Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

Portions of the Henry Grew 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 family correspondence, personal papers, and financial records of Boston merchant Henry Grew, including account books and business records of his dry-goods companies Chace and Grew, Grew and Perkins, and Perkins, Doe, and Co. It also contains trust and guardianship records related to the estate of Henry's father, John Grew.

Biographical Sketch

These brief biographical sketches highlight the individuals most prominently represented within the collection. They are arranged chronologically.

John Grew (1780-1821) was born in Birmingham, England in 1780, the son of John Grew (1752-1800) and Mary Coltman Grew (1756-1834). John emigrated to Boston in 1795 with his parents and his siblings, Mary Grew Greene (1778-1817), Henry Grew (1781-1862), Charles Grew (1784-1803), and Ann Grew Terry (1786-1835). A dry-goods merchant with the firm Grew and Burditt, John owned stores on Broad St. and Doane's Wharf in Boston. He married Ann Greene in 1805 and the couple had five children: John Grew (1806-1835), Henry Grew (1808-1892), Charles Grew (1810-1831), Anna Grew Alvord (1812-1892), and Edward Grew (1814-1842). After his first wife's death, he married Margaret Sarah Page (1797-1879) in 1820 and the couple had a daughter, Sarah Page Grew Potts (1821-1898). After John's death in 1821, his brother Henry Grew (1781-1862) and his brother-in-law Henry Wainwright became the trustees of his estate and guardians of his children. His widow married Samuel Bilbrough.

Henry Grew (1808-1892) was born in Boston on 30 May 1808, the son of John Grew and Anne Greene Grew. He was a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., leaving school at age 16 to work in the store of dry-goods importer James Read. He began his own wholesale dry-goods business in Boston in 1830 under the name Chace and Grew, and although he retired from active business in 1845, remained a partner in the dry-goods businesses Grew and Perkins and Perkins, Doe, and Company. In 1847, he purchased several acres of land and built a house he named "Woodlands" in Hyde Park (then Dorchester). The estate grew to several hundred acres and contained an active farm, part of which was later incorporated into Stony Brook Reservation. Henry served as the chairman of the first board of selectmen of Hyde Park. He married Elizabeth Perkins (1808-1848) in 1833 and the couple had four children: Henry Sturgis Grew (1834-1910); Charles Grew (1836-1849); Edward Sturgis Grew (1842-1916); and Elizabeth Perkins Grew (1845-1888). After his first wife's death in 1848, Henry married Jane Wigglesworth (1805-1868). He died in Boston on 16 January 1892.

Edward Sturgis Grew (1842-1916) was born in Boston on 10 March 1842, the son of Henry Grew and Elizabeth Perkins Grew. He attended the Epes S. Dixwell School to prepare for Harvard, where he graduated in 1863. He began his career as a dry-goods merchant with Frothingham and Co. in Boston, working for A.T. Stewart and Co. of New York City and Gowing and Grew of Boston before becoming a partner with Amos A. Lawrence in 1884. Edward retired from business in 1887. He served as a director of the Massachusetts National Bank of Boston and a treasurer of the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches. Edward married Annie Crawford Clark (1844-1924) in 1867 and the couple had five children: Robert Sturgis Grew (1871-1872); Randolph Clark Grew (1873-1947); Henry Sturgis Grew (1875-1953); Joseph Clark Grew (1880-1965); and Eleanor Jackson Grew (1882-1948). The family lived in Boston and summered in West Manchester, where Edward died on 20 January 1916.

