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James Nichol Johnston papers

Identifier: RBMS-019

Scope and Contents

Scrapbooks of Jane Nichol Johnston, contains poems, essays and items of local interest from Buffalo newspapers, circa 1850-1880; scrapbooks of James Nichol Johnston, circa 1902-1917; photographs of Western New York people and places; volumes of poetry by Buffalo authors, circa 1860-1915.


  • circa 1850-1917


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The James Nichol Johnston papers, circa 1850-1917 are open for research.
Please note: This collection is stored off-site. Access to collection requires 3 business days’ notice. Contact University Archives at (716) 645-2916 or to schedule an appointment.


Copyright is held by the State University of New York at Buffalo, Rare and Special Books. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and Rare and Special Books before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

James Nichol Johnston was born in Donegal, Ireland in 1832, the son of Gerald and Jane Nichol Johnston. The family moved from Ireland to Canada in 1847 and settled in Buffalo, NY in 1848. As a young man, he became an agent at the iron-works company of Pratt Letchworth and became a lifelong personal friend of William Pryor Letchworth. Letchworth introduced Johnston to the prolific literary culture of the Buffalo and Western New York areas. In 1858, Johnston and Letchworth were both members of the Nameless Club, a literary discussion group with members of "peculiar and varied talent.1"

Throughout his life, Johnston was very interested in poetry and verse. He spent several years hunting through newspaper clippings of The Buffalo Courier and The Buffalo Sunday Express collecting the "published and unpublished songs of Buffalo men and women.2" In 1904 he published the anthology, The Poets and Poetry of Buffalo in order to bring the writings of local poets into one representative book. "I have watched," he writes in the preface to the anthology, "the flowering of this native verse with a very warm interest from the early years of my life in Buffalo, when I began acquaintances with men and women in the older circles of those to whom poetry is a delight.3" Four years later, he published a slim volume of his own poetry, Donegal Memories.
Johnston's life and work was centered around friends and poetry. At his death, friends and family called him "devoted.. He had a ready wit; he was an unusually interested and well-informed conversationalist. His time was always at the command of a friend for all the services he could perform.4" Johnston died in Buffalo on February 14, 1918.
1 Sixth Anniversary of The Nameless, October 27, 1864
2 Johnston obituary, Buffalo Morning Express, February 15, 1918
3 Preface, The Poets and Poetry of Buffalo, 1904
4 Johnston obituary, Buffalo Morning Express, February 15, 1918


4.25 Linear Feet (2 manuscript boxes, 2 record boxes, 1 oversize box)


Collection of scrapbooks, poetry, and photographs documenting local items of interest and people of Buffalo and Western New York gathered by James Nichol Johnston for his anthology, The Poets and Poetry of Buffalo. Also includes scrapbooks from Johnston's mother, Jane Nichol Johnston.


This collection is arranged in four series: I. Scrapbooks, II. Photograph albums, III. Photographs, IV. Printed writings.

Acquisition Information

Collection was donated by Mrs. F.J. Batson (née Margaret Kittinger), grandniece of James Nichol Johnston, September 27, 1966. In October 2016, this collection was re-accessioned into the Rare and Special Books Collection from University Archives.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Separated Materials

University of Buffalo Campaign Committee, The Spirit of New Buffalo, 1920 was removed to the University Archives collections.

Processing Information

Processed by Archives staff, circa 1966.
Finding aid encoded by Danielle White, February 2015.

Finding Aid for the James Nichol Johnston papers
Finding aid prepared by Archives staff. Revised in October 2016 to reflect transfer to Rare and Special Books.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The Poetry Collection Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)