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Edwin Hale Abbot family papers

Call Number: MS 27

Scope and Contents

The Edwin Hale Abbot Family papers contain correspondence, letterpress copybooks, legal and financial documents, diaries, maps, blueprints, and photographs, the bulk of which documents the personal life, law and business careers of Edwin Hale Abbot.

Correspondence, diaries, legal and financial documents and photographs document the social and family business activities of members of Abbot and his immediate and extended family. Personal records of non-family members for whom Abbot acted as estate executor are contained in the papers. Of particular note are Edwin Hale Abbot's diaries and correspondence from his years at Harvard and correspondence between Edward Stanley Abbot and family and friends during his Civil War duty as a Union soldier before his death at Gettsburg.

Edwin Hale Abbot's professional career is documented in correspondence, letterpress copybooks, legal and financial documents, minutes of meetings, maps, architectural drawings, and photographs. The bulk of these materials are the records of the railroad, mining, real estate and other companies in which Abbot was actively involved. These include the Wisconsin Central Railroad, the Wisconsin Car Company, the Chicago and Great Western Railroad, the Chicago, Wisconsin and Minnesota Railroad, the Foreign McKenna Process Company, and others. The materials also document the development of the midwestern United States (particularly Chicago and Milwaukee) and the method of construction and operation of various railroads from 1870 to 1904. Maps, blueprints and photographs of rail lines, railroad stations, mines and steel mills provide visual documentation.

The material was purchased in 1957 from Edward Morril and Son. The 49.5 linear feet of papers are arranged by type and form of material in ten series.

Series I: The chronologically arranged GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE (1847-1933) relates to personal and business matters of Edwin Hale Abbot and his immediate and extended family. The bulk of the personal correspondence dates to 1870 and includes letters sent and received by Edwin Hale Abbot, Mary Carter Abbot, Edward Stanley Abbot, Martha Steele Abbot, Henry Larcom Abbot, Abby Steele and other family members and friends. After 1870 letters relating to Edwin Hale Abbot's law and business interests dominate the correspondence. Correspondence dated after 1927 relates to Edwin Hale Abbot Jr.'s business activities.

Series II: LETTERPRESS COPYBOOKS (1856-1917) is arranged alphabetically by individual or company name. The bulk of the copybooks relates to the Wisconsin Central Railroad and associated lines. Planning, construction and administration of the railroads is documented in the copybooks which were maintained by Abbot and other company administrators.

Series III: BUSINESS PAPERS (1787-1933) consists of legal and financial documents which are arranged chronologically. Documents dating from 1787-1870 relate to Abbot, Larcom and Steele family business and consist primarily of land deeds, insurance policies and wills. Financial and legal records document Edwin Hale Abbot's early law career. The bulk of the material dating from 1870-1933 relates to the railroad, mining, property and steel concerns of Edwin Hale Abbot, and consists of annual reports, legal proceedings, and financial reports.

Series IV: VOLUMES (1836-1915) contains a variety of types of bound documents, the bulk of which relates to the business and personal interests of Edwin Hale Abbot. This series is arranged in three subseries: Railroads, Mines and Businesses, Legal Cases, and Personal Records.

Railroads, Mines and Businesses is arranged by size (general and over-size) and contains cash books, day books, financial ledgers, minutes of meetings, stock certificates, stock ledgers, and other bound documents relating to Edwin Hale Abbot's business interests. Particularly well represented are the Wisconsin Central Railroad and its associated lines, the American McKenna Process Company, and the English McKenna Process Company. A scrapbook containing clippings from New York, Boston, Milwaukee and other cities documents the activities of Abbot and his railroad business associates from 1885-1887.

Legal Cases contains transcripts of legal proceedings and materials relating to civil suits in which Abbot was involved personally (as an attorney) or corporately. The materials are arranged alphabetically by name of plaintiff.

Personal Records consists of diaries, account, bank, and cash books and other materials of Edwin Hale Abbot, members of his family and business associates which are arranged alphabetically by name.

Series V: MAPS, BLUEPRINTS, AND DRAWINGS (1828-1929) is arranged in three subseries: Railroads, Mines, and Businesses, Regions and Personal Property and Miscellaneous.

The bulk of material in the subseries Railroads, Mines, and Businesses consists of blueprints and drawings of railyards, railroad stations and mining sites which are arranged alphabetically by company name.

Regions contains maps of Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington, and other states, many of which denote rail lines. These are arranged alphabetically by state.

Personal Property and Miscellaneous contains maps and drawings of property owned by the Abbot and Steele families. Civil War maps of the South with a letter from General Samuel Cooper to the Confederate War Department are also contained within this subseries.

Series VI: FINANCIAL AND LEGAL PAPERS (1833-1928) is arranged in two subseries: Railroads, Mines, and Businesses and Personal Records.

Railroads, Mines, and Businesses includes company financial reports, articles of agreement, and stock and bond certificates which are arranged by company name.

Personal Records consists of insurance certificates and Harvard College bills of Edwin Hale Abbot, and correspondence, legal documents, and wills relating to Abbot, Steele and Carter family property in Massachusetts and Maine. This material is arranged by name and type of material.

Series VII: PHOTOGRAPHS (1845-1914) is arranged in two subseries: Railroads and Businesses and Family and Miscellanea.

Railroads and Businesses contains photo prints relating to the construction of the Grand Central Passenger railroad station in Chicago, the Manitowoc Wisconsin terminal yard and harbor, rail lines in Wisconsin, and to activities of other businesses.

Family and Miscellanea contains photograph albums and loose photo prints of members of the Abbot family and others. A guide to a series of numbered photographs and genealogical notes provides detailed descriptions of Abbot family members, homes, and properties. Both the guide and the majority of numbered photographs are undated, however. Five folders of undated miscellaneous and unidentified individuals and locations are contained within this subseries.

Series VIII: PHILLIPS BROOKS HOUSE (1890-1910). The bulk of this series consists of the chronologically arranged correspondence of Edwin Hale Abbot relating to the fund drive and dedication ceremony for the Phillips Brooks House at Harvard.

Series IX: MEMORABILIA AND PERSONAL PAPERS (1861-1894) contains railroad passes and tickets, greeting cards and two literary productions: a poem, "Ne-Con-Dis" (1894), and an undated typescript, "Joseph Hale Abbot, 1802-1873" by William F. Abbot which contains copies of correspondence and biographical notes of Joseph Hale Abbot.

Series X: OVERSIZE (1808-1931) is arranged in two subseries: Maps, Blueprints and Drawings and Financial and Legal Papers.

Maps, Blueprints, and Drawings contains materials relating to railroad and mining companies. One folder (767) contains photographs and financial and legal papers relating to the Colby and Abbot building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Financial and Legal Papers contains documents relating to railroads, mines and businesses, and personal records (insurance policies, passports, property records) of Abbot family members and Charles L. Colby and Gardner Colby. The materials are arranged by personal name and type of document.


  • 1787-1933


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown, though much of the material in this collection is likely in the public domain. 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

Purchased in 1957 from Edward Merrill & Son.


Arranged in ten series and one addition: I. General Correspondence, 1847-1933. II. Letterpress Copybooks, 1856-1917. III. Business Papers, 1787-1933. IV. Volumes, 1836-1915. V. Maps, Blueprints, and Drawings, 1828-1929. VI. Financial and Legal Papers, 1833-1928. VII. Photographs, 1845-1914. VIII. Phillips Brooks House, 1890-1910. IX. Memorabilia and Personal Papers, 1861-1894. X. Oversize, 1808-1931.


51.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers contain correspondence, letterpress copybooks, legal and financial documents, diaries, maps, blueprints, and photographs, the bulk of which documents the personal life and law and business careers of Edwin Hale Abbot.

Biographical / Historical

Edwin Hale Abbot was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1834, the son of Joseph Hale and Frances Ellingwood Larcom Abbot, and brother of Henry Larcom, Francis Ellingwood and Edward Stanley Abbot. He was educated at the Boston Latin School (1846-1851) and Harvard, where he was secretary of his class and where he received the A.B. (1855), the A.M. (1858), and the LL.B. (1862). In 1859 Abbot married Mary Carter, who died the following year. His marriage to Martha T. Steele in 1866 produced two sons, Philip Stanley and Edwin Hale, Jr., and an adopted daughter, Constance.

Abbot practiced law in Boston from 1862 to 1876. After 1876 railroad and corporate litigation and affairs in the midwestern United States dominated his legal practice. From 1873, when he became general solicitor for the Wisconsin Central Railroad, until 1909 when he retired as President of the Wisconsin Central Company, Abbot was instrumental in the development of railroad lines, terminals, and mines in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. Much of this development centered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Central Company was based. He was responsible for construction of the Grand Central Station and terminal in Chicago, the establishment of the first car-ferry for entire trains across Lake Michigan, and the uniting of all Wisconsin Central railroads into one company. His Wisconsin Central Plan (1879), by which control of the corporation was vested in bondholders through reservation to them of voting power on stock, had a major impact on subsequent corporate organization theory and practice.

In addition, Abbot was president of the Central Car Company, the Milwaukee Property Company, and the Foreign McKenna Process Company, a division of the American McKenna Process Company.

Abbot's business associates included John Lathrop, Leonard A. Jones, Charles L. Colby, Gardner Colby, William Wallace Crapo, Henry F. Spencer, Frederick Abbot, Frederick Weil, and his sons Philip Stanley and Edwin Hale Abbot, Jr.