Collection Description

The papers of Boston merchant Henry Grew consist of 18 document boxes and 13 volumes spanning the years 1801 to 1891. It consists of Grew's family correspondence, personal papers, and financial records, as well as records of his various Boston dry-goods businesses. Family correspondence includes letters from Grew's step-mother, Margaret Bilbrough of Eddington, Pa.; his paternal uncle and his daughter, abolitionists Henry and Mary Grew of Philadelphia; his sister Anna Grew Alvord of Boston; his sister and brother-in-law Sarah Grew Potts and Robert Potts of Camden, N.J.; his sister-in-law Rebecca Daingerfield and her daughter Rebecca Grew Dodge of Alexandria, Va.; his children, Henry Sturgis Grew, Edward Sturgis Grew, and Elizabeth Perkins Grew; and members of the related Sturgis family, including Henry Sturgis, Russell Sturgis, Sarah Sturgis Shaw and her husband Francis G. Shaw, and Sarah's children Robert Gould Shaw and Josephine Shaw Lowell. Of interest are Rebecca Daingerfield's letters describing the secessionist sentiments and later violence in Civil War Alexandria; Sarah and Robert Potts's letters explaining Robert's inventions at his factory, Potts and Klett Chemical Works; Russell Sturgis's letters discussing his mercantile trade in Manila and Shanghai; and Edward Sturgis Grew's letters describing his experiences as a college student at Harvard in 1860 and 1861.

Henry Grew's personal and business papers contain the records of his Boston dry-goods companies Chace and Grew, Grew and Perkins, and Perkins, Doe, and Co., including business correspondence, receipts, account books, and records of textile manufacturers and other business suppliers. After 1850, papers are largely related to Grew's management of his farm and estate in Hyde Park and Dorchester, as well as his charitable and social affiliations with organizations including the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism and the Norfolk Agricultural Society. His detailed accounts and receipts document the expenses of daily life in the household and farm of an upper middle class Boston merchant in the 1850s and 1860s.

The collection also contains the estate papers of Grew's father, Boston merchant John Grew, including estate inventories and settlements, records related to John's company, Grew and Burditt, and records related to the trusts and guardianships established for John's six children. Additional family papers include the domestic account books of Mary Coltman Grew, Henry's paternal grandmother, and the educational notes and records of his son, Edward Sturgis Grew.

Restrictions on Access

Portions of the Henry Grew 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, 1803-1865

Arranged chronologically.

With the exception of several early letters, almost all correspondence in this series was written to Henry Grew (1808-1892) from family members in the 1850s and 1860s. Letters primarily discuss family finances and activities of daily life. Henry's half-sister Sarah Grew Potts and her husband, Robert B. Potts of Camden, N.J. discuss Robert's chemical manufacturing business, Potts and Klett, which received awards for its invention of super-phosphate fertilizers. Several July 1860 letters describe a tornado that destroyed the Potts and Klett factory in Camden, killing three men.

Rebecca Wainwright Grew Daingerfield, the remarried widow of Henry's brother John Grew (1805-1835), writes from Alexandria, Va. She discusses her opposition to secessionist sentiment in May 1861, and in July, describes the looting and destruction in the city, writing that she is "a prisoner in her own home." In March 1862 she writes of her husband's imprisonment in Washington on charges of sending money to the south. Also included are letters of Rebecca and John Grew's daughter, Rebecca "Mittie" Grew Dodge. She writes from Alexandria, and later from England and Canada where she relocated during the Civil War with her husband, lumber dealer Anson Green Phelps Dodge.

Letters from Henry's uncle, Baptist minister and anti-slavery activist Henry Grew (1781-1862) of Philadelphia, are largely related to his service as a trustee of the estate of his brother John Grew (1780-1821), but he also discusses his religious views. In an 1852 letter, he writes of the death of his son-in-law, missionary John Taylor Jones, in Bangkok, Thailand. Letters from abolitionist and later, woman's suffragist Mary Grew, daughter of the elder Henry, mention her visits to the Boston home of William Lloyd Garrison in 1859, 1861 and 1864. Mary's August 1862 letters describe her father's final illness and death.

Henry's son, Henry Sturgis Grew writes of his trip to New York and Niagara Falls in Sept. 1854 and discusses his preparations for an overseas trading trip in the summer of 1855. Although there are few letters from Henry during his years in the shipping business in Manila and Shanghai, his activities are often mentioned in correspondence with the Sturgis family, relatives of Henry's first wife. Included are letters from Henry and Russell Sturgis, the latter of whom employed Henry Sturgis Grew in China; Sarah Sturgis Shaw, her husband Francis G. Shaw and their children, Robert Gould Shaw and Josephine Shaw Lowell. Most of Robert's letters are related to shipping goods from New York in February 1861. Henry's son Edward Sturgis Grew writes from boarding school, on summer trips throughout New England, and, beginning in 1860, from Harvard, discussing his studies, classmates, and activities. After 1863, Edward's letters include discussions of his early mercantile career at Frothingham and Co. in Boston. 1864 letters include those of Henry's daughter Elizabeth "Lizzie" Grew who traveled to Europe with her brother Henry and his wife, and contracted typhoid fever.

