COLLECTION GUIDES

ca. 1884-ca. 1958

Guide to the Photograph Collection


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection contains photographs taken and collected by the Atkins family of Boston and Belmont, Mass., sugar merchants engaged in trade with Cuba, 1845-1950. The bulk of the photos are of various cities and seaports in Cuba, as well as of Soledad, the estate where the family's sugar business, E. Atkins & Co., was located. There are also a number of images of the Harvard Botanical Garden and the Harvard Botanical Laboratory, both of which were located on the grounds of Soledad, and portraits and snapshots of various Atkins and Weeks family members in Cuba.

Biographical Information

Edwin F. Atkins (EFA) was born in 1850 to sugar plantation owner Elisha Atkins (1813-1888) and his wife Mary E. Freeman Atkins (1819-1897). The Atkins' sugar business was centered in Cuba, and in January 1866 at the age of 16, EFA first accompanied his father on a trip to Havana and Cienfuegos, Cuba. Two years later, EFA began working with his father's company, and in 1874 he became a partner in E. Atkins & Co. Over the years, EFA was also involved in other business interests, including the Bay State Sugar Refinery, of which he was president from 1876 to 1888; Union Pacific Railroad, of which he was a director from 1888 to 1895; Aetna Mills and the Boston Wharf Co., for both of which he served as president until 1915; American Sugar Refining Co., of which he was chairman of the board until 1916; and Westinghouse Electric, of which he was a director and president (1915).

E. Atkins & Co.'s most frequent business correspondents in Cienfuegos were the Torriente Brothers. After the Ten Years' War in Cuba (1868-1878), Torriente Bros. had many sugar estates indebted to them, and the firm in turn was indebted to E. Atkins & Co. Torriente Bros. foreclosed on several estates, including the Soledad plantation in Cienfuegos owned by the Sarria family. After a series of negotiations, the Soledad estate was turned over to E. Atkins & Co. in 1883. EFA convinced his father to allow him to take on the Soledad estate and its sugar-manufacturing business. Although E. Atkins & Co., a sugar-trading company, did not seek to manufacture sugar, it entered this area of the business as an attempt to recover loaned funds. By 1887, Soledad was producing four thousand tons of sugar annually and was the primary focus of EFA's business. Although E. Atkins & Co. owned Soledad, the estate was EFA's personal interest, and he oversaw its operation throughout his life.

In 1892, Henry O. Havemeyer of the American Sugar Refining Co. and his cousin Charles Senff included EFA in a new sugar company, the Trinidad Sugar Co. in Trinidad, Cuba. EFA served as its president and through E. Atkins & Co. managed its affairs in Cuba. Trinidad was a private enterprise between Havemeyer, Senff, and EFA until 1912 when E. Atkins & Co. took full ownership of the estate.

Edwin F. Atkins married Katharine Wrisley (1860-1953) in 1882. They resided in Belmont, Mass. and had three children: Robert Wrisley (1889-1948), Edwin Farnsworth (1892-1923), and Helen (1894-1991). In 1910, Robert W. Atkins (RWA) joined E. Atkins & Co. Five years later he founded the Punta Alegre Sugar Co., with EFA as its president. Punta Alegre came to own many mills in Cuba. Together with E. Atkins & Co., the Atkinses came to operate many of the top sugar producing mills in Cuba. They controlled the Baguanos, Tacajó, Presidente, San Germán, and Ermita mills in Oriente province; Caracas, Trinidad, and San Agustín mills in Santa Clara province, and Baraguá, Florida, and Punta Alegre mills in Camagüey province.

RWA had other interests, including Belmont Associates and School Street Associates, both real estate firms; Merchant's National Bank of Boston; and Aetna Mills. His brother Edwin F. Atkins, Jr. was briefly involved with E. Atkins & Co. before a plane crash off of Key West, Fla. in 1923 that took his life and those of his two sons.

In 1921, Frank C. Lowry and Eugene V. Thayer joined E. Atkins & Co. as junior officers. Upon EFA's death in 1926, Lowry and Thayer took over the firm and operated it under the name Lowry & Co.

Helen Atkins Claflin married William Henry Claflin, Jr. They had four children: Katharine Wrisley (later Weeks); Helen (later Spring); William Henry, 3rd; and Anne (later Allen).

Collection Description

The Atkins family photographs contain 419 loose photographs and 1 negative in 2 regular boxes. All of the photographs were taken in Cuba, between 1884 and 1958; the bulk of the images date from 1908-1958. Many of the photos are undated.

