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McLane-Fisher family papers

Identifier: MS 2403


This collection consists of correspondence, financial papers, and legal papers from members of the McLane family of Delaware and Baltimore, and the Fisher family of Baltimore. The collection is primarily McLane family materials.


  • circa 1800-1905


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This collection is open for research use.

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Biographical Note

This biographical sketch does not attempt to portray in detail the lives of all the McLanes and Fishers in this collection. The great majority of the collection deals with Louis McLane and his wife Catherine, Louis McLane, Jr. and his wife Sophie, and D.K. Este Fisher. Brief biographical information is given on these people. Data on others members of the McLane and Fisher families can be found by looking at the genealogical chart and by reading other sections of this register.

In this collection, the story of the McLane family begins with Allan and Rebecca Wells McLane. Allan was born on August 8, 1746, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and married Rebecca Wells, daughter of James Wells of Dover, Delaware, on January 1, 1771. They settled at Smyrna, Duck Creek Cross Roads, Delaware, and moved to Wilmington around 1792. Allan rose to the rank of colonel in the Continental Army and was an original member of the Society of Cincinnati. There are no papers of either Allan or Rebecca in this collection.

Allan and Rebecca had fourteen children yet by some stroke of fate only three, Elizabeth, Louis, and Allan, lived to adulthood. Louis McLane was born in Smyrna, Delaware on May 28, 1784. When twelve years of age he was appointed midshipman in the navy and served there until 1801 when he entered into the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 1807. The War of 1812 interrupted his law practice and he volunteered in a company commanded by Caesar H. Rodney, and marched to the relief of Baltimore. 1812 was also the year he married Catherine Milligan.

McLane was a U.S. Congressman from Delaware from 1817-1827, and was chosen by the legislature as a Senator in 1827. His political career after serving in the Congress consisted of different appointments: in 1829 he was appointed by President Jackson Minister to England where he remained for two years, and in 1831 he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury; in 1833 he was appointed Secretary of State. The year 1834 saw McLane retire from politics. In 1837 he was chosen President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. During the Polk administration McLane accepted the mission to England while the Oregon negotiations were pending. He returned from England in 1850 and spent the remainder of his years in Baltimore. He died in 1857.

Louis and Catherine McLane had thirteen children and the bulk of this collection focuses around these children, especially Louis Jr. and his wife Sophie.

Louis McLane, Jr. was born January 20, 1819, in Wilmington, Delaware. Following the path of his father he joined the navy and was appointed as a midshipman in 1835. McLane served on several different ships and sailed over a widespread area which included the East Indies, the Mediterranean, Florida (where in cooperation with the Army he attempted to quench Indian uprisings), the Pacific, and the West Coast including California, Mexico, Central and South America. In 1847 he was Commander of Artillery of the California Battalion under the command of John C. Fremont, and was appointed by Fremont as one of the commissioners to sign the Articles of Capitualtion between the United States and Mexican forces in California. He resigned from the Navy on January 20, 1850 after attaining the rank of Lieutenant.

While in California, McLane became intrigued with steamship travel so with the help of Samuel Hoffman, his father-in-law, he had two steamships built which plied California waters. In 1855 McLane became an agent for the Wells Fargo Express Company and also for the Pioneer Stage Company, and he eventually became President of Wells Fargo and of the Nevada Bank of San Francisco. Around 1880 McLane returned to Baltimore and was chosen President of the Mercantile Trust Company. He died in 1905.

The Fisher family is represented in this collection by papers of D.K. Este Fisher who married Sally Milligan McLane in 1890. D.K. Este Fisher was born on February 16, 1860, the son of Louise Este and William Alexander Fisher. He graduated from Princeton University in 1833 and attended law school at the University of Maryland graduating in 1885. In 1887 he became a partner in the firm of Fisher, Bruce & Fisher of which his father was senior partner.


6.3 Linear Feet (15 boxes)

Language of Materials



Allan McLane Incoming Correspondence, circa 1805-1807, 1822 1829; 15 items

Letters from his brother Louis while Allan was at Princeton and Louis was studying law in Wilmington, Delaware. Louis advises his brother to set his aspirations high and to make an effort to study and pursue his schoolwork diligently. Louis also endeavors to instill a sense of pride in his brother about his spelling and word usage. The letters contain some mention of Allan and Rebecca McLane, parents of Louis and Allan, and especially their mother's illness. Also letters from Catherine M. McLane, sister-in-law discussing family members and life in Washington, D.C. Mentions Calhoun, Adams, Rush, Jackson, and Livingston. One letter from Lydia Milligan Sims, 1829.

