Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Lamb family members, in particular the Boston merchants James Lamb (d. 1781), his sons James and Thomas Lamb, and Thomas Lamb, Jr., and the firms they represented (James Lamb & Sons, James & Thomas Lamb), mostly related to their shipping interests between Boston, Europe, China, and other domestic and international ports. The collection also contains some papers of the Rotch and Lawrence families.

Biographical Sketches

Lamb Family

James Lamb (d. 1781), Boston commission merchant, married in 1744 Deziah Thompson. Among their children were: Ruth, Mary, John, Deziah, Jane, David, Francis, Elizabeth, Martha (d. 1831?), James (1746-1822), and Thomas (1753-1813).

Thomas Lamb (1753-1813), Boston shipping merchant in partnership with his brother James (1746-1822), married in 1784 Rosanna Duncan (1760-1849). Their children were: Rosanna Black (1784-1844), Thomas (1786-1791), Deziah (1788-1838), Margaret Ford (1790-1865), Jane (1791-1888), Thomas (1796-1887), Louisa (1798-1845), William Duncan (1800-1819, lost at sea), and Caroline (1802-1859).

Deziah Lamb (1788-1838) married in 1818 Benjamin Waldo Lamb (1775-1839), a cousin, probably the son of James Lamb (1746-1822). Their children were: Rosanna Duncan (1819-1910), Elizabeth Lefevre (1821-1850), Maria Louisa (b. 1823), James (1826-1829), William Duncan (1829-1829), and Frances Jane (1832-1849).

Rosanna Duncan Lamb (1819-1910) married in 1842 Joseph Warren Revere (1812-1880). Their children were: John (1844-1849), Frances Jane (1849-1859), Thomas Duncan (1853-1856), Paul (1856-1901), and Augustus Lefevre (1861-1910).

Thomas Lamb (1796-1887), Boston shipping merchant, president of the Washington Marine and Fire Insurance Co. (1832-1857), president of the Suffolk Savings Bank for Seamen (1844-1885), treasurer of the Boston Marine Society (1830-1884), president of the New England National Bank (1846-1884), member of the Boston City Council under Mayor Josiah Quincy, president of the Boston Pier and Long Wharf Corp. (1851-1885), treasurer of the Boston Sugar Refinery. Married in 1828 Hannah Dawes Eliot (1809-1879). Their children were: Emily Goddard (1829-1894), Margaret Eliot (1831-1878), Thomas (1834-1838), Hannah Eliot (1836-1838), William Eliot (1839-1903), Charles Duncan (1841-1871), Rosanna (b. 1843), Caroline (1845-1849), and Horatio Appleton (1850-1926).

Horatio Appleton Lamb (1850-1926) married in 1890 Annie Lawrence Rotch (1857-1950). Their children were: Thomas (b. 1892); Aimee (b. 1893), unmarried; Benjamin Rotch (1895-1895); Rosamond (b. 1898), unmarried; Annie Lawrence (1898-1899); and Edith (1901-1928).

Rotch Family

Joseph Rotch (1790-1839), the son of William and Elizabeth (Rodman) Rotch, married in 1814 Anne Smith (1795-1842), daughter of James and Anne (Ridgway) Smith. Their children were: Elizabeth (1815-1884), Benjamin Smith (1817-1882), William James (1819-1893), Rodman (1820-1854), James Smith (1822-1822), and Joanna (1826-1911), unmarried.

Benjamin Smith Rotch (1817-1882) married in 1846 Annie Bigelow Lawrence (1820-1893). Their children were: Edith Rotch (1847-1897), unmarried; Arthur Rotch (1850-1894); Aimee Rotch (1852-1918); Katharine (1856-1856); Annie Lawrence (1857-1950); William (1858-1859); and Abbott Lawrence (1861-1912).

Aimee Rotch (1852-1918) married in 1873 Winthrop H. Sargent (1840-1916), the son of Col. Henry Winthrop and Caroline (Olmsted) Sargent (1819-1887). Caroline (Olmsted) Sargent was the daughter of Francis Olmsted (1791-1846). No children.

Annie Lawrence Rotch (1857-1950) married in 1890 Horatio Appleton Lamb (1850-1926). See Lamb family line for children.

Lawrence Family

Abbott Lawrence (1792-1855), son of Samuel and Susanna (Parker) Lawrence, married in 1819 Katharine Bigelow (1832-1895), daughter of Hon. Timothy and Lucy (Prescott) Bigelow. Their children were: Annie Bigelow (1820-1893), James (b. 1821), George (1824-1824), John Abbott (1825-1826), Timothy Bigelow (1826-1869), Abbott (1828-1893), and Katharine Bigelow (1832-1895).

