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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 766

Additional papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family, 1758-2006 (inclusive), 1880-1960 (bulk)


Correspondence, journals, scrapbooks, sketchbooks, writings, address books, etc., of the Nichols-Shurtleff family of Boston, Massachusetts.


  • Creation: 1758-2006
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1880-1960

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Nichols, Shurtleff (Shurcliff), Keegan, Homer, and Emerson families is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. During the lifetimes of William A. Shurcliff, Sarah (Shurcliff) Ingelfinger, Elizabeth (Shurcliff) Lowell, and John P. Shurcliff, extensive quotation from the papers may be made only with their written permission, except that brief quotations (25 words or less) may be made with the permission of the Director of 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.


16.43 linear feet ((35 file boxes) plus 2 folio boxes, 5 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 28 photograph folders.)

The collection consists of correspondence, scrapbooks, journals, address books, sketchbooks, etc., documenting the lives of Arthur A. Shurtleff, his wife Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff, their daughter Alice W. Shurcliff, and members of the Nichols, Shurtleff, Keegan, Homer, and other related families. Most of the material arrived in letter boxes or as bound volumes. While the material was refoldered, most of the original arrangement was maintained. Most folder titles were created by the processor. Those appearing in quotes are titles of bound volumes created by members of the Nichols-Shurtleff family. Accession numbers 85-M111--85-M251, for which a container list had been created in August 1986 and was made up of #1-17, was renumbered as #33.15-35.2, PD.15, and PD.23-PD.24) but was left in the same order and arranged intellectually with other addenda. The more recent accessions 87-M201, 88-M2, 91-M9, 91-M211, 94-M37, 94-M51, 95-M1, 95-M151, 98-M167, 2000-M149, 2000-M150, 2000-M170, 2001-M11, 2001-M31, 2002-M175, 2007-M87, added in October 2013, comprises the remainder of the collection.

Series I, ARTHUR A. SHURTLEFF, 1879-2000 (#1.1-14.3, FD.1-FD.4), includes correspondence, journals, scrapbooks, writings, photographs, sketchbooks, paintings and drawings, etc. Scrapbooks document Shurtleff's experience at various schools including the Prince School, Boston Latin School, English High School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University, and include sketches, drawings, watercolors, letters, tickets, programs, etc. The bulk of correspondence is with family and friends and documents his relationships with them (including courtship letters received from Margaret F. (Homer) Shurtleff), genealogical inquires, his travel for landscape design work across the country, and his hobbies of bicycling, kayaking, and hiking. Shurtleff often went on interstate bicycle rides, hiked in the New Hampshire mountains, and built his own kayaks and included are sample designs and fabric samples considered for use. Journals and scrapbooks also document his travels to Europe and Bermuda; his hobbies of bicycling, kayaking, and hiking, and a canoe journey down the Charles River in Massachusetts as boy. He also maintained a correspondence with painter Charles S. Hopkinson (whose daughter Joan married Shurtleff's son William) and included are several sketches for portraits he had planned. Evidence of his artistic talent can be found in his scrapbooks, sketchbooks, and correspondence, as well as with his artwork. His sketches and drawings often depicted objects, animals, geometric designs, and landscapes, many of them in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, while his watercolors generally depict landscapes. Also included in this series are writings including some regarding landscape design, as well as collections of vignettes about New England, several of which were published in the 1940s and 1950s. While the bulk of this series is personal in nature, it also includes correspondence, speeches, reports, journals, etc. regarding his work in landscape design, including a travel scrapbook (#9.6) documenting a trip to England on which he visited a number of palaces and gardens to prepare him for his work at Colonial Williamsburg. Removed from this series was a scrapbook of clippings regarding early aviation. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II. MARGARET H. (NICHOLS) SHURTLEFF, 1884-1959 (#14.4-22.11), includes address books; correspondence; biographical material; record books; journals; etc. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence with Arthur A. Shurtleff, her children, her parents, other family members, and friends. Letters received from her husband document their early courtship; his travels for work in landscape architecture in the US and his travels in Europe; activities (of husband and wife) such as bicycling, kayaking, tennis, hiking, carpentry, etc.; and discussions regarding their children and other family members. Many of her husband's letters include sketches and ink drawings of animals, people, objects, and landscapes. Correspondence with other family members (parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.) mainly discuss births, deaths, and marriages of family and friends; news of other family members; travels and summer vacations in Europe; Ipswich, Massachusetts; Cornish, New Hampshire; etc. Letters from her children include letters written during their childhoods, as well as letters written by Shurtleff's grandchildren and in-laws. Address books include family members and friends, as well as contacts in the handbell ringing and carpentry worlds. Also included is correspondence, design templates, record books, etc., related to her work in carpentry (and tools used) both as a teacher of carpentry to children and as a partner in Pegleggers. Her interest in handbell ringing and involvement with the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers and the New England Guild of Handbell Ringers is documented in correspondence, meeting minutes, flyers, reports, etc. A small amount of material is included that documents her time at Mrs. Shaw's School and her involvement in social clubs. Although she was a founding member of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, evidence of her involvement is noticeably absent with the exception of a small number of clippings and draft speeches (#14.6), and a woven bag made and given to her by Nicola Sacco (#37FB.1) on the occasion of her visit to him in prison. Clippings that did not mention Shurtleff were removed. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, ALICE W. SHURCLIFF, 1896-1992 (#22.12-26.3), includes correspondence, biographical material, photographs, poetry, writings, etc. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence (mainly with family members) during her time in Japan during the Allied occupation after World War II; with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration during and following World War II while stationed in Greece and Egypt; and her time in Southeast Asia studying labor conditions (1956-1958). Her letters to family contain descriptions of her work and travels in the various countries and encounters with the locals and other civilians and military personnel that she came in contact with during her work. Letters received from family members contains accounts of the activities of family and friends, such as births, deaths, and marriages and accounts of Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff's carpentry work and handbell ringing; Also included is a small amount of biographical material, school papers, and poetry. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, OTHER FAMILY, 1758-2006 (#26.4-35.8, F+D.1), includes correspondence; scrapbooks; journals; biographical material; genealogical material; wills and estate papers; poetry; photographs, etc., of Asahel M. Shurtleff and Sarah A. (Keegan) Shurtleff (parents of Arthur A. Shurtleff); Arthur H. Nichols and Elizabeth F. (Homer) Nichols (parents of Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff); Rose Standish Nichols (sister of Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff); Sidney N. Shurcliff, William A. Shurcliff, John P. Shurcliff, Sarah (Shurcliff) Ingelfinger, and Elizabeth (Shurcliff) Lowell (children of Arthur A. Shurtleff and Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff); and a small amount of material of members of the Keegan and Homer families. The bulk of the material of the Shurcliff children consists of correspondence, clippings, biographical material, and scrapbooks. Most of this material documents their childhood and early adulthood, having been received from parents and grandparents. A scrapbook of Sidney N. Shurcliff contains correspondence, drawings, clippings, programs, etc., and documents his early life, education, and work as a landscape architect, as well as his travels in the South Seas with the Crane Pacific Expedition for the Chicago Museum of Natural History on which he based his book Jungle Islands-The "Illyria" in the South Seas. Also included is a typescript autobiography of William A. Shurcliff, a physicist and member of the Atomic Energy Commission. There is a small amount of correspondence between Arthur H. Nichols and Elizabeth (Homer) Nichols during their courtship while Nichols was studying medicine in Vienna, Austria, in which they exchange news of common acquaintances, descriptions of Boston and environs, and of Vienna and other European cities. Also included are letters sent to family members by Helen Shurtleff who was engaged with her husband and others in war relief work in World War I Paris as part of the Shurtleff Memorial War Relief Work organization. (see series V for photographs). There is a fair amount of genealogical material regarding the Nichols, Shurtleff, Keegan, and Homer families compiled by numerous family members and consisting of notes, charts, clippings, land deeds, etc., as well as wills, estate papers, journals, reading notes, etc., of a number of these family members. One folder of material (#28.14), likely collected by family members engaged in genealogy, contains military orders and accounts of Ebenezer Nichols documenting his service during the French and Indian War. Also included in this series are manuscript and typescript journals of Asahel M. Shurtleff and Sarah A. (Keegan) Shurtleff. Many of these document trips throughout Europe, the United States, and Canada, but some also contain descriptions of home life and Asahel A. Shurtleff's work as an inventor of dental and medical equipment, patents for which are also found in this series. The series is arranged alphabetically by individual.

Series V, PHOTOGRAPHS AND OVERSIZED, 1843-1946 (#PD.1-PD.28, FD.1-FD.5, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1), contains photographs of Arthur A. and Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff; Arthur H. Nichols and other members of the Nichols family; Keegan family members; Helen and Ernest Warburton Shurtleff and the Shurtleff Memorial War Relief Work in World War I Paris; and photographs of Sarah A. Shurtleff and Asahel M. Shurtleff and interiors and exteriors of family and vacation homes. Oversized material has been removed from folders in previous series. The series beginning with photographs arranged alphabetically followed by oversized material arranged by size.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].


