1733-1965; bulk: 1880-1949

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of philanthropist and Massachusetts state legislator Robert Treat Paine, primary correspondence related to his charitable interests; diaries of his wife Lydia Lyman Paine; and papers of their son, Episcopal minister George Lyman Paine.

Biographical Sketches

Robert Treat Paine (1835-1910), the great-grandson of Robert Treat Paine, the signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the third of nine children born to Charles Cushing Paine (1808-1874) and Fanny Cabot (Jackson) Paine (1812-1878). After graduating from Harvard with the Class of 1855, Paine traveled in Europe for two years, returning to Boston to enter the legal profession. He was admitted to the Suffolk bar in 1859. After 11 years, he retired from active legal work and devoted himself to philanthropic endeavors. From 1872 to 1876, he was the chair of the building committee for Trinity Church in Boston. He was the first president and one of the founders of the Associated Charities of Boston in 1878 and helped establish the Wells Workingmen's Institution in 1879 as a memorial to Rev. E. M. P. Wells. In 1884, Paine represented Waltham in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was named to the committee on state charitable institutions. He was also the Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts in 1899 and 1900. In 1890, he and his wife Lydia Lyman Paine established the Robert Treat Paine Association, a charitable trust intended "to promote the spiritual, moral, and physical welfare of the working class." Paine died on 11 Aug. 1910 at the age of 74.

Lydia Lyman Paine was born 29 Apr. 1837, the daughter of George Williams Lyman and Anne (Pratt) Lyman of Boston. In 1862, she married Robert Treat Paine (1835-1910), with whom she had seven children. Like her husband, she was active in Trinity Church and other philanthropic pursuits, including the Dumb Animal Society and St. Luke's Home for Convalescents. She died 9 Mar. 1897.

George Lyman Paine, the son of Robert Treat Paine and Lydia (Lyman) Paine, was born in Waltham, Mass. on 29 July 1874. He graduated from Harvard with the Class of 1896, receiving his Master's degree a year later. In 1897, he entered the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., from which he received a B.D. in 1900. He was eventually elected rector of St. Mary's Church in Dorchester, Mass. and was active in many charitable organizations. In 1899, he married Clara Adelaide May, with whom he had two children, George Lyman Paine (1901-1978) and Alfred White Paine (1903-1944). The family moved to New Haven, Conn. in 1911 when Paine became rector of St. Paul's Church there. Rev. Paine died at Sutton Island, Me. on 5 Sep. 1967 at the age of 93.


Paine, Sarah Cushing. Paine Ancestry: The Family of Robert Treat Paine, Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Boston: Printed for the family, 1912.

Representative Men of Massachusetts, 1890-1900: The Leaders in Official, Business, and Professional Life of the Commonwealth. Everett, Mass.: Massachusetts Publishing Co., 1898. pp. 217-220.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the papers of philanthropist and Massachusetts state legislator Robert Treat Paine; diaries of his wife Lydia Lyman Paine; and papers of their son, Episcopal minister George Lyman Paine.

The bulk of the papers of Robert Treat Paine concerns his charitable interests, 1882-1910, including the Associated Charities of Boston, 1884-1904, for which he served as chairman of the board of trustees. Included are letters from prominent Bostonians about means to assist the city's poor, such as A. Lawrence Lowell's plan to establish wood yards, 1887; Gov. Frederick T. Greenhalge's suggestions on relief work funds, 1894; Edward Everett Hale's inquiry into child insurance, 1895; and Edwin D. Mead's suggestions for slum clearance, 1896. Letters from Annie Fields (Mrs. James T. Fields), 1884-1904, outline her interest in case work and consolidated charitable efforts. The collection also contains correspondence regarding the Wells Memorial Workingmen's Institution, 1888-1894; labor and employment practices in a letter from Gov. Alexander H. Rice, 1887; working girls' clubs, 1887; workingmen's and provident loan associations, 1888-1898; and the development of savings institutions for workers.

Also included are papers related to Paine's candidacy for Congress in 1884 and nomination for governor of Massachusetts in 1899 and 1900, as well as his Democratic Club activities for these years. Paine was appointed to represent Massachusetts at the National Press Association Convention in 1888. His correspondence during this time discusses problems of juvenile offenders, child insurance, tenement reform, and related subjects. His interest in prison reform and work with the International Prison Commission is documented in correspondence of 1899. An address by Paine delivered in Chicago in 1893 and published as Pauperism in Great Cities brought him national recognition as an authority on modern philanthropy. Among his correspondents in the 1890s were Paul Revere Frothingham, Robert C. Winthrop, William P. Letchworth, Thomas M. Clark, Frederick H. Wines, Francis William Taussig, Alonzo Ames Miner, Granville Stanley Hall, E. R. L. Gould, William P. P. Bliss, John M. Glenn, Edwin D. Mead, and Hastings H. Hart.

