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Papers of Sarah Fletcher (Bradlee) Codman (1842-1922)

Description

Sarah Codman's correspondence is voluminous. She received letters from friends, acquaintances, and family members. An insight into the lives and personalities of other people represented in the collection can be gained through her correspondence. Of special interest are the letters from her son, Ogden Codman, Jr., who wrote several times a week describing his private life as well as his business acquaintances. Frequent accounts of his architectural accomplishments are included in this correspondence. A sizable quantity of letters written to "Marraine" or "Godmother" contain letters from French soldiers which include vivid descriptions of the war in France between 1913 and 1917, as well as its destruction and aftermath. Of particular importance are letters Sarah received from her daughter-in-law, Leila Howard Codman, with whom she had a very warm and close relationship. Letters Leila received from Sarah further confirm the interest and kindness she had in Leila and her children with her late husband, Henry Walter Webb; Sarah never had biological grandchildren of her own.

The financial records are extensive. Sarah's household and personal bills span the years 1904 to 1922 and give a detailed picture of the life she and her family lived. Until her death in 1922, the bills incurred by her children, then in adulthood, were paid by Sarah. The estate papers of James Bowdoin Bradlee for 1872 and 1904 give an accurate accounting of her father's net worth. In 1904, the estate was worth $590,000. Letters she received from her attorney, Lawrence Minot, include descriptions of money her sister, Mary Bradlee Gaillard, gave to Louise Gaillard Boy and Lucien Gaillard, Mary's two impoverished step-children, and the net worth of Mary's estate, $250,000. Sarah's literary materials document the state of her health and her strategies for managing it. Sarah was an avid newspaper clipper. She cut out a variety of articles on seemingly unrelated topics, including obituaries for many of Boston's well known family members. Articles on World War I follow the course of events in Europe. The newspaper article on Rasputin's death contains vivid descriptions of his assassination. Her address book also includes a sizable number of Boston's finest, the majority of them residing in the Back Bay.

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Details

Collection Name
Codman family papers
Collection Code
MS001
Dates
1850-1922, undated
Date Notes
ca. 1850-1922, undated
Collection Type
Manuscripts
Description Level
Series
GUSN
297350
Reference Code
MS001.18

Historical/Biographical Note

Sarah Fletcher (Bradlee) Codman, the second daughter of James Bowdoin Bradlee and Mary Perrin May Bradlee, was born in Boston on 19 July 1842. She attended Mrs. Hodge's school for girls with her sister, Mary Bradlee (later Gaillard). Her childhood was spent in Boston enjoying all of the social amenities of her class. She was particularly fond of horseback riding. Sarah met her husband, Ogden Codman, Sr. in her youth. After a relatively short courtship, the two were married in King's Chapel on 28 October 1861. Sarah had six children: Ogden Codman, Jr. born 19 January 1863; Alice Newbold Codman, born 25 July 1866; Thomas Newbold Codman, born 17 May 1868; Bowdoin Bradlee Codman, born 25 December 1872; Hugh Codman, born 16 April 1875; and Dorothy Sarah Frances May Codman, born 8 April 1883. "Bow," as she called her third son, died in France on 30 September 1875. Sarah and Ogden lived in Hyde Park, New York, for the first year of their marriage, returning to Boston in 1862 when Ogden purchased the Codman ancestral home in Lincoln. After extensive remodeling, they moved into their new house which they called "The Grange" in July 1864. For the next four years they lived only six months of the year in Lincoln, the remainder being spent with her parents, the Bradlees, at 34 Beacon Street in Boston. Sarah enjoyed an active social life. While in Boston, she visited friends daily and attended many parties. She and Ogden spent time traveling back and forth between Lincoln and Boston once they settled there year round. Sarah and Ogden sustained serious financial losses as a result of the Boston fire of 1872. Deciding that it would be advantageous to live abroad, the family moved to France in 1874. After traveling through that country for a year they settled in Dinard, on the Normandy coast, in 1875.

They remained in Dinard for nine years; while there, they socialized with a large group of American expatriates. Her children attended schools in France and developed many friendships with both American expatriates and French citizens. The whole family returned to Lincoln in 1884, where they remained until 1893. Her eldest child, Ogden, Jr., lived in Boston, pursuing a career as an architect; the other children remained at home. Sarah's life centered around her children, though she remained socially active, being both hostess and guest at many lunches, teas, and dinner parties. She received many visitors and traveled to Boston often, and her sisters journeyed to Lincoln frequently to stay with the family. In July 1893, the Codmans returned to Europe; Sarah took Hugh and Dorothy to Berlin for the winter of 1893-1894, where Hugh studied the violin. After Ogden, Sr.'s death in 1904, the family lived in Europe each winter, returning to Lincoln only for the summer months. Sarah's focus shifted to traveling, gardening, and socializing within a close circle of friends and family. She returned permanently to the United States in 1912 and busied herself with the home and family in Lincoln. She was active in aiding the French and Belgium soldiers, prisoners of war, and displaced persons, writing letters, knitting clothes, and donating money and gifts to help the French cause during World War I. Sarah died in her Lincoln home on 23 June 1922, shortly before her eightieth birthday.

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