Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The Abbott family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or

Collection Summary


This collection contains the papers of the Abbott family of Concord and Lincoln, Mass., primarily those of sculptor and equestrian Mary Ogden Abbott and her brother, Boston physician John Adams Abbott, as well as earlier Abbott and Adams family papers. It consists of correspondence, personal papers, research material, scrapbooks, literary manuscripts, commissions, and printed material.

Biographical Sketches

These brief biographical sketches highlight the individuals most prominently represented with the collection.

Mary Ogden Adams Abbott (1867-1933) was the daughter of Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915) and Mary Hone Ogden (1843-1925). An aspiring playwright, Mary wrote prolifically between 1916 and 1918, although her works were never published. She married Grafton St. Loe Abbott in 1890 and had three children: Henry Livermore Abbott (1892-1969), Mary Ogden Abbott (1895-1981), and John Adams Abbott (1902-1995). With her daughter, Mary Ogden Abbott, Mary travelled extensively throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia between 1920 and 1928.

Mary Ogden Abbott (1894-1981) was born in Concord, Mass. on 12 October 1894, the daughter of Mary Ogden Adams and Grafton St. Loe Abbott (1856-1915), and the sister of John Adams Abbott. She was educated at the Westover School in Connecticut and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. An artist and sculptor, she was know for her carved altar pieces and her wood teak doors that stood in the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. and at the Peabody Museum in Salem, Mass. She and her mother, Mary Adams Abbott, traveled around the world between 1920 and 1928, and she later published her memoirs of Kashmir, Ladakh, and Baltistan. She was the first woman to be elected president of Concord's Musketaquid Sportsmen's Club in 1930. While hunting in Mexico in 1940, she killed a jaguar that she sent as a gift to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1948 and 1949, she made trips down the San Juan and Colorado Rivers of the Grand Canyon and made numerous pack trips throughout the American West. A skilled equestrian, Mary was the owner and manager of the Victory Lee Stables in Concord until 1977. She was a founding member of the Concord Art Association and president of the Adams Memorial Society. Never married, Mary died on 11 May 1981 at the age of 86.

John Adams Abbott (1902-1995) was born in Concord, Mass. on 7 July 1902, the son of Grafton St. Loe Abbott (1856-1915) and Mary Adams Abbott (1867-1933). He graduated from the Groton School in 1921, Harvard University in 1925, and Harvard Medical School in 1931. John directed the EEG laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital and taught military postgraduate medical courses during World War II, later teaching neurology at Harvard and maintaining a private psychiatric practice in Boston. A longtime resident of Lincoln, Mass., John published numerous articles in the fields of neurology and psychiatry, as well as poetry and family histories. In 1970, he was appointed by President Nixon to serve a one week term as the ambassador to Niger to christen the John F. Kennedy Bridge over the Niger River in Niamey. John married Diana Asken Ballin on 9 August 1945, and the couple had two children, Peter Michael Abbott (b. 1952) and Rosemarie Livermore Abbott (b. 1953). He died on 6 January 1995 in Lincoln at the age of 93.

Collection Description

The Abbott family papers consist of two record cartons and one oversize box spanning the years 1821 to 1993. They include the papers of the Abbott family of Concord and Lincoln, Mass., primarily those of sculptor and equestrian Mary Ogden Abbott and her brother, Boston physician John Adams Abbott, as well as earlier Abbott and Adams family papers.

Mary Ogden Abbott's correspondence, writings, scrapbooks, and collected ephemera reflect her career as an artist and sculptor; her ownership of the Victory Lee Stables in Concord; and her wide-ranging travels, including hunting trips to Mexico, river trips through the Grand Canyon, and excursions to India, the Himalayas, and the Far East. Mary's later essays and correspondence with elected officials document her strongly-held politically conservative views.

