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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1118.95

Dickinson family papers


Correspondence, compositions, and other papers of the Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts, the family of the poet, Emily Dickinson. Also includes the correspondence of the Root family.


  • Creation: 1757-1934

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


7.5 linear feet (14 boxes)

The bulk of this collection consists of correspondence and compositions by members of the family of Emily Dickinson. The majority of the papers belong to her brother, Austin Dickinson, her brother's wife, Susan Huntington Dickinson, and her parents, Edward and Emily Norcross Dickinson.

I. Austin Dickinson papers, 1842-1896. This series includes correspondence between Austin Dickinson and his family members, especially his wife, Susan Huntington Dickinson. Other materials included in this series are those related to Austin Dickinson's education and profession as a lawyer, as well as clippings and other materials related to life events such as his marriage.

II. Edward Dickinson papers, 1819-1874. This series includes letters and a few transcriptions of letters between Edward Dickinson, business associates, family members and friends. It also includes compositions written by Edward Dickinson during his education at Amherst College and Yale College. Other materials include those related to his business as a lawyer in Amherst, Massachusetts, an autograph album related to his term in the United States Congress (33rd : 1853-1855) and other items related to his involvement in the community in Amherst.

III. Emily Norcross Dickinson papers, 1823-1842. This series primarily includes letters between Emily Norcross Dickinson and members of her family. It also includes documents and compositions related to Emily Norcross Dickinson's education, church attendance, and death.

IV. Lavinia Norcross Dickinson papers, 1839-1898. This series includes letters between Lavinia Norcross Dickinson and her friends and family, as well as compositions and a pocket diary.

V. Susan Huntington Dickinson papers, 1839-1913. This series primarily includes correspondence between Susan Huntington Dickinson and her family members. It includes one letter, (250), was written from Susan Huntington Dickinson to the poet, Emily Dickinson. Also includes are essays, notes, and other compositions concerning Susan's life and the history of Amherst.

VI. Other Dickinson family papers, 1757-1934. This series includes collection materials from other family members, third party letters, and other items. Family members included in this series are: Edward Austin Dickinson (1861-1898), nephew of the, poet (Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886), Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775-1838), grandfather of the poet, Thomas Gilbert Dickinson (1875-1883), nephew of the poet, and other distant relatives and friends.

VII. Root family papers, 1830-1884. Abiah Root was the daughter of Deacon Harvey Root of West Springfield, Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. She attended Amherst Academy from 1843 to 1844, during which time she met Emily Dickinson. Abiah then transferred to Miss Margaret Campbell's school in Springfield, Massachusetts. The bulk of this series consists of correspondence between Root family members.

See each individual series for additional information.

Biographical / Historical

The Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts was related to the American poet, Emily Dickinson.

Edward Dickinson was the father of Emily Dickinson. He attended Amherst College and then transferred to Yale College, graduating with honors in 1823. He was a long-time resident of Amherst, Massachusetts and practiced law there for forty-eight years. On 6 May 1828 he married Emily Norcross.

Emily Norcross Dickinson, mother of the poet, was born in Monson, Massachusetts. She attended a boarding school in New Haven, Connecticut from 1822-1823. After her marriage, she rarely traveled, except to visit family in Monson or Boston.

William Austin Dickinson (1829-1895), commonly called Austin, was Emily Dickinson's brother. He attended Amherst College and then prepared for his career as a lawyer. Admitted to the bar in 1854, he practiced law throughout his life in Amherst and succeeded his father as Treasurer of Amherst College in 1873.

Lavinia Norcross Dickinson (1833-1899), sister of the Emily Dickinson, attended Amherst Academy, and Wheaton Family Seminary in Ipswich. Though she visited friends and relatives more frequently than her mother or her sister, she too remained at home for the most part.

Susan Huntington Dickinson (1830-1913) was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts. She became close friends with Emily Dickinson when she moved to Amherst in 1850 to live with her newly married sister (Harriet Gilbert Cutler). Susan became engaged to Austin Dickinson in 1853 and they were married in 1856. The couple then moved into a home on the Dickinson homestead that Edward Dickinson built for them. Susan was an author in her own right, publishing poetry as well as essays about life in Amherst.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Austin Dickinson papers, 1842-1896
  2. ___A. Austin Dickinson correspondence
  3. ___B. Austin Dickinson letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson
  4. ___C. Other materials relating to Austin Dickinson
  5. II. Edward Dickinson papers, 1819-1874
  6. ___A. Edward Dickinson correspondence
  7. ___B. Edward Dickinson compositions
  8. ___C. Edward Dickinson other materials
  9. III. Emily Norcross Dickinson papers, 1823-1842
  10. ___A. Emily Norcross Dickinson correspondence
  11. ___B. Emily Norcross Dickinson other materials
  12. IV. Lavinia Norcross Dickinson papers, 1839-1898
  13. ___A. Lavinia Norcross Dickinson correspondence
  14. ___B. Lavinia Norcross Dickinson other materials
  15. V. Susan Huntington Dickinson papers, 1839-1913
  16. ___A.. Susan Huntington Dickinson correspondence
  17. ___B. Susan Huntington Dickinson compositions
  18. ___C. Susan Huntington Dickinson other materials
  19. VI. Other Dickinson family papers, 1757-1934
  20. VII. Root family papers, 1830-1884

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

No accession number. Purchased from Alfred Leete Hampson with funds given by Gilbert H. Montague, class of 1901, in happy memory of Amy Angel Collier Montague. Received: 1950 May.

Some material acquired from other sources. These are noted under individual items where applicable in this collection listing.


  • Habegger, Alfred. My wars are laid away in books : the life of Emily Dickinson, (New York : Random House, c2001)
  • Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886. The letters of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson; associate editor, Theodora Ward. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960.
  • Sewall, Richard Benson. The life of Emily Dickinson, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974)

General note

  1. Habegger, Alfred. My wars are laid away in books : the life of Emily Dickinson, (New York : Random House, c2001)
  2. Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886. The letters of Emily Dickinson. Edited by Thomas H. Johnson; associate editor, Theodora Ward. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960.
  3. Sewall, Richard Benson. The life of Emily Dickinson, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1974)

Processing Information

Processed by: Jennifer Lyons and Bonnie B. Salt, with the assistance of Megan O'Shea and Colin Smith. Updated in 2012 by Emilie L. Hardman.

Dickinson family. Dickinson family papers, 1757-1934: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description
Cataloging funded in part by the Ruth Miller Memorial Philanthropic Fund.

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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