The Tredwell Books Collection holds 314 volumes, collected over the course of the family’s almost 100 year residency in the house. Half have Tredwell inscriptions, and most were published in New York City during the early-to-mid 19th century, a period known as the “emerging mass culture of print.” The collection comprises many genres, including schoolbooks, religion, biography, poetry, and fiction.

School Books

With eight children in the Tredwell household, it is not surprising that schoolbooks in the collection number 48, more than any other genre. Many of these books, covering foreign languages, mathematics, geography, and other subjects, are inscribed with multiple names, as they were passed from one child to the next, or decorated with the scribbled doodles of a bored pupil.

Mitchell’s School Geography: A System of Modern Geography, by S. Augustus Mitchell (1843)
MHM 2005.6146
Inscription: “Gertrude Tredwell”
Interior images courtesy New York Public Library.

French Word and Phrase Book: Or, First Step to the French Language, by Abbe Bossut
MHM 2005.6074
Inscription: “Gertrude Tredwell,” doodle (pictured at right) with caption: “this is a man”


Religious Books

As might be expected in the 19th century, religion is also one of the largest subjects covered with more than 35 books in the family’s collection: particularly, those related to the Episcopal Church, with 10 copies of The Book of Common Prayer; 9 copies of the Bible; catechisms for Sunday schools (Phebe and Gertrude Tredwell were both instructors); hymnals; and religious poetry.

The Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the Lives of the Apostles and Evangelists, by Rev. J. Fleetwood (1844)
MHM 2005.6133
Inscription: “To My Mother / Christmas 1848 / Mary”



The 19th century was an era of patriotic celebrations and remembrances. Biographies and other literature that paid tribute to America’s Founding Fathers were common, and were usually issued around the time of important anniversaries, such as the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1826.

Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, vol. I-IX, by John Sanderson (1823)
MHM 2005.6008.1-.9
Inscription: “Seabury Tredwell,” “E. E. Tredwell”
Interior image courtesy Columbia University.


Poetry and Fiction

Over 40 books in the Tredwell collection contain poetry or fiction. Gift books, like the one below, were (as the name implies) intended to be given as gifts, and usually contained an assortment of poems, short stories, and essays. They were usually quite beautiful, with gilt edges, decorative covers, and elaborate illustrations.

The Brilliant: A Gift Book for 1850, ed. by T.S. Arthur (1850)
MHM 2005.6035
Inscription: “P.E. Tredwell from her sister E. Dec. 25, 1850.”
Interior images courtesy Harvard University.


..Our Stuff, Ourselves: An Intimate Look at the Tredwells’ Private Lives..




..Letter Writing..


..Personal Hygiene..

..Dressmaking & Sewing..

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