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Family Manuscript Collections

Oct 1, 2014

Expanding Access to New England Heritage

Highlights from and finding aids for Historic New England’s collection of family manuscripts and business records


In September 2013, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission awarded Historic New England a grant to improve public access to twenty-six collections of family papers associated with our historic properties. The project received additional funding from the Bedford Family Foundation and an anonymous foundation.

Finding aids to these papers are now accessible online through the Collections Access portal. These guides will help researchers identify archival materials that reveal details about nationally significant figures and events and about New England’s social, cultural, economic, agricultural, and literary history.

These collections also inform on-site interpretation of Historic New England’s historically significant buildings and landscapes.

 

Finding Aids

View finding aids for twenty-six collections

Barrett House in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, September 9, 1912

The Barrett family papers document the Barrett, Bullard, Barr, and Wade families, all associated with Barrett House (also known as “Forest Hall”), an elegant country house in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, and their lives in a New Hampshire mill village. Materials in the collection document in word and image personal, business, and cultural life as well as the history of New Ipswich.

This collection contains:

  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Legal documents
  • Financial records
  • Printed materials

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Barrett family.

Written while Sleeper was with the American Field Service in France

This collection includes materials related to Henry Davis Sleeper (1878-1934), one of the first successful American interior decorators, and Beauport, his summer house in Gloucester, Massachusetts. It also gives insight into his social circle at Eastern Point and life at his summer home and showplace. Copies of correspondence between Sleeper and his friends, such as Cecilia Beaux, Caroline Sinkler, Isabella Stewart Gardner, A. Piatt Andrew, and others, offer a glimpse into Sleeper’s world in Boston and Gloucester and during his service in the American Field Service in France.

This collection contains:

  • Ephemera
  • Scrapbooks
  • Genealogical research
  • Correspondence

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about Henry Davis Sleeper and Beauport.

Group portrait of the Bowen family with President McKinley, July 4, 1891

The Bowen family papers document the lives of multiple generations of this Woodstock, Connecticut, family. The most significant papers belong to Henry Chandler Bowen (1813-1896), an influential anti-slavery supporter, member of Henry Ward Beecher’s Plymouth [Congregational] Church in Brooklyn, New York, early supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party, and publisher of The Independent. Of particular interest are materials that document the design and construction of Bowen’s summer home, Roseland Cottage.

This collection contains:

  • Financial records
  • Legal documents
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Genealogical research
  • Photographs
  • Architectural plans
  • Printed material

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Bowen family and Roseland Cottage.

A formal portrait of Brigadier General Thomas Lincoln Casey of the Army Corps of Engineers, 1888

This collection features manuscripts from the Casey family of Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. The Casey family papers document social life, trade, agricultural activities, and the presence of African American labor at the family’s farm. These papers also include correspondence, architectural drawings, photographs, and other documents related to the construction of the Washington Monument, Library of Congress, and other significant buildings in Washington, D.C.

This collection contains:

  • Account books
  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Financial records
  • Diaries
  • Ephemera
  • Legal documents

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

Group portrait of Codman family members c. 1886

This collection features manuscripts from the Codman family of the Codman Estate (“The Grange”) in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The extensive Codman family manuscripts collection is a major resource for the study of New England family history, domestic relationships, changing patterns of taste and consumption, mercantile and shipping activities, and the evolution of the Codman country estate. The collection also contains extensive correspondence from Edith Wharton to architect Ogden Codman, Jr., friends and coauthors of the book The Decoration of Houses.

This collection contains:

  • Account books
  • Architectural drawings
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Financial records
  • Inventories
  • Legal documents
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Printed material

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

Piratical Barbarity or The Female Captive, a pamphlet printed c. 1825

The John Codman family papers include materials that document the life of the Reverend John Codman and his descendants, New England trade and shipping activities, and the domestic, economic, and cultural life of early nineteenth-century Boston.

Historic New England also holds an extensive collection of papers associated with descendants of Charles Russell Codman, the brother of Rev. John Codman and owner of the family estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts (see the Codman family papers).

This collection contains:

  • Legal documents
  • Financial records
  • Correspondence
  • Account books
  • Ephemera

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the John Codman family papers.

Exterior view of Coffin House, 1881

The Coffin family papers document the domestic life, economic activities, and civic affairs of seven generations of the Coffin family of Newbury, Massachusetts, an important colonial agricultural community. Account books recording household purchases, local trade, and the family tanning business offer a detailed view of everyday colonial life.

This collection contains:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Financial records
  • Legal documents

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

View of the exterior of Cooper-Frost-Austin House

The Cooper-Frost-Austin manuscript collection contains materials associated with the families who lived in the oldest extant house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, built in 1681. The house was sold to Gideon Frost, a grandson of the original owner, in 1788. The majority of the collection focuses on Gideon Frost, his great-granddaughter, Susan S. Austin, and her husband, Richard Thomas Austin.

