Palfrey family papers, 1713-1915: History of New England

About this Collection

Palfrey family.
Account books.Deeds.Diaries.Lectures.Logs (records)Manuscripts (for publication)Poems.Proofs.Scrapbooks.Sermons.
Collection Title
Palfrey family papers, 1713-1915History of New England
150 boxes and 9 volumes (60 linear ft.)
Houghton Library, Harvard University
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Palfrey family
Harvard Divinity School--Faculty
United States.
American literature
Postal service--Massachusetts--Boston
Unitarian churches--Clergy
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce
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Content Notes

The Palfrey family papers document the varied activities of four generations of a New England family over the course of 150 years. The bulk of the collection consists of the papers of John Gorham Palfrey, including correspondence, diaries, manuscripts and page proofs of his History of New England as well as manuscripts of shorter writings, sermons, lectures, account books, school books, and legal and financial papers. The papers of William Palfrey include detailed records of shipping transactions in England, Virginia, and Boston, and a large number of invoices showing the distribution of government funds to the army during the Revolution. John Palfrey's papers include correspondence and a journal, 1807-1814, detailing work done on his Louisiana plantation. Papers of John Carver Palfrey and Sarah Hammond Palfrey include correspondence, articles, poems, and other writings. Throughout the collection there are long runs of family letters, particularly between John Gorham Palfrey, his wife, and their children.
  • In English.
  • Selected color digital images available; see finding aid.

Biographical Notes

The central figure in this collection, John Gorham Palfrey (1796-1881), was a Unitarian minister, professor at Harvard Divinity School, editor of the North American Review, congressman from Massachusetts (1847-1849), postmaster of Boston (1861-1867), and historian, best known for his multi-volume History of New England. His grandfather William Palfrey (1741-1780) was a business partner of John Hancock and Pay Master General of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. His father John Palfrey (1768-1843) was a merchant in Boston and later owned a plantation in Attakapas, La. John Gorham Palfrey's son, John Carver Palfrey (1833-1906) was a military engineer during the Civil War and was later an officer in the textile manufacturing business. His daughter Sarah Hammond Palfrey (1823-1914) was a novelist and poet.