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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2533

Roland William Boyden papers


Correspondence and clippings of American lawyer and statesman, Roland William Boyden.


  • Creation: 1917-1947
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1917-1923

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English and French.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for use. Personal material previously restricted from publication without permission of the curator; restriction lifted, May 2019.


2 linear feet (10 volumes)

Papers cover the time period from 1917-1923 when Boyden was appointed to the positions first in Washington D.C. with the United States Food Administration, then at the American Relief Administration, and finally as unofficial United States representative to the meetings of the Reparation Commission in Paris and attendee at the World Financial Congress in Brussels in 1920. Letters to his family are especially expressive with personal comments, as well as packed with descriptive content and opinion concerning political, social, and economic issues concerning the United States and Europe for those years. Correspondence with others includes communiques and letters detailing official business of the United States State Department, as well as Boyden's personal opinions especially concerning difficulties with the League of Nations, the German economic crisis, and the negotiations of repayment of reparations from World War I. Beside correspondence, the volumes of bound material also include printed reports, clippings, and a few photographs.

Recipients of his letters include family members such as Albert Boyden (his brother), Amy Lydia Hoag Boyden (his mother), Kate Foster Whitney Boyden (his wife), and others, as well as political and professional correspondents such as Charles Jesse Bullock, Sir John Bradbury, Calvin Coolidge, Ellis Loring Dresel, Charles E. Hughes, Herbert Hoover, Thomas W. Lamont, and many others.

Each volume arrived paginated, containing a typescript subject index that highlighted the pages that contained important material. These loose pages were removed from the bound volumes and assembled into one index (see item (10)). Boyden's brother (and donor of papers) Albert Boyden, also added some autograph annotations to the volumes and to the index.

Biographical / Historical

Roland William Boyden (1863-1931), lawyer and statesman, was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, the second son of seven children of William Cowper Boyden and Amy Lydia Hoag Boyden. He received an A.B. degree from Harvard College in 1885, and an L.L.B. from Harvard Law School in 1888. He maintained numerous Harvard University connections over the years, including chairman of the Board of Directors of the Harvard-Yenching Institute and a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers from 1924-1930.

In November of 1917, Boyden was chosen to head the legal enforcement division of the United States Food Administration. After the armistice of World War I, Boyden took charge of the work of the American Relief Administration. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to represent the United States unofficially at the meetings of the Reparation Commission, and was later reappointed by President Warren Harding. Boyden entered especially controversial territory when in January of 1923, he suggested that the German default in reparation payments had essentially been guaranteed by the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. He proposed to the commission that the reparation agreement be redrawn and the U.S. Senate consequently demanded his recall. He was not officially recalled, but nevertheless resigned the position a few months later and returned to the practice of law in Boston with the law firm of Ropes, Gray, Boyden & Perkins.

Between 1927 and his death in 1931, he served on a number of international economic and political posts, including being a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. He was married in 1895 to Kate Foster Whitney Boyden and they had no children.


Arranged as originally bound into volumes.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

47M-84. Deposited by Albert Boyden, Esq, 50 Federal Street, Boston, Massachusetts; received: 1947 November 26.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Boyden, Roland William, 1863-1931. Roland William Boyden papers, 1917-1947 (MS : Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
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.

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