Arthur A. Shurtleff, son of Asahel M. Shurtleff and Sarah A. (Keegan) Shurtleff, was born in Boston on September 19, 1870. He was home-schooled until 10 years of age when he entered the Prince Grammar School, later attending the Boston Latin School and the English High School. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1889 to 1894, receiving an SB in mechanical engineering. He entered Harvard University in 1894, receiving a BS in general science in 1896. From 1896 until 1905 he worked for Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot, a landscape design office founded by Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1905 he married Margaret Homer Nichols. In the same year he opened his own landscape office hiring Raymond Aldrich and H.E. Millard as assistants. He assisted Frederick Law Olmsted in creating the landscape architecture program at Harvard University and taught in the program with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., from 1899 to 1908, dividing his time between teaching and his private practice. He resigned from teaching in 1908 in order to dedicate his time to his private practice (his son Sidney later join the practice). While in private practice he assisted in the development of Old Sturbridge Village and Colonial Williamsburg; designed campuses for a number of schools and colleges including Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges, and Brown, Tufts, and Colgate universities; designed the Storrow Memorial Embankment (Boston, 1930) and was responsible for its redesign in 1946 when Storrow Drive was built; and completed plans for 27 cities and towns in New England, Texas, and Indiana. In addition to publishing a number of reports, etc., regarding landscape architecture, Shurtleff published several books of essays, including New England Journal, Second New England Journal, and A Man Walks the Earth. He died at his home in Boston in 1957.

Margaret Homer (Nichols) Shurtleff, daughter of Arthur H. Nichols (a Harvard-trained physician) and Elizabeth F. (Homer) Nichols, was born in Boston on October 30, 1879. As a child she attended Mrs. Shaw's school on Marlborough Street in Boston, a co-educational private school teaching "the three Rs" as well as inventional geometry and carpentry to all students. At thirteen she entered Miss Folsom's School for Girls in Boston. The Nichols family summered at Rye Beach, NH, until 1889 when they spent a summer at the home of Margaret's aunt, Augusta St. Gaudens, wife of the famous sculptor, in Cornish, NH. The family bought a summer home in Cornish the following year. She married Arthur A. Shurtleff in 1905. The couple had six children: Sidney N. Shurtleff, William A. Shurtleff, John P. Shurtleff, Alice W. Shurtleff, Sarah (Shurtleff) Ingelfinger, and Elizabeth (Shurtleff) Lowell. In 1930 the family legally changed the spelling of their surname from Shurtleff to Shurcliff to more closely coincide with the ancient spelling of the family name. They resided at several homes on Mount Vernon Street in Boston (mainly at 66 Mount Vernon Street) and summered at their family home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Following in her father's footsteps Margaret became an avid change ringer on church bells in England and the United States and often performed at a number of local churches and gave concerts at Castle Hill, and was the founder and first president of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (now Handbell Musicians of America). As a result of her carpentry classes taken as a child (and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), she taught local children carpentry and also made pine furniture for sale, later opening the shop Pegleggers on Charles Street in Boston with several other women and, later, a shop in her home. She was a founding member of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union, holding several early meetings in her home on Beacon Hill, attending legislative sessions, and giving testimony regarding labor legislation and local labor strikes, as well as attending the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in 1920 and once visiting Nicola Sacco in prison. She continued her civil liberties work throughout her lifetime and contributed to her community in a number of ways, acting as a member of the Examining Committee of the Boston Public Library (ca.1945), raising money for the Community Fund, spotting aircraft for the anti-aircraft service during World War II, and entertaining hospitalized sailors. She died in 1959.

Alice Warburton Shurcliff, the youngest daughter of Arthur A. and Margaret (Nichols) Shurtleff, was born in 1915. She attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1938, and received an MS from the New York School of Social Work, Columbia University. During World War II, she was employed by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), an international relief agency, largely dominated by the United States but representing 44 nations. Founded in 1943, it became part of the United Nations in 1945, was especially active in 1945 and 1946, largely shutting down operations in 1947. Its purpose was to "plan, co-ordinate, administer or arrange for the administration of measures for the relief of victims of war in any area under the control of any of the United Nations through the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities, medical and other essential services." Although initially restricted by its constitution to render aid only to nationals from the United Nations (the Allies), this was changed late in 1944, in response to pleas from Jewish organizations who were concerned with the fate of surviving Jews of German nationality, to also include "other persons who have been obliged to leave their country or place of origin or former residence or who have been deported therefrom by action of the enemy because of race, religion or activities in favor of the United Nations." While employed by UNRRA she spent her time in Greece and Egypt.

