Papers of Dorothy Sarah Frances May Codman (1883-1968)

Collection Type

  • Manuscripts


1828-1969, undated



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Dorothy maintained voluminous correspondence from an early age. Louisa L. Sanborn was a school friend, and her letters, like many other early ones, express a schoolgirl's interests. The German letters were sent by a onetime German teacher. The museum correspondence deals primarily with attempts to obtain material associated with her brother, the architect Ogden, Jr. She maintained a running correspondence with her mother which primarily concerns social matters. French prisoner of war correspondence, typical of the kind of war relief work she undertook, is represented by Arthur Duterte. Many other letters, such as those from Daisy Renny (Ogden, Jr.'s maid) and Francis L. White (Ogden, Jr.'s secretary), relate to the activities of her favorite and most accomplished brother. The postcards are those with written messages, not those she collected as artifacts (see biography above). Her diaries are complete for the years they cover. They are not philosophical but descriptive in nature, the later ones dealing with her day-to-day existence. She was an inveterate chronicler of minutiae. Her financial records are useful in assessing the family's wealth, Dorothy being the last in the line and beneficiary of her earlier deceased siblings. The picture inventory of 1919 and the room\-by-room inventories made in later years at the house are invaluable sources for documenting the location and existence of objects. The history of 5 Marlboro Street is well documented in the real estate papers. Her genealogical papers are especially valuable and contain information not readily available elsewhere. These are supplemented with several books found in the printed matter in this series. Her scrapbooks show her interest in murder mysteries and other crimes, and she made a point of clipping from newspapers strange or remarkable events. The newspaper editorial cartoons, Jack Frost drawings, and Boston scrapbooks are quite complete and contain material not easily found elsewhere. Some of these will be of value to students of Boston history. Dorothy was an indiscriminate collector, and many of her jottings have not been retained, including laundry slips and other such material. However, enough examples of this type of material has been preserved for evidential value.


Collection Code


Collection Name

Codman family papers

Reference Code


Record Details


Folders 187.2831, 221.3047, 194.2929, and 219.3024 are closed until 2039.

Description Level


Historical/Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

Dorothy Sarah Frances May Codman was born on 8 April 1883, the sixth child and second daughter of Ogden Codman, Sr., and Sarah Fletcher Bradlee Codman. Named in part for her maternal grandmother and in part after her own mother, Dorothy was born in Dinard, France; with her brother Hugh Codman, she shared the experience of living in Dinard as an infant. She also took up the work her mother had begun among the French wounded during World War I. Of all the children in the eighth generation, Dorothy more than any other took war relief work to heart. Even as a young girl, she organized knitting parties to make much needed sweaters, jackets, and socks for soldiers. Like Hugh, she studied German. Dorothy, like two of her brothers and her other sister, never married. She busied herself with building collections of newspaper clippings, postcards, and sea shells at the family estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts. She spent long hours reading in the library and was partial to mysteries. Dorothy seems to have been keenly aware of her family's place in history, preserving every record relating to the Codman past and undertaking investigations into the genealogies of family and friends. She collected some 200 volumes of postcards from around the world, some sent as short letters but most collected for their pictorial value. Dorothy also took great delight in her flowers and gardens. Her chief interest in later years was in hearing news of brother, Ogden, Jr., in France, but with his death in 1951 Dorothy became more withdrawn. She died at her ancestral home on 6 June 1968. She was the last Codman to live in the house. Upon her death, the property was transferred to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, now Historic New England.



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