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Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842. Records of the Benjamin Bussey Collection, 1818-1840s, 1940s, 1990s, 2001 (scattered): A Finding Aid

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Harvard University

(c)2001 President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last update 2016 October 19

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
Call No.: IB-1 BB
Creator: Bussey, Benjamin, 1757-1842.
Title: Records of the Benjamin Bussey Collection,
Date(s): 1818-2001 (inclusive).
Quantity: .25 linear feet (1 Box)
Abstract: The Benjamin Bussey Collection consists of biographical materials, correspondence, historical articles, paintings and photographs that appeared at the time of Bussey's death in 1842 and scattered dates from 1818-1840s to 2001. Of particular interest is Bussey's will and probate inventory that gave his Roxbury property to Harvard University for "instruction in practical agriculture." In 1872, the property became part of the newly established Arnold Arboretum. Also included are short histories on Roxbury/Jamaica Plain, MA, the Bussey Mansion 1839 painting, photographs of the Bussey Mansion and photographs of the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Benjamin Bussey, and correspondence concening the Bussey tomb in the churchyard of the First Congregational Society in Jamaica Plain, MA. The bulk of the materials are photocopies of original works.


Access to Finding Aid record in Hollis Classic or Hollis.

Processing Information:

PROCESSED BY: Lisa Pearson

Acquisition Information:

The Benjamin Bussey Collection was assembled by the Arnold Arboretum Archival staff. The papers were accessioned into the HOLLIS catalog #008909080.

Access Restrictions:

Researchers seeking to examine archival materials are strongly encouraged to make an appointment. The Director, or an office of origin, may place restrictions on the use of some or all of its records. The extent and length of the restriction will be determined by the Director, office of origin, and the Archivist and will be enforced equally for all researchers.

Use Restrictions:

Copyright is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Arnold Arboretum Library, Jamaica Plain. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Arnold Arboretum Library before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.
The copyright is held by The President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University. The copyright on some materials in the collection may be held by the original author or the author's heirs or assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining written permission from the holder(s) of copyright and the Arnold Arboretum Archives prior to publishing any quotations or images from materials in this collection.
Photocopies may be made at the discretion of the Arnold Arboretum Archives staff. Permission to make photocopies does not constitute permission to reproduce or publish materials outside the bounds of the fair use guidelines.

Historical Note

Benjamin Bussey was born in 1757 in Stoughton (later Canton), Massachusetts. He served in the American Revolution seeing service at Saratoga and rising to the rank of Quartermaster. About 1779 he went into business as a silversmith in Dedham, Massachusetts and he married in 1780. By 1792, when he moved to Boston, his business had expanded into trading in a variety of goods. He was highly successful and in the following years engaged in overseas trade as well. He retired from business in 1806 and bought an estate in Roxbury, Massachusetts, turning his interests farming and manufacturing. He established woolen mills in Dedham and bought extensive properties in Maine. In 1815 he built a mansion on his Roxbury property where he resided until his death in 1842. In his will, Bussey gave his Roxbury property to Harvard University for the "instruction in practical agriculture, in useful and ornamental gardening, in botany, and in such other branches of natural science as may tend to promote a knowledge of practical agriculture, and the various arts subservient thereto and connected therewith." A number of years would elapse before Harvard could act upon the bequest. By 1871 the Bussey Institution had been established to carry out the terms of the will. The rest of Bussey's bequest was organized into the Arnold Arboretum in 1872.

Scope and Content

This wide-ranging collection contains biographical materials on Benjamin Bussey copied from several publications that appeared at the time of his death in 1842 and later in the nineteenth century. Of interest is an autobiographical sketch in Bussey's own words and unique spelling. There are copies of letters written to him copied from collections at the Dedham Historical Society as well as copies of his will and probate inventory. There are several short general histories of the local Roxbury/Jamaica Plain area including an early history of the lands that would later comprise the Bussey estate and a copy of a map of the area c.1832. There is the supporting correspondence and photographs concerning the fundraising and purchase by the Arnold Arboretum of the 1839 painting of the Bussey Mansion. There are articles (not contemporary) about the Joyce murders of 1865 and the legend of the Bussey ghost. There are various photographs of the Bussey estate from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, including photographs of the mansion just prior to its demolition in 1940. In addition there are photographs of the Gilbert Stuart painting of Benjamin Bussey held by Harvard University. There is a small amount of correspondence concerning the refurbishment of the Bussey tomb in the churchyard of the First Congregational Society (Unitarian) in Jamaica Plain in the 1940s. The bulk of the papers are photocopies of original documents. There are some original letters from the last half of the twentieth century. The many of the photographs are modern reprints of original negatives. There are some original prints.


The collection is organized into the following series: 1.Papers and Correspondence 2.Photographs and negatives