COLLECTION GUIDES

1867-1964

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The bulk of the Blake family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at library@masshist.org or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection contains family papers of inventor and physicist Francis Blake (1850-1913), mainly correspondence of his wife Elizabeth (Hubbard) Blake, and their children Agnes (later Fitzgerald) and Benjamin S. Blake. Also includes financial papers; medical papers; and materials relating to landscaping by the Olmsted Brothers at the family estate, Keewaydin.

Biographical Sketches

Francis Blake (1812-1879)

Francis Blake married in 1842 Caroline Burling Trumbull (1820-1880), and together they had five children: Francis Arthur Blake (1843-1845); Elizabeth Chandler Blake (1845-1845); Louisa Trumbull Blake (1846-1920), who married Charles Bartlett Wells and had a daughter, Louisa Wells (b. 1869); Charles Henry Mills Blake (1848-1921), who married in 1871 Margaret Swasey and had William Swasey Blake (b. 1878) and Charles Blake (b. 1881); and Francis Blake (1850-1913).

Charles Townsend Hubbard (1817-1887)

Charles Townsend Hubbard married for the first time in 1845 Louisa Bowman Sewall (1821-1853), and together they had four children: Louisa Sewall Hubbard (b. 1846), who married 1st John Cotton Jackson (and 2nd in 1901 Ferdinand Eugene Canda) and had Louisa Sewall Jackson (b. 1869), Rossiter Cotton Jackson (b. 1873), and Henry Hubbard Jackson (b. 1877); Elizabeth Livermore Hubbard (1849-1941); Mary Hubbard (1848-1849); Charlotte Wright Hubbard (b. 1851), who married Benjamin Loring Young and had Margaret Young (b. 1876), Charlotte Young (b. 1878), and Benjamin Loring Young (b. 1885). Charles Townsend Hubbard married for the second time in 1855 Elizabeth Blair Wells, and together they had two children: Charles Wells Hubbard (b. 1856), who married in1889 Anne Laurens Swann, and had Charles Wells Hubbard (b. 1890) and Elizabeth Blair Hubbard (b. 1894); and Anne Hubbard (b. 1858), who married Bancroft Chandler Davis, and had Mabel and Martha Davis.

Francis Blake (1850-1913)

Francis Blake (1850-1913) was born in 1850 at Needham, Mass., the son of Caroline Burling (Trumbull) and Francis Blake, Sr. Known widely as the inventor of the Blake Transmitter for telephone communications, Blake was also a respected physicist and experimental photographer, worked on the United States Coast Survey from his teenage years through early adulthood (1866-1878), and was responsible for the design of his elaborate family estate, Keewaydin, in Weston, Mass. He married in 1874 Elizabeth Livermore Hubbard (1849-1941), and together they had two children: Agnes Blake (b. 1876), who married in 1906 Stephen Salisbury Fitzgerald; and Benjamin Sewall Blake (b. 1877), who married in 1908 Ruth Field, and had Francis, Ruth, Benjamin, Elizabeth, and Joan Blake.

Sources

Davis, Keith F. "The High-Speed Photographs of Francis Blake." The Massachusetts Historical Review 2 (2000): 1-26.

Hall, Elton Wayland. Francis Blake : An Inventor's Life 1850-1913. Boston, Mass.: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003.

Restrictions on Access

The bulk of the Blake family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at library@masshist.org or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.

Collection Description

The collection is housed in 17 cartons (stored offsite), two oversize volumes, and one oversize box (located onsite at Ms. N-341), and contains the papers of the family of Francis Blake (1850-1913), principally his wife Elizabeth Livermore (Hubbard) Blake and children Agnes (Blake) Fitzgerald and Benjamin Sewall Blake. The collection is organized into ten series, as follows: Correspondence, Financial Papers, Medical Papers, Harvard and other School Papers of Benjamin S. Blake, First Corps Cadets Papers of Benjamin S. Blake, Charitable Solicitations, Miscellaneous Papers, Bound Volumes, Miscellaneous Printed Matter, and Oversize.

The bulk of the collection consists of family correspondence, covering the years 1867-1964 (bulk: 1880-1918), and mostly consists of letters written to Elizabeth (Hubbard) Blake from family and friends, many of them from her daughter Agnes, son Benjamin S., and sisters Charlotte and Louise. There are often daily runs of letters from Agnes when she was away from her mother. There are also a number of letters written between Benjamin's wife Ruth (Field) Blake and her mother Amelia D. (Mrs. Joseph W.) Field. The correspondence tapers off after 1918.

