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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 507

Papers of Ada E. and John C. Worthington, 1897-1988


Papers of Ada E. Worthington, founder of Cape Cod Fishnet Industries, and her husband, John C. Worthington, oil driller, pilot, and general manager of Pond Village Cold Storage Company.


  • Creation: 1897-1988


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Unrestricted, except for folders #F+D.1 and 8.14 which are closed until January 1, 2049.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers of Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington 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.


4.38 linear feet ((10 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 4 photograph folders, 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder)

The collection includes correspondence, birth certificates, payroll ledgers, financial statements, military records, and other materials, documenting the personal and professional lives of Ada E. Worthington and her husband, John C. Worthington. Their daughter, Diana Worthington, sorted and refoldered the collection. As a result, it is unclear whether the folder titles and arrangement are original to the collection. The archivist used this arrangement, alphabetizing and chronologizing folders within it. Information added to the folder titles by the archivist appears in square brackets.

Series I, Biographical and Personal, 1899-1978 (#1.1-2.20), contains birth certificates, passports, tax returns, financial information, military records, and other materials. It is divided into two subseries.

Subseries A, Ada E. Worthington, 1899-1978 (#1.1-1.6), contains her birth certificate and passport, as well as Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington's marriage certificate, joint tax returns and financial information relating to joint loans. Folders are arranged in rough chronological order.

Subseries B, John C. Worthington, 1899-1978 (#1.7-2.20), contains his birth certificate, passports, correspondence, and other materials. Materials relating to his high school education include letters, dance cards, class publications, a football playbook, and diplomas. Materials relating to flying experience include pilot's licenses and membership cards. Papers relating to his enlistment in the Marine Corps (1917-1919) include appointment and discharge papers. Records relating to his service in the Ferrying Division of the Army Air Transport Command during World War II (1942-1945) include his personnel file, copies of his flight orders, and flight logs. Folders are arranged in rough chronological order.

Series II, Correspondence, 1897-1988 (#3.1-6.20), contains letters among various members of the Worthington family as well as exchanges among Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington and their friends, acquaintances, and their nonprofessional contacts. It is divided into two subseries.

Subseries A, Family correspondence, 1897-1983 (#3.1-5.13), includes letters to and from various members of the Warden and Worthington families. The correspondence falls into three main categories. Correspondence between Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington and their respective parents provides information about their early adult lives. Ada E. Worthington writes of life in New York City, while John C. Worthington describes Marine Corps training at Parris Island and work in the oil fields of Mexico and the southwestern part of the United States. Exchanges between Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington include courtship letters, letters discussing their marital problems, and letters exchanged during John C. Worthington's enlistment in the United States Army Air Transport Command during World War II. Letters from Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington's sons describe life at Kent School, a boarding school in Connecticut, and those from their daughter describe matters relating to the management of the Cape Cod Fishnet Industries store in Sausalito, California, as well as day-to-day life as a wife and mother of two children. Additionally, there are small amounts of correspondence among Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington and their siblings, aunts and uncles, and other relations.

Also included is a small collection of papers created by Marie Christine Halsey Warden, Ada E. Worthington's mother. Called "Christine" or "Chrissy," the materials document her memories of a childhood home; her interest in theology, especially the teachings of Dr. Charles Cuthbert Hall; and the final years of her life, during which she lived with Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington. Also included is her 1964 suicide note, in which she writes of a poor quality of life due to illness. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Other, 1917-1988 (#5.14-6.20), contains exchanges among Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington and their friends and acquaintances, as well as correspondence relating to various interests they both had outside of their professional work. Much of the correspondence in this series is between John C. Worthington and his friends from high school. The correspondence also reflects Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington's involvement in the Cape Cod community as advocates of land conservation, as well as land owners in the Pamet Valley. Folder titles indicate whether letters were addressed to Ada E. Worthington or John C. Worthington. When letters were to both of them, no recipient is indicated. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series III, Ada E. Worthington's Professional Work, 1935-1980 (#6.21-8.15, F+D.1, OD.1), contains catalogs, instructions on making various products, payroll records, correspondence, price lists, and other materials relating to Cape Cod Fishnet Industries, a firm founded by Ada E. Worthington, which manufactured clothing and accessories made of fishnet. Records in this collection pertain mostly to the manufacturing and distribution of products, which were done in Truro. For information about the boutique in Sausalito, California, see Diana Worthington's letters to Ada E. Worthington (#4.1-4.7). Folders are arranged in alphabetical order.

Series IV, John C. Worthington's Professional Work, 1923-1970 (#9.1-11.7, FD.1), contains financial statements, correspondence, incorporation records, stock certificates, and other materials relating to his work in a variety of fields. Most of the materials relate to his work with the Fishing Research Corporation, which produced items used in the fishing industry, his position as general manager of Pond Village Cold Storage Company, which distributed frozen fish, and his work as a pilot-salesman for the Merrimac Chemical Company. A small number of folders detail other short lived jobs held by John C. Worthington. Folders are arranged alphabetically.

Series V, Photographs, 1899-1950s, undated (#PD.1-PD.4), includes photographs of Ada E. Worthington and John C. Worthington; Cape Cod Fishnet Industries shops; Ada E. Worthington's birthplace; and John C. Worthington's uncle, William F. Cheney, and mother, Velnette Cheney.


Ada E. and John C. Worthington were married on August 19, 1926, and lived for a short time in Trinidad before settling in Truro, Massachusetts, in 1933. They had three children: John C., Jr., 1927, Christopher H. "Toppy," 1928, and Diana, 1939.

Ada Elizabeth (Warden) Worthington, daughter of William and Marie Christine (Halsey) Warden, was born September 2, 1899, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Educated in England, she served in the Women's British Auxiliary Ambulance Corps during World War I before coming to the United States in 1918. She worked at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, eventually becoming a registered nurse. In 1933, Ada E. Worthington founded Cape Cod Fishnet Industries, a firm that by 1938 employed more than 40 people. She owned and operated women’s boutiques in Hyannis and Truro, Massachusetts; New York City; Sausalito, California; and Miami, Florida. In New York her fashions were sold in 21 stores; she and her fishnet products, which included dresses, scarves, dolls, curtains, etc., were featured in several fashion magazines. She retired in 1980, and died on April 17, 1989.

John Cheney Worthington, son of Robert Briggs and Velnette (Cheney) Worthington, was born February 2, 1899, in Dedham, Massachusetts. He attended Kent School and enlisted in the Marines during World War I. While working in the oil fields of the American Southwest and Mexico, he learned to fly airplanes and competed in many air races. He assisted in the designing of several airports and worked as a sales representative for the Merrimac Chemical Co. In 1933, John C. Worthington started the Pond Village Cold Storage Co., a fish processing plant, which he ran until his retirement in 1963. He served in the Ferrying Division of the Army Air Transport Command during World War II. Beginning in the 1950s, John C. Worthington became active in Truro town affairs and served three terms as selectman. He was an advocate of preserving Cape Cod's beaches, testifying before several government bodies. He was also active on behalf of marine fisheries and served on the governor's fishery advisory board through the 1960s. John C. Worthington died on December 23, 1992.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal
  2. Series II. Correspondence
  3. Series III. Ada E. Worthington's Professional Work
  4. Series IV. John C. Worthington's Professional Work
  5. Series V. Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 92-M38

The papers of Ada E. and John C. Worthington were given to the Schlesinger Library by their daughter, Diana Worthington.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2004

By: Johanna Carll

Worthington, Ada Elizabeth, 1899-1989. Papers of Ada E. and John C. Worthington, 1897-1988: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from Mary and Michael Gellert.

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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