This collection is made up of six diaries kept between 1862 and 1867 by James W. Hawn, "First Telegrapher," clerk, and manager of the Corn Exchange bank office in the Western Union Telegraph Company building on 145 Broadway in New York City. One of the most frequent subject covered by Hawn was speculation in gold and railroad stocks (Fort Wayne, Rock Bland, Illinois Central, Erie, etc.). He recorded, for example, fluctuations in the markets related to his particular investments.
The Civil War is reflected in the diaries. Most prominent are his passages on the New York Draft Riots in July 1863. The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln led to multiple entries respecting the response and public mourning in New York City.
He also documented his leisure and social activities, such as skating, playing baseball, attending baseball games, and spending time at church (including Henry Ward Beecher's church in Brooklyn), theaters, concerts, and operas. His interest in opera was significant and he noted dozens of the performances he attended.