The Darlington Digital Library

About the Collection

The Darlington Digital Library was created from the first major collection of books, manuscripts, atlases, and maps donated to the University of Pittsburgh. Most of the credit for assembling the Darlington Collection rightly goes to William M. Darlington, an attorney by profession who was born in Pittsburgh in 1815.

By the 1840s, Mr. Darlington had developed a keen interest in colonial American history, especially as it related to Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. He initially acquired books on those subjects, but later he would expand his interests to topics associated with the exploration of the Trans-Mississippi, the Far West, and even world history. He also expanded his acquisitions to include atlases and maps, broadsides, manuscripts, lithographs, and works of art, including John James Audubon's Birds of America. Since this complete double elephant folio set and the accompanying five-volume Ornithological Biography are considered by the University Library System to be so important, a dedicated Audubon Web site provides access to these rare sets.

After Mr. Darlington died in 1889, his wife Mary, who shared her husband’s enthusiasm for American history, continued to acquire materials. Their children, O’Hara, Mary, and Edith, also added to what became a family collection. O’Hara, for example, collected English first editions from the Victorian era. Of particular note are fine copies of books authored by Dickens and Thackeray. Attending to the family estate was left to Mary and Edith. In 1918 they made their initial donation to the University, which was followed in 1925 by the bulk of the estate.

An excellent overview of the collection was published in 1938 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Written by Agnes Starrett, The Darlington Memorial Library is available online within our Historic Pittsburgh website. In addition, Personal Memories of the Darlington Family at Guyasuta, by Anne Hemphill Herbert, also published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, in 1949, is available online, too. It is very useful for insight about the Darlington family and their life at Guyasuta, their home.


This component of Mr. Darlington’s collection provides keen insight to his sharp interest in geography and exploration. It includes more than one hundred volumes ranging from world travel and exploration to state atlases with county maps. The oldest world atlases, in contemporary bindings, contain maps enhanced with beautiful illustrations of sea monsters or beasts, sometimes a unicorn, occasionally cannibals, frequently a sailing vessel, mermaids of course, and other figures that cause one’s imagination to run wild.

Amongst the rare atlases, Simon Gyrnaeus, in his 1532 edition of Novus Orbis Regio, adequately defines South America but North America appears as a very narrow strip of land described as “Terra de Cuba.” By 1573, the Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius, includes in his atlas a group of seven maps of “America,” providing better definition to the New World than many other atlases had up to that time.

While the world atlases occupy a special niche in the Darlington Collection, atlases of Pennsylvania and those for neighboring states reinforce the appreciation that Mr. Darlington had for colonial American and state history. Indeed, while the regions depicted in faraway places in world atlases may conjure up vivid images, Mr. Darlington never strayed from his romance with the French and English struggle for the empire that constituted the New World.


William M. Darlington was an inveterate collector of books. American history, with an emphasis on the history of Western Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley, especially interested him. He collected works that related to the settlement of colonial America, local history, and the manners and customs of American Indians. As one might expect, the history of Pittsburgh was a subject dear to him, and he collected books about Pittsburgh and by Pittsburgh authors.

Books associated with the trans-Allegheny discovery and settlement, beginning with the period surrounding the French and Indian War, amply appear in his collection. They include subjects associated with George Washington’s expedition, General Braddock’s defeat, and frontier defense.

As part of his purchases, Mr. Darlington acquired the five-volume set of John James Audubon's Ornithological Biography, published in 1831. He in all likelihood referred to these lively narratives when consulting his personal set of Audubon's Birds of America.

Mr. Darlington also acquired books that documented the discovery, settlement, and development of the Far West. There are numerous overland narratives, accounts of expeditions, and guidebooks. Included is a cornerstone of American exploration, namely, A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, under the command of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clarke of the army of the United States, from the mouth of the river Missouri through the interior parts of North America to the Pacific Ocean, during the years 1804, 1805, and 1806. Written by Patrick Gass, and published in Pittsburgh in 1807, the volume is the first account that was published by a member of the expedition.

