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George Sykes Letter and Ephemera

Identifier: SC 00005

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of an account of the USS Princeton disaster, handwritten by United States Congressman George Sykes and sent as a letter to his sister. The first-hand account describes the lead-up to the disaster, the explosion itself that killed six people, including the Secretary of State, President John Tyler's enslaved servant, and the father of Tyler's fiancée, and the aftermath and funeral.  Also included are Sykes' official invitation to the event that led to the disastor, and a newspaper clipping giving another witness' account.


  • Creation: 1844 February-March

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Administrative History:

George Sykes was born in Sykesville, New Jersey in 1802 and served as a Democrat from New Jersey in the United States House of Representatives from 1843-1847. Sykes later served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1877-1879 and died in 1880.


0.01 Linear Feet

Acquisition Information:

Mss. Acc. 2014.234 was received by Special Collections in 2014 and was made possible by the Clarice Garrison Quasi Fund.

Related Materials:

Clement M. Butler Papers (Mss. Acc. 1997.38), Tyler Family Papers, Group A-H Additions (Acc. 2013.289).

Processing Information:

Accessioned and minimally described by Tim Eklund, SCRC staff, in February 2015.


Guide to the George Sykes Letter and Ephemera
Finding Aid Authors: Steven Bookman, University Archives Specialist.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository