Books & Manuscripts
The Rochester Historical Society has several hundred local history books including genealogical material, general histories of Rochester, books written about and by Rochesterians as well as books about local businesses. Our archives contain over 170 lineal feet of primary documents and a large scrapbook collection which includes several from Rochester mayors. All materials are located at our headquarters at 115 South Ave.
Many, but not all, of these holdings have been catalogued as we continue the process of cataloguing the entire collection.
Whether you are seeking specific materials or would like to browse our holdings, please call us at (585) 428-8470 so that we may help you find what you are looking for.
Highlights of the Manuscript Collection
Nathaniel Rochester Papers
The Society’s Nathaniel Rochester Papers collection includes, among other documents, hundreds of letters written by Colonel Rochester on a wide variety of business and personal matters.
Howard L. Osgood Papers
This collection contains extensive correspondence, notebooks, maps, and research accumulated by Osgood, a prominent Rochester attorney who became an early member of the Rochester Historical Society and amassed the most extensive personal archive in the area on early white settlement of Western New York.
Henry J. O’Reilly Papers
The activities and views of this prominent immigrant newspaper publisher and amateur historian are well documented in this extensive collection. Included are correspondence and other documentation related to topics such as the enlargement of the Erie Canal, the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanic’s Institute, antimasonry, and an attempt during the Civil War to form in Rochester the 20th New York Regiment of Colored Volunteers.
20th Regiment of Colored Volunteers Correspondence
Referenced above as part of RHS’s Henry J. O’Reilly collection at the Rochester Public Library Local History Division (585) 428-8370, this box of correspondence concerns the attempt in Rochester to form this regiment of African-American troops during the Civil War. This little known and uncatalogued box contains, among other significant items, a signed letter from black abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet.
Watch Books of Francis Dana, Rochester Night Watch, 1836-1838
The Rochester Night Watch was a precursor to the Rochester Police Department, and the watch books of Captain Dana detail arrests, vagrant expulsions, disturbances, and other public violations in early Rochester. These books offer one of the few documentations of the “underside” of early Rochester. Though owned by RHS, the Watch Books of Francis Dana are housed at the Rochester Public Library, Local History Division (585) 428-8370.
Minute Books of the Rochester Moral Reform Society, 1836-1837
These reform society records are a valuable primary source for studying Rochester’s experience during the period of religious fervor known as the Second Great Awakening. These minute books describe the efforts of a middle-class reform organization to model morally upright behavior and suppress sinful activities. Though owned by RHS, the Minute Books of the Rochester Moral Reform Society are located at the Rochester Public Library, Local History Division (585) 428-8370.