When Mr. Darlington died in 1889, his wife Mary and their children O’Hara, Mary, and Edith, added to the collection. By the time of Mrs. Darlington’s death in 1915, the collection was one of the finest private libraries west of the Alleghenies.

As a member of the Open Content Alliance, the University Library System is partnering with PALINET's Digital Services to digitize the Darlington books by the Internet Archive. To search and view the books contributed to date, please visit Internet Archive: University of Pittsburgh Library System.


This component of the Darlington Collection numbers less than one hundred items, ranging from the 1700s to the late 1800s. It includes items of significant historical value, such as the pieces described below, to advertisements from theaters in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

There is, for example, a proclamation by President George Washington on January 1, 1795, setting aside February 19, 1795, as a “Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer.” Less than four years later, President Washington would be dead, and the collection includes a rare item documenting the memorial service. A broadside dated December 29, 1799, announces “REGULATIONS, relative to the PROCESSION for rendering Funeral honors to the Deceased General WASHINGTON, as agreed to by the Committee of Arrangements” through New York. It describes the route the procession will take, requests that citizens who live along the route clean their part of the street, and even includes information on the ceremony that will be held at St. Paul’s Church.

Another important presidential document includes a broadside conveying Abraham Lincoln’s heartfelt farewell address to his friends and neighbors in Springfield, Illinois, February 12, 1861, after the election but before his departure for Washington, D.C. In part, it reads: “A duty devolves upon me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington….I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance without which I cannot succeed….I bid you an affectionate farewell.”


Among the images of people, the following list is but a brief example: Marie Antoinette; John James Audubon; Charles II, King of England; Oliver Cromwell; Sir Francis Drake; Elizabeth I, Queen of England; John Forbes; Benjamin Franklin; Robert Fulton; Benjamin Harrison; Andrew Jackson; John Paul Jones; Abraham Lincoln; Louis XIV, King of France; Mary I, Queen of England; Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland; Napoleon; Thomas Paine; William Pitt; William Penn; James Polk; Alexander Pope; William Shakespeare; George Washington; Daniel Webster; and William I, King of England.

The collection also includes images of historic places and events, including: Battle of Champlain; Battle of New Orleans; Plains of Abraham; Fort McHenry; Fort Necessity; Fort Niagara; Fort Ticonderoga; Harper’s Ferry; and scenes from Baltimore, New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, and Richmond to name but a few.

In 1852, Mr. Darlington purchased a complete double elephant folio set of Audubon's Birds of America. Since the University Library System is fortunate to own one of these rare sets, considered to be our single most valuable collection, a dedicated Audubon Web site provides access to the 435 hand-colored plates.

The Darlington Family Albums, include photographs of their home at Guyasuta and the surrounding grounds, as well as pictures taken during trips to Istanbul, Greece, Italy, Egypt, and England.


William Darlington collected papers and manuscripts that focus primarily on the early history of western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley; they mainly date from the 1700s through the mid-1800s. Records indicate that Darlington acquired at least fourteen collections which were subsequently donated to the University of Pittsburgh by his daughter, Mary, upon her death in 1925. From this initial gift, curators of the Darlington Library increased the holdings of the collection through acquisitions and gifts. Today, more than seventy collections represent the manuscript holdings within the Darlington Library. The collections selected for digitization comprise the original Darlington gift plus several other noteworthy collections, including the Darlington Family Papers.

The Darlington Autograph Files contain hundreds of letters associated with persons of importance to the early history of the United States, such as Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Penn, Robert Fulton, Robert R. Livingston, King George III, and Patrick Henry. Prominent citizens of the Pittsburgh area are also represented, including Mary Croghan Schenley, James O’Hara, William Wilkins, and Richard Butler. The Alexander Addison letters comprise correspondence from Andrew Jackson, Alexander Hamilton, and Henry Bouquet.

