7.5 linear feet
The Brownell family papers contain correspondence, diaries, documents, writings, illustrations, and other materials documenting the family's experiences from the 1820s into the 1960s.
The Correspondence Series includes letters written to and by the Brownell family, primarily in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Louisiana, New York City, Cuba, and France between 1823 and 1969, with the bulk dating from the 1850s to 1940s.
Approximately 296 letters are letters to Charles Brownell and his wife Henrietta [Nettie] from Charles' mother, Lucia [Mummy], and his three brothers, Edward [Ned], Henry, and Clarence, often written with notes added and sent on as a "round robin" correspondence which ended with Charles.
The collection contains over 100 letters written by Ned Brownell, with additional notes in other family members' letters. His earliest letters start when he is finishing medical school in New Orleans and continue with his move to rural Louisiana, near Alexandria and Plaisance. These are high-spirited letters with humorous pen and ink drawings of his adventures chasing wild horses (January 29, 1855); mishaps while duck and geese hunting at Lake Catahoula (November 12, 1855; November 10, 1856); and futile attempts to flag down a river steamer (January 29, 1855). But his letters also deal with the problems involved in setting up a medical practice at the same time he, a Northerner, is trying his hand at cotton cultivation. He married a southern woman of French descent whose father was a slave owner (19 slaves in 1850 and 30 in 1860). Ned describes bringing up his bilingual children in a culture very different from his own. The marriage s was troubled, and by 1858, he sold out his cotton interests and was considering his brother Clarence's offer to take over Clarence's practice in East Hartford, Connecticut. He moved to Cloutierville, Louisiana, for a while. Two letters of introduction written in 1864 (April 4 and April 25) refer to his allegiance to the Union. By June of 1866, he was involved in legal separation hearings and working with his brothers on a testimony about his wife's "violent scenes and words.” Both during his practice in Louisiana and later in Rhode Island, his letters describe his patients and treatments (cotton gin accident resulting in amputation of an enslaved person's arm - October 26, 1857; treating yellow fever and typhoid - October 14, 1853 and January 12, 1855). He also suggests treatments for family members with diphtheria (n.d. November 8), excessive menstrual bleeding (December 17, 1866), prolapsed uterus after childbirth (February 8, ), and a prescription for a cholera prevention pill (n.d. September 27). He made a trip to Florida with his dying brother Henry in 1871-1872, in the hopes that the warmer climate might make Henry feel more comfortable.
Only a handful of letters and notes are from Clarence Brownell. Seven of these are affectionate letters to his friend Henrietta Angell [Pierce] [Brownell], before and during her first unhappy marriage. The rest of his letters are to his family and include descriptions of his 1861 visit to Ned and family in Cloutierville, his excitement and satisfaction in building a boat in his workshop, and playing chess by mail with brother Charles. Another letter describes his travels in Egypt. He went by horseback from Alexandria to Cairo, 130 miles across the Delta. A map he drew while with the Pethernick Expedition on the White Nile was sent home posthumously ([May 12], 1862). On it he notes their location by date and the location of certain flora and fauna.
Over 100 letters and notes are from Lucia D. Brownell ("Mummy"), most of them dealing with local affairs, real estate arrangements, and concerns for her sons' health. Several of these letters mention mediums and the spirit world. After the death of her son Clarence in Egypt, Lucia, Ned, and Henry become interested in reports of mediums and "spiritual pictures.” One item is a copy of a letter that a medium claimed was dictated to him by Clarence's ghost. Ned describes watching a medium who claimed to see "words in fiery letters in the illuminated smoke of my cigar when I puffed" [13 May]. Lucia made several visits to a medium (November- December 1862), ending when the medium was proved a fake.
Correspondence with Henry H. Brownell is well represented. The letters mostly come from Hartford, Connecticut, but letters from Bristol, Rhode Island, are also included. He describes visiting Ned and his family in Louisiana in the 1850s, and accompanying Ned on three of his annual duck and geese hunting expeditions to Lake Catahoula. He seems to have acted as agent for the sale of his brother Charles' paintings when Charles was away in Cuba or Europe - "two little Charter Oaks for $20." [n.d. December 26]. Other letters deal with business matters concerning an inheritance from his grandfather De Wolf involving real estate that he and Charles shared, but unequally. These letters contain little mention of Henry's own writing of poetry and the publication of his books. Two copies of letters to Henry written by Oliver Wendell Holmes praising his work are included [January 13 and February 6, 1865]. A typed copy of a letter from Ernest H. Brownell, dated April 6, 1935, lists letters written by Holmes to Henry H. Brownell. Correspondence to Charles DeWolf Brownell represent his work to honor and publish his brother's writings after his death [late 1880s].
