1659-1900; bulk: 1820-1890

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection contains the George Gardner family papers, 1659-1900, including business and personal papers of George Gardner; Gardner family correspondence, writings, and wills; and diaries, 1821-1840, kept by Samuel Pickering Gardner.

Biographical Sketch

Samuel Pickering Gardner (1767-1843) was born in Salem, Mass. to John Gardner (1731-1805) and Elizabeth (Pickering) Gardner (1737-1823). He graduated from Harvard College in 1786 and moved to South Carolina, where he engaged in the mercantile business with his brother John. In 1793, he moved to Boston, where he remained for the rest of his life. He maintained an office at 66 Long Wharf, then later at 15 Winter Street. He held various properties in Beverly, Wenham, and Newburyport.

In 1797, he married Rebecca Russell Lowell, daughter of Judge John and Sarah (Higginson) Lowell. They had five children who lived to adulthood: Elizabeth Pickering Gardner, Mary Lowell Gardner, John Lowell Gardner (1804-1884, m. Catherine Endicott Peabody), Sarah Russell Gardner, and George Gardner (1809-1884).

John Gardner (1760-1792) was born in Salem, Mass. to John Gardner (1731-1805) and Elizabeth (Pickering) Gardner (1737-1823). He became a successful merchant and moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he died at age 32.

George Gardner (1809-1884) was born in Boston to Samuel Pickering and Rebecca Russell (Lowell) Gardner. He was a member of the Harvard's Class of 1829, and by 1838 was working in his brother's mercantile business at John L. Gardner & Co. on 47 India Street. In 1848, he started his own company, George Gardner & Co., with George J. Furness on 5 Liberty Square in Boston. In 1859, Gardner partnered with his nephew, Joseph Gardner. He also owned several ships, including the Grotius, 1839-1843; Pleiades, 1840-1842; Orlando, 1859; and Arabia, 1864. In 1853, he inherited property from his father on Summer Street, as well as shares of the Proprietors of India Wharf. Interested in using Summer Street for commercial purposes, George Gardner built up and expanded the property. He also inherited property from his grandmother, Elizabeth (Pickering) Gardner (1737-1823).

He married Helen Maria Read (1819-1888) in 1838. They had four children: Helen Read Gardner; Francis Lowell Gardner (1841-1861), who attended Harvard College and died from illness in his junior year; Elizabeth Gardner (1843-1867, m. Charles W. Amory); and Clara Gardner.

John Lowell Gardner (1804-1884) was born in Boston, the eldest son of Samuel Pickering and Rebecca Russell (Lowell) Gardner. He graduated from Harvard in 1821 and, in 1824, began his successful career as a merchant in Boston. In 1825, he was a partner in the firm of Gardner & Lowell at 23 Long Wharf with Francis G. Lowell. In 1836, John L. Gardner and his brother George formed a partnership under the name John L. Gardner & Company, with offices at 47 India Street. In 1850, he moved to State Street and, in 1853, took his son George A. Gardner into the business. Largely interested in commerce in the East Indies and Russia, he traded also with Sumatra, primarily importing pepper. During his later years, he took a less active role in his merchant business and turned his attention to real estate matters in Boston and Brookline. He held properties in Salem, Boston, Brookline, and Maine.

He married Catherine Endicott Peabody in 1826. They had five children who survive into adulthood: Joseph Peabody Gardner (m. Harriet Sears Amory), George Augustus Gardner, John Lowell Gardner (m. Isabella Stewart), Julia Gardner, and Eliza Blanchard Gardner.


Archives, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Carter, Morris, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court, 1925.

Gardner, Frank Augustine, Gardner Memorial, A Biographical and Genealogical Record of the Descendant of Thomas Gardner, Planter, Cape Ann, 1624; Salem (Naumkeag, 1626-1674), 1933

Collection Description

The George Gardner family papers consist of four boxes, one oversize box, and one volume, the bulk dating from 1820-1890. The collection is divided into four series: George Gardner papers, Gardner family papers, Amory family papers, and Printed materials.

The majority of the collection consists of the personal papers of George Gardner, including personal correspondence with his family from 1831 to 1878, business correspondence pertaining to improvements to his Summer Street property, legal papers including his will, and house records consisting of architectural drawings and records pertaining to his Summer Street property. Also included are estate records of James Read, Rebecca Russell (Lowell) Gardner, and Sarah Johnson, for whom Gardner served as trustee, along with his own financial papers.

