Offsite Storage Inventory

Restrictions on Access

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

Collection Summary


This collection consists mainly of family correspondence of the Crosby family of New York, New Jersey, and later from many parts of the world.

Biographical Information

Henry Ashton Crosby (1843-1917) married in late 1878 Mary (May) Leavitt (1850-1929). They had: John Player, Sheldon Leavitt, Beatrice Wells, Josephine May Ashton, and Henry Ashton Crosby 2nd, between 1879 and 1886, birth dates uncertain. Henry A. Crosby Sr. (Harry) was a relatively unsuccessful businessman who tried his hand at finance, real estate, and railroads, mostly in New York City.

Harry and May had a troubled marriage, due apparently to financial worries, Harry's weak personality, and May's strong personality and keen sense of honor. In October of 1894 she took the children to Dresden, Germany to live. From then to the fall of 1897 they lived in Dresden, traveling a little to other places in Germany, and then in late 1897 returned to the U.S., when Harry and May were apparently reconciled. Harry Crosby died in 1917 and Mary Leavitt Crosby died in 1929.

Beatrice Wells Crosby (Betty) married, on 30 Sep. 1909, in New York City, New York, Daniel Ammen de Menocal, a banker of Cuban descent and a son of Commander A. G. de Menocal of the United States Navy. They traveled frequently and lived abroad, eventually settling in Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts. They lived in Peking, China, from 1909 until 1914. The de Menocals had four children: Beatrice Crosby de Menocal (a.k.a. "Babs"); Richard Ammen de Menocal (a.k.a. "Dickie"); Esmée de Menocal; and Daniel Crosby de Menocal (b. 1926).

Josephine May Ashton Crosby married in 1913 Allan Forbes, banker and trust manager at State Street Trust Company, Boston, Mass. They had five children: Phyllis (1915), Robert Bennet (1916-1945), Allan (1919), James Murray (1922), and Henry Ashton Crosby Forbes (1925).

John Player Crosby (Jack, d. 1953) did not marry, and resided in New York City, Washington, D.C., and later lived with Josephine's family. He was unsuccessful in the finance and real estate industries.

Sheldon Leavitt Crosby (Chuffy), a diplomat, although in business in New York for 10 years, was appointed 3rd secretary of the Embassy at London, 1910; secretary of the Legation and consul general at Bangkok, 1912-14; 2nd secretary of the Embassy at Madrid, 1914-15; 2nd secretary of the Embassy at Vienna, 1915-17; 1st secretary of the Embassy at London, 1917-19; 1st secretary of the Embassy at Rome 1919-20; counselor of the Legation at Stockholm, 1920-21; 1st secretary of the Embassy at Rio de Janeiro, 1921-24; 1st secretary of the Embassy at Istanbul, 1924-30; counselor of the Embassy at Madrid, 1930-32; counselor of the Embassy at Warsaw, 1932-35; retired 1935. He died at Paris July 10, 1936.

Henry Ashton Crosby 2nd (Ashton, 1886-1930) graduated from Harvard in 1909. He married in 1910 Rosalie de Forest, and worked as a stockbroker and then an insurance broker in New York City. The couple had Henry A. Crosby 3rd (1912), Rosalie de Forest (1915), and Cynthia de Forest (1922). He died suddenly in a single-car accident near Mt. Kisko, N.Y., in 1930.

Collection Description

The collection is mostly family correspondence, centering around Mary Leavitt Crosby. Papers before her marriage are almost all letters to her from family and friends, including her brothers Sheldon and Frank K. Leavitt and her father who must have died shortly before her marriage. Correspondence in the 1890s, particularly 1894-97, betrays serious marital troubles that were eventually ironed out. The letters also tell much of life in Dresden, and there are many letters from the children to their father describing their schooling and activities there. May's letters are mostly diatribes against Harry, and pleas for more money to pay for rent, food and clothing, as well as accounts of their social life, relatives in Germany, and the children's schooling and activities. Harry's letters describe his activities at work and home, and his leisure time with his friends and relatives. In his letters to his children, he often preaches on morality and religion.