Other major correspondents include Henry's step-mother, Margaret Sarah Bilbrough of Eddington, Pa.; Henry's sister, Anna Grew Alvord of Boston; Henry's daughter-in-law, Jane "Jennie" Wigglesworth Grew; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Box 1
Box 2Folders 1-12

II. Mary Coltman Grew account books, 1810-1819

Arranged chronologically.

Account books of Mary Coltman Grew, the paternal grandmother of Henry Grew (1808-1892), itemize household expenses including food, clothing, servants' wages, accounts with merchants and stores, and a medical account with Dr. James Jackson.

Box 15Folder 1
Account book, 1810-1811
Box 15Folder 2
Account book, 1814-1819

III. John Grew (1780-1821) papers, 1801-1867

The papers of Boston merchant John Grew, the father of Henry Grew (1808-1892), include financial and legal records related to his personal property and business, largely in the several years before his death in 1821; estate records, including inventories, expenses, estate settlements, and property records; and guardianship records related to the personal expenses and trusts of John's widow and six children.

A. Business records, 1801-1821

Arranged chronologically.

Records include financial agreements with Boston merchants, contracts with carpenters to build stores on Broad St. and Doane's Wharf, promissory notes, receipts, property deeds, shares of the ship Eliza Ann, powers of attorney, insurance policies, tax bills, and papers related to an 1819 lawsuit against John by the estate of Shubael Bell. Some papers are related to John's business as a merchant in the company Grew and Burditt, including bills of trade from Havana. The bulk of documents are from 1821, most likely collected in the settlement of John's estate. Also included are some business and financial papers of George Wakefield of Dedham, whose relationship to Grew is unclear.

Oversize material includes a commission agreement with merchants Mary Grew and Son; property deeds between John Grew, his mother, Mary Grew, and Grew and Burditt; John Grew's power of attorney, and numerous insurance policies for Boston buildings.

Box 2Folders 13-24
Loose records, 1802-1821
Oversize drawers
Oversize material, 1801-1820

B. Estate and guardianship papers, 1821-1867

Estate papers include bills and receipts for farming, wagons, medical care, beer, advertisements, and funeral expenses; correspondence and accounts with John's business partner Burditt; an estate inventory and appraisal; proceeds from estate sales; some expenses of John's children before guardians were officially appointed; rental agreements for his house on Purchase St. and store on Broad St. in Boston; an August 1822 estate settlement; and tax and accessors' accounts. Also included is an April 1823 settlement of the estate of Elizabeth Grew, John's sister. After 1823, many bills and receipts are related to rentals and repairs of property held by the estate.

John's brother, Henry Grew of Philadelphia, and brother-in-law, Henry Wainwright of Boston kept accounts as executors of John's will and trustees of his estate, and as guardians of John's children, John, Henry, Charles, Anna, Edward, and Sarah. Guardianship accounts and receipts include medical bills, room and board, clothing, tuition, dancing lessons, and yearly summary accounts for each minor child. Records document the guardians' efforts to send Charles Grew to sea, his expenses, his misadventures in Valparaiso in 1826 and New Orleans in 1831, and his death at sea in 1831. Papers also document John's marriage to Rebecca Wainwright in Jan. 1835 and his death in Dec. 1835, as well as Anna's marriage to James Church Alvord in May 1837. Account books list John's estate inventory, accounts of the trusts of his minor children, children's expenses, income from investments, rental accounts, and copies of annual trustee accounts.

i. Loose papers, 1821-1862

Arranged chronologically.

Box 2Folders 25-40
Box 3
1823-May 1826
Box 4
June 1826-1831
Box 5

ii. Account books, 1821-1867

Arranged chronologically.

