Syford Family [RG0797.AM]


RG0797.AM:  Syford Family

Correspondence, financial records, 1856-1965
Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska
Size:  23.5 cu.ft.; 47 boxes + oversize


This collection consists of the papers of DeWitt N. Syford and Amanda (Bean) Syford, and their children, Ethel Corinne Syford, Lester Corwin Syford, and Constance Miriam Syford.  DeWitt N. Syford, a native of York County, Pennsylvania, was born in January 1847.  He learned telegraphy at an early age, and in 1863 he joined the Pennsylvania Emergency Service as a lineman.  At the close of the war he continued as a telegrapher in Illinois, and worked briefly in 1867 with Thomas A. Edison.  In 1873 Syford left Illinois to join the Union Pacific Railroad at Omaha, working as a telegraph operator and train dispatcher throughout Nebraska for the next few years. In 1879 he journeyed to Chicago, where he married Amanda O. Bean, the daughter of a pioneer Illinois manufacturer of farm equipment.  He brought his twenty-seven year old wife back to Nebraska, settling in Lincoln.  In about 1890 he abandoned his former occupation and took up farming and cattle raising.  He broke sod north of Lincoln, and stocked grazing land with what may have been the first Aberdeen-Angus cattle in Lancaster County.  D. N. Syford was co-organizer and first secretary of the Nebraska Aberdeen-Angus Association.  He retired in 1924 due to failing health, and died in 1926, followed four years later by his wife Amanda.

The couple’s first child, Ethel Corine Syford, was born on the farm in 1881.  Shortly thereafter the family moved into Lincoln, where she was raised.  She graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1903 with the BA degree, and in 1906 she graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Music.  Ethel Syford was a talented pianist, and became known as an accompanist and concert soloist as a child.  She was awarded a music fellowship at Wellesley, and for a time taught piano in New York City.  She also exhibited literary talents, and worked as music critic for the Boston Herald in 1908, and as associate editor of the “New England Magazine” from 1910-1918.  Many of her poems and articles were published and received critical acclaim.  In 1918 she became a member of the “Industrial News Survey.” She left this position in 1922, and traveled about until 1928 as a valued speaker for the Republican Party and its candidates in several states.  Her support of the candidacy and presidency of Calvin Coolidge won her an appointment as an economic research expert with the U.S. Tariff Commission, and she served with that body from 1928 until 1945.  In 1946 Ethel Syford retired from her career and returned permanently to Lincoln where she kept house for her brother, Lester.  Miss Syford died at Lincoln, 1955, and was buried in the Catholic faith.

Lester Corwin Syford was born in 1886.  He received the BA from the University of Nebraska in 1907, and the LL. B in 1910.  Mr. Syford was admitted to the Nebraska bar, and practiced for about five years before joining his father in the cattle business.  He was unsuccessful in a bid as a Progressive Party candidate to the state legislature in 1914.  Lester Syford became a prominent figure in the cattle business, maintaining the enterprises begun by his father.  He remained in the business until illness forced him to retire in December 1951, and he died a bachelor in early 1952.

Constance Miriam Syford was born in Lincoln in 1887.  In 1909 she received her BA from the University of Nebraska, where she had been a charter member of the Nebraska chapter of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority and a member of the Mortar Board women’s honorary society.  In 1911 she received her MA in literature, after which she spent two years in graduate school at Bryn Mawr College.  Over the next several years she taught at Kansas State Agricultural College, Illinois Wesleyan University, and the University of Nebraska (1923-1928), Albright College, and James Milliken College.  In 1929 she went to Yale University as a graduate student, and there received her Doctoral honors in 1932.  Constance Syford traveled in Europe in 1924, 1928, and 1932, where she did research on her thesis and studies Italian and French.  She spent most of her remaining years at New Haven, Connecticut, from which place she managed the remainder of the family estate after the death of her sister Ethel.  Miss Syford died there in May, 1965.


The Syford family collection consists of forty-seven manuscript boxes of material arranged in eight series:  1) Correspondence, 1856-1965;  2) Business and financial records, 1880-1962;  3) Diaries and journals, 1870-1963;  4) Genealogy and biography;  5) Printed matter; 6) Manuscripts;  7) Organizations;  8) Miscellany.

