Zebina Eastman papers




Chicago History Museum


3.0 Linear feet




Eastman, Zebina, 1815-1883

Biographical note

Zebina Eastman was best known as an abolitionist newspaper editor in Illinois although he engaged in several occupations over a long career. He was born in North Amherst, Massachusetts, on Sept. 8, 1815, the descendant of Eastmans who had settled at Salisbury, Mass. in 1640. Orphaned at the age of six, he was reared by a guardian. Eastman learned to set type when he was fourteen years old and completed the preparatory course at Hadley Academy in Massachusetts. In 1834-1835 he edited and published the Vermont Free Press at Fayetteville (Vt.), a venture that within a year absorbed the small amount of money that he had inherited from his family. He then wrote for various periodicals and published "Traditionary Tales of New England."

Scope and Contents note

Incoming letters; account books and volumes listing newspaper subscribers, ca. 1840s-1850s; manuscripts of lectures, articles, and a few letters by Zebina Eastman; and later newsclippings and scrapbooks. Materials primarily relate to his activities as editor of the Illinois Liberty Party newspaper Western Citizen (Chicago, Ill.) and the Genius of Liberty (1840s) and as one of several editors of the Free West (1853), and as an organizer of the national Anti-Slavery Reunion, held in Chicago in 1874. Many 1870s letters reminisce about abolitionists, fugitive slaves, and the evils of slavery. A few items in the collection relate to the international peace movement and Elihu Burritt and a few items relate to Eastman's service as U.S. Consul at Bristol, England, in the 1860s. Topics of later writings by Eastman include the history of Chicago, its first settler Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable, history of abolitionism in Illinois, and street-railway improvements proposed by Eastman in 1869.

Custodial History note

Most materials were the gift of Mrs. L. Sherman Aldrich (M1960.0258) and the Union League Club of Chicago (M1979.0073). Apparently Eastman's son Sidney C. Eastman and James Franklin Aldrich, both of whom were members of the Union League Club, left these materials in storage areas of the Club's building. Other items were donated by Sidney C. Eastman and by Fred A. Hunt and purchased from the Dicke estate (M1975.0019).

Processing Information note

This collection was surveyed as part of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium's Survey Initiative on 2010 October 21 by Andrew Steadham.