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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 757

Papers of the Blech-Meyer-Dowd family, 1728-1999 (inclusive), 1800-1952 (bulk)


Correspondence; diaries; notebooks; scrapbooks and photo albums; sheet music; poetry; daguerreotypes and tintypes; printed materials, etc., of the Blech, Meyer, Dow, Rhein, and Dowd families, including information about Moravian life in Pennsylvania, family life in Ohio throughout the nineteenth century, and an archaeological expedition to Nippur, the religious capital of Mesopotamia.


  • Creation: 1728-1999
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1800-1952

Language of Materials

Materials in English, German, French.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Blech-Meyer-Dowd 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.


8.13 linear feet ((19 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 2 folio folders, 7 folio+ folders, 60 photograph folders)

The Blech-Meyer-Dowd family papers capture the relationships among siblings, friends, parents and children, and husbands and wives. The bulk of the collection is correspondence regarding family members' daily lives, updates on illnesses and deaths, relationships, travels, and business and financial matters. Letters and diary entries throughout the collection also relate impressions of national and international events and politics, including the Civil War and World War I. Interspersed are correspondence with historical figures, including United States senator and leader of the Republican party in Ohio during the Civil War John Sherman, American artist Arthur Wesley Dow, and renowned American archaeological photographer John Henry Haynes. In addition to correspondence, materials in the collection include diaries; notebooks; scrapbooks and photo albums; sheet music; greeting cards; poetry; postcards; certificates, agreements, and deeds; daguerreotypes and tintypes; printed materials; clippings; wills; invitations; membership cards; and memorabilia. A significant portion of the collection is comprised of the papers of Joseph A. Meyer, Jr., and his sister Winifred Meyer Dow.

Certain family members acted as careful stewards of these papers prior to their arrival at the Schlesinger Library. According to the notes of Harvard University graduate student Diane Elizabeth Taylor, after Frank Meyer and Joseph A. Meyer, Jr. died, Winifred Meyer Dow became the family archivist. She saved letters, diaries, photographs, and other materials that would form the core of the family archives and stored them in her house in Reading, Massachusetts. When she died, her sister Caroline's only child, Virginia Rhein Dowd, saved the archives and added them to her aunt Sophia Cornelia Blech's family papers, which she acquired after her aunt died in 1927. Virginia Rhein Dowd gave these papers to her daughter, Barbara Dowd Wright, who would donate the collection to the Schlesinger Library.

The papers were individually marked by family members and Harvard University graduate student Diane Elizabeth Taylor with numbers and arranged in numerical order. This arrangement related to an indexing or cross reference system of sorts with a card containing a handwritten description per item. The numbers also refer to general family groupings, which helped in connecting items to a specific family when the relationship was initially unclear. The indexing system was never completed, and there are descriptive cards for approximately two linear feet of materials. These cards have been filed with their associated items. Files in the collection have been rearranged by the archivist into major family groupings mirroring the succession of generations through marriages: Caroline Louisa Blech married Joseph A. Meyer, Sr.; their daughters Winifred Meyer married Dana Dow and Caroline Meyer married Otto Rhein. Caroline and Otto's daughter Virginia Rhein married Frank Dowd. Some letters, which were individually filed, have been grouped into folders by the archivist. Most of the materials in the collection are numbered, which can help associate materials, including envelopes, with their corresponding letters and enclosures. Sophia Louisa Krause Blech, Caroline Louisa Blech Meyer, Caroline Meyer Rhein, and Winifred Meyer Dow are listed in the inventory under their married names.

Due to the age of the materials in this collection, everything is quite fragile and should be handled with particular care.

Series I, BLECH FAMILY, 1794-1999 (#1.1-2.26, 3.1-4.15, F+D.1), includes diaries, notes, postcards, clippings, religious tracts from the Moravian Church, and extensive family correspondence. Letters of Sophia Louisa Krause Blech and her daughters Charlotte, Sophia Cornelia, and Caroline Louisa include information on the lives of the Blech family, including daily activities, updates on health and children. Included, as well, are letters from cousin Rufus Ricksecker regarding his experiences in a regiment during the Civil War (#1.35); letters of appreciation from Sophia Louisa Krause Blech's pupils (#3.21); her poems and diaries (1825-1845); and the diary of her daughter Charlotte Ann Blech. In her diary (#2.3v), Charlotte Ann Blech recounts her sadness at hearing of the death of President Abraham Lincoln. This series also contains the poignant last letter of Sophia Louisa Krause Blech to her brother Matthew, just before her death, and the accounts of the deaths of her two young sons, John Samuel and Charles Jr., including a lock of hair from Charles Jr. Throughout the material, the family surname may be spelled either as "Blech" or "Bleck." The archivist regularized all the spellings to "Blech." Caroline Louisa Blech Meyer's papers are in Series II. The series is arranged alphabetically by family member, when known.

