Elias Lewis, Jr. letters, 1853-1894

Call Number: 2013.002

Extent: 0.5 linear feet, in 1 manuscript box

The Elias Lewis, Jr. letters consists of 83 letters written by Elias Lewis, Jr. and his family, dating from 1853-1893. It also includes a note on the collection by Lewis’s ancestor, Stephen Valentine IV. The letters primarily document his travels, which included Washington DC, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, upstate New York, and Bermuda. Many letters were also sent from his home in Brooklyn. Of note are Lewis’s observations on the American south and slavery before and after the Civil War. Other topics include religion (Lewis was a Quaker), science, and the natural environment. Although most letters were written by Elias Lewis, Jr., the collection includes letters written by other members of his family, including his wife, Mary Underhill Lewis, his daughter, Annie Lewis Valentine, and his granddaughters, Florence Valentine and Anna Kirk Valentine. Recipients of the letters include the Lewis and Underhill families, as well as other Long Island Quakers, such as Phebe W. Titus, Hannah W. Hicks, and Stephen R. Hicks.

Elias Lewis, Jr. (1820-1894) was born in the Long Island town of Westbury, the only child of Elias and Ann Marston Lewis. He relocated to Brooklyn in 1853, where he worked in business and finance. He married Mary Underhill, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Whitson Underhill of Westbury in 1853. They had one daughter, Annie. Annie married Stephen Valentine (1853-1946) and had six children (Mary, Anna, Elias, Florence, Elise, and Stephen, Jr.) Elias was a member of the Long Island Quaker community. By the 1880s he resided at 111 St. Marks Ave. in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Elias served in several capacities at the Long Island Historical Society (now the Brooklyn Historical Society), including as secretary, museum curator, and as a member of the board of directors. Lewis was also an amateur geologist and photographer. Between 1872 and 1877 he published numerous articles in Popular Scientist Monthly, including “The Longetivity of Trees,” “Ups and Downs of the Long Island Coast,” and “The Formation of Sand Dunes.” His subjects as an amateur photographer followed his geological studies and included images of trees, boulders, rock formations, sea cliffs, and beaches. He also photographed houses, mills, lighthouses, churches, and railroad stations. His photographs were primarily taken on Long Island.


  • Brooklyn Historical Society (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.).
  • Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874
  • Hicks, Hannah Winston, 1825-1916
  • Hicks, Stephen R., 1823-1892
  • Lewis family
  • Long Island Historical Society.
  • Titus, Phebe W., 1804-1885
  • Underhill, Sarah W.
  • Underhill family
  • Valentine, Virginia Mayer


  • Alexandria (Va.)
  • Bermuda Islands
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Charleston (S.C.)
  • Florida
  • Jacksonville (Fla.)
  • Lake George (N.Y.)
  • Long Island (N.Y.)
  • New Hampshire
  • New York (State)
  • Pennsylvania
  • Saint Augustine (Fla.)
  • Savannah (Ga.)
  • Virginia
  • Washington (D.C.)


  • Natural environment
  • Nature
  • Quakers — New York (State) — Kings County
  • Quakers — New York (State) — Long Island
  • Slavery
  • Travel
  • Voyages and travels

Types of Materials:

  • Correspondence

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