John Adams Abbott's papers relate to his education at Groton School and Harvard University, as well as his medical career as a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, a professor of neurology, and a Boston psychiatrist. A large portion of his papers consist of research and writings on his family's history, including his personal memories of his grandfather, Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), and his research about Edward Gilbert Abbott, the first anesthesia patient at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Early Abbott and Adams family papers include the public office commissions of Josiah Gardner Abbott, the paternal grandfather of Mary Ogden Abbott and John Adams Abbott, as well as military commissions for other Abbott family members. Also included are the honorary diplomas of Mary and John's maternal grandfather, Charles Francis Adams, and the literary manuscripts and correspondence of their mother, Mary Adams Abbott. Of particular interest is the correspondence of Mary and John's uncle, Holker Abbott, who, as president of Boston's Copley Society, corresponded extensively with artist John Singer Sargent to arrange exhibitions of his works and to follow the progress of Sargent's murals at the Boston Public Library. Holker's correspondence also includes letters from artist Maxfield Parrish and architect Charles McKim.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Diane Abbott, Dec. 1994.

Restrictions on Access

The Abbott family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Family correspondence, 1903-1981

Arranged chronologically.

This series consists of letters from Mary Adams Abbott to her mother, Mary Ogden Adams, from Aiken, S.C. and Concord, Mass. with news of her family; letters from Henry Livermore Abbott to his brother John Adams Abbott; letters from Mary Ogden Abbott to her brother John Adams Abbott from Colorado in 1921, and to John and his wife Diana from 1963 to 1965, as well as letters to Mary Ogden Abbott from her nieces and nephews. Letters discuss family news, travels, and daily life.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 1-5

II. Early family papers, 1821-1920

This series contains the commissions of several Abbott family members, including Josiah Gardner Abbott, the paternal grandfather of John Adams Abbott and Mary Ogden Abbott. Also in the series are the papers of Josiah's daughter and granddaughter, Sarah Abbott Fay and Katherine Fay; correspondence of Josiah's son, Holker Abbott; and the school papers of Josiah's grandson, Henry Livermore Abbott.

The series also contains the honorary diplomas of Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), the maternal grandfather of John Adams Abbott and Mary Ogden Abbott, as well as the literary manuscripts and correspondence of John and Mary's mother, Mary Adams Abbott.

A. Fay family papers, 1884-1904

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries largely consists of the papers of Sarah Abbott Fay and her daughter, Katherine "Kitty" Fay. Sarah was the daughter of Josiah Gardner Abbott, the sister of Grafton and Holker Abbott, and the wife of William Fay. Papers include poems written in 1884, a few of Katherine's diary entries from February and March 1893 describing her daily life, an 1894 letter to Katherine from Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), and other ephemera.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 6-7

B. Mary Adams Abbott papers, 1890-1919

This series contains correspondence between Mary Adams Abbott and writing consultant Fanny Cannon, as well as with various editors and publishers. It also includes the typescripts and handwritten manuscripts of Mary's unpublished plays, largely written in 1917.

i. Personal papers, 1890-1919

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of Mary's personal papers consists of correspondence with writing consultant Fanny Cannon, who offered criticism and suggestions for Mary's playwriting in 1916 and 1917. Other correspondence consists of that between Mary and various publishers, producers, and agents in relation to her plays. Also included is an 1890 inventory of Mary's wedding gifts.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 7-10

ii. Writings, 1916-1918

Arranged chronologically.

Writings include several manuscript and typescript versions of Mary's unpublished plays.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 11-13
"When the Call Came," 1916
Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 14-24
["Ferment"], 1916-1917
Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 25-38
"Aftermath," 1917-1918

C. Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915) diplomas, 1895-1909

Arranged chronologically.

OS Box

D. Holker Abbott correspondence, 1899-1920

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of Holker Abbott's correspondence pertains to his position as president of the Copley Society, an esteemed Boston art association. It includes a series of letters from John Singer Sargent related to the society's large exhibition of Sargent's work in 1899, as well as later works and exhibitions including Sargent's murals at the Boston Public Library. Sargent writes from London between 1899 and 1916. Other correspondents include artist Maxfield Parrish (1895) and architect Charles McKim (1900). Later letters reflect Holker's affiliation with the Tavern Club, a Boston social organization.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 39-42

E. Henry Livermore Abbott papers, 1907-1910

Arranged chronologically.