Later correspondence (after 1897) is mostly letters from the children to May from various places of travel and work. From 1913, the correspondence is heavily Sheldon L. (Chuffy) to his mother from various diplomatic posts.

Acquisition Information

Gift of H. A. Crosby Forbes, Cambridge, Mass.,1992.

Restrictions on Access

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

Summary Description of the Collection

Carton 1SH 15E4 Q

Contains undated correspondence, including letters of Henry A. Crosby to various people, and various people to Henry A. Crosby: Mary L. Crosby to Henry A. Crosby, and Mary L. Crosby to her children; Mary L. Crosby to various people, and various people to Mary L. Crosby; miscellaneous undated items of Mary L. Crosby; and various people to the Crosby children.

Contains undated letters of the Crosby children to various people; undated letters to and from the Crosby grandchildren. Undated newspaper clippings, miscellaneous items, and unidentified items. Will of Mary Leavitt Crosby. Poetry. Invitations. Postcards. Calling cards and business cards. Miscellaneous printed matter. Genealogical notes. Letters to Mary Leavitt before her marriage to Henry A. Crosby in late 1878.

Carton 2SH 15E9 V

Contains correspondence of Crosby family, including letters from William B. and Edward F. Crosby (brothers of Harry). Correspondence showing the gradual breakdown of the Crosby marriage; family correspondence between Dresden and New York from October 1894. Correspondence between Dresden and New York (between Harry and the rest of his family).

Carton 3SH 15EA W
1898-Aug. 1922

Correspondence between Dresden and New York, and after the return of the family in the fall of 1897, mostly letters between May and her children when they are off visiting relatives and friends; and family correspondence.

There are 1913 letters from Beatrice written from China (Peking and Peitaiho). Josephine marries Allan Forbes in 1913. Letters from Chuffy from Bangkok (1913), Madrid (1915), London (1918), with much commentary on World War I, Rome (1920), Rio de Janeiro (1922). Some papers relating to the estate of Henry A. Crosby (1917-18). There is a note from Theodore Roosevelt to Mary L. Crosby 30 July 1918. Letters from Allan Forbes as Mary's financial agent begin in 1919. There is a note from Charles Lewis Slattery (1867-1930) to Mary L. Crosby 9 Jan. 1922.

Carton 4SH 15EB X
Sep. 1922-1925

Letters from Chuffy in Rio de Janeiro (1922-24), and Turkey (1925). In 1924 Mary L. Crosby travels to Paris with the de Menocals, and there a few of her letters home, along with some receipts for purchases in Paris. Other correspondents include Mary Ball Chappell and Mary Elizabeth How.

Letters from Chuffy in Turkey (1925-29). He mentions often his colleagues Joseph C. Grew and Mark L. Bristol. There are letters of Mary . Crosby from Aiken, N.C., where Josephine and Allan apparently have a winter retreat. Also, letters from Robert Bennet Forbes Jr. from the Aiken Preparatory School, from 1928. This box also contains financial statements of Mary L. Crosby for 1919-1922.

Bank statements for the estate of Henry A. Crosby, 1921-22, The Bank of America (NYC). Issue of Country Life, Vol. LVIII, No. 1500, 3 Oct. 1925. Broadside [Dresden, in German], "Dresden Altstadt. Konigliches Hoftheater."

Preferred Citation

Crosby 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.


Crosby, Henry Ashton, 1843-1917.
Crosby, Henry Ashton, 1886-1930.
Crosby, John Player, d. 1953.
Crosby, Mary Leavitt, 1850-1929.
Crosby, Sheldon Leavitt, 1879-1936.
De Menocal, Beatrice Wells Crosby.
Forbes, Allan, 1874-1955.
Forbes, Josephine May Ashton Crosby, b. 1886.
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919.
Slattery, Charles Lewis, 1867-1930.
Leavitt family.
Sheldon family.


Diplomats--Brazil--Rio de Janeiro.
Diplomats--Great Britain--London.
Voyages and travels.
Women travelers.
Family history--1850-1899.
Family history--1900-1949.
Diplomatic and consular service, American--Turkey.
Dresden (Germany)--Description and travel.
China--Description and travel.