Streeter, Thomas Winthrop (1883–1965)

By: Ruth Cheney Streeter

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: April 27, 2019

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Thomas Winthrop Streeter, businessman, collector of Texana, and author, son of Frank Sherwin and Lilian (Carpenter) Streeter, was born on July 20, 1883, in Concord, New Hampshire. After graduation from St. Paul's School, Concord, in 1900, he received a B.L. degree from Dartmouth College in 1904 and an LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School in 1907. He practiced law in Boston, eventually as a member of the firm Streeter and Holmes. On June 23, 1917, he married Ruth Cheney, and they had four children. In 1917 Streeter moved to New York and began a career of business and finance. He was treasurer and then vice president of the American International Corporation, served as a dollar-a-year man in Washington for the United States government during World War I, and then continued in various business enterprises in New York until 1939, when he retired from active business and devoted himself to his Americana collection for the next twenty-five years at his home in Morristown, New Jersey. Always interested in early American history Streeter began collecting as a young man, and in 1952 he published a bibliography of selected items from his Americana collection, Americana-Beginnings. While serving as chairman of the board (1923–30) of Simms Petroleum Corporation, a Texas firm, his business trips to the state gave him the opportunity to locate and acquire books, pamphlets, broadsides, and maps relating to Texas history during the period 1795–1845. Rare items from this collection were exhibited in 1936 at the Texas Centennial in Dallas and at the formal opening in 1939 of the San Jacinto Monument and Museum. In 1944 he gave to the archives of the University of Texas the Beauregard Bryan Papers, the last large collection of almost 2,000 documents relating to the early history of the Moses Austin family. In 1949 he wrote the foreword to Ernest W. Winkler's Check List of Texas Imprints, 1846–1860.

Streeter assembled the largest private Texana collection ever compiled. From these and other materials that had been printed not only in Texas, but in Mexico, the United States, and Europe, he compiled and published the authoritative three-part (five-volume) work Bibliography of Texas, 1795–1845, the first part being Texas Imprints (2 vols., 1955), the second part, Mexican Imprints Relating to Texas (1 vol., 1956), and the third part, United States and European Imprints Relating to Texas (2 vols., 1960). For this definitive work and other scholarly accomplishments he received the honorary Litt.D. degree from Dartmouth College. Upon completion of the Bibliography he sold his Texas collection of nearly 2,000 imprints to Yale University for its Western Americana Collection, and it was placed with that university's Wagner and Coe collections. Streeter was active in many learned societies; he was chairman of the Associates of the John Carter Brown Library, chairman of the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, president of the American Antiquarian Society, president of the American Bibliographical Society, treasurer of the New York Historical Society, fellow of the California Historical Society (and recipient of their 1962 Wagner Memorial Award), and a fellow of the Texas State Historical Association (and member of its advisory council for volumes I and II of the Handbook of Texas, published in 1952). Thomas W. Streeter died in Morristown, New Jersey, on June 12, 1965, and was buried in Peterborough, New Hampshire. In accordance with his wishes, Streeter's remaining Americana collection, composed of some 5,000 volumes ranging from discovery and exploration to first books in each of the American states, was sold in a series of seven auctions at Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York City from 1966 through 1969. Many of his books were famous ones and the last copies then available for purchase. He had wanted to give other collectors a chance to enjoy owning them as much as he had. The sales caused great interest and brought in gross receipts of $3,100,000. See also TEXAS HISTORICAL RECORDS SURVEY.

London Times, January 19, 1967. National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 51. New York Times, June 13, 1965. Thomas Winthrop Streeter, The Only Located Copies of One Hundred Forty Texas Pamphlets and Broadsides (New Haven: Yale University Library, 1957). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who Was Who in America, Vol. 4.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ruth Cheney Streeter, “Streeter, Thomas Winthrop,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 18, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 27, 2019