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.
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.
The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) holds many collections related to the John Murray Forbes and his family, including the following:
Edith Emerson Forbes and William Hathaway Forbes papers. OFFSITE STORAGE. Finding aid available at: http://www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0225
Forbes family papers. Ms. N-49. Finding aid available at: http://www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0269.
Robert Bennet Forbes papers. Ms. N-49.70.
Elise Cabot Forbes papers. OFFSITE STORAGE. Preliminary inventory available at: http://www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0107.
Ralph E. and Elise C. Forbes personal financial records. OFFSITE STORAGE. Preliminary inventory available at: http://www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0109.
The papers of John Murray Forbes were merged with the John Murray Forbes account books in January 2006.
Deposited by the J. M. Forbes Family Archives Committee, 1995, 2004. Additions deposited in 2009.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
The collection is organized into the following series:
John Murray Forbes papers, 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.
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