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Mss:766 1856-1905

Nichols, J. Howard, 1838-1905. J. Howard Nichols Papers, 1856-1905: A Finding Aid

Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Mss:766 1856-1905
Repository: Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Creator: J. Howard Nichols, 1838-1905
Title: J. Howard Nichols papers
Date(s): 1856-1905
Quantity: 3 collection (9 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Personal and professional papers of China trader and textile manufacturing firm treasurer J. Howard Nichols, 1856-1905.


Gift of John G. Greene, 1957 and 1969.
Gift of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1981.

Processing Information:

Processed: November 2011
By: Benjamin Johnson

Conditions Governing Access:

Some material may be stored offsite. Please contact histcollref@hbs.edu for more information.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: J. Howard Nichols Papers. Baker Library Historical Collections. Harvard Business School.

Related Collections:

See Dwight Manufacturing Company records for more information regarding J. Howard Nichols' tenure as treasurer.

Biographical Note:

John Howard Nichols was born in Kingston, New Hampshire in 1838. At the age of19, while working as a clerk in a wholesale grocery store in Boston, heattracted the attention of some China merchants. In 1857, he wassent to China by John L. Gardner and Company as supercargo of one of their ships. He decided to stay in Chinaas an agent buying tea, cloth, straw hats,and other dry goods for his employers, and shipping them back toAmerica for resale. He worked closely with several other companiesinvolved in China trade, including Augustine Heard & Company, Olyphant& Co., and Russell & Co. It does not appear from thecontent of his correspondence that he himself interacted much with theChinese at all, but he seems to have had friendly relationships withhis business associates and other Westerners in the area.
Nichols was in China during three separate periods, 1857-1863, 1865-1868, and 1873. In December 1873, he returned to Americapermanently and in January 1876 was offered the position oftreasurer for the Boston, Massachusetts textile firm Dwight Manufacturing Company. He also served astreasurer of the Great Falls Manufacturing Company, and as presidentof the board of directors of the Lyman Mills and the Manchester Mills.He invested in property in Galveston,Texas, which his brother Frank Nichols managed, and in Kansas City, Missouri. He died in Newton, Massachusetts, at the age of 67 on September 15, 1905.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The J. Howard Nichols papers consist of business records and personal and professional correspondence during the period from 1856 to 1905. The early business letters, 1856-1875, make up the bulk of this collection and refer primarily to hiswork as a China trader in the 1860s. The later letters, 1875-1905, refer tohis work as treasurer for the Dwight Manufacturing Company. The business records consistof shipping invoices, letters of credit, receipts, accounts, and deeds,mostly pertaining to his time in China and to his land holdings inTexas and Missouri. His personal correspondence consists of letters from his family, friends, and missionaries andreveal close family ties and a strong religious faith. Also included in the papers are telegrams about business matterswritten in secret code with translation beneath; references to the Civil War and the ensuing financial chaos; the competition of thetrans-Atlantic cable; and the Taiping Rebellion. Additionally, there are papers of his son, Howard Gardner Nichols, which include business correspondence, 1895-1896, and a Harvard College report card, 1890-1891.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Cotton manufacture--Massachusetts.
Cotton trade.
Export marketing.
Foreign marketing.
Real estate investment--Missouri.
Real estate investment--Texas.
Textile industry.
Letterpress copybooks.
China--Commerce--United States.
United States--Commerce--China.
Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson, 1831-1920.
Forbes, John Murray,1813-1898.
Freeman, Albert L.
Gardner, George Augustus, 1829-1916.
Gardner, John Lowell, d. 1898.
Greene, Edwin Farnham.
Johnson, Alex R.
Middleton, John.
Munger, Theodore Thornton, 1830-1910.
Nichols, Howard Gardner
Augustine Heard & Company.
Dwight Manufacturing Company.
Great Falls Manufacturing Company.
John Middleton and Company.
Olyphant and Company.
Russell & Co.
Tait and Company.