COLLECTION GUIDES

1842-1898

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The bulk of the John Murray Forbes 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.

There are restrictions on the use of this collection. Users must sign an agreement stating that they understand these restrictions before they will be given access to the collection.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of the papers of Boston businessman John Murray Forbes, 1842-1898, including correspondence, letterpress books, and account books.

Biographical Sketch

Born on February 23, 1813, John Murray Forbes was the son of Ralph Bennet Forbes and Margaret Perkins Forbes. He married Sarah Swain Hathaway in 1834, and the couple had six children: Ellen Randolph Forbes, Alice Hathaway Forbes, William Hathaway Forbes, Mary Hathaway Forbes, John Malcolm Forbes, and Sarah Forbes.

Forbes was a leading Boston businessman and philanthropist. His primary financial interest was the development of railroads across the country, but he built his fortune early in his Perkins uncles' China trade firm and spent a number of years in Canton, China. He was also active in politics as a Whig and later a Republican.

Forbes died on October 12, 1898.

Collection Description

The John Murray Forbes papers span the years 1842-1898 and consist of three record cartons and one document box (stored offsite) and four extra-tall volumes (stored onsite). The collection is divided into four series: Correspondence, Letterbooks, Account Books, and Additions.

The loose correspondence, written from 1854-1897, consists primarily of letters written to J. M. Forbes, but includes some copies of outgoing correspondence, as well. It is related to Forbes's personal business affairs, such as mining interests, real estate, steam yachting, Naushon Island, stocks and investments, and politics, particularly the 1884 presidential election and the "Committee of One Hundred," a group of Republican and Independent party voters who worked to elect James G. Blaire. Correspondents include Josiah Quincy, James Jackson, Catharine M. Sedgwick, William C. Bryant, Joseph G. Cogswell, Wendell Phillips, Ulysses S. Grant, Lord Amerley, R. W. Emerson, Thomas Hughes, and John H. Clifford. Frequent business correspondents include various Forbes family members, Charles E. Perkins, Edward C. Perkins, George S. J. Oliver, Jonathan L. Lathrop, H. B. Scott, A. E. Touzalin, and Miers Coryell, among many others. The letterbooks contain copies of outgoing correspondence from 1857-1898.

Account books kept from 1860-1869 detail his investments in various industries, in particular land speculation, China trade shipping, estates and houses, and railroads. The account books also include a few accounts relating to Massachusetts cavalry regiments (including the 5th) in the Civil War. The additions include Forbes's correspondence with J. P. Cushing, W. H. Gardiner, R. B. Forbes, and others.

Restrictions on Access

The bulk of the John Murray Forbes 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.

There are restrictions on the use of this collection. Users must sign an agreement stating that they understand these restrictions before they will be given access to the collection.

Restrictions on Use

The Massachusetts Historical Society does not claim ownership to the John Murray Forbes papers, which have been placed on deposit at the Historical Society by the J. M. Forbes Archives Committee. The collection contains the private papers of a large extended family that retains copyright of the documents. Some materials in the collection refer to people still alive, or survived by children and grandchildren. A researcher planning to base major research on this collection is advised to consult the J. M. Forbes Family Archives Committee in advance.

The Massachusetts Historical Society cannot give permission to publish or cite documents by individuals for whom it does not hold literary rights. Use of the collection (including photocopying or any form of reproduction) does not imply permission to publish, all or in part, documents in the collection. It is the sole responsibility of the researcher to contact the Historical Society in writing to request permission to cite documents in this collection. The Historical Society will then forward the formal written request to the J. M. Forbes Archives Committee.

Photocopies are for personal use only. Personal use photocopies may not be donated or deposited in other libraries or archives, or made available to other researchers without the written permission of the J. M. Forbes Archives Committee.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the J. M. Forbes Family Archives Committee, 1995, 2004. Additions deposited in 2009.

Arrangement

The papers of John Murray Forbes were merged with the John Murray Forbes account books in January 2006.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Correspondence, 1854-1897