Catherine Milligan McLane Incoming Correspondence, circa 1820-1835; 7 folders

Letters from her husband Louis while he was a congressman from the state of Delaware. The letters give an interesting and informative view of life, or as McLane prefers it "imprisonment" in Washington, D.C. as a politician. There is much discussion about the issue of internal improvements, specifically Cumberland Road Legislation 1828, and he also mentions the debate over Missouri slavery and the tariff question. The letters are also important for their bias editorial commentary on the Washington scene. McLane talks about the dullness of Congress, the dishonesty of politicians, and of the variety and intensity of Washington social life. Mentionned in the letters are political figures such as John Randolph, John Adams, Van Renssalear, Crawford, Pinckney, Everett, and Andrew Jackson. McLane also wishes he could be with his family and gives his wife instructions for keeping the farm "Bohemia" in Cecil County, Maryland in top running order.

This section also contains letters from Lydia Cantwell Milligan Sims, sister of Catherine, discussing family business, notices of marriages, news of friends, dinners, weather, and travel. One letter mentions the death of Stephen Decatur.

Louis McLane Incoming Correspondence, circa 1823-1846; 10 folders

Bulk of this section consists of letters from McLane's wife Catherine. The letters were written to her husband while he served his terms as congressman and senator in Washington, D.C. Topics most often discussed include news of family members, visits of and to friends, illness, and weather, with some mention of the political scene.

Includes letters of introduction to Louis McLane while he was in London, 1845-1846. Letters from John Quincy Adams, Edward Everett, Reverdy Johnson, and Lewis Cass.

Two letters from Washington Irving 1832, 1834, as Secretary of Legation in London. One discusses the rejection of the Van Buren nomination and aspects of American politics; the other focuses on assistance for Irving's nephew Theodore and for a translator at the Legation at Madrid, George Washington Montgomery.

Also contains one letter from Louis McLane to Martin Van Buren, 1829 April 15, accepting the position as Minister to England; one from Van Buren discussing politics and the influence of newspapers on politics; and a biographical sketch of Louis McLane by Catherine M. McLane, a granddaughter.

Louis McLane, Jr. Incoming Correspondence, circa 1835-1902; 1/2 box

Louis McLane, Jr. was appointed a midshipman in the navy in 1835 and letters to him start around that date. Letters from his mother Catherine date from 1839-1846 and contain information about family life at Bohemia, including news about his brother, sisters, and father. Majority of the letters are written from Bohemia and Baltimore, some from London.

This section also contains letters from his father Louis, 1835-1857, giving him advice on travelling, and asking him to request leave and visit Bohemia. Also includes news about the family much the same as what appears in the letters of Catherine McLane. Letters from Bohemia, Baltimore, and London. Between 1853 and 1857 many of the letters deal with McLane's California interests; and a Sept. 3, 1853 letter notes the death of Catherine Mary McLane, Louis' sister.

Sophie Hoffman McLane and Louis McLane, Jr. were married in June of 1849. Shortly thereafter he left for San Francisco and a career as a financier which was to take him away from his family many times during the next thirty years. Letters from Sophie begin in [January] of 1850 and go steadily through 1853. After that the letters come in bunches around 1860 and 1868. The letters express loneliness and sadness over Louis' stay in California, and also talk of Bohemia and the family. Letters written from Bohemia, Baltimore, and Mt. Savage, Maryland.

Other correspondents in this section include Sally McLane, 1835-1850; Allan McLane 1835-1850; Juliette McLane 1850; Charles E. McLane 1850; James L. McLane 1850; Robert McLane 1850; Elizabeth Curzon Hoffman 1850; Samuel Hoffman 1850-1852 re: California and steamship "Sophie"; Kate McLane 1880; William T. Sherman and [S.] Hicklenlooper, 1869-1872 concerning the McPherson monument; Gardiner Greene Howland of the banking, brokerage, and trading firm of Howland & Aspinwall, New York, 1848 (McLane wanted command of a government mail steamer because of his professional experience in the navy and felt that Howland & Aspinwall could promote his wishes); Joseph E. Johnston 1860, husband of McLane's sister Lydia; Reverdy Johnson 1860; Thomas G. Corbin; A.J. Ralston of San Francisco 1902; and letters concerning McLane's membership in the Society of the Cincinnati, 1901.

