Archive of Commodore John Shaw Acquired by the Huntington Library: Documents That Found Homes

Last year, The Raab Collection acquired a remarkable, previously unknown collection consisting of unpublished journals, correspondence, historical documents, and original photographs that had been handed down through the family of John Shaw (1773-1823), a U.S. naval officer who commanded half a dozen warships between 1799 and 1823. 

Of immense historical importance and research value, the collection was purchased by the Huntington Library en bloc.  

“This collection—a rich archive of a remarkable naval family—is an extraordinary find,” said Olga Tsapina, Norris Foundation Curator of American History at the Huntington Library. 

The manuscripts track the Shaw-Gregory family from Shaw’s journey down the Mississippi River in 1810, to the acquisition of West Florida by the U.S., to the South Atlantic on a slave ship, to Russia during the era of the Great Revolutions of the 19th century, to the prairies and reservations of the Sioux Indians. In addition to several manuscript accounts of his journeys, the vast collection includes correspondence from Africa Squadron Commander and future Admiral Francis Hoyt Gregory (Shaw’s son-in-law) and documents signed by Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln. 

In a blog post celebrating the acquisition, Tsapina added, “This exceptional, little-known collection is a fitting addition to The Huntington’s renowned holdings of primary source material describing the naval, political, military, social, and intellectual history of the early republic and antebellum America.”

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