The bulk of this material relates to the business and personal affairs of the Syford family.  The business papers relate to farming and to the raising of purebred Aberdeen-Angus steers.  There are farm accounts, notations of agricultural expenses, land credits, tax receipts and other associated documents.  Correspondence relates to DeWitt N. and Amanda Syford and their children, Ethel, Lester and Constance.  The son became engaged in the family cattle business after obtaining a law degree, while the sisters were noted for literary talents.  Ethel was a pianist of some note who also was associated editor of the “New England Magazine” and then from 1928 to 1945 did research work for the U.S. Tariff Commission.  Constance wrote a great many articles for various publications and also taught in several colleges before managing the family estate.

The correspondence in Series 1 includes mainly the letters of Constance and Ethel Syford, written between 1904 and 1965.  These letters relate news of their work, their studies and of Constance Syford’s European travels.  Correspondents include:  American Aberdeen-Angus Breeders Association, 1916, 1921, 1925, 1937-1939, 1960, 1961; E. Benjamin Andrews, 1909; Edwin H. Barbour, 1911; J. H. Bean, 1883, 1889, 1890, 1892-1897; Mattie Bean, 1871-1877, 1893-1896; Roman Becker, 1926-1929; Burkett, Wilson, Brown and Van Kirk, 1933-1937; Edgar Albert Burnett, 1929, 1936; Charles D. Christoph, 1917-1922; John M. Cotton, 1922; Marina Ewald, 1913-1916; Farmer’s Club of Lincoln, 1947-1951; First National Bank of Lincoln, 1940; First Trust Co., 1932-1942, 1946, 1947, 1952, 1954-1959; C. J. Frandfurter, 1909; Phineas W. Hitchcock, 1877; George Ward Holdrege, 1924-1926; Mamie Meredith, 1926; John H. Moore, 1926; Sterling F. Mutz, 1912; Louise Pound, 1910-1913, 1916, 1917, 1920, 1921, 1925, 1928, 1930, 1933, 1936, 1950 and undated; A. J. Sawyer, 1921; O. F. Schlaebitz, 1932, 1935, 1936, 1939, 1940, 1952-1962; Eleanor Sheldon, 1911, 1915; Lucius S. Sherman, 1908, 1911, 1913, 1914, 1920, 1926-1928; Amanda (Bean) Syford, 1912-1914, 1929; DeWitt N. Syford, 1913-1926, 1930; Emily Syford, 1856, 1865; Ethel Corinne Syford, 1908, 1911-1928, 1931-1935; Lester Corwin Syford, 1897, 1903, 1904, 1908-1916, 1920-1923, 1929-1932, 1937, 1939-1941, 1948, 1949, 1951; United States Department of Agriculture, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1941-1948; H. B. Ware, 1888, 1901.

The business and financial records of Series 2 are rather sketchy and incomplete.  Much of this series consists of scribbled notes and work sheets, and relates primarily to routing farm expenses.

The diaries and journals of Series 3 do not give as complete and personal a picture of life and events as does the correspondence.  Constance Syford’s diaries give extended accounts of her European travels.

The genealogical and biographical material in Series 4 consists mainly of notes on the Syford, Leitner, Beck and Bean families, as well as related families.  Most of the biographical material are incomplete sketches written by Constance Syford.

The printed matter of Series 5 consists mainly of programs of entertainment (opera, concerts) and ceremonies (University of Nebraska exercises).  Also of interest are the political pamphlets and the folder of newspaper clippings concerning members of the family.

Most of the manuscripts in Series 6 are notes, poems, and short stories of Constance Syford.

The material in Series 7 consists of miscellaneous rosters and convention materials of organizations to which the family’s members belonged.

Miscellany in Series 8 consists mainly of memorabilia of travels in Europe.


Subject headings:

Aberdeen-Angus Breeders Association
Beck family
Cattle industry and trade
Hitchcock, Phineas Warren, 1831-1881
Lancaster County (Nebraska) — History
Leitner family
Lincoln (Nebraska) — Businesses
Pound, Louise, 1872-1958
Progressive Party
Syford, Amanda O. (Bean)
Syford, Constance Miriam, 1887-1965
Syford, DeWitt N., 1847-1926
Syford, Ethel Corinne, 1880-1955
Syford, Lester Corwin, 1885-1952
Syford family
United States — History — Civil War, 1861-1865 — Personal narratives

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