James B. Clay family diary and copybook

Abstract

The James B. Clay family diary and copybook (dated 1849-1881; 0.23 cubic feet; 1 box) comprises a diary documenting the journey of James B. Clay to Portugal in 1849 and a copybook kept by his son Thomas H. Clay and others.

Descriptive Summary

Title
James B. Clay family diary and copybook
Extent
0.23 Cubic Feet
Subjects
Ocean travel
Political poetry, English
Arrangement
Collection is arranged chronologically.
Finding Aid Author
Katerina Banks
Preferred Citation
1997ms190: [identification of item] James B. Clay family diary and copybook, 1849-1881, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
James Brown Clay (1817-1864) was born in Washington, D.C. during his father Henry Clay's tenure as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In his young adulthood, he studied at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, then went on to practice law in the same city. After serving as the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires to Portugal in 1849-1850, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat, a change from his lifelong devotion to the Whig Party. He participated in the Peace Conference of 1861, held in Washington, D.C., that sought to avert the coming American Civil War. Clay supported the Confederacy, but tuberculosis prevented him from participating in the fighting. He died in Montréal, Québec, where he had gone in hope of improving his health. He and his wife Susan M. Clay had ten children together.
The fourth son and fifth child of James B. Clay (see above), Thomas Jacob Clay (1853-1939) was born in Lexington, Kentucky, after his family returned there following a few years of farming in Missouri. During his adulthood he served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and participated in the Geronimo Campaign. He later moved to New York, New York, where he lived until his death.
Named after her paternal grandmother and the Clay family matriarch, Lucretia Hart Clay (1851-1923) was the elder sister of Thomas Jacob Clay and first daughter of James B. Clay. She was an author of novels and family biographies.
Scope and Content
The James B. Clay family diary and copybook (dated 1849-1881; 0.23 cubic feet; 1 box) comprises a diary documenting the journey of James B. Clay to Portugal in 1849 and a copybook kept by his son Thomas J. Clay and others. The diary principally documents the travels of James B. Clay and his family through the northeastern U.S. and Canada on their way to Portugal, where James B. Clay would serve as U.S. Chargé d'Affaires as appointed by Secretary of State J. M. Clayton. James B. Clay's diplomatic interactions with European royalty and travels around southern Europe are also described. This account continues on the reverse side of the diary and is followed by an 1881 account, presumably written by Harry Independence Clay, of the Howgate expedition to northern Greenland. It describes hunting and sailing around the Carey Islands. The handwriting is different from that of earlier entries and the author of this entry is unknown. The diary was later owned by James B. Clay's daughter Lucretia Hart Clay, who received it from her mother Susan M. Clay in 1879.
The copybook belonging to Thomas J. Clay initially functioned as such, with a selection of Civil War-related poetry written from a Confederate perspective. Entries by James B. Clay in 1862 mention his acquaintance with the statesman Daniel Webster and discussions with family members concerning the estate of his father Henry Clay. Further entries by unknown authors address the spread of cholera in the early 19th century, the legality of prostitution, and the 1709 Russian victory over Sweden in the Battle of Poltava, including two sketches of the latter. Additional lists of chemical compounds, textbooks, and works of American and British literature appear in the final pages. Several of Thomas J. Clay's rural-themed graphite sketches, one of which is dated 1866, are also found loosely between the pages of the copybook. The dating for many of the entries is unclear. The copybook should be handled carefully to avoid further cracking of the spine, which has separated from the back cover completely.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Access Collection is open to researchers by appointment
Use Restrictions
The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.

Contents of the Collection

James B. Clay and others diary, 1849-1881

  • Box 1, folder 1
To top

Thomas J. Clay copybook, undated

  • Box 1, folder 2
To top

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UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is open by appointment only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Materials must be requested at least 5 days before your appointment.

Researchers must have an SCRC Researcher Account to request materials. View account set-up and use instructions here.

Questions? Contact SCRC via our Contact Form.

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You may come across language in UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center collections and online resources that you find harmful or offensive. SCRC collects materials from different cultures and time periods to preserve and make available the historical record. These materials document the time period when they were created and the view of their creator. As a result, some may demonstrate racist and offensive views that do not reflect the values of UK Libraries.

If you find description with problematic language that you think SCRC should review, please contact us at SCRC@uky.edu.