The collection also contains papers pertaining to the Gardner family, including family correspondence spanning from 1775 to 1842; deeds, agreements, and family wills; writings; genealogical materials of the Gardner, Pickering, and Lowell families; family financial papers; and diaries of Samuel Pickering Gardner, 1821-1840.

In addition to papers relating to the Gardner family, there are also papers relating to the Amory family, including legal papers mainly pertaining to land disputes in the Boston area, deeds and agreements, financial papers, and papers pertaining to a shipping dispute in Savannah, Georgia.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Dr. Catherine Lastavica, May 2006.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. George Gardner papers, 1803-1882

A. Correspondence, 1831-1880

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains both personal and business correspondence. Personal correspondence from 1831 to 1878 includes letters between George Gardner and his brother John Gardner, Catherine Endicott (Peabody) Gardner, Miss. S. G. Lowell, and Rob Winthrop. Personal correspondence also includes a letter George Gardner wrote describing his relationship to the Pickerings and Lowells, as well as a timeline of important dates in his life. This subseries also contains a small portion of business correspondence of George Gardner pertaining to improvements to his Summer Street property from July 1869 to November 1880.

Box 1Folder 1-6
Personal, 1831-1878
Box 1Folder 7-8
Business, 1853-1880

B. Legal papers, 1845-1873

This subseries contains papers pertaining to Gardner's Summer Street property, including leases, agreements, and notifications concerning the rights to light and air between Gardner and his neighbors, as well as deeds to the Summer Street extension. This subseries contains a plaintiff's brief for the case of George Gardner vs. City of Boston, as well as the opinion of Judge Curtis on Avon Place Strip. Gardner's petition against Hoys Railway and statistics on the effects on the Summer Street neighborhood are also included here. This subseries also contains George Gardner's will.

Box 1Folder 9
Real estate, 1845-1873
Box 1Folder 10
Railway extension, 1860-1870
Box 1Folder 11
Will, 1881

C. House records, 1803-1882

This subseries contains architectural plans and blueprints for Gardner's Summer Street and Chauncy Street buildings. This subseries also includes agreements with businesses in regards to improvements to Summer Street property.

Box 1Folder 12
Architectural plans, 1869-1873
Box OSFolder 1-2
Architectural plans, 1803-1870
Box OSFolder 3
Blueprints, 1882
Box 1Folder 13
Summer Street records, 1853

D. Estate records, 1841-1882

Arranged alphabetically.

This subseries contains legal and financial papers for the estates of James Read, Elizabeth (Pickering) Gardner, and Sarah Johnson, for whom Gardner served as trustee. This subseries also includes correspondence with Sarah Sheafe regarding the estate of her mother, Sarah Johnson, while she lived in Paris from 1881-1882.

Box 2Folder 1-2
Elizabeth (Pickering) Gardner, 1853

Sarah Johnson, 1841-1882

Box 2Folder 3-5
Financial, 1841-1882
Box 2Folder 6
Sarah Sheafe, 1881-1882
Box 2Folder 7
James Read, 1863-1882

E. Financial papers, 1847-1871

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains financial records pertaining to Gardner's property, including Summer Street, Union Wharf, Chauncy Street, and Avon Place. This subseries also includes receipts for furnishings, as well as valuations of each property.

Box 2Folder 8

II. Gardner family papers, 1659-1896

A. Correspondence, 1775-1842

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains mostly personal correspondence, as well as a few business letters. Correspondence from 1775 to 1789 consists primarily of letters to and from the Gardner family, including a letter from John Gardner (1760-1792) to Benjamin Franklin in 1784. From 1790 to 1812, the correspondence primarily relates to the death of John Gardner in 1792. A letter from P. C. Brooks to Samuel P. Gardner in 1806 discusses land on Summer Street. From 1814 to 1842, the correspondence is mostly between Samuel P. Gardner and the Gardner, Pickering, and Lowell families.

Box 2Folder 9-14

B. Legal papers, 1659-1853

This subseries contains deeds for land in Salem and Danvers, Mass. to George Gardner (1621-1679), Samuel Gardner (1648-1724), John Gardner (1681-1721), and Joseph Putman; agreements with the early Gardner family; inventories of family estates; and wills of Thomas Gardner (d. 1682), George Gardner (1621-1679), Samuel Gardner (1648-1724), and Elizabeth Gardner Amory.

