Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: A-99

Papers of the Cabot family, 1786-2013


Correspondence, diaries, and travel journals, etc., of the Cabot family of Boston, Massachusetts


  • 1786-2013

Language of Materials

Materials in English, German, and Norwegian

Access Restrictions:

Access. The bulk of the collection is open for research.

Financial material of Hugh Cabot (#158-164) is closed until January 1, 2062, at the request of the donor.

Diaries of Judith Mercer Cabot (#183-195) are closed until January 1, 2022, at the request of the donor.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Hugh Cabot and other family members is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in the papers created by Judith Mercer Cabot is retained by Judith Mercer Cabot until her death. Upon her death copyright is transferred to 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.


12.14 linear feet ((23 file boxes, 2 half file boxes, 1 card file box, 1 oversize box) plus 2 folio folders, 3 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder)

Collection includes letters, diaries, and travel journals, etc., of four generations of the Cabot family of Boston, Massachusetts. The bulk of the collection documents the lives of James Elliot Cabot and his wife Elisabeth (Dwight) Cabot and includes Thomas Handasyd Perkins' letters and records on the slave, tea and, spice trades (1786-1840). Additional material received 1993-2014 (accession numbers: 93-M101, 98-M31, 2014-M26 ) were added to the collection in December 2015. These materials are housed in #166-218.

SERIES I, EARLY FAMILY PAPERS, 1786-1878 (#1-9, Volumes 1-3a), includes extracts from the letter books of Perkins, Burling & Co, and other partnerships of Thomas Handasyd Perkins and J.H. Perkins re: trade in slaves, tea, spices, etc., with later additions regarding the family by James Elliot Cabot. Also included is family correspondence and the reminiscences of Eliza (Perkins) Cabot which describe Boston, Massachusetts, after the American Revolution and into the nineteenth century.

SERIES II, ELISABETH DWIGHT CABOT (Mrs. James Elliot Cabot), 1844-1902 (#10-55, Volumes 4-8), includes mostly correspondence and diaries. Most correspondence is between Cabot and her husband and sister, Ellen Twisleton. Correspondence between Cabot and her husband regards news about their children and families, and descriptions of a camping trip to Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks (1886), as well as a small number of courtship letters. Correspondence between Cabot and her sister includes comments on Boston life, including household maintenance, family news, and Cabot family land in Brookline, Massachusetts, and on the Civil War. Her diaries includes comments on her studies, visits with friends and family, child care, domestic duties, etc.

SERIES III, JAMES ELLIOT CABOT, 1838-1903 (#56-126, Volumes 9-12a), consists of correspondence; awards and degrees; journals; papers from his studies in Germany; photographs; wills, estate, and land records; a scrapbook; etc. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence, much of which is with his wife, Elisabeth Dwight Cabot, and includes commentary on their children and families, his travels in the western United States and in Europe, etc. Other correspondence is with family members and friends, and includes notable correspondents such as Henry David Thoreau, Theodore Parker, James Russell Lowell, Frederick Law Olmsted, Louis Agassiz, Charles Eliot Norton, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. This correspondence often includes descriptions of his work, philosophical discussions, etc. The series also includes a number of travel journals, documenting Elliot's trip to the mid-west (1840), to Europe (1840-1843), and from New York to Le Havre, Cuba? (1840), which includes descriptions of the slave trade. Additional descriptions of his time in Germany (1840-1841) can be found in his correspondence with his aunt, Eliza Follen (#67). Also included are reminiscences written by Cabot for his son Charles that include descriptions of Boston and Nahant, Massachusetts, during his childhood, of his parents and other relatives, and of travels to Europe. Cabot's will, estate papers, and land records are also included and describe the contents of his estate after his death, records of land in Beverly Farms and Brookline, Massachusetts, and burial plots in Walnut Hills Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. Other material consists of assignments, course catalogs, and translations maintained by Cabot during his study in Germany and include notes taken at the course of lectures given in Berlin, Germany, by Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling in 1842 and a manuscript translation of Schelling's "Philosophical Inquiries into the Nature of Human Freedom and Matters Concerning Therewith," by Cabot. See Series VI, Volumes 26-30 for Cabot's sketch books.

