1764-1981; bulk: 1920-1980

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The Mary Ogden Abbott 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 consists of the papers of artist, traveler, hunter, and equestrian Mary Ogden Abbott of Concord, Mass., 1920-1981, including family correspondence, travel writings and notes, sketches, scrapbooks, published pamphlets of her adventures, legal and financial papers, maps, clippings, and Abbott family genealogical notes.

Biographical Sketch

Mary Ogden Abbott (1894-1981) was an artist, traveler, hunter and equestrian. Born on 12 Oct. 1894, she was the daughter of Mary Ogden Adams and Grafton St. Loe Abbott. She was a descendant on her mother's side from Presidents John and John Quincy Adams, and on her father's side from George Abbott, one of the early settlers in Andover. She was born and lived most of her life in Concord, Mass. Abbott attended the Westover School in Connecticut and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass.

Abbott and her mother traveled from 1920-1928. They traveled by car to Los Angeles in 1920 and back-packed to the Grand Canyon and Montana in 1921. From 1922-1927 they ventured abroad, exploring Java, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Greece, Athens, Delphi, across Peloponnesus on horseback, and Morocco, eventually ending with an automobile trip through Europe to Italy. She hunted wild game in Kashmir, Ladakh and Baltistan (1923-1924), and in Sonora, Mexico (1940) she shot a jaguar that was sent to the Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1948 she made her first run down the San Juan River to Lee's Ferry near the Marble Canyon on the Colorado River. In 1949 she returned to the San Juan with "The Nevills Expedition" from Bright Angel to Lake Meade (Boulder/Hoover Dam). The expedition was Norm and Doris Nevills' last trip down the river before their deaths in a tragic plane crash. Abbott designed a plaque to commemorate their lives that was placed at Lee's Ferry. The friendships she developed while rafting the San Juan lasted the rest of her life, and much of the correspondence in this collection includes letters from the "River Rats" or "Canyoneers," as they called themselves.

Abbott was an accomplished artist in various media, especially woodcarving. She made the reredos and altar for Grace Episcopal Church in Lawrence, an altar depicting St. George in cowboy attire in St. Andrew's Church, Nogales, Arizona, and her teak doors were hung in the U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., and the Peabody Museum in Salem. Her drawings appeared in the journal Appalachia and books on travel. She was also a founding member of the Concord Art Association.

As a skilled equestrian, Abbott participated in hunts on the Alexander Higginson estate and with the Middlesex Hunt Club in South Lincoln, Mass. She maintained stables in Concord until 1977, when she gave them to the city along with 3 ½ acres of land.

Abbott never married and died on 11 May 1981.

Collection Description

The Mary Ogden Abbott papers consist of 2 cartons and 1 oversize box that span the years 1764-1981, with the bulk between 1920-1980. The collection is divided into three series. The first, "Travel papers," consists of travel writing, correspondence, and sketches from the years 1920-1977. The majority of this series is travel correspondence, the first half of which is correspondence written by Mary Ogden Abbott, her mother, Mary Adams Abbott, and her brother John Adams Abbott as they traveled abroad. Most of the letters are addressed to Mary Adams Abbott's mother, Mary Hone Adams, John Adams Abbott, and Henry Adams Abbott. Letters include information on their travels throughout Europe, the Middle and Far East, and the American West, including John Adams Abbott's arrest in Italy in April of 1926. The second half of correspondence is between Mary Ogden Abbott and her "Canyoneer" friends, particularly Frank Masland, who helped organize the dedication of the Nevills' plaque, which commemorated the tragic deaths of Norm and Doris Nevills in 1949. Also in the travel papers are reminiscences, including notes written on loose paper while abroad, as well as published pamphlets by Masland about their adventures on the river.

The second series, "Correspondence, 1920-1982," is comprised of correspondence with Mary Ogden Abbott while she was living at home in Concord, and pertain mostly to her daily life at home.

The third series, "Mary Ogden Abbott personal and family papers," includes bills and deeds from the Griggs family in New Hampshire dating from 1764-1828, as well as a booklet called The Abbotts of Lowell, Massachusetts in the Civil War. Other papers include a handwritten manuscript on gardening, poetry, and plays by Mary Adams Abbott. The will of her brother Henry Adams Abbott (22 Aug. 1949) is also included. Subject files include papers on the Adams Memorial Society, of which she served as president, and art-related papers. Legal and financial papers and genealogical notes are also in this series.

