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COLLECTION Identifier: B MS c56

John Winthrop papers

Overview

The John Winthrop papers, 1651-1879 (inclusive), 1651-1663 (bulk), undated, consist primarily of correspondence from residents of New England seeking medical advice from John Winthrop (1606-1676), accompanied by handwritten transcriptions created at an unknown date. There is also a letter from a Winthrop ancestor regarding donation of the papers to the Boston Medical Library.

Dates

  • 1651-1879 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1651-1663 , undated.

Creator

Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Public Domain.

Extent

0.27 cubic feet (1 flat storage box)

The Papers of John Winthrop, 1651-1879 (inclusive), 1651-1663 (bulk), consist primarily of correspondence from residents of New England seeking medical advice from John Winthrop (1606-1676), accompanied by handwritten transcriptions created at a unknown date. There is also a letter from a Winthrop ancestor regarding donation of the papers to the Boston Medical Library.

Correspondents, including: Harvard College lecturer John Sherma; Saybrook, Connecticut, minister James Fitch; Springfield, Massachusetts, businessman John Pynchon; and Hartford, Connecticut, founder and minister Samuel Stone, sought advice, medicines, and in-person consultations from Winthrop. There are also several letters that are not addressed directly to Winthrop but concern obtaining his assistance in medical matters, including correspondence from Daniel Clark, later secretary of Connecticut Colony, who sought Winthrop's advice about his children's gum disease through a mutual friend.

Papers are entirely in English.

Biographical Notes

John Winthrop (1606-1676) was governor of Connecticut Colony from 1657 to 1676. He studied law and alchemy in England and was a founding fellow of the Royal Society of London. Winthrop's knowledge of medicine led New England residents to seek his advice and treatment for illness.

John Winthrop was born in Groton, England, on 12 February 1606. The elder John Winthrop (1588-1649) relocated to New England in 1630 and established Massachusetts Bay Colony, of which he was governor for twelve years. His son emigrated from England in 1631. Winthrop served as a colonial “assistant,” or member of the executive council, in Massachusetts for a number of years, and he helped establish the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts. Winthrop was elected magistrate of the Connecticut settlement in 1649, and served as governor for every year but one from 1657 until his death. He also was responsible for obtaining from England a charter establishing Connecticut as a colony in 1662.

In 1650, Winthrop founded New London (formerly Pequot), Connecticut, where he operated a gristmill. Winthrop’s study of alchemy and medicine continued throughout his life, and his New London estate would serve partially as his medical clinic. Winthrop’s services as a physician and the medicines he compounded were sought by residents throughout New England, some of whom would travel to Connecticut for in-person consultations.

Winthrop married his cousin, Martha Fones (circa 1613-1634), in 1630. After her death, he married Elizabeth Reade (1614-1672) in 1635, and they had nine children, seven of whom survived him: Elizabeth Winthrop Newman Endecott; Fitz-John; Lucy Winthrop Palmes; Wait-still; Martha Winthrop Wharton; Margaret Winthrop Corwin; and Anne Winthrop Richards. Winthrop contracted a cold while traveling to Boston, Massachusetts, to attend a meeting of the commissioners of the united colonies, and he died on 5 April 1676.

Series in the Collection

  1. I. Correspondence, 1651-1663, undated
  2. II. Material related to the John Winthrop papers, 1879, undated

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The John Winthrop papers were gifted to the Boston Medical Library in 1879 by Robert Charles Winthrop.

Resources about John Winthrop

  • Waters, Thomas Franklin, and Winthrop, Robert C. A Sketch of the Life of John Winthrop, the Younger, Founder of Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1633. Publication of the Ipswich Historical Society: VII. Cambridge: Printed for the Society [by J. Wilson and Son], 1899.
  • Woodward, Walter. Prospero's America. The University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Processing Information

Processed by Brooke McManus, 2016 January.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access in 2016. The collection was described in a card catalog at an earlier date; the folder titles, as previously devised by staff, were retained.

Title
Winthrop, John, 1606-1676. Papers, 1651-1879 (inclusive), 1651-1663 (bulk), undated: Finding Aid.
Author
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description
und
Sponsor
Preservation and description was supported by the Arcadia-funded Colonial North American Project at Harvard University.
EAD ID
med00230

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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