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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 435

Papers of Mabel Hall Colgate, 1827-1979


Correspondence, diaries, photograph albums, etc., of Mabel Hall Colgate, Red Cross volunteer and traveler.


  • Creation: 1827-1979

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Unrestricted, except for #194o, 198o, 203o, 207o, and 216o, which are closed until digitized.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library.

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


10.8 linear feet ((18+1/2 file boxes, 1 folio+ box, 1 oversize box) 13 folio+ folders, 3 oversize folders, 15 photograph folders)

The papers primarily contain the correspondence of Edith Buckingham Hall and Mabel Hall Colgate, much of it with other family members. Also included are Mabel Hall Colgate's diaries, and a number of Edith Buckingham Hall and Samuel Colgate's scrapbooks and photo albums.

The papers are organized by family and generation. Correspondence is organized by recipient and then chronologically or alphabetically.

The papers are arranged in four series:

Series I, Hall family (#1-161), consists mostly of letters to Edith Buckingham Hall from her daughter, Mabel Hall Colgate, and husbands, Samuel Colgate and Henry Bradford Washburn, as well as other family members and friends, mostly about family news, work, health and travel. Some letters are to Edith Buckingham Hall and Henry Bradford Washburn jointly. Letters from Samuel Colgate begin with courtship letters to Edith Buckingham Hall and continue during marriage. The series also includes letters to Mabel Hall Colgate's great-grandfather, John Hoey, and letters among her grandparents, Mary (Hoey) and Edward J. Hall; aunts and uncles, especially Grace Hall; and other family members. There are also a copy of Mary Hoey Hall's will and a Deanery record book from the Episcopal Theological School kept by Edith Buckingham Hall.

Series II, Colgate family (#162-228), consists mostly of Samuel Colgate's correspondence with his parents and brothers, some describing his work and religious beliefs; and six photograph albums and four disassembled scrapbooks, the latter containing both personal and church-related clippings, letters, photographs, sermons, etc. documenting the family's travels and Samuel Colgate's work. Many of the photographs were taken by Samuel Colgate. The series also includes a list of awards presented to Samuel F.B. Morse, a great-uncle of Mabel Hall Colgate; wills; and other miscellaneous documents.

Series III, Washburn family (#229vo-251), centers on Henry Bradford Washburn, consisting mainly of letters to Henry Bradford Washburn, mostly from family members, and letters to Mary Elizabeth Washburn on her son's engagement. There are also clippings, a family scrapbook, and a biography of Margaret Crosby.

Series IV, Mabel Hall Colgate and brothers (#252-435), consists largely of Mabel Hall Colgate's correspondence with family members and friends, and from the families in North Carolina to whom she made contributions of money and time. It also contains Mabel Hall Colgate's diaries and personal papers, including some Winsor School compositions, papers for the Saturday Morning Club and another club, published and unpublished verse, letters to newspapers, depositions regarding her citizenship, and photographs taken by Mabel Hall Colgate. The series also includes some family correspondence of Brad and Sherry Washburn, and clippings and photographs of their mountain climbing expeditions.


Mabel Hall Colgate was the only child of Edith Buckingham Hall and Samuel Colgate--a Baptist-turned-Presbyterian minister and amateur photographer whose brothers had all gone into the family business, the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company. Edith Buckingham Hall, born in 1871, was one of Mary (Hoey) and Edward J. Hall's ten children. Edward J. Hall was a businessman who had worked for the Perth-Amboy Terra Cotta Company in New Jersey, and started his own brick company, Hall and Sons, in Buffalo, New York, before becoming vice-president of Bell Telephone there.

Edith Buckingham Hall probably met Samuel Colgate when her sister Florance was being courted by Samuel Colgate's brother Gilbert. Florance Hall Colgate married Gilbert Colgate in 1888 (in a double wedding with her older sister Mary); six years later Edith Buckingham Hall married Samuel Colgate. Their wedding was in June 1894 and they left almost immediately thereafter so that Samuel Colgate could pursue his theological studies in Germany. They lived there for two years, and Mabel Hall Colgate was born in Dresden on July 18, 1895.

