-001
Miscellaneous Accounts, Including: U.S. Fish Commission, U.S. National Museum, and New Orleans Centennial Exposition
1869-1887
VF:oversize Accession
OSVF 156 1703-001
Land Certificates
1868,1870
Newspapers
Box/Folder Accession
10/6 1703-001
California Courier
Scope and Content: Photostats.
1850
Box/Folder Accession
11/1 1703-001
Sketch and Notebook
1882-1883
Hawaiian Consul, Port Townsend, Washington
Box/Folder Accession
11/2 1703-001
Business Records
1884-1889
11/3 1703-001
Cash Book
1884-1887
11/4 1703-001
List of Hawaiian books or pamphlets formerly of the James G. Swan Estate
undated
Seavey, James
Incoming Letters Re: Swan Estate
Box/Folder Accession
11/5 1703-001
Swan, Charles F.
1900
11/6 1703-001
Swan, Charles H.
1900-1903, 1909
11/7 1703-001
Swan, Ellen M.
1900, 1902-1903
Box/Folder Accession
11/8 1703-001
Outgoing Letters Re: Swan Estate
1901-1902,1909, undated

Accession No. 1703-003: James G. Swan papers, 1833-1900Return to Top

.42 cubic feet

Scope and Content: Accession no. 1703-3 consists primarily of correspondence between Swan and members of his family. James Gilchrist Swan was young when his father died. Swan's uncles were very involved in his upbringing, and his uncle Caleb Swan assisted James financially throughout his life. Most of the letters they exchanged in the 1840s pertain to business and financial matters. Also in these papers are several letters written by James's mother, Peggy Swan, to Caleb in the 1840s, expressing gratitude for Caleb's financial assistance as well as her concern over James's apparent inability to provide for himself and his family.

By the 1850s James was living on the West Coast, and his letters describe many of his trips around the Northwest. Caleb Swan died in 1874, and some legal documents regarding his estate and James's inheritance are included in the accession. From 1874 until his death in 1900, James wrote letters to his cousin Edward which are full of family news as well as details of his experiences in the Northwest. Those letters from the last years of his life reflect some of his concerns and regrets regarding his choice to live so far from friends and family.

Additional letters are from members of the Swan family and are written to either James, Caleb, or James's brother, Benjamin. The genealogy included in this collection helps to identify correspondents and their relationship to James Swan.

While the bulk of the letters written by James Swan are in fair condition, those written by Caleb are, for the most part, very difficult to read due to deterioration. In some cases, letters from James and Caleb are pasted together. In those cases, the letters have been filed with James Swan's outgoing letters to Caleb. Some of the letters include annotations on the outside by Caleb Swan.

Restrictions on Access: No restrictions on access.

Restrictions on Use: The creator's literary rights have been transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Custodial History: The letters were held by the family in New England until their donation to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Gift of Gillian Moss (great-granddaughter of Edward Swan), 2004.

Processing Info: Processed by Lily Rajan in 2004.

Processing Info: One portrait photograph of James Gilchrist Swan, 1899, was relocated to the James Gilchrist Swan Photograph Collection, photo accession no. 2004-010, in the division in 2004.

Container(s) Description Dates
Personal Papers
Box/Folder Accession
1/1 1703-003
Genealogical Notes
undated
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder Accession
1/2 1703-003
Stevens, Isaac
1858
1/3-4 1703-003
Swan, Caleb
1849-1871
Outgoing Letters to
Box/Folder Accession
1/5-9 1703-003
Swan, Caleb
1841-1866
2/1-6 1703-003
Swan, Caleb
1866-1871
2/7-12 1703-003
Swan, Edward H.
1874-1900
Box/Folder Accession
2/13 1703-003
Power of Attorney
1874
Swan, Benjamin
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder Accession
2/14 1703-003
Swan, Charles
1874
Swan, Caleb
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder Accession
2/15 1703-003
Cushing, William
1863
2/16 1703-003
Hovey, George O.
1850-1851
2/17 1703-003
Swan, Daniel
1833-1860
2/18 1703-003
Swan, Hannah
1849
2/19 1703-003
Swan, Joseph
1867
2/20-22 1703-003
Swan, Peggy
1841-1851
Box/Folder Accession
2/23 1703-003
Outgoing Letters
1841
2/24 1703-003
Financial Records
1842-1871

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Frontier and pioneer life--Washington (State)
  • Haida Indians
  • Indian reservations--Washington (State)
  • Indians of North America--Antiquities
  • Indians of North America--British Columbia
  • Indians of North America--Northwest, Pacific
  • Indians of North America--Washington (State)
  • Lawyers--Washington (State)
  • Makah Indians
  • Pioneers--Washington (State)
  • Teachers--Washington (State)
  • Personal Names :
  • Swan family--Correspondence
  • Swan, Caleb, 1790-1872
  • Swan, James G., 1818-1900--Archives
  • Swan, Peggy, 1790-1863
  • Corporate Names :
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Wolcott (Ship)
  • Geographical Names :
  • Alaska--Description and travel
  • Great Britain--Description and travel
  • Liverpool (England)--Description and travel
  • Makah Indian Reservation (Wash.)
  • Neah Bay (Wash.)
  • Queen Charlotte Islands (B.C.)--Description and travel