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Papers of Frances "Fanny" Bowdoin Bradlee (1849-1930)


The papers of Frances Bowdoin Bradlee are composed primarily of correspondence and financial material. One of the most frequent correspondents was her niece, Alice Newbold Codman (1866-1923) or "Ahla." She wrote mostly from Paris, beginning as early as 1906. Writing from London on 17 November 1922, she gave an amusing description of visiting Westminster. Abbey: "It seems that the Dean doesn't like women to go their [sic] with uncovered heads!! And there was recently quite a rowdy row about it as some royalties [sic] wanted to go to some ceremony there, head uncovered, and the Dean would not permit’s a queer world isn't it." Fanny’s papers contain nearly 200 postcards. The majority are from Europe, sent by Alice, Thomas, and Dorothy Codman. On one of Dorothy's cards showing the Place de la Concorde, she points out where she used to go to school. Others are from Egypt, Cuba, and parts of the United States, with many of the latter sent by Benjamin W. Crowninshield, II, son of her sister, Katherine (b. 1844). Two of the letters from the post-World War I period give interesting accounts of Europe's condition at that time. In his letter from England dated 3 November 1920, Robert Barron, a longtime friend, wrote "it's a blessing the war is over but it has left every European country in a terrible state... everything terribly dear and the working class making it worse... and there is trouble in Ireland." Even in 1923, Thomas wrote that "the poor city of Reims is pathetic nothing but ruins...and the Cathedral nothing but a shell is left."

Fanny’s financial records begin with a cash account book from 1870-1871, which includes such detailed entries as 20¢ paid to an "old woman." By 1876, Fanny was maintaining a list of wages paid. Records of her stocks are present from 1905 to 1912 in account with F. Stone. There are extensive documents prepared by Laurence Minot and Moses Williams as fiduciaries for the years 1919 to 1924 which give a detailed view of her financial position. An additional financial document is the 1925 real estate appraisal of her sister Alice Bradlee Chase (1846-1925), the widow of Theodore Chase, Jr. (1832-1899).

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Collection Name
Codman family papers
Collection Code
1870-1925, undated
Collection Type
Description Level
Reference Code

Historical/Biographical Note

Frances Bowdoin Bradlee, youngest daughter of James Bowdoin Bradlee and Mary Perrin May Bradlee was born on 3 August 1849. Fanny did not marry or have children, but she was a loving aunt to the children of her sister, Sarah Bradlee Codman. Above all else, Fanny was devoted to her father and was devastated by his death in 1872. The loss of her mother five years later forced her to leave her beloved home at 34 Beacon Street in Boston when the house was sold. She purchased 10 Louisburg Square, Boston, as her new home, having inherited her father's dislike of the "new lands" of the Back Bay and the belief that nothing was superior to Beacon Hill. Fanny secluded herself in her new home, though she managed to keep in touch by letter with her favorite nieces and nephews. She was generous and always remembered them at Christmas throughout her life. Ogden Codman, Jr., wrote to her from New York on 18 March 1909 repaying a loan Fanny had made to him of over a thousand dollars, money that had enabled him to begin his architectural career. Various members of the Bradlee and Codman families wrote frequent and affectionate letters and cards to "Aunt Fanny," particularly during their sojourns abroad. Greetings were also sent to Miss Julia A. Casey, Fanny's lifetime housekeeper and companion. Fanny died in her home on Beacon Hill, only two blocks from the house in which she was born, on 17 November 1930.


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