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Rice family papers

Call Number: MS 415

Scope and Contents

The Rice Family Papers include correspondence, photographs, and writings which document the daily lives of the immediate family of John Rice, a businessman living in retirement in Santa Barbara, California and Europe. The extensive correspondence between Rice, his wife Eliza Blake Seely Rice, stepson Edward Blake Seely, and children Eliza Maria O'Brien Rice (known as Lily) and John Pierrepont Rice details the building of a family home in Tarrytown, New York; residences, travel, and schooling in California, Europe, and Latin America; the study and teaching of romance languages, and student life and teaching at several colleges and private schools. Also included is material concerning the lives of other Blake, Seely, and Rice family members.

The papers, which were donated to the library by Maude B. Dickerman in 1950, are arranged in two series:

  1. I. CORRESPONDENCE, 1810-1916
  2. II. MISCELLANEA, 1863-1912

The overwhelming majority of material is contained in Series I, which includes exchanges between family members who were constant and methodical correspondents. Family members wrote each other three or four letters per week and at some periods wrote each other daily. Family members, who were often separated by great distances, wrote what they termed "journal letters" in which they made diary-like records of their activities, health, weather, and acquaintances. These letters are lengthy, some numbering forty pages. Series II includes writings on the history of the family, photographs, and other items of personal family papers.

Series I is arranged in two sections: General and Select. General contains occasional letters addressed to the various family members from friends and relatives, while Select includes the more extensive intra-family correspondence. Some items in the General section are cited as enclosures in letters in the Select section.

General includes the oldest letters in the papers; in folder 55 there are 1810 and 1816 exchanges of Henry O'Brien. Folder 62 contains several items relating to James C. Rice, a Civil War general killed in battle and a brother of John Rice, while folder 63 includes letters of his wife Josephine Thorpe Rice written while accompanying her husband during the war. John Rice's business interests are represented by a few orders to A. McClure & Co., a family wholesale drug enterprise, while correspondence with the Perkinses in folder 58 concerns family real estate in Santa Barbara. Other correspondents include Yale friends of John Pierrepont Rice: Henry Seidel Canby, Alice Cheney, Helen Fox, and Mason Trowbridge; Smith College students for whom Eliza Maria Rice was a housemother; colleagues writing letters of recommendation for John Pierrepont Rice; and friends extending, condolences on the death of John Rice.

Letters in Select are organized by author: Eliza Maria Blake Rice, Eliza Maria O'Brien Rice (Lily), John Rice, John Pierrepont Rice, Edward Blake Seely, and his wife Daisy Farr Seely. Letters by each author are further arranged chronologically by recipient; recipients include these same six family members as well as members of the Blake family. Correspondence addressed to Blake family members is organized under the heading "Other". Thus letters by Eliza Rice to her son are found in folders 101-198, while letters from John Pierrepont Rice to his mother are found in folders 312-377. The letters as a whole give an extremely detailed picture of Rice family life.

Before 1891 the intra-family correspondence is sporadic, intense at dates, but non-existent at others. Letters from Edward Seely to his Blake relatives give his youthful impressions of life in the South, where he lived from 1872-1873 with his mother and new stepfather. Letters between Eliza and John from 1878 to 1879 describe the construction and furnishing of a family home in Tarrytown, New York (*), while letters in 1882 and 1883 to Blake relatives describe the decision to move to California for health reasons.

From 1891 on the exchanges between immediate family members become steady; the Rice family moved to Europe and both children were placed in private schools in Geneva while their parents visited France, Italy, and Switzerland. The children's letters describe school life and their parents write of various travels. The family eventually settled in Berlin, but in 1895 John Pierrepont Rice returned to America to attend the Sedgwick School in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and then to enter the Yale College Class of 1900. In 1897 Lily also returned to New England to work in the German Department of Smith College. Their letters describe student life at their respective schools. John Rice had hoped for an appointment to the consulate in Berlin, and folder 309 contains letters of reference for him. Letters in 1897 tell of his disappointment over not being named by President McKinley and then of his strokes, the second one being fatal. Eliza Rice returned to the United States in 1898 and worked as a housemother, first at the Parental School in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, and then at Albright House at Smith College. Her letters, through the rest of the section describe her life in West Roxbury and Northampton and her vacations. Lily's letters concern her life at Smith, time spent teaching at a private school near Santa Barbara, work at Talbot House of Miss Capen's School in Northampton, and her other travels. John Pierrepont Rice's letters portray his life as a graduate student of romance languages at Yale from 1900 to 1909. He describes cultural life in New Haven, studies, tutoring, and social life involving friends Alice Cheney, Henry Seidel Canby, Frederick Clapp, and Mason Trowbridge. His 1901, 1904, and 1909-1910 letters describe travel and study in Europe, while a trip to the Caribbean and Venezuela is detailed in 1903 letters. The letters of 1912 concern John Pierrepont's life in Nova Scotia while teaching at Acadia University, and there are similar letters from 1910-1911 and 1915 describing life at Williams College. Letters from several summers concern Rice's teaching at the Massawippi Summer School in North Hatley, Quebec.

(*) Some plans for this house can be found in folio I.

At the end of the section are letters from Edward Blake Seely (Ned) and his wife Daisy. Most of these date from Ned's residence from the 1890s on in California, where he had joined the office of architect Clinton Day in San Francisco as a draughtsman. The letters tell of economic hard times, his long engagement, the births and lives of three children, and in 1906 of the destructive earthquake that shook San Francisco.

