Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of papers of Henry Pierce of Dorchester, Mass., as well as members of the Pierce family and the related Farnsworth family.

Biographical Sketches

The Pierce family of Dorchester, Mass. included Benjamin Pierce (1743-1812), his sons Asa Pierce (1776-1841) and Joshua Pierce (1779-1851), and Joshua's son Henry Pierce (1822-1896). Mary Elizabeth Pierce, the daughter of Henry Pierce and Susan Jackson (Farnsworth) Pierce, was a teacher of special elementary education in Boston. George Farnsworth of Bedford, Mass. and Victoria, Australia, was Susan (Farnsworth) Pierce's brother. He emigrated to Australia in 1853 and remained there for 35 years, working as a gold prospector and mining engineer.

Collection Description

The papers of the Pierce family of Dorchester, Mass. include notes, bills, receipts, and poetry of Benjamin, Asa, and Joshua Pierce, 1771-1849; notes, receipts, and diaries of Henry Pierce, 1843-1895; and letters of George Farnsworth to his sister Susan (Farnsworth) Pierce, 1853-1887, describing his life in Australia. Subjects of Farnsworth's letters include his voyage to Australia and conditions on board ship, 3 May 1853; Rio de Janeiro, slavery, prison conditions, and the legal system in the city, 24 July 1853; the difficulties of mining for gold, the high cost of living, the morality of the miners, and the countryside, 25 Nov. 1853; his efforts to built a reservoir at Long Creek, Australia, 24 Apr. 1867; and the American Civil War, 20 Feb. 1865.

The papers of teacher Mary Elizabeth Pierce consist of receipts, notes, a diary of a trip to Europe in 1895, class outlines for special education classes in mechanical drawing and clay modeling, and correspondence. Included is a letter from Emily A. Fifield discussing methods for teaching mechanical drawing, 29 Apr. 1892; Lina E. Troendle responding to Pierce's ideas on educational theory, 5 Oct. 1895; and Cora E. Wood describing the difficulties of learning for children with mental disabilities, June 1903; as well as a copy of a letter by Pierce about teaching children with physical disabilities, 5 Apr. 1895. The collection also contains three letters from Katherine Lee Bates, 8 Apr. 1903, 12 Oct. 1903, and 31 July 1904, and one from Josephine Preston Peabody, 25 Dec. 1903.

Acquisition Information

Gift Mrs. John C. Knowles, Providence, R.I., Feb. 1972.

Box List to the Collection

Box 1
Loose papers, 1771-1921
Box 1A
Miscellaneous papers from box 6, n.d.
Box 2
Henry Pierce diaries, 1845-1875
Box 3
Henry Pierce diaries, 1876-1880
Box 4
Henry Pierce diaries, 1881-1886
Box 5
Henry Pierce diaries, 1888-1895
Box 6
Love letters removed from diaries, n.d.

Preferred Citation

Henry Pierce 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.


Bates, Katharine Lee, 1859-1929.
Farnsworth, George.
Peabody, Josephine Preston, 1874-1922.
Pierce, Asa, 1776-1841.
Pierce family.
Pierce, Joshua, 1779-1851.
Pierce, Mary Elizabeth.
Pierce, Susan Farnsworth.


Australia--Description and travel.
Australia--Social conditions.
Children with disabilities--Education--Massachusetts.
Dorchester (Boston, Mass.)--History.
Education, Elementary--Massachusetts--Boston.
England--Description and travel.
Europe--Description and travel.
Germany--Description and travel.
Gold mines and mining--Australia.
Law--Brazil--Rio de Janeiro.
Mechanical drawing--Study and teaching.
Modeling--Therapeutic use.
Ocean travel--Diaries.
Prisons--Brazil--Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)--Description and travel.
Slavery--Brazil--Rio de Janeiro.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.
Women teachers--Massachusetts.
Women travelers--Diaries.
Women's diaries.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to Henry Pierce family photographs (Photo. Coll. 500.251).