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains loose correspondence, mostly letters written to J. M. Forbes, but also some outgoing letters (copies), 1854-1897, primarily between 1886-1889. The correspondence is mainly related to Forbes's personal business affairs, such as mining interests, real estate, steam yachting, Alabama claims, Naushon Island matters, stocks and other investments, bimetallism, and politics. There is a substantial file of materials concerning the 1884 presidential election and the "Massachusetts Committee of 100," a group of Republican and Independent party voters who worked to elect James G. Blaine. The loose correspondence includes letters written by Josiah Quincy (1854), Dr. James Jackson (1855), Catharine M. Sedgwick (1857), Oliver W. Holmes (1857, 1858, 1864, 1882), William C. Bryant (1859, 1864), Joseph G. Cogswell (1861), Wendell Phillips (1867, 1882), Ulysses S. Grant (1868), Lord Amberley (1869), R. W. Emerson (1870), Thomas Hughes (1870, 1880), and John H. Clifford (1870). Frequent business correspondents include Charles E. Perkins, Edward C. Perkins, George S. J. Oliver, Jonathan L. Lathrop, H. B. Scott, A. E. Touzalin, and Miers Coryell, among many others. There a number of Forbes family members who occasionally wrote to J. M. Forbes, as well.

Carton 1SH 185X 6
1854-Apr. 1887
Carton 2SH 1748 M
May 1887-Feb. 1889
Carton 3SH 1749 N
Mar. 1889-1897

II. Letterbooks, 1857-1898

Arranged chronologically.

Included are four letterbooks of letterpress copies of outgoing correspondence, 8 Aug.-2 Mar. 1898, and one small carbon-copy letterbook of outgoing correspondence, used on a trip out west, 4 Oct.-4 Dec. 1883.

Carton 3SH 1749 NVol. L-1
Letterpress copies, 8 Aug. 1857-17 July 1894
Carton 3SH 1749 NVol. L-2
Letterpress copies, 2 Jan. 1894-26 Sep. 1895
Carton 3SH 1749 NVol. L-3
Letterpress copies, 21 Sep.-17 Oct. 1895, and 10 July 1896
Carton 3SH 1749 NVol. L-4
Letterpress copies, 17 Oct. 1895-2 Mar. 1898
Carton 3SH 1749 NVol. L-5
Carbon copies, 4 Oct.-4 Dec. 1883

III. Account Books, 1860-1869

Arranged chronologically by type.

This series consists of four account books, 1860-1869, documenting J. M. Forbes's investments in various industries, in particular land speculation, China trade shipping, estates and houses, and railroads. Also included are a few accounts relating to Massachusetts cavalry regiments (including the 5th) in the Civil War. Volumes I and II are ledgers with indexes, 1860-1864 and 1864-1866. Volumes III and IV are journals (in chronological order), Apr. 1862-Jan. 1864, and Feb. 1864-Jan. 1869.

Note: These volumes are located (onsite) at Ms. N-500.

Vol. A-1
Ledger with index, 1860-1864
Vol. A-2
Ledger with index, 1864-1866
Vol. A-3
Journal K, Apr. 1862-Jan. 1864
Vol. A-1
Journal L, Feb. 1864-Jan. 1869

IV. Additions, 1842-1898

This series consists of one box of additions to the correspondence of John Murray Forbes, 1842-1898. Included are letters written to and from Forbes concerning agriculture, commerce, railroads, investments, properties, and Republican politics. Among the correspondents are J. P. Cushing, W. H. Gardiner, R. B. Forbes, and others. There is also a series of letters, 1858-1860, written to F. B. Sanborn about the education of Forbes's son J. Malcolm ("Mac") Forbes, as well as one undated letter from Fanny Kemble to John Murray Forbes.

Box 1SH 1844 J

Preferred Citation

John 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:

Amberley, John Russell, Viscount, 1842-1876.
Blaine, James Gillespie, 1830-1893.
Bryant, William Cullen, 1794-1878.
Clifford, John H. (John Henry), 1809-1876.
Cogswell, Joseph Green, 1786-1871.
Coryell, Miers.
Cushing, John Perkins, 1787-1862.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882.
Forbes family.
Forbes, R. B. (Robert Bennet), 1804-1889.
Gardiner, William Howard, 1797-1882.
Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885.
Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894.
Jackson, James, 1777-1867.
Kemble, Fanny, 1809-1893.
Lathrop, Jonathan L.
Oliver, George S. J.
Perkins, Charles Elliott, 1840-1907.
Perkins, Edward C.
Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884.
Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864.
Sanborn, F. B. (Franklin Benjamin), 1831-1917.

Organizations:

Committee of One Hundred (Boston, Mass.).
United States-- Army--Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, 5th (1862-1865).

Subjects:

Account books--1860-1869.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--China.
Businessmen--Massachusetts--Boston.
China trade.
China--Commerce--Massachusetts--Boston.
Massachusetts--Politics and government--1865-1950.
Naushon Island (Mass.).
Presidents--United States--Elections--1884.
Railroads--United States.
Real estate business.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Finance.