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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 352: M-144

Papers of the Chamberlain-Adams family, 1827-1931


Correspondence and family papers of the Chamberlain and Adams families of Maine, including soldier, educator, and politician Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his wife Frances Adams Chamberlain.


  • Creation: 1827-1931

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-144.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. The President and Fellows of Harvard College holds the copyright for the Schlesinger Library in papers written by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Frances Adams Chamberlain, and their descendants; 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.


.63 linear feet ((1+1/2 file boxes) plus 3 folio+ folders)

Except for two Frances Adams Chamberlain school compositions, the collection consists entirely of correspondence.

Series I, Correspondence between Frances Adams Chamberlain and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (#1-5), begins in 1852, not long after they met, and continues until 1905, the year Frances Adams Chamberlain died. Frances Adams Chamberlain wrote infrequently and there are many more Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain letters to her. The early ones are courtship letters that provide information about their feelings, their disagreements, their opinions on what marriage involves, the obstacles to their early marriage, her time in Georgia, his future plans and reluctance to become a preacher, and his lack of self-confidence. Later letters are about the children, household furnishings, their families, her clothes, health and travels, his travels, and his loneliness when she is gone. The arrangement is chronological, with undated letters at the end. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain often did not sign his letters to Frances Adams Chamberlain, but unsigned letters that seem complete have not been designated as fragments.

Series II, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (#6-24), contains mostly letters to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain from family and friends. The correspondence provides information about relatives, friends, money problems, illnesses, births and deaths, social events, education, Bowdoin, travel, joining the army, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's wounds, business, visits, preachers, and religion. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain seems to have had many women admirers; of particular interest are the letters to him from his cousin Annie (Chamberlain) Keene (#9) and those from Mary P. Clark (#14) and Jennie M. Abbott (#15).

Letters to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain are divided into three sections: from Chamberlain family, from Adams family, and from others; each section is arranged chronologically. These are followed by one folder of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's letters to family and friends, three folders of other Chamberlain family correspondence, and one folder of related correspondence.

Series III, Adams family (#25-35), consists of three sections in the following order: Frances Adams Chamberlain, which is sub-divided into correspondence with her natural and "adoptive" parents and her sister Charlotte, letters to her, and two school compositions; other family correspondence; and Charlotte Adams correspondence. The correspondence documents Frances Adams Chamberlain's childhood and the Adams family, especially Frances Adams Chamberlain's brother, George Wyllys Adams. Each folder is arranged chronologically.

Series IV, Grace Chamberlain Allen (#36-43) begins with Grace Chamberlain Allen's correspondence with her parents (mostly from Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain), which concerns family visits, Frances Adams Chamberlain's health and clothes, the grandchildren, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's health, yacht, schedule, and book on Gettysburg, and her brother Wyllys. There are also Grace Chamberlain Allen's correspondence with her husband, Horace G. Allen, consisting mostly of courtship letters; letters to Grace Chamberlain Allen from others; Merrill S. Allen (Horace G. Allen's father) to his first wife; and Adams and Wyllys family trees drawn up by Grace Chamberlain Allen's daughter, Eleanor Allen.

Dates were previously added to a number of items, some in square brackets, others not, by an earlier processor and/or persons unknown. In most cases the current processor accepted these dates and placed items accordingly.

With the donor's approval, the Schlesinger Library in 1979 transferred to the Bowdoin College Library 18 folders of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain papers concerning his terms as governor of Maine and president of Bowdoin, and papers dealing with his business ventures.


Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, soldier, educator, and politician, was born on September 8, 1828, in Brewer, Maine, the first child of Sarah Dupee (Brastow) Chamberlain and Joshua Chamberlain, Jr. His brothers Horace, John and Thomas were born in 1834, 1838, and 1841, and his sister Sarah in 1836. Ancestors on both the Chamberlain and the Brastow sides of the family had emigrated to America in the 17th century. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was educated at the local school, briefly attended a military academy, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1852, and from Bangor Theological Seminary in 1855. That same year Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain married Frances (Fannie) Caroline Adams, a distant relative of the presidential Adamses.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain taught natural theology, logic, rhetoric, and modern languages at Bowdoin from 1856 to 1862. During the Civil War he served in the army (1862 to 1866), rising to the rank of major general and winning the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg. From 1866 to 1870 Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was governor of Maine. He served as president of Bowdoin from 1871 to 1883. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's actions as commander of the Maine militia in 1880 kept peace in the state while a hotly disputed election was decided by the Maine Supreme Court. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain wrote several military histories; lectured widely, mostly on the Civil War; and served as a United States commissioner at the 1878 Paris Exposition. He was the president of the Artist-Artisan Institute of New York, developed Florida railroads and industry, and, from 1900 to his death on February 24, 1914, served as surveyor of the port of Portland, Maine.

