1762-1940; bulk: 1820-1900

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection contains the personal and professional correspondence and papers of the Bowditch and Loring families, primarily of Boston, Mass., consisting mainly of the family and professional correspondence of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch. In addition, this collection contains legal and financial records pertaining to the Bowditch-Loring family, as well as personal ephemera detailing the family’s intertwined history.

Biographical Sketch

Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch (1806-1889) was the son of Nathaniel Bowditch and Mary Ingersoll. J. I. Bowditch was a Boston merchant whose partners were Edward Austin, Henry P. Oxnard, and others engaged in trade with India and China. In 1836 he became president of the American Insurance Office. After the death of his father, Nathaniel Bowditch, he became editor and publisher of successive editions of The New American Practical Navigator. He was elected an overseer of Harvard College in 1867. In 1836 he married Lucy Orne Nichols, daughter of Benjamin R. and Mary (Pickering) Nichols, granddaughter of Captain Timothy Pickering, and had eight children, including: Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840-1911; married Selma Knauth in 1871), Charles Pickering Bowditch (1842-1921: married Cornelia Livingston Rockwell in 1866), Alfred Bowditch (1855-1918; married Mary Louise Rice), Alice Bowditch (1848-1929; married James Forbes), and Charlotte Bowditch (1846-1919).

Charles Pickering Bowditch (1842-1921) was the son of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch and Lucy Orne Nichols and the grandson of Nathaniel Bowditch. After earning his degree from Harvard College he served as first and second lieutenant and captain of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and as captain of the 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. C. P. Bowditch is perhaps best known for his pioneering work as an archaeologist, specializing in Mayan hieroglyphic writing. He married Cornelia Livingston Rockwell (1841-1930), and had four children: Cornelia Bowditch (b. 1867), Lucy Rockwell Bowditch (b. 1868; married Franklin Greene Balch in 1894), Katherine Putnam Bowditch (b. 1870; married Ernest Amory Codman in 1899), and Ingersoll Bowditch (b. 1875; married Sylvia Church Scudder in 1904).

Alfred Bowditch (1855-1918) was the son of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch and Lucy Orne Nichols, the grandson of Nathaniel Bowditch, and was a Boston attorney and trust administrator. He married Mary Rice (1854-1914) and had three children: Margaret Ingersoll Bowditch (b. 1881; married Norwood Penrose Hallowell), Mary Orne Bowditch (b. 1883), and Rosamond Bowditch (1889-1950; married Augustus Peabody Loring, Jr.).

Caleb William Loring (1819-1897) was the son of Charles Greeley Loring and Anna Pierce Brace. He studied law at Harvard University and later practiced in Boston. Loring was also involved in manufacturing and served as the president of the Plymouth Cordage Company. He married Elizabeth Smith Peabody (1822-1869) in 1845 and had four children: Katharine Peabody Loring (1849-1943), William Caleb Loring (1851-1930; married Sarah Mason Lawrence), Louisa Putnam Loring (1854-1924), and Augustus Peabody Loring (1856-1938; married Ellen Gardner).

Collection Description

The Bowditch-Loring family papers consist of three boxes and one oversize box spanning the years 1792-1940, with the bulk dating from 1820 to 1900. The collection contains the papers of two interrelated families and has been divided into five series: the Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch papers; the Alfred Bowditch papers; the Bowditch family papers; the Loring family papers; and printed material and ephemera. Materials in the collection consist of family and business correspondence, financial and legal records, deeds, insurance records, organizational affiliations, personal memorabilia, and other documents pertaining to the shipping industry. Members of the family were lawyers, doctors, ship captains, astronomers, archaeologists, insurance company presidents, and served in the United States military.

Personal and business correspondence makes up the bulk of this collection, with the majority of the correspondence related to Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch, including his position as an overseer of Harvard College and his work in the insurance industry. Of particular interest is Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch’s correspondence between Ebenezer Francis and other business affiliates in regard to the shipping industry between Calcutta, India, and Boston. These letters detail the types of goods shipped between each city, their quantity, condition, as well as various crew-related mishaps and personalities. Another sizable portion of this collection consists of legal and financial documents related to the Bowditch family, including material related to the brig Traveller. Nathaniel Bowditch and Jonathan Ingersoll, the father and grandfather of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch, had both been investors in the Traveller, which was captured by the French privateer L’Adele in 1800. After years of testimony, research, and examinations of the captain’s log and correspondence, the investors in the Traveller were finally awarded their insurance claims.

