Catlett Family Papers, 1850-1933 (bulk 1901-1929)

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Summary Information

Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University
Catlett Family
Catlett Family Papers
Collection No.:
SC 0276
1850-1933 (bulk 1901-1929)
2 boxes, .66 Cubic Feet
Language of the Material:
The Catlett Family Papers, 1850-1933 (bulk 1901-1929), consists of two boxes containing the correspondence, personal financial records, and ephemera of the Catlett Family of Staunton, Virginia.

Preferred Citation

[identification of item], [box #, folder #], Catlett Family Papers, 1850-1933 (bulk 1901-1929), SC 0276, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

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Bio/Historical Note

Richard Henry Catlett, born April 19, 1828 near Warren County, Virginia, served with the Confederate Army during the Civil War working as an aide, an acting assistant adjutant general, and as head of reserve organization. After the war, he moved to Staunton, Virginia and established a law firm in 1865 with two war acquaintances to help develop the economy of West Virginia and Virginia. He died in March 1898.

He had his first two children, Charles (1866-1945) and Richard Henry (1868-1940), with Mary Mercer Patton (1838-1871). After her death, he married Fannie Bolling Gay (1847-1938) and had four daughters: Margaret Erskine (1878-1958), Fanny Gay (1879-1838), Amy Pendleton (1883-1972), and Elizabeth Gay (1884-1948). The family remained active in the daily affairs of Staunton, and the children traveled extensively over the course of the early twentieth century. Most notably, Amy Pendleton and Elizabeth Gay Catlett travelled in France while Charles Catlett (a geologist and chemist) and Fannie Bolling Gay Catlett remained prominent figures in the Staunton community, contributing to the naming of areas such as Woodrow Wilson Park, and donating to local businesses.

The Catlett Family Papers, 1850-1933 (bulk 1901-1929), consists of two boxes containing the personal correspondence, financial records, and personal materials of the Catlett Family of Staunton, Virginia. The materials in this collection provide a small glimpse into early twentieth century life through the eyes of the Catlett family. The collection is divided into two series: Correspondence and Personal Papers and Ephemera. Topics of conversation in the correspondence can range from education to travel to day-to-day activity, while financial records comprise of receipts and checks usually directed to or filled out by Fannie Bolling Gay (noted as Mrs. R.H. Catlett). Ephemera include personal affects held by unspecified family members and business-related materials of the time period.

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The collection is divided into two series: Correspondence and Personal Papers and Ephemera.

Series 1: Correspondence, 1901-1929

Series 2: Personal Papers and Ephemera, 1850-1933

All series are arranged chronologically.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collections Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Acquisition Information

This collection was acquired through the Large Antiques and Firearms Estate auction held by Green Valley Auctions on January 16, 2018.

Appraisal Note

Numerous voided checks were originally part of the collection. A representative sample of these checks were retained and are filed in the collection with Paid Checks and Statements. The remainder have been discarded due to their duplicative nature. A December 6, 1926 issue of The Evening Leader was also discarded due to its condition and duplication elsewhere.

Processing Information

The collection was received in no particular order other than general groupings of correspondence and financial files. The archivist imposed an order on any unordered documents, created discrete series, and filed accordingly.


Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

880 Madison DriveMSC 1704Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807library-special@jmu.eduURL:

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Index Terms

Genre and Form

  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Printed Ephemera
  • Receipts (financial records)
  • Financial Records
  • Appointment books


  • Catlett family
  • Business records -- Virginia -- Staunton
  • Staunton (Va.) -- History -- 19th century
  • Staunton (Va.) -- History -- 20th century
  • Staunton (Va.) -- Description and travel
  • Staunton (Va.) -- Economic conditions
  • Augusta County (Va.) -- History -- 19th century
  • Augusta County (Va.) -- History -- 20th century

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"Capt. Richard H. Catlett Dead." Staunton Spectator and Vindicator [Staunton, VA], March, 24, 1898. (accessed September 21, 2018).

"The Leland Family of Virginia, et. al." RootsWeb, April 12, 2017, (accessed September 24, 2018).

"Richard Henry Catlett and Family in Staunton." Janegrayavery, July, 4 2016, (accessed October 5, 2018).

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Collection Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1901-1929

This series contains the correspondence between Catlett family members. The bulk of correspondence is addressed to the matriarch, Fannie Bolling Gay Catlett (under the name Mrs. R.H. Catlett), with most being sent by Elizabeth Gay Catlett (who signed these letters as "Dib"). Other family members gave the nickname "Baby" to Fanny Gay and a slew of other illegible nicknames to Amy Pendleton. The correspondence itself covers family and community news: Fannie Catlett would update her children about the goings-on of Staunton, Elizabeth would write her family about school experiences at Edgeworth College in Baltimore, Maryland, and Amy Pendleton wrote about her travels in Europe. Some items of potential interest include Elizabeth Catlett's monthly report cards or letters to Amy Catlett from a gentleman admirer.

Title/Description Instances
Margaret Erskine Catlett Correspondence, 1901-1904 box 1 folder 1
Fanny Gay Catlett Correspondence, 1901-1906 box 1 folder 2
Fannie Bolling Gay Catlett Correspondence, 1902-1903 box 1 folder 3
Amy Pendleton Catlett Correspondence, 1903-1922 box 1 folder 4
Fannie Bolling Gay Catlett Correspondence, 1904 box 1 folder 5
Elizabeth Gay Catlett Correspondence, 1904-1910 box 1 folder 6
Charles Catlett Correspondence, 1904-1931 box 1 folder 7
Fannie Bolling Gay Catlett Correspondence, 1906-1929 box 1 folder 8
Amy Pendleton Catlett, 1922-1923 box 2 folder 1
Henry Catlett Correspondence, 1923 box 2 folder 2
Miscellaneous Catlett Correspondence, undated box 2 folder 3

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Series 2: Personal Papers and Ephemera, 1850-1933

This series contains personal financial records and ephemera collected by the family. Many of the receipts are from local businesses around Staunton (e.g. the Augusta Meat Market, the Hogshead Drug Store, Woodward's Cleaning and Dyeing Works). The canceled checks are largely paid to family members and the city in the form of tax payments and service bills. Materials in French can be found in both Amy Pendleton Catlett's date book (written in both English and French) as well as the Printed Materials and Personal Effects folder in the forms of poetry, newspaper articles, and other notes. Other items of note include programs for a reception for members of the Iron and Steel Institute and the American Institute of Mining Engineers, dated July and August 1906.

Title/Description Instances
Financial Files and Receipts, 1850-1928 box 2 folder 4
Amy Pendleton Catlett Date Book, 1921 box 2 folder 5
Paid Checks and Statements, 1925-1933 box 2 folder 6
Financial Files and Receipts, 1928-1931 box 2 folder 7
Advertisements and Business Cards, undated box 2 folder 8
Printed Materials and Personal Effects, undated box 2 folder 9
Travel Brochures, undated box 2 folder 10

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