Acquisition Information

Gift of James B. Ames, Mar. 1989.

Restrictions on Access

The Mary Ogden Abbott 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. Travel papers, 1920-1977

A. Travel writing, 1920-1948

Arranged chronologically

This series contains the notebook for the Women's Travel Club 1948, which contains a description of Mary Ogden Abbott's destinations and a supplement by her detailing places omitted in the notebook. Also includes reminiscences of travels written on loose paper while they were traveling, as well as remembrances from later in life.

Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 1-2
Travel Club notebook, 1948
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 3
Supplement to travel notebook, n.d.
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 4-6
Travel writing, 1920-1928
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 7-8
Reminiscences, n.d.

B. Travel correspondence, 1920-1928

Arranged chronologically by correspondent

Correspondence from Mary Ogden Abbott, 1920-1925; Mary Adams Abbott, 1921-1927; John Adams Abbott, 1921-1926; Elizabeth Ogden Abbott, 1923; and Bob Vaughn, 1922-1928 during their travels in Europe and the American West. Abbott and her mother traveled extensively together. Their correspondence includes letters from their automobile trip to Arizona, 1920-1921; Kashmir, Baltistan and India, 1923-1924; Baghdad to Damascus by car via Palmyra, and across Peloponnesus to Sparta on horseback, 1925, and Italy by car, 1925-1926. Letters from Italy include John's arrest for assaulting an Italian guard in April 1926. Most of the letters are addressed to their grandmother. Bob Vaughn was their guide in Arizona; his letters discuss horses, hunting, and the American West.

Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 9-11
Mary Ogden Abbott travel correspondence, 1923-1925
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 12-16
Mary Adams Abbott travel correspondence, 1920-1927
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 17-19
John Adams Abbott travel correspondence, 1921-1926
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 20
Elizabeth Ogden Abbott travel correspondence, 1923
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 21
Bob Vaughn travel correspondence, 1922-1928
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 22
Transcriptions, 1925

C. "Canyoneers" papers, 1949-1977

Arranged chronologically by type.

Includes letters, maps, schedules, and pamphlets from trips down the San Juan River from 1949-1952. Many letters concern the deaths of river guides Norm and Doris Nevills in September 1949. Mary Ogden Abbott was on their last expedition down the San Juan. The group of friends who traveled together called themselves the "River Rats" and "Canyoneers," and continued traveling together after the Nevills' deaths. Frank Masland, Jr. asked Mary to design a plaque commemorating the Nevills' lives, and most of the correspondence pertains to the memorial. Also included are letters from Barry Goldwater, who spoke at the dedication of the plaque on 10 Aug. 1951 and 3 Jan. 1952. There are also reminiscences of the river by Masland and other "canyoneers".

Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 23-26
"Canyoneers" correspondence, 1949-1977
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 27
"Canyoneers" reminiscences, n.d.
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 28-29
"Canyoneers" reminiscences, 1948-1951
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 30
"Canyoneers" papers, 1949-1958

D. Sketchbooks and miscellaneous travel papers, 1918-1950

Arranged chronologically.

Four sketchbooks, some with drawings of travel scenes. Includes "Artistic Anatomy Notebook Philip Hale Course, 1918," an undated "schetsboek," ca. 1922-1924, with drawings of people and scenes in Java and India; an undated notebook marked "sketches," ca. 1920-1923, which includes sketches of unidentified American cowboys and scenery and people from the Far and Middle East, and an unmarked sketchbook, ca. 1922-1924. Also contains bills for pony and coolie hire in Ladakh, and papers from Kashmir State Preservation Department giving Mary Ogden Abbott permission to hunt there.

Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 31
"Artistic anatomy note book" - Phillip Hale course, 1918
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 32
"Schetsboek" - Java, India, ca. 1922-1924
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 33
"Sketches," ca. 1920-1923
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 34
Sketchbook, ca. 1922-1924
Carton 1SH 173E RFolder 35
Miscellaneous travel papers, 1923-1950

II. Correspondence, 1920-1981

Arranged chronologically

Letters written to and from Abbott while she was at home in Concord, Mass. Included throughout are letters concerning her ownership of horses and her involvement with the Concord Art Association, the Adams Memorial Society, and various art projects.