The collection also contains the correspondence of Alfred Bowditch, son of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch, including legal correspondence related to his work with the Boston Elevated Railway Company and West End Street Railway. The papers of Caleb William Loring (whose grandson Augustus Peabody Loring, Jr. would marry Alfred Bowditch's daughter Rosamund) include material related to the loss of the ship Channing in Shanghai and the resulting insurance case. Other family members represented in the collection include Charles Pickering Bowditch, Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, Lucy Bowditch Nichols, Mary Orne Bowditch, and Mary Rice Bowditch. The business correspondence of commission merchants George Woods Rice and John W. Davis, as well as records pertaining to the Nantucket fire of 1846, are also included here. Printed material includes family Christmas ephemera, wedding announcements, birthday invitations, and newspaper articles praising Nathaniel Bowditch’s book The New American Practical Navigator.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Elisabeth B. Loring, October 1998.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch papers, 1826-1887

This series consists of J. I. Bowditch's correspondence as well as personal and professional papers. The bulk of his correspondence is with family members and business associates. His personal and professional papers detail his work within the Boston insurance and shipping industries.

A. Correspondence, 1826-1887

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries is composed of correspondence between J. I. Bowditch and various family members and business associates, including his grandfather Jonathan Ingersoll, Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, and Eliza Susan Quincy. Also included are letters related to his work as president of the Hospital Life Insurance Office and American Insurance Office, as well as his associations with Harvard University, the shipping industry, the painter Alfred Bierstadt, and other business associates such as Ebenezer Francis, Edward Austin, James Greenleaf, Benjamin Peirce, and John James Dixwell.

Box 1Folders 1-18

B. Personal and professional papers, 1856-1887

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries includes J. I. Bowditch's appointments to various political offices, organizational and institutional memberships, election as Overseer of Harvard College, various subscriptions, and copies of Nathaniel Bowditch’s past correspondence.

Box 1Folders 19-20
Box OSFolder 1
Oversize papers, 1856-1887

C. Memorandum book, ca. 1826-1869

Bowditch's memorandum book contains anecdotes about persons and events, accounts and receipts for charitable funds, and details of the ships on which he sailed, mostly to Calcutta from 1826-1834.

Box 1Folders 21-23

II. Alfred Bowditch correspondence, 1869-1913

Arranged chronologically by type.

This series consists of correspondence between Alfred Bowditch and various family members and business associates, including John Daniel Runkle, Selma (Knauth) Bowditch, Augustus P. Loring, and the Peabody Museum; and correspondence regarding his legal work with the Boston Elevated Railway Company and the West End Railway Company. In addition, this series contains several letters discussing family matters and special occasions between Alfred Bowditch, his wife Mary (Rice) Bowditch, and Mrs. L. Alexander and her daughter Francesca Alexander of Florence, Italy.

Box 1Folders 24-26
General correspondence, 1869-1913
Box 1Folders 27-28
Bowditch-Alexander correspondence, 1901-1911

III. Bowditch family papers, 1762-1940

This series contains papers related to the Bowditch family including family and business correspondence; legal and financial papers concerning the Bowditch family's various business ventures and professional organizations, shipping records; deeds; and insurance documentation.

A. Correspondence, 1806-1910

Arranged chronologically by type

This subseries contains the correspondence of Bowditch family members and extended family members, including Captain Timothy Pickering, Benjamin R. Nichols, Lucy Orne (Nichols) Bowditch, Elizabeth Frances (Bowditch) Dixwell, Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, Edward Austin, and Charles Pickering Bowditch. Some letters discuss the death of Nathaniel Bowditch. This subseries also contains several postcards addressed to Charles Pickering Bowditch from various associates regarding business transactions, meetings, and other legal records.

Box 2Folders 1-5
General correspondence, 1806-1910
Box 2Folder 6
C. P. Bowditch correspondence, 1876-1892

B. Legal and financial papers, 1762-1940

Arranged chronologically by type

This subseries contains financial papers related to the Bowditch family’s affiliation with the shipping and insurance businesses, including insurance documents, subscription lists, bonds and stock certificates, and deeds, as well as various family members' association with Harvard University. Also included are copies of correspondence, legal papers, testimonials, insurance claims, and appeals regarding the American brig Traveller that was captured by the French privateer L’Adele in 1800.

