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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1953

Wendell Phillips papers


Correspondence, compositions, and other papers of American abolitionist Wendell Phillips.


  • Creation: 1555-1882
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1833-1881

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


17.3 linear feet (53 boxes)

The bulk of the collection is letters, 1855-1875, to Phillips concerning his work in reform movements. The letters are from many prominent Americans, as well as from less well known abolitionists, self-liberated formerly enslaved people, and others petitioning him for aid. Also much correspondence between Phillips and his wife, Ann Terry Greene Phillips, and many personal letters to her from friends and relatives that provide intimate details of 19th century domestic life. Includes approximately 250 letters to the Phillipses from Phoebe Garnaut Smalley, an adopted "niece", and over 150 letters from George Washburn Smalley, foreign correspondent for the New York Tribune, many of which concern political and social life in London and Paris in the 1860s and 1870s. Compositions contain speeches by Phillips and drafts, notes, and clippings for his lectures. The collection contains correspondence, legal notebooks, and business records of John Phillips, father of Wendell and first mayor of Boston. These papers include letters and records pertaining to the Federalist Party in Massachusetts. Early papers also include genealogies of the Phillips, Walley, Wendell, and Greene families, 17th century sermon fragments, and 16th century indentures. Collection also contains miscellaneous manuscripts relating to abolition and the women's movement, photographs, accounts, broadsides, and other printed material.

Biographical / Historical

Phillips, an American orator, reformer, and lawyer, best known for his work in the abolitionist movement, advocated many causes including prohibition, prison reform, women's suffrage, labor organization, and the rights of native Americans.


Arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Early papers: A. Correspondence of John Phillips and other early correspondence
  2. I. Early papers: B. Compositions
  3. I. Early papers: C. Legal and business papers of John Phillips
  4. I. Early papers: D. Genealogical material
  5. II. Letters to Wendell Phillips
  6. III. Letters by Wendell Phillips
  7. IV. Letters to Ann Terry (Greene) Phillips
  8. V. Other letters
  9. VI. Compositions
  10. VII. Miscellaneous: A. Accounts and other business papers
  11. VII. Miscellaneous: B. Printed matter and ephemera

Please note that item numbers 101, 781, and 1520 were inadvertently omitted from this finding aid.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

78M-8. Gift of Crawford Blagden; received: 1978.

The Crawford Blagden Collection of the Papers of Wendell Phillips was presented to this Library in October 1977. Early that year Mr. Blagden, a descendant of the abolitionist, discovered the papers in the basement of his house and contacted Irving Bartlett, Phillips's biographer, who then brought the papers to Harvard where he was to do research on them.

Phillips, Wendell, 1811-1884. Wendell Phillips papers, 1555-1882: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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