Annie Bigelow Lawrence (1820-1893) married in 1846 Benjamin Smith Rotch (1817-1882). See Rotch family line for children.

Katharine Bigelow Lawrence (1832-1895) married in 1854 Augustus Lowell (1830-1900). Their children were: Percival (1855-1916), Abbott Lawrence (1856-1943), Katharine (1858-1925), Elizabeth (1862-1935), Roger (1862-1863), May (1870-1870), and Amy (1874-1925).

Collection Description

The collection is divided into two main sections: Lamb family papers and Rotch/Lawrence family papers.

The Lamb family papers contain papers of James Lamb, Sr., dating 1749-1784, including accounts regarding shares in shipping ventures (1779) in the brigs Trio and Revenge; papers (1776-1782) pertaining to business matters in partnership with his sons James, William, Robert, and Thomas, conducted at Hartford; and papers relative to the settlement of his estate (1781-1784), administered by James Lamb, Jr.

The papers of James Lamb, Jr., date 1777-1822 and include correspondence with his brothers as agent for the family shipping and merchandising firm at Hartford (1776-1779), listing accounts, speculation opportunities, and activities at that city. A lengthy segment of papers concerns business transactions of the firm James & Thomas Lamb, successor to the parent firm James Lamb & Sons, and includes letterbooks, notes, receipts, account books, bank books, and other financial records (1787-1822), in particular detailed accounts of voyages of the ship Alert in 1801-1804 to Canton; exchanges with Thomas Lamb at Martinique (1785-1786) giving full descriptions of trade at that port; correspondence with agents and representatives, mainly members of the family, including letters from William Lamb describing transactions and markets at Savannah, Georgia (1782-1798); a full record of trading activities at New Orleans (1794-1805); accounts, receipts, and reports of Benjamin Waldo Lamb concerning transactions at Rotterdam (1798-1800), at St. Petersburg (1798), and at St. Croix (1810). Also included are papers relating to the unsuccessful partnership of John Maynard and Robert Lamb culminating in bankruptcy proceedings (1802-1810), such as accounts, ship manifests, correspondence, and papers relating to the purchase and sale of ships and properties.

The bulk of the collection concerns Thomas Lamb, Jr., and dates 1821-1887. His business activities at Boston are documented by papers concerning shipbuilding, voyages, trade, and commodity markets. Papers include letterbooks, accounts, and correspondence concerning shipping between the United States, Europe, China, and other ports. Papers kept by Captain Charles Hunt (1826-1853) while in the Lamb employ include reports and shipping accounts of trading voyages between Charleston, New Orleans, and France (1835-1847). Detailed records of the activities of the ship Napoleon may be found for 1853-1862. Also included are numerous marine insurance policies issued to Lamb ships indicating the broad scope of his activities.

Papers relative to his interest in the Washington Marine and Fire Insurance Co., Boston, date 1829-1842 and include an opinion by Daniel Webster and Charles P. Curtis (Oct. 1829) relative to the interpretation of New York legislation governing marine insurance abroad. The papers also contain correspondence regarding the rescue of the ship California from the rocks at Honolulu Bay (1841), including an exchange with King Kekuanaa (1843).

Lamb's long-term interest in the Boston Marine Society is reflected in treasurer's accounts, committee reports, and correspondence (1836-1887). Family investment in the Boston Pier and Long Wharf Co. is documented by deeds and accounts (1826-1829) and in minutes of directors' meetings (1837-1839, 1870). Correspondence with U.S. Commissioner George Bancroft regarding land taking for the new Custom House in 1839 is but one of many phases of Lamb's interest centering on the Boston waterfront. Continuing concern over improvements to the harbor is evidenced in correspondence relative to engineering surveys and dredging (1867), with George B. Emerson (1875) concerning development projects, and opinions on the problems of pollution (1885). Other major maritime interests are indicated by papers relating to the Boston Port Society, by records of the committee concerning Boston wharves (1843-1848), and by accounts of the maritime activity of Lubec and Eastport, Maine, submitted to a convention of Boston merchants, shipowners, and builders (Dec. 1842) chaired by Lamb.

