Chauncey M. Depew papers
Collection Scope and Content
This collection consists of fifty boxes of material documenting Chauncey M. Depew's career in public speaking from approximately 1880-1920. It features many published speeches, handwritten and typescript speeches, and notes, in addition to scrapbooks, memorial books, clippings, and photographs that portray Depew as an orator and capture public reaction to his death. In addition, correspondence in this collection includes letters from Mark Twain, Harry Houdini, John D. Rockefeller, William Vanderbilt, and many U.S. Presidents. In all, these materials provide insight into the politics and the communications techniques of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
While the collection does contain a few letters from the Vanderbilts and some speeches about railroads and legislation, there are no records from Depew's tenure with the New York Central Railroad or from his terms in political office.
- Creation: 1856-1934
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Historical or Biographical Note
Chauncey Mitchell Depew (1834-1928) was a railroad executive and U.S. Senator from New York and the namesake of the Chauncey M. Depew Professor of Communication at The George Washington University.
Depew was born in 1834 in Peekskill, New York. He attended Yale College, graduating in 1856 with high honors and was admitted to the bar. Depew first gained fame as an orator while campaigning for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. He then served in the New York State Assembly in 1862-63 as a Republican, and was elected Secretary of State in 1863, a position he held until 1865.
Depew became counsel for the New York Central Railroad in 1875, and later served as its vice president (1883) and president (1885). He resigned as president in 1898, at which time he became chairman of the board of directors of the Vanderbilt system of railroads.
In 1898, Depew was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican from New York and was reelected in 1905, serving until 1911. He was again nominated by the State legislature in 1912, but was defeated.
In 1871, Depew married Elise Ann Hegeman. They had one son, Chauncey Mitchell Depew, born 1879. Elise died in 1893 and Depew married May Palmer in 1901. They had no children.
Chauncey M. Depew died in 1928 in New York City.
After the death of her husband, May Palmer Depew donated $120,000 in 1929 to The George Washington University to establish a department of public speaking in her husband’s memory. This is now the Department of Organizational and Sciences and Communication in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. The Chauncey M. Depew Chair of Public Speaking was dedicated in January 1930; Professor Willard Hayes Yeager was the first appointed to that position. The endowed chair is now known as the Chauncey M. Depew Professor of Communication.
25 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
Collection consists of fifty boxes of material documenting Chauncey M. Depew's career in public speaking from approximately 1880-1920. It features many published speeches, handwritten and typescript speeches, and notes, in addition to scrapbooks, memorial books, clippings, and photographs that portray Depew as an orator.
Organized into nine series: Correspondence, Speeches and Articles, Scrapbooks, Memorial Books, Newspapers and Clippings, Photographs, Genealogical and Biographical Publications, Awards and Certificates, and Memorabilia.
Chauncey M. Depew's widow May Palmer Depew donated this collection to The George Washington University in 1929.
Reparative Description Projects
This finding aid was revised in March 2023 to address harmful descriptive language. During that revision, staff edited the Scope and the Collection Abstract, Scope and Contents Note, and the Biographical/Historical Note, as well as the Scope and Contents note of Series 1 . To see the description prior to revisions, please view the previous version of the Chauncey M. Depew papers .
- Guide to the Chauncey M. Depew papers, 1856-1934
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English