Another part of the Brownell Papers consists of three batches of letters from abroad - the Procter Wright letters from Europe, the Charles and Nettie Brownell letters from Europe, and the Don Martin Ibarra letters from Cuba and Spain. Procter Wright wrote 25 letters (1876-1884) to Mrs. Charles Brownell (Nettie) from Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. He gives good descriptions of his walking and climbing tours as well as his visits to various cities. A few letters discuss religion, including matters of purgatory [April 28, 1880] and creation or Darwinisn [August 18, 1883]. Wright also mentions the death of the artist Jean Louis Hamon, and the auction of his things [July 26, 1876, December 28, 1876]. He reminds Henrietta how much he treasures Charles' painting of "Witches' Cork Tree" that the Brownell's had given him some years earlier [April 9, 1883].
The twenty letters written by Charles and Nettie in Europe (1872-1874) to family at home talk of their travels, their children, and anything unusual that catches their eye - "Creche" day care system in France [August 20, 1873] or a trip to the "Crystal Palace" in London [August 29, 1873]. Charles made small pen and ink drawings on three of the letters - a bird on a branch [July 28, 1872], an Egyptian "cartouche" [May 6, 1873], and a dental molar [March 27, 1874]. Three other letterheads have hand tinted designs - an animal head [August 9, 1872], a ship [May 8, 1874], and boys on a ship's mast [May 13, 1874]. Two letterheads have landscape lithographs by Henry Besley - "St. Michael's Mount from Lower Tremenheere" [August 20, 1873] , "Penzance from Guvul" and "St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall" [August 22, 1873].
The Don Martin Ibarra letters (1855-1872) consist of 86 letters written in Spanish to Charles Brownell. They are mainly from Cuba, but the last several are from Barcelona, Spain. They are warm letters to a good friend and "compadre,” but also contain figures on the production of sugar from at least two "ingenios" or sugar mills near the Cardenas area of Cuba.
A small group of 17 letters from the poet Lucy Larcom (1862-1870, n.d.) were written to Henrietta Angell Pierce Brownell [Mrs. Charles Brownell], and cover the years of Larcom's decision to stop teaching school and to concentrate her energy on her own writing. Her September 19, 1868, letter mentions proofreading a volume for publication, "my cricket-chirpings of verse.”
Eight letters from Henrietta S. Dana (1861-1863) in New Haven, Connecticut, to Henrietta A. Pierce [Brownell] mention Mrs. Dana helping her famous Yale professor husband by taking dictation from him for his most recent book, Manuel of Geology [April 7, 1862]. Her letters also describe the death of two of their children from diphtheria, and her safely nursing one other child through it [December 21, 1861].
Twenty-five letters from Esther Pierce to her divorced and remarried mother, Henrietta Brownell, were written from 1875-1877, when Esther was 14-16 years old and living with her father, Dr. George Pierce, in Providence. Several years earlier, she had been living with her mother and her step-father, Charles Brownell, and had accompanied them on their trip to Europe. Her nickname was "Kit,” and she is frequently mentioned in her mother's letters. The letters from Esther [Kit] tell of a trip to Canada, local people and visits, and her new clothes, sometimes with accompanying pen and ink drawings. Two letters include swatches of fabric [February 6, 1876, and April 23, 1876].
More correspondence to and from the Brownells can be found in the Scrapbook Pages series and the Genealogical Notes and Copies series.
Beginning in the 1880s, the correspondence focuses more on Annie May Angell, who would marry Ernest Henry Brownell in 1891, and her family. Virginia McLain (1867-1953), who lived in the Bahamas as the daughter of the United States Consul Thomas J. McClain, was a frequent correspondent into the 1890s. One letter dated October 11, 1887, includes a carte-de-visite of Virginia. Other letters in the 1880s relate to Charles DeWolf Brownell's efforts to publish his brother Henry Howard Brownell's poetry. Several letters from 1882 and 1883 relate to Charles DeWolf Brownell, his work on the Charter Oak, and his paintings. One letter by Oliver Wendell Holmes, dated February 11, 1883, indicates one of Charles' paintings was displayed in his library.
Correspondence from the 1890s-1910s centers around Annie May and Ernest Brownell, as well as their family circle and acquaintances. Letters written by Bertha Angell to Lewis Kalloch are also well represented in this period. Ernest's letters provide details about May and Ernest's children and marriage, as well as Ernest's work as a Civil Engineer in the United States Navy. Many of his early letters are addressed from the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Navy Yard. Ernest was also stationed in the Philippines and Bremerton, Washington.
Around 1905 Ernest Brownell became involved with the Brownell Building in Providence, Rhode Island, which the brothers inherited, and in the following years corresponded with his brothers Carl and Edward about various matters relating to family properties. Several letters from 1912 refer to a large fire at the Brownell Building.
Two items from August 1915 were sent to the family of John K. Rathbone relating to the Galveston Hurricane.
