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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1028

Papers of the Curtis family, 1766-2000 (inclusive), 1863-1978 (bulk)


Photographs, correspondence, and clippings of the Curtis family from Boston, Massachusetts.


  • Creation: 1766-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1863-1978

Language of Materials

Most material in English; some material in French.


Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Curtis 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.


11.21 linear feet ((11 cartons + 1/2 file box) plus 2 folio folders, 2 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 23 photograph folders)

This collection documents the personal and professional lives of members of the Curtis family. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence from the early nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. Topics include the Civil War, World War I, the American Red Cross, golf and other sports, family life, and trips to Europe. These papers document multiple generations of the Curtis family, the Hopkinson family, the Appleton family, the Stevenson, and the Shurcliff family.

Additional material received in November 1995 and March 2001 (accessions number 1995-M168, 2001-M41) were added to the collection in November 2019. These materials are housed in #532, 533. Folders are listed in intellectual, not numerical, order.

Series I, Photographs, 1871-1957, n.d. (#1-24), includes some tintypes, group photographs of the Curtis children taken at regular intervals, as well as cartes-de-visite and other prints of the Curtises and their friends. Photographs of Harry Curtis document mining at the Cripple Creek Mine in Colorado and those of Margaret Curtis depict war-ravaged France and Margaret Curtis's work with refugees during and after World War I.

Series II, Miscellaneous Curtis and Stevenson family, 1766-2000, n.d. (#25-38, 533), includes scattered 18th century and early 19th century correspondence, notes on genealogy and family history.

Series III, Greely Stevenson and Harriot Appleton Curtis, 1843-1923, n.d. (#39-139), includes courtship letters from Greely Stevenson Curtis to Harriot Appleton Curtis, other letters from Greely Stevenson Curtis to family and friends, and letters from Harriot Appleton Curtis to her mother, aunts, children, and friends. There is information about the Curtis family homes, Harriot Appleton Curtis's estate, and a few recipes. Harriot Appleton Curtis reports on the family's social activities, the careers of her children, and their athletic prowess. Her letters to her children are arranged according to their birth order; their letters to her are in Series IV. Letters to her "girls" often include notes from other family members.

Series IV, Children of Greely Stevenson and Harriot Appleton Curtis, 1863-1995, n.d. (#140-532) is arranged by birth order. This series also includes material related to miscellaneous members of the Curtis family, as well as members of the Shurcliff family.

William Curtis (1865-1899) (#140), includes letters to his family written while living away from home in Boise, Idaho, and other places.

Frances Greely Curtis (1867-1957) (#141-213), includes personal correspondence with family and friends describes her European and United States trips, charity work, conference activity, service on the Boston School Committee, and campaign for election as mayor of Boston. The lively social life of an upper class Bostonian is documented in her social notes and invitations. There are also clippings, verse, obituaries, and tributes to her civic activism.

Elinor Curtis Hopkinson (1869-1947) (#214-241), includes correspondence, largely with mother and sisters, documents travel abroad, childbirth, child rearing, and family life. There are also scattered letters from Charles Hopkinson and their children.

Greely Stevenson Curtis (1871-1947) (#242-257), includes letters written while a student at Cornell and Zürich, Switzerland; description of the Burgess Curtis Co., manufacturer of sea planes during World War I; and letters from his wife Fanny Hooper.

Isabella Curtis (1873-1966) (#258-328), includes personal correspondence with family and friends describes European trips, her attempt to find cures for headaches, her treatment at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, and life on Moon Island (Squam Lake); also letters describing fundraising for, and visits to the Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural School (St. Helena Island, South Carolina).

Harry Appleton Curtis (1875-1943) (#329-336), includes letters and clippings describe his life in Denver, mining in Colorado, and business life in New York City; also scattered letters from his wife Grace Fargo Chauncey.

Frazier Curtis (1877-1940) (#337-354), includes clippings and personal correspondence include descriptions of Harvard, his Western ventures as a cattle broker, life in La Jolla, and marriage to Gladys Raper. Includes letters from his wife describing family life, his depression and eventual suicide. Frazier and Gladys Curtis's correspondence often include letters to Harriot Appleton Curtis.

