Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of historian and antiquarian Henry Herbert Edes. It includes personal papers and correspondence, original historical documents that Edes collected for research and publication, and the business records for the Harvard Chapel of Charlestown and the Da Vinci Club, for which Edes served as clerk.

Biographical Sketch

Henry Herbert Edes (1849-1922) was born to Henry-Augustus and Sarah-Louisa (Lincoln) Edes in Charlestown, Massachusetts. When his father died in 1851 at the age of 27, two-year old Henry moved with his mother to her father's home in Charlestown under difficult financial circumstances. Although he had hoped to attend Harvard, Henry left the Charlestown public school system at age sixteen to work in the treasurer's office of Tremont Mills in Boston. At the age of 22, by now the sole supporter of his mother and her sisters, he became secretary of Everett Mills, a Lawrence textile manufacturer with corporate offices in Boston, where he worked for eighteen years. In 1889, Edes accepted the position of manager and treasurer for the Conveyancers Title Insurance Company in Boston, remaining with the firm for the rest of his career.

It was not business, however, that occupied Edes' imagination or leisure time. By the age of eighteen, he had been elected a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, who acknowledged him as a serious collector of historical documents and began to publish his transcriptions and annotations. In 1869, at the request of the City Council, Edes began to arrange the original documents of the town of Charlestown from 1629 to 1847, a project that would eventually grow to include 120 volumes of bound records. Edes continued to contribute historical and genealogical notes to the New England Historical Genealogical Register, as well as to the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society and the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society. In 1879, he edited Thomas Wyman's The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, 1629-1818, wrote History of the Harvard Church of Charlestown, 1815-79, and the following year, he contributed three chapters on Charlestown to Justin Winsor's The Memorial History of Boston.

During his twenties and thirties, Edes became actively involved in many of Boston's political and cultural organizations. At 22, he had been elected a life member of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society, and later served as councillor and corresponding secretary, and as a member of its Publications Committee. Edes was also a founding member and clerk of the Da Vinci Club, director of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, executive committee member of both the Boston Civil Service Reform Association and the Channing Club of Boston, and secretary of the Unitarian Club. A longstanding member of Charlestown's Harvard Church, Edes served as Chairman of the Standing Committee, treasurer, and clerk of the Harvard Chapel Corporation.

In 1892, Edes was one of fourteen founding members of the Colonial Society of Boston, with a mission to publish documents relating to the early history of Massachusetts. Edes served as treasurer of the organization until his death, and contributed prolifically to the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, publishing over 100 articles of varying lengths between 1893 and 1920.

Edes completed a second volume to Henry Wilder Foote's Annals of King's Chapel in 1896, and followed the accomplishment by marrying Grace Williamson, a genealogist and historian fifteen years his junior, at King's Chapel on December 3. The couple moved to Cambridge, where they developed a reputation for entertaining Boston's intellectual elite. The Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa nominated Edes as an honorary member in 1898, and in 1906, President Eliot of Harvard presented Edes with an honorary Master's degree, declaring him "Henry Herbert Edes, New England antiquarian and annalist, accurate reproducer of a reverenced past."

Edes died at his home in Cambridge in 1922 at the age of 73.


For further biographical information, see:

Alfred Johnson, Memoir of Henry Herbert Edes, A.M. Cambridge, MA: John Wilson and Son, 1924. Reprinted from the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts; vol. XXV. Also reprinted in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, vol. 77, pp. 83-89.

Collection Description

The Henry Herbert Edes collection consist of Edes' personal papers and correspondence, a large number of historical documents that Edes collected for research and publication, and the business records of the Harvard Chapel and the Da Vinci Club, two organizations for which Edes served as clerk. Edes' personal papers include correspondence; printed circulars, invitations and tickets relating to his activities; and newspaper articles and letters to the editor either written by or relating to Edes. Dating primarily from 1869 to the mid-1880s, these papers document Edes' many professional, charitable and political interests in his twenties and thirties.

The bulk of this collection consists of historical documents that Edes began collecting sometime before 1868 and maintained until his death. Edes transcribed and annotated hundreds of these documents, which date from 1648 to 1885, publishing them in the New England Historical Genealogical Register (NEHGR) and, after 1893, in the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. While much of Edes' research was biographical and genealogical in nature, he occasionally published series of documents related to a particular topic, such as "Documents relating to the Colonial History of Connecticut," in the NEHGR from 1869 to 1871. (For a listing of Edes' published articles, see Alfred Johnson's, Memoir of Henry Herbert Edes, A. M., listed above.) Of particular note is Edes' collection of documents relating to the early history of Yale University (1717-1729), the Revolutionary War papers of Col. Thomas Marshall, and the 1662 records of the Committee for the United Colonies of New England, which discuss Native American relations within the British colonies.