Correspondence between Dorothea DeWolf Brownell and Clifford Kyler Rathbone begins around 1918. Clifford Rathbone's letters also detail his career in construction. Material from the 1920s relates to family finances and handling of Kalloch estate matters. By the 1930s letters by Dorinda Rathbone begin appearing, as well as more letters from the Rathbone family, including Myrtle Rathbone of Denton, Texas, and Rosalie Rathbone.
Correspondence from 1942-1943 reflects Clifford Rathbone's unsuccessful efforts to join the military, and Henry B. Rathbone's preparation for the U.S. Naval Academy entrance exams. Following Clifford Rathbone's death in March of 1944, the collection includes many condolence letters. The bulk of the correspondence post-1945 is written to Dorinda Rathbone.
The Bundled Correspondence Sub-series is comprised of letters arranged by later descendants of the family. The first bundle of seven letters spans from December 20, 1820, to January 29, 1825, relating to Pardon and Lucia Brownell's inheritance from the estate of Lucia's father Charles DeWolf. It includes notes by Dorothea DeWolf Brownell Rathbone. The second bundle includes 16 letters written to Pardon Brownell enclosed in Florence Brownell's January 19, 1931, letter to Dorothea Rathbone, spanning from March 1825 to December 1835 and primarily concern affairs with a DeWolf family property. One letter from Lucia DeWolf Brownell, dated June 11-13, 1827, is also included. The third bundle consists of 26 letters written from Ernest Brownell to his wife Annie May Angell Brownell from 1904 to 1940, along with a blank postcard and a photograph, likely of Ernest and Annie May, with the inscription "In Cuba on The Honeymoon, 1891" written on the verso. The letters commemorate their wedding anniversary, and were written while Ernest was serving in the Navy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Cavite, Philippines; Bremerton, Washington; Pensacola, Florida; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and Newport, Rhode Island. The fourth bundle consists of two letters sent by John T. Lewis, Jr., to Dorothea Rathbone in the mid-1960s, enclosing two letters by H. M. K. Brownell from 1881 and 1883, respectively.
TheDiaries and Notebooks Series includes the following:
- Francis DeWolf Brownell Penmanship Exercise Book, ca. 1833
- "The Lay of the Cuisinier. A Poem; by the Cook of the Enterprise," 1840. Dedicated to Henry Howard Brownell.
- Nettie K. Angell 1856 Diary Cover, with miscellaneous clipping and notes
- Spanish Notebook, 1859
- Unsigned Diary, 1863, written by a mother. It includes details on family events and social visits, particularly concerning children Ethie [Esther b. 1860] and Harry [b. 1863], indicating the author may be Henrietta Knowlton Angell (1837-1897), who bore Esther H. Pierce (b. 1860) and Henry A. Pierce (1863-1867) during her first marriage to George Pierce. Sections have been cut out of pages. A poem by H. H. Brownell is pasted on the back inside cover.
- Bundle of miscellaneous disbound diary pages and miscellanea from 1858, 1861-1863, 1879, 1886, 1888-1893, and 1895, with occasional clippings
- Ernest H. Brownell, "Our Expedition to Falkner's Island, Block Island, and Cuttyhunk," July 1884
- Bertha Angell, 1886 student notebook, Apgar's Plant Analysis
- Clifford K. Rathbone disbound diary pages, 1919
- Construction journal pages, 1922
- Illustration and writing notebook, undated. Hand-painted drawings of women, a man, and flowers are included, along with literary selections and sayings.
The Chronological Documents and Financial Records sub-series spans from 1824 to 1969 (bulk 1824-1920), documenting the legal, financial, and business affairs of the interrelated Brownell, Angell, and Rathbone families. Items include deeds, bills and receipts, insurance policies, bank and tax records, accounts, construction documents, leases, estate documents, and more. A significant portion of the documents relate to the real estate work of Ernest Brownell, Annie May Brownell, John Angell, and Bertha Angell (later Kalloch) in Providence, Rhode Island.
The Bundled Documents and Financial Records sub-series includes:
- Bundle 1: Angell family land documents, 1799-1839
- Bundle 2: John Angell wallet and receipts, 1829-1841
- Bundle 3: Angell estate documents, 1893-1904
- Bundle 4: Brownell estate documents, 1908-1942
- Bundle 5: Clifford K. Rathbone concrete pile documents, ca. 1920s
- Bundle 6: Clifford K. Rathbone wallet, 1941-1944
The Ledgers sub-series includes:
- Partial estate inventory, ca. 1841
- Nancy Angell account book, 1845-1856
- Nancy Angell rent account book, 1863-1903
- John A. Angell and Nancy Angell income taxes, 1867-1871
- John A. Angell estate accounts, 1877-1893
- [Annie May Angell and Bertha Angell?] account book, 1884-1891
- Ernest H. Brownell cash book, 1890-1910
- Annie May Angell Brownell cash book, 1892-1904
- Annie May Angell Brownell check books, 1892-1893
- Bertha Angell account book, 1896-1898, and 1908
- Annie May Angell Brownell account book, 1896-1905 and 1912-1915
- Blank bank notebook, Undated
The Writings series spans from 1811 to 1958 and includes poetry by Lucia Emilia DeWolf Brownell, a lecture by Henry Howard Brownell, school work of Ernest H. Brownell, poetry by Annie May Angell Brownell (some with painted illustrations), and miscellaneous other items.
