Oliver Hazard Perry Collection

Identifier: GLMS-0021

Collection Overview


This collection is comprised of copies of official communications from various officers in the U.S. Naval Department (1799-1819) and, more significantly, from Perry to the Naval Department (1806-1819). Of special interest are communications related to the building of the Erie Squadron (1811-1813) and letters from several of Perry's cruises. A wide range of topics are discussed in the correspondence: recommendations, commissions, lists of officers, strategy, logistical concerns, personnel matters, sailing orders, and private concerns. The collection documents Perry's entire naval career from his early days at sea, his work as a gunboat builder at Newport, to his famous victory over the British on Lake Erie during the War of 1812.


  • 1799-1913
  • Majority of material found within 1799-1819


1 Cubic Feet (1 record carton)

1 Reels (1 reel of 35mm microfilm)


Scope and Contents

This collection consists of photocopies of correspondence to Perry from various officers in the U. S. Naval Department (1799-1819) and, more significantly, from Perry to the Naval Department (1806-1819). Of special interest are communications related to the building of the Erie Squadron (1811-1813) and letters from various cruises upon which Perry embarked.

Content of the letters covers a wide range of topics: commissions, recommendations, officers lists, requisition and transfer requests, logistic concerns, strategy, personnel related material (e.g., courts martial), sailing orders, and private letters. One can trace Perry's movements by virtue of the correspondence's origins; tracing his career from Newport, Rhode Island, to being commissioned and given his first command, and on to various ships of war (USS REVENGE, ARIEL, JAVA, etc.) and ports of call (Newport, New York, Washington, etc.). The correspondence is available in paper and microfilm formats.

The miscellaneous material pertains mostly to the Battle of Lake Erie. For the nautical researcher, there is a souvenir program commemorating the raising and refitting of the USS NIAGARA which had lain on the bottom of Lake Erie for some eighty years.

The pamphlets written by Usher Parsons relate his remembrances of the Battle of Lake Erie. Also included is a pamphlet relating the little-known scandal concerning Perry and Captain Jesse Elliot, commander of the USS NIAGARA.

Biographical / Historical

Oliver Hazard Perry was born in the town of Rocky Brook, near Newport, Rhode Island, in 1785. He learned navigation at Newport and joined the navy in 1799 at the age of fourteen. He first saw service in the West Indies under his father's command and then was stationed in the Mediterranean during the war with Tripoli (1802-1806). From 1807 to 1809, as a lieutenant, he commanded the building of gunboats at Newport.

When the War of 1812 broke out, Perry immediately requested to be called into active service. Eventually, Commodore Isaac Chauncey charged him with the fitting and running of the Lake Erie squadron, and Perry assumed command of this squadron early in 1813. Perry's famous victory over the British fleet, commanded by Robert Barclay, not only gave the American Navy "a signal victory" and control of the Lake it also made Perry a hero.

In 1816, Perry was given charge of the JAVA and toured the Mediterranean. In 1819, he was given command of a small fleet with which he cruised to Buenos Aires on a diplomatic mission. After concluding negotiations there, Perry contracted yellow fever and died within a few days. His body was later interred at Newport.

Conditions Governing Access

No known accessrestrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is in the public domain.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Related Materials

The original Perry correspondence is held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

A smaller collection of letters exist in a private collection and is not available for research. However, it has been provided to Dartmouth College for digitization. The digital Perry collection can be located via the Dartmouth Library search portal.

A another small batch of letters and other materials are held by Nimitz Library at the United States Naval Academy. Materials can be located via a catalog search.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Center for Archival Collections on November 26, 1973, by Mrs. Frazier Reams, Sr., whose husband had collected the materials.

Guide to the Oliver Hazard Perry Collection
Kenneth Minkema, Jordan Wesler, Mark Sprang
October 1981, June 2009, June 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note