John Bigelow (1817-1911) was an American author, editor and diplomat. His papers consist of correspondence, diaries, writings, and other papers relating to his career as editor of the New York Evening Post, as inspector of prisons in New York State, as United States Consul and Chargé d'Affaires at Paris, France, as Minister to the Court of Napoleon III, as United States Commissioner to the Brussels International Exhibition (1888), and as friend and advisor to Philippe Bunau-Varilla on the selection of the Panama route and the construction of the Panama Canal. Includes correspondence and documents relating to prison reform in New York State, the construction in France and England of warships for the Confederate Navy, the movement of Confederate ships in European waters, Confederate activities in Europe, the establishment at the Académie française of the Botta Prize, and the fitness of John C. Frémont for the Republican presidential candidacy in 1856. Also, manuscripts and typescripts of Bigelow's writings on various subjects, and correspondence with William Cullen Bryant, John Hay, William H. Huntington, Samuel J. Tilden, and other notable persons.
Biographical/historical: John Bigelow was a newspaper editor, Civil War-era diplomat, and author. When not in Europe, he lived in New York City near Gramercy Park or at his home, "The Squirrels," at Buttermilk Falls (now Highland Falls), New York. After a period of studying law, teaching, and writing for the newspapers, Bigelow was appointed an inspector at Sing Sing State Prison in 1845 with the help of then New York State Assemblyman Samuel J. Tilden. Bigelow left Sing Sing in 1848 to become co-owner and co-editor, with William Cullen Bryant, of the New York Evening Post.
From 1861-1864 Bigelow served as President Lincoln's consul to Paris where his efforts were aimed at influencing the French in favor of the Union cause. In 1865 he was made chargé d'affaires to France, remaining there until 1867.
After a two month period as editor of the New York Times in 1869, Bigelow returned to Europe, living in Germany from 1879 to 1873. In 1875, back in the United States, he was appointed by Tilden, now governor of New York, to be chairman of the Erie Canal Investigating Commission. The Commission was formed to investigate the activities of the "Canal Ring," a group of state officials and contractors who were diverting money meant for the maintenance of the Erie Canal. That same year, 1875, Bigelow, now a member of the Democratic Party, was elected New York Secretary of State.
After the 1870s, Bigelow spend most of his time writing and editing. His remaining public responsibilities included his role as an executor of the Tilden Trust and in the founding of The New York Public Library.
Acquisition: Gift of Grace Bigelow, 1924; Grace Bigelow Cook; Rendell and Gilman's.