Louis McLane, Jr. Naval Papers, 1835-1852; 1/2 box

Louis McLane, Jr.'s naval career began in 1835 upon his appointment as a midshipman, and continued to 1850 when he resigned his commission as a lieutenant. The papers in this section include orders to McLane to report to different ships in various port cities such as New York, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston; notices of leave, receipts; and some correspondence discussing details of occurrences on voyages, especially California, including letters from J.C. Fremont, 1846. Also contains McLane's letter of resignation to the Secretary of the Navy on January 20, 1850, and the acceptance of that resignation by Wm. Preston Ballard on January 21, 1850; and journal kept by Louis McLane, Jr., 1838-1840, while on board U.S.S. Ohio.

Correspondents include Mahlon Dickerson, C.K. Stribling, J. Paulding, Isaac Hull, George E. Badger, Abell Parker Upshur, A. Thomas Smith, William Meredith, Wm. Ballard Preston, and John Young Mason, James Biddle.

Sophie Hoffman McLane Incoming Correspondence, circa 1846-1904; approx. 2 boxes

Over half of the letters in this section are from Louis McLane, Jr. The letters begin in Sept. of 1849, 3 months after Sophie and Louis were married, and continue through 1893. The letters written in 1850 are sent from steamers at sea while McLane was en route to California. The letters discuss Panama and other Central American areas and give a good account of the whole voyage in general. McLane also expresses some of the doubt and anxiety he had in beginning a career so far away from friends and family. Makes mention of the gold rush and gold seekers, and cities, villages and geographical features of California such as Sierra Nevada, Walker River, Sacramento Valley, San Diego, San Francisco, Monterey, Placerville, Folsom, Virginia City, and Carson City. Good description of San Francisco in 1850; some mention of scheme to build steamer; great wealth of information on the steamer trade in California 1850-1860; talk from time to time about Sophie and Louis' separation and the effect it is having on their lives. The letters from 1856-1859 are shorter and are of a more routine nature.

Around 1855 McLane became associated with Wells Fargo & Co. After this date some of the letters deal with his work with the company. Letters from London 1860; from New York, Denver 1865; from Salt Lake City, 1865, in which McLane gives good description of Brigham Young; some letters from Washington 1868, re: bids for overland mail service; reflections on retirement and moving to Baltimore 1868; mentions work done on his new home in Baltimore designed by Niernsee and Nielson, 1868, and at the same time makes some disparaging comments about Baltimore; letters describing overland trips to California circa 1869, 1870, from Chicago, Omaha, Cheyenne, Laramie, and Salt Lake; some introspective letters concerning his life and career in San Francisco.

This section also contains a large number of letters from Louis McLane III who moved to California around 1880. The letters date from 1883-1804 and discuss McLane's life on the Lomita ranch circa 1883-1886, and then in San Francisco; mention of his marriage in 1887 to Lizzie Evaline Blanchard; complaints and thoughts on his job with Wells Fargo; and some mention of U.S. politics 1898, the Spanish War 1898, and the gold rush to the Klondike in 1898. All the letters thank his mother Sophie for the monthly allowance check.

Other letters in the incoming section are from Sophie's son Charles E. McLane 1899, 1903; daughter Kate McLane 1866-1867 written mostly while she was on cross country trips with her father; and letters dating from 1847-1905 the majority of which are from friends including Ellen Blight, Ellen Palmer, Sallie Blight, Mary B. Van Renssalear, Alice Griffith, Susan Ella Watkins, Sarah G. Hoffman, Rebecca F. Clarke, and Emily McLane Merryman.

Sophie McLane Outgoing Correspondence, 1857-1859; 4 folders

All of these letters are written to Elizabeth Curzon Hoffman, Sophie McLane's mother. The letters are written from San Francisco and discuss family matters with much talk about the children.

