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James Hardin Peterson Papers

Identifier: Ms 081

Scope and Content

The collection dates from 1929 to 1951, roughly spanning Peterson's nine terms in the House of Representatives. The collection is comprised primarily of correspondence, the majority of which consists of Peterson's communication with constituents and concerned citizens. The collection covers a variety of topics, including the Great Depression, the New Deal agencies, World War II, neutrality and national defense, taxes, the citrus industry, the Everglades, the Cross Florida Barge Canal, loans, and immigration to the U.S.

The collection is divided into two distinct series. The first series contains Bills and Legislation, and the second includes Correspondence and Subject Files. Both sections are arranged alphabetically.


  • Creation: 1929-1951



The collection is open for research. The presence of constituent mail in this collection requires mediated access. Access to constituent mail is restricted for a period of 30 years from creation. Researchers must consult with Special Collections staff before using the collection and must agree in writing to the following conditions: Congressional constituent mail is considered a type of privileged correspondence. Reproduction of constituent mail in any format is prohibited. Further, researchers using constituent mail must agree not to divulge the names or addresses of constituents or provide information that could conceivably identify constituents.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Hardin Peterson was born in Batesburg, South Carolina in 1894. His family moved to Florida when he was six months old and moved again to Lakeland in 1903. He graduated from Lakeland High School with honors in 1911 and later that year enrolled at the University of Florida to study law. He completed his studies in three years and was quickly admitted to the Bar in 1914. He then established a very successful law practice in Lakeland. During the First World War he enlisted with the Navy and served as a yeoman first class and chief yeomen for ten months. After the war he returned to his law practice where he specialized in municipal law. He served as Lakeland's city attorney for sixteen years and additionally served as prosecutor and solicitor of the criminal court in Polk County for over ten years. In 1917 he married Christine Farrar of Jacksonville. The couple had two children, Anna and J. Hardin, Jr.

In 1932 he was elected to the 73rd Congress and served for nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives until 1951. He served on various committees, including: Committee on Public Lands, Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, House Un-American Activities Committee, Committee on World War Veteran's Legislation, Committee on Mines and Mining, and the Select Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources. He also served on numerous subcommittees for each of these committees. For example, while serving on the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries he served on several subcommittees including: Subcommittee for Ship construction and Operation, Subcommittee to Investigate Pacific Coast Fisheries, Subcommittee on Maritime Labor, Subcommittee on Merchant Marine in Overseas Aviation, Subcommittee on the Coast Guard, Coast and Geodetic Surveys, and Public Health Service.

Throughout his tenure in office Peterson had a reputation for hard work and dedication to constituent service. After retiring from Congress in 1951 Peterson returned to Lakeland and resumed his law practice with his son J. Hardin, Jr. He remained active in law and various community organizations until his death at the age of eighty-four in 1978.


42 Linear feet (99 boxes)

Language of Materials



Papers of James Hardin Peterson, a lawyer and congressman representing Florida's 1st district for 18 years in the House of Representatives.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Processing Notes

The collection was recently re-processed and arranged into the two sections described in this finding aid. A copy of the old filing system with annotations revealing where files are currently located can be found in box 1 in a folder entitled Index.

A Guide to the James Hardin Peterson Papers
Finding aid created by Stephen Jackson
July 2007
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America