Guide to the Papers of Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851), undated, 1816-1851

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American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161



© 2018, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Finding aid was created by AJHS staff revised with additional material added by Susan L. Malbin, 2012. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on March 18, 2009 and revised by Christine McEvilly on October 11, 2012. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Mordecai Manuel Noah
Title: Mordecai Manuel Noah, papers
Dates:undated, 1816-1851
Abstract: Contains legal documents pertaining to Noah's official duties as surveyor of the port of New York (1830-1831) and correspondence relating to Noah's political career. Also includes personal correspondence, a scrapbook, published material on Noah's journalistic career and personal life, articles and correspondence relating to the City of Ararat, and political documents. Collection also contains the Isaac Goldberg collection of Mordecai Manuel Noah letters, which consists of 28 letters from Noah to his wife Rebecca.
Languages: The collection is in English.
Quantity: 1 linear foot (2 manuscript boxes + 1 oversized folder)
Identification: P-75
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Mordecai Manuel Noah was born in Philadelphia on July 19, 1785. He was the first son of Manuel Noah, an immigrant from Mannheim, Germany who had served in the Revolutionary War, and Zipporah Phillips, whose grandfather served as Hazan of the Shearith Israel Congregation of New York. Much of Noah’s early life and many of his beliefs were heavily influenced by his maternal grandfather, Jonas Phillips. When Noah was 7, his father left home; Noah’s mother died shortly afterwards, leaving Mordecai and his younger sister Judith in the care of their mother’s father. Noah’s grandfather greatly influenced him both as a Jew and as an American. Despite the fact that three of Noah’s four grandparents were Ashkenazi, Jonas Phillips steered young Mordecai towards the Sephardic traditions, which, at the time, had deeper roots in the United States and garnered more respect and status within the Jewish community. Although his grandfather would only live until 1803, many of Noah’s attitudes, such as his ardent patriotism and his dedication to the Jewish and general societies, were cultivated while under Jonas Phillips’ tutelage.

These attitudes made Noah eager to involve himself in public life. The power of the written word, especially in the form of drama, was evident to him from a young age. He engaged in writing in various forms through out his life. As a playwright he wrote Fortress of Sorrento (1808), She Would Be A Soldier (1819), and Siege of Tripoli (1820), which was produced many times under different titles. Noah also was one of the most conspicuous figures in early American journalism, beginning with editing Charleston's City Gazette. He later published and edited New York's National Advocate and several other newspapers. In the 1820's Noah broke off his relationship with the powerful New York political machine of the Tammany Society and used his skill as a writer and editor to oppose them, publishing the New York Enquirer from 1826 to 1829.

Noah felt that his appointment to an important governmental position would be a way to openly face the challenge that American freedom presented. As he wrote to Secretary of State James Monroe in 1811, his appointment to a consulship would "prove to foreign powers that our government is not regulated in the appointment of their officers by religious distinction." At the age of 26, Noah wrote forceful editorials in Charleston's Gazette advocating the war of 1812. The result of these editorials, and his letters to the government requesting a post, was his appointment as the U.S. Consul to the Kingdom of Tunis in 1813. Noah's subsequent recall because his religion was, in Secretary of State James Monroe's words, "an obstacle to the exercise of [his consular] function" caused outrage among Jews and non-Jews alike. Noah's own protests were based as much on his fears for injury to the nation's founding principles as on anything he personally suffered.

Upon his return to the United States in 1816, Noah settled in New York where he lived for the rest of his life and where he was heavily involved in community activities. He served as Sheriff, Judge, and Surveyor of the Port in New York, and resumed his journalism career. Noah was deeply involved in the Tammany organization and New York politics. He served as an Editor of the New York Advocate for seven years 1816-1824. He also was active in general philanthropic pursuits and he helped to found what would become New York University. In 1827, at the age of forty-two, Noah married seventeen-year-old Rebecca Jackson, daughter of Daniel Jackson, a wealthy and influential New York Ashkenazi Jew. The couple had seven children.

