1573-1936; bulk: 1573-1830
Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of deeds, wills, leases, inventories of plantations, manuscripts, and maps gathered by Francis Russell Hart relating to the history of the West Indies and Central America, specifically Antigua, Barbados, Colombia, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Nevis, St. Christopher, St. Thomas, and Trinidad.
Francis Russell Hart (Jan. 16, 1868 - Jan. 18, 1938) was born in New Bedford, Mass., the son of Thomas Mandell Hart and Sarah Davis (Watson) Hart. He was educated at the Friends' Academy there and later studied electrical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (1885-1889), leaving in January of his senior year. He received an honorary MA from Tufts College in 1935. Though trained as an engineer, Hart was a banker in later life.
In 1896 Hart married Helen Bronson Hobbey (originally of Cincinnati and later Northampton, Mass.); they had three children: Helen (Nichols); Gwendolyn (Fargo, later Palmer); and Francis Russell, Jr.
Hart did engineering work of various kinds in the West Indies and South America from 1889-95. In 1893 he was made general manager of the Cartagena Terminal and Improvement Company, Ltd. and of the Cartagena-Magdalena Railway Company in Colombia. In 1894 he became the vice-president of the firms and in 1895 he was made president, with headquarters in Boston. In 1896 he became vice-president of the Old Colony Trust Company and in 1901 became a member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the United Fruit Company. From 1908 to 1934 he was vice-chairman of the Board at Old Colony Trust. In 1933 he was elected president of the United Fruit Company, a post he held until his death. He was also on the Board of Directors of a number of other firms and served as vice-consul and later consul of Colombia in Boston from 1908-19.
Two of Hart's main outside interests during most of his adult life were the history of the Caribbean and MIT. He was elected to the Executive Committee of the M.I.T. Corporation in 1907 and became a life member in 1909. He was treasurer from 1907-1909 and 1913-1921 and a member of the Finance Committee, 1910-1936. The nautical museum in the MIT Pratt School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering was named in his honor.
Hart's writings began with an article about the railway on which he worked in Colombia (Technology Quarterly, 1899). A series of articles on important maritime figures in the Caribbean, published in the Journal of American History in 1907-08, are evidence of the scholarly passion for the history of the Caribbean which Hart was developing and which led to the collection of books, maps, and documents on the subject. His major contact for purchases was apparently Maggs Brothers of London and he employed researchers to make copies of documents which interested him in the General Archive of the Indies (Seville) and the Admiralty and the Colonial Office in London. Hart eventually published three volumes: Admirals of the Caribbean (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1922); The Disaster of Darien; the Story of the Scots' Settlement and the Causes of Its Failure, 1699-1701 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1929); and The Siege of Havana, 1762 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1931), all of which focused on British activities in the Caribbean. He also wrote a semi-autobiographical volume, Personal Reminiscences of the Caribbean Sea and the Spanish Main, published in 1914.
Hart was a member of a number of societies, including the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, the Council of Foreign Relations, the English-Speaking Union, the American Geographical Society, the Imperial Institute, the Royal Geographical Society, the Academia Nacional de Historia (Colombia), the Club of Odd Volumes (Boston), the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS).
He was elected a resident member of the MHS in 1920, served three terms as a member at large of the Council, was elected recording secretary in 1930, corresponding secretary in 1932, and president in 1937.
Who Was Who in America (Chicago, Marquis, 1943), v. 1, p. 523.
The MIT Museum, biographical folder, "Hart, Francis Russell, 1889".
Peter Drummey, "The Librarian's Corner," M.H.S. Miscellany No. 35 (Spring 1988), pp. 2-3.
The Francis Russell Hart Collection comprises some two hundred historical documents, approximately half of which are copies, translations, or abstracts. They date between 1573 and 1830, although the bulk dates from the eighteenth century. The 1922-1936 dates refer to Hart's papers, most of which relate to his purchases of documents. Although Hart collected as an aid to his research, he published very little based on the original documentation he acquired. The nature and content of these original documents seem to indicate that Hart may have intended to write a general history of British activities in the West Indies from their beginnings until the early 19th century.
There are twenty-three documents relating to property in the West Indies, including title searches, inventories, appraisals, and indentures. Nearly half are for the island of Antigua.
Other documents touch on different aspects of British colonization, government, and defense in the Indies. A small series relates to communications to and from the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations in the early eighteenth century. Another series, taken from Venezuelan sources, relates to the British invasion of Trinidad at the end of the eighteenth century. There are scattered documents relating to the siege of Cartagena in 1739, of Havana in 1762, and the Battle of Saints in 1782.