Box 3Folder 1-2
Deeds, 1659-1752
Box 3Folder 3
Agreements, 1693-1832
Box 3Folder 4
Inventories of estates, 1679-1853
Box 3Folder 5
Wills, 1675-1723

C. Writings, 1812

This subseries contains writings of Samuel Pickering Gardner (1767-1843), including advice to his sons; a eulogy for Thomas C. Amory; and writings about and from Timothy Pickering during his time as the quartermaster general.

Box 3Folder 6

F. Genealogy, 1828-1896

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains a collection of genealogical records, including George Gardner's notebook, which contains family trees as well as a record of births and deaths, and records of the Pickering, Lowell, Barbour, Wingate, and Graves families.

Box 3Folder 7
Regular, 1828
Box OSFolder 4
Oversize, 1829-1896

G. Samuel Pickering Gardner diaries, 1821-1840

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains four volumes of diaries written by Samuel Pickering Gardner (1767-1843). The diaries discuss the weather in Boston and Beverly, Mass. and care of Gardner's fruit trees and garden probably in Boston, as well as business finances and transactions in Middleton and Wenham and the activities of friends and family.

Box 3Folder 8Vol. 1-2
Box 3Folder 9Vol. 3-4

F. Miscellaneous, 1823-1854

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains the passport of Francis L. Gardner documenting his travel throughout Europe and a note describing the history of objects owned by the Gardner family.

Box 3Folder 10

III. Amory family papers, 1690-1852

This subseries contains correspondence, bills, receipts, notes, and newspaper clippings pertaining to the Hall suits, dealing with land disputes in the Boston, Westfield, Stoughton, and Braintree areas; documents pertaining to the brig Seaflower, a ship possibly owned by the Amory family; an official protest, financial papers, and other official documents pertaining to a shipping dispute in Savannah, Georgia; the will of Dr. Daniel Weld; deeds, receipts, bills, and inventories pertaining to the Amory family; and descriptions of the making of terrace roofs, as well as a copy of the trustee of accounts of George Gardner's estate.

Box 4Folder 1
Hall suits, 1850-1852
Box 4Folder 2
Deeds and agreements, 1690-1802
Box 4Folder 3-4
Financial papers, 1790-1838
Box 4Folder 5
Shipping dispute papers, 1849

IV. Printed materials, 1824-1900

A. Newspaper clippings, 1860-1900

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains newspaper clippings pertaining to the Burnside Expedition in 1862, where several boats were lost, including the New York, as well as Harzfeld's List of coins, metals, etc. for sale. Also included in this subseries is an obituary of Francis Lowell Gardner and several pages from various Boston newspapers.

Box 4Folder 6
Regular, 1862-1878
Box OSFolder 5-6
Oversize, 1860-1900

B. Address of the Bunker Hill Monument Association, 1824

This subseries contains a pamphlet for the Bunker Hill Monument Association.

Box 4Folder 7

C. In Memoriam: Francis Lowell Gardner, 1861-1862

This subseries contains a printed volume of letters and tributes to Francis Lowell Gardner upon his death in 1861.

Vol. 5

Materials Removed from the Collection

Artifacts removed from this collection include a Francis Lowell Gardner mourning pin, Samuel P. Gardner snuff box and mourning pin, unidentified Gardner snuff box and mourning ring, and unidentified set of antique keys.

Preferred Citation

George Gardner 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.


Amory family--Genealogy.
Gardner family--Genealogy.
Lowell family--Genealogy.
Pickering family--Genealogy.
Brooks, Peter Chardon, 1798-1880.
Gardner, Elizabeth Pickering, 1737-1823.
Gardner, Francis Lowell, 1841-1861.
Gardner, John, 1760-1792.
Gardner, John Lowell, 1804-1884.
Gardner, Samuel Pickering, 1767-1843.
Johnson, Sarah.
Read, James.
Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894.


Family history--1800-1899.
Decedents' estates.
Inventories of decedents' estates--Massachusetts.
Real property--Massachusetts--Boston.
Real property--Massachusetts--Danvers.
Real property--Massachusetts--Salem.
Boston (Mass.)--Buildings, structures, etc.