Noah played a major role in New York's Jewish community. As a key orator, he delivered major discourses at important communal gatherings, such as the 1818 Consecration of Congregation Shearith Israel's new building. As a representative of Judaism to the non-Jewish community, he used these discourses and his newspapers to publicize various aspects of Jewish religion and history, as well as Jewish concerns and aspirations. He also maintained correspondences with former Presidents Adams and Jefferson on subjects such as religious freedom and Jewish nationhood. He supported educational efforts in the Jewish community, and even proposed formation of a Hebrew College, a strictly Jewish institution where students could get "a thorough scholarship in every branch of study." Noah was also the President of New York's Hebrew Benevolent Society, and, again by using his newspapers to publicize the institution, was able to multiply its funding during his tenure.

During his travels to Europe and the Barbary Coast, the sight of Jews' oppressed conditions had left a profound impression on Noah, and he became focused on the need for Jewish emigration to more hospitable shores. In 1825 he helped purchase a 2,500-acre tract of land on Grand Island in the Niagara River near Buffalo. Here he envisioned a Jewish colony to be called Ararat, which would be a temporary haven where Jews from persecuted countries could safely await restoration to their ancient Holy Land. The project, undertaken in a highly-publicized style, elicited much interest and discussion, but ultimately was a failure, despite a most flamboyant inauguration ceremony in which Noah proclaimed himself a "Judge of Israel". After the major disappointment of Ararat, Noah regarded Palestine as the only possible homeland for Jews, and frequent lectured and wrote about the subject. His 1844 Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews is one of the most well known works on this topic, in which he expressed ideas that preceded the modern Zionists by more than half a century.

Despite suffering a stroke in February 1851, Noah continued working, even dictating answers for the correspondence column of the Times and Messenger. Eventually the stroke proved to be too much for the sixty-six year old who died on March 22 that same year. Noah's funeral was one of the largest in New York's at the time, and was attended by key leaders of the Jewish and general community.

Goldberg, Isaac. Major Noah: American-Jewish Pioneer. Jewish Publication Society, (Philadelphia, 1936).
Sarna, Jonathan D. Jacksonian Jew: The Two Worlds of Mordecai Noah, Holmes & Meier Publishers, Inc. (New York, 1981)
Mordecai Manuel Noah: The First American Jew, Yeshiva University Museum (1987)
The Jewish Virtual Library: A division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise


July 19, 1785Born in Philadelphia
1792Mother Zipporah dies
1803Maternal grandfather Jonas Phillips dies
1808Writes Fortress of Sorrento
1813Appointed Consul to Kingdom of Tunis
1815Returns to the United States and settles in New York
1817Becomes editor of the National Advocate
1818John Adams writes a letter to Noah about the establishment of a Jewish state in which he says, "I wish your nation may be admitted to all the privileges of citizens in every country of the world."
1819Writes She Would Be A Soldier
1820Writes Siege of Tripoli
1820Serves as foreman of the New York Grand Jury
1820Goes before the New York legislature petitioning to buy Grand Island to serve as a colony for the Jews
1821Becomes Sheriff of New York City
1824Contract at the National Advocate not renewed when paper is sold
1824Sets up the New York National Advocate two days later
1824Declares Bankruptcy, lists assets and defaults on promissory loans
1825Buys Grand Island when New York State decides to sell it
September 15, 1825Proclamation, pageant, and oration declaring Grand Island as Jewish city Ararat
1826-1829Publishes the New York Enquirer
1827Marries Rebecca Jackson
1829Appointed Surveyor and Inspector of the New York Port by President Andrew Jackson
1833Grand Island sold as timberland
1840'sLeads the Hebrew Benevolent Society
1841Becomes the first Jewish criminal court judge in the United States when appointed to a judgeship in the New York Court of Sessions by Governor William Seward
1846Son Daniel Jackson dies at age of nine as the result of an accident
1849Unites the fundraising efforts of the Hebrew Benevolent Society and a rival charity, the German Hebrew Benevolent Society
February 1851Has a debilitating stroke
March 22, 1851Dies as the result of stroke
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Scope and Content Note

The Papers of Mordecai Manuel Noah encompass Noah’s professional career, his attempt to create a Jewish State on Grand Island in upstate New York called Ararat, and his correspondence with his wife, Rebecca. The collection is mostly comprised of correspondence, records from Noah’s time as Sheriff and Surveyor of the Port of New York, and other information concerning his professional life, as well as the collection of letters to his wife.

