Mss 199:  The Crapo Family Papers, 1845-2006 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Crapo Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Lilli Thorne; machine-readable finding aid created by: Mark ProcknikInventory of the Crapo Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Administrative Information

Collection Inventory

Subject Headings

Inventory of the Crapo Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Crapo Family Papers
Date Span:
Crapo family
Mss Number:
Mss 199
6 linear inches
Personal correspondence between the Crapo family in addition to correspondence, legal documents, financial documents, and newspaper clippings related to Hetty Green, businesswoman and legal client of William Wallace Crapo
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Biographical Note

Henry Howland Crapo was born in 1804 on a farm near Dartmouth (Massachusetts). As a young child, he worked on his family’s farm, but his ambition to learn broadly allowed him to become a school teacher at the age of 17. In June 1825, he married Mary Ann Slocum; the couple moved to New Bedford in 1832. Together they had 10 children. Their second child was a son, William Wallace; the rest were all daughters. Throughout his adult life in Massachusetts, Howland worked as a surveyor, and soon became involved in local politics. He was elected Town Clerk in 1835, and Treasurer and Collector of Taxes in New Bedford; continued until 1850. He also invested in land in Ohio and Michigan, and moved to Flint, Michigan in 1858 to support his business ventures in the region. He was elected Mayor of Flint in 1860, a state senator in 1862, and governor of Michigan in 1864. He was a member of the Republican party, and stood in opposition to slavery. Henry Howland Crapo away in Flint in 1869, following a recurring health issue, at age 65.

William Wallace Crapo was born on May 16, 1830, at Barney’s Joy, Dartmouth (Massachusetts). He attended Phillips Andover academy starting in 1845, and starting in 1848 he attended Yale College, graduating in 1852. He was loyal to Yale throughout the rest of his life, and the college awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1882. He obtained law credentials at Dane Law School of Harvard College in 1854, and practiced in New Bedford beginning that same year. In 1857, he married Sarah Tappan. The couple had four children together. Throughout William’s professional career, he held leadership positions at several different businesses in the New Bedford area, including Mechanics National Bank of New Bedford, Wamsutta Cotton Mills, Potomska Mills, Eel River Railroad, and Achushnet Mills. However, he is perhaps best known for his role as a U.S. Congressman from 1875-1883. He served in the Republican Party; in 1884, he was a member of the Republican National Committee. He passed away in 1926, at the age of 96.

Hetty Green (born Henrietta Howland Robinson) was born on November 21, 1834 in New Bedford. Her parents, Edward Mott Robinson and Abby Howland, were prominent in the whaling industry. At the age of 2, her parents sent her to live with her grandfather, Gideon Howland, and her aunt, Sylvia Ann Howland. She picked up an affinity for business from a young age, and attended Eliza Wing’s boarding school in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Following the passing of her aunt, Sylvia Ann, in 1865, Hetty entered a legal issue over her estate. The will was challenged in the court case Robinson v. Mandell; she was eventually awarded a settlement. She married Edward Henry Green in 1867; the couple had two children.

Hetty’s reputation as a savvy investor has earned her the nickname “The Witch of Wallstreet.” She believed that women should be able to handle their own business affairs, and was known for her frugality despite being wealthy. She dealt mainly in real estate, railroads, and mines. She passed away in 1916 at the age of 81.

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Scope and Content Note

Materials in the Crapo family papers consist of correspondence between 1845 and 1849, concentrating on William Wallace Crapo and members of his family, notably his father, Henry Howland Crapo, and his eldest sister, Mary Ann Crapo. The letters were addressed to William while he was away from home in New Bedford to attend school, first at Phillips Andover Academy and later at Yale College. There are also select letters written from other members of the family, including his sister Rebecca, and his mother, Mary Ann.

The letters reflect the personal interests and activities of the family. William writes of his boarding situation at both Phillips Andover and at Yale, discussing the living quarters and the owners of the properties at which he stays. He also writes of his experiences in the classroom, detailing his course selections at Phillips Andover especially; each term, he decided on a different subject to take, and sought advice from his father. William also wrote about his recreational activities, including holiday celebrations such as the 4th of July in 1846, and poetry writing in 1849. Mary Ann’s letters often consist of updates from the family, and town happenings and social culture more broadly, writing about events such as Lyceum at their Church in 1846 and hot air balloon festivities in October 1848. She also sends updates about her work in a local school, and writes about how she wishes to further her own education. Her letters also include information about the family’s religious practices.

Henry’s letters often update William on family business ventures such as investments on whaling ships Morea, Olympia, and Ceres and their potential profits from season to season, especially writing about the struggles in the industry in 1846-1847. He also writes about his law practice, and involvement in local politics. Particularly, Henry chronicles his activities as New Bedford’s Town Clerk and Collector in 1847, and a potential ambition to run for mayor of New Bedford in February 1849. He also offers William advice from his parental perspective, and seeks to educate William on strong morals and religious conviction. Ego was an essential theme of Henry’s letters while William attended Yale in 1849; as William became more esteemed in his studies and social standing, Henry cautioned him to earn the respect of his peers and refrain from becoming boastful. The letters also occasionally indicate Henry and William’s shared love of horticulture and gardening, and throughout, they record information regarding the family’s budget, William’s spending, and news regarding the family’s health.