Many of the documents in this collection also relate to Edes' research on the history of Charlestown, Massachusetts, particularly his work with Thomas Wyman's The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, 1629-1818, and Edes' book, The History of the Harvard Church of Charlestown, 1815-1879. Edes also collected the early records of the Hollis Street Church from its founding in 1732 until 1789, which along with the church's later records were published by the New England Historical Genealogical Society in 1998. Some of Edes' documents also comprise an "autograph collection," including letters signed by John Adams, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Commodore Isaac Hull, Horace Greely, and Rutherford B. Hayes.

The Edes papers include the records of the Harvard Chapel, established in 1855 by Charlestown's Harvard Church to serve the town's poor. Edes served as the organization's clerk at the time of its dissolution in 1879, and evidently retained the records after they were offered to and refused by the Boston Public Library in 1884. They consist primarily of organizational records, financial accounts, and records relating to the organization's dissolution and sale of property. Also in the collection are the records of the Da Vinci Club, a Boston-based organization founded in 1875 to study the arts. Limited to only twenty members, the club was led by William Morris Hunt; Edes, a founding member, served as clerk. The records of the organization, which include a record book of meeting minutes, remained with Edes after its dissolution in 1877.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Personal Papers, 1868-1917

This series contains Edes' personal correspondence, printed circulars and invitations, and newspaper clippings related to Edes' cultural, charitable and political activities. It also contains material written by Edes, including articles and letters to the editors of Boston and Charlestown newspapers, a reprint of an article for the New England Historical Genealogical Register, and a manuscript draft of an article memorializing Colonial Society President Edward Wheelwright.

A. Correspondence, 1869-1917

Arranged chronologically.

This sub-series consists of incoming letters primarily concerned with Edes' charitable affiliations, the bulk written between 1870 and 1889. It includes letters from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1879), Oliver Wendell Holmes (1883-1886), John Greenleaf Whittier (1884), Edward Everett Hale (1885), Henry Cabot Lodge (1917), and many other notable literary and religious figures. The sub-series also includes an indexed, 993-page, wet letterpress copy book containing copies of hundreds of Edes' outgoing letters (many difficult to read) from 1869 to 1875.

Box 1Folder 1-4
Incoming letters, 1870-1917
Vol. 1
Letterbook, 1869-1875

B. Manuscript "Edward Wheelwright", 1900

This is a typewritten draft of Edes' "Memoir of Edward Wheelwright" (1824-1900), who was president of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. It was published by the Colonial Society in May 1900.

Box 1Folder 5

C. Printed Material, 1871-1886

Arranged chronologically by subject.

This sub-series contains reprints of some of Edes' published submissions to the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, including letters, genealogical notes, and the January 1877 article "Marriages Solemnized in Pembroke, Mass. by the Rev. Thomas Smith, 1755-1787." It also contains circulars announcing Edes' candidacy for clerk of the Everett Mills Corporation and announcements of Everett Mills' annual stockholders meetings, as well as several tickets to exhibitions at the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (for which Edes served as director in 1877-78). The series contains political fliers mentioning Edes as a Republican delegate from Charlestown's Ward 3, and also includes printed materials illustrating Edes' involvement with the Old South Church Museum, the Massachusetts Reform Club, the Boston Public Library and other charitable concerns.

Box 1Folder 6
Publication reprints, 1871-1877
Box 1Folder 7
Everett Mills, 1872-1879
Box 1Folder 8
Mass. Charitable Mechanic Association, 1874-1881
Box 1Folder 9
Political circulars, 1875-1881
Box 1Folder 10
Old South Church Museum, 1876
Box 1Folder 11
Mass. Reform Club Papers, 1886
Box 1Folder 12
Miscellaneous circulars, 1873-1881

D. Newsclippings, 1868-1881

Arranged chronologically.

This sub-series contains newspaper clippings primarily from the Boston Daily Advertiser, Boston Evening Transcript, Charlestown Chronicle and Charlestown Transcript. Most articles or letters to the editor were either written by or mention Henry Edes. Many of the articles pasted into the scrapbook entitled "Literary Scraps, Cuttings and Extracts" have been annotated with Edes' handwritten comments.

Vol. 2
Scrapbook, 1868-1879
Box 1Folder 13
Loose clippings, 1872-1881

II. Historical Documents Collected for Research, 1648-1885

This series contains documents that Edes collected in relation to his research on the history of Charlestown, Mass., as well as for various topical, biographical and genealogical subjects. Many of these documents were published by Edes in the New England Historical Genealogical Register and the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts from 1868 to 1920.