BSB's Harvard and other school papers highlight his preparation for and work during his years at Harvard, 1893-1901. Financial papers consist of bills and receipts of family members, arranged chronologically, 1881-1938 (13 folders); and an "Easy-Clasp File" of Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, taken apart and put into 13 folders in its original alphabetical arrangement. Medical papers in 20 folders cover the years 1870-1956, consisting mostly of prescriptions and later (1950s) medical charts for Benjamin Sewall Blake and Ruth Field Blake. The First Corps Cadets papers are in 4 folders, 1896-1909, and contain papers relating to BSB's activities in the Cadets. Charitable solicitations to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, 8 folders covering the years 1887-1941, consist of form letters to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake and Francis Blake requesting donations to charitable causes. Miscellaneous papers cover a variety of topics and contain biographical matter on Francis Blake and Commodore George S. Blake, papers relating to the landscaping at Keewaydin, hair samples of Agnes Blake Fitzgerald and Ruth Blake, and other items. Bound volumes include financial volumes, memoranda, an engagement diary of Benjamin Sewall Blake, the marriage service of Agnes Blake Fitzgerald, scrapbooks, EHB's records of the infancies of Agnes Blake Fitzgerald and Benjamin Sewall Blake, etc. Miscellaneous printed matter consists of magazines, materials about birds, Audubon Society publications, engravings, and other miscellaneous printed ephemera.

Acquisition Information

Parts of the collection came to the MHS as a series of gifts of the descendants of Francis Blake, Jr. Another part was acquired by purchase through a donation of the Oliver family, Feb. 2001, and a gift of Benjamin Blake in Jan. 2001.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Correspondence, 1867-1964; bulk: 1880-1918

Family correspondence of Elizabeth (Hubbard) Blake, her children Benjamin Sewall Blake and Agnes (Blake) Fitzgerald, and Benjamin's wife Ruth (Field) Blake. Correspondence is mainly personal in nature, between Elizabeth Hubbard Blake and her family and friends, with long runs of letters from Agnes Blake Fitzgerald when she is away on vacation, and fewer but also substantial series of letters from Benjamin Sewall Blake when he is away. Long runs of letters between Agnes Blake Fitzgerald and her mother, and between Ruth Field Blake and her mother (Amelia D. Field) convey the details of daily life around 1900 to 1920, documenting the minutiae of daily existence in a privileged American household of that time. The daily weather, continual health problems, the cost of clothing, what types of foods were consumed, activities of babies and children, vacations and travel -- all are topics in this vast and intimate exchange. Other frequent correspondents include EHB's sisters Charlotte and Louise. An early run of letters, 1880-81, details the European travels of EHB's father, stepmother, brother Charles, and sisters Louise and Anne. The correspondence also includes many calling cards, invitations to social events, greeting cards, and postcards, a substantial number of which are undated. Carton 1 is devoted exclusively to undated correspondence and papers. For details, see the Box List for the collection. The correspondence tapers off after 1918, with only a few items after 1941.

Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 1-4
Correspondence of Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 5
Various relatives to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 6
Charlotte H. Young to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 7
Benjamin Sewall Blake & Agnes Blake Fitzgerald to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 8
Grandchildren to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 9
Correspondence of Benjamin Sewall Blake and Ruth Field Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 10
Ruth Field Blake to Amelia D. Field.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 11-12
Amelia D. Field to Ruth Field Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 13-15
Greeting cards, calling cards & invitations to Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 16
Greeting cards etc. to Benjamin Sewall Blake family.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 17
Greeting cards etc. to Agnes Blake Fitzgerald.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 18-21
Blank & unused greeting cards.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 22-23
Blank & undated postcards.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 24
Undated menus, recipes, & misc. food items.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 25
Undated poetry & verse.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 26
Undated children's school papers.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 27
Undated notes, lists & misc. writings.
Carton 1SH 12J8 WFolder 28
Undated newspaper clippings.
Carton 2SH 12J9 X
Correspondence, 1867-1896.
Carton 3SH 12JA Y
Correspondence, 1897-1898.
Carton 4SH 12JB Z
Correspondence, 1899-June 1901.
Carton 5SH 12JC -
Correspondence, July 1901-1902.
Carton 6SH 12JD .
Correspondence, 1903-Apr. 1906.
Carton 7SH 12JE
Correspondence, May 1906-Sep. 1908.
Carton 8SH 12JF $
Correspondence, Oct. 1908-Mar. 1911.
Carton 9SH 12JG /
Correspondence, Apr. 1911-Mar. 1913.
Carton 10SH 12JH +
Correspondence, Apr. 1913-1915.
Carton 11SH 12JI %
Correspondence, 1916-Sep. 1918.
Carton 12SH 12JJ 0
Correspondence, Oct. 1918-1935.
Carton 13SH 12JK 1
Correspondence, 1936-1964.