While the letters are personal in nature, they also reference events that occur in the local community, the country, and the world. Particularly of note are reactions to the war with Mexico in May of 1846, a large fire on Nantucket, Massachusetts in July of 1846, comments on slavery in 1846 and 1848, and a variety of state, local, and federal elections throughout the years. The letters also comment on the California Gold Rush, nicknamed “California Fever,” in 1849.

This collection also contains material relates to Hetty Green, with most of her materials consisting of correspondence from 1866-1902, with a bulk of materials from 1895-1902. The majority of the communication relates to Hetty’s ventures in real estate. In particular, the correspondence documents matters relating to Sylvia Ann Howland’s estate following her death in 1865; Hetty was her niece, and a trustee of her estate. William Wallace Crapo was also a trustee of the estate, and also provided some legal services to Hetty. Edward D. Mandell is also a prominent correspondent in the collection, and a trustee of the Howland estate. Notes on the Howland estate range in date from 1866 to 1901. Other correspondence from 1901 relates to the estate of Edward Mott Robinson, Hetty’s father. Some correspondence also relates to various financial matters, including a dispute in 1894-1896 over a cashed check between William Wallace Crapo, Hetty, and W.J. Quinlan, Jr, who was involved in financial services to the Green family.

Hetty Green’s papers also contain legal documents, including drafts of legal agreements pertaining to Hetty’s rights to the Sylvia Ann Howland Estate (circa 1866), and probate court documents from 1871-1899 regarding the same estate. The materials also include miscellaneous accounts of legal activities and notes regarding legal activities. The materials also provide a small amount of financial information regarding Hetty’s bills, receipts, and accounts, all undated.

Finally, the materials consist of newspaper clippings regarding Hetty from circa 1890-2006, with the bulk from 1890 to 1902. Articles from circa 1890 relate to the Sylvia Ann Howland estate case when it was taken to court; the estate is written on further in 1899 over contention between Hetty and William Wallace Crapo concerning his trusteeship. Press coverage in 1902 concerns Hetty’s desire to carry a revolver for self-defense, stating that three men were conspiring to murder her. In 2006, press covered the release of a documentary made about Hetty Green; the documentarians wished to dispel the many myths that had mounted against her.

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 199, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]

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Materials in this collection were donated to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in 2021 by Sally Bullard on 26 November 2021 part of Accession 2021.60.

Processing Information

Processed by: Lilli Thorne, 2022

Encoded by: Mark Procknik, 5 May 2022

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Collection Inventory

Sub-group 1: Crapo Family Papers, 1845-1849
Series A: Correspondence, 1845-1849
Box 1
Folder 1
January 1845 - March 1845
Folder 2
December 1845
Folder 3
January 1846
Folder 4
February 1846
Folder 5
March 1845 - April 1846
Folder 6
May 1846
Folder 7
June 1846
Folder 8
July 1846
Folder 9
August 1846 - September 1846
Folder 10
October 1846
Folder 11
November 1846 - December 1846
Folder 12
January 1847
Folder 13
February 1847
Folder 14
March 1847
Folder 15
April 1847 - May 1847
Folder 16
June 1847
Folder 17
July 1847
Folder 18
March 1848 - October 1848
Folder 19
November 1848
Folder 20
December 1848
Folder 21
January 1849 - February 1849
Folder 22
March 1849
Folder 23
April 1849 - June 1849
Folder 24
July 1849
Folder 25
August 1849 - October 1849
Folder 26
November 1849 - December 1849
Folder 27
Sub-group 2: Hetty Green Papers, 1866-2006
Series A: Correspondence, 1866-1902
Folder 1
Folder 2
Folder 3
Folder 4
Folder 5
Folder 6
Folder 7
Folder 8
Folder 9
Folder 10
Folder 11
Series B: Legal Documents, circa 1866-1902
Folder 1
Drafts of legal agreements, circa 1866
Folder 2
Probate Court documents, 1871-1899
Folder 3
Daily accounts of legal activities, 1888
Folder 4
Notes regarding legal documents, circa 1898-1902
Series C: Financial Documents, Undated
Folder 1
Bills, receipts, and accounts, undated
Series D: Newspaper Clippings, circa 1890-2006
Folder 1
Newspaper clippings, circa 1890-2006

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Subject Headings

Andover (Mass.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Antislavery movements--Massachusetts--19th century
Barling, Henry A.
Chronic diseases
Crapo family
Crapo, Henry Howland, 1804-1869
Crapo, Henry Howland, 1804-1869--Finance, personal
Crapo, Mary Ann
Crapo, William Wallace, 1830-1926
Education--Massachusetts--Andover--19th century
Education--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Estate planning--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Gardening--Massachusetts--Andover--19th century
Gardening--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Gold mines and mining--California--19th century
Green, Edward Henry
Green, Hetty Howland Robinson, 1835-1916
Horticulture--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Howland, Sylvia Ann, 1806-1865
Mandell, Edward D., 1821-1897
Mexican War, 1846-1848
Moral education--19th century
New Bedford (Mass.)--Commerce--19th century
New Bedford (Mass.)--Description and travel--19th century
New Bedford (Mass.)--Politics and government--19th century
New Bedford (Mass.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Parenting--19th century
Passenger trains--New England--19th century
Philips Academy
Political campaigns--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Political culture--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Probate records--Massachusetts--Bristol County
Religion and culture--Massachusetts--19th century
Robinson, Edward Mott, 1800-1865
Self-defense--Equipment and supplies
Whaling agents--Massachusetts--New Bedford
Whaling ships--Massachusetts--New Bedford
Women--Education--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Yale College (1718-1887)

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