Mr. Darlington collected other letters written by prominent military figures ( Daniel Brodhead and Robert Stobo), political leaders ( William Pitt, First Earl of Chatham), and businessmen ( Eliphalet Smith). The Ohio Company Papers include handwritten copies of journals of Christopher Gist, treaties, orders, releases, and correspondence of George Mercer, John Mercer, Adam Stephen, George Mason, and Thomas Cresap. Mr. Darlington edited and published (posthumously) Christopher Gist’s Journals.

An Iroquois Land Deed from 1754 documents a secret agreement between the Susquehanna Land Company and the Iroquois Nation regarding the sale of the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania to Connecticut settlers. Mr. Darlington also acquired material documenting a conference held in Philadelphia in April of 1756 between the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the Quakers which was an attempt to create peace for innocent inhabitants during the French and Indian War. A journal kept by Jonathan Forman describes his march from New Jersey in 1794 into Pennsylvania to quell the Whiskey Rebellion. Although brief, his account includes a dinner party with President George Washington.

Several collections amassed by Mr. Darlington document the history of Fort Pitt, the English outpost established at the “forks of the Ohio.” An account book records transactions between Indians and settlers at the Fort Pitt trading post, together with letters and documents relating to the conduct of business from 1759 to 1765. Mr. Darlington himself hand copied other records about Fort Pitt, including business transactions from 1752 to 1782 and a list of some of the names of the inhabitants at the fort. A single bound volume contains copies of letters to and from Brigadier General William Irvine who commanded Fort Pitt from November 6, 1781 to September 30, 1783, when Fort Pitt served as the headquarters for the western theatre during the Revolutionary War.

Several collections document the early history and formation of Pittsburgh by prominent citizens such as Hugh Henry Brackenridge, and his son, Henry Marie Brackenridge. The collection contains a minute book that describes the extension of the Pittsburgh City Limits between 1836-1841. The Dunning McNair Papers relate to the family’s involvement in land development and trade in western Pennsylvania, especially in the Pittsburgh vicinity. The Robert McKnight diaries offer a glimpse of city councilman and U.S. Congressman McKnight’s daily routines and activities during the mid-1840s.

The papers of General James Wilkinson consist largely of letters addressed between 1804 and 1809 to Major Samuel Smith, an officer of the American Revolution, and relate to Aaron Burr's conspiracy and trial. A letter book created by Robert J. Walker, who served as Secretary of the Treasury under the James Polk Administration, includes copies of correspondence with several prominent nineteenth-century political figures regarding the Mexican War, the annexation of Texas, and support for John Tyler, among other topics.

Other collections in the Darlington Library document early Pittsburgh history and were digitized during Spring 2012. Ephraim Douglass, a trader in western Pennsylvania and a soldier in the Revolutionary War, documented the stock and sale of supplies at Forts Pitt and Kittanning during the 1770s in four ledgers. Douglass's business partners during these years were his brother, Joseph, Devereaux Smith, and Richard Butler. The Rolling Rock Training Camp Ledger contains information from July 9-August 4, 1917 of guard duty in the military training camp near Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Information such as names, hours worked, and addresses were recorded in this ledger. The Monongahela Navigation Company collection summaries from annual reports (1840-1897) the damage to locks and dams on the Monongahela River due to floods and ice. The Thomas Mellon and William B. Negley Day Book contains names of clients and records of payment from their seven-year partnership. Mellon, founder of Mellon Bank and patriarch of the Mellon family, began his professional career as a lawyer, but in 1853 he established a firm with his nephew, William B. Negley. The Northern Liberties Bridge Company Ledger comprises transactions, minutes from meetings, and contracts made with the state of Pennsylvania regarding the Mechanics Street Bridge, which was built in 1836 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


“We will send any maps that may come for you—we have just received a map of Panama without a mark (a new map) that is yours.” Thus wrote the proprietor of Joseph Sabin and Sons bookstore from New York on September 1, 1874, to Mr. Darlington. The letter provides insight to the breadth of Mr. Darlington’s collecting interests while at the same time explaining, at least in part, how Mr. Darlington assembled a collection of nearly six hundred items.