The Drawings and Illustrations series includes miscellaneous sketches and paintings, two volumes of Henry B. Rathbone's "History Cartoons," one volume of collected work of Emma DeWolf Brownell, and a child's illustrated notebook. Other illustrations and paintings appear throughout other series in the collection, particularly the Correspondence series and Writings series.
The Scrapbook Pages series consists of loose pages compiled by Dorothea Brownell Rathbone, collecting together letters, clippings, documents, photographs, and notes. Material dates from the 1850s into the 1940s. Correspondents represented include Edward R. Brownell, Henrietta Knowlton Angell Brownell, Ernest Henry Brownell, John Wardwell Angell, Edward I. Brownell, Charles DeWolf Brownell, Carl DeWolf Brownell, S. Edward Paschall, Bertha Angell. Photographs of people feature: Ernest Henry Brownell, Clarence Brownell, Charles Henry Brownell, Clifford K. Rathbone, Charles DeWolf Brownell, Douglass DeWolf, John Wardwell Angell, and Bertha Angell Kalloch. Ernest Henry Brownell features heavily in the scrapbook, including information on his education, work, and personal life. Dorothea Rathbone appears to have copied diary entries from October 1884 to March 1887, with manuscript and printed materials pasted in to it.
The Photograph series includes cartes de visite of James T. Fields, Annie Fields, and a gun crew aboard the Hartford. A signed photograph of Oliver Wendell Holmes is addressed to Henry H. Brownell. Gem tintypes of Ada Perkins Kerby, Rachel Perkins, and Charles Townley are also present. Miscellaneous photos include snapshots of the U.S.S. Hartford, a bridge, a construction project, a painted portrait of Betsy Angell, and a partial photograph of figures in a vehicle. A series of eight photographs and negatives depict gravestones. Photographs also appear elsewhere in the collection, principally the correspondence series and scrapbook pages series.
The Ephemera series consists of tickets, calling cards, business cards, a bank exchange note, and a wrapper.
The Printed Materials series includes newspaper pages and clippings, a 1785 almanac, poetry, a disbound copy of Thomas Church's The History of the Indian Wars in New England (New York, 1881), miscellaneous material related to education, one piece of sheet music, a magazine, a program, and a leaflet.
The Genealogical Notes and Copies series consists of notes regarding family history and letters. The J. A. Brownell sub-series includes over 200 hand-written copies made by Dorothea Brownell Rathbone of letters in the possession of J. A. Brownell. A note in the subseries indicates use of these materials requires the permission of J. A. Brownell. The material dates from 1836-1894 (bulk 1836-1850) and principally consists of letters addressed to or written by Henry H. Brownell, including a sizeable number written by Henry H. Brownell to Charles DeWolf Brownell and Lucia DeWolf Brownell. The Miscellaneous Notes and Copies sub-series includes handwritten copies and photocopies of letters, documents, and genealogical information. It includes copies of three letters from Henry David Thoreau to Clarence Brownell dated 1859 to 1861, as well as copies of several of Henry H. Brownell's poems.
The Miscellaneous series consists of scraps, notes, blank paper, and clippings.
The Realia series includes the following items:
- A peg wooden doll with hand-made clothes and painted face, possibly in the style of the Hitty doll in Rachel Field's Hitty: Her First Hundred Years (New York: MacMillan Company, 1929)
- A doll with a dress and bonnet, leather shoes, and painted canvas face
- Two white doll shifts with smocking enclosed in an envelope labelled "Dolls dresses by RVRC for Dorinda" [Rosalie V. Rathbone Craft]
- A handmade infant's nightgown enclosed in an envelope labelled "Sample of handiwork of DBR - nightgown made for D & used by D & H"
- Two ribbons
- Nine skeins of silk thread wrapped in paper with the following note: "Raised in our cocoonery - E. Hartford. Spun by C. D. W. B. at the mill in West Hartford"
- A gray Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1920 wallet, possibly owned by Dorothea Rathbone who graduated from the school in that year
- A shard of wood with a note, "Slivers from U.S.S. Hartford," accompanied by a disbound illustration of the ship
- A metal Waldorf Astoria cocktail pick