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Papers of Ogden Codman, Sr. (1839-1904)

Description

The papers of Ogden Codman, Sr. reflect the daily life of a Boston gentleman during the latter half of the nineteenth century. While there are correspondence and photographs, the main portion of the collection deals with Ogden's financial affairs. The correspondence is primarily between family members. His brothers, Charles and James Macmaster Codman, wrote extensively to Ogden about his poor study habits and his extravagant ways. Arthur Dehon, a schoolmate of Ogden's, shares his experiences during the Civil War as an aide to Union General George Meade. While writing to wish the Codmans a pleasant journey to Europe, historian Charles Francis Adams concludes that winters in New England are "about the equivalent of four months in Hell." Ogden's financial papers contain over 2,000 items and cover a span of forty- nine years. They are of value in the study of Massachusetts family economic and social history. There are various account books for employees at the Lincoln estate. Orren Hanscom, an overseer at the estate, lists purchases and repairs in a number of ledgers. The collection includes an array of bank drafts, checkbooks, fiduciary accounts, insurance papers, and an income tax return for 1870. Ogden's bills and receipts are the most prevalent items among the financial records. This category is a virtual index of nineteenth century commodities. The personal bills are those items exclusively for Ogden's use (e.g. clothing, cigars, and shaving utensils). Those bills for the house in Lincoln include all bills relating to the family and the care of the estate (e.g. food, furnishings, livery, and agricultural supplies). The expenses for architect John Hubbard Sturgis and decorators Marcotte and Davenport for renovations at "The Grange" are included in this section as well as the hotel bills for Ogden and his sister-in- law, Alice Bradlee Chase during their tour of the United States. There are numerous bills incurred by the family at Dinard and throughout Europe. Apparently the family maintained two Boston residences: 102 Beacon Street and 283 Commonwealth Avenue. The names of various family members appear frequently among these bills. In his travel log from his 1858 trip to Calcutta, Ogden writes of his experiences aboard "the good ship Versailles." There are related photographs in the collection which he collected on this trip. One item of interest is a notice concerning a burglary at the Grange in which is listed the various silver items stolen, including jewelry and tableware. The notice states that information concerning the burglary is to be forwarded to the chief of police at Waltham, Massachusetts. Ogden collected many photographs both in America and abroad. The diverse collection includes sights both in Paris and Dinard as well as the ruins of Greece. There are numerous photographs of the Grange, both interior and exterior, and also New Hampshire, Florida, and Washington. One interesting item in Ogden's literary papers is a relics certificate. On a trip to the Vatican in 1861, Ogden purchased relics of a number of saints. The certificate verifies the purchase and mentions the various saints including St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Augustine. Additional stock certificates once belonging to Ogden Codman, Sr. will be found in the papers of Thomas Newbold Codman.

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Details

Collection Name
Codman family papers
Collection Code
MS001
Dates
1847-1904, undated
Collection Type
Manuscripts
Description Level
Series
GUSN
297565
Reference Code
MS001.15

Historical/Biographical Note

Ogden Codman, Sr., eldest son of Charles Russell Codman and Sarah Ogden Codman, was born in Boston in 1839. He studied at C. M. Vinson's school in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and later at the school of J. P. Allen in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Ogden attended Harvard College but departed "for a good sea voyage" to the East Indies without completing his degree (Harvard Class of 1861, Sixth Report, Cambridge, 1902, p. 63). While abroad, Ogden collected an unusual array of photographs, from lavish sultans and temples to beggars in the streets of Calcutta. He returned home by way of Europe, returning to Harvard to study law. Apparently this did not hold his attention; his notes are covered with doodles and sketches of his professor, and he dropped out of the program. He lived for a year at Hyde Park, New York, on the Hudson River, and returned to Boston in 1861. It was in that year he married Sarah Fletcher Bradlee, a woman every bit his social equal whom he would later describe as "a fitting mate." Together they had six children. In 1862, Ogden repurchased the family estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts, which had been owned by his father and grandfather before him, and named it "The Grange." He employed the noted Boston architect John Hubbard Sturgis to renovate the house and the New York firm of Leon Marcotte and Company to decorate it. At Lincoln, Ogden settled down to life "as a sort of farmer," supervising his vast estate. He sponsored a horse race, attended parties and operas, and frequently dined at the Somerset Club. A member of numerous societies and fraternal organizations, he spent long vacations on the Maine coast. After the Boston fire of 1872, which destroyed much of his real estate holdings, the family moved to Dinard in northern France. This fashionable seaside resort became a second home, which already had a thriving American population. During the next thirty years he would travel extensively throughout Europe returning occasionally to "The Grange." In the late 1890s, he toured the United States with his sister-in-law, Alice Bowdoin Bradlee Chase, widow of Theodore Chase, Jr. His wife, however, remained at Dinard. Except for occasional trips "home" to Lincoln to pick up clothes, Ogden spent his final years with Alice Chase at her Peaches Point home in Marblehead, Massachusetts. "That isn't a very eventful or important life," Ogden once wrote to his class secretary, "but it hasn't been an unhappy one."

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The series is arranged in eleven subseries.

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