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Nichols family. Papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family, 1780-1953 (inclusive), 1850-1940 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

The collection was re-processed under NEH Grant Number RC 24669-76-987.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: A-170
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Nichols family
Title: Papers of the Nichols-Shurtleff family, 1780-1953 (inclusive), 1850-1940 (bulk)
Date(s): 1780-1953
Date(s): 1850-1940
Quantity: 7.72 linear feet (17 file boxes, 3 half file boxes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence and diaries of the Nichols and Shurtleff families from New England.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 1000, 1136, 1433, 1446, 1483, 1548, 1615, 69-21, 69-26, 70-52, 72-103, 74-341, 78-M6, 81-M112, 82-M125
The Nichols-Shurtleff family papers were deposited with the Schlesinger Library between 1965 and 1978 by Mrs. Sarah (Shurcliff) Ingelfinger and in December 1974 by Sidney N. Shurcliff.

Processing Information:

Re-processed: March 1977
By: Patricia Affholter

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the Nichols-Shurtleff family is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Nichols-Shurtleff family Papers, 1780-1953; item description, dates. A-170, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see the Emerson and Nichols papers, 1806-1953 (MC 212) and the Nichols-Shurtleff family Additional papers, 1758-2006 (MC 766).


Arthur A. Shurtleff, son of Asahel M. Shurtleff and Sarah A. (Keegan) Shurtleff, was born in Boston on September 19, 1870. He was home-schooled until 10 years of age when he entered the Prince Grammar School, later attending the Boston Latin School and the English High School. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1889 to 1894, receiving an SB in mechanical engineering. He entered Harvard University in 1894, receiving a BS in general science in 1896. From 1896 until 1905 he worked for Olmsted, Olmsted, and Eliot, a landscape design office founded by Frederick Law Olmsted. In 1905 he married Margaret Homer Nichols. In the same year he opened his own landscape office hiring Raymond Aldrich and H.E. Millard as assistants. He assisted Frederick Law Olmsted in creating the landscape architecture program at Harvard University and taught in the program with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., from 1899 to 1908, dividing his time between teaching and his private practice. He resigned from teaching in 1908 in order to dedicate his time to his private practice (his son Sidney later join the practice). While in private practice he assisted in the development of Old Sturbridge Village and Colonial Williamsburg; designed campuses for a number of schools and colleges including Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges, and Brown, Tufts, and Colgate universities; designed the Storrow Memorial Embankment (Boston, 1930) and was responsible for its redesign in 1946 when Storrow Drive was built; and completed plans for 27 cities and towns in New England, Texas, and Indiana. In addition to publishing a number of reports, etc., regarding landscape architecture, Shurtleff published several books of essays, including New England Journal, Second New England Journal, and A Man Walks the Earth. He died at his home in Boston in 1957.
Margaret Homer (Nichols) Shurtleff, daughter of Arthur H. Nichols (a Harvard-trained physician) and Elizabeth F. (Homer) Nichols, was born in Boston on October 30, 1879. As a child she attended Mrs. Shaw's school on Marlborough Street in Boston, a co-educational private school teaching "the three Rs" as well as inventional geometry and carpentry to all students. At thirteen she entered Miss Folsom's School for Girls in Boston. The Nichols family summered at Rye Beach, NH, until 1889 when they spent a summer at the home of Margaret's aunt, Augusta St. Gaudens, wife of the famous sculptor, in Cornish, New Hampshire. The family bought a summer home in Cornish the following year. She married Arthur A. Shurtleff in 1905. The couple had six children: Sidney N. Shurtleff, William A. Shurtleff, John P. Shurtleff, Alice W. Shurtleff, Sarah (Shurtleff) Ingelfinger, and Elizabeth (Shurtleff) Lowell. In 1930 the family legally changed the spelling of their surname from Shurtleff to Shurcliff to more closely coincide with the ancient spelling of the family name. They resided at several homes on Mount Vernon Street in Boston (mainly at 66 Mount Vernon Street) and summered at their family home in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Following in her father's footsteps Margaret became an avid change ringer on church bells in England and the United States and often performed at a number of local churches and gave concerts at Castle Hill, and was the founder and first president