The business correspondence of George Woods Rice and John W. Davis, who were commission merchants and associates of the Bowditch family, includes account information, shipping inventories, and receipts. The bulk of this correspondence is from 1861-1862 and includes checks from various business affiliates related to the shipping and receiving of goods. Material related to the Nantucket fire of 1846 include American Insurance Company papers regarding financial support to those who lost their property, as well as subscription lists and ward books.

Box 2Folders 7-13
General papers, 1762-1899
Box OSFolders 2-5
Oversize papers, 1762-1881
Box 2Folders 14-21
Brigadier Traveller records, 1800-1940
Box 2Folders 22-31
Rice and Davis business papers, 1816-1869
Box 3Folder 1
Nantucket fire records, ca. 1846
Box 3Folders 2-6
Nantucket ward books, ca. 1846

IV. Loring family papers, 1804-1888

This series contains personal and professional papers related to the Loring family, including the correspondence of Caleb William Loring, legal and financial records, deeds, and papers related to Loring family holiday celebrations.

A. Caleb William Loring papers, 1832-1864

Arranged chronologically by type.

This subseries contains the personal and business related correspondence of Caleb William Loring pertaining to his work as a Boston attorney. Papers related to the ship Channing, also known as the King Loong case, include correspondence, a deposition, insurance records from the China Mutual Insurance Company of Salem, and a document of protest.

Box 3Folder 7
Correspondence, 1832-1864
Box 3Folder 8
Ship Channing papers, 1857-1859

B. Family correspondence and papers, 1804-1888

Arranged chronologically by type.

This subseries consists of Loring family personal and professional papers, including a Boston property deed from Joshua Loring and John Foster Loring to Uriah Cotting, stock certificates belonging to Charles G. Loring for the Augusta Water Power Co., and papers pertaining to the work of Edward Loring as a Probate Court judge. In addition, this series contains a script of the Loring family’s version of Medea, with Augustus P. Loring as “Aetes.”

Box 3Folder 9
Box 3Folder 10
Script of Medea, 1882

V. Printed material and ephemera, 1809 - 1939

This series contains printed material and ephemera collected by the Bowditch-Loring family and provides evidence of their holiday celebrations, professional associations and achievements, and other ties to society.

A. Printed material, 1819-1939

Arranged chronologically.

Included in this subseries is a handwriting sample book of J. I. Bowditch (1817), a bound copy of the American Philosophical Society report of 1819, and a bound copy of Nathaniel Bowditch’s Mathematical Papers that was gift to Rosamond Bowditch. In addition, there is an 1844 map of Boston; marriage announcements of Dr. John Rudolf Katz to Fanny Bowditch; printed ephemera related to World War I; invitations to Rosamond Loring Bowditch’s fiftieth birthday; Bowditch-Loring family Christmas / holiday ephemera that include greeting cards, invitations, carols, and festivity programs; material from various organizational affiliations; and court records.

Box 3Folders 11-17
Box OSFolder 1
Map of Boston, 1844

B. Newspaper clippings, 1809-1937

Arranged chronologically

This subseries consists of newspaper articles, clippings of poems, an article about the moving of the Wentworth-Gardner house of Portsmouth, New Hampshire to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, articles regarding Nathaniel Bowditch’s Practical Navigator, and newspaper clippings pertaining to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address.

Box 3Folders 18-19

Preferred Citation

Bowditch-Loring 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.


Bowditch, Alfred, 1855-1918.
Bowditch, Charles P. (Charles Pickering), 1842-1921.
Bowditch, Henry I. (Henry Ingersoll), 1808-1892.
Bowditch, Jonathan Ingersoll, 1806-1889.
Bowditch, Lucy Nichols, 1816-1883.
Bowditch, Mary Orne, 1883-.
Bowditch, Mary Rice, 1854-1914.
Bowditch, Nathaniel, 1773-1838.
Davis, John W., 1826-1907.
Francis, Ebenezer.
Loring, Caleb William, 1819-1897.
Loring family.
Rice, George Woods, 1828-1880.
Bowditch family.


Boston Elevated Railway Company.
Channing (Ship).
Harvard University--Board of Overseers.
Traveller (Brig).
West End Railway Company.


Amateur theater--Massachusetts--Boston.
China trade.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
India trade.
Insurance companies.
Trusts and trustees.
Voyages and travels.
Massachusetts--Social life and customs.
Nantucket (Mass.)--Fire, 1846.