Box 15Folder 3
Account book, 1821-1826
Box 15Folder 4
Cash book, 1822-1834
Box 15Folder 5
Waste book, 1826-1834
Box 16Folder 1
Account book, 1834-1867

IV. Henry Grew (1808-1892) papers, 1830-1891

The papers of Boston merchant Henry Grew include correspondence related to his dry-goods businesses as well as his personal finances, investments, and charitable causes. Also included are Henry's detailed personal accounts and receipts; records of his dry-goods companies Chace and Grew, Grew and Perkins, and Perkins, Doe, and Co.; and other miscellaneous business records.

A. Personal and business correspondence, 1848-1865

Arranged chronologically.

Henry's business correspondence largely dates from the 1850s and 1860s, after he had retired from active business in the mercantile trade. It includes correspondence with Charles H. Ladd, Henry's agent in Portsmouth, N.H., as well as his business partners Frederick Perkins and E.R. Doe. Also included is correspondence with merchant houses H. P. Sturgis and Co. in China, A.A. Low and Co. in New York, and others discussing textile purchases and deliveries. Other letters discuss Henry's purchase and sale of stock, personal financial investments, rental property management, business related to family trusts, legal disputes related to debt collection, the sale of livestock and crops, primarily rhubarb, from his farm in Hyde Park, land purchases in Dorchester, and the education of his son Edward at the Boston school of E. S. Dixwell.

Some correspondence documents Henry's charitable acts and donations, including letters from indigent families he helped to support, and letters from F.R. Woodward of the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism. Other letters are related to Henry's membership in the Norfolk Agricultural Society. Several deeds, mortgages, and indentures are also included in this subseries, as well as the specifications of a barn built in Dorchester in October 1856.

For additional correspondence, see also Series IV.C. Dry-goods business records, 1830-1864.

Box 6
Box 7Folders 1-22

B. Accounts and receipts, 1831-1891

The series includes receipts for payments to trusts, groceries, building supplies and labor, farm equipment and supplies, farm labor, clothing, tailors' bills, property taxes, charitable donations, utilities, furnishings, books, newspaper subscriptions, and other daily expenses. The bulk of receipts are from Boston and the surrounding area.

Account books record income and expenses beginning in the 1830s, including accounts related to the estate of Henry's father, John Grew; income from Chace and Grew; rental income and expenses; costs of books, sundries, and other expenses; insurance payments; and accounts with various family members.

i. Loose bills and receipts, 1842-1866

Arranged chronologically.

Box 7Folders 23-35
Box 8SH 1A3Q
Box 9SH 1A3R
Box 10SH 1A3S
Box 11SH 1A3T
1861-Apr. 1863
Box 12SH 1A3U
May 1863-July 1866

ii. Account books, 1831-1891

Arranged chronologically.

Box 16Folder 2
Cash book, 1831-1832
Box 16Folder 3
Journal (account book), 1832-1835
Box 16Folder 4
Ledger, 1832-1835
Box 16Folder 5
Account book, 1833-1851
Box 17Folder 1
Notes payable and receivable, 1833-1851
Box 17Folder 2
Notes payable and receivable, 1844-1851
Box 17Folder 3
Account book, 1862-1871
Box 17Folder 4
Account book, 1883-1891

C. Dry-goods business records, 1830-1864

Records in this series pertain to Henry Grew's business as a dry-goods merchant and importer with Caleb Chace as Chace and Grew, with Frederick Perkins as Grew and Perkins, and as Perkins, Doe, and Co. All companies were located at 79 Milk St. in Boston. Records include accounts and receipts for building materials, repairs, and office supplies; business correspondence; property deeds; promissory notes; legal papers related to lawsuits for debt collection; and records related to lumber merchants purchasing timber land, including a large amount of correspondence from agent Frederick Hobbs of Bangor, Maine.