Most of the items in the collection are from Noah’s lifetime, but there are a number of articles about him and about Grand Island that were written long after his death, indicating an interest in Noah and Ararat that extended well into the twentieth century.

This collection is important to researchers interested in Jews in the United States government in its early years, the documentation of nineteenth century New York's Sheriff and Surveyor offices, early attempts at establishing a Jewish homeland, and the New York Jewish community during the early to mid-nineteenth century. It is also useful in studying the degree of acceptance of an influential nineteenth century Jewish personage in the general American society.

The collection contains correspondence, customs records, legal proceedings, newspaper clippings, photographs, articles, subpoenas, play programs, and portraits. Items of particular note include: a manuscript list of Noah’s credits and debts resulting from his declaration of 1824 insolvency, associated papers, a portion of the debate regarding the Impeachment of the President of the United States from 1827, a copy of an 1818 letter from President Thomas Jefferson to Noah, and an 1816 letter from Secretary of State James Monroe regarding Noah's dismissal as consul to Tunis., and an 1828 poster with anti-Semitic undertones based on an event where Noah's former business partner, E.J. Roberts, flogged Noah with a cow skin on the steps of New York's Park Theater.

Includes former P-371 and P-741.

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The collection is organized into a single series.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

In the Archival Collections of the American Jewish Historical Society
P-3, Cohen Family of Richmond and Baltimore, Papers, 1799-1897. Letter from M.M. Noah to Colonel Mendes I. Cohen, Washington, 1845.
P-468, Nunes-Ribeiro Family, Papers, 1784-1820. Contains will of Rachel J. Cohen in which Mordecai Manuel Noah is listed as an heir.
P-698, Damascus Affair Collection, undated, 1840-41, 1896. Mordecai Manuel Noah is a signator to correspondence of the Executive Committee of the Israelites of the City of New York, which attempted to assist their brethren during the Damascus blood libel and the ensuing persecution in Rhodes.

In the Rare Book Collections of the American Jewish Historical Society
Rosenbach 193, Oration Delivered by Appointment before Tammany Society of Columbian Order, Hibernian Provident Society, New York. Printed By J.H. Sherman, 1817.
Rosenbach 199, Discourse Delivered at the Consecration of the Synagogue K.K. Shearit Israel in the City of New York, on Friday, the 10th of Nisan, 5578, corresponding with the 17th of April, 1818. New York. Printed by C.S. Van Winkle, 1818.
Rosenbach 204, She Would be a Soldier, or The Plains of Chippewa. An Historical Drama in Three Acts. New York. Longworth's Dramatic Repository, 1819.
Rosenbach 205, Travels in England, France, Spain, and the Barbary States in the years 1813-14 and 1815. New York. Kirk and Mercein, 1819.
Rosenbach 215, The Wandering Boys, or The Castle of Olival: a melo drama in two acts. Boston. Richardson and Lord, 1821.
Rosenbach 228a, The Grecian Captive, or The Fall of Athens. New York. 1822
Rosenbach 229, Marion, or the Hero of Lake George. New York. 1822
Rosenbach 234, Report of the trial of an action on the case brought by Silvanus Miller, Esq., late surrogate of the City and County of New York, against Mordecai M. Noah, Esq., editor of the National Advocate, for an alleged libel…New York. Printed by J.W. Palmer and Co., 1823.
Rosenbach 453, Sefer Ha-yashar, or The Book of Jasher: referred to in Joshua and Second Samuel/faithfully translated from the original Hebrew into English. New York. M.M. Noah and A.S. Gould. 1840.
Rosenbach 574, Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews: delivered at the Tabernacle October 28 and December 2, 1844. New York. Harper and Brothers., 1845.
Soble 232, The Joy of the Law (In The Odd Fellows Offering for 1851). New York. Edward Walker, 1851.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Mordecai Manuel Noah, papers; P-75; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

Gifts from the Elsie O. and Philip D. Sang Foundation, 1982, Morris and Eleanor Soble, 1989. Isaac Goldberg Collection of Mordecai Manuel Noah Letters gift of Dr. and Mrs. Allan Kliman, 1981. American Jewish Historical Society Rare Manuscript Purchase fund, 2011.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Papers of Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851), undated, 1816-1851

The Collection is in English.
1 linear foot (2 manuscript boxes, 1 oversized folder).

