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Arnold Family. Papers of the Arnold Family 1781-1868: A Finding Aid

Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University


Harvard University
July 2003

© 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College

Last update 2016 June 14

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Arnold Arboretum Archives of Harvard University, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.
Call No.: IB-1 JA
Title: Papers of the Arnold Family
Date(s): 1781-1868
Creator: Arnold Family
Quantity: 0.5 Linear Feet (1 Box)


Access to Finding Aid record in Hollis Classic or Hollis.

Other descriptions of this material

Current version of this finding aid is available at the Archives of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.

Processing Information:

Processed by Lisa Pearson
September 2001

Acquisition Information:

The material in this collection was assembled, over time, as Arboretum staff either wrote about James Arnold and his family or received information from other sources. . The HOLLIS # for this collection is 008908785 and the file name is ajp00026.

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.


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

James Arnold, son of Thomas and Mary (Brown) Arnold, was born in Providence, Rhode Island on September 9, 1781. His parents were members of the Society of Friends and he was raised in the Quaker faith. He came to New Bedford, Massachusetts as a youth to enter into the business of William Rotch, Jr. a merchant of the city whose family had established the whaling industry in New England prior to the American Revolution. Arnold later became a partner and married Rotch's daughter Sarah on October 29, 1807. Sarah Arnold was very well respected in her time as a woman of impressive intellect, culture and who had a great compassion for the poor.
In1821 he erected a Federal style brick mansion in New Bedford (now the Wamsutta Club) and established extensive gardens. He was among a number of successful businessmen from the area who became interested in agriculture and horticulture and he was one of the founders of the New Bedford Horticultural Society in 1847. He opened his private gardens to the public, at the time an unusual and highly regarded act.
The Arnolds entertained John Quincy Adams in 1835 and again in 1843. Arnold and his wife and daughter traveled in Europe for three years beginning in 1836. It was during this trip that the painting "James Arnold and Family" was completed. James Arnold died on 1868 in New Bedford, outliving both his wife and daughter. Arnold's will specified that $100,000 of his fortune should be used to advance agriculture and horticulture. One of the trustees, George Emerson suggested the sum be paid to Harvard University to found an organization devoted to that purpose on the land in Jamaica Plain willed to the university by Benjamin Bussey. In 1872 the Arnold Arboretum was founded.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of biographical sketches of Arnold; a printed copy of his will; printed funeral sermons for Arnold and his wife; information on Henry H. Crapo, an associate; information about Arnold's home in New Bedford. There is also genealogical information about the Rotch and Arnold families; reproduction photographs, paintings and engravings of James Arnold and a framed picture of Arnold's daughter. Also included is correspondence between the administration of the Arnold Arboretum and the Fogg Art Museum regarding the loan of the painting of James Arnold and his family.
This collection is arranged into two series:
Series I: Papers
Series II: Portraits

Container List