There is also a group of miscellaneous documents which relates to the Caribbean but do not correspond to British activities. These documents seem to have been purchased for the signature (for example, "Yo el Rey," Simón Bolívar, and Francisco de Paula Santander) rather than the content, although all have some relation to the Caribbean. There is also a certificate which dates from 1696 certifying "limpieza de sangre," (pure Christian ancestry).
Approximately half of the documents in the collection are copies. Most relate to material found in the General Archive of the Indies (Seville) with regard to the Darien Scots, the siege of Cartagena (1739), and the siege of Havana (1762). Hart seems to have been the first English-language historian to use the Spanish archive's Darien Scots' settlement material. He published a detailed listing of 91 lots of such documents which were encountered in Seville, but he made copies or abstracts of only 44. He also published a listing of the siege of Havana documents and included some British documents which were also copied. Virtually all of these copied documents have been cited by Hart in the respective books he published and it was he who determined the arrangement they have in this collection.
Another small group of documents refers mostly to correspondence and receipts with regard to purchases which Hart made for his collections, a draft list of the books in his library, and other miscellany. There are no personal papers in this collection.
In addition to the documents collection, Hart also donated his book collection of some 700 volumes (separately cataloged) and a collection of more than 80 maps depicting the New World, particularly the Caribbean area, dating from 1579 to the 19th century, all of which have been separately cataloged in ABIGAIL.
Most of the original documents which are not oversize were assigned an apparently arbitary classification number by Hart. It seems that "MEF," "MSF," and "MFEF" refer to Manuscript in English (Spanish or French) but it is not clear what the final "F" refers to. This designation has been retained at the end of each citation in the Detailed Description of the Collection and these documents are briefly listed in this order in the Previous Arrangement appendix.
Francis Russell Hart made several donations to the collections of the MHS during his lifetime and his library, maps, and documents came to the MHS upon his death in 1938.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The notation (MEF) or (MSF) or (MFEF) at the end of a citation in the Detailed Description of the Collection refers to Francis Russell Hart's organization of this material. See the listing in the Previous Arrangement appendix.
I. Documents relating to property, 1684-1830
Arranged alphabetically by locale and chronologically within each location.
Series I contains 23 documents relating in some way to property in Antigua (11), Barbados (1), Grenada (2), Montserrat (1), Nevis (2), Saint Christopher (St. Kitts) (4), Saint Vincent (1) and Trinidad (1). Of particular note are the comprehensive inventories with appraisal values for land, buildings, utensils, slaves, and livestock and the mechanisms which were utilized to raise loans secured on the estates.
Hart's list of these documents is in the front of Box 1. Please note that document 12 has been placed in Series II (Box 1, folder 11).
The user is advised that with regard to the oversize property documents, registry office transactions are to be found on the verso of the bottom folio which is also the beginning of the document. That is, these documents are bound in reverse order.
II. British Activities in the Caribbean, 165?--1799
These documents, most of which are from the eighteenth century, reflect the rivalry between the French and the British in the Caribbean, the problems of defense, the British view of the Spanish presence, and the reverse, with the Venezuelan reaction to the British invasion of Trinidad at the end of the century. A number of these documents, including the last named, are the result of interceptions on the part of one power or another, which indicates the level of tension which was a constant in the Caribbean.
Subseries on the British invasion of Trinidad in 1797
III. Miscellaneous Spanish-language documents, 1573-1826
Four of these documents are described by Hart in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 61 (1928), pp. 181-183. One dating from 1573 was signed by the King Philip II of Spain. Another (1590) refers to specifications for building galleons. A third, dated Portobello, 1679, refers to problems in Panama and a fourth, (1680), is a draft regarding a candidate for captain of a proprietary company to hold an interest in the Spanish silver galleons. Another document was a love letter (1822) from Simón Bolívar to Bernardina Ibañez but Hart later presented the original to a friend. Hart made a bound presentation copy for each of these documents consisting of a photostat and its translation. There are three other Spanish documents: a limpieza de sangre document for a vecino of Cartagena dated 1666; one signed by the King Charles IV (1804) regarding the San Lázaro Hospital in Cuba; and one signed by Francisco de Paula Santander in 1826 referring to Colombia's foreign debt payments.
IV. Darien Scots' settlement, 1697-1701
The documents were itemized and described by Hart in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 63 (1930), pp. 154-168. The number on the folder refers to the enumeration in the published list. A copy of the list is at the front of Box 2. These documents are transcripts of 44 of the 91 lots which Hart's researcher found in the General Archive of the Indies in Seville. Some are complete documents in Spanish; others are translations or abstracts in English. Hart used this material in his book, The Disaster of Darien; the Story of the Scots' Settlement and the Causes of Its Failure, 1699-1701 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1929).