Series II, MEYER FAMILY, 1804-ca.1980 (#2.27-2.31, 4.16-9.8, 10.1-10.34, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.2-F+D.6, PD.1), includes extensive correspondence among family members, family certificates and military appointment and discharge papers during and after the Civil War, Joseph A. Meyer, Jr.'s sketch books from his architecture studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Of particular interest are family correspondence with Joseph A. Meyer, Jr., describing his travels in Europe, his observations of cities and sites, concert attendance, and music studies at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, Germany. Letters also include information regarding preparation for and participation in the archaeological expedition at Nippur. Related is a photocopy of Joseph A. Meyer, Jr.'s diary from his participation in the expedition, as well as family correspondence with Dr. John Sundberg about Joseph A. Meyer, Jr.'s illness and death. Of additional interest are a file of research materials, notes and other writings, extensive content descriptions of materials, and a partial genealogy from Harvard University graduate student Diane Elizabeth Taylor who studied Joseph A. Meyer, Jr., and his family for her work on the Nippur expedition in the 1970s. Winifred Meyer Dow's papers are in Series III and Caroline Meyer Rhein's papers are in Series IV. The series is arranged alphabetically by family member, when known.

Series III, DOW FAMILY, 1728-1954 (#9.9-9.21, 10.35-15.7, 16.1-16.15, F+D.7, PD.2, PD.44), contains materials on Winifred Meyer Dow and members of her husband Dana Dow's family. The series includes a Civil War song book (1862); the diary (1840) of Dana Dow's aunt, Lydia Annable, who wrote about attending anti-slavery meetings and where she shared her thoughts about Christianity; Winifred Meyer Dow's plays and diaries, including her diaries while a student at Wellesley College where she writes about her close relationship and crush with fellow student Emily Howard Foley. Winifred Dow's correspondents include her brother Joseph A. Meyer, Jr., who wrote to her while studying music in Leipzig, Germany, and traveling in Europe and Russia, as well as letters with family members regarding Joseph Meyer, Jr.'s death and the death of Frank Meyer in 1894. Also of note is a letter of recommendation for Winifred Dow as an instructor by Nancy Allison McKinley, the wife of President William McKinley (1897-1901) (#13.22). The series is arranged alphabetically by family member, when known.

Series IV, RHEIN/DOWD FAMILY, 1863-1977 (#15.8-15.9, 16.16-20.18, PD.3-PD.12), includes many letters from Virginia Rhein to Frank Dowd. The letters begin prior to their courtship, include their experiences as single people in New York and Chicago, Virginia's relationships with friends and boyfriends, and her life in Greenwich Village, New York City. The letters continue during World War I when Virginia was in the navy and Frank was in the army, and then through the early stages of their romance (1920), and married life (1923). The series also includes additional papers regarding Virginia Rhein Dowd's participation in the United States Navy during World War I, as well as her diaries from the same time period. This series is arranged alphabetically by family member, when known.

Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS, ca.1850-1952 (#PD.13z-PD.43; PD.45-PD.60), includes cyanotypes, tintypes, carte-de-visites, cabinet cards, and a daguerreotype of many family members, particularly the Meyer children and Virginia Rhein Dowd. Of note are photo albums created by Virginia Rhein Dowd, which include travel images from the early twentieth century and images of soldiers from World War I. This series is arranged alphabetically by family member.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database.


The multigenerational American family of the Blechs, Meyers, Dows, Rheins, and Dowds consists of individuals who were engaged in domestic life and parenting; business; sports; music and theater; writing; study and teaching; and adventure and travel. Their worlds encompassed multiple centuries, regions, and events, including Moravian life in Pennsylvania, family life in Ohio throughout the nineteenth century, and an archaeological expedition to Nippur, the religious capital of Mesopotamia. Major figures in the collection are noted below.

Sophia Louisa Krause was born in 1811. She worked as a teacher and, in 1832, married Charles A. Blech (1805-1850), a reverend in the Moravian Church. The family lived in New York City; Salem, North Carolina; and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as well as other places, depending on the preaching work of Charles. In 1842, while in Salem, North Carolina, Charles Blech was the assistant pastor of the Moravian Church and from 1844 to 1848 he was principal of the Salem Academy. Their children were Caroline Sophia (b.1833), Mary E.(b.1835), Charlotte Ann (b.1837), and Sophia Cornelia (b.1839). In addition, they had two sons, John Samuel (1843-1849) and Charles, Jr., (1841-1849). Sophia Louisa Krause Blech died in 1846.

