Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of the personal papers of James M. Forbes, an agent for the China trade firm of Russell and Company in China and Boston in the 1860s, and later an officer for several railroad and financial companies; resident of Boston and Milton, Mass., and Dark Harbor, Me. Papers include correspondence; financial papers; estate papers; genealogical notes on the Forbes, Bowditch, Bennet, Murray, Smith and related families; writings, including memoirs and diaries; diary (1917) of Edith Forbes Perkins; and Keechong Club records (1879-88).
James Murray Forbes was born in 1845, the son of Rose Greene (Smith) and Robert Bennet Forbes (1804-1889). He had a brother, Robert Bennet Forbes (1837-1891) and a sister Edith (1843-1925) who married in 1864 Charles Elliott Perkins. James married in 1871 Alice Francis Bowditch (1848-1929), and the couple had three children: Allan (1874-1955), Mary Bowditch (1878-1961), and Dorothy Murray (1881-1944). Allan married in 1913 Josephine May Ashton Crosby (b. 1886) and had five children.
James Murray Forbes early traveled abroad to China to work for Russell and Company in Hongkong, Shanghai, and Canton. After his marriage in 1871 he served as Russell and Company's agent in Boston for a time, and then worked as an officer for several railroad and investment companies. He maintained a house at 107 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston; one at Milton, Mass.; and one at Dark Harbor, Maine.
Personal papers of James M. Forbes, an agent for the China trade firm Russell and Company in China and Boston in the 1860s, and later an officer for several railroad and financial companies; resident of Boston and Milton, Mass., and Dark Harbor, Me. Papers include correspondence; financial papers; estate papers; genealogical notes on the Forbes, Bowditch, Bennet, Murray, Smith and related families; writings, including memoirs and diaries; diary (1917) of Edith Forbes Perkins; and Keechong Club records (1879-88). Other persons represented in the papers include Alice B., Mary B., Dorothy M., and Allan Forbes.
Memoirs of James Murray Forbes contain recollections of his childhood, his professional life as an agent for Russell and Company in China, and of his family and friends. His childhood reminiscence, called "Donkey Days," is addressed to his sister Edith Forbes Perkins. There is also a 1903 log of a journey in a private railroad car from Burlington, Iowa to Santa Barbara and San Francisco returning by way of Mexico City. Forbes's recollections of family members include his wife Alice Bowditch, his son Allan, his daughters Dorothy and Mary, his father R.B. Forbes, his brother Robert Bennet Forbes, his mother Rose Smith Forbes, his sister and brother-in-law Edith Forbes and Charles Elliott Perkins, and members of the Bowditch family.
Gift of H.A. Crosby Forbes, Cambridge, Mass., 1992.
Digital facsimiles of the James Murray Forbes railroad travel diary are available on History of Mass Tourism, a digital publication of Adam Matthew Digital, Inc. This digital resource is available at subscribing libraries; speak to your local librarian to determine if your library has access. The MHS makes this resource available onsite; see a reference librarian for more information.
J. Murray Forbes. Recollections and Events from the Threshold of Eighty-Five. Boston, 1930.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Correspondence and other papers, 1868-1938
Scattered items of correspondence, including an 1868 petition by the owners of the "flower boats" (brothels) in Canton to James Murray Forbes; correspondence regarding postcard purchases; powers of attorney to Allan Forbes (1898 and 1901); memoranda concerning wills and property, houses, and works of art.
II. Estate papers, 1939-1957
Mostly Allan Forbes's correspondence regarding the estate of James Murray Forbes, including bills, property, investments, trusts, legacies, and the distribution of various possessions.
III. Subject files
IV. Financial papers
V. Genealogy and printed matter
Genealogical notes, many written by James Murray Forbes, regarding the Forbes, Quincy, Perkins, Smith, Greene, Bowditch, Bennet, Murray, and Ingersoll families. Miscellaneous printed matter, uncataloged.
VI. Writings and Photographs
Scrapbooks with printed items pasted in and ms. entries of minutes by James Murray Forbes and others.
Remarks on sights in London.
Diary of a journey by private railroad car, Burlington, Iowa to the Grand Canyon, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, El Paso, Mexico City, Albuquerque, and back to Burlington.
Digital facsimiles of the James Murray Forbes railroad travel diary are available on History of Mass Tourism, a digital publication of Adam Matthew Digital, Inc. This digital resource is available to researchers on MHS library computers. See a reference librarian for information on how to access this resource.
Reminiscences of childhood.
Daily activities at 107 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass., including many drives around town and the surrounding towns and countryside, visits to and from friends and family, daily account of the weather.
Sister of James M. Forbes. Daily activities for 1917. Handwriting very difficult to read.
James Murray Forbes papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
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.