MSS 117:  Butler Family Papers, 1810-2003 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Butler Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Jalien Hollister; machine-readable finding aid created by: Mark ProcknikInventory of the Butler Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Biographical Notes

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Administrative Information


Subject Headings

Inventory of the Butler Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Butler Family Papers
Date Span:
Butler family
Mss Number:
Mss 117
5.5 linear feet
Personal papers, ephemera, and photographs documenting three generations of the Butler family, active in the New Bedford and Boston areas as well as on the larger scene of Washington DC and other parts of the world
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Biographical Notes

Honorable William Morgan Butler (1861-1938) William Morgan Butler was born in New Bedford, the last of thirteen children in a family of a Methodist minister. He graduated from Boston University Law School in 1884. He practiced law in New Bedford until 1895 and was active in public affairs. He served as State Representative from 1890 to 1891 and as a State Senator from 1892 to 1895. In 1895 he moved to Boston where he continued to practice law until 1912 when he become involved in cotton manufacturing. In 1895 he married Minnie F. Norton of Edgartown. Their children were Morgan, Gladys, Miriam, Beatrice and Mary.

He established the law firm of Butler, Cox, Murchie & Bacon around 1896. He retired from it in 1912 to devote his time to his increasing industrial interests, including Butler Mills, the Quissett Mills, the Hoosac Mills and the New Bedford Cotton Mills. He amassed a large fortune between 1902 and 1922. He served as a director on numerous Boards of Directors. When Calvin Coolidge became President in 1923, upon the death of Warren G. Harding, Butler was summoned to Washington as an advisor. He was made a member of the Republican National Committee. He later became chairman of that committee. He was appointed to the U.S. Senate upon the death of Henry Cabot Lodge in 1924. He served for almost two years. He ran for that office in 1930, won the Republican nomination but was defeated in the election.

Morgan Butler (1889-1949) Morgan Butler was born in New Bedford. He attended St. Mark’s school and graduated from Harvard in 1911. While still in school, he worked in the Butler Mills during the summer. He was appointed treasurer of the Butler Mills in New Bedford in 1913 and held that position for many years.

Morgan Butler married his first wife, Bernice Fisher of Chicago in 1913. She was an accomplished opera singer. They had a son, William Morgan Butler II in 1917 and a daughter, Elizabeth Butler Burke. He married his second wife, Mrs. Isabelle (Jennings) Firuski in 1948. Morgan Butler was an avid yachtsman. He sailed and raced the ketch, Malabar XIII.

Bernice Fisher Butler (died 1949) Bernice Fisher was the daughter of Alva J. Fisher. She and her family lived in Chicago. Her family is descended from the Spooner family. She married Morgan Butler in 1913. They had two children. She was an accomplished opera singer.

William Morgan Butler II (1917-2003) William M. Butler II was born in New Bedford. At the age of seventeen he sailed on the George B. Cluett (Schooner) of the Grenfell Mission to Newfoundland and Labrador. He sailed on the Aldebaran (Schooner) a yacht formerly owned by the German Kaiser. In 1939 he sailed as first mate aboard the “Florence C. Robinson,” a three-masted, square-rigged brigantine. The captain was the well-known Hollywood actor, Sterling Hayden, an accomplished seaman. They sailed from Gloucester to Tahiti. "Bill" Butler traveled on to New Zealand and on to Australia. During W. W. II, he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy. He was also a pilot. After the war he joined the family textile business. He was married to Barbara Wiley and later, Joyce Towle.

Return to the Table of Contents

Scope and Content Note

The Butler Family Papers represents the collected papers and photographs of three generations of family members spanning over one hundred years of their lives and careers. The papers in this collection principally focus on William Morgan Butler (1861-1938), Morgan Butler (1889-1949), his wife, Bernice Fisher Butler (d. 1949), and William Morgan Butler II (1917-2003). These three generations of the Butler Family were very active in the New Bedford and Boston areas as well as on the larger scene of Washington DC and other parts of the world. Their interests were mainly in the textile business in New Bedford, the law, politics and in yachting in the local waters as well as more remote places. They maintained homes at Salter’s Point, Martha’s Vineyard and Boston. William Morgan Butler was an active political figure in Massachusetts and on the national political scene.

The collection has been arranged into series by family member and in chronological order with undated materials following. The collections of news paper clippings have been arranged by family member. The photographs have been separated from the collection and removed to the photo archives for storage and cataloging. There is one photograph album and one album of news paper articles. The collection includes four bibles and other ephemera.

Arrangement of Collection

Return to the Table of Contents

Access to Collections

Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.

Preferred Citation

New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 117, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]

Copyright Notice

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. The Privacy Act of 1974 (5 United States Code 552a) governs the use of materials that document private individuals, groups, and corporations.

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a reproduction if the document does not infringe the privacy rights of an individual, group, or corporation. These specified conditions of authorized use include:

- non-commercial and non-profit study, scholarship, research, or teaching
- criticism or commentary
- as a NBWM archives preservation or security copy for research use
- as a research copy for deposit in another institution

If the researcher later uses a copy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," the researcher is personally liable for copyright, privacy, or publicity infringement and agrees to indemnify the New Bedford Whaling Museum from any legal action as a result of the error. Permission to obtain a photographic, xerographic, digital, or other copy of a document does not indicate permission to publish, exhibit, perform, reproduce, sell, distribute, or prepare derivative works from the document without permission from the copyright holder and from any private individual, group, or corporation shown or otherwise recorded.

