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MC 424

Bradley family. Papers, 1813-1957: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


Radcliffe College
December 1993

© 1993 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 424
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Title: Papers, 1813-1957
Quantity: 21 file boxes, 6 folio+ folders, 1 audiocassette
Abstract: Correspondence, family and business records, journals, etc., of the Bradley, Merry, and Aldis families from New England.

Processing Information:

Processed: December 1993
By: Ann E. Berman

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 85-M117, 85-M163, 86-M68, 88-M9, 90-M75
The papers of the Bradley family were given to the Schlesinger Library in May and June of 1985 by Amy Suter Wilson and Philip Suter, children of Philip and Amy (Bradley) Suter and grandchildren of Richards Merry and Amy (Aldis) Bradley. Materials were added in May 1986, January 1988, and May 1990 by Sarah Gamble Epstein, daughter of Clarence and Sarah (Bradley) Gamble and granddaughter of Richards Merry and Amy (Aldis) Bradley.


Access. Unrestricted.

Use Restrictions:

Copying. Unrestricted.


William Czar Bradley (1782-1867), a lawyer, is the first member of this prominent Vermont family to appear in this collection. The Bradleys left Connecticut to settle in Westminster, Vt., in the 1770s. William Czar, following in his father's footsteps, became a lawyer and member of both the State Legislature and the U.S. Congress.
His son, Jonathan Dorr Bradley (1803-1862), like his father and grandfather before him, attended Yale College (graduating in the class of 1822) and read for the bar. He practiced law, first in Bellows Falls, Vt., and then in Brattleboro, and was active in civic affairs. In 1829, he married Susan Mina Crossman (1811-1892) and they had four sons: William Czar II, Richards, Stephen Rowe II, and Arthur.
William Czar Bradley II (1831-1908) graduated from Harvard College in 1851 and attended the Divinity School until illness forced his withdrawal and eventual return to Brattleboro. He later taught young men preparing for college and served as town librarian in Brattleboro, where he resided until his death. Stephen Rowe Bradley II (1836-1910) and Arthur Bradley (1849-1911) were involved in the manufacture of white lead in Brooklyn, New York; Arthur was instrumental in the discovery of a new manufacturing process for the metal. They both married, and Stephen Rowe Bradley had four children.
Richards Bradley (1834-1904) was briefly involved in business in New York, until his marriage in 1856 to Sarah Williams Merry (1834-1914), daughter of Robert D.C. Merry and Sarah Williams Merry of Boston. SWMB's father was a merchant who imported cotton, tobacco, notions, sugar, rum and other products, and who traveled to the south (primarily New Orleans) to conduct business. SWMB was orphaned at a young age and inherited significant wealth in a trust fund from her grandfather John D. Williams. This inheritance, the subject of several years of legal disputes (well documented in the collection), enabled RB and SWMB to construct the Bradley Home Place in Brattleboro in 1858, and to live in Brattleboro and Boston on the income from the trust fund. The Home Place remained in the family until the 1940s. They had five children: Susan (SBGII), Richards Merry (RMB), Jonathan Dorr II (JDBII), Emily (EBW) and Sally (SBT). A sixth child died in childhood.
Susan (Bradley) (SBGII) (b.1859) married Richard Grinnell and lived in New York City until her husband's asthma forced their removal to Colorado. Jonathan Dorr Bradley II (1864-1928) married Frances Kales and lived and worked in Chicago. Emily (Bradley) (1866-1943) married Dr. William F. Wesselhoeft; they lived in Boston with their four daughters. Sally (Bradley) (1868-1926) married Russell Tyson; they lived in Chicago, where Russell was in the real estate business with JDBII.
Richards Merry Bradley (1861-1943) attended St. Paul's School and graduated from Harvard College in 1882. He married Amy Aldis (1865-1917) of St. Albans, Vt., in 1892. She was the daughter of Asa Owen Aldis and Mary (Taylor) Aldis. The Aldis family had come to America in the 1630s, settling first in Massachusetts and moving to Vermont in the early nineteenth century. Asa Own Aldis, a prominent lawyer and judge, served in Washington on the commission to settle claims of citizens against the government arising from the Civil War, as well as on the French and Alabama Claims Commission. Amy's siblings were Helen, Owen Jr., Cornelia and Arthur. Before her marriage, AAB spent several years in Paris studying sculpture, and later sent several of her daughters to do the same.
RMB and AAB had five daughters: Amy Owen, Helen Aldis, Sarah Merry (married Clarence Gamble; see MC 368), Mary Townsend and Edith Richards. A son, Walter Williams, and a sixth daughter, Ruth, died in childhood. RMB founded a real estate business in Boston and often traveled to the midwest, west coast and Canada to buy land and make investments.
For further family history, particularly of the Bradley and Aldis families, see Series I of the Sarah Merry (Bradley) Gamble papers, MC 368. The Gamble collection contains papers pertaining to many of the individuals represented in the Bradley family papers, and #514 in Series IV is a family history that includes typescripts of journals and letters from the Bradley family papers. In addition, the Brattleboro Historical Society holds papers of the Bradley family.


