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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:766 1829-1864 H435

Elizabeth Heard papers


The Elizabeth Heard papers contain correspondence sent to her by her sons and brother-in-law Augustine Heard, while they were in China working for the family firm, Augustine Heard & Company.


  • 1829-1864


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


.5 linear feet (1 box)

The papers of Elizabeth Heard consist primarily of correspondence, 1829-1864, sent to her by her four sons, John, Augustine, Jr., Albert Farley, and George Washington, Jr. and brother-in-law, Augustine Heard, while they were living in China working for the family firm, Augustine Heard & Company. The bulk of the letters were written in the 1840s and 1850s. Some of the letters were written to both Elizabeth and her husband George Washington Heard, and one was addressed directly to George Washington Heard. The letters cast light on conditions in China during the OpiumWars, 1839-1842 and 1856-1860, social conditions in the country, the inner workings of an American trading firm operating abroad, and the familyrelationships that carried Heard & Co. to success. Many of the letters between Elizabeth and her sons discuss religion and spirituality and their love for their mother. Included are recipes, most likely kept by Elizabeth, thank you notes sent to her, and memoranda notes and prose referring to her children. Also included are a small number of letters written to Elizabeth Heard by noted American educator Zilpah Polly Grant, 1829-1833. Grant had worked with Mary Lyon at the Adams Female Academy in East Derry, N.H and she refers to her in their correspondence. In 1828, with Lyon and other teachers, Grant moved to Ipswich, Mass. to start the Ipswich Female Seminary, where she met Elizabeth Heard.

Biographical Note:

Elizabeth Ann Farley (1802-1865) was born in Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1802. She married George Washington Heard (1793-1863) in 1823 and had six children: John; Augustine; Margaret; Albert Farley; and George Washington, who later legally changed his name to George Farley Heard. George Washington Heard's brother, Augustine Heard, was a successful merchant dealing in the China trade. Augustine did not have any children, and therefore Elizabeth and George Washington's four sons all took their turn working for the family business in China. George Washington was involved in business in Ipswich until 1837 when he moved to Boston to become a partner in James Haughton & Company, a dry goods dealer. While George worked in Boston, Elizabeth continued to live in Ipswich at the family homestead and became actively interested in the education of young women. She met Zilpah Polly Grant who founded the Ipswich Female Seminary and contributed money to similar endeavors. While in Ipswich she received letters from her sons discussing their love for her and their worldly view as businessmen running a family company.

Augustine Heard (1785-1868), Elizabeth's brother-in-law, sailed to Canton, China in 1830 and entered into the trading firm of Russell & Company at the age of 45. By 1838 he began his own China trading firm with his friend Joseph Coolidge under the name Augustine Heard & Company. Elizabeth's first son, John Heard (1824-1894), sailed in 1841 at the age of 17 to Canton with his uncle Augustine to work in his uncle's trading firm. Uncle Augustine retired in 1844 leaving John as head of the firm until his retirement sometime in 1852. Augustine Heard, Jr. (II) (1827-1905) graduated from Harvard in 1847, and sailed for China to join John in order to learn the family business. He was employed in Canton and Hong Kong and served as the head of company and later as a roving agent in Europe. Albert Farley Heard (1833-1890) graduated from Yale University in 1853 and began working in the family firm in China shortly thereafter. George Washington Heard, Jr. (1837-1875) sailed to China in 1859 as private secretary of the American delegation at the negotiation of the Treaty of Tientsin. After the Treaty negotiations were complete he entered his uncle's business as manager at Canton. He was the last of his brothers to serve the company. After the firm filed for bankruptcy he sailed for the United States aboard the S.S. Anadye, but died at sea in 1875.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Letters from Augustine Heard, 1832-1843
  2. Series II. Letters from John Heard, 1841-1859
  3. Series III. Letters from Augustine Heard II, 1847-1864
  4. Series IV. Letters from Albert Heard, 1850-1858
  5. Series V. Letters from George W. Heard, Jr., 1855-1856
  6. Series VI. Elizabeth Heard papers, 1829-1856
  7. Series VII. Elizabeth Heard recipes and memoranda notes

Physical Location



Purchase 2011.

Related Materials

For related Heard family material, see Heard Family business records.

Processing Information

Processed: May 2011

By: Benjamin Johnson

Heard, Elizabeth, 1802-1865. Elizabeth Heard Papers, 1829-1864: A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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