Papers of Theodore Chase, Jr. (1832-1895)


Theodore Chase, Jr.'s correspondence reveals his considerable interest in music and musical criticism. Several letters refer to his writing reviews of various performances. We also learn that he was both a supporter of and organizer for the Boston opera in 1887. Chase seems also to have taken an interest in preserving Boston's West End, and several letters refer to a citizen's action committee to save the West End from further commercial development in 1890. Chase's far flung connections are also revealed in his correspondence. Among his correspondents were the Marquis de Lafayette, son of the Lafayette of Revolutionary fame, and Julia Ward Howe. Chase was also interested in his family history, as the letters he copied of his grandfather and grandmother, Colonel and Mrs. Timothy Bigelow, reveal. His travel log is rather scant, but it is illustrated with a number of sketches. His paid bills relate primarily to foreign purchases while living in Europe, and his fiduciary papers in account with his brother George, which include payments to his wife Alice, are probably based on his inheritance from Theodore Chase, Sr. The bill of Theodore Chase, Sr. is for a painting at a raffle held in the Chickering Pianoforte Manufactory. The letters from Baring Brothers deal with an attempt by them to recover for Chase property lost in travelling.

Theodore Chase, Jr.'s legal papers contain, in his own handwriting, notes on a trial concerning an accident Theodore and Alice had in 1884 in Marblehead, where they had summered since 1880. The outcome of the case, involving injury to the Chase's horse who stumbled in a badly-kept road, is not clear from the record which survives. Perhaps the most unusual item in Chase's papers is the holograph agreement with his friend Arthur Dexter in 1860 to "meet" after the death of one or the other. This agreement was made during a time when belief in the supernatural and spiritualism was at a peak. Chase's academic compositions, on conventional subjects, date primarily from his sophomore and junior years at Harvard College, 1850-1852. The source of his observations on the hanging of Jefferson Davis is from The Saturday Review of 20 May 1865, but he clearly favors leniency. Chase’s papers also include poetry written by him. At least one of his poems is a humorous, if not bawdy, version of "a French dressing maid's prayer." Also of some humor are Chase's addresses to the Porcellian Club, parodies of the more serious, formal type compositions he delivered in class.

The maps in Chase's collection were collected at the time of the West End development debate. Of particular interest, however, is the Olmstead map with its proposal, later accomplished, for widening Beacon Street in 1886. The Pau map shows the location of Mary Bradlee Gaillard during the Paris Commune. The collection also includes a survey of Chase's Marlboro Street home is in his own hand. There are several broadsides which Chase collected in Paris during the Commune, as well as several dozen newspapers, both in French and English, giving the particulars on the Paris Commune and its collapse on a day to day basis. His papers constitute a rather diverse accumulation of Commune-related items.


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Collection Name

Codman family papers

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Record Details

Description Level


Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

Theodore Chase, Jr. was born in Boston on 4 February 1832, the son of Theodore Chase and Clarissa Bigelow Chase. His maternal grandfather was Colonel Timothy Bigelow, a Worcester blacksmith who distinguished himself during the Revolution. Theodore Chase, Sr. had come to Boston from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he had amassed a fortune as a merchant. He lived at 44 Beacon Street and in 1851 was worth a reputed $300,000. Theodore Chase, Jr. prepared for college at the Boston Latin School in 1842 under the direction of Francis James Child, who later became Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard College. Chase entered Harvard in 1849, became a member of its exclusive Porcellian Club, and graduated with the class of 1853. Not having to choose a profession, Chase became an inveterate traveler, journeyed throughout Europe, and amassed a fine musical library. Although partially deaf, Chase became something of a music critic and was a major benefactor of the ballet and opera in Boston. On 17 November 1868, he married Alice Bowdoin Bradlee, daughter of James Bowdoin Bradlee and Mary Perrin May Bradlee of Boston. Theodore and Alice Chase were in Paris at the time of the French Commune in 1871. Theodore was an ardent supporter of Napoleon III and the Prussian-supported National Assembly (the Third Republic). The Chases survived the siege of Paris, returned to Boston, and lived at 168 Marlborough Street. They summered at Bar Harbor, Maine, and in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Theodore Chase, Jr. served on occasion as a trustee and financial counselor, but he was more often abroad with his wife, pursuing their love of travel. While in Europe, he purchased art objects for his father-in-law, James Bowdoin Bradlee. Chase died of pernicious anemia in Boston on 18 March 1894.



The series is arranged in five subseries.