A. Charlestown (Mass.) Records, 1664-1861

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of this sub-series consists of Charlestown town records (1727-1847), including a bound journal of selectmen's meetings and overseers of the poor notes recorded by selectman Seth Sweetser from 1767 to 1778. Other town records are primarily financial in nature, including town accounts, orders from the selectmen to the town treasurer, town payments from poor relief funds and highway funds, bills paid by the town to various merchants, tradesmen and townspeople for services, and records of payments made and received by the Trustees of the Charlestown Free Schools.

The sub-series also includes records of the First Church of Charlestown (1697-1790), consisting of a 1697 letter from James Russell to church members, church baptismal records (1727-1744) and meeting records of the "ministerial house" building committee (1790). Also in this sub-series are records of Charlestown's Second Congregational Church, founded in 1819 and known as Harvard Church after 1839. These include correspondence, printed invitations to ministers' ordinations (1818-1840) and an 1839 letterbook containing copies of correspondence and committee meeting minutes.

Also included here are notes recording the early history of Charlestown from 1623 to 1656, written by an anonymous eighteenth-century historian, as well as the 1861 records of Charlestown's Bunker Hill Drill Club. These records include receipts of payment for service, bills for military uniforms and printing, and a membership list.

i. Town Records, 1727-1847

Selectmen's records:

Box 1Folder 14
Bound volume, 1767-1778
Box 1Folder 15-16
Loose records, 1812-1847
Box 1Folder 17
Treasurer's records, 1797-1818
Box 1Folder 18-24
Bills and receipts, 1727-1833
OS Box 1
Bills and receipts, 1764(Oversize)
Box 1Folder 25-26
Trustees of Free Schools records, 1798-1833

ii. Charlestown Deeds, 1664-1796

Box 1Folder 27-28

iii. First Church of Charlestown Records, 1697-1790

Box 1Folder 29-30

iv. Second Church of Charlestown/Harvard Church Records, 1818-1840

Box 1Folder 31
Loose papers, 1818-1840
Box 1Folder 32
Letterbook, 1839

v. Notes for History of Charlestown

Box 1Folder 33
Notes for History of Charlestown
OS Box 1
Notes for History of Charlestown(Oversize)

vi. Bunker Hill Drill Club Records, 1861

Box 1Folder 34
Receipts and accounts, 1861
Box 1Folder 35
Membership records, 1861

B. Connecticut Records, 1662-1730

Arranged chronologically.

This sub-series includes documents relating to the early history of Connecticut, which were transcribed and annotated by Edes and published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register from 1869-1871. They include court records, records of the commissioners of the United Colonies of New England, the correspondence of John Pynchon, and correspondence between Connecticut's General Assembly and London's Court of St. James.

The sub-series also includes records relating to the early history of Yale University, transcribed and annotated by Edes in the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts in 1899. Documents include "an Act for the Further Incouragment of Yale College" (1719), "Orders and appointments to be observed in the Collegiate School in Connecticut" (1719) and correspondence of the trustees about funds for support of the school.

Also in this sub-series are letters to Timothy Woodbridge, a Hartford, Connecticut minister who served as a Yale trustee, including letters from Jeremy Dummer and Cotton Mather. Woodbridge's 1709 Yale diploma is found here as well.

i. Early History of Connecticut, 1662-1730

Box 2Folder 1-3
Early History of Connecticut, 1662-1730
OS Box 1
Commission of John Allen, 1687(Oversize)

ii. Early History of Yale University, 1717-1729

Box 2Folder 4-5

iii. Rev. Timothy Woodbridge Papers, 1709-1727

Box 2Folder 6
Jeremy Dummer letters, 1716-1727
Box 2Folder 7
Miscellaneous letters, 1712?-1723
Box 2Folder 8
Diploma, 1709

C. Individual and Family Records, 1723-1864

Arranged alphabetically.

This sub-series contains documents relating to individuals and families researched by Edes, some as part of his family's genealogy, others as part of his research on Charlestown history, and many for their own historical interest. They include correspondence; account books, receipts and other financial records; deeds; indentures; wills; journals; sermons; and school papers. Of interest are the business records of Boston merchant Richard Clarke (1763-1775), including a 1773 contract with the East India Company, the Civil War letters of J. Bates Dickson (1861-1864), and the letters and sermons of Rev. Thomas Prentiss of Charlestown (1813-1817).