Through personal and business correspondence, family and business records, journals and other writings, this collection documents the daily domestic life and business activities of a well-to-do New England family in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The papers are arranged in three series:
Each series is arranged by generation, and within generation by birth order if known, and otherwise chronologically. The correspondence is arranged by writer for members of the Bradley, Merry, and Aldis families. Correspondence from others is arranged by recipient. All folder titles were supplied by the processors.
Series I, Early Bradley family, is divided into three sub-series:
Sub-series A, William Czar Bradley et al. (#2-10), contains letters from WCB to his children. Letters from Washington (1823-1827) to his son Jonathan Dorr Bradley report news from Congress, including the election of President Andrew Jackson and the duel between Henry Clay and Congressman John Randolph.
Sub-series B, Jonathan Dorr Bradley (#11-48), consists of personal, family and business correspondence and papers from his law practice. Letters to JDB from family and friends include some received while he was a student at Yale College; among them are letters written by his sister, Merab Ann Bradley, while she was attending Troy Female Seminary (#17). Letters from clients of his growing legal practice and from other lawyers, as well as from college friends also engaged in reading law and establishing a practice are in #19-29. The letters and other documents provide a picture of legal education and the conduct of a law practice in the 1820s. This sub-series also contains correspondence of Jonathan Dorr's wife, Susan Crossman Bradley; they corresponded weekly when the younger Bradleys were living in Boston. These letters are full of family news and a detailed reporting of social activities and daily life in Brattleboro.
Sub-series C, Children of JDB and SCB (#49-68), includes the papers of William Czar II, Richards (until his marriage in 1856), Stephen Rowe II, and Arthur Bradley. The papers of WCBII include poetry written during his college years (#50), as well as descriptions of his life and activities at Harvard.
Series II, Bradley-Merry family, focuses on Richards Bradley, Sarah Williams Merry Bradley and their children.
Sub-series A, Merry Family (#69-119), includes the personal correspondence, household accounts, and business papers of Robert D.C. Merry, SWMB's father. There is extensive documentation of the import business in which RDCM was involved, as well as commercial life in New Orleans, where much of his business took place. The papers pertaining to his children (including Sarah Williams Merry Bradley prior to her marriage to Richards Bradley) include school records and writings and extensive correspondence with schoolmates. SWMB's papers also include letters describing her sister Hannah's illness and death, possibly from syphilis, and the reaction of friends and relatives (#107, 111-112, and 119).
Sub-series B, Richards Bradley and Sarah W. Merry Bradley (#120-209). In addition to numerous letters to family members (particularly children away at school), the papers of SWMB include courtship letters from her to RB (#120); those of RB include a letter from Rudyard Kipling and his wife Caroline (#163) and correspondence regarding his management of the real property of the sculptor William Wetmore Story (#169).
This sub-series also contains extensive documentation of the probate court case concerning SWMB's inheritance from her grandfather John D. Williams (#174-199); there are copies of the will, court documents and testimony, trust accountings, and correspondence relating to the issues and conduct of the case. The case deals with questions of women's financial rights and ability to control property. Correspondence and related documents dated after 1862 deal primarily with management of the property of the trust, which included major holdings of Boston real estate.
Sub-series C, Children of RB and SWMB (#210-270), consists of the papers of RB and SWMB's children: Susan B. Grinnell (SBGII), Richards Merry (RMB) (until his marriage in 1892), Jonathan Dorr II (JDBII), Emily B. Wesselhoeft (EBW) and Sarah B. Tyson (SBT). SBGII wrote extensively to her mother describing social life in New York City, including detailed reports of shopping expeditions. Her papers include a letter from Evelyn Story, wife of the sculptor William Wetmore Story, describing the final illness of the poet Robert Browning (#221). RMB's papers include documents and examination papers from St. Paul's School and Harvard College (#235-236); his letters to his mother (#227) describe the sights and experiences of his travels across the U.S. as he began his real estate business, including observations on social conditions in the post-Civil-War South. Most of the children took trips to Europe, documented by descriptions of travels and receipts from hotels and restaurants.
Series III, Bradley-Aldis family focuses on Richards Merry Bradley, Amy Aldis Bradley and their children.
Sub-series A, Aldis family (#271-310), begins with the papers of Asa Owen Aldis, his wife Mary Taylor Aldis (MTA), and their children: Owen Jr. (OFA), Cornelia (CL), Helen Aldis Lathrop (HAL), and Arthur (AA). Helen's letters to her family document the extensive world travels of the Lathrops; there is also a description of a lunch with Edith Wharton (#297). Arthur's provide some description of life on a ranch in the Wyoming Territory.
Sub-series B, Amy Owen Aldis Bradley and Richards Merry Bradley (#311-399). The papers of Asa Owen and Mary Aldis's youngest child, Amy Aldis Bradley (AAB), include diaries and journals, as well as extensive correspondence with family and schoolmates. The papers of RMB after his marriage to AAB are also in this sub-series. Several groups of letters in this series provide particularly detailed records of daily life. AAB's correspondence with her school friends provide an excellent picture of a group of adolescent girls: the school life, social activities, reading, and friendships; a literary journal that occupied one summer is included (#342). Letters from AAB to her mother describe her honeymoon trip to Japan (#316; see also #365 and 384 for RMB's descriptions and additional documents); later she writes about the births of her children, her own and her family's health, her children's development and education, her daily domestic concerns in managing her Boston household, and her social activities. While away on business, RMB wrote almost daily to AAB; his letters describe train travel, the surrounding scenery, real estate prospects and business meetings. There are also two cards from the writer Margaret Deland to AAB (#361), letters from the author Thomas Nelson Page (#360), and condolence letters from Elizabeth (Lowell) Putnam (#398), a close friend of AAB whose papers are in the Schlesinger Library (MC 360). RMB's correspondence includes a letter from the sculptor William Wetmore Story describing the sculpture for the grave of his wife (#389).
Sub-series C, Children of AAB and RMB (#400-422), consists primarily of childhood letters to parents. Letters from the Bradley daughters to AAB and RMB document the girls' early activities and interests from childhood to their early teen years.
The last eight folders of this series contain unidentified items that might, when identified, belong in any of the three series.


