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William Howland Robertson papers

Identifier: MSS-1200

Scope and Contents

The William Howland Robertson Collection contains a memoir written by Robertson recounting his experiences as a seaman, merchant, and trader based in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, and later, as the United States Consul to Bremen, Germany, appointed by President Polk. Additionally, the collection contains numerous letters written to Robertson from A. Dudley Mann, his predecessor as United States Consul to Bremen.

The collection also contains letters written by Robinson to his two sons, Touro and Charles, as well as to their tutor, Mrs. Samuel Porter. Also included are Robertson's will; newspaper clippings; a patent held by Robertson for a mattress; photographs of Robertson and his family; a marriage certificate; a memoir of Eli Whitney written by Denison Olmsted, presented to Robertson's son Touro; miscellaneous letters (including letters of introduction to persons in Europe); passports; and other miscellaneous papers; photocopies of correspondence between William P. Fidler, University of Alabama, and Miss Jessie Robertson (William Howland Robertson's granddaughter), and summaries of the memoir and letters prepared by Fidler.

The collection should be of interest to researchers on the capture of Pensacola, Nicholas Biddle and the United States Bank in Philadelphia, the 1848 Revolutions in France, Germany, and Italy, cotton gun-wadding, and the substitution of Indian corn for failed potato crops in Europe and Ireland.


  • 1814 - 1989
  • Majority of material found within 1844 - 1859


Conditions Governing Access


Biographical / Historical

William Howland Robertson was born in Connecticut in 1789. As a young teen he worked on cargo ships and later took charge of his own ship, earning large profits. He worked as a trader in Mobile, Alabama, and in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1845 he was appointed as the United States Consul to Bremen, Germany. The appointment took up little of his time and he spent much of his time in Europe in Paris. Between 1854 and 1856 he established a factory to produce cotton gun-wadding. Robertson had obtained a patent for this process prior to leaving the United States. While in Europe, Robertson travelled widely, demonstrating the benefits of using Indian corn as a replacement for the failed potato crops that had left Europe and Ireland in famine. Robertson passed away on May 28, 1859 in Havana, Cuba.

Information gathered from Robertson's memoir.

A. Dudley Mann was born in 1801 and was the first United States Assistant Secretary of State and a Commissioner for the Confederate States. After a long tenure as a government official in the United States, Mann retired to France, where he passed away in 1889.


2.1 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Memoir, correspondence, and other miscellaneous papers of this seaman, merchant and diplomat from Alabama.


Gift of W. P. Fidler 1989; obtained by Fidler from Miss Jessie Robertson (William Howland Robertson's granddaughter) in 1940.


To provide faster access to our materials, this finding aid was published without formal and final review. Email us at if you find mistakes or have suggestions to make this finding aid more useful for your research.

Processed by

Erin Schmidt, 2011; updated by Martha Bace, 2013



Guide to the William Howland Robertson papers
October 2013
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266