Of particular significance are the papers of Thomas Marshall, the commanding officer of Castle Island in Boston Harbor during the Revolutionary War. They include military orders to receive his commission and raise a regiment, correspondence about raising troops, military activities around Boston, letters and orders from Generals George Washington, Benjamin Lincoln, and Rufus Putnam, muster rolls, letters from Samuel Otis, personal correspondence, and a warrant for army lands.

i. Samuel Armstrong Commonplace-book, 1811-1827

Vol. 3

ii. Isaac Barker Papers, 1723-1786

Box 2Folder 9

iii. Josiah Bartlett Letterbook, 1817

Box 2Folder 10

iv. Gov. Jonathan Belcher Account Book, 1743-1750

Box 2Folder 11

v. Henry Bromfield Letters, 1795

Box 2Folder 12

vi. Richard Clarke Papers, 1763-1775

Box 2Folder 13

vii. J. Bates Dickson Letters, 1861-1864

Box 2Folder 14-15

viii. Richard Edes Diary, 1862

Box 2Folder 16

ix. Jeremiah Fitch Correspondence, 1827-1835

Box 2Folder 17

x. E. Kneeland Letters to Edward A. Holyoke, 1782-1802

Box 2Folder 18

xi. John Leach Account Book, 1754-1762

Vol. 4

xii. Thomas Marshall Papers, 1754-1800

Box 2Folder 20-27
Thomas Marshall papers, 1754-1800
OS Box 1
Thomas Marshall commission(Oversize)

xiii. Nichols Family Papers, 1651-1700

Box 2Folder 28

xiv. Rev. Thomas Prentiss (1747-1814) Sermons, 1771-1776

Box 2Folder 29

xv. Rev. Thomas Prentiss (1793-1817) Papers, 1813-1817

Box 3Folder 1-2
Letters, 1813-1817
Box 3Folder 3-6
Sermons, 1816-1817
Box 3Folder 7
Harvard bills, 1813-1817
Vol. 5Box 3
Book of Prison Visitations, 1817

xvi. Stearns Family Papers, 1774-1804

Box 3Folder 8-13
Peleg Stearns papers, 1744-1778
Box 3Folder 14-15
William Stearns papers, 1774-1804

xvii. Peletiah Stevens Papers, 1795-1803

Box 3Folder 16

xviii. John Tileston Papers, 1770-1824

Box 3Folder 17-18

xix. Samuel Wait Papers, 1802-1825

Box 3Folder 19

xx. Webb Family Papers, 1734-1829

Box 3Folder 20-23
Loose papers, 1734-1829
Vol. 6
Nathan Webb account book, 1805-1818

xxi. Nathaniel West Papers, 1786-1791

Box 3Folder 24

xxii. Edward Wheelwright Papers, 1841-1844

Box 3Folder 25
Diary, 29 Aug.-20 Dec., 1841
Box 3Folder 26
Diary, 1 Jan.-6 Jan., 1842
Box 3Folder 27
Diary, 7 June-29 June, 1842
Vol. 7
Diary, 3 Nov.-13 Dec., 1842
Box 3Folder 28
Harvard Grades and Themes, 1840-1843
Box 3Folder 29-30
Harvard Latin exercises, 1841-1844
Box 3Folder 31
Harvard Greek exercises, 1843

xxiii. David Wood Papers, 1787-1798

Box 3Folder 32
David Wood Papers, 1787-1798
OS Box 1
David Wood Papers, 1792(Oversize)

D. Miscellaneous Historical Documents, 1648-1885

Arranged chronologically.

This sub-series contains a volume of the 1662 meeting minutes for the United Colonies of New England, whose representatives including Thomas Danforth and John Winthrop. Topics covered are mainly colonial issues and relations with the Native Americans. Also within the sub-series are the "Records of the New Church at the South End of Boston," later known as the Hollis Street Church. They date from its founding in 1732 to 1789, and include church meeting records, church admissions and baptisms.

Loose papers found within this sub-series include letters written by Thomas Dudley (1648), correspondence, indentures, accounts, petitions, deeds, wills, court orders, "a short account of a trading voyage" (1710), marriage agreements, baptismal records from an unidentified church (1743-1748), probate records, a General Assembly bill for the government of Boston (1790), shipping documents (1800-1805), a report on a detachment of Marines aboard the U.S.S. Constitution (1804), sermons and religious notes, and military appointments. The sub-series also contains documents from Edes' "autograph collection" including letters signed by John Adams, James Madison, Daniel Webster, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Commodore Isaac Hull, Horace Greely, James Fields, Rutherford B. Hayes and William Dean Howells.

