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William Livermore papers

Identifier: MSS 0157

Scope and Contents

The William Livermore Papers give a comprehensive account of the career of a U.S. Army engineer in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The ca. 1200 items (1.4 linear ft.) span the dates 1814-1919 and are arranged in two series: Military and Personal papers. The papers relating to Livermore's military career consist of correspondence supplemented by other military papers, including orders, tactical notes, sketches, charts, maps, reports, essays and other writings, and biographical material. Personal papers in the collection consist of correspondence, mostly with family members, income tax records and receipts, invitations and programs, and other memorabilia, including manuscripts, notebooks, and clippings.

Military Correspondence consists primarily of incoming correspondence directed to Livermore from his military colleagues, West Point classmates, and representatives of various government branches such as Congress, the War Department, the U.S. Army, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Adjutant General, and the Headquarters Department of the East and Governor's Island. Correspondence concerns general military business, notably matters relating to his work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; personnel matters; plans for a war college; Livermore's application for promotion to Brigadier General of Volunteers; and his participation in a proposal to purchase a memorial window in the West Point Cathedral. Also present is correspondence regarding membership from clubs such as the National Geographic Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Other correspondence concerns Livermore's professional interests such as weaponry, military history, and chemistry, and his writings and lectures. Occasional personal correspondence (including some outgoing letters) is also present.

The Orders subseries contains official military orders relating to Livermore's stations and transfers to and from various locales including Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Lake Superior; Key West, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; and Newport, Rhode Island. The Tactics subseries includes memoranda and documents relating to the positioning of soldiers, weapons, and ships for battle. Also present is a pamphlet entitled "A Survey of German Tactics, 1918" printed by the U.S. War Department. Sketches, Charts, and Maps includes those used during Livermore's survey of Western Texas and his involvement in military maneuvers.

The final three subseries in the Military series provide a more personal overview of Livermore's military career with reports, resume information, and speeches and essays written by Livermore. The subseries Reports contains Livermore's official reports written for the army on a variety of topics including experiments conducted on cement, the armament of the Cabañas in Cuba, and the changing technologies of warfare. Also included is a report Livermore wrote for Carly G. Rapt on his experiences surveying Western Texas during the period 1879-1885. Photographs and Biographical Material includes photos of Livermore during his military career which are attached to copies of his resume. Livermore appears to have gathered this material together for his application for promotion to Brigadier General. The Miscellaneous subseries includes information proposing the start of an Army War College, instructions on property purchases and vouchers, instructions for chiefs of shore parties, memoranda, notes on seacoast fortifications and maneuvers, and drafts of essays. Also included are several speeches Livermore presented to his fellow West Point Graduates and to the Massachusetts Military Historical Society.

The Personal Papers Series is divided into five subseries. The first subseries, Correspondence, includes incoming letters to Livermore from his wife Augusta Keen Livermore during the years 1884-1909, and from his brothers, father, mother and other relatives between 1853 and 1919. Also included are letters from Livermore to various relatives and one folder of miscellaneous drafts of letters from Livermore.

The next three subseries in the Personal Papers provide household financial and social information. Income Tax Records contains information pertaining to Livermore's income tax payments as well as copies of tax forms, 1914-1917. Included in Invitations and Programs are calling cards, postcards, and invitations from various military acquaintances and clubs for social gatherings, dances, and other activities. Also present are programs from The Century Twelfth Night Celebration and Daly's Fifth Avenue Theatre. The Receipts subseries contains a small group of receipts from publishers, social clubs, post office, hospitals, the War Department, and Western Union Telegraph company.

The final Personal Papers subseries, Miscellaneous, contains legal papers, minutes from the American Chemical Society, manuscripts of essays and speeches by Livermore on various topics including liberal arts and history, the campaigns of Napoleon, and poetry. It also includes newspaper articles, a pamphlet, notes on atomic weights, studies on human speech, material relating to Livermore's invention and patent of a bell ringer and various weaponry, two notebooks containing Livermore's notes and copies of letters, and a copy of a published biography of Livermore.


  • Creation: 1814-1919


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S.Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

William Roscoe Livermore (1843-1919) was born in Massachussetts, and educated at Harvard and West Point during the years of the Civil War. He graduated in 1865 and joined the Army Corps of Engineers. In 1870 he was promoted to captain; in 1884, to major; and in 1904, to colonel. He worked on a variety of projects for the Corps of Engineers between 1865 and 1899, some of them in association with the Naval War College. Significant projects included fortifications of Key West and the Tortugas (Florida) and work on the first cable from the United States to Havana; fortifications and river, harbor, and lighthouse improvements in the Northeast and in Missouri; and surveying in the Great Lakes area and Texas. He maintained a lifelong interest in surveying and mapping, and helped develop and adapt large-scale military surveying and the German method of "studying the Art of War upon a map" for use by the U.S. Army. He also published a manual of tactics, Maneuvers for Infantry, in 1884. In 1899 he was sent to Europe as Military Attaché to the embassies at Copenhagen and Stockholm, and travelled to Germany and Russia to witness army maneuvers.

Livermore's diverse interests in science, technology, and history were expressed in invention and publication in several areas. While working to improve fog-signaling systems, he invented an improved bell-striking device which was patented in 1899. His interest in firearms led him to develop, with Colonel A. H. Russell, magazine and automatic weapons and the method of loading by clips. Together they patented a magazine gun in 1879 and a cartridge packing case in 1883. Livermore was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the section of chemistry and published a paper on the mathematical relations of atomic weights in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (Vol. XII, No. 9). He completed a history of the Civil War begun by a colleague (John C. Ropes) at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and had been working on a historical atlas of Europe before his death in a New York hospital in 1919.

Biographical information is derived from items in the collection.


1.4 linear foot (approximately 1200 items)


The William Livermore papers give a comprehensive account of the career of a U.S. Army engineer in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Moyerman family, 1970

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-6: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

Processing Information

Processed by Kim Sebold, 1989-1990. Encoded by Caitlin Farthing and Jaime Margalotti, 2017.

Finding aid for William Livermore papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2017 June 28
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA