Table of Contents
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.
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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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 135, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Related Manuscript Collections
Mss 7: Howland Family Papers
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
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.
Processed by: Emily Esten, 2014
Encoded by: Emily Esten, 20 June 2014
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, 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 Journal Company
San Francisco (Calif.)
Shaw, Robert Gould, 1837-1863
Society of Friends
Sutton & Co. (New York, N.Y.)
Wamsutta Mills, New Bedford, Mass.
Whaling ships--Arctic Ocean
Whaling ships--Massachusetts--New Bedford--19th century
Europa (Bark: 1876-1885)
George Howland (Ship)
Lottie Beard (Schooner)
St. George (Ship : 1828-1876)
Last modified: January 7, 2017