The collection, 1833-1897, mostly consists of letters written to and by James Duncan Graham. Many are to and from his children (William Montrose Graham, Salvadora Graham, James Duncan Graham, Margaret C. Graham and Richard Worsham Meade Graham) and concern their education, health and his concern that they accommodate themselves to the social customs of the time. Two of his sons attended the United States Naval Academy (one also attended Racine College). The other attended the United States Military Academy. Letters also concern Graham's engineering projects, his connection with scientific societies and donations to libraries, the Mexican War, the decision of the family to remain loyal to the Union and the cultural interests of the family (opera and music in particular) and the family portraits done by G.P.A. Healy.
In 2011, a 1860's era photograph album belonging to James Duncan Graham was added to Box 1.