For travel correspondence, see Series I.B. Travel correspondence.

Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 1-12
Mary Ogden Abbott correspondence, 1920-1981

III. Mary Ogden Abbott personal and family papers, 1764-1980

A. Related family papers,1764-1949

This series contains deeds and letters from the Griggs family in New Hampshire and Massachusetts from 1764 to 1828 and a "direct tax of Congress to press the War with England 1813" signed by William Eaton. Also includes "recollections of the Civil War," possibly by Eldridge H. Guilford of Danvers, Mass.; and bills and checks of the Griggs family, 1828-1833. Also contains one handwritten manuscript on gardening, and plays and poems attributed to Mary Adams Abbott. Includes Henry Adams Abbott's will, 22 Aug. 1949, and a printed booklet, The Abbotts of Lowell, Massachusetts in the Civil War.

Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 13
The Abbotts of Lowell, Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1941, and "Recollections of the Civil War," n.d.
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 14
Henry Adams Abbott will, 22 Aug. 1949
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 15
Griggs family papers, 1764-1833
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 16
Griggs family papers, 1841-1865
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 17-20
Mary Adams Abbott gardening manuscript, n.d
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 21
Mary Adams Abbott poetry and writing, n.d
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 22-23
Mary Adams Abbott play, n.d.
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 24
Mary Adams Abbott "Retribution," n.d.
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 25
Mary Adams Abbott miscellaneous writing, n.d.
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 26
Mary Adams Abbott name lists, ca. 1928

B. Scrapbooks

Includes pages from four scrapbooks, Henry Adams Abbott's childhood scrapbook; a scrapbook with clippings on prohibition; another with clippings from World War I, and another with clippings on "home tips." Also included is a map of northern France, on which their travel route was mapped out.

OS Carton 1SH 173G TFolder 1
Map of northern France with travel route
OS Carton 1SH 173G TFolder 2
"Home Tips" scrapbook
OS Carton 1SH 173G TFolder 3
"Prohibition" scrapbook
OS Carton 1SH 173G TFolder 4-6
"Henry Adams Abbott" scrapbook
OS Carton 1SH 173G TFolder 7-9
"World War I" scrapbook

C. Subject files, 1919-1975

This subseries includes Adams Memorial Society papers, art-related papers, and documents on the Wheeler land development in Concord (1969), which Abbott opposed.

Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 27-28
Adams Memorial Society papers, 1947-1975
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 29-30
Art-related papers
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 31
Wheeler land development, 1969
Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 32
Prescriptions, 1919-1927

D. Legal and financial papers,1924-1980

Arranged chronologically

Contains bills, deeds, receipts, equestrian certificates, and other financial papers.

Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 33-35

E. Miscellaneous notes and photocopied clippings

Biographical and genealogical notes, as well as miscellaneous fragments.

Carton 2SH 1856 MFolder 36-38

Materials Removed from the Collection

Engravings have been removed from this collection and are stored onsite in the MHS Engravings collection.

Photographs have been removed from this collection and are stored onsite in the MHS Photo Archives.

For a list of printed materials removed from this collection, see Curator of Manuscripts.

Preferred Citation

Mary Ogden Abbott 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 family--Genealogy.
Abbott, Mary Adams, 1867-1933.
Abbott, Grafton St. Loe, 1856-1915.
Abbott, John Adams, b. 1896.
Adams, Mary Hone Ogden, b. 1843.
Masland, Frank.
Griggs family.


Adams Memorial Society
Middlesex Hunt Club (South Lincoln, Mass.)


Automobile travel.
Family history--1920-1980.
Real property--New Hampshire.
Voyages and travels--20th century.
Women artists--Massachusetts--Concord.
Women travelers.
California--Description and travel.
Concord (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Europe--Description and travel.
East Asia--Description and travel.
Grand Canyon--Description and travel.
India--Description and travel.
Mexico--Description and travel.
Middle East--Description and travel
San Jan River--Description and travel.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.