James Freeman Curtis (1879-1952) (#355-366), includes correspondence with family includes references to his career as assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts and Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury, marriage to and divorce from Laura Merriam, and marriage to Eleanor Monroe Green.

Harriot Sumner Curtis (1881-1974) (#367-396), includes personal correspondence with family and friends includes references to travel, social news, family life, charity work, her position as dean of women at Hampton Institute, fundraising for the school, and sponsorship of the African American singer Dorothy Maynor. Includes family verse.

Margaret Curtis (1883-1965) (#397-525), includes personal correspondence with family, colleagues, and friends. Includes professional papers concerning the guardianship of Mary Chandler and Eleanor Chandler, and papers relating to Margaret Curtis's work with French refugees for the Student Atelier Association and American Red Cross during World War I, for the American Red Cross in eastern Europe and Greece in the 1920s, for the International Migration Service, and for the United States War Production Board. Material related to the guardianship of Mary Chandler and Eleanor Chandler can include correspondence with and about Mary Chandler. Includes clippings and letters about her victories in the National Women's Golf Championships.


Greely Stevenson Curtis, a Civil War veteran, married Harriot Appleton, daughter of industrialist Nathan Appleton in 1863. Greely Stevenson Curtis had contracted malaria during the war, and for most of his married life was a semi-invalid. The Curtises divided their time between Beacon Hill and their country estate in Manchester-by-the-Sea where they lived in the Stone House designed by Henry Van Brunt, and maintained a farm. Family life at Manchester included riding, and other sports, especially tennis and golf at the Essex Country Club. After the death of her husband in 1897, Harriot Appleton Curtis delegated management of the household to her eldest daughter Frances. Until her death in 1923, Harriot Appleton Curtis was a close observer and chronicler of the family's activities in the almost daily letters and postcards she wrote to absent relatives. The Curtises had ten children, five boys and five girls.

William (1865-1899) was handicapped and spent some time with relatives on a farm in Boise, Idaho. He drowned at Manchester. "Billy has slipped away from us...," wrote his mother.

Frances Greely (1867-1957), public servant, attended Miss Shaw and Miss Hersey's school in Boston. She passed the Harvard Examinations for Women and received certificates in 1885 and 1886. She took a course in Philosophy at Radcliffe, and one in Sanitary Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and studied for two years at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts. As a young woman she also pursued the fashionable life - her days filled by social engagements, Sewing and Lunch Club meetings, and travels abroad and visits with friends in New Hampshire and the Putnam Camp in the Adirondacks. She refused proposals of marriage from Ted Cabot (1893 and 1894) and Henry Warner (1899). She was an avid skater.

Frances Greely Curtis was well-known for her civic and charity work. She organized a library and reading classes for African Americans who lived on Beacon Hill, and investigated and proposed plumbing improvements for the Italian immigrants who lived on the north side of Beacon Hill. She was appointed to the board of the Associated Charities of Boston (1898), appointed secretary of the State Board of Charities (1903), and from 1898 regularly attended the National Conference on Charities and Corrections. She was elected a member of the School Committee of Boston (1913- 1924) and was the first woman to run, though unsuccessfully, for mayor of Boston, 1925. She and her sisters were charter members of the Women's City Club of Boston. She was director and secretary of the Boston Cooperative Building Society, served on the Board of the Boston Center for Adult Education, and supported the American Schools in Albania and Athens. She was director of the Massachusetts Civic League, chair of the National Playground Association, and a supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Foreign Policy Association, and the United Nations Association. She became interested in farming cooperatives in the 1920s and visited China in 1936, where she met Mao Tse-tung. Summing up her service to the city of Boston, Mark A. DeWolfe Howe wrote "Who deserves more the title of 'First Woman Citizen?"

Elinor (1869-1947) married the painter Charles Hopkinson in 1903. They lived most of the year in the house in Manchester built for them as a wedding present by her mother, and, during the winter months, stayed in various houses in and around Boston. They had five daughters: Harriot, Mary, Isabella, Elinor, and Joan.

Greely Stevenson (1871-1947) an aviation pioneer, graduated from Harvard in 1892. He continued to study science at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, and in Zürich, Switzerland, and earned an M.E. from Cornell in 1896. At first his parents dissuaded him from going into aviation; he became a fire commissioner in Boston in 1899, and then a consulting engineer on fire protection. He was treasurer of the Burgess and Curtis Co. in Newburyport, which was contracted to the United States Navy to produce sea planes during World War I. In 1918 the plant and the company records burned. He married Fanny Hooper in 1904; they had four children. In later life Greely Stevenson Curtis was a trustee for his mother and warden of King's Chapel.

Isabella (1873-1966) was a semi-invalid who suffered from persistent severe headaches. From her mid twenties, she spent much time away from home, visiting friends, traveling abroad (Europe in 1893, 1897, and 1901, Egypt in 1904), and in search of cures: at a sanitarium in Bethel, Maine (1908) and a clinic in Stockbridge run by Dr. Austin Riggs. In 1912 she had brain surgery performed by Dr. Cushing but no tumor was found. When she was away from home, she wrote faithfully to the family and her mother wrote daily. When at home and well enough, Isabella Curtis worked in the Boston Dispensary. Her chief occupation was raising money for the Penn School, a school for African Americans on St. Helena Island, South Carolina. In 1904 she bought Moon Island in Squam Lake, New Hampshire, and made it her summer home. She was an avid gardener, and kept dogs and goldfish.

Harry Appleton (1875-1943) attended Miss Isobel Briggs's school and then, like his brothers, the Hopkinson School in Boston. He graduated from Harvard (1896), studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but left to join the Rough Riders in the Spanish American War. He attended the University of Colorado in Denver and worked as an engineering assayer at the Cripple Creek Mine, Colorado. He then was an electrical service broker in New York City. During World War I he was assistant censor in New York and in 1918 received a commission as captain in the Army Intelligence Division. He married Grace Fargo Chauncey in 1913. They had no children, and she died in 1931.

Frazier (1877-1940) graduated from Harvard in 1898 and was involved in a number of ventures as a cattle broker in the West. He married Gladys Raper, an English woman, in 1909 and settled in La Jolla, California. During World War I he served in the airborne Lafayette Escadrilles and suffered from shell-shock. After fighting depression for many years, he committed suicide in 1940.

James Freeman (1879-1952) graduated from Harvard in 1899 and Harvard Law School in 1903. He was assistant attorney general of Massachusetts and assistant secretary to the United States Treasury, and later practiced law in New York. He married Laura Merriam (1912), divorced her (1924), then remarried her and was redivorced (1938). He then married Eleanor Monroe Green. His two sons were killed during World War II; his daughter Frances survived. He was known as a witty after-dinner speaker.

Harriot Sumner (1881-1974), social worker and civic volunteer, was co-founder with her sister Margaret, of the Maverick Dispensary, East Boston, a health clinic for Italian Americans. She was appointed a director of the Associated Charities (Boston) during World War I and worked at the Center for French Wounded and the Home Service Division of Civilian Relief. A good athlete, she skated, played baseball and tennis, and with Margaret played tournament golf. She won the National Women's Golf Championship in 1906. While staying with friends in Richmond, Virginia in 1903, she visited Hampton Institute, and began a lifelong commitment to the school: she raised funds for it, and in 1927 was invited to be Dean of Women, a position that she held for four years. She was the sponsor of the singer Dorothy Maynor whom she discovered at Hampton. She made frequent trips abroad with one or other sibling.

Margaret (1883-1965), social worker, administrator, athlete, was dedicated throughout her life to social welfare in the United States and abroad. After graduating from the Simmons College School of Social Work in 1904, she worked for the Associated Charities of Boston (later the Family Welfare Society), and with her sister Harriot, founded the Maverick Dispensary in 1909. In February 1916 she went to Paris to organize relief for French refugees as head of the investigation department of the Student Atelier Association. In July 1917 she joined the American Red Cross in Paris and served as chief of the Bureau of Refugees; from January through June 1919 she continued her relief work under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. She was awarded the Medaille de Guerre by the French Red Cross (1919) and the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise by the French government (1920) for her relief work. In January 1921 she returned to Europe to tour child health clinics in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria for the American Red Cross. She was offered positions as head of American Red Cross social work in Latvia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Serbia, but declined. From November 1922 through February 1923 Margaret Curtis was again involved in relief work in Greece as Adviser in General Relief for the ARC. She served on the International Migration Service and during World War II, ran the Boston office of the War Production Board and helped place European children in American homes.