i. Volumes, 1662-1883

Box 3Folder 33
Records of Committee for United Colonies of New England, 1662
Box 3Folder 34
"Land Transactions of Thomas Jenner of Charlestown," 1700-1775
Box 3Folder 35-36
Hollis St. Church meeting records, 1732-1789
Box 3Folder 37
"Memorandum of Private Scholars," 1804
Box 3Folder 38
Mass. State Prison class book, 1818-1826
Box 4Folder 1-4
Anonymous journals, 1840-1844
Box 4Folder 5
Manuscript of Gilbert Wilson's "Sir Harrie Franklin," 1843
Box 4Folder 6
Passport of Henry C. Adams, 1868
Box 4Folder 7
Manuscript of George E. Ellis address "The Aims and Objects of the Founders of the Massachusetts Colony," 1869
Box 4Folder 8
Manuscript of R. C. Winthrop address to Bunker Hill Monument Association, 1883

ii. Loose Papers, 1648-1885

Box 4Folder 9-28
Box 5Folder 1-8
OS Box 1

III. Harvard Chapel Records, 1855-1884

This series contains documents relating to Harvard Chapel, founded in 1855 by Charlestown's Harvard Church as a chapel for public worship. Although the corporation was dissolved in 1879, shareholders' assets were not distributed until 1884. Included in this series are organizational and financial records, pertaining primarily to the corporation's dissolution.

A. Record Book, 1855-1879

This item includes the list of original proprietors, organizational documents, by-laws, annual meeting minutes, and committee meeting minutes.

Vol. 9

B. Clerk's Papers, 1855-1883

This sub-series includes building specifications for the chapel, building contracts, bills and receipts, financial accounts, correspondence, agreements for use of the chapel, notices of shareholders' meetings, voting records, committee meetings, and a copy of an Act of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declaring the corporation's right to sell the property. It also includes a large poster advertising the chapel's sale in 1879.

Box 3Folder 9-12
Clerk's Papers, 1855-1883
OS Box 1
Poster Advertising Sale of Harvard Chapel, 1879

C. Financial Records, 1855-1884

Records in this sub-series include an account book containing stock lists and a copy of the 1879 decree of dissolution from the Supreme Judicial Court; bills for carpentry, building supplies, furniture, a melodeon, printed materials, and advertising; a check book, check register and checks from the Bunker Hill National Bank of Charlestown (the bulk of which are dated 1884): and fire insurance policies for the building, its furnishings, the piano and the organs.

Vol. 10
Account book, 1855-1884
Box 5Folder 13-19
Bills paid, 1855-1873
OS Box 1
Bill for chapel construction, 1856(Oversize)
Box 5Folder 20
Bank book, 1884
Box 5Folder 21
Check book, 1884
Box 5Folder 22-23
Checks, 1884
Box 5Folder 24
Insurance policies, 1856-1877

D. Stockholders' Records, 1855-1883

This sub-series contains records that relate primarily to the chapel's dissolution, including a volume of returned stock certificates with signed receipts for the distribution of assets, and responses to circulars sent to stockholders by the treasurer requesting information on the stockholders' risk in regard to disposal of funds (1879) and the location of original stock certificates (1883). Also included here are stockholders' proxies, or assigned powers of attorney.

Stock Certificates:

Vol. 11
Book, 1855-1883
Box 5Folder 25
Stock certificate, 1855
Box 5Folder 26-27
Responses to Treasurer's circular, 1879
Box 5Folder 28-31
Responses to Treasurer's circular, 1883
Box 5Folder 32-33
Proxies, 1861-1879

IV. Da Vinci Club Records, 1875-1877

This series contains records relating to the Da Vinci Club, an exclusive art appreciation club for which Edes served as secretary. The record book includes a list of members, the organization's constitution, meeting minutes, and topics of discussion. Also included in the series are letters and an annotated draft of the organization's constitution, written in Edes' hand.

A. Record Book, 1875-1877

Vol. 12

B. Miscellaneous Papers, 1875-1887

Box 5Folder 34

Preferred Citation

Henry Herbert Edes collection, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Materials Removed from the Collection

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

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.


Ellis, George Edward, 1814-1894.
Marshall, Thomas, d. 1800.
Prentiss, Thomas, 1793-1817.
Wheelwright, Edward, 1824-1900.
Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894.
Edes family.


Bunker Hill Monument Association.
Harvard University--Students.
Massachusetts State Prison.
Bunker Hill Drill Club.
First Church (Charlestown, Boston, Mass.).


Chaplains, Prison--Massachusetts--Charlestown.
Municipal officials and employees--Massachusetts--Charlestown.
Religious work with prisoners--Massachusetts--Charlestown.
Charlestown (Boston, Mass.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Charlestown (Boston, Mass.)--Officials and employees.