Charlotte Ann "Lotte" Blech was born to Sophia Louisa Krause and Charles A. Blech, April 12, 1837, in Camden Valley, New York. She was educated at Bethlehem Seminary, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and in 1855 became a teacher at the Seminary. She died of tuberculosis in 1876. Her sister, Sophia Cornelia "Nipse" Blech, was born in 1839 and lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for much of her life. In 1920 she was working for the Curtis Publishing Company. She died in 1927.

Caroline Louisa Blech was born in Camden Valley, New York, in 1833. As a young woman she taught in the public schools of Canal Dover, Ohio; was an organist at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Canton, Ohio; and taught piano. In 1853 she married Joseph A. Meyer, Sr. (1831-1887) who was a proprietor of a jewelry shop in Canton, Ohio, and owned and operated the Lake Park Hotel at Meyer's Lake as a Canton resort. They had five children: Francis Charles, Joseph A., Jr., John, Winifred, and Caroline. Caroline Louisa Blech died in Canton, Ohio, in 1885.

Francis Charles "Frank" Meyer was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1854. He lived in Canton and was a jeweler like his father. He was also a cafe owner, a cyclist and boatman, and was the secretary-treasurer of the League of American Wheelmen in Canton around 1889. He was also involved in the business venture of Canton Wheel Company ("Bicycles, Tricycles, and Supplies"). He died from diabetes in 1894.

Joseph A. ("Josie" or "Joe") Meyer, Jr. was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1856. From 1880 to April 1882 he studied violin, piano, and harmony at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig, Germany, and traveled extensively throughout Europe. He was an avid theater goer and musician, and, like his brother Frank, participated in bicycle and boating clubs when in Canton, Ohio. In 1887 he matriculated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the Department of Architecture in 1891. In 1892, he traveled abroad and visited Denmark, Germany, Russia, Poland, Spain, and then went on to Luxor, Egypt (1893), and Bombay, India (1894). In 1894 he was offered an opportunity to join the Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania and participate in their archaeological expedition in the ancient city of Nippur in Mesopotamia. During his time there he became ill, possibly with typhus, and was nursed at the home of the United States consul in Baghdad, Dr. John C. Sundberg, only to die soon after his arrival at Dr. Sundberg's house, in December 1894.

John Meyer was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1865, and attended the Louisville College of Dentistry, graduating in 1890. He practiced as a dentist in Canton (1891-1895); acted as Dean at the Tacoma College of Dental Surgery in Tacoma, Washington (1896-1898); and had a private practice in Tacoma (1898-1905). From 1905 through 1908 he was a professor of oral surgery at the North Pacific College of Dental Surgery in Portland, Oregon, and then became the operating surgeon at the Hospital of Oral Surgery and Dental Hygiene in Seattle, Washington. He was married four times, to Clara Kemper, Nora Hartzell, Leila Gillette, and schoolteacher Nell Frances Henderson. John Meyer had two children with his first wife: Clara L., who became a dancer, and Ralph, who became a Vaudeville performer. John also had four children with Nora Hartzell: Harry, John, Joseph, and Morris. He died in Richmond Beach, Washington, in 1945.

Winifred "Winnie" Meyer was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1868. She attended Wellesley College, graduating in 1893, and did graduate work at Radcliffe College (1904-1906). An amateur playwright, she also taught in a school for the deaf in Canton, Ohio (ca.1895) and then in New York City until 1899. She taught French at Chauncy-Hall School, Boston, ca.1902. In 1912 she married Dana Fitz Dow (1867-1939), a landscape architect, born in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and they soon moved to Reading, Massachusetts. Winifred Meyer Dow lived in Reading until her death in 1953.

Caroline ("Carrie" or "Baye") Meyer was born in Canton, Ohio, in 1872. Caroline was called Baye because she was the baby of the family and reportedly her arrival was a surprise to her parents. She attended Lake Erie Seminary in Ohio in the late 1880s and Wellesley College, matriculating in 1891. She played the piano semi-professionally in New York City and married Otto Rhein, a pharmacist, in 1893. They lived in New York City intermittently and their daughter Virginia was born there in 1897. Caroline Meyer Rhein died in Evanston, Illinois, in 1951.