Series IV. RALPH WALDO EMERSON, 1845-1887 (#122-126, Volumes 13-13a), includes letters and notes to Ralph Waldo Emerson from James Elliot Cabot, Rev. C. A. Bartol, and D.A. Wasson, and from his family to James Elliot Cabot; manuscript fragments and clippings of Emerson's poetry; and letters received by James Elliot Cabot regarding his Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The bulk of letters from Emerson's family regards Cabot's writing of his memoir of Emerson and his work as Emerson's literary executor. Letters received from others regarding the memoir are generally congratulatory letters on its publication. Letters sent to Emerson discuss the loaning and discussion of books, his availability for speaking engagements, and invitations to visit. One letter of interest is a letter from James Elliot Cabot discussing whether Walt Whitman should be considered a poet or a philosopher, and further discussions on the merit of the book, after reading a borrowed volume of Leaves of Grass.

SERIES V. EDWARD TWISLETON CABOT, ARTHUR TRACY CABOT, RICHARD CLARK CABOT, HUGH CABOT, AND MARY ANDERSON (BOIT) CABOT, 1852-1925 (#127-135, Volumes 14-23b) includes biographical material, photographs, correspondence, diaries, articles, etc., of several family members. Biographical material consists of published memorials, lists of accomplishments, etc. of Edward Twisleton Cabot, Arthur Tracy Cabot, and Richard Clark Cabot. Also included are published medical articles by Richard Clark Cabot and Hugh Cabot. One diary kept by Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot document her childhood years and documents her school experiences, time with friends and family, and includes photographs, drawings, and watercolors done by herself and friends and family members. Later diaries document the care of her children during infancy. Travel journals kept by Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot document a European trip taken by Cabot and her daughter Mary (1896-1898) and a round-the world trip and cruise of Hawaii (1924-1925). Also included is a photograph album of the Boit family maintained by Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot.

SERIES VI. GEORGIA BOIT GIERASCH (also known as Georgia Mercer Boit or Mrs. Walter Gierasch, sister of Mary Anderson Boit Cabot) AND GEORGIA MERCER, 1776-1934 (#136-137b, Volume 24-24a) includes a diary, will, and poems. The diary of Georgia Mercer of Savannah, Georgia, documents the life of a young women, her social engagements with friends and young men and her interactions with family. Other material in this series consists of the will of Hugh Mercer (1776) and the published and unpublished poems of Georgia Mercer Boit, sister of Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot.

SERIES VII. HUGH CABOT, JR. AND LOUISE CABOT (MRS. HUGH CABOT, JR.), 1911-1946 (#138-150a, 165cb-165a, Volumes 25-30) , includes correspondence; a diary; photographs; sketch books; etc. The bulk of the series consists of letters from the parents and relatives of two English children, John and Clare Stephens, who the Cabots "adopted" for the duration of World War II sent to both the children and the Cabots. Sketch books in this series were created by James Elliot Cabot and include drawings and watercolors of architectural details and country scenes many of which are from his time in Germany. The diary, kept by Louise Cabot in 1930-1931, documents the development and upbringing of the Cabot's son, Hugh Cabot III, who later became an artist of some repute. Most photographs are of the Cabot family and John and Clare Stephens and their family. Also included in this series is a card index of invitees to the wedding of Hugh Cabot, Jr. and Louise (Melanson) Cabot.

SERIES VIII. ADDENDA, 1857-1942 (#150bo-164), includes correspondence; diplomas and certificates, financial and estate records; clippings; photographs; etc. The bulk of the series consists of financial and estate records that include statements of stock and bond holdings of Hugh Cabot, and dividends generated, records of the estates of Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot and Elisabeth Dwight Cabot, and the wills of the three, and land records. This material (#158-164) is closed until January 1, 2062. A small amount of correspondence regards the engagement and marriage of Hugh Cabot and Elisabeth Dwight Cabot. Also included in the series are photographs of members of the Cabot family at their Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, estate; clippings re: Hugh Cabot and Elisabeth Dwight Cabot; diplomas of Hugh Cabot from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, of Hugh Cabot, Jr., from Queen's University of Belfast, and of Arthur Tracy Cabot from the Noble and Greenough School; certificates from a number of medical societies and a fraternity; and a commendation for his work with the Harvard Medical Unit during World War I.

