COLLECTION GUIDES

1868-1957

Guide to the Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

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).

Biographical Sketch

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.

Collection Description

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.

Acquisition Information

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

Sources

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.

Box 1

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.

Box 2

III. Subject files

Box 3Folder 1
Notes regarding R.B. Forbes's Personal Reminiscences.
Box 3Folder 2
Letters regarding James Murray Forbes's book Recollections and Events...
Box 3Folder 3
Papers regarding Shipyard Point Road (Dark Harbor, Me.).
Box 3Folder 4
North Vancouver Land Company, 1902-1940.
Box 3Folder 5
Property in South Bend, Washington, 1924-1928
Box 3Folder 6
Quitclaim deed to Milton house, Mary B. Forbes to James Murray Forbes, 1929.
Box 3Folder 7
House at 107 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass.
Box 3Folder 8
Land investment in Superior, Wisconsin.
Box 3Folder 9
Papers regarding the house at Milton, Mass.
Box 3Folder 10
Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Box 3Folder 11
Pattern for James Murray Forbes's shirt cuff.
Box 3Folder 12
British and American Trustee and Finance Corporation.

IV. Financial papers

Box 4
Checkbooks, 1921-1932.
Box 4
Alice F.B. Forbes bank statements, 1928.
Box 5
James Murray Forbes bank statements, 1929.

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.

Box 6

VI. Writings and Photographs

Box 7Folder 1
"Old Shipping Days in Boston," n.d..Typescript.
Box 7Folder 2
Typed copies of early letters, James Murray Forbes to Robert B. Forbes, 1849-1850.
Box 7Folder 3
Keechong Club records, 1879-1888.

Scrapbooks with printed items pasted in and ms. entries of minutes by James Murray Forbes and others.

Box 7Folder 4
Alice B. and James M. Forbes, notebooks, 1892.

Remarks on sights in London.

Box 7Folder 5
James M. Forbes, "Log of Black Hawk," 26 Oct 1903 to 4 Dec. 1903Typescript.

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.

Box 7Folder 6
James M. Forbes, "Donkey Days," 1905. Typescript.

Reminiscences of childhood.

Box 7Folder 7
James M. Forbes, "Record of his Dogs and Horses," 1921.Manuscript.
Box 7Folder 8
James M. Forbes, "Recollections and Events," 1929.Manuscript.
Box 7Folder 9
"Recollections and Events," foreward, 1929.Manuscript.p. 10-15.
Box 7Folder 10-15
"Recollections and Events," Typescript.p. 1-151.
Box 7Folder 16
Appendices to "Recollections and Events" Typescript and manuscript.
Box 7Folder 17
Diary of James Murray Forbes, 12 Sep. 1934 - 9 Mar. 1935.

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.

Box 7Folder 18
Diary of Edith Forbes Perkins, 1917.

Sister of James M. Forbes. Daily activities for 1917. Handwriting very difficult to read.

Box 7Folder 19
Photographs. Three photographs, uncataloged.

Preferred Citation

James Murray Forbes 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:

Forbes, Alice Francis Bowditch, 1848-1929.
Forbes, Allan, 1874-1955.
Forbes, Dorothy Murray, 1881-1944.
Forbes, Mary Bowditch, 1878-1961.
Forbes, R. B. (Robert Bennet), 1804-1889.
Forbes, Robert Bennet, 1837-1891.
Forbes, Rose Greene Smith, 1802-1885.
Perkins, Charles Elliott, 1840-1907.
Bennet family.
Bowditch family.
Forbes family.
Murray family.
Smith family.
Forbes, Alice Francis Bowditch, 1848-1929.
Forbes, Allan, 1874-1955.
Forbes, Dorothy Murray, 1881-1944.
Forbes, Mary Bowditch, 1878-1961.
Perkins, Edith Forbes, 1843-1925.

Organizations:

John Russell, and Co.
Russell & Co.
Keechong Club (Boston, Mass.).

Subjects:

China trade.
Decedents' estates.
Inventories of decedents' estates.
China -- Commerce -- United States.
China -- Description and travel.
Europe -- Description and travel -- 1800-1918.
Mexico -- Description and travel.
United States -- Commerce -- China.
United States -- Description and travel -- 1900-1920.