Margaret Curtis was proficient in many sports but excelled in golf, winning the Massachusetts State Championship 1901, 1907, 1908, 1914, and the Women's National Golf Championship 1907, 1911, 1912. In 1930 she started the Massachusetts Junior Championship for girls and with her sister Harriot was the founder of the Curtis Cup. Margaret Curtis never married, but worked in Europe and traveled frequently with her lifelong companion, Mabel Sturgis.

For further information see Isabella Hopkinson Halsted, The Aunts (1992).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 103, 859, 90-M19, 91-M184, 94-M150, 95-M6, 95-M17, 95-M168, 2001-M41

The papers of the Curtis family were given to the Schlesinger Library by Margaret Curtis from 1960 to 1965, by Isabella Halsted and Joan Shurcliff, from 1990 to 1995, the Shelving Rock Trust in 1994, and Arthur Shurcliff in 2001.

Related material:

There is related material about the Curtis family at the Massachusetts Historical Society; see the (Curtis-Stevenson family papers).

There is related material about the Curtis family at the Archives of American Art; see the Charles Hopkinson Papers, 1892-1993.

Initials and nicknames of members of the Curtis family

  1. GSC = Greely Stevenson Curtis Sr.
  2. HAC = Harriot Appleton Curtis (Mrs. Greely Stevenson Curtis )
  3. Harriot Appleton Curtis Nicknames = Ma, Madam, Smoth, Mrs. Smoth
  4. WC = William Curtis
  5. FGC = Frances Greely Curtis
  6. Frances Greely Curtis Nicknames = Frangle, Francie, Fan, Dangle, France
  7. ECH = Elinor Curtis Hopkinson
  8. Elinor Curtis Hopkinson Nicknames = Beri, Berry, Nell, Elly, Nello
  9. GSC = Greely Stevenson Curtis Jr.
  10. Greely Stevenson Curtis Jr. Nicknames = Steen, Stivetts, Steeny
  11. IC = Isabella Curtis
  12. Isabella Curtis nicknames = Bella, Bog, Boggy, Beast, Isab, Isabol, Bol, Bolla
  13. HAC = Harriot Appleton Curtis
  14. Harriot Appleton Curtis Nickname = Harrison, Chinny
  15. FC = Frazier Curtis
  16. Frazier Curtis Nicknames = Frere, Teddy, Ted
  17. JFC = James Freeman Curtis
  18. James Freeman Curtis Nicknames = Jim, Jum, Jumbo, Jib, Jibby
  19. HSC = Harriot Sumner Curtis
  20. Harriot Sumner Curtis Nicknames = Hat, Hattay, Pud (pronounced Pood)
  21. MC = Margaret Curtis
  22. Margaret Curtis Nicknames = Peg, Peggy, Pedge
  23. William Summer Appleton (cousin) Nicknames: Sumner, Apple, Cousin Sum, Mistrapplton


  1. Carton 1: Folders 17, 25-72
  2. Carton 2: Folders 73-108
  3. Carton 3: Folders 109-159
  4. Carton 4: Folders 160-204
  5. Carton 5: Folders 205-253
  6. Carton 6: Folders 254-305
  7. Carton 7: Folders 306-343
  8. Carton 8: Folders 344-393
  9. Carton 9: Folders 394-439
  10. Carton 10: Folders 440-490
  11. Carton 11: Folders 491-531
  12. Box 12: Folders 532-533