There is a prospectus for the establishment of a seaport city for Brunswick, Georgia (1846), as an adjunct to investment in the Brunswick and Florida Railway. Papers of the Boston Sugar Refinery Company date 1829-1859 and detail financial arrangements, agreements, accounts, price indices, and correspondence dealing with early speculation opportunities in sugar (1829), as well as opinions from George T. Curtis on matters of funding (1844). Papers relative to Lamb's presidency of the New England National Bank date 1843-1885 and include correspondence, records of the directors, committee reports, and exchanges regarding proposed legislation for the taxation of national banks (1871-1872). There are letters (1879-1880) relating to the Boston and the New York Clearing House Committee action on deposit of gold coin for issue of clearing house certificates, including an opinion of John Sherman (Oct. 1879) and drafts of letters written by Lamb stating the general requirements of the national banks. Papers relating to Lamb's other interests and investments consist of deeds, certificates, and reports for the American Land Co. (1844-1847), the New England Worsted Co., Tremont Iron, Massillon Rolling Mills Co. (1840), Boston Theatre (1858), and East Boston Ferry Co. (1876-88), including correspondence and receivership papers.

Papers relating to Lamb's personal transactions include deeds for property at Boston, private expense ledgers, receipts, notes, a will, commissions, certificates of membership in organizations such as the Whig Republican Association and the American Unitarian Association, family letters, and papers relating to the administration of family trusts, including those of members of the Revere family, related by marriage.

The papers of Horatio A. Lamb (1882-1900) concern mainly the administration of Lamb and Revere family trusts and estates. Correspondents include John Codman Ropes (1882-1886) on legal matters and Edward Everett Hale (1900).

Other items in the collection include a commonplace-book of Caroline Lamb, soldiers' charity accounts of Hannah Dawes (Eliot) Lamb, Federal Street Church baptisms, an 1834 sermon of Ezra S. Gannett, financial records of shipmasters David Low and James Magee, and a memoranda/diary book of William Porter. In addition, there are receipts for sales of enslaved people to the Power family of Charleston (1816-1841), some genealogical materials, family photographs, and miscellaneous printed matter relating to the family.

Later additions to the Lamb family papers (which have been incorporated into the collection) include a notebook and documents pertaining to the China trade (1797-1806). An autograph collection assembled by Katharine Lawrence consists mainly of material extracted by Edward Everett from his personal files, the majority being letter covers and signatures of English personages, members of nobility and of the diplomatic corps stationed at London, with letters of Edward Everett (1837-1860) addressed to members of the Abbott Lawrence and Henry Sargent families. Other correspondence with these related families includes a number of Daniel Webster letters (1837-1843), mostly to Abbott Lawrence, relating to affairs at Washington.

Lamb family correspondence includes letters to Thomas Lamb and to Mrs. Horatio A. Lamb from Wendell Phillips (1870), James F. Rhodes (1918-1922), Herbert Hoover (1940), and letters to Rosamond Lamb from Louis D. Brandeis and Henry Cabot Lodge (1910).

Other correspondents include Rufus Choate, Robert Bennet Forbes, Edward Singleton Holden (1905), Edward Everett Hale (1898), Washington Irving (1843), Richard Olney, Andrew Preston Peabody (1868), Theodore Roosevelt, and William Roscoe.

The Rotch/Lawrence papers consist of one box of loose papers and seven boxes of volumes. The loose papers are mostly the correspondence of Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch, both before and after her marriage, with other miscellaneous Rotch family papers. They include Annie's school grading certificates (1828-1830). The volumes comprise Annie Lawrence Rotch's diaries (1838-1856), commonplace book (1834-?), composition book (1837), and expense books (1849-1851); Edith Rotch's diaries (1875-1878), kept in Europe, and history notebook (1864-1865); typed transcripts of diaries of Katharine B. (Lawrence) Lowell before her marriage, kept both in Boston and abroad in Europe (1847-1852); Aimee (Rotch) Sargent's diaries (1874-1875), scrapbook, and newspaper clippings; and miscellaneous Rotch family volumes, including a commonplace-book of Joanna Rotch (1839-1866) and a volume of letters written by Francis Olmsted (1828-1829) to his daughter Caroline from Europe.