During the Allied occupation of Japan following World War II, Shurcliff served as a labor analyst under the Supreme Command Allied Powers (SCAP) as part of the labor division. As a civil servant, Shurcliff worked to investigate practices in Japanese zaibatsu, family controlled corporations closely linked to one another, that had been loyal to the Emperor and provided the economic engine for Japan's war effort. Facilities for the production of arms and munitions were to be eliminated, while economic activities that would contribute to a democratically oriented Japan were to be encouraged. SCAP's de-concentration campaign was to include provisions to encourage policies to permit widespread ownership of the means of production and trade and to reorganize Japanese business by dissolving large banking and industrial corporations. In addition, laws allowing labor unions and removing employment controls were to be adopted by the new Japanese government as soon as possible.

In 1950 she began working with the US Labor Department and, in 1957 received a Rockefeller Public Service Award to study labor conditions in Southeast Asia, visiting the countries of Indonesia, Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand, Singapore, Malaya (now Malaysia), Vietnam, and India. During this trip she viewed factories and plantations and met with representatives of management and labor unions, also viewing worker housing, vocational training centers, union headquarters, clinics for workers, etc. Her funding also allowed her to hire anthropologist Jane Philips to accompany her gathering information about attitudes towards work and culture patterns, both local and Western, which resulted in misunderstandings. In 1967 she published Economic Development in the Eastern Caribbean Islands: St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla (Series 4: Manpower Surveys). She died June 23, 2000, and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Additional family members not previously described include Helen Shurtleff (1877-1968), Ernest Warburton Shurtleff (1862-1918) (husband and wife), and their daughter Gertrude S. Shurtleff. During World War I, Helen and Ernest Shurtleff, a minister, worked extensively with war refugees in France (many of whom were blind), dispensing food, supplies, and medical care.


The collection is arranged in five series:

  1. Series I. Arthur A. Shurtleff, 1879-2000 (#1.1-14.3, FD.1-FD.4)
  2. Series II. Margaret H. (Nichols) Shurtleff, 1884-1959 (#14.4-22.11)
  3. Series III. Alice W. Shurcliff, 1896-1992 (#22.12-26.3)
  4. Series IV. Other family, 1758-2006 (#26.4-35.8, F+D.1)
  5. Series V. Photographs and oversized, 1843-1946 (#PD.1-PD.28, FD.1-FD.5, F+D.1-F+D.2, OD.1-OD.2, SD.1)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 87-M201, 88-M2, 91-M9, 91-M211, 94-M37, 94-M51, 95-M1, 95-M151, 98-M167, 2000-M149, 2000-M150, 2000-M170, 2001-M11, 2001-M31, 2002-M175, 2007-M87. 85-M11--85-M251 (for which a container list had been created in 1986) was added to the collection and is located in #33.15-35.2 and #PD.15 and PD.23-PD.24.

These papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family were given to the Schlesinger Library by James C. Heighman, Sarah (Shurcliff) Ingelfinger, Elizabeth (Shurcliff) Lowell, Alice W. Shurcliff, Charles Shurcliff, Gertrude Shurtleff, Sidney Nichols Shurcliff, and William A. Shurcliff between 1985 and 2007.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family, 1780-1953 (A-170), the Emerson and Nichols papers, 1806-1953 (MC 212); and Rose Standish Nichols correspondence with Garner Ranney, 1878-2019 (MC 1037). There is related material at the Houghton Library; see Arthur A. Shurcliff notebooks (MS Am 1424). There is related material at the Loeb Library; see Arthur A. Shurcliff (Firm) Bill and correspondence books, Arthur A. Shurcliff and Sidney N. Shurcliff Papers. There is related material at the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Loeb Library (microfilm); see Arthur A. Shurcliff collection of glass lantern slides, ca. 1910-1930.


Donors: James C. Heighman, Sarah (Shurcliff) Ingelfinger, Elizabeth (Shurcliff) Lowell, Alice W. Shurcliff, Charles Shurcliff, Gertrude Shurtleff, Sidney Nichols Shurcliff, and William A. Shurcliff

Accession numbers: 85-M11, 85-M251, 87-M201, 88-M2, 91-M9, 91-M211, 94-M37, 94-M51, 95-M1, 95-M151, 98-M167, 2000-M149, 2000-M150, 2000-M170, 2001-M11, 2001-M31, 2002-M175, 2007-M87.

Processed by: Mark Vassar

The following item has been removed from the collection and transferred to the Harvard University Archives:

  1. Catalogue of the Officers and Students of Harvard University, Cambridge, October 1817

The following items have been removed from the collection:

  1. Colonial Williamsburg: Its Buildings and Gardens
  2. The Offering

Processing Information

Processed: February 2014

By: Mark Vassar, with assistance from Emily Underwood.

Nichols family. Additional papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family, 1758-2006 (inclusive), 1880-1960 (bulk): 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 in part by a gift from the estate of Alice W. Shurcliff.

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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