Sophie McLane Diaries, 1852, 1874

One written in Baltimore in 1852; the other was kept while on a European trip.

Robert Milligan McLane Incoming Correspondence, 1823, 1829, 1836; 3 folders

Includes letters mostly from his parents while he was in school.

Kate McLane Incoming and Outgoing Correspondence

Incoming, circa 1895-1910: from friends and relatives; one letter from William T. Sherman, 1875.

Outgoing, circa 1859-1875: all to relatives

Lydia McLane Johnston Incoming Correspondence, circa 1845-1869; 7 folders

On July 10, 1845, Lydia McLane, sister of Louis McLane, Jr., married Joseph E. Johnston. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Johnston served in the Black Hawk War of 1832, the Seminole War in 1837, and the Mexican War in 1846. In 1861 he resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army and was soon appointed brigadier general. He fought at Manassas, Seven Pines, Vicksburg, and North Carolina. The bulk of the letters in this section are from Joseph Johnston, and span the years 1861-1869. The earlier ones, 1861-1865, discuss the Civil War, troop movements, locations where he was stationed, and mention Hood, Longstreet, Beauregard, and Louis Wigfall. Many of the later letters, 1866-1869, are from Georgia where Johnston worked as President of the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad Company.

Other letters date from 1845-1860, and are from family members.

Rebecca McLane Incoming Correspondence, circa 1838-1869; 4 folders

Most of the letters are from her brother Louis McLane, Jr. while he was in the navy. The letters discuss voyages at sea and especially the Florida Keys and Indian exploits, 1842. Also contains letters of Rebecca after she married Philip Hamilton in 1842 including a very interesting letter written to Rebecca Hamilton by George A. Custer, August 29, 1869, giving an account of the circumstances surrounding the death of Louis McLane Hamilton while in pursuit of Indians with Custer in 1868.

Sally McLane Tiffany Incoming Correspondence, circa 1836-1850

Sally McLane married Henry Tiffany in 1840. Most of the letters are from brothers Robert, Allan, and Louis, and from her mother Catherine and concern news about the family and Bohemia.

Samuel Hoffman McLane Incoming Correspondence, 1873-1874; 4 folders

Samuel Hoffman McLane, another son of Louis and Sophie, was born in 1861 and died in 1890. The letters in this section are from his parents, brothers and sisters, and friends while he was in school in Croydon, England. Letters mention news of the family and also concern different places in Europe including Dresden, Rome, Venice, Milan, Paris, and Naples.

Sophie McLane Incoming Correspondence, circa 1875; 1 folder

Sophie McLane, daughter of Louis and Sophie was born in 1852. These letters are from her parents in San Francisco.

Hoffman Family Papers, circa 1850-1900

Includes incoming letters of Emily Hoffman circa 1865 from Louis and Sophie McLane; Dora Hoffman incoming letters 1874, from Louis, Kate, Sopie, and Elizabeth McLane; incoming letters of Elizabeth Curzon Hoffman from Emily and Sophie circa 1850-1860 concerning the family and San Francisco; incoming letters of Richard Curzon Hoffman 1880-1900; and Samuel Hoffman incoming letters circa 1850-1851 from a variety of correspondents including Louis McLane, Philip Hamilton, W.Q. Morton, and William W. Vanderbilt-- these letters contain much information about the steamship business in California and especially on the building and operation of the steamship "Sophie." Also contains some Hoffman genealogy.

Milligan Papers, circa 1782-1820; 2 folders

Correspondence, part of a diary; Catherine Milligan, Robert Milligan, John J. Milligan incoming correspondence circa 1807-1820.

Louis McLane, Jr. Financial Papers, circa 1868-1905; 1/2 box

Includes tax receipts, 1868-1900s for Baltimore, and Maryland; balance sheets, 1869-1901; expense accounts, 1848-1853; papers regarding the building of the McLane house on the N.E. corner of Charles and Chase Sts., 1868-1870 with estimates of cost of materials and labor and statements on material used in construction; estate papers circa 1880, 1890, 1905; wills and codicils; deed of trust; inventory of personal goods of Louis McLane, Jr.; First Administration Account; information on Catherine McLane, Sophie H. McLane, Elizabeth Curzon McLane, Emily McLane Merryman.