Some of the Rotch/Lawrence family correspondence, described above in the section regarding later additions to the papers, has been incorporated into the Lamb family correspondence.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Misses Aimee and Rosamond Lamb, June 1969, February 1970.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Loose papers, 1750-1971

Box 1
Box 2
Box 3
Box 3
Henry Ward receipts, 1810-1822
Box 4
1811-May 1826
Box 5
June 1826-1829
Box 6
Box 7
1837-June 1843
Box 7
Long Wharf papers, 1837-1839
Box 8
July 1843-1852
Box 9
Box 10
Box 11
Box 12
Genealogy, miscellaneous, printed material

II. Volumes, 1730-1885

Box 13Folder 1
James Lamb & Son/James & Thomas Lamb, receipt book, 1777-1782
Box 13Folder 2
James & Thomas Lamb, account book, 1789-1814
Box 13Folder 3
James & Thomas Lamb, Union Bank book, 1793-1794
Box 13Folder 4
James & Thomas Lamb, letterbook, 1797-1799
Box 13Folder 5
James & Thomas Lamb, Massachusetts Bank book, 1798-1802
Box 13Folder 6
James & Thomas Lamb, Bank of the United States book, 1799-1803
Box 13Folder 7
James & Thomas Lamb, ship Alert accounts, 1801-1804
Box 13Folder 8
James & Thomas Lamb, letterbook, 1803-1810
Box 13Folder 9
James & Thomas Lamb, ship Alert accounts, 1804-1807
Box 14Folder 1
[James & Thomas Lamb], accounts receivable, 1809-1816
Box 14Folder 2
James & Thomas Lamb, letterbook, 1810-1813
Box 14Folder 3
James & Thomas Lamb, letterbook, 1813-1815
Box 14Folder 4
James & Thomas Lamb, Union Bank book, 1813-1818
Box 14Folder 5
James & Thomas Lamb, cash accounts, 1813-1822
Box 14Folder 6
James Lamb/Elizabeth Lamb, daybook, 1813-1829
Box 14Folder 7
[James Lamb], daybook, 1815-1819
Box 14Folder 8
James Lamb, Massachusetts Bank book, 1816-1822
Box 14Folder 9
James & Thomas Lamb, Union Bank book, 1818-1822
Box 15Folder 1
Thomas Lamb, letterbook, 1818-1821
Box 15Folder 2
[Thomas Lamb], account book, 1822-1824
Box 15Folder 3
Thomas Lamb, postage accounts, 1825-1826
Box 15Folder 4
Thomas Lamb, Boston Marine Association accounts, 1829-1838
Box 15Folder 5
Thomas Lamb, Wharf Committee records, 1843-1848
Box 15Folder 6
Thomas Lamb, Rosalba (Peale) Underwood trust fund accounts, 1850-1875
Box 15Folder 7
Thomas Lamb, gas stock accounts for various trust funds, 1852-1872
Box 15Folder 8
Thomas Lamb, letterbook, 1863-1867
Box 15Folder 9
Thomas Lamb, Revere accounts, 1869-1878
Box 15Folder 10
Thomas Lamb, resignation letterbook, 1884-1885
Box 16Folder 1
Benjamin W. Lamb, letterbook, 1798-1800
Box 16Folder 2
Benjamin W. Lamb, remarks at St. Petersburg, etc., 1803-1804
Box 16Folder 3
Benjamin W. Lamb, letterbook, 1808-1811
Box 16Folder 4
Benjamin W. Lamb, accounts current, 1822-1838
Box 16Folder 5
Caroline Lamb, commonplace-book, 1849-?
Box 16Folder 6
Hannah Dawes (Eliot) Lamb, soldiers' charity accounts, 1861-1862
Box 16Folder 7
Hannah Dawes (Eliot) Lamb, soldiers' charity accounts, 1861-1867
Box 16Folder 8
William D. Lamb, memoranda, n.d.
Box 16Folder 9
Wm. W. Lamb, accounting & merchandising notebook/exercises, 1796
Box 17Folder 1
Presbyterian Church on Long Lane, baptisms, 1730-1760; Federal Street Church, baptisms, 1786-1803 (copies by William Ellery Channing)

Note: The Presbyterian Church on Long Lane became the Congregational Federal St. Church in 1786. It later became the Arlington St. Church.

Box 17Folder 2
Same: photocopies
Box 17Folder 3
Presbyterian Church on Long Lane, marriages, 1731-1739 (copy by William Ellery Channing)
Box 17Folder 4
Federal Street Church, congregation membership, 1793; deaths, 1787-1813 (copies by William Ellery Channing)
Box 17Folder 5
Ezra S. Gannett, sermon (ms.), 1834
Box 17Folder 6
Capt. Charles Hunt, expense accounts, 1842-1854
Box 17Folder 7
[Capt. Charles Hunt], account book, 1851-1853
Box 17Folder 8
[Capt. Charles Hunt], account book, 1853-1854
Box 17Folder 9-11
Capt. Charles Hunt, estate accounts, 1854-1879
Box 18Folder 1
David Low, trial balances, 1825
Box 18Folder 2
James Magee, receipt book, 1790-1796
Box 18Folder 3
William Porter, memoranda/diary, 1798-1810
Box 18Folder 4
William Porter, Jr., typed transcripts of letters, 1808
Box 19Folder 1
Unidentified, notes on foreign trade, 1775-1791
Box 19Folder 2
Unidentified, notebook kept at Canton, Manila, etc., 1797-1804
Box 19Folder 3-4
Unidentified, scrapbook, 1860s
Box 19Folder 5
Unidentified, scrapbook about stock market, 1883-1884