of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers (now Handbell Musicians of America). As a result of her carpentry classes taken as a child (and later at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), she taught local children carpentry and also made pine furniture for sale, later opening the shop Pegleggers on Charles Street in Boston with several other women and, later, a shop in her home. She was a founding member of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union, holding several early meetings in her home on Beacon Hill, attending legislative sessions, and giving testimony regarding labor legislation and local labor strikes, as well as attending the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in 1920 and once visiting Nicola Sacco in prison. She continued her civil liberties work throughout her lifetime and contributed to her community in a number of ways, acting as a member of the Examining Committee of the Boston Public Library (ca.1945), raising money for the Community Fund, spotting aircraft for the anti-aircraft service during World War II, and entertaining hospitalized sailors. She died in 1959.
Alice Warburton Shurcliff, the youngest daughter of Arthur A. and Margaret (Nichols) Shurtleff, was born in 1915. She attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1938, and received an MS from the New York School of Social Work, Columbia University. During World War II, she was employed by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), an international relief agency, largely dominated by the United States but representing 44 nations. Founded in 1943, it became part of the United Nations in 1945, was especially active in 1945 and 1946, largely shutting down operations in 1947. Its purpose was to "plan, co-ordinate, administer or arrange for the administration of measures for the relief of victims of war in any area under the control of any of the United Nations through the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities, medical and other essential services." Although initially restricted by its constitution to render aid only to nationals from the United Nations (the Allies), this was changed late in 1944, in response to pleas from Jewish organizations who were concerned with the fate of surviving Jews of German nationality, to also include "other persons who have been obliged to leave their country or place of origin or former residence or who have been deported therefrom by action of the enemy because of race, religion or activities in favor of the United Nations." While employed by UNRRA she spent her time in Greece and Egypt.
During the Allied occupation of Japan following World War II, Shurcliff served as a labor analyst under the Supreme Command Allied Powers (SCAP) as part of the labor division. As a civil servant, Shurcliff worked to investigate practices in Japanese zaibatsu, family controlled corporations closely linked to one another, that had been loyal to the Emperor and provided the economic engine for Japan's war effort. Facilities for the production of arms and munitions were to be eliminated, while economic activities that would contribute to a democratically oriented Japan were to be encouraged. SCAP's de-concentration campaign was to include provisions to encourage policies to permit widespread ownership of the means of production and trade and to reorganize Japanese business by dissolving large banking and industrial corporations. In addition, laws allowing labor unions and removing employment controls were to be adopted by the new Japanese government as soon as possible.
In 1950 she began working with the United States Labor Department and, in 1957 received a Rockefeller Public Service Award to study labor conditions in Southeast Asia, visiting the countries of Indonesia, Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand, Singapore, Malaya (now Malaysia), Vietnam, and India. During this trip she viewed factories and plantations and met with representatives of management and labor unions, also viewing worker housing, vocational training centers, union headquarters, clinics for workers, etc. Her funding also allowed her to hire anthropologist Jane Philips to accompany her gathering information about attitudes towards work and culture patterns, both local and Western, which resulted in misunderstandings. In 1967 she published Economic Development in the Eastern Caribbean Islands: St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla. She died June 23, 2000, and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Additional family members include Helen Shurtleff (1877-1968), Ernest Warburton Shurtleff (1862-1918) (husband and wife), and their daughter Gertrude S. Shurtleff. During World War I, Helen and Ernest Shurtleff, a minister, worked extensively with war refugees in France (many of whom were blind), dispensing food, supplies, and medical care.


The collection is arranged in three series:


The bulk of this collection consists of the papers of the Nichols family: Dr. Arthur Howard Nichols (1840-1923), Elizabeth Fisher (Homer) Nichols (1844-1929), and their three children, Rose Standish Nichols (1872-1960), Marian Clarke Nichols (1873-1953), and Margaret Homer (Nichols) Shurtleff (1879-1959). The remainder relates to the Shurtleff family, particularly to Sarah Ann (Keegan) Shurtleff, the mother-in-law of Margaret Nichols Shurtleff.
The first series consists largely of family correspondence about both the individual activities and thoughts, and the family life, of Arthur and Elizabeth Nichols and their daughters. The interests of the parents are most fully represented by the letters they wrote each other, mainly about such domestic concerns as household help, redecorating and renovating, and family finances. Much of their correspondence also provides information about business ventures, social activities, family news, and trips abroad. The papers of the daughters document their social activities, travels, and their individual pursuits: Rose's interest in landscape architecture, Marian's involvement in philanthropic and civic organizations, and Margaret's role as the mother of six children and an activist for the cause of world peace. The Nichols family papers also contain much correspondence with other relatives, including the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens, husband of Elizabeth's sister Augusta, and with friends and business associates.
N.B. The Emerson-Nichols Papers, MC 212, contains considerable material by and about Marian Clarke Nichols, the St. Gaudens', the Emersons, and other Nichols family relatives.
The second series, the Keegan and Shurtleff Families, consists mainly of diaries of Sarah Ann (Keegan) Shurtleff. In addition there are papers by and about her parents and siblings; numerous hand-bound volumes of poetry and drawings by Gertrude Hope Shurtleff, Sarah Ann (Keegan) Shurtleff's daughter; and scattered information about Sarah Ann (Keegan) Shurtleff's husband, Asahel Milton Shurtleff, and their four sons, one of whom was Arthur Asahel Shurtleff, Margaret Nichols Shurtleff's husband.
Most of Sarah Ann (Keegan) Shurtleff's diaries are records of trips she took with her husband, providing detailed accounts of the places they visited, with background information she had acquired and her own thoughts and impressions. She later transcribed the contents of these diaries into bound volumes, illustrated with pictures she had collected and photographs taken by her husband; these volumes she gave to her husband and children. This collection includes some original diaries, some illustrated volumes, and, for some journeys, both.
See also Lively Days: Some Memoirs of Margaret Homer Shurcliff call number: 973.78 S56
The first two series are organized by individual, beginning with the oldest family member; in addition to correspondence and diaries, they contain pamphlets, business papers, articles and speeches, and newsclippings. Series III consists of photographs of family members and vacation sites.



This index lists only the writers of letters. Information about these individuals is not indexed; nor are subjects. The numbers are folder numbers.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Alaska--Description and travel
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
California--Description and travel
Europe--Description and travel
Family records
Florida--Description and travel
Landscape architecture
New England--Description and travel
New Englanders--Family relationships
Social service
Voyages and travels
Women social reformers
Appleton, William Sumner, -1947
Baker, Ronald, 1865-
Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950
Bok, Edward William, 1863-1930
Briggs, L. Vernon (Lloyd Vernon), 1863-1941
Cabot, Elise Pumpelly
Cabot, Ella Lyman
Clarke, Sarah, 1830?-
Conkling, Grace Hazard, 1878-1958
Cram, Ralph Adams, 1863-1942
Dall, Caroline Wells Healey, 1822-1912
Eliot, Charles William, 1834-1926
Eliot, Grace H.
Emerson family
Evans, Elizabeth Glendower, 1856-1937
Haynes, Edith M.
Homer family
Huntington, Catharine Sargent, 1886-1987
Irwin, Agnes, 1841-1914.
James, William, 1842-1910
Keegan family
Lowell, Amy, 1874-1925
Luscomb, Florence, 1887-1985
Lyman family
MacKaye, Percy, 1875-1956
McKibbin, Emily
Nichols, Arthur Howard, 1840-1922
Nichols, Elizabeth Fisher, 1844-1929
Nichols, Marian Clarke, 1873-1953
Nichols, Rose Standish
Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903
Perkins, Louise S. W., 1843-
Pinkham, Wenona Osborne, 1882-1930
Putnam family
Reynolds, Grace Morrison Poole, 1880-
Ripley, William Zebina, 1867-1941
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 1848-1907
Saint Gaudens family
Sayre, Jesse Woodrow Wilson, 1887-1933
Schieffelin family
Sedgwick, Ellery, 1872-1960
Shaw, Pauline A. (Pauline Agassiz), 1841-1917
Shurcliff family
Shurtleff family
Storrow, Helen Osborne, 1864-1944
Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949
Warren, John Collins, 1842-1927
Woods, J. Collins, 1865-1925