This collection contains:

  • Deeds
  • Probate records
  • Correspondence
  • Printed materials
  • Financial records

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

Walter Gropius playing ping pong, 1960

The Gropius family papers contain papers of architect and principal founder of the Bauhaus Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (1883-1969) and his wife Ise (Frank) Gropius (1897-1983). They reflect their personal lives and professional work in Germany and the United States. The papers largely consist of Ise’s correspondence with family and friends in her homeland of Germany, immigration and naturalization documents and genealogical material relating to Walter and Ise, financial records, and material related to Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachusetts, in addition to other personal and professional work by the Gropiuses.

This collection contains:

  • Ephemera
  • Photographs
  • Correspondence
  • Legal documents
  • Financial records

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about Walter and Ise Gropius.

Portrait of Halfdan M. Hanson, c. 1914

The Halfdan M. Hanson architectural collection contains drawings for numerous projects and the records of his architectural practice. Of special significance are materials related to Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, a project he undertook with interior designer Henry Davis Sleeper, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

This collection contains:

  • Architectural drawings
  • Correspondence
  • Financial records

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about Halfdan Hanson’s architectural practice.

Portrait of Sarah Orne Jewett, c. 1870s – 1890s

The Jewett family papers include personal correspondence between noted New England author Sarah Orne Jewett and members of her family and friends. References to social events, daily reports of health and activities, and travel and vacationing provide a personal view of the author’s life.

This collection contains:

  • Photographs
  • Correspondence
  • Ephemera
  • Financial records

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

Exterior view of Governor John Langdon House, Portsmouth, N.H.

The Langdon family papers reflect the financial management of Governor John Langdon House in Portsmouth, Hew Hampshire, by husband and wife Woodbury Langdon (1837-1921) and Elizabeth Elwyn Langdon (1871-1945). These materials include a collection of invoices itemizing household expenses, lodging, and repairs made to the Governor John Langdon House by descendants in the early twentieth century during their transformation of the house into a Colonial Revival showplace.

This collection contains:

  • Financial records

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Langdon family.

A postcard of the exterior of Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm

The Little family papers document the history of multiple generations and two branches of the family descended from George Little (died c. 1694), who settled in Newbury, Massachusetts, after leaving England c. 1640. The papers of Edward Henry Little (1825-1877) are the core of this collection and document his local business ventures, his pursuits as a citizen and public servant in Newbury, and activities at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm.

This collection contains:

  • Financial records
  • Legal documents
  • Correspondence
  • Deeds
  • Diaries
  • Ephemera
  • Photographs

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Little family.

A portrait of Nina Fletcher Little and Bertram K. Little working on their book, American Decorative Wall Painting, 1952

This collection documents the professional activities and accomplishments of Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little, renowned collectors, preservationists, and experts in the fields of American folk art and decorative arts, active from the 1930s to 1980s.

These materials reflect the Littles’ work as authors, researchers, lecturers, consultants, board members for museums and historical organizations, professional preservationists, and collectors of folk art and decorative arts objects.

Their home and folk art collection may be experienced in person at Cogswell’s Grant in Essex, Massachusetts. Bertram K. Little was the corresponding secretary for Historic New England between 1947 and 1970.

This collection contains:

  • Correspondence
  • Research notes
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Ephemera
  • Legal documents
  • Publications

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little papers.

Exterior view of the Lyman Estate, facing porch, 1884

The Lyman family papers reflect the personal, social, and professional life and work of the Lyman family of Boston and Waltham, particularly between 1818 and 1839.

This collection contains:

  • Correspondence
  • Financial records

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Lyman family.

Exterior view of Marrett House

The Marrett family papers include materials related to Rev. Daniel Marrett (1767-1863), a Congregational minister and farmer, who was well known for introducing fruit tree grafting to this region. The collection also documents his direct descendants, including Frances Marrett (1865-1944), a teacher at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston.

This collection contains:

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Financial records
  • Legal documents
  • Printed materials
  • Photographs

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Marrett family.

Exterior view of Merwin House

The Merwin House collection contains material that reflects the personal and social lives of the Doane, Merwin, and Wilson families who resided in Merwin House in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The majority of the collection comprises genealogical material focused on Marie Vipont deRiviere (Doane) Merwin (1878-1965) and her family line.

This collection contains:

  • Genealogical research
  • Family history

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

Portrait of Harrison Gray Otis

The professional papers of Harrison Gray Otis (1765-1848) reflect the planning and work of Otis, the Mount Vernon Proprietors, and the Boston Mill Corporation in developing Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The papers largely comprise professional correspondence, legal and real estate documents, and site plans.

The collection focuses on the initial 1796 purchase of Copley Pasture from artist John Singleton Copley, the ensuing dispute of the land sale, and the challenges of the Proprietors right of title. Harrison Gray Otis eventually moved from his first house on Cambridge Street to two Charles Bulfinch-designed homes in the neighborhood he helped develop.

The first Harrison Gray Otis house on Cambridge Street served for decades as the headquarters for Historic New England (formerly the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities). Today, it houses the Otis House Museum, the Library and Archives, and some administrative offices.

