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An Inventory of Papers in Syracuse University Libraries

Organization Records

[*NYCHS Webmaster Note:
In organizing the Osborne papers, the finding aid groups together records of various kinds related to agencies and associations with which members of the family were active. The excerpts below are taken from the guide section that describes the Organization Records. The section concludes the guide's first 40 pages that provide an overview of the collection and of how it is organized. The guide's remaining 82 pages itemize the contents of the collection's 358 boxes of materials and 338 bound volumes. This 14-web page NYCHS excerpts presentation is intended to convey some sense of the collection's broad scope and its richness as a source for historical insight and information. Read this excerpts presentation's Page 1 caption for Syracuse University Library contact numbers.]

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All government, fraternal, social and institutional records, are located within this group. The materials include agendas, constitutions and by-laws, directives, membership lists, memoranda, minutes, reports, printed materials and scrapbooks. The records of prisons and prison societies are filed separately at the end of this group.


All government, fraternal social and institutional records other than prison records are located in this section

As with other organization records, these papers are supplemented by letters in the correspondence section, journals in the writings section, miscellaneous items in the financial records group and photographs located under memorabilia.

The sketch above depicts the Portsmouth Naval Prison that Lt. Comdr. Thomas Mott Osborne ran as warden from 1917 to 1920. It was situated at a naval base and shipyard near Portsmouth, NH, the first of six founded by Congress in 1800. The Treaty of Portsmouth that President Theodore Roosevelt mediated to end the Russian-Japanese War in 1905 was signed at the base.

Sitting on an island on the Maine side of the Piscataqua River that separates Maine and New Hampshire, the shipyard base complex once included the naval prison, but that closed in 1974. The shipyard still remains an active Navy facility that repairs, overhauls and maintains Navy ships, including nuclear-powered submarines.

A current aerial view (below) found on the web site for the Navy base conveys its vastness and complexity. The former prison's structure is still pointed out to tourists taking sight-seeing cruises on the river. It is situated on a section of the island that juts out into the river in such a way that, from some angles at least, make it appear as if on an island of its own. For this reason some called it the Alcatraz of the East.

In June, 1999, the Navy executed a lease of the former Naval Prison at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to Seavey Island LLC, a local company marketing and developing business computer systems. Political leaders hailed the "outleasing" of such unutilized facilities as a way to kept the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's maintenance costs down while preserving its mission . . . and the jobs it generates.

[Image selection & caption by NYCHS webmaster]

New York State records were accumulated by Thomas Mott Osborne and his son, Lithgow. They served in elected and appointed office between 1903 and 1942. Among the papers are records of the state commissions on crime, prisons, and public utilities, the departments of conservation and correction, and the New York National Guard.

There is an extensive file which chronicles municipal government in Auburn, N.Y., where David Munson Osborne, Thomas Mott Osborne and Charles Devens Osborne --father, son and grandson -- were elected to the office of mayor. They include charter revision, police and fire protection, municipal finance, street railways and the water board.

Among the political, social, fraternal, charitable and educational institutions represented are

  • the American - Scandinavian Foundation,
  • the Auburn Beethoven Club,
  • the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies,
  • the George [Junior] Republic, for which there is an extensive file between 1896 and 1932,
  • the League of Nations Non-Partisan Committee,
  • the National Conference of Social Work,
  • the Osborne School,
  • Wells College in central New York,
  • the Women's Educational and Industrial Union of Auburn, and
  • the Yaddo reservation at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The records of Auburn and Sing Sing prisons, and those the Portsmouth Naval Prison constitute the bulk of this section . . . Privately instituted and supported reform societies are also located in this section, among them

  • the Mutual Welfare League,
  • the National Committee on Prisons,
  • the Prison Association of New York, and
  • the Prison Discipline Society.
  • There are several reports prepared by the National Society of Prison Information on conditions in major prisons of the United States between 1920 and 1925.

There is an extensive collection of unmounted photographs . . . As with the assortment of general memorabilia, photographs are mostly of the Auburn branch of the Osborne family. Other subjects include

  • the George Junior Republic,
  • Sing Sing Prison,
  • agricultural machinery,
  • travel in Europe and the Caribbean and
  • German prisoner-of-war camps during War I.
  • There are autographed photos of Lucretia Coffin and Charles Evans Hughes.

Nine albums and one box of glass negatives are located at the end of this section. . . .

The Osborne Family Inventory text ©1971 by Syracuse University Libraries

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