Frances Caroline Adams was born on August 12, 1825, the daughter of Ashur Adams and Emilia (Wyllys) Adams of Boston. She was raised primarily by her "adoptive" parents, George E. Adams and Sarah (Folsom) Adams of Brunswick, Maine. George E. Adams, who was also Frances Adams Chamberlain's cousin, was pastor of the local Congregational church and often ministered to the students of nearby Bowdoin, where he was a member of the Board of Overseers. Frances Adams Chamberlain grew up in this strictly religious home, and received a good education. She did make occasional visits to her family in Boston. She often accompanied the church choir, which was sometimes led by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, on the organ.

It was during Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's junior and senior years that the romance flourished, but even after he graduated marriage was out of the question--there was no money and the seminary years lay ahead. Early in 1852, Frances Adams Chamberlain went to New York to study music; at the end of the year she took a position as a music teacher at a school for girls in Milledgeville, Georgia. They were engaged before she left but did not see each other for the next two and a half years. The wedding finally took place in December 1855, and, after a trip to visit the Chamberlain family in Brewer, Frances Adams Chamberlain and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain settled in Brunswick, as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was teaching at Bowdoin. In October 1856 their first child, Grace ("Daisy") Dupee, was born, and in the fall of 1858 their second child, Harold Wyllys.

Frances Adams Chamberlain often traveled to Boston and New York, leaving the children in the care of others. During the Civil War Frances Adams Chamberlain visited Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in Washington, D.C., toured the Gettysburg battlefield, and when he was badly wounded at Petersburg went to Annapolis to help take care of him. When Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain became governor of Maine, Frances Adams Chamberlain continued to live in Brunswick, going to Augusta for special events. The separations due to war and politics put a strain on the marriage and in 1868 Frances Adams Chamberlain considered filing for divorce.

Grace Dupee ("Daisy") married Horace Gwynne Allen in 1881 and they had three daughters. Grace Chamberlain Allen remained close to both parents, especially Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and the elder Chamberlains spent time with their grandchildren in Boston and Maine. Harold Wyllys, called Wyllys, graduated from Bowdoin in 1881 and studied law at Boston University. He participated in his father's business ventures and later in life made his living as an inventor.

In the years between 1883, when Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain retired as president of Bowdoin, and 1900, when he was appointed surveyor of the port of Portland, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Frances Adams Chamberlain traveled frequently. He was involved in business ventures in Florida and New York; she joined him in both places before bad health intervened. All her life Frances Adams Chamberlain suffered from eye trouble and was often in pain. In her late sixties she became blind in one eye and not long afterwards lost her sight completely. She died in Brunswick on October 18, 1905.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. I. Correspondence between Frances Adams Chamberlain and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
  2. II. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
  3. III. Adams family
  4. IV. Grace Chamberlain Allen

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 79-M71

These Chamberlain-Adams family papers were given to the Schlesinger Library in April 1979 by Eleanor Wyllys Allen, granddaughter of Frances (Adams) Chamberlain and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.


  1. The letters in this collection presented a challenge to the processor and the microfilmer. Many are difficult to read due to faded ink, extensive staining, poor handwriting, lack of punctuation and capitalization, cross-writing and show-through text. Some letters are partly legible and partly faded. Transcripts, where needed, were prepared as carefully and accurately as possible and placed in front of the originals. These transcripts are scattered throughout the collection. Spelling was not corrected and everything added by the transcriber is in square brackets.
  2. Many multipaged letters conclude at the top and/or sides of page one. Letters with cross-writing may conclude on any page. Because the signature page was not refilmed, researchers must return to the pertinent page.
  3. Dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
  4. Unnumbered letter pages were numbered to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researchers.
  5. Copies of this microfilm (M-144) may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.


For a list of the contents of MC 352, Chamberlain-Adams family, see the inventory that follows. When requesting microfilmed material, please use the microfilm number (M-144) and the reel number.

  1. MC 352, folders 1-24: M-144, reel 1
  2. MC 352, folders 25-43: M-144, reel 2


Showing relationship to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

  1. AA = Ashur Adams father-in-law
  2. EWA = Emilia Wyllys Adams mother-in-law
  3. GCA = Grace (Chamberlain) Allen daughter
  4. GEA = George Eliashib Adams "father-in-law"
  5. HGA = Horace Gwynn Allen son-in-law
  6. FAC = Fannie (Adams) Chamberlain wife
  7. HWC = Harold Wyllys Chamberlain son
  8. HBC = Horace Beriah Chamberlain brother
  9. JC = Joshua Chamberlain, Jr. father
  10. JCC = John Calhoun Chamberlain brother
  11. JLC = Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
  12. SBC = Sarah (Brastow) Chamberlain mother
  13. TDC = Thomas Davee Chamberlain brother
  14. DGF = Deborah G. Folsom "cousin"
  15. SCF = Sarah (Chamberlain) Farrington sister

Processing Information

Reprocessed: August 1996

By: Bert Hartry

Chamberlain family. Papers of the Chamberlain-Adams family, 1827-1931: 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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