For someone very interested in history, travel, and exploration, as Mr. Darlington certainly was, acquiring maps to complement his extensive collection of books and manuscripts seems only natural. There is clear evidence that some of his maps came from books or atlases, although it is impossible to determine if such items were loose when he purchased them or if they were removed subsequent to his acquisition. Regardless, together they form a valuable collection.

Maps of states, colonies, and larger regions of the United States comprise a significant number. The vast majority of them are printed, many enhanced by watercolors done by hand. When Mr. Darlington could not acquire a map from one of his usual sources, such as dealers, he resorted to another approach. He would secure the services of someone to examine maps, especially manuscript maps, and provide him with hand drawn copies that closely resembled the originals! Mr. James A. Burt acted in that capacity, meticulously copying manuscript maps located at the Public Record Office in London and then sending them on to Mr. Darlington, adding a special dimension to the collection.

The Darlington Family

The Darlington family can trace its origins back to when Pittsburgh served as a fort and gateway to the west during the eighteenth century. James O'Hara, born in Ireland in 1752, began an illustrious military career by serving as an ensign in the British Royal Navy. After a brief tenure in the Navy, he studied business, with the hopes of pursuing opportunities in the United States. In 1772, he immigrated to the U.S. and soon found work as an Indian trader at Fort Pitt. He quickly excelled due to his business skills and command of several languages (he learned French while studying at the college of St. Sulpice in Paris and also became conversant in various Native American dialects after arriving in the U.S.).

The Darlington family can trace its beginnings to James O’Hara's marriage to Mary Carson of Philadelphia. It was they who built a home on 235 acres along a bluff on the north side of the Allegheny River, between present-day Sharpsburg and Aspinwall. O'Hara purchased this land in the area known then as Springfield along Water Street from the United States Army in 1793. This land later became known as O'Hara Township.

O'Hara affectionately called his estate Guyasuta, in honor of his friend the Seneca Indian Chief Guyasuta. Guyasuta was a guide and hunter for George Washington in 1753 when the future U.S. president was in charge of delivering a letter to the French at Fort LeBoeuf, near present-day Erie, Pennsylvania. Guyasuta later took sides with the French, fighting in the French and Indian War against the British. Guyasuta originally owned the land that James O’Hara purchased from the Army in 1793. O’Hara befriended Guyasuta and allowed the old chief to live at Guyasuta until his death in 1803. O’Hara purportedly buried him in a traditional burial mound on his estate, although there is also evidence that Guyasuta died and was buried ninety miles north of Pittsburgh along French Creek at Custaloga Town, outside present-day Franklin, Pennsylvania.

James O’Hara and his wife Mary had three sons. One son, Richard, had a daughter named Mary who was born in 1824. She became the matriach of the Darlington family at Guyasuta when she married William McCullough Darlington. Her husband was born in 1815, the son of Benjamin Darlington (a Pittsburgh carpenter and businessman) and Agnes McCullough. William and Mary Carson Darlington eventually inherited the Guyasuta estate that belonged to Mary’s grandfather, James O’Hara.

William and Mary Carson Darlington had three children. O’Hara Darlington, a son, was the oldest, born in 1848 . Mary “Minnie” Darlington was born in 1852, and Edith “Darling” Dennison Darlington was born in 1862.

The Darlington Family Papers Collection contains manuscript material, journals, letters, maps and photographs taken by Edith Dennison Darlington Ammon and her brother, O'Hara Darlington, from 1885 through 1888. Photographs contained within the five albums document family, friends, leisure activities, and the artistic approach to photography that both Edith and O'Hara shared. Most of the photographs are taken in and around the family home, Guyasuta, and the surrounding area.

The fifth album in this collection contains photographs from the Pittsburgh Amateur Photographers’ Society, a social club that was founded on May 25th, 1885 of which Edith and O'Hara were active members. Also available online is a transcript (pdf) of an article published by The Pittsburgh Leader in 1888 that discusses the society, its members, and their photographic equipment.

Contact Us

© 2007- University of Pittsburgh Library System, University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh provides access to the digital images for personal, noncommercial, educational and research purposes only.