This small subseries includes a 1907 playbill from Groton School and correspondence related to Henry's studies at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, including a 1910 letter from Groton headmaster Endicott Peabody.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folder 43

F. Commissions and diplomas, 1821-1909

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of this subseries consists of the public service and military commissions of Josiah Gardner Abbott (1814-1891); Josiah's father Caleb Abbott; and Josiah's son Fletcher M. Abbott (1843-1945). Also included are Charles Francis Adams's certificates of honorary degrees from Harvard (1895), Princeton (1909), and Washington and Lee (1907) Universities.

OS BoxFolders 1-3

G. Miscellaneous/unidentified papers, 1831-1919

Arranged chronologically.

Papers include manuscript and typescript copies of an 1831 letter from Lt. Gen. Thomas Browne to his cousin with news of his family's military service in Martinique, Europe, and India; a 1900 letter from Admiral George Dewey to George H. Tilden; a ca. 1906 collection of autographs of American novelist Winston Churchill from Windsor, Vt.; a 1919 invitation to memorial services for Theodore Roosevelt; and several anonymous poems dating from the 1860s.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 44-45

III. Mary Ogden Abbott papers, 1916-1992

The papers of Mary Ogden Abbott include correspondence, diary entries, political essays, travel articles, and scrapbooks. They reflect Mary's travels to Mexico, the Far East, and the American West; her art career; her ownership of the Victory Lee Stables in Concord, Mass.; her various hobbies and memberships; and her political opinions.

A. Correspondence, 1916-1981

Arranged chronologically.

Mary's early correspondence largely consists of letters from friends, as well as drafts or retained copies of her own letters to them. They discuss Mary's travels and art, in addition to politics and world events, such as her opinion of the French in North Africa in 1943. Legal and financial correspondence in the 1960s is primarily related to her ownership and management of the Victory Lee Stables. Most 1970s correspondence is with elected officials about Mary's conservative political views on Watergate and other local and national issues, including correspondence with Attorney General Elliot Richardson, Chief Justice Warren Burger, Gov. Michael Dukakis, and Senators Daniel P. Moynihan, Edward M. Kennedy, Edward W. Brooks, and Charles Percy.

A large amount of later correspondence is with museums and art galleries related to exhibitions and donations of her sculpture and collections of family art, including to Chesterwood, the Peabody Museum of Salem, and the Robert Bennet Forbes House. Other correspondence pertains to Mary's support for the Adams National Historic site and her medical condition. Also included is an undated letter, most likely from the 1920s, describing a hunting trip to Mexico.

Carton 1 SH 1A30Folders 46-63

B. Personal papers, 1943-1977

Arranged chronologically.

Personal papers include several World War II ID cards; papers related to the July 1957 sale of her artwork; diary entries about a trip to the Grand Canyon; political essays about international relations, unionizing the armed forces, and the death penalty; an undated essay about the hunting trip to Mexico; and an undated biographical sketch.

Carton 1 SH 1A30Folders 64-68

C. Printed material, 1941-1992

Arranged chronologically.

Included in this subseries are wedding invitations; Mary's publications "Shikar in Baltistan," Appalachia, Dec. 1958, and "In Ladakh, 1924," Appalachia, June 1963; newsclippings about various political subjects; a Concord Art Association exhibition program; and several articles containing Mary's obituary.

Carton 1SH 1A30Folders 69-72

D. Volumes, 1930-1981

Arranged chronologically.

Volumes include two scrapbooks related to Mary's artwork. The first contains correspondence, photographs of Mary and her artwork, newspaper clippings, and exhibition announcements and programs. It also contains a small amount of material related to her role as president of the Musketaquid Sportsmen's Club in 1932, a biographical sketch, and articles about her trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1949. The second scrapbook contains photographs of her art.