SERIES IX. JUDITH MERCER CABOT, 1890-2013 (#165cb-218, Mem.1), includes correspondence, diaries, genealogical material; passports; photograph albums and scrapbooks; etc. Genealogical material consists of notes, correspondence, and genealogical charts of the Cabot and Melanson families. One scrapbook documents her graduation from the Brimmer and May School and her coming out party (1951-1952) and includes correspondence, invitations, photographs, clippings, matchbook covers, etc., Photographs and photograph albums include photographs of her friends (many of them in Norway); she and her husband, Jan Knudsen; family members; John and Clare Stephens (mentioned in Series VII); and samples of her textile work. Correspondence includes letters with family and friends and contains news of birth, marriages, and death; genealogical inquiries; planning for the estate settlement and burial of friend Aron Gurski; etc. Also included are materials regarding Cabot planning her own funeral arrangements and includes an interview with her (in Norwegian). Correspondence with Dori Gores includes many references to Cabot's and Gore's bouts with depression, medication taken, and their sessions with therapists. Cabot's diaries describe her relationship with her husband, issues with body image, and her bouts of depression and her sessions with therapists. Original folder titles were retained. The series is arranged alphabetically.


John Cabot (1680-) was the first member of the Cabot family of Boston, Massachusetts, to emigrate to the American colonies. He arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1700. The family became successful merchants in Salem operating a fleet of privateer ships and trading in opium, rum, and slaves. Cabot's grandson, Samuel Cabot (1758-1819), continued in the family business, eventually moving to Boston in 1784. Samuel Cabot, Jr. (1784-1863), son of Samuel Cabot and Elizabeth Barrett, continued in the shipping trade with his father and then entered a partnership with Samuel Hazard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, before returning to Boston and marrying Eliza Perkins (1781-1885), daughter of successful merchant Thomas Handasyd Perkins, in 1812. Cabot and his brother Joseph managed the Boston-based office of his earlier partnership with Samuel Hazard. He later entered a partnership with members of the Perkins family, entering into the China trade in 1817.

James Elliot Cabot was born in 1821 to Samuel Cabot, Jr. and Eliza (Perkins) Cabot (1781-1885) in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1840 and received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1845. He practiced law for a short time, taught occasional classes at Harvard College in philosophy and logic, and served on the Harvard Board of Overseers, the Brookline (Massachusetts) School Committee, and was a founding member of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He was a student under philosopher Friedeerich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling in Berlin. He married Elisabeth Dwight (1830-1901) in 1857. The couple had seven children: Francis Elliot, Edward Twisleton, Thomas Handasyd, Charles Mills, Richard Clarke, Philip, and Hugh. He was a transcendentalist and maintained friendships with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Theodore Parker, as well as art professor Charles Eliot Norton, and scientist Louis Aggasiz. Following Emerson's death he acted as his literary executor and later published a biography of Emerson entitled Memoir of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He died in 1903.

Hugh Cabot was born in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts, in 1872 to James Elliot Cabot and Elisabeth Dwight Cabot. He graduated from Harvard College (1894) and Harvard Medical School (1898), and became a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital where he founded the Genitourinary Clinic in 1910 and served as chief of the department. He also served as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. He married Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot in 1902 and the couple had four children: Hugh Jr., Mary Anderson, John Boit, and Arthur Tracy. In 1919 he took the position of Professor and Director of Surgery at the University of Michigan, and in 1921 became dean. In 1930 he was invited by Richard Mayo to become a professor and director of a surgical unit at the Mayo Clinic where he remained until his retirement in 1939. His wife, Mary, died in 1936. In 1938 he married his second wife, Elizabeth Cole Amory. He died in 1945 from a heart attack.

Hugh Cabot, Jr. was born in 1905 to Hugh Cabot and Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot. He married Irene Louise Melanson (1900-1977) in 1928. The couple had three children, Hugh Cabot III, Richard Cabot, and Judith Mercer Cabot. It is unclear when the couple divorced, but Cabot married his second wife, Grace Natalie Harris, in 1950. He graduated from Harvard University in 1928 and received his ABA from Harvard Business School in 1947. He worked as a statistician for Scudder, Stevens, and Clark (1928-1932). He later took a position at Anderson and Cromwell, becoming vice president of Cromwell and Cabot in 1937. Between 1942 and 1945 he served as a management consultant to the United States War Department. In 1956 he became executive director of the Age Center of New England, which investigated the personality, behavioral, and physiological factors involved with aging. He died in 1967. Judith Mercer Cabot was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1934, to Hugh Cabot, Jr. and Irene Louise Melanson. She attended the Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, graduating in 1951. Her parents held an extravagant coming out party in 1952 for her debut in society. She took courses at Columbia University and at the University of Bergen in Norway, but it is unclear if she received a degree from either institution. Cabot worked as laboratory technician at Massachusetts General Hospital (1952-1953) and then took a job as a research technician (1954-1955) before taking a position as a personnel assistant at the E.T. Slattery Company in Boston, Massachusetts. She married Jan Knudsen, a Norwegian citizen, in 1959, and moved to Norway in 1962. They divorced in 1983.