Partial index of personal names, organizations, and subjects

  1. Adams, Charles Francis 125
  2. Addams, Jane 95
  3. Afro-Americans--Education 81, 370, 372, 387, 392, 394. See also Hampton Institute and Penn School (Saint Helena Island S.C.)
  4. Aircraft industry 60, 88-90, 95, 253-254
  5. American Friends Service Committee 413-414, 488-493
  6. American National Red Cross 384, 412, 415-416, 472, 483- 500, 512
  7. Appleton, Harriot Coffin (Sumner) 47
  8. Appleton, Nathan 26, 32
  9. Appleton, William Sumner 125, 139
  10. Boston (Mass), School Committee 212
  11. Briggs, Isobel 62, 67, 334
  12. Cabot, Ella (Lyman) 184-186, 193
  13. Cabot, Richard C. (Richard Clarke) 189, 198, 486
  14. Carlyle, Thomas 138
  15. Childbirth 87, 93
  16. Clark, Hilda 415
  17. Cookery 44
  18. Cornell University--Alumni and Alumnae 61, 62
  19. Courtship--United States 39
  20. Cunningham, Hester 190, 193, 196
  21. Curtis, Greely Stevenson, 1830-97 39-43, 70-71, 220, 244, 263, 322
  22. Curtis, Greely Stevenson, 1871-1947 61-64, 242-257
  23. Curtis, Frances Greely 7, 55, 127, 141-231, 292, 528
  24. Curtis, Frazier 109-110, 230, 337-354
  25. Curtis, Harriot (Appleton) 44-139
  26. Curtis, Harriot Sumner 112-113, 212, 367-396, 401, 461, 463, 465
  27. Curtis, Harry Appleton 9-11, 108, 242, 329-336
  28. Curtis, Isabella 8, 65-107, 258-328,
  29. Curtis, James Freeman 92, 111, 295, 355-366, 385
  30. Curtis, Margaret 12-18, 114-129, 294-295, 377, 384, 386, 397-525
  31. Curtis, William 54, 109, 140
  32. Dana, Richard 128
  33. Dewson, Mary Williams 489
  34. Family Welfare Society 449
  35. Folks, Homer 495
  36. Galsworthy, John 138
  37. Golf 399, 404-406, 417-419, 422-424, 434, 435-437, 439- 440, 509
  38. Halsted, Isabella (Hopkinson) 27, 239
  39. Hampton Institute 84, 93, 286, 294-295, 370, 386-387
  40. Harvard University--Alumni and Alumnae 3, 109, 242, 337- 338
  41. Homans, Helen 119, 413, 425-426, 444
  42. Hopkinson, Charles 226, 235
  43. Hopkinson, Elinor (Curtis) 58-60, 214-234
  44. Howells, W.D. (William Dean) 195
  45. International Migration Service 295, 417, 502
  46. Irwin, Agnes 152
  47. James, William 200
  48. Keller, Helen 427
  49. Lee, Joseph 89, 174, 196
  50. Longfellow, Alice M. (Alice Mary) 121, 233
  51. Longfellow, Edith 121
  52. Longfellow, Ernest Wadsworth 191
  53. Longfellow, Fanny (Appleton) 120
  54. Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth 121
  55. Lowell, Amy 83, 365
  56. Masefield, John 138, 200, 376
  57. Maynor, Dorothy 387, 392, 394
  58. Muck, Karl 119, 380
  59. Penn School (Saint Helena Island, S.C.) 288, 291, 293
  60. Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae 2, 190, 193, 196, 202
  61. Shaw, Robert Gould 21
  62. Shurcliff, Joan (Hopkinson) 28, 93, 241, 394, 532, 533
  63. Shurtleff, Helen (Mrs. Ernest W.) 408, 478, 481
  64. Social work--United States 89, 117, 157, 161, 163, 378
  65. Society of Friends 523-525
  66. Stevenson, Hannah 36, 37
  67. Stone, Lucy 196
  68. Student Atelier Association 477-481
  69. Sturgis family 88, 319, 384, 410-411
  70. Sturgis, Mabel Russell 123, 384, 409-411, 420, 429-432, 488
  71. Suffrage--Anti-suffrage 93
  72. United States Committee for the Care of European Children--Boston Branch 503-507
  73. United States. War Production Board 511
  74. Washington, Booker T. 81, 370
  75. Whitman, Sarah (Wyman) 196, 198
  76. Women golfers see Golf
  77. Women in aeronautics 447
  78. Women--Suffrage 91, 196, 375, 527
  79. World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives, American 408- 413, 421, 423-424, 428, 472-491
  80. World War, 1914-1918--Posters 514f, 517+, 518o

Processing Information

Processed: June 1995

By: Jane S. Knowles, Barbara DeWolfe, Barbara Kravitz, and Adelaide Kennedy.

Updated and additional materials added: November 2019

By: Cat Lea Holbrook

Curtis family. Papers of the Curtis family, 1766-2000 (inclusive), 1863-1978 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women
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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