MSS 135:  Howland Family Papers, 1755-1872 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Howland Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Emily Esten, 2014; machine-readable finding aid created by: Emily Esten, 2014Inventory of the Howland Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Related Materials

Administrative Information


Subject Headings

Inventory of the Howland Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Howland Family Papers
Date Span:
Howland family
Mss Number:
Mss 135
6 linear inches
Primarily personal and business correspondence related to members of the Matthew Howland Family, active in New Bedford, Mass., written during the height of success and the decline of their whaling company.
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Historical Note

Matthew Howland (August 27, 1814 - September 29, 1884) was the son of whaling merchant George Howland. Matthew entered business with his father and half-brother, changing the name of the firm from “George Howland” to “George Howland and Sons.” Matthew was heavily involved in the business, even so far as to employ his three sons. Matthew helped continue the family's involvement in whaling until two Arctic disasters of the 1870s, in which the Howlands lost many of their ships, caused them to begin selling the remaining vessels. Outside of the whaling industry, Matthew was also an involved member of the Society of Friends, serving as an elder and clerk of the New Bedford Monthly Meeting; director of the National Bank of Commerce; and president of the New Bedford Bible Society.

Rachel Collins Smith Howland (1816-1902), originally of one of the leading Quaker families of Philadelphia, married Matthew on September 8, 1842. She served as the minister of the Society of Friends meetings for over fifty years. Rachel was also heavily involved in philanthropic work and social activism, founding several organizations, including: Ladies City Mission Society, Association for the Relief of Aged Woman, Children's Aid Society, and the Instructive Nurses Association. Together, she and Matthew had four children: Susanna, Richard Smith, Matthew Morris, and William Dillwyn.

Matthew Morris Howland (1850-1927) attended Friends Academy and Brown University before heading to the West Coast to serve as the San Francisco agent for the business. Though never joining a voyage, Morris traveled to the Hawaiian Islands on various cruises of the Pacific Ocean. Later, urged by his father, Morris moved to New York, working as a trader. At some point, he moved back to the New Bedford area, serving as a member of the editorial staff for the Providence Journal (of which his brother, Richard, was the editor and publisher.) He left the Journal in 1906, moving to Arlington (and later Jacksonville), Florida. He died on August 1, 1927.

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Scope and Content Note

The Howland Family Papers collection contains correspondence and other printed materials spanning almost a century concerning the lives and career of Matthew Howland and his family. The collection is arranged in three series: Correspondence of Matthew Howland, Matthew Morris Howland, and Additional Howland Papers.

The correspondence of Matthew Howland consists of two subseries. The first consists of correspondence to his future wife, Rachel C. Smith of West Hill. The first letter of the collection, dated November 20, 1840, is a response to Rachel’s declaration “that at least another year must away without further communication” from her. Their regular correspondence began in February 1841, where he apologized for his previous letter. What starts out as a platonic friendship eventually develops into a romantic relationship, noted by Matthew’s change from referring to Rachel as a friend to calling her “my dearest Chelly.” Throughout the course of the correspondence, Matthew made several visits to Rachel’s home, West Hill, of Burlington, New Jersey. Matrimony is finally mentioned in a letter dated January 9, 1842 (though their official engagement is approved over a month later.) The marriage was delayed in June at Rachel’s request due to Matthew’s responsibilities in New Bedford, but one of the final letters of the series mentions that the couple planned to marry on the eighth of September that year. The last letter of the subseries, dated October 10, 1847, mentions the couple’s daughter “Susy” and is signed “thy sincerely attached + loving husband.”

The second subseries, written almost thirty years later, consists of correspondence to his second son, Matthew Morris Howland (referred to as Morris.) These letters primarily consist of business affairs of the various Howland vessels, and follow Morris from his years in California to his years in Flushing, New York. Many of these letters refer to other members of the Howland family - namely Morris's brothers, William and Richard. Letters from 1880-1884 are collected in a letter and invoice file. The final letter of the series, asking Morris to return home by next first-day, was written four days before Matthew’s death.

This collection also includes a book of newspaper cuttings, consisting of reviews and articles written for the Providence Journal by Matthew Morris Howland. His brother, Richard Smith Howland, was the publisher of the Journal in the period 1890-1905. An index at the front of the book documents all of the topics Morris wrote on, including several stories of the Civil War (as well as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln), Shakespearean plays, German poetry, and various historical stories. The obituary of Major Harry Larkyns is accompanied by the following note: “Was slightly acquainted with Larkyns in the Spring of 1873 while in San Francisco.”