Virginia Rhein lived in Greenwich Village, New York City; Chicago, Illinois; and San Francisco, California, as a young woman and was attending secretarial school by 1916. In 1918 she enlisted as yeoman third class, with the United States Navy. In 1923 she married a Chicago lawyer Frank Dowd (1896-1960). By the 1940s they had moved to Winnetka, Illinois. They had four children: Barbara (b.1929), married to George Nixon Wright; Frank Dowd, Jr. (b.1924), married to Janis Tremper; Carol (b.1934), married to Pat Brady; and Mavis (b.1936), married to John Murray. Virginia Rhein Dowd died in 1960.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Blech family, 1794-1999 (#1.1-2.26, 3.1-4.15, F+D.1)
  2. Series II. Meyer family, 1804-ca.1980 (#2.27-2.31, 4.16-9.8, 10.1-10.34, FD.1-FD.2, F+D.2-F+D.6, PD.1)
  3. Series III. Dow family, 1728-1954 (#9.9-9.21, 10.35-15.7, 16.1-16.15, F+D.7, PD.2, PD.44)
  4. Series IV. Rhein/Dowd family, 1863-1977 (#15.8-15.9, 16.16-20.18, PD.3-PD.12)
  5. Series V. Photographs, ca.1850-1952 (#PD.13z-PD.43; PD.45-PD.60)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2003-M116, 2013-M117, 2013-M164

The papers of the Blech-Meyer-Dowd family were given to the Schlesinger Library by Barbara Dowd Wright in 2003 and 2013.


Donor: Barbara Dowd Wright

Accession number: 2003-M116

Processed by: Laura Peimer

Upon request from Barbara Wright, the following materials were removed from the collection and donated to the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:

  1. Moravian church booklets and postcard, 1932-1959, n.d.; including A True History of the Massacre of Ninety-Six Christian Indians at Gnadenhuetten, Ohio, March 8, 1782; Musical Life in the Pennsylvania Settlements of the Unitas Fratrum (publisher: Moravian Historical Society)
  2. Moravian Church: organization, building, and activities of the Church, 1834-1835; mentions "Brother Blech"
  3. Moravian Church pamphlets, 1876; includes "Who Are The Moravians?"; What do Moravians Believe?"
  4. Charles A. Blech: notes and sermon, n.d.; including re: Thirty Years War, Italian vocabulary, n.d.
  5. Charles A. Blech: record keeping booklet re: religion, liturgy, Bible, etc. (in German), 1843
  6. Charles A. Blech: sermons, 1822-1849, n.d.

The following published materials have been removed from the collection and transferred to Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School. Photocopies of title pages and inscriptions, if any, have been retained in their appropriate series.

  1. The Well-Spent Day. An Extract from a Letter Written by Dr. Doddridge, ca. 1800; inscribed: "Lydia Annable"
  2. The Evangelical primer, containing a minor doctrinal catechism; and a minor historical catechism; to which is added The Westminster Assembly's shorter catechism; with short explanatory notes, and copious Scripture proofs and illustrations; for the use of families and schools, 1812; inscribed: "To Rachel Annable from her aunt"
  3. A Bridle for Sinners and a Spur for Saints, 1730
  4. A Perswasive, etc., 1730
  5. A Perswasive to make a Public Profession of Christ..., 1770; inscribed: "Arthur W. Dow"
  6. A Sermon, Etc., 1700s; inscribed: "Arthur W. Dow"
  7. A Sermon Preached at Plymouth, (New England,) A.D.1621 by one of the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in the Year Sixteen Hundred and Twenty, 1815; inscribed: Arthur W. Dow, Ipswich, Mass.
  8. A Sermon Preached January 31, 1765, at the Ordination of the Reverend Mr. Samuel Perley, to the Pastural Care of the Presbyterian Church and Congregation at Hampton-Falls, 1765
  9. A Wonderful Dream by Dr. Watts, 1793
  10. An Extract from a late sermon on the Death of the Reverend Mr. Samuel Moody, 1748
  11. Some Account of the Earthquake That Shook New-England, In the Night, Between the 29 and 30 of October, 1727. With a Speech, Made unto the Inhabitants of BOSTON, Who Assembled the Next Morning, for the proper Exercises of Religion, on so uncommon, and so tremendous an occasion, 1727
  12. Love to Christ, Necessary to Escape the Curse at His Coming, ca.1692
  13. Miscellaneous Pieces, in Verse, by Freeman Hearsey, ca.1795
  14. Mr. Henry's Catechism for Children, 1753; inscribed: "Arthur W. Dow"
  15. Mr. Rogers's Sermon on the Character of the Godly and Faithful, etc., 1763
  16. Mr. Turell's Brief and Plain Exhortation to his People on the Late Fast, 1748; inscribed: "Arthur W. Dow, 1919"
  17. New England's Duty and Interest to be an Habitation of Justice, and Mountain of Holiness, 1698
  18. The advantages of God's presence with his people in an expedition against their enemies : A sermon preached at Newbury, May 22. 1755. At the desire, and in the audience of Colo. Moses Titcomb, and many others inlisted under him, and going with him in an expedition against the French, 1755; inscribed: Arthur W. Dow
  19. The character of able ministers of the New-Testament described : A sermon preached November 11, 1772. At the ordination of the Rev. Mr. Obadiah Parsons, to the pastoral care of the Third Church in Glocester, 1773
  20. The diligent servant excited : A sermon preached in the Presbyterian Church in Newburyport, January 23, 1791, the day preceding the funeral of the Rev. Joseph Prince, who departed this life on the 15th of that month, aetat. 68, 1791
  21. The Delights of harmony; or, Norfolk Compiler Being a New Collection of Psalm Tunes, Hymns and Anthems…, 1805 (music book inscribed with poetry and other writings on inside cover, title page, etc.)
  22. The Spring Morning and Other Allegories (book of church school stories, American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), inscribed: "A birthday present for my dear Charlotte. Charles A. Blech, April 12, 1846"
  23. Evangile de Notre Seigneur Jesus-Christ selon Saint Jean, re: Saint Jean (in French), 1878; inscribed: "M.E. Pearson, Paris '88"