Permission to publish, exhibit, perform, reproduce, prepare derivative works from, sell, or otherwise distribute the item must be obtained separately in writing from the holder of the original copyright (or if the creator is dead, from his/her heirs) as well as from any individual(s), groups, or corporations whose name, image, recorded words, or private information (e.g. employment information) may be reproduced in the source material. The holder of the original copyright is not necessarily the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The New Bedford Whaling Museum is not legally liable for copyright, privacy, or publicity infringement when materials are wrongfully used after being provided to researchers for "fair use."

This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if fulfillment of the order is judged in violation of copyright or federal or state privacy law. This institution also places restrictions on the use of cameras, photocopiers, and scanners in the research room.

Return to the Table of Contents


Materials in this collection were donated to the New Bedford Whaling Museum by the Butler family of New Bedford in 2011, Accession #2011.102.

Processing Information

Processed by: Jalien Hollister, 2012

Encoded by: Mark Procknik, 4 August 2013

Return to the Table of Contents


Please Consult Research Library for Detailed Description of Collection

Series I: Early Family Papers, 1810, 1826, 1838, 1878 [2 inches]
Series I consists of two seaman’s protection papers and a bill of lading from the early part of the 19th century. A copy of a genealogy written in 1878 is also included
Series II: Honorable William Morgan Butler Papers, 1882, 1916, 1922-1938 [2 inches]
The papers of Hon. WIlliam Morgan Butler consist of his correspondence, legal papers, and ephemera relating to his private life, business career and political career
Series III: Morgan Butler Papers, 1906-1949, 1979-1980 [2 inches]
Series III contains the correspondence, legal papers, and documents relating to the private life and business career of Morgan Butler
Series IV: Bernice Fisher Butler Papers, 1922-1930, 1940-1949 [2 inches]
Bernice Fisher Butler Papers contain the correspondence, ephemera, and legal documents relating to her private life as well as her career as an opera singer
Series V: Gladys Butler Papers, 1950 [2 items]
Series V consists of Gladys Butler's correspondence
Series VI: Miriam Butler papers, 1948, 1950, 1956 [3 items]
Miriam Butler's papers consist of several legal documents
Series VII: Elizabeth Butler Burke Papers, 1950, 1958, 1960 [2 inches]
Series VII contains the correspondence and legal documents of Elizabeth Butler Burke
Series VIII: William Morgan Butler II Papers, 1926, 1934-1991, 2003 [1.5 linear feet]
William Morgan Butler II's papers consist of a quantity of correspondence from family and friends. There are articles, news clippings, and essays written about his sailing exploits. There are also several journals he wrote during his travels in addition to his aviation log book
Series IX: Unassociated Materials, 1938-1940, 1967 [6 inches]
This series contains materials unrelated to a specific family member
Series X: Family Bibles [4 items]
Series X consists of four bibles inscribed to Morgan Butler and William Morgan Butler II
Series XI: Scrapbook, circa 1924 [1 item]
Ephemera in the collection contains a lithographic plate, several copper plates, and a plaque
Series XII: Ephemera, Undated [6 inches]
The scrapbook contains news clippings pertaining to the political career of William Morgan Butler and other political news of the Coolidge era
Series XIII: Photographs
The photo scrapbook and all of the photos have been placed in the photo archive and are to be cataloged individually and in groups. Photographs consist of several portraits, while the bulk of the pictures are snapshots of family members on various boats and other locations.

Return to the Table of Contents

Subject Headings

Aldebaran (Schooner)
Associated Mills Companies
Bahamas International Lands Ltd.
Boston (Mass.)
Boston Herald
Boston Pops Orchestra
Bureau of Vocational Counsel, Inc.
Burke, Elizabeth Butler, d. 1960
Burke, Randolph
Butler family
Butler family--Genealogy
Butler, Bernice Fisher, d. 1949
Butler, Burridge
Butler, Gladys
Butler, Hon. William M., 1861-1938
Butler, James
Butler, Joyce Towle
Butler, Miriam
Butler, Morgan, 1889-1949
Butler, William M., 2nd, 1917-2003
Catholic Women's Club (New Bedford, Mass.)
Choate, Robert
Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933
Cruising Club of America
Everett, F. Chester
Florence C. Robinson (Brig)
Freedom (Yacht)
Freeman, Lloyd
Fuller, Alvah T.
George B. Cluett (Schooner)
Graalfs, Kapitain K.
Grinnell, Elizabeth B.
Grinnell, Lawrence, 3rd
Hale, Sanderson, Byrnes & Morton
Hayden, Sterling
Hoosac Mill
Inter City Airline (Boston, Mass.)
Kester, Rev. Reese B.
Malabar XIII (Ketch)
New Zealand
Opera Society of Chicago
Panama Canal
Papeete (French Polynesia)
Republican Women's Club (New Bedford, Mass.)
Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919
S.S. Monterrey
S.S. Santa Barbara
Salter's Point (Dartmouth, Mass.)
Selby, Hazel
Skardarsay, Franz or Frank K.
Spooner Family
Textile Research Co. Corp.
U.S.S. Sapphire
United States Trust Company
United States. Army. Air Corps

Return to the Table of Contents