Peter R. Brady [1825 - 1902], one of Arizona's leading pioneers, served his country on exploring expeditions as well as in local and state offices. His papers consist of correspondence, documents, photographs and clippings. Most of the correspondence in this collection is from Brady's sisters, Margaret and Mary Ellen, and their respective husbands, Edmund and Major B. B. French. Letters from these individuals provide a fascinating view of the country, and especially Washington, D.C., before, during, and after the Civil War, as well as revealing glimpses of Brady's life and his successes "out West."
Major Benjamin B. French served as the Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington, D.C., and was the intimate friend of many presidents, including Abraham Lincoln. His letters, like those of his brother, show the state of the nation's capital during the Civil War with "troops quartered all around us - a thousand or so, on the vacant lot just below our house, within half a stone's throw...They are very quiet and gentlemanly." (ALS from B. B. French, May 18, 1863) His letters also provide interesting revelations of the state of national politics after the war. Edmund French's letters also comment on the state of the nation before and during the war, discuss possible appointments for Brady in Washington, D.C., and inform Brady of a gun which the Frenches have procured for him. French's letters also discuss Brady's father and sisters and mutual friends and acquaintances, such as Lieutenant Mowry, who first represented the territory of Arizona in Congress.
Margaret French's letters discuss personal and family matters, as well as mutual friends and acquaintances and her own growing family. Mary Ellen French's letters, the largest correspondence in the collection, also discuss such matters in detail and enquire particularly about Brady's wife and children as well as his various adventures. She recounts stories which the Frenches have heard from such distinguished men as Colonel [Andrew B.] Gray and Dr. [C. H.] Lord and also refers to mutual friends such as the Honorable R.C. McCormick, one of the first governors of Arizona. She congratulates Brady on his business success as well his elections to various positions within his community. Her letters also illustrate how Washington, D.C. was torn apart during the Civil War; she often writes, during that period, of friends who have joined the Northern or Southern Armies.
Mary Ellen French's correspondence also refers to Daniel Chester French, the famous sculptor, his wife, Mary Adams French, daughter of Margaret and Edmund French, and their daughter, Margaret French Cresson. She refers to some of his statues, particularly one he made for Chicago's World Fair, which she urges Brady to attend. She also writes of the changes which have occurred in Washington, D.C., since her brother's departure:
"Washington is beautiful just now - I wish you could see it, with two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Such broad avenues...and frequent parks just like the Garden of Eden. There are palatial residences... This new Library [of Congress] is near Margaret's and the rotunda finished in Sienna marble, cannot be surpassed... Dan French is making two statues for the latter." (April 28, 1895)
Mary Ellen also refers to a pipe which Andrew Jackson once gave to her when she was a small child. Apparently, President Jackson expressed his regrets that he had no toys for the Brady children and asked them if they wanted anything. "Yes," chimed Mary Ellen, "your pipe." When asked what she'd do with it, her ready reply--"blow soap bubbles"- -so charmed Jackson that he had the pipe delivered to her the following day.
The Peter R. Brady Papers also contain documents certifying that Peter R. Brady was elected to the posts of sheriff and treasurer for Pima and Pinal Counties in Arizona, photos, and clippings. The collection includes photos of Brady, his second wife (Maria Antonia Ochoa), three of his children, Margaret French, Mary Ellen French, Edmund French, Major B.B. French, Sarita Brady Hutchins (Brady's half-sister and wife of Washington Post owner Stilson Hutchins), and Sophia Treadway (the "Baroness of Arizona" in the Peralta-Reavis fraud) from the Charles A. Brady Collection of Family Photos at the Arizona Historical Society Library.