The following published materials have been removed from the collection and transferred to Houghton Library, Harvard University. Photocopies of title pages and inscriptions, if any, have been retained in their appropriate series.

  1. Miniature Almanack and Pocket Memoranda, 1835
  2. The farm-yard journal : Also the history of the mouse and marten. : Adorned with cuts, 1817
  3. The Philopoena Songster, or, the Ladies' Delight, n.d.

The following published materials have been removed from the collection and transferred to Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University. Photocopies of title pages and inscriptions, if any, have been retained in their appropriate series.

  1. A Concise Introduction to the Grounds of Music; with Rules for Learners, ca.1796; inscribed: "Lydia Annibal Hamilton" (music book)
  2. The Song Herald, 1876; inscribed: "E.R. Dowd" (music book)
  3. The rural harmony : being an original composition, in three and four parts, for the use of singing schools and musical societies, 1793 (music book)
  4. L'Oiseau De Feu (published music by Igor Stravinsky), n.d.; inscribed: "Property of Mrs. O.G. Rhein"

The following published materials have been removed from the collection and transferred to the Monroe C. Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education. Photocopies of title pages and inscriptions, if any, have been retained in their appropriate series.

  1. The Youth's Library: A Selection of Lessons in Reading, 1808
  2. First Lessons on National Philosophy for Children, 1841

Other family members and relationships (selection)

  1. Annable, Lydia (1857-1922): aunt of Arthur Wesley Dow and Dana Dow
  2. Annable, Rachel: sister of Lydia Annable
  3. Blech, Carl Gottlieb: father of Charles A. Blech
  4. Blech, Ernst: brother of Charles A. Blech
  5. Blech, Mary Jenkins Harrison (1825-1864): second wife of Charles A. Blech
  6. Blech (Brown), Phoebe Ann: sister of Charles A. Blech
  7. Dow, Arthur Wesley (1857-1922): brother of Dana Dow
  8. Dowd, Catherine O'Rourke: mother of Frank Dowd
  9. Dowd, Ralph "Ray": brother of Frank Dowd
  10. Henry, John Joseph: cousin to Sophia Louisa Krause Blech
  11. Henry, Mary: cousin of Caroline Louisa Blech Meyer
  12. Jordan, John, Jr.: cousin to Sophia Louisa Krause Blech
  13. Krause, Matthew: brother of Sophia Louisa Krause Blech
  14. Meyer, Frances C. (d.1917): Joseph A. Meyer, Sr.'s second wife
  15. Rhein, Gottlieb: father of Otto Rhein
  16. Rice, Edward: cousin of Sophia Louisa Krause Blech
  17. Ricksecker, Abby and Theodore: cousins to the Blech children
  18. Ricksecker, Rufus: cousin to the Blech children
  19. Schropp, Christian and S. Schropp: uncle and aunt to Sophia Louisa Krause Blech
  20. Turner, Joan: niece of Winifred Meyer Dow
  21. Trout, Mame: cousin to the Meyer children

Processing Information

Processed: October 2013

By: Laura Peimer with assistance from Samuel Bauer.

Wright, Barbara Dowd, collector. Papers of the Blech-Meyer-Dowd family, 1728-1999 (inclusive), 1800-1952 (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

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