Miscellaneous business records are related to Henry's dry-goods business, but cannot be linked to a particular company. They include several books of textile records, including a volume listing textile manufacturing companies, their locations, and various textiles they produce. An account book lists business purchases, including cloth, saltpeter, goat skins, cow hides, hemp, and linseed. Of particular interest is a handwritten volume of notes about companies or merchants primarily located in New England and New York in the mid-1840s, including remarks on the size, type of business, property value, history of the firm, and character of its owners. The volume contains an index of the businesses.

i. Chase and Grew records, 1830-1864

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

Box 13Folders 1-29
Loose records, 1834-1864
Vol. 1
Waste book, 1830-1862
Vol. 2 (XT)
Ledger (with index), 1836-1855
Vol. 3
Invoice book, 1838-1863
Vol. 4
Waste book, 1840-1845
Vol. 5 (XT)
Ledger (with index), 1844-1845
Vol. 6
Cash book, 1848-1863

ii. Grew and Perkins records, 1845-1860

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

Loose records, 1845-1860

Box 13Folders 30-36
Box 14Folders 1-9
Vol. 7 (XT)
Ledger (with index), 1845-1848
Vol. 8
Balances, 1845-1850
Vol. 9
Waste book, 1845-1850
Vol. 10
Cash book, 1845-1860

iii. Perkins, Doe, and Company, 1848-1859

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

Box 14Folders 10-16
Loose records, 1848-1859
Vol. 11 (XT)
Sales account book, 1848-1849
Vol. 12 (XT)
Ledger, 1848-1850
Vol. 9
Waste book, 1848-1854
Vol. 13
Cash book, 1848-1859
Box 14Folder 17
Delivery book, 1849

iv. Miscellaneous business records, 1838-1852

Arranged chronologically.

Box 18Folder 1
Textile record book, 1838-1839
Box 18Folder 2
Account book of business purchases, 1839-1852
Box 18Folder 3
Notebook of New England and New York companies, 1844-1846
Box 18Folder 4
Textile record book, 1849

V. Edward Sturgis Grew school papers, 1850-1861

Arranged chronologically and by subject.

The school papers of Edward Sturgis Grew include his 1850-1851 report cards from Boston's Chauncy Hall School; essay notebooks, notes, and exercises for classes in French, Greek, Latin, mathematics, and history, most likely from the Epes S. Dixwell School in Boston; notes from a Harvard chemistry class; and an account book of gifts received and expenses during his freshman and sophomore years at Harvard, in 1860 and 1861.

Box 14Folder 18
Report cards, 1850-1851
Box 14Folders 19-22
Study notebooks, 1856-1861
Box 14Folders 23-25
Greek and Latin exercises, 1856-1860
Box 14Folders 26-32
Essays, 1856-1860
Box 14Folder 33
School record books, 1860-1861

Preferred Citation

Henry Grew 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.


Alvord, Anna Grew, 1812-1892
Bilbrough, Margaret Sarah Page, 1797-1879.
Daingerfield, Rebecca Holmes Fowle, 1815-1885
Dodge, Rebecca Wainwright Grew, 1836-1925.
Grew, Edward Sturgis, 1842-1916.
Grew, Henry, 1781-1862.
Grew, Henry Sturgis, 1834-1910.
Grew, John, 1780-1821.
Grew, Mary, 1813-1896.
Grew, Mary Coltman, 1756-1834.
Lowell, Josephine Shaw, 1843-1905
Potts, Robert Barnhill, 1817-1865.
Potts, Sarah Page Grew, 1821-1898.
Shaw, Francis George, 1809-1882.
Shaw, Robert Gould, 1837-1863.
Sturgis, Russell, 1805-1887.
Grew family.
Sturgis family.


Grew and Burditt (Boston, Mass.)
Chace and Grew (Boston, Mass.)
Grew and Perkins (Boston, Mass.)
Harvard University--Students.
Norfolk Agricultural Society.
Perkins, Doe, and Company (Boston, Mass.)
Potts and Klett Chemical Works (Camden, N.J.)
Society for the Prevention of Pauperism (Boston, Mass.)


Account books, 1810-1819.
Account books, 1821-1867.
Account books, 1830-1890.
Chemists--New Jersey--Camden.
China trade.
Distribution of decedents' estates.
Family history, 1800-1849.
Family history, 1850-1899.
Farm management--Massachusetts.
Executors and administrators.
Guardian and ward.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Textile industry.
Alexandria (Va.)--Social conditions.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--China--Shanghai.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--Phillipines.
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs.
Shanghai (China)--Commerce--Massachusetts--Boston.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Public opinion.