Correspondence related to the American Peace Society, which Paine supported between 1894 and 1903, include letters from Samuel J. Barrows on international arbitration, 1899; Benjamin Franklin Trueblood on the organization's activities and the Peace Congress, 1894-1903; and Edward Everett Hale on the progress of the Peace Society, 1904. Letters to Paine as president of the International Peace Conference, 1904, discuss France and Germany.

The collection also contains correspondence documenting Paine's support of the Massachusetts diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church and Trinity Church in Boston. Included are letters from Bishop William Lawrence on church business, 1894-1906, and letters about a proposed portrait of Phillips Brooks, as well as letters from Endicott Peabody, 1903; George Foster with recommendations for filling a vacancy at Trinity Church, 1904; Edward Everett Hale on co-operative church activities, 1904; Robert C. Ogden, 1904; and Henry B. Restarick, 1906. Restarick's letters describe missionary efforts in Hawaii, problems related to the indigenous people, and rescue work after the shipwreck of the Manchuria.

Papers related to Paine's involvement with Harvard College consist primarily of letters about activities of the Class of 1855, 1886-1904, and scholarships, grants, and gifts, 1887-1904. Other organizations represented in the collection include the Harrington Institute, 1886-1898; Tuskegee Normal School, 1886-1894; Young Men's Christian Association, 1889-1904; Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; McLean Hospital; American Sunday School Union; and the National Education Association.

The collection also contains drafts of letters by Paine on the problems of indigent people, 1894; the objectives of Associated Charities, 1894; a study for slum clearance, 1896; real estate marketing reform, 1898; Cuban relief, 1899; and Paine's personal theological views, 1904. Letters concerning the work of Augustus Saint-Gaudens include references to his statues of lions at the Boston Public Library memorializing the 20th Massachusetts Regiment, 1888, and a bas-relief portrait of Henry Lee Higginson, 1906.

Two diaries of Lydia Lyman Paine, Robert Treat Paine's wife, kept primarily at Boston and Waltham, Mass., describe her daily activities, the activities of her husband and children, health matters, visits with friends and family, church attendance, charity work, local events, and the weather. The first volume, Feb. 1859-Sep. 1868, includes news of the Civil War, political developments, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The second volume, Jan. 1881-Feb. 1888, discusses the assassination of James A. Garfield, a trip to Europe in 1885, and the Paines' friendship with Phillips Brooks, the minister of Trinity Church, Boston.

The papers of Paine's son, Episcopal minister George Lyman Paine, consist of correspondence from Harry Emerson Fosdick, Anson Phelps Stokes, Leverett Saltonstall, Nathan M. Pusey, and others, as well as a diary, 16 Jan.-16 Sep. 1891, kept while the Paine family traveled on the Nile in Egypt between Aswan and Cairo, then in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, France, and England. This volume also contains manuscript maps and diagrams, an index, and a list of correspondence and books read by Paine in 1891.

Acquisition Information

Gift of George L. Paine, May 1967, and Mrs. George L. Paine, Nov. 1971.

Box List to the Collection

Box 1
Correspondence, 1733-1885
Box 2
Correspondence, 1886-Aug. 1889
Box 3
Correspondence, Sep. 1889-July 1895
Box 4
Correspondence, Aug. 1895-Sep. 1897
Box 5
Correspondence, Oct. 1897-Apr. 1901
Box 6
Correspondence, May 1901-Aug. 1904
Box 7
Correspondence, Sep. 1904-Apr. 1906
Box 8
Correspondence, May 1906-1940
Box 9
Correspondence, 1941-1965
Box 10
Addresses, 1879-Nov. 1895
Box 11
Addresses, Dec. 1895, undated
Box 12
Newspaper clippings, miscellaneous printed
Box 13
Material about Phillips Brooks
Box 14
Box 15
Diaries, memoranda books
Box 16
Scrapbook, small memoranda book
Box OS
Oversize papers

Preferred Citation

Robert Treat Paine papers II, 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.


Eliot, Charles William, 1834-1926.
Fields, Annie, 1834-1915.
Fosdick, Harry Emerson, 1878-1969.
Hale, Edward Everett, 1822-1909.
James, William, 1842-1910.
Lawrence, William, 1850-1941.
Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924.
Paine, George Lyman, 1874-1967.
Paine, Lydia Lyman, 1837-1897.
Pusey, Nathan M. (Nathan Marsh), 1907-2001.
Saltonstall, Leverett, 1892-1979.
Smith family.
Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1874-1958.
Trueblood, Benjamin Franklin, 1847-1916.
Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894.


American Peace Society.
Associated Charities of Boston.
Episcopal Church. Diocese of Massachusetts.
Harvard University.
National Prison Association Convention (1888).
Trinity Church (Boston, Mass.).
Wells Memorial Workingmen's Institution (Boston, Mass.).


Prison reformers--Massachusetts--Boston.
Social reformers--Massachusetts--Boston.