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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 292

Papers of the Alexander family, 1809-1902 (inclusive), 1820-1898 (bulk)


Correspondence, scrapbooks, and photographs of the Alexander family from New England.


  • Creation: 1809-1902
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1820-1898

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Alexander family is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.21 linear feet ((1/2 file box) plus 8 oversize volumes)

The scrapbooks, apparently arranged by Lucia Gray Alexander, contain mainly letters to the Alexanders and Italian photographs. There is no consistent chronological order. A small portion of the letters relate to Francis Alexander's career as an artist in Boston. The bulk reflects the Alexanders' contacts with Italian society--particularly with the family of Luisa Murat--and with English and American visitors to Florence, and Lucia Gray Alexander's interest in autographs of famous people. Two volumes record reactions to Esther Frances Alexander's books, art, and charities. Many letters from prominent individuals are manuscript copies; some letters are fragments.

Most of the photographs are of Italian scenery, buildings and works of art; a few are of notable individuals. The scrapbooks also contain drawings by Esther Frances Alexander and others, watercolors and prints, invitations, death announcements, programs and clippings. There are also five folders of items found loose in the scrapbooks, and a copy of "Tuscan Songs."


In 1853 the Alexanders, a well-to-do New England couple and their daughter settled in Italy where this collection of scrapbooks was assembled. Francis Alexander (1800-ca. 1880) was born in Killingly, Connecticut, studied painting in New York City in 1820, and shortly thereafter became established in Boston as a successful portrait painter. During a visit to Italy in 1831-1832 he shared rooms with his friend, Thomas Cole, and in 1839 he was elected an honorary member of the National Academy of Design. Lucia Gray Swett (ca. 1814-1916), who became his wife in 1836, was the granddaughter of a prosperous Salem merchant and related to such families as the Lymans, Shaws, and Hallowells. Their only child, Esther Frances, called "Fanny" until 1882 when John Ruskin dubbed her "Francesca," was born in 1837. At an early age she showed talent in drawing, music, and poetry.

In Florence the Alexanders moved among the social, cultural and ecclesiastical elite of northern Italy, and entertained distinguished visitors from overseas. Esther Frances Alexander devoted herself to art and to charity among the Tuscan peasants: some of them considered her a saint. International celebrity came to her with the close friendship that developed in 1882 between the Alexander women and John Ruskin. The English art critic bought Esther Frances Alexander's illustrated manuscript, "Roadside Songs of Tuscany" (published 1883); edited "Christ's Folk in the Apennines" (1887-1889); and discussed her drawing in his Slade Lectures at Oxford. "Tuscan Songs" (1897) and "The Hidden Servants and Other Very Old Stories" (1900) also sold well. In 1905 at the age of ninety, Lucia Gray Alexander published "Il Libro de Oro," a collection of saints' legends. She died in 1916 in Florence. Francesca, who had been dominated and protected by her mother all her life, died there in January 1917.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 71-64

The papers of the Alexander family were given to the Schlesinger Library in May 1971 by Judge Lawrence G. Brooks.

Selected index of correspondents

(name, volume: page)

  1. Allen, George, 6:21, 145, 149, 167 175; 7:21
  2. Allston, Washington, 1779-1843, 2:25
  3. Ames, Charles Gordon, 1828-1921, 3, 86,87; 7:27, 37
  4. Appleton, Thomas Gold, 1812-1884, 6:3, 35
  5. Blacklen, Lydia H. 2:79; 7:49
  6. Blacklen, Mary R. 6:51, 87
  7. Bowditch, Charles Pickering, 1842-1921, 6:23
  8. Bradford, George G., 6:13, 69
  9. Brimmer, Marian, 6:61
  10. Brooks, Maria (Gowen?) 1794-1845, 2:19
  11. Child, Lydia Maria (Francis), 1802-1880, 2:5, 7
  12. Cleveland, Lily, 7:3
  13. Cleveland, Sarah, 7:1
  14. Cole, Thomas, 1801-1848, 2:27
  15. Colt, Sam[uel], 1814-1862, 2:77
  16. Coolidge, J. [Joseph] Randolph, 2:134, 138
  17. Coolidge, Julia Gardner (Mrs. J. Randolph), 2:142
  18. Crawford, Margaret, 7:30,31
  19. Dalhousie, S. F., Dowager Countess of, 2:55,57; 6:11; 7:17
  20. Dana, Samuel (1795-1868?), 2:95
  21. Davis, John, Gov. Mass., 1787-1854, 2:13,15
  22. Ellery, Sarah, 6:93
  23. Forbes, Georgina, 6:27
  24. Gates, Adelia, 2:83,124,140
  25. Gray, Francis Calley, 1790-1856, 2:1
  26. Greenough, Frances B., 6:37
  27. Greenough, Horatio, 1805-1852, 2:21
  28. Herrick, S.E. [Samuel Edward], 1841-1904, 6:171,181; 7:19
  29. Hewitt, Mary, 3:12,13,95
  30. Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1809-1894, 6:111
  31. Hoppin, Thomas, 2:35; 3:72-75
  32. Lawrence, Arthur, 6:67
  33. Lawrence, Susan C., 6:17,55
  34. Lawrence, Mrs. W. R., 6:173
  35. Leighton, Sir Frederic, 6:5,16
  36. Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882, 2:87
  37. Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891, 6:7,133
  38. Lyman, Theodore, 1833-1897, 2:85
  39. Lyman, Mimi, 6:47
  40. March, Mr. C. D., 3:105; 6:53,105
  41. Mason, Ellen, 7:13
  42. Moulton, Louise Chandler, 1835-1908, 3:33
  43. Moffat, Rev. Robert, 1795-1883, 3:119,121
  44. Oakes, William, 2:29,31
  45. Perkins, Susie H., 6:49
  46. Perkins, T. H., 2:105
  47. Pode, Reginald Stuart, 2:149; 4:49
  48. Ruskin, John, 1819-1900, 6:9
  49. Shaw, Pauline Agassiz (Mrs. Quincy), 1841-1917, 6:77; 7:7
  50. Shaw, Quincy A. [Adams], 6:81
  51. Sherman, William Tecumseh, 1821-1891, 3:37
  52. Sigourney, Lydia Howard Huntley, 1791-1865, 2:39
  53. Sittsbee, E.N., 2:45,51
  54. Sprague, W.B. [William Buell], 1795-1876, 2:37
  55. Stowe, Harriet Elizabeth Beecher, 1811-1896, 3:11
  56. Sturges, Sophy, 2:66-69
  57. Talbot, Fanny, 2:130-132,136; 6:131,165
  58. Taylor, Mrs. Ogle, 2:9
  59. Trevelyan, Alfred W., 2:63,128
  60. Wales, G. W., 6:41
  61. Whittier, John Greenleaf. 1807-1892, 6:97,179; 7:25
  62. Young, Isabella C. B., 6:103

Processing Information

Processed: November 1979

By: Caroline D. Bain

Alexander family. Papers of the Alexander family, 1809-1902 (inclusive), 1820-1898 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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