Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

Archives related to: Robb, James, 1814-1881

titleJames Robb papers, 1846-1871.
locationArchives of American Art
collection titleFourteen letters written to Robb, 1846-1871, from John Gadsby Chapman, Henry Dilworth Gilpin, James H. Hackett, George Peter Alexander Healy, Daniel Huntington, Miner Kilbourne Kellogg, William Kemble, Charles Macalester, Hiram Powers, Robert Walter Weir, and Richard Henry Wilde; a letter written to "My Dear Sir" by Robb, 1848; a handwritten copy of an agreement between Hiram Powers and Robb concerning the exhibiting of Powers' THE GREEK SLAVE, 1848; a page of clippings, undated and 1859, relating to the sale of the Robb collection and to his railroad affiliation.
extent0.2 linear ft. (on partial microfilm reel)
accessContact repository for restrictions and policies.
record source
acquisition informationDonated 1983 by Herbert Gray, a collector of autographed letters. This group of James Robb papers was included in a scrapbook that Mr. Gray purchased, containing letters to and from various historical figures. The remainder of the James Robb items from the scrapbook (ca. 157 letters and receipts pertaining to the purchase and sale of the Robb art collection) were donated to the Historic New Orleans Collection, a major repository of manuscript material on Robb.
updated01/28/2019 15:36:16

titleJames Robb Collection, 1827 - 1964
locationHistoric New Orleans Collection
collection titleJames Robb was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, April 2, 1814. At the age of thirteen, he left home, finding work in the Merchants and Mechanics Bank at Morgantown, Virginia, where at the age of 21, he was appointed cashier. In 1837, Robb moved to New Orleans. During his twenty-one years Robb lived in New Orleans, he established eight banking and commercial institutions in New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and Liverpool, England. In 1841 he established the Bank of James Robb, which was re-organized in 1855 under the free banking laws of Louisiana. In 1842, Robb was elected President of the New Orleans Gaslight and Banking Company, and in 1844, Robb secured permission from the Spanish Government to organize the Spanish Gaslight Company for lighting the city of Havana. Spain's Queen Mother, Maria Christina became Robb's partner in the enterprise.

In 1845 and 1852, Robb was elected alderman and served as council president in the first ward of the second municipality of New Orleans. In 1851, Robb was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, but only served during one session. In 1852, he was elected president of the New Orleans, Jackson and Great Northern Railroad Company; a member of the City Council of New Orleans, and its president. The financial crisis of 1857 forced Robb to liquidate many of his assets, including a large portion of his personal art collection and the Robb mansion which was bought by John Burnside.

James Robb moved from New Orleans to Chicago in 1859, where he was appointed receiver of the St. Louis, Alton and Chicago Railroad Co. The company was re-organized in 1862, and Robb was elected president, which he held until 1864, when he moved to New York. In the latter part 1864, he assumed the presidency of the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad Company, but resigned soon after. In 1865, he accepted the presidency of the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad Company which he resigned the following year. In 1866, Robb returned to New Orleans to organize the Louisiana National Bank, and became the first President. In 1871, Robb retired from business to Hampden Place, near Cincinnati, where he later died in 1881.

The papers in the James Robb Collection include correspondence, financial and legal records, and other materials pertaining to the Robb family; banking institutions such as the Bank of James Robb, James Robb & Co., R. Wilson, Hallett & Co., the Louisiana National Bank, and the banking house of Tallant & Wilde; railroad interests in New Orleans and throughout the South and Mid-West, especially his involvement with the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad, the Selma & Meridian Railroad, and the Chicago & Alton Railroad; the New Orleans and Spanish Gaslight Companies; his activities as a New Orleans city councilman; and as a devoted aficionado of art.

The collection is divided into six series; James Robb Personal Correspondence, Robb Family Papers, Banking, Railroads, the South-Western Iron Co., and the Spanish Gaslight Co. of Havana and the New Orleans Gaslight and Banking Co. Each series is arranged chronologically, and contains correspondence, financial and legal documents, and in some series, miscellaneous items.

This collection of papers contain correspondence from Zachary Taylor as president, which discusses Taylor's policy toward American expansion abroad; letters from Robb's close friend Judah P. Benjamin, while Benjamin served as United States Senator from Louisiana; letters from Leonidas Polk, including a receipt, signed by Polk, for Robb's pew at Trinity Church; letters from John Slidell, written while he served as United States Senator, and filled with political analysis and discussion. Included in the Slidell letters is one of introduction to James Buchanan, a future president of the United States.

There are approximately one hundred and thirty-seven pieces of Robb's own letter copy book correspondence. Other important correspondents include; U.S. Senator John Bell, Archbishop Antoine Blanc, John Minor Botts, Varina Davis, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pierre Soulé, William Charles Macready, Charlotte Cushman, Robert Dale Owen, as well as internationally prominent bankers such as W. W. Corcoran, George W. Riggs, George Peabody, Charles Fisher, John Ward, and Winslow, Lanier & Co. Among the areas of special interest in Robb's extremely rich and varied correspondence are letters concerning his extensive art collection from Hiram Power, Peter Frederick Rothermel, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, Pietro Gualdi, and Maria Cooke, the widow of the artist George Cooke.

In addition to the correspondence, there are financial and legal records of Robb's personal estate and his business interests, especially his banking houses, the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern Railroad Co., the Selma & Meridian Railroad Co., the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company, the South-Western Iron Company, the New Orleans Gaslight and Banking Co., and the Spanish Gaslight Company of Havana.

The Robb papers also include correspondence and personal papers of the other family members, particularly , Robb's son, James Hampden Robb, and his grandson, J. Hampden Robb.
extent3,000 items
formatsCorrespondence Business Papers Personal Papers Financial Records Legal Papers
accessContact repository for restrictions and policies.
record sourcehttp://
finding aidContact repository for item-level finding aid
acquisition informationManuscripts collection number MSS 265
updated11/12/2014 11:29:55

titleBoston Athenaeum records, 1854-1855.
locationArchives of American Art
collection titleLetters regarding the shipment of paintings to and from the Boston Athenaeum. Correspondents, writing almost exclusively to E.A. Crowninshield, Chairman of the Committee of Fine Art, include C.B. Fairbank, Thomas Hatfield, Charles Lanham, Edmund M. Loring, and James Robb. Sent as enclosures with the letters are three shipping receipts for transported paintings and a list of paintings owned by James Robb on loan to the Boston Athenaeum.

One letter is a photocopy, and typescripts are included with four letters

The Boston Athenaeum was founded in 1807. Its present building on Beacon Hill, erected from 1847 to 1849, houses a library and an art collection
extent10 items. reel 3042
formatsCorrespondence Financial Records
accessPatrons must use microfilm copy.
record source
acquisition informationBoston Athenaeum records, 1854-1855. Lent for filming by the Boston Atheneum, Boston, Massachusetts. Filmed by the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art. Original or duplicate materials: Originals were returned to lender after microfilming./ Lent for microfilming 1984 by the Boston Athenaeum.
updated11/12/2014 11:29:55