Other volumes include a three-year appointment calendar chronicling the activities of Mary's last years, as well as details of her final illness written by another hand, and an undated address book.

Carton 2SH 1 A31Folders 1-7
Scrapbook, 1930-1959
Carton 2SH 1 A31Folders 8-9
Scrapbook, 1951-1960
Carton 2SH 1 A31Folder 10
Calendar, 1979-1981
Carton 2SH 1 A31Folder 11
Address book, n.d.

IV. John Adams Abbott papers, 1919-1995

The papers of John Adams Abbott include correspondence; diplomas and certificates; financial records; genealogical and historical research; historical writings; poetry; newsclippings; and ephemera. Papers reflect John's education at Groton School and Harvard University, his medical career, his research and writings on his family's history, and his research about Edward Gilbert Abbott, the first anesthesia patient at Massachusetts General Hospital.

A. Personal papers, 1925-1993

Arranged chronologically.

Included in John's personal papers are diplomas and certificates related to his education and medical career; biographical information for Harvard class reports; financial papers; poems; correspondence related to family history; September 1991 meeting minutes of the Adams Memorial Society; and an undated typescript of John's play, "Four O'Clock." Also included is correspondence about the health of his sister Mary and arrangements after her death, including the sale of her real estate and donations of her artwork and family artifacts.

Carton 2 SH 1 A31Folders 12-22

B. Family history research, 1940-1989

Arranged chronologically and by subject.

This subseries contains photocopies of the correspondence of Louisa Hooper Thoron with George C. Homans, Van Wyck Brooks, and Lyman Butterfield about Louisa's remembrances of her uncle, Henry Adams. It also includes typescript drafts of John's paper "The Day of Mr. Charles Francis Adams," which contain John's and his sister's reminiscences of their grandfather; articles about John's Abbott, Adams, and Livermore ancestors; correspondence; and genealogical notes and charts.

Carton 2SH 1 A31Folders 23-27

C. Edward Gilbert Abbott research, 1965-1988

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains research about the life and family of Edward Gilbert Abbott (1825-1855), the first anesthesia patient at Massachusetts General Hospital's Ether Dome in 1846. It includes a large amount of correspondence, genealogical research notes, and a 1984 article by John and Leroy D. Vandam, "Edward Gilbert Abbott: Enigmatic Figure of Ether Demonstration."

Carton 2SH 1A31Folders 28-54

D. Printed material, 1919-1995

Arranged chronologically.

Printed material includes Nov. and Dec. 1919 copies of The Grotonian, containing articles written by John Adams Abbott; a reprint of John's May 1960 MHS Proceedings article, "Three Views of Charles Francis Adams II"; John's 1976 self-published "Poems about Lincoln (Lincoln, Mass.)"; various programs, flyers, and newsclippings related to the history of the Adams family; and a 1989 Groton School address book.

Carton 2SH 1A31Folders 55-62

Preferred Citation

Abbott 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.


Abbott, Edward Gilbert, 1825-1855.
Abbott, Holker Welch, 1858-1930.
Abbott, John Adams, 1902-1995.
Abbott, Josiah Gardner, 1814-1891.
Abbott, Mary Adams , 1867-1933.
Abbott, Mary Ogden, 1894-1981.
Abbott family.
Adams, Charles Francis, 1835-1915.
Adams family.
McKim, Charles Follen, 1847-1909.
Parrish, Maxfield, 1870-1966.
Sargent, John Singer, 1856-1925.


Boston Public Library.
Copley Society (Boston, Mass.).
Massachusetts General Hospital.
Victory Lee Stables (Concord, Mass.).


Concord (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Family history--1850-1899.
Family history--1900-1949.
Grand Canyon (Ariz.)--Description and travel.
Himalaya Mountains--Description and travel.
India--Description and travel.
Lincoln (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Mexico--Description and travel.
Political participation--Massachusetts.
Women artists--Massachusetts--Concord.
Women travelers.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives.