MSS 98: Gifford Family Papers, 1851-1980 - New Bedford Whaling Museum
Inventory of the Gifford Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research LibraryProcessed by: Judith M. Downey, 20 April 1990; machine-readable finding aid created by: Mark ProcknikInventory of the Gifford Family Papers In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note

Information for Researchers

Related Materials

Separations List

Administrative Information


Subject Headings

Inventory of the Gifford Family Papers

In the New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library

Gifford Family Papers
Date Span:
Gifford family
Mss Number:
Mss 98
7.5 inches
Primarily correspondence by a New Bedford, Massachusetts, whaling master and his wife, 1851-1980
New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library
Phone: (508) 997-0046

Biographical Note

Leonard Sanford Gifford was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1821. Gifford began his whaling career as a young man and by 1851, he had advanced to become a captain. His first command was the Ship Hope of New Bedford which lasted until 1857. When he returned from this voyage, he married Lucy Ann Roberts. Lucy was born in New Bedford in 1832 and lived with her widowed aunt, Sarah Crapo Roberts (1800-1860). Gifford again took command of the Hope in 1857 and was accompanied by his wife. On this voyage, Lucy gave birth to four children while the vessel was in various ports but the first two children died within the first two months of birth. The Hope was wrecked on Bampton's Shoal off Australia in late 1863. The remains of the two children were on board and only one was salvaged. The family finally arrived back in New Bedford at the end of 1864. Two more children born to the couple in 1865 and 1866. Leonard returned to the sea in 1867 but not in the whaling industry, rather in the merchant trade. He became the captain of the Schooner J. S. Wainwright and also had one-eighth ownership. He sailed for South Africa with a cargo of petroleum. After disposing of this cargo, Gifford entered the coastwise trade in South Africa with cargo of sugar and fruits. Gifford died and was buried at Cape Town, South Africa, in February 1868. Lucy was left with four children to raise and she died a few years later in 1873.

David Blair Littlefield was the great-grandson of Leonard and Lucy Gifford who inherited the manuscripts in this collection. He attempted to create a story out of this material so that it could be published, but his own death prevented it.

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Scope and Content Note

Materials in this collection reflect the activities of members of the Gifford family of New Bedford, Massachusetts, 1851-1980. The material concentrates on Leonard Sanford Gifford and his wife, Lucy Ann Roberts Gifford. Leonard's papers consist of correspondence, ship's papers, and certificates, 1851-1868. His correspondence, 1851-1868, primarily consists of letters written by him to his wife while on voyages on the Ship Hope, 1851-1856 and on the Schooner J. S. Wainwright, 1867-1868. The letters from the Ship Hope describe his whaling activities, plans for Lucy to join him at Hawaii as many other captains had their ladies aboard, activities at ports where the vessel anchored including Honolulu, Lahaina, Macaulay's Island and Lima, Peru. There are also letters written to his mother and from ship's agents, Wilcox & Richmond. The letters from the Schooner J.S. Wainwright, were written by him to his wife while he was in South Africa. These describe his merchant activities with the cargo of petroleum, his coast-wise shipping from Cape Town, Table Bay, Port Elizabeth and Port Natal, the need for dentists, and the over abundance of photographers in South Africa.

The ship's papers contain records of the Ship Hope and the Schooner J.S. Wainwright, 1857-1867. Papers for the Hope include a Sea Letter, 1857, and a typescript of the logbook, 1863. Papers for the Wainwright include agent/owner accounts and bills and receipts. The certificates consist of a marriage certificate, 1857, Masonic Lodge membership, 1857, and life insurance policies, 1865-1867.

Papers for Lucy Ann Roberts Gifford consist of correspondence. legal documents, bills and receipts, and poems, 1851-1873. Her correspondence. 1857-1873, are primarily letters written by her while abroad the Ship Hope to her aunt, Sarah Crapo Roberts, 1857-1858, letters to her regarding her husband's death, 1868-1869, and other family letters, 1869-1873. The letters aboard the Hope describe shipboard life and experiences at various ports especially Fayal and Talcahuano, including the births and deaths of her two children.

The legal documents include deeds, consular records, and insurance policies, 1865-1871. The deeds are for property in New Bedford purchased by Lucy in 1865. The consular records concern the death of her husband in South Africa and his estate, 1868-1869. The insurance policies are life insurance policies and settlements on her husband and fire insurance of a cottage on Martha's Vineyard, 1868-1871. The final two series are bills and receipts, 1871-1872, and poems, 1851-ca. 1859.

Papers for Sarah C. Roberts consist of letters written by her to Lucy and Leonard Gifford, 1857-1859. These letters relate family news, events in New Bedford, her financial situation, and her declining health.

Papers of David Blair Littlefield contain correspondence, research materials, genealogy notes, and two versions of the typescript "Memories of a Whaling Wife," 1938-1980. Littlefield inherited the manuscript letters and thought them to be of such importance and interest that he worked on a volume using their transcriptions as a basis for a publication. The correspondence, research materials, and genealogy notes are all background materials either used for research or as part of the proposed publication.

Arrangement of Collection

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Access to the Collection

Unrestricted. Consult librarian for an appointment.

Preferred Citation

New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 98 [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 Collections

Mss 43: Gifford Family Papers

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Removed to Photographs Collection

- Charles W. Morgan at Mystic, b & w, 11 items.
- 79 Bay Street, New Bedford, b & w, 4 items.
- Gifford Family Plot, Rural Cemetery, b & w, 9 items.
- Ship model, b & w, 2 items.
- Sea chest, b & w, 2 items.
- Baptist Church, William St., New Bedford, b & w, 1 item.

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Material in this collection was donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society by Mrs. David Blair Littlefield on 22 July 1985.

Processing Information

Processed by: Judith M. Downey, 20 April 1990

Encoded by: Mark Procknik, 18 August 2011

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Sub-group 1: Leonard Sanford Gifford Papers, 1851-1868 [1 inch]
Sub-group 1 consists of Leonard Sanford Gifford's correspondence, ship's papers, and certificates.
Series A: Correspondence, 1851-1868
Box 1
Folder 1
Folder 2
Folder 3
Folder 4
Folder 5
Series B: Ship's Papers, 1857-1867
Sub-series 1: Hope (Ship) Records, 1857-1863
Folder 1
Sea Letter, 1857
Folder 2
Typescript of logbook, 1863
Sub-series 2: J.S. Wainwright (Schooner) Records, 1867
Folder 1
Agent/Owner accounts, 1867
Folder 2
Bills and receipts, 1867
Series C: Certificates, 1857-1867
Folder 1
Marriage certificate and vows, 1857
Folder 2
Masonic Lodge membership, 1857
Folder 3
Insurance policies, 1865-1867
Sub-group 2: Lucy Ann Roberts Gifford Papers, 1851-1873 [1.5 inches]
Sub-group 2 contains Lucy Ann Roberts Gifford's correspondence, legal documents, bills and receipts, and poems.
Series A: Correspondence, 1857-1873
Folder 1
Folder 2
Folder 3-4
Series B: Legal Documents, 1865-1871
Folder 1
Deeds, 1865
Folder 2
Consular records, 1868-1869
Folder 3
Insurance policies, 1868-1871
Series C: Bills and Receipts, 1871-1872
Folder 1
Series D: Poems, 1851-ca. 1859
Folder 1
1851-ca. 1859
Sub-group 3: Sarah Crapo Roberts Papers, 1857-1859 [11 items]
Sub-group 3 consists of Sarah Crapo Roberts' correspondence.
Series A: Correspondence, 1857-1859
Folder 1
Folder 2
Sub-group 4: David Blair Littlefield Papers, 1938-1980 [5 inches]
Sub-group 4 contains David Blair Littlefield's correspondence, research materials, and genealogy notes, along with the typescript "Memories of a Whaling Wife."
Series A: Correspondence, 1961-1972
Box 2
Folder 1
Folder 2
Series B: Research Materials, 1938-1977
Sub-series 1: Historical Societies Brochures, 1960-ca. 1970
Folder 1
New Bedford Whaling Museum, 1961-ca. 1965
Folder 2
Mystic Seaport, 1960-1961
Folder 3
Others, ca. 1960-ca. 1970
Sub-series 2: Articles and Clippings, 1938-1977
Folder 1
Articles, ca. 1970
Folder 2
Clippings, 1938, 1964-1966
Folder 3-4
Clippings, 1971-1977
Sub-series 3: Research Notes, 1960-ca. 1965
Folder 1
Notes taken from published sources, ca. 1960-ca. 1965
Series C: Genealogy Notes, ca. 1940, ca. 1961
Folder 1
ca. 1940, ca. 1961
Series D: "Memories of a Whaling Wife," 1975-1980
Volume 1
Typescript draft, 1975
Volume 2
Typescript draft, 1980

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Subject Headings

Children on ships
Coastwise shipping--South Africa
Deaths at sea
Deeds--Mass.--New Bedford
Family--Mass.--New Bedford
Gifford family
Gifford, Leonard Sanford, 1821-1868
Gifford, Lucy Ann Roberts, 1832-1873
Littlefield, David Blair, ca. 1915-ca. 1983
Merchant ships--Mass.--New Bedford
Roberts, Sarah Crapo, 1800-1860
Ship's papers
Shipmasters--Mass.--New Bedford
South Africa--Commerce
Whalemen's wives
Whalemen--Correspondence, reminiscences, etc.
Whaling--Mass.--New Bedford
Women and the sea
Women on ships

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Vessel Names

Hope (Ship)
J. S. Wainwright (Schooner)

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