V. Siege of Havana, 1762-1765
Arranged by source (Spanish then British) and chronologically within each source.
These documents were itemized and described by Hart in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 64 (1932), pp. 434-439. The number on the folder corresponds to the number of the document in Hart's published list. A copy of the list is at the front of Box 3. They are copies of documents found in various locations: the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, the General Archive of the Indies, the Admiralty Office and the Colonial Office. Hart used them to write The Siege of Havana, 1762 (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1931). The documents include plans of the fortifications in Havana and maps for which Hart obtained photographs and their negatives. Some copies are photostats. Many documents were copied by hand; for some there are typed transcriptions.
See also the original documents in Series II (Box 1, folders 21-24) which refer to the Siege of Havana.
VI. Correspondence on purchases and other papers, 1922-1936
This material refers mostly to Hart's collecting activities and secondarily to some research questions. It is not at all comprehensive with regard to purchases and it should be noted that where a receipt corresponds to just one document, or documents which have been kept together, the receipt is to be found with the document(s).
Hart used MEF 25 twice and MSF 2 twice. Each set has been arbitrarily denominated A and B. For a complete description of each document, see the Detailed Description of the Collection.
|1||Box 1||Folder 27||List of the Spanish Navy ships of the line, 1777; Fleet in the Bay of Cadiz, 1778.|
|2||Box 1||Folder 32||Brigadier General Nicolls, 13 June 1796.|
|3||Box 1||Folder 28||Translation of the confession of Morillon Desposses, [179?].|
|4||Box 1||Folder 29||Contemporary extract of a letter from a gentleman in Jamaica, 27 September 1795.|
|5||Box 1||Folder 30||S. Mitchell to Brigadier General Nicolls, St. George's [Grenada], 23 February 1796.|
|6||OS Box 1||Folder 11||"An Account of the [Battle of Saints]." By a French Seaman.|
|7||Box 1||Folder 31||S. Mitchell to Brigadier General Nicolls, 24 February 1796.|
|8||Box 1||Folder 5||Antigua. Estate Appraisal, "Jolly Hill," 1783.|
|9||Box 1||Folder 6||Antigua. Estate litigation, 1808.|
|10||Box 1||Folder 1||Antigua. Estate Title Abstract, "Jolly Hill," 1684-1772.|
|11||Box 1||Folder 4||Antigua. Estate Appraisal, "Crabbes," 1777.|
|12||Box 1||Folder 8||St. Vincent. Indenture (release) on plantation "Chatteau Bellair," 1807.|
|13||Box 1||Folder 11||Regarding payments ... St. Christopher, Signed by A. Hutchison, 10 November 1703.|
|14||Box 1||Folder 7||Grenada. Estate inventory and appraisal, "Mt. Nesbitt," 1774.|
|15||Box 1||Folder 3||Antigua. Estate Title Abstract, "Crabbs," 1699-1772.|
|16||Box 1||Folder 2||Antigua. Estate Title Abstract, "Loobys," 1688-1772.|
|17||Box 1||Folder 15||Lords Commissioners to the Earl of Sunderland, 19 December 1707.|
|18||Box 1||Folder 13||Lords Commissioners to the Earl of Sunderland, 6 May 1707.|
|19||Box 1||Folder 14||Lords Commissioners to the Earl of Sunderland, 11 December 1707.|
|20||Box 1||Folder 17||Lords Commissioners to the Queen [Anne], 3 December 1708.|
|21||Box 1||Folder 25||"Reflections on the true Interest of the Caribbee Islands..." By a Planter at Barbados, 1762.|
|22||Box 1||Folder 18||Office of Ordinance to the Earl of Sunderland, 10 June 1710.|
|23||Box 1||Folder 12||Colonel Daniel Parke, governor of Leeward Islands, to the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, 19 January 1706/07.|
|24||Box 1||Folder 16||Lords Commissioners to the Earl of Sunderland, 23 July 1708.|
|25 A||Box 1||Folder 21||Whitehall, Minutes, 6 September 1739.|
|25 B||Box 1||Folder 9||"Certeine queries... [165?]." Photostat.|
|26||Box 1||Folder 10||William Penn. Despatch , 17 March 1654.|
|27||Box 1||Folder 24||[Richard Huck] to the Earl of Loudon, received on November 1, 1762; another, 1 October 1762.|
|1||Box 1||Folder 23||British letters, 1762; French translations.|
|1||OS Box 1||Folder 13||Limpieza de sangre. 1666.|
|2 A||Box 2||Folder 3||Royal decree. Charles IV, 1804.|
|2 B||Box 2||Folder 5||Power of attorney. 15 July 1826. Conferred by the acting president of Colombia, Francisco de Paula Santander.|
Francis Russell Hart collection, 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.