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Robert Mills family letters, 1813-1847

Robert Mills family letters, 1813-1847

Mills Family

Representative image for Robert Mills family letters, 1813-1847

The letters of the Robert Mills Family in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2009. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 187 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 0.2 linear ft.

Summary: This small collection of Robert Mills family letters date from 1813 to 1847 and measures 0.2 linear feet. Found here are 38 letters between architect Robert Mills and his wife Eliza, the majority of which were written between 1813 and 1819, and generally discuss family news and health, his travels, finances, and their affection for each other. Also found are a fragment of a letter to Mills from his sister, Sarah, a letter to Mills from his mother-in-law, Ann Smith, and nine letters to Mills from business acquaintances, including architect John Skirving and engineer Louis Wernwag, regarding building projects. The collection also includes six letters to Mills' daughter Anna from her mother, Eliza, and cousins.

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Mills (1781-1855) was born in 1781 in Charleston, S.C. and studied architecture. Mills studied at Charleston College and under James Hoban and Benjamin Henry Latrobe. He was a friend of President Thomas Jefferson. Mills was known for design of the Washington Monument, the U.S. Patent Office, and U.S. Treasury, as well as the Washington Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, and hospitals and jails in South Carolina using fireproofing and heating systems he developed.

Provenance

The Mills Family papers were purchased in 1985 from Robert S. Gamble of the Alabama Historical Society.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Robert Mills Family Letters,
1813-1847
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.millfami
Biographical Note
Robert Mills (1781-1855) was born in 1781 in Charleston, South Carolina. As a teenager he studied pattern-books and learned the basics of drafting, and in 1800 he moved to Washington, DC, to work in the office of architect James Hoban. There he met President Thomas Jefferson who recommended Mills to Benjamin Latrobe. He was a pupil and assistant to Latrobe in Philadelphia until 1808, working on many architectural and engineering projects.
In 1808 Mills married Eliza Barnwell Smith and established his architectural practice in Philadelphia, receiving many major commissions. From 1815 to 1819 Mills lived with his family in Baltimore, Maryland, overseeing the construction of his commission for the Washington Monument in Baltimore. He also worked on several engineering projects in the city. After construction halted in 1819 due to an economic depression, he moved to South Carolina to become the Acting Commissioner of the Board of Public Works. In 1823 his position was abolished due to rising project costs, but he continued to work on individual commissions, and also published several books and pamphlets on South Carolina and engineering.
In 1830 Mills and his family moved to Washington, DC. There he directed alterations and restorations of the White House, Executive Offices, and the Capitol. After establishing himself with these projects he received many more commissions and was appointed Architect of the Federal Buildings. During this time his design for the Treasury Building was adopted, and he oversaw the construction of the U. S. Patent Office - now the Smithsonian Institution's Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture - and the Old Post Office, among other projects. His federal office was abolished in 1842, but Mills continued to work on independent building projects. In 1845 his plan for the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, which he had designed in 1833, was adopted and construction began in 1848. He lived in Washington, DC, until his death in 1855.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 1 series:
Series 1: Robert Mills Family Letters, 1813-1847 (Box 1; 12 folders)
Provenance
The Mills Family papers were purchased in 1985 from Robert S. Gamble of the Alabama Historical Society.
Processing Information
The collection was microfilmed upon receipt on reel 3612. The collection was fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Corley in 2008 and digitized in 2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Robert Mills family letters, 1813-1847. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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