The collection is arranged in nine series:

  1. Series I. Early family papers, 1786-1878 (#1-9, Volumes 1-3a)
  2. Series II. Elisabeth Dwight Cabot (Mrs. James Elliot Cabot), 1844-1902 (#10-55, Volumes 4-8)
  3. Series III. James Elliot Cabot, 1838-1903 (#56-126, Volumes 9-12a)
  4. Series IV. Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1845-1887 (#122-126, Volumes 13-13a)
  5. Series V. Edward Twisleton Cabot, Arthur Tracy Cabot, Richard Clark Cabot, Hugh Cabot, and Mary Anderson (Boit) Cabot, 1852-1925 (#127-135, Volumes 14-23b)
  6. Series VI. Georgia Boit Gierasch (Georgia Mercer Boit, Mrs. Walter Gierasch, sister of Mary Anderson Boit Cabot) and Georgia Mercer, 1776-1934 (#136-137b, Volumes 24-24a)
  7. Series VII. Hugh Cabot, Jr. and Louise Cabot (Mrs. Hugh Cabot, Jr.), 1911-1946 (#138-150a, 165cb-165a, Volumes 25-30)
  8. Series VIII. Addenda, 1857-1942 (#150bo-164)
  9. Series IX. Judith Mercer Cabot, 1890-2013 (#165cb-218, Mem-1)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 247, 494. Accession numbers: 93-M101, 98-M31, 2014-M26 were added in December 2015.

These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library by Hugh Cabot of Boston, Massachusetts, on January 1961, by Hugh Cabot and Natalie Cabot in October 1962 and Judith Mercer Cabot between June 1993 and February 2014.

Digitization Funding

Collections and items have been digitized with the generous support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library: see Elizabeth Dwight Cabot Papers (85-M43--88-M37); Baker Library: see Philip Cabot papers, 1885-1942 (inclusive), 1924-1941 (bulk) (Arch GA 11); the Harvard University Archives: see Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot [unprocessed accessions], 1909-1951, and Papers of Richard Clarke Cabot, 1886-1974 (inclusive), 1888-1939 (bulk). (HUG 4255); and Houghton Library: see Letters to Faith Cabot Pigors, 1917-1928 (MS Am 2045).


Donors: Hugh Cabot, Natalie Cabot, and Judith Mercer Cabot

Accession numbers: 247, 494, 93-M101, 98-M31, 2014-M26

Processed by: Mark Vassar

The following item has been removed from the collection and transferred to the Schlesinger Library printed materials division:

  1. The Remonstrance (anti-suffrage newsletter), 1902


  1. Box 1: 1-2, 4-6a, Vol 1-2b, 7-9, Vol 3
  2. Box 2: Vol 3a, 10-29
  3. Box 3: 30-52
  4. Box 4: 53-55, Vol 4-8, 57, 59-60
  5. Box 5: 61-63, Vol 9-9a, 64-74
  6. Box 6: 75-87, 89-106
  7. Box 7: 107-120
  8. Box 8: Vol 11a-12a, 122-126, Vol 13-13a, 127-128
  9. Box 9: 129, Vol 14
  10. Box 10: Vol 15-16, 130-131
  11. Box 11: 132-135, Vol 17-17a
  12. Box 12: Vol 18-20a
  13. Box 13: Vol 21-22a
  14. Box 14: Vol 23, Vol 23b
  15. Box 15: Vol 23a, 136-137b
  16. Box 16: Vol 24-24a, 137a-142
  17. Box 17: 143-148, Vol 25-29
  18. Box 18: Vol 30, 165a, 149a-157
  19. Box 19: 158-164
  20. Box 20: 166-175, 218
  21. Box 21: 176-182
  22. Box 22: 183-190
  23. Box 23: 191-195
  24. Box 24: 196-206
  25. Box 25: 215-217
  26. Box 26: 165cb
  27. Box 27: 214o

Processing Information

Updated and additional material added: June 2016

By: Mark Vassar with assistance from Meghan Pipp and Dan Bullman

Cabot family. Papers of the Cabot family, 1786-2013: 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.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA