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(Colgate – Colby Family Letters)
Group of Letters of the Colgate Family, William Colgate and his wife; their son James B. Colgate and his wife Susan Colby; and daughter Mary Colgate, including letters from the allied Colby family, 1826-1852

Group of 31 letters, 92 manuscript pages, in very good clean and legible condition

Collection of family correspondence of the Colgate family, founders of the company known today as Colgate-Palmolive and benefactors of Colgate University, including letters from William Colgate, his wife Mary Gilbert Colgate, their sons James Boorman Colgate and Samuel, and letters to their daughter Mary Colgate, from family and school friends. The collection also includes a letter from James Boorman Colgate to his fiancé and first wife Ellen Hoyt, and letters to his second wife Susan Colby. The letters deal with family matters, including early letters from teachers at Hamilton Academy, the future Colgate University, and notices of the Colgate’s involvement with the school in its early days, fundraising for it, and even a “sewing circle” which made articles of clothing for the students. Letters to Mary Colgate and Susan Colby from their school friends describe life at various early female boarding schools, including Miss Sheldon’s School, in Utica, New York, and Emma Willard’s school in Troy.

      William Colgate (1783-1857) was born in Hollingbourn, England in 1783, emigrated with his family to America in 1795. He worked as a tallow chandler, and in 1806 founded his own firm for the manufacture of soap, which became outstanding. This company is today known as Colgate-Palmolive, one of the largest manufacturers of household and personal products. In 1811 he married Mary Gilbert and had nine children. Colgate was a Baptist and was a generous benefactor of the schools which later became Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.

       James Boorman Colgate (1818-1904) capitalist and philanthropist, born in New York City, son of William Colgate, he married Sarah Ellen Hoyt of Utica, New York in 1844, the couple had one son before her death in 1846. Colgate then married Susan Farnham Colby, of New London, New Hampshire, in 1857, with whom he had two children. Colgate continued his father’s patronage of the academy in Hamilton New York that bore his name, upon the merger of Madison University and Colgate Academy in 1890, the university was renamed Colgate University in honor of the many contributions of the Colgate family, which included at least one, million dollars given by James Colgate. Colgate also gave substantial donations to Colby Academy in New London, New Hampshire, the home of his wife.


     American National Biography, volume 5, pp. 232-233; and 231-232.

     Dictionary of American Biography, volume II, part two, pp., 298-299