Bohemia Farm Account Book and Journal, 1924-1936

Hoffman Business and Legal Papers, circa 1880

Steamer "Sophie" Papers, circa 1850; 2 folders

The steamer "Sophie" was built circa 1850 by Louis McLane; Jr., Samuel Hoffman, and William W. Vanderbilt. The papers in this section include contracts, receipts, bills, insurance policies, and legal documents.

Louis McLane, Jr. Financial Papers in California, circa 1855-1890; 6 folders

Papers re: estate of Ebenezer Knight; tax receipts; agreement between Louis McLane, Jr. and Wells Fargo & Co., 1855; balance sheets with Nevada Bank of California.

Charles E. McLane Papers, 1855-1880; 1 box

Charles E. McLane, brother of Louis McLane, Jr., travelled to and settled in California circa 1850. He had extensive mining interests and most of these papers relate to legal and business aspects of mining in California. Legal papers consist of bonds, agreements of consolidation, and notices of sale. Financial papers consist of balance sheets, reports of companies, stock certificates, tax statements, cancelled checks, and an account book. There are some mineral certificates in oversize.

Place names mentioned include Placerville, Indian Diggings, Brownsville, Eldorado, and Cedarville. People mentioned include Thomas Fraser, W.J. Henson, H.J. Page, H.H. Tholen, S.S. Ford, and Francis G. Burke.

D.K. Este Papers, circa 1800-1850

D.K. Este of Cincinnati, Ohio was the great grandfather of the donor of this collection, D.K. Este Fisher. He was a lawyer practicing in Cincinnati and his correspondence consists mainly of legal matters with some mention of both Ohio and national politics. Also contains legal documents and writings.

D.K. Este Fisher Outgoing Correspondence, circa 1875-1900; 1 box

D.K. Este Fisher was born in 1860. He received his early education at the George Carey School of Baltimore, Episcopal High School of Alexandria, and St. Paul's School, Concord, N.H. He graduated from Princeton in 1883. The letters in this section begin about 1875 while Fisher was a student at St. Paul's, go through his years at Episcopal High School and at Princeton. All the letters are to his parents noting courses, schedule, and family news, and tracing his growth and maturity. After 1883 most of the letters deal with travels to Europe and trips with Sally Mclane Fisher. Also contains "Footprints on the Sands of Time" by Louise Este Fisher Bruce.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Estate of D. K. Este Fisher, Jr. in 1978.

Related Materials

MS 1315, Hoffman papers, 1823-1888

Scope and Contents

The McLane-Fisher Family Papers are a collection of correspondence, financial papers, and legal papers from members of the McLane family of Delaware and Baltimore, and the Fisher family of Baltimore.

Almost all of the collection consists of papers of McLane family members including Louis and his wife Catherine; his brother Allan; Louis McLane, Jr. and his wife Sophie; the brothers and sisters of Louis McLane, Jr. inlcuding Rebecca Wells, Robert Milligan, Sally Jones, Lydia Sims, Juliette, and Charles Eugene; and the children of Louis McLane, Jr.--Catherine Milligan, Sophie Hoffman, Elizabeth Curzon, Samuel Hoffman, and Emily Hoffman. The bulk of the material consists of incoming correspondence of Catherine and Louis McLane, circa 1820-1857; incoming correspondence of Sophie and Louis McLane, Jr., 1835-1905, including financial and legal papers; and papers of Charles E. McLane, 1855-1882 while in California. The remainder of the McLane material is made up of correspondence from the other above mentioned members of the McLane family.

Most of the correspondence deals with family and personal matters, however much of Louis McLane's correspondence concerns his political career as a congressman, senator and Minister to England. Louis McLane, Jr.'s papers portray his life in the navy and in California; and the papers of Charles E,. McLane deal exclusively with his legal and financial enterprises in California.

A much smaller section of the collection houses the Fisher papers. This section consists of papers of D.K. Este, circa 1800-1850, including correspondence, legal papers, and writings; and papers of his grandson D.K. Este Fisher, 1875-1911, most of which consists of correspondence while in school at St. Paul's in New Hampshire, and at Princeton University.


Guide to the McLane-Fisher family papers
Under Revision
Drew Gruenburg
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Revision Statements

  • 2020-02-08: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Sandra Glascock

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States