II. Financial papers, 1881-1938

The financial papers consist of bills and receipts arranged chronologically (13 folders), mostly but not exclusively those of Elizabeth Hubbard Blake. Also included here is EHB's "Easy-Clasp" file, a box in which she kept financial papers and memoranda arranged in a rough alphabetical fashion. This has been foldered and stored in its original order (13 folders).

Carton 13SH 12JK 1Folder 1-13
Chronological bills & receipts, 1881-1938.
Carton 13SH 12JK 1Folder 14-26
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, Easy-Clasp file.

III. Medical papers, 1870-1956

This series contains an extensive set of medical prescriptions and other papers documenting the health of family members up into the 1950s. Early prescriptions, many for asthma, hair tonics, eczema, and nervous disorders, offer insight into the health concerns of the privileged class. There are also medical record charts for Benjamin and Ruth Blake, 1951-56.

Carton 13SH 12JK 1Folder 27-46

IV. Harvard and school papers of Benjamin Sewall Blake, 1893-1902

Class notes and other papers written by Benjamin S. Blake, copies of entrance examinations from 1893-1897, an anonymous assessment of his abilities (1897), issues of the Harvard Crimson, report cards, college correspondence, some memorabilia, and a Harvard Union membership certificate (1902).

Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 1-14

V. First Corps Cadets papers of Benjamin S. Blake, 1896-1909

General orders, special orders, circulars, bills, discharges, warrants, notices, and newspaper clippings, concerning BSB's involvement in the First Corps Cadets, which he joined in 1896.

Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 15-18

VI. Charitable solicitations, 1887-1941

Charitable solicitation letters, mostly printed form letters, written to Elizabeth and Francis Blake, for the years 1887, 1913, 1927, 1931, 1937-1941.

Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 19-26

VII. Miscellaneous papers

There are ten folders of miscellaneous papers, each folder on a different topic: biographical information on Francis Blake, ca. 1890; Elizabeth Blake's transcriptions of FB's diary, with some biographical information written by Elizabeth Hubbard Blake; Francis Blake's memorial pamphlet (1913) and information on Commodore George S. Blake; materials on landscaping at Keewaydin (see also oversize); Agnes Blake's hair samples; Ruth Blake's hair samples; an unidentified painting; postage stamps; Francis Blake's leather wallet; and a 20th c. silhouette of an unidentified woman.

Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 27
Francis Blake, biographical info., [1890].
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 28
Francis Blake, biographical info. and diary transcriptions by Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 29
Biographical information on Commodore George S. Blake.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 30
Materials on landscaping at Keewaydin

See also materials in Oversize.

Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 31
Agnes Blake Fitzgerald hair samples.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 32
Ruth Blake hair samples.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 33
Unidentified painting, n.d.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 34
Postage stamps.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 35
FB's wallet.
Carton 14SH 12JL 2Folder 36
Silhouette of unknown woman, 20th c.

VIII. Bound volumes, 1873-1943

There are 31 bound volumes in the collection. Volumes 1, 2, and 30 are Francis Blake's: a booklet listing wedding gifts, 24 June 1873 (vol. 1); financial "journal," 1878-80 (vol. 2) and 1881-1894 (vol. 30, oversize). Volumes 3-10 and 31 are Elizabeth Blake's: wedding address book, 1873 (vol. 3); narrative account of the infancy of Agnes Blake, 1876-1880 (vol. 4); narrative account of the infancy of Benjamin Blake, 1877-1880 (vol. 5); scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1879-1937 (vol. 6); memoranda book, 1880 (vol. 7); scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1885-1925, bulk 1922-25 (vol. 8); address book, 1920s-1930s (vol. 9); account book, 1934-38 (vol. 10); checkbook and ledger, 1939-43 (vol. 31, oversize). Volumes 11-27 are Benjamin S. Blake's: memoranda booklet, n.d. (vol. 11); school notebook, 1890s (vol. 12); bank book, 1897-1901 (vol. 13); checkbooks, Oct. 1897-May 1904 (vols. 14-23); engagement diary, 1908 (vol. 24); checkbooks, Dec. 1914-Oct. 1917 (vols. 25-27). Volume 28 is Agnes (Blake) Fitzgerald's marriage service, 1906. Finally, vol. 29 is an unidentified sketchbook containing pencil sketches of people and outdoor scenes in New Hampshire, probably 1870s.

Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 1
Francis Blake, wedding gifts, 24 June 1873.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 2
Francis Blake, "Journal" (finances), 1878-80.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 3
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, wedding address book, 1873.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 4
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, account of infancy of Agnes Blake Fitzgerald, 1876-80.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 5
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, account of infancy of Benjamin Sewall Blake, 1877-80.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 6
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1879-1937.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 7
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, memoranda book, 1880.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 8
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, scrapbook of newspaper clippings, 1885-1925; bulk: 1922-25.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 9
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, address book, 1920s-1930s.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 10
Elizabeth Hubbard Blake, account book, Aug. 1934-Nov. 1938.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 11
Benjamin Sewall Blake, memoranda n.d.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 12
Benjamin Sewall Blake, school notebook, [1890s].
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 13
Benjamin Sewall Blake, bank book, 1897-1901.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 14
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Oct. 1897-June 1898.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 15
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, June 1898-June 1899.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 16
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, June 1899-Feb. 1900.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 17
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Feb.-Sep. 1900.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 18
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Sep. 1900-Feb. 1901.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 19
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Feb.-Dec. 1901.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 20
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Dec. 1901-Jan. 1903.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 21
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Jan. 1903-Jan. 1904.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 22
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Apr. 1903.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 23
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Jan.-May 1904.
Carton 15SH 12JN 4Vol. 24
Benjamin Sewall Blake, engagement diary, 1908.
Carton 16SH 12JP 6Vol. 25
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Dec. 1914-Oct. 1915.
Carton 16SH 12JP 6Vol. 26
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Oct. 1915-Oct. 1916.
Carton 16SH 12JP 6Vol. 27
Benjamin Sewall Blake, checkbook, Oct. 1916-Oct. 1917.
Carton 16SH 12JP 6Vol. 28
Agnes Blake Fitzgerald, marriage service, 1906.
Carton 16SH 12JP 6Vol. 29
Sketchbook, unidentified, [1870s].

See also materials in Oversize.

IX. Miscellaneous printed matter

Printed matter saved by various Blake family members, including Audubon Society publications and other printed matter about birds, birdhouses, bird feeding, etc.; other miscellaneous magazines; printed ephemera and memorabilia; Keewaydin Theatre broadsides; advertising circulars; printed material on telephones; and three copies of an engraving of Benjamin Sewall.

Carton 17SH 12JM 3

X. Oversize

Oversize materials include engravings and rotogravures of Francis Blake, as well as two copies of a broadside Extracts from the Trespass Laws of Massachusetts, and membership certificates in the Society of Colonial Dames of America for Elizabeth Hubbard Blake and Agnes Blake Fitzgerald.

PLEASE NOTE that the oversize Blake family materials are stored ONSITE. When requesting oversize materials, please use call number Ms. N-341.

Vol. 30
FB's financial journal, 1881-94.
Vol. 31
EHB's checkbook & ledger, 1939-43.

3 copies of engraving of Francis Blake.

3 copies of rotogravure of Francis Blake.

Olmsted Brothers drawings and blueprints of Keewaydin landscaping.

Triple view inkwash drawing of Keewaydin

2 copies of broadside, Extracts from the Trespass Laws of Massachusetts.

Certificates of membership in the Society of the Colonial Dames of American for Agnes Blake Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Hubbard Blake.

Photographs Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Blake family photographs, ca. 1860-1917. Photo. Coll. 39.

Preferred Citation

Blake family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Blake, Benjamin Sewall, b. 1877.
Blake, Elizabeth Livermore Hubbard, 1849-1941.
Blake, Francis, 1850-1913.
Blake, Ruth Field.
Canda, Louisa Sewall Hubbard Jackson, b. 1846.
Field, Amelia D.
Fitzgerald, Agnes Blake, b. 1876.
Hubbard family.
Young, Charlotte Wright Hubbard, b. 1851.

Organizations:

Keewaydin (Weston, Mass.).
Olmsted Brothers.
Harvard University--Students.

Subjects:

Account books.
Family history--1850-1899.
Family history--1900-1949.
Family history--1950-1999.
Home economics--Accounting.
Landscape architecture--Massachusetts--Weston.
Scrapbooks.