Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c4

James Jackson Putnam papers


The James Jackson Putnam papers consist of records either created or collected by Putnam during his life or collected by his widow, Marian Cabot Putnam, after his death. The bulk of the collection is correspondence, most of it either from or to James Jackson Putnam. Correspondents include members of the Putnam, Morse, Shattuck, Cabot, and Jackson families as well as Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones, Carl Jung, Boris Sidis, and Morton Prince, among other medical colleagues in the United States and western Europe. Topics include family affairs such as vacations, foreign travel, and educational plans as well as professional discussions of the developing fields of psychiatry and psychology.


  • Creation: 1818-1961 (inclusive)
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1850-1920


Language of Materials

Papers are in English with some materials in French and German.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


4.5 cubic feet (4 records center cartons, 1 flat box, 1 letter size document box, 1 oversize flat box)

The James Jackson Putnam papers consist largely of correspondence created by James Jackson Putnam during his life or collected by his widow, Marian Cabot Putnam, after his death. Also included here is a small amount of manuscript and research material as well as some printed certificates.

Letters from James Jackson Putnam (Series I) consist of correspondence sent by James Jackson Putnam to a variety of correspondents, primarily members of the Putnam family, including his wife, mother, siblings, and children.

Letters to James Jackson Putnam (Series II) consist of correspondence sent to James Jackson Putnam, with occasional enclosures. This and Series III make up the bulk of the collection. Correspondents here include the Putnam, Cabot, and Jackson families, again including Putnam’s wife, mother, siblings, and children as well as a wide network of aunts, cousins, and family friends, including Anna Lowell (1811-1874), Annie Shepherd Emerson (1847-1928), Frances (“Fanny”) Rollins Morse (1850-1928), and William and Henry James (1842-1910 and 1843-1916, respectively). Other correspondents include Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Ernest Jones (1879-1958), Morton Prince (1854-1929), and Susan Elizabeth Blow (1843-1916), one of Putnam’s first psychoanalysis patients.

Collected Correspondence (Series III) consists largely of condolence letters sent to Putnam’s widow, Marian Cabot Putnam (1893-1971), after his death in 1918.

Writings and Notes (Series VI) consists of school essays as well as manuscripts for later published pieces, including articles and lectures. Also included here are collected family obituaries, some collected poetry, and photographs from Putnam Camp in Keene, New Hampshire.

Certificates (Series V) are from appointments and graduations, and this series also includes a bibliography of Putnam's work.

The bulk of the collection is in English, with some materials in German and French.

Biographical Note

James Jackson Putnam (1846-1918), B.A., 1866, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; M.D., 1870, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, was a neurologist and psychiatrist practicing in Boston, Massachusetts.

James Jackson Putnam was born October 3, 1846, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Charles Gideon Putnam (1805-1875) and Elizabeth Cabot (Jackson) Putnam (1808-1875). He attended Harvard University and graduated with his B.A. in 1866; going on to Harvard Medical School, he received his M.D. in 1870. He completed an internship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, before going to study neurology in Europe: Germany, France, Austria, and England. He returned to the United States in 1872 and opened one of the first neurological laboratories in the country in his Boston home.

In 1874, Putnam was appointed Lecturer in the Application of Electricity in Nervous Diseases at Harvard Medical School. In the same year, Putnam was appointed Neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital; during his time there, Putnam established one of the first neurological hospital clinics. Putnam taught at Harvard Medical School throughout his career, eventually being named Professor of Diseases of the Nervous System in 1893. He held this position until 1912 when he retired and was granted emeritus status.

Putnam was one of the founders of the American Neurological Association in 1874 and served as the organization’s president in 1888; he was also a founding member of the Boston Society of Psychiatry and Neurology. In addition to these organizations, Putnam was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association of American Physicians, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pathologists and Bacteriologists, the American Psychopathological Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, and several other Boston-area medical societies.

Putnam was a prolific author, publishing over 100 articles and books, including a family history, A Memoir of Dr. James Jackson... (1905), and many publications on neurological and psychiatric topics, including a textbook, Studies in neurological diagnosis (1902), and several popular works on psychoanalysis, including Human motives (1915).

Putnam married Marian Cabot (1893-1971) in 1888; the couple had five children: Elizabeth, James, Louisa, Marian, and Frances. James Jackson Putnam died November 4, 1918, of angina pectoris and was survived by his wife, Marian, and four of their five children.

Collection Arrangement

  1. I. Letters from James Jackson Putnam, 1850-1918
  2. II. Letters to James Jackson Putnam, 1856-1918
  3. III. Collected Correspondence, 1818-1961 (inclusive), 1900-1920 (bulk)
  4. IV. Writings and Notes, 1863-1922
  5. V. Certificates, 1883-1920

Immediate Source of Acquisition

  1. Accession number 2007-047. 2007 March 29.

Processing Information

Collection was rehoused and described by Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook in 2019 February; arrangement established during prior processing was maintained.

Staff at the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and reboxed material and created a finding aid to increase researcher access. Titles were added to the top edge of folders to increase accessibility. Two fragile volumes were wrapped and separately boxed for long-term preservation. Some small items were sleeved for accessibility.

Researchers should note that the correspondence in this collection was separated during prior processing; letters to a paricular individual from Putnam may appear in Series I, while letters from that individual to Putnam may appear in Series II.

Putnam, James Jackson, 1846-1918. Papers, 1818-1961 (inclusive), 1850-1920 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

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.

10 Shattuck Street
Boston MA 02115
(617) 432-2170