John Romeyn Brodhead

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For other people named John Brodhead, see John Brodhead (disambiguation).

John Romeyn Brodhead (January 2, 1814 – May 6, 1873) was an American historical scholar.


Brodhead was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Brodhead (1782–1855), a prominent clergyman of the Dutch Reformed Church. He graduated at Rutgers College in 1831, and in 1835 was admitted to the bar in New York City. After 1837, however, he devoted himself principally to the study of American colonial history. In order to have access to the records of the early Dutch settlements in America, he obtained, in 1839, an appointment as attaché of the American legation at the Hague.

His investigations here soon proved that the Dutch archives were rich in material on the early history of New York. At the urging of the New-York Historical Society, the state legislature appropriated funds for him to gather and transcribe documents relating to New York's colonial history from various European archives. Brodhead was appointed (1841) by Governor William H Seward to undertake the work, and within several years gathered from England, France and the Netherlands some eighty manuscript volumes of transcriptions, largely of documents which had not hitherto been used by historians. He returned to New York in August, 1844.

These transcriptions were subsequently edited by Edward O'Callaghan (vols. i.-xi., md.) and by Berthold Fernow (vols xii.-xv., md.), and published by the state under the title Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York (15 vols., 1853–1883). From 1846 to 1849, while George Bancroft was minister to Great Britain, Brodhead held under him the post of secretary of legation. In 1853-1857 he was naval officer of the port of New York.

He published several addresses and a scholarly History of the State of New York (2 vols., 1853–1871), generally considered the best for the brief period covered (1609-1690). He served as secretary of the American legation in London under George Bancroft. He was asked by President Franklin Pierce to become Ambassador to Japan, a position he declined.[citation needed] He died in New York City on 6 May 1873.