The final series consists of various papers related to the Howland family, though centered on Rachel. The subseries devoted to Rachel consists of the most items, including: two letters from Rachel’s grandson, Llewellyn; poetry she copied and read (presumably at Quaker meetings,); a piece written by a child on a visit to Philadelphia; and most unusual - a lock of hair wrapped in paper labeled “Rachel C. Smith, West Hill.” Other items in this series include handwritten records of Howland ships and two letters written by a man named Dillwyn to a Samuel Enlen, Esq.

Arrangement of Collection

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Access to Collections

Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.

Preferred Citation

New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 135, [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.

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Related Manuscript Collections

Mss 7: Howland Family Papers

Related Logbooks

ODHS 0591: Logbook kept on board the Arnolda, 1876-1880
ODHS 1087: Logbook kept on board the Rousseau,1845-1848
ODHS 0296: Logbook kept on board the Java, 1837-1839
ODHS 0552: Logbook kept on board the Java, 1839-1841

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Materials in this collection were donated to the New Bedford Whaling Museum on 16 January 2009 by Llewellyn Howland III, as part of accession #2009.12.

Processing Information

Processed by: Emily Esten, 2014

Encoded by: Emily Esten, 20 June 2014

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Series A: Correspondence of Matthew Howland, 1840-1844 13 materials
Series A contains outgoing correspondence of Matthew Howland to his future wife, Rachel Collins Smith); outgoing correspondence to his second son, Matthew Morris Howland; and incoming correspondence from family members.
Sub-series 1: To Rachel C. Smith, 1840-1842, 1847
Box 1
Folder 1
November 1840-August 1841
Folder 2
September-December 1841
Folder 3
January-March 1842
Folder 4
March-May 1842
Folder 5
June 1842
Folder 6
July-August 1842, October 1847
Sub-series 2: To Matthew Morris Howland, 1871-1884
Folder 1
1871-1875 (California)
Folder 2
1876-1878 (California/New York)
Folder 3
1879 (New York)
Folder 4
December 1879 (New York)
Folder 5
1880 (New York)
Folder 6
Letter & Invoice File, February 1880-September 1884
Sub-series 3: Incoming Correspondence, 1854
Folder 1
Correspondence to Matthew Howland, 1854
Series B: Matthew Morris Howland Papers, 1859, 1890-1905 2 materials
Series B contains a book of newspaper clippings including reviews and articles written for the Providence Journal by Matthew Morris Howland, as well as incoming correspondence from his brothers and mother.
Folder 1
Correspondence to Matthew Morris Howland, 1859
Folder 2
Book of Newspaper Clippings for Providence Journal 1890-1905
Series C: Additional Howland Papers 1813-1887 3 materials
Series C contains additional Howland correspondence and documents, with multiple papers pertaining Rachel Collins Smith Howland.
Sub-series 1: Rachel Collins Smith Howland, 1813, 1862-1866, 1887
Folder 1
Rachel Collins Smith Howland, 1813, 1862-1866, 1887
Sub-series 2: Correspondence, 1817-1818, 1872
Folder 1
Correspondence, 1817-1818, 1872
Sub-series 3: Handwritten Records of Howland Vessels, date unknown
Folder 1
Handwritten Records of Howland Vessels, date unknown

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Subject Headings

Burlington (N.J. : Township)
Burlington County (N.J.)
Burlington Monthly Meeting (Society of Friends: 1827-1991 : Burlington, N.J.)
Fall River (Mass.)
Flushing (New York, N.Y.)
George Howland & Sons (New Bedford, Mass.)
Howland family
Howland, George, 1806-1892
Howland, Llewellyn, 1877-1957
Howland, Matthew, 1814-1884
Howland, Susan Howland, 1791-1872
Michigan Central Railroad Company
New Bedford (Mass.)
New Bedford (Mass.)--History
New Bedford (Mass.)--History--19th century
New Bedford (Mass.)--Religious life and customs
New Bedford Monthly Meeting of Women Friends (Society of Friends)
Providence (R.I.)
Providence Journal Company
Quakers--New England
Quakers--New Jersey
San Francisco (Calif.)
Shaw, Robert Gould, 1837-1863
Society of Friends
Sutton & Co. (New York, N.Y.)
Tatham, Benjamin
Wamsutta Mills, New Bedford, Mass.
Whaling ships
Whaling ships--Arctic Ocean
Whaling ships--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Whaling--Pacific Coast

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Vessel Names

Arnolda (Bark)
Desdemona (Ship)
Europa (Bark: 1876-1885)
George Howland (Ship)
Janus (Bark)
Java (Bark)
Lottie Beard (Schooner)
Massachusetts (Steamer)
Rousseau (Bark)
St. George (Ship : 1828-1876)
Syren (Ship)

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