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content:

See Scope and Content Note.

11Sheriff of The City and County of New Yorkundated, 1821-1822request_box

- Indenture, undated
- Subpoena, 1821
- Letter of Venire, 1822

12Papers concerning insolvency and Manuscript of debts1824request_box

- A manuscript list of Noah’s credit and debts, New York, May 1824
- Signed Petition by M.M. Noah for Insolvency, accomplished and signed by Noah, countersigned by Richard Riker, March 5, 1824.
- Order of publication of insolvency for M.M. Noah, signed by Richard Riker
- Four notices from New York newspapers attesting publication of Noah’s bankruptcy for the appropriate period, with printed examples, May 8-14, 1824.
- Order of Assignment – non-Imprisonment for M.M. Noah signed by R. Riker, May 25, 1824
- Printed document signed by Richard Riker exempting Noah from imprisonment in exchange for the assignment of his estate to his creditors, May 26, 1824.
- Certificate of Assignments for insolvent debtor, M.M. Noah, signed by J. Phillips, Milton Rouse, Jonathan Seymour and others, May 26, 1824.

1 3 Records of the New York Surveyor’s Office 1830-1831 request_box

- Notice of bond of $28,000, undated
- 10 certifications of importation signed by Noah, 1830-1831
- Certifications and records of customs transactions, January-March 1831

1 4 Correspondence of Mordecai Manuel Noah Concerning Grand Island 1824-1833 request_box

- Noah's Secondary Interest in Grand Island, 1824-, facsimile
- Letter to Aloan Stewart Esq., 1825
- Letter to AC Flagg, 1833

15Correspondence of Mordecai Manuel Noah1820-1846request_box

- Miscellaneous letter, undated
- To Unknown, undated
- Marriage announcement of Zipporah Noah, undated
- To The Honorable T.U.P. Charlton at the office of the National Advocate, 1820
- To Morris Miller Esq., 1820
- Note, 1823
- To Honorable J. Johnson Esq, 1826
- To General Branch, 1830
- To John Branch, 1831
- To A. Flagg Esq., 1831
- To Unknown, 1831
- To JJ Cohen Esq., 1837
- To Robert H. Pruya Esq., 1837
- To Judge Doty, 1841
- To C.C. Garden Esq., 1842
- Newspaper Clipping with letter (recipient unknown), 1846

16Correspondence to Mordecai Manuel Noah1818, 1837request_box

- From President Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, May 1818 (copy)
- From Joseph Wolff, November 1837

17Correspondence concerning Mordecai Manuel Noah1816-1842

- 1 unknown letter from a Senate office, undated [later hand has the date of 1780-1, but Noah was not born until 1785, so date cannot be correct]
- Letter from James Monroe, Secretary of State to Naphtali Phillips, 1816
- Letter from President John Tyler, September 5, 1842

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18Articles and Writings1838-1839request_box

- Census of the City of New York, 1819
- A portion of the Debate regarding the Impeachment of The President, November 9, 1827
- Program from The Columbia Laboratory Players presentation of “Marion or The Hero of Lake George” written by Mordecai Manuel Noah, 1931
- In The New York Mirror, by Mordecai Manuel Noah
-- A Review, Saturday September 15, 1838
-- "The Simpson Benefit", Saturday September 22, 1838
-- "A Poet in the Country", Saturday November 3, 1838
-- "On Dits.", February 2, 1839