This collection contains:

  • Legal documents
  • Correspondence
  • Financial records
  • Maps and drawings
  • Printed materials

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about Otis’s business papers.

A sketch created by Nannie Jencks (Borden) Phillips, date unknown

The Phillips family papers are made up of a wealth of materials accumulated by the Phillips family of Salem, Massachusetts, and associated families (including the Peele, Duncan, Wheatland, Pingree, Peabody, and Borden families).

Among these papers are those of Stephen Henry Phillips (1823-1897), who served as the Massachusetts Attorney General (1858-1861) and the Attorney General to the Kingdom of Hawaii (1866-1873).

This collection contains:

  • Blueprints
  • Business records
  • Financial records
  • Photographs
  • Diaries
  • Home movies
  • Maps
  • Correspondence
  • Rare books
  • Ephemera

Explore these searchable finding aids to discover more about the Phillips family:

Exterior view of Pierce House

The Pierce family papers document more than three hundred years of history related to their family activities and property, located in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. The collection provides a first-hand perspective of events related to the Revolutionary War, colonial commerce, and the development of neighborhoods in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This collection contains:

  • Legal documents
  • Diaries
  • Financial papers
  • Correspondence
  • Muster rolls
  • Literary materials

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Pierce family

A pet cemetery on the grounds of Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, memorializes many of the Mays’ animals and even a songbird, Sunny Boy.

The Rundlet-May family papers document the life and descendants of a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, textile merchant and later textile manufacturer, and offers insight into the material culture of nineteenth-century New Hampshire.

James Rundlet’s (1772-1852) papers provide detailed information about the construction of his 1807 house and labor practices in early nineteenth-century house building. Four generations of the family resided in the Portsmouth home, including two doctors, who are also represented in this collection.

This collection contains:

  • Financial papers
  • Architectural drawings
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Legal documents
  • Maps
  • Ephemera

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Rundlet and May families.

Portrait of Mrs. Nathaniel (Sally Sayward) Barrell by Joseph Blackburn, 1761

The Sayward family papers include a variety of materials related to multiple generations of families who lived at Sayward-Wheeler House. Of note are a collection of Loyalist Jonathan Sayward’s correspondence and a receipt for Joseph Blackburn’s oil portrait of Sayward’s daughter Sally Sayward Barrell, a rare document from an important painter for whom there are few surviving records.

This collection contains:

  • Financial records
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • Ephemera
  • Wills

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

A pledge for the Cold Water Army of Massachusetts, a temperance association of which Lucy Smith Anderson was a member

The Parson Smith family papers include materials related to the multiple generations who lived in Parson Smith House in Windham, Maine. The house was built for the minister Peter Thatcher Smith (1731-1826) and was formerly a house museum operated by Historic New England. It is now privately owned and protected through the Preservation Easement Program.

This collection contains:

  • Photographs
  • Financial records
  • Literary materials
  • Legal documents
  • Correspondence

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Parson Smith collection.

Exterior view of Castle Tucker, Wiscasset, Maine, 1908

The Tucker family papers offer detailed documentation of everyday life in Victorian America through collections of receipts for furnishings and decorative objects still present in the Wiscasset, Maine, house. A wealth of correspondence reveals the complexities of family relationships. These papers also include letters written by Captain Tucker in which he comments on the Civil War from his perspective as a businessman with direct ties to South Carolina.

This collection contains:

  • Financial records
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Ephemera
  • Legal documents
  • Photographs

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about this family manuscript collection.

Exterior view of Hamilton House, South Berwick, Maine, with snow

The Elizabeth (Tyson) Vaughan (1871-1949) papers contain material belonging to Vaughan, a friend of author Sarah Orne Jewett, who lived in Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine, and members of her family (not all of whom lived in Hamilton House).

The majority of the collection is comprised of correspondence by Vaughan’s mother and George Tyson’s (1831-1881) first wife Sarah (Anthony) Tyson (1842-1873) and documents her personal and social life in New Bedford, Mass., and Shanghai, China, during the nineteenth century.

Although many items in this collection are not directly related to the lives of Elizabeth (Tyson) Vaughan or her stepmother, Emily Tyson, at Hamilton House, they document an important part of the family’s history from the perspective of a nineteenth-century American woman.

This collection contains:

  • Diary
  • Record book

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about Elizabeth (Tyson) Vaughan and her family.

Group portrait of the Appleton family, May 1905

The Weld-Appleton family papers document the life of the Appleton family in Beacon Hill (Boston) and West Newton, Massachusetts, and Santa Barbara, California, between 1860 and 1940, as well as their ancestors. The bulk of the collection is from the family of William Sumner Appleton and Harriott Coffin Sumner, their children, and specifically Dorothy Appleton Weld, who married George Weld in 1904.

This collection contains:

  • Photographs
  • Albums
  • Correspondence
  • Ephemera

Explore the searchable finding aid to discover more about the Welds and Appletons.