The images include views of Cuban towns such as Havana, Cienfuegos, Caracas, Pasa Caballo, and Trinidad; views of the grounds, gardens, railroad, school, and sugar mill at Soledad, the estate where E. Atkins & Co. was located; and images of laborers, staff, and Atkins family members working at the sugar plantation at Soledad. Additionally, there are many photographs of the Harvard Botanical Garden, founded in 1901 and transferred to Harvard University in 1919, and the Harvard Botanical Laboratory, founded in 1924; both of these were operated and located on the grounds of Soledad. There are also a number of images of ships at sail around various places in Cuba.

Atkins family members represented in the photographs include Edwin F. Atkins, Katharine W. Atkins, Helen Atkins Claflin, and various members of the Weeks family (the family of Helen Atkins Claflin's daughter Katharine Wrisley Atkins Weeks). There are also a number of photos of Dr. Thomas Barbour, director of the Harvard Botanical Garden at Soledad.

Photographers include Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba), David Fairchild, and Llewelyn Williams. Most of the photographers in this collection are unidentified; identified photographs include a caption on the verso of the photograph in an unidentified hand.

Acquisition Information

This collection was removed from the Atkins family papers, a gift to the Massachusetts Historical Society from Helen Atkins Claflin in 1977.

Detailed Description of the Collection

People

Box 1#37.1-2
Atkins, Edwin F. and Katharine W., July 1917. U.S. passport photos and passport. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.3View Photo. #37.3
Atkins, Edwin F. and Katharine W., ca. 1923Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.4View Photo. #37.4
Atkins, Edwin F. and Katharine W., n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.5
Atkins, Edwin F. and unidentified woman, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.6-7View Photo. #37.6
Atkins, Katharine W., n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.8
Atkins, Katharine W. and Madame [ ] at Limones (estate), Soledad, Cuba, 1921. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.9
Black, George, n.d. "Engineer at Soledad." Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.10
Claflin, Helen Atkins and unidentified woman, April 1947. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.11
Claflin, Helen Atkins and Katharine A. Weeks, [ca. 1950]. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.12-13View Photo. #37.12
Hughes, L.F. at Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.14
Leon, Carlos at Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.15
Ramirez, Haydie, Mar. 1947. Photographer unknown.

Inscribed: "A Doña Catalina con el major afecto y gratitud de Haydie Ramirez Central Soledad Marzo 1/47."

Box 1#37.16
Reed, Grace Atkins, Soledad, Cuba, n.d. "Aunt Grace Reed (Wm Howell Reed) Soledad Garden at Vivienda." Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.17View Photo. #37.17
Weeks, John W., Jr. at the Soledad school, [ca. 1950]. "School children Soledad Johnnie Weeks 2nd row." Taken by Miguel A. Lague (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.18
Weeks, John W., Jr. at the Soledad school Children's Fancy Dress, [ca. 1950]. Taken by Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.19
Weeks, Katharine A. and unidentified girl at the Soledad school Children's Fancy Dress, [ca. 1950]. Taken by Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.20
Weeks, Martha Sinclair and John W., Jr. at the Soledad school Children's Fancy Dress, [ca. 1950]. Taken by Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.21-22
Weeks, Martha Sinclair and unidentified children at the Soledad school Children's Fancy Dress, [ca. 1950]. Taken by Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.23-24
Weeks, Martha Sinclair, John W., Jr. and Katharine A. at the Soledad school Children's Fancy Dress, [ca. 1950]. Taken by Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.25-28
Unidentified people at the Soledad school Children's Fancy Dress, [ca. 1950]. Taken by Jose Alvarez (Cienfuegos, Cuba).
Box 1#37.29
"Stanley with Dada, Carpenter-Blacksmith at Soledad stable," n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.30
[ ], Lola, Soledad, Cuba, [ca. 1940s]. "This is the patio at El Vivienda or the Atkins house. The old maiden Lola has been there about 50 years." Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.31
"Ely (w/ pipe)" and "Urrutia (w/ glasses)," Oct. 1958. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.32-42
Unidentified staff and family, Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.43-45
Unidentified staff and family at a pig roast, [ca. 1940s]. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.46-54
Unidentified laborers and staff at Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.55-58
Unidentified people at Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.59
Unidentified bride and groom, 1941. Photographer unknown.

Inscribed: "A nuestra querida Doña Catalina Vda. de Atkins, respetuosamente de E. Agriel y señora.

Box 1#37.60
Unidentified bride and groom, April 1945. Photographer unknown.

Inscribed: "Mrs y Mr W. Claflin. Afectuosamente Lela y Pepe 4/22/45."

Box 1#37.61-63
Trips from Soledad, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.64
Boy scouts at lunch, Soledad, Cuba, ca. 1913. Possibly taken by Katharine W. Atkins.

