John Bigelow (Nov. 25, 1817-Dec. 19, 1911) was an American author, diplomat, lawyer, and distinguished man of letters. His work in politics and diplomacy involved him in many significant historical events, such as discouraging France from building ships for the Confederacy during the Civil War, assisting with the construction of the Panama Canal, and helping to expose the political corruption of Tammany Hall’s William “Boss” Tweed in New York City. His collection contains correspondence from an extensive list of political, literary, and social leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Found in Union College’s Schaffer Library, Bigelow’s correspondence (about 24,000 letters), his library (approximately 6,000 books ranging from the 16th-20th centuries), and professional papers offer a wide array of materials from the Reconstruction Era, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era. Despite his remarkable contributions and impact on 19th century world history, Bigelow remains relatively unknown in popular historical narratives.
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