Samuel Colgate was the pastor at the Presbyterian church in East Aurora, New York, near Buffalo, when he died in 1902 after a prolonged illness. In 1908 Edith Buckingham Hall married Henry Bradford Washburn, then professor of church history at, and later dean of, the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Henry Bradford Washburn had been an acquaintance for some time: Edith Buckingham Hall and Samuel Colgate had met the Washburns in Berlin in 1895, and Mary Elizabeth Washburn, Henry Bradford Washburn's mother, was the Colgate's first houseguest in New York City after they returned from abroad. Edith Buckingham Hall and Henry Bradford Washburn had two sons, Henry Bradford, Jr. (Brad), and Sherwood Larned (Sherry). Mabel Hall Colgate was very close to her stepfather and stepbrothers, as well as to her mother, and remained so throughout her life, living near to them and corresponding whenever separated.

Mabel Hall Colgate had a number of friends and suitors among her stepfather's colleagues and students, including James Arthur Muller and future Episcopal bishops Henry Sherril and William Lawrence. She had a number of proposals but never married, and was engaged only once, in June 1913 to William L. Wood, a student at the Episcopal Theological School. She broke off the engagement, however, probably before the end of the year. It is unclear why, and why she remained single. She may have felt unable to marry because of poor health, but the nature of this delicate health, which required frequent visits to the doctor and cures in better climates, is also unclear.

The family was able to travel extensively. Mabel Hall Colgate traveled for health, education, and pleasure, always with a companion and often with other family members. She often kept a journal during her travels, recording her activities and some observations. She also kept a record of reading and bird watching. As a very young child she traveled to the west coast and the south with her parents. She spent summers at the family house in Onteora, New York, in the Catskills, and often visited friends and relatives there and at their winter houses. Mabel Hall Colgate went to Europe in 1912 with her cousin Flonny and a friend, spent a year there in 1925-1926, and returned again in 1937. She also spent time in California.

In the late 1920s Mabel Hall Colgate began to spend winters in North Carolina, most often staying in Tryon, a spa town. Distressed by the conditions of the poor families in the surrounding towns, Mabel Hall Colgate became involved in charity work through a family friend, retired Bishop Frank Touret. She provided assistance and education to a few families, encouraged the children to stay in school, and taught the girls dressmaking and other skills. She sponsored the education of two children in particular, Edward McCurry and his half-sister Estelle Coggins.

During World War I, Mabel Hall Colgate corresponded with a number of American soldiers--mostly boys she knew from Harvard--during their training and while they were at the front. She volunteered with the Red Cross in California and Washington, D.C., where she stayed for a time with her cousins Mary and Billy Fisher. In Cambridge she was a member of the Sewing Circle League of 1916 and the Saturday Morning Club.

Mabel Hall Colgate attended the Buckingham and Mary Winsor schools. Her brothers went to Groton and then to Harvard College. Sherry received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1940. Brad went on to become director of the Museum of Science in Boston. Both boys were avid mountain climbers, and Brad often lectured and wrote about his expeditions.

Mabel Hall Colgate died in Cambridge in 1985.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Hall family (#1-161)
  2. Series II. Colgate family (#162-228)
  3. Series III. Washburn family (#229vo-251)
  4. Series IV. Mabel Hall Colgate and brothers (#252-435)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 86-M244, 87-M38, 87-M55, 95-M149

The papers of Mabel Hall Colgate were given to the Schlesinger Library by H. Bradford Washburn, Jr., stepbrother of Mabel Hall Colgate, and his wife between December 1986 and October 1995.


  1. Box 1: 1-38
  2. Box 2: 39-62
  3. Box 3: 63-81
  4. Box 4: 82-93
  5. Box 5: 94-103
  6. Box 6: 104-118
  7. Box 7: 118-147
  8. Box 8: 148-180
  9. Box 9: 181-219
  10. Box 10: 221v-222v
  11. Box 11: 223v-225v
  12. Box 12: 230-263
  13. Box 13: 264v-284
  14. Box 14: 285v-306
  15. Box 15: 307-318
  16. Box 16: 319-351
  17. Box 17: 352-385
  18. Box 18: 386-421
  19. Box 19: 422-434
  20. Oversize Box 20: 194o, 198o, 203o, 207o, 209o, 216o

Processing Information

Processed: February 1996

By: Jacalyn R. Blume and Ann Berman

Colgate, Mabel Hall, 1895-1985. Papers of Mabel Hall Colgate, 1827-1979: 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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