Throughout the CORRESPONDENCE series there are numerous picture post-cards depicting scenes from New Haven, Northampton, Williamstown, California, and Canada, as well as from travels in Europe, New England, New York, eastern Canada, and California. Family photographs will be found enclosed in letters in folders 150, 164, 165, 168, 180, 249, 271, and 413.

Series II, MISCELLANEA, includes additional photographs, as well as information on family history in the form of sketches written by John Rice for John Pierrepont Rice. An 1863 "diary" includes only printed obituaries and tributes to James C. Rice, while an 1883 diary contains very scattered entries by Eliza Seely Rice then in California. There are three folders of unidentified portraits (folders 423-425), while the photo album contains landscapes of New Hampshire. The last four folders include additional postcards, family correspondence, and memorabilia.

Additional Rice family correspondence is included in the Blake Family Papers.


  • 1810-1916


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Maude B. Dickerman, 1950.


Arranged in two series: I. Correspondence, 1810-1916. II. Miscellanea, 1863-1912.


17 Linear Feet (38 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers include correspondence, photographs, and writings which document the daily lives of the immediate family of John Rice and the activities of various members of the Blake and Seely families. Extensive correspondence concerns the construction and furnishing of the family home in Tarrytown, New York; of residences, travel, and schooling in California and Europe; and student life and teaching at the Sedgwick School, Yale University, Williams College, Acadia University, and Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

The Rice family includes the immediate family of John Rice (1831-1897), who was born in Worthington, Massachusetts, and was a businessman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Albany, New York; and Atlanta, Georgia, before retiring to Santa Barbara, California, and Europe. He married Eliza Maria Blake Seely (b. 1841) in 1872. She was the daughter of Eli Whitney Blake of New Haven, Connecticut, the widow of John Frank Seely, and mother of Edward B. Seely, who became an architect in San Francisco, California. Following John Rice's death in Berlin, Eliza Rice became a housemother at Smith College. John and Eliza Rice had two children: Eliza Maria O'Brien (b. 1876), an instructor in German at Smith College, and John Pierrepont (1879-1941), a gradute of Yale College (B.A. 1900, M.A. 1901, Ph.D. 1909) who taught romance languages at Williams College, Acadia University, and the University of Buffalo.

JOHN PIERREPONT RICE, B.A. 1900, 1879-1941.

Born March 22, 1879, in New York City.

Died December 24, 1941, in Buffalo, NY

Father, John Rice, member Rice & Rising, wholesale druggists, Milwaukee, Wis.; son of Colonel William Rice and Wealthy (Cottrell) Rice of Worthington, Mass. Mother, Eliza Maria Blake Seely Rice; daughter of Eli Whitney Blake, LL.D. (B.A. 1816), and Eliza Maria (O'Brien) Blake. Yale relatives include: Eli Whitney (B.A. 1792) (great-great-uncle); Edward S. Blake (B.A. 1835) (great-uncle); George Bushnell (B.A. 1842), Alexander MacWhorter (B.A. 1842), Charles T. Blake (B.A. 1847), Henry T. Blake (B.A. 1848), Arthur D. Osborne (B.A. 1848), George Augustus Blake ( ex-1854), Eli W, Blake (B.A: 1857), Edward F. Blake (B.A. 1858), and James P. Blake (B.A.1862) (uncles); Edward B. Seely, ex-'86 (half brother); and George E. Bushnell, '76, Thomas B. Osborne, '81, Arthur S. Osborne, '82, Edward Blake, '84 S., Henry W Blake, '86 S., James K. Blake, '91 (cousins): James Pierpont, Fellow of Yale College 1701-1714, was an ancestor.

Prepared in Berlin and Geneva and at Sedgwick School, Great Barrington, Mass. Oration appointment Junior year, high oration appointment and one-year honors in English Senior year; member Book and Bond.

Registered Yale Graduate School 1900-1909 (M.A. 1901, Ph.D. 1909: instructor in German 1903-1904 and French 1903-1909); studied and traveled abroad 1909-1910; instructor in French Williams College 1910-1911 and Romance Languages 1911-1912: assistant professor of Romance Languages 1913-1924; professor of French Acadia University 1912-1913; professor and head of department of Romance Languages University of Buffalo 1924-1941; visiting professor Yale-in-China, Changsha, 1919-1920; Westinghouse lecturer at universities in Italy 1929-1930: associated with Massawippi Summer School, North Hatley, Province of Quebec, from about 1911 to 1927; contributed to Hispanic Anthology (1920); corresponding member Hispanic Society of America; member Dante Society (Cambridge, Mass.), Italy America Society, Dante League of America (honorary vice-president), American Association of University Professors, Modern Language Association of America, Medieval Academy of America, American Association of Teachers of French, and American Association of Teachers of Italian.

Married July 8, 1914, in Northampton, Mass., Ethel Manter Pool (B.A. Barnard 1903; M.A. Columbia 1905), daughter of Joseph and Harriet Ely (Redington) Pool. No children.

Death due to carcinoma. Buried in Old Cemetery, Worthington. Survived by wife and a sister, Elizabeth Rice (B.A. Smith Coll. 1920) of Easthampton, Mass.

From: Yale University Obituary Record, 1940-1943

Guide to the Rice Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan William E. Brown, Jr. and Paul Papali
March 1986
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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