III. Rotch/Lawrence family papers, 1828-1878

Box 20
Miscellaneous papers, 1828-1856
Box 21
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch diaries, 1838-1850 (6 vols.)
Box 22
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch diaries, 1850-1856 (12 vols.)
Box 23
Edith Rotch, diaries, 1875-1878 (5 vols.)
Box 24
Katharine B. (Lawrence) Lowell, typed transcripts of diaries, 1847-1852 (2 vols.)
Box 25
Aimee (Rotch) Sargent, diaries, 1874-1875 (5 vols.); scrapbook (1 vol.), newspaper clippings (1 folder)
Box 26Folder 1
Unidentified, French poetry notebook, 19th century
Box 26Folder 2
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch, commonplace-book, 1834-?
Box 26Folder 3
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch, composition book, 1837
Box 26Folder 4
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch, expenses, 1849-1850
Box 26Folder 5
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch, expenses, 1850-1851
Box 26Folder 6
Annie B. (Lawrence) Rotch, letter copy, 1852
Box 26Folder 7
Edith Rotch, history notebook, [1864-1865]
Box 26Folder 8
Joanna Rotch, commonplace-book, 1839-1866
Box 26Folder 9
Francis Olmsted, letters from Europe to his daughter Caroline, 1828-1829

IV. Oversize material

This box contains oversize documents from throughout the collection.

Box OS

Preferred Citation

Lamb family 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.


Gannett, Ezra S. (Ezra Stiles), 1801-1871.
Hunt, Charles, shipmaster.
Lamb family--Genealogy.
Lamb, Benjamin Waldo, 1775-1839.
Lamb, Hannah Dawes Eliot.
Lamb, James, -1781.
Lamb, James, 1746-1822.
Lamb, Thomas, 1753-1813.
Lamb, Thomas, 1796-1887.
Low, David, shipmaster.
Lowell, Katharine Bigelow Lawrence, 1832-1895.
Magee, James, 1750-1801.
Olmsted, Francis, 1791-1846.
Ridgway family--Genealogy.
Rotch, Annie Bigelow Lawrence, 1820-1893.
Rotch, Joanna, 1826-1911.
Sargent, Aimee Rotch, 1852-1918.


Alert (Ship).
Arlington Street Church (Boston, Mass.).
Boston Marine Society.
Boston Pier or the Long Wharf Corporation.
James and Thomas Lamb (Boston, Mass.).
James Lamb and Sons (Boston, Mass.).


Account books.
China trade.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918.
Family history--1750-1799.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
Insurance, Marine.
Long Wharf (Boston, Mass.).
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--War work.
Voyages and travels.
Women travelers.

Materials Removed from the Collection


Engraved bookplate. Bookplate of B.S. Rotch, with motto "Dieu est ma roche."
Engraved landscape scene. "Noon on the sea shore." Painted by J.F. Kensett; engraved by S.V. Hunt; pub. 1863.
Engraved landscape scene. "Sunday afternoon." Painted by James M. Hart; engraved by S.V. Hunt.
Engraved scene. "The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. A.D. 1781." Engraved and printed by Illman Brothers; painted by Armand Dumaresq.


Watercolor scene. "Boston. Nov. 11 '72." [Great fire of 1872 in Boston].


3 large, 2 medium photographs.
2 photograph albums.
15 loose photographs.
2 faded paper photographs.

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo Archives.

Printed Matter

Broadside. Royal Agricultural Society of England. Windsor meeting. 1851. R. Owley, printer, express office, Windsor, [1851].
Broadside. A Cure for headache. [London, 19th c.].
Broadside. Turner's Tic-Douloureux, or universal neuralgia pill. [Boston, 19th c.].
Book. Valedictory address of Washington to the people of the United States. Published by the Washington Benevolent Society of Massachusetts, 1812.

Museum Objects

Ribbon. City of Boston. Common Council. Sept. 17, 1856.
Cloth samples, ca. 1800, for merchant's use.
Penn Treaty Tree cup with mss. documentation and provenance.
Lock of Washington's hair enclosed in a locket with provenance.

See MHS museum curator for more information on these museum objects.