19Scrapbook assembled by Mordecai Manuel Noahundated, 1842-1847request_box
110Sheet Music written in Mordecai Manuel Noah’s Honor by Charles Mackay and Henry Russellundatedrequest_box
111Portraits of Mordecai Manuel Noahundated
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112Articles in Reference to Araratundated, 1866-1993request_box

- Photo of Ararat Corner Stone and Plaque, undated
- Article by Robert T. Grieves about Noah and his design for Grand Island, undated
- A People In Print: Jewish Journalism in America biographical article of Mordecai Manuel Noah, undated
- "The City of Ararat on Grand Island by Mordecai M. Noah" by Hon. Lewis F. Allen, 1866
- The Story of the Tablet of The City of Ararat by Hon., Lewis F. Allen, 1921
- "Attempt to Found Jewish State on Grand Island Failed" by Jerry Sutter, August 26, 1952
- "Yesteryears" by Barry C. Burnett, February 28, 1963
- Letter from Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society to Marion Young regarding commemoration of Ararat, 1965
- "The Ararat Stone Moves Again" Article about the constant moving of the Ararat corner stone by Carol Lamb, June 1975
- "Service to Cite Dream of Jewish Home on Isle" from Niagara Gazette, September 14, 1975
- Map and photograph from the Niagara Gazette, January 18, 1976
- "Israelis Visit Island", May 1, 1981
- "Visitors To View Ararat Stone", by M.E. Klingel, October 23, 1981
- "Ararat Stone to Visit Philadelphia", by M.E. Klingel, April 3, 1987
- The Last Fine Time by Verlyn Klinkenborg, 1991
- Letter from Grand Island Historical Society to Dr. Bernard Wax concerning information concerning the Ararat stone, 1993

2 1 Correspondence with Rebecca Noah 1827-1828 request_box
2 2 Correspondence with Rebecca February 2, 1829 (?) request_box
2 3 Correspondence with Rebecca February 6, 1829 request_box
2 4 Correspondence with Rebecca February 9, 1829 request_box
2 5 Correspondence with Rebecca February 11, 1829 request_box
2 6 Correspondence with Rebecca February 16, 1829 request_box
2 7 Correspondence with Rebecca February 24, 1829 request_box
2 8 Correspondence with Rebecca February 18, 1829 request_box
2 9 Correspondence with Rebecca May 16, 1830 request_box
2 10 Correspondence with Rebecca July 26, 1831 request_box
2 11 Correspondence with Rebecca July 28, 1831 request_box
2 12 Correspondence with Rebecca January 14, 1833 request_box
2 13 Correspondence with Rebecca January 15, 1833 request_box
2 14 Correspondence with Rebecca January 17, 1833 request_box
2 15 Correspondence with Rebecca January 20, 1833 request_box
2 16 Correspondence with Rebecca January 25, 1833 request_box
2 17 Correspondence with Rebecca January 28, 1833 request_box
2 18 Correspondence with Rebecca February 3, 1833 request_box
2 19 Correspondence with Rebecca May 30, 1841 request_box
2 20 Correspondence with Rebecca June 1, 1841 request_box
2 21 Correspondence with Rebecca Summer 1844 (a) request_box
2 22 Correspondence with Rebecca Summer 1844 (b) request_box
2 23 Correspondence with Rebecca February 22, 1845 (?) request_box
2 24 Correspondence with Rebecca March 26, 1845 request_box
2 25 Correspondence with Rebecca March 27, 1846 request_box
2 26 Correspondence with Rebecca March 29, 1846 request_box
2 27 Correspondence with Rebecca October 22, 1846 request_box
2 28 Correspondence with Rebecca April 3, 1848 request_box
2 29 Letter from Blanche M. Graurin (?) to Isaac Goldberg concerning Goldberg’s request to use Noah’s letters to conduct research May 1931 request_box
OS2F 1 Poster with Anti-Semitic Undertones based on an event where Noah’s former business partner, E.J. Roberts, flogged Noah with a cow skin on the steps of the Park Theater 1828 request_box
OS2F 2 The address of the Carriers of the Union January 1, 1843 request_box
OS2F 3 Boston Weekly Museum Obituary of Mordecai Manuel Noah April 26, 1851 request_box
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