Places

Box 1#37.65
Arrias, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.66-71
Caracas, Cuba: Atkins estate, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Cienfuegos, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.83
Cienfuegos, Cuba: Torriente house, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.84
Caonao River, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.85-120
Havana, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.121View Photo. #37.121
Le Vega, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.122-128
Pasa Caballo, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.129
San Agustin, Cuba: road menders, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.130-132
Trinidad, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.133View Photo. #37.133
Trinidad, Cuba: Torriente estate, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.134
Trinidad, Cuba, April [195?]. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.135-152
Unidentified locations in Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 1#37.153-167
Ships in unidentified locations in Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 1#37.168-210View Photo. #37.170
Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.216View Photo. #37.216
Soledad, Cuba, ca. 1895. "Under the Old Slave Bell." Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.216aView Photo. #37.216a
Soledad, Cuba: the "Aramao" railroad car, Soledad transportation system, 1916. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.217-218
Soledad, Cuba, June 1939. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.219-221
Soledad, Cuba, Feb. 1947. Taken by Llewelyn Williams.
Box 2#37.222
Soledad, Cuba, April 1947. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.223-224
Soledad, Cuba, April 1955. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.225-226View Photo. #37.226
Soledad, Cuba: Caledonia (estate), n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.227-228
Soledad, Cuba: Gavilan (estate), n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.229-242View Photo. #37.242
Soledad, Cuba: Limones (estate), n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.243-244
Soledad, Cuba: Santa Teresa (estate), n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.245-249
Soledad, Cuba: The Vivienda. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.250-256
Soledad, Cuba: School, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.257-269View Photo. #37.267
Soledad, Cuba: Sugar mill, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.270-278
Soledad, Cuba: Horses, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.279-298
Soledad, Cuba: Cattle, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.299-301
Soledad, Cuba: Cattle, Sept. 1915. Possibly taken by Edwin F. Atkins.
Box 2#37.302-303
Soledad, Cuba: Cattle, Feb. 1947. Taken by Llewelyn Williams.
Box 2#37.304
Soledad, Cuba: Dog, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.305-310View Photo. #37.309
Soledad, Cuba: Railroad, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.311
Soledad, Cuba: Chinese quarters, 1884. Copy print. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.312-314
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba: Unidentified people, n.d. Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.315-318
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba: Dr. Thomas Barbour, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.319
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba: Dr. Thomas Barbour and W[ ] May, n.d.

Inscribed: "Dr. Barbour and W. May sitting under the [ ] Palm -- (Raven[ ])."

Box 2#37.320
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba: David Sturrock, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba, n.d Photographers unknown.
Box 2#37.383
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba: Hybrid water lilies, July 1908. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.384-387
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba, Sept. 1908. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.388
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba, summer 1921. Photographer unknown.
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba, 31 Mar. 1924. Taken by David Fairchild.
Box 2#37.404
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba, June 1940. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.405
Harvard Botanical Garden, Soledad, Cuba, Sept. 1949. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.406
Harvard Botanical Laboratory: Edwin F. Atkins, Katharine W. Atkins, and Thomas Barbour, 31 Mar. 1924. Taken by David Fairchild.
Box 2#37.407-412View Photo. #37.410
Harvard Botanical Laboratory, n.d. Photographer unknown.
Box 2#37.413-19
Atkins Garden, Dec. 1946. Taken by Llewelyn Williams.
Box 2#37.420
NEGATIVE: Two unidentified men, Soledad, Cuba, n.d. Photographer unknown.

Preferred Citation

Atkins family photographs, Photo. Coll. 37, Massachusetts Historical Society Photo Archives.

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:

Atkins, Edwin Farnsworth, 1850-1926 --Photographs.
Atkins, Katharine W., 1860-1953 --Photographs.
Barbour, Thomas, 1884-1946 --Photographs.
Claflin, Helen Atkins, 1894-1991 --Photographs.
Weeks family--Photographs.
Atkins family--Photograph collections.
Alvarez, Jose, photographer.
Fairchild, David, 1869-1954, photographer.
Williams, Llewelyn, photographer.

Organizations:

E. Atkins and Company--Photographs.
Harvard Botanical Garden (Cienfuegos, Cuba)--Photographs.
Harvard Botanical Laboratory (Cienfuegos, Cuba)--Photographs.
Soledad Sugar Company--Photographs.

Subjects:

Botanical gardens--Photographs.
Plantations--Cuba--Cienfuegos--Photographs.
Ships--Photographs.
Sugar--Manufacture and refining--Cuba--Photographs.
Sugar factories--Cuba--Photographs.
Sugar workers--Cuba--Photographs.
Caracas (Cuba)--Photographs.
Cienfuegos (Cuba)--Photographs.
Havana (Cuba)--Photographs.
Pasa Caballo (Cuba)--Photographs.
Trinidad (Sancti Spiritus, Cuba)--Photographs.
Photonegatives.