Key to initials:

Additional catalog entries.

The following catalog entries represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. An entry for each appears in the Harvard On Line Library Information System (HOLLIS) and other automated bibliographic databases.
Aldis family
Bradley, Richards Merry, 1861-1943
Deland, Margaret Wade Campbell, 1857-1945
Gamble, Sarah Merry Bradley, 1898-1984
Kipling, Caroline, 1865-1939
Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936
Merry family
Page, Thomas Nelson, 1853-1922
Putnam, Elizabeth Lowell, 1862-1935
Story, William Wetmore, 1819-1895
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Brattleboro (Vt.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Browning, Robert, 1812-1889
Business travel--United States
Child rearing--United States
Childbirth--United States
Courtship--United States
Family records
Family-owned business enterprises--United States
Finance, Personal--United States
Girls--Books and reading
Harvard University--Students
Japan--Description and travel--1801-1900
Law--Study and teaching--United States
Law offices--United States
Mothers and daughters
New Orleans (La.)--Commerce
New Orleans (La.)--Description
New York (N.Y.)--Social life and customs--19th century
Parent and child--United States
Probate records--United States
Real estate business--United States
School children--United States
Sexually transmitted diseases--United States
Southern States--Description and travel
St. Paul's School (Concord, N.H.)--Students
Teenage girls--United States
Trading companies--Louisiana--New Orleans
Troy Female Seminary--Students
Vermont--Social life and customs--19th century
Voyages and travels
Wharton, Edith, 1862-1937
Women--Finance, Personal
Women--Legal status, laws, etc.--United States
Wyoming--Description and travel
Yale University--Students