Law editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser from 1862 until 1870, Abbot was also a contributor to the North American Review, the New Jerusalem Magazine, and the American Law Review. He wrote two works, A Review of the Report Upon the Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi (1862) and Phillips Brooks House (1900). He lectured at Harvard College, the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin, and other educational institutions.

With the exception of a number of years as a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (c. 1876), Abbot lived his adult life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He died in 1927.

Other Finding Aids

For a partial listing of the outgoing correspondence of Edwin Hale Abbot, please consult theCorrespondence Index.

Partial List of Correspondence

Partial List of Outgoing Correspondence of Edwin Hale Abbot, 1834-1928

  1. 1 typed letter signed to Abiel Abbot; 1890 February 5
  2. 83 autograph letters signed to Edward Stanley Abbot, 1841-1863; 1850-1863, Boston
  3. 1 autograph letter signed and 1 typed letter signed to Francis Ellingwood Abbot, 1836-1903; 1882 October 10, no place; 1900 March 2, Boston
  4. 1 autograph letter signed and 61 typed letters signed to Frederick Vaughan Abbot; 1877-1902, various places
  5. 4 autograph letters signed to Mrs. Henry Everette Abbot; 1862 May 3, 13, 17; 1869 September 8
  6. 4 autograph letters signed to Henry Larcom Abbot, 1831-1927; 1855 January 19, Boston; 1862 March 10, 27; 1863 July 7
  7. 9 autograph letters signed to Mrs. Henry L. Abbot; 1862 January 6, March 14, 17, 21, 25, April 20, 21, 26, May 1, various places
  8. 1 autograph letter signed to Joseph Hale Abbot, 1802-1873; 1853 August 10
  9. 200 autograph letters signed to Martha (Steele) Abbot; 1864-1883, various places
  10. 117 autograph letters signed to Mary (Carter) Abbot; 1857-1859, various places
  11. 3 autograph letters signed and 2 typed letters signed to Philip S. Abbot, 1867-1896; 1886 December 23; 1892 August 14, 17; 1895 April 2; 1896 January 24
  12. 7 autograph letters signed (4 copies) to Alexander Agassiz, 1835-1910; 1874 June 26; 1875 July 17; 1876 January 31, July 1; 1878 June 24; 1896 February 25, March 3
  13. 1 autograph letter signed and 2 typed letters signed to H.S. Boutelle; 1888 June 9, 13, 14, July 9
  14. 2 typed letters signed to Louis D. Brandeis, 1856-1941; 1898 December 24; 1904 February 4
  15. 1 autograph letter signed to Mathew Bridge; 1852 December 31, Wilton
  16. 1 autograph letter signed to Philips Brooks, 1835-1893; 1875 August 17
  17. 2 autograph letters signed to Viscount James Bryce, 1838-1922; 1887 March 5, 20
  18. 1 typed letter signed to Charles L. Burnham; 1890 December 3
  19. 3 autograph letters signed to Mrs. T.H. Carter; 1861 March 6; 1864 July 18; 1865 February 12
  20. 21 typed letters signed to Francis J. Child, 1825-1896; 1886-1896, various places
  21. 2 typed letters signed to Charles L. Colby; 1891 February 11; 1892 April 11
  22. 2 autograph letters signed to Gardiner Colby, 1810-1879; 1873 July 19; 1874 June 22
  23. 1 typed letter signed to Joseph L. Colby; 1891 December 2
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  25. 4 autograph letters signed to Col. John H. Knight; 1882 September 1, 4, October 19; 1883 August 30
  26. 1 autograph letter signed to Bessie Parsons; 1855 October 1
  27. 1 typed letter (copy) to Henry L. Peterson; 1918 October 9, Boston; 1 autograph letter signed (copy), 1919 January 24; 1 typed letter signed (copy), 1918 July 22, August 27
  28. 1 typed letter signed to R.H. Ralston; 1891 October 20
  29. 1 typed letter (copy) to P.R. Sanborn; 1918 October 4, Boston
  30. 1 autograph letter signed and 1 typed letter signed to Henry F. Spencer; 1883 February 14; 1891 October 20
  31. 63 autograph letters signed to Abby Steele; 1871-1877, various places
  32. 1 autograph letter signed and 6 typed letters signed to John A. Stewart, 1846-1933; 1886 October 18; 1893 September 19; 1896 March 5, July 11, December 3; 1898 May 21, 24
  33. 1 autograph letter signed to Arthur Reed; 1865 November 29, December 5
  34. 1 autograph letter signed to George Reed; 1880 July 16, Milwaukee
  35. 25 typed letters signed to Edgar J. Tapping; 1908-1913, various places
  36. 1 typed letter signed to Robert B. Tweedy; 1896 January 1, November 30
  37. 1 autograph letter signed to Abbot A. Vaughn; 1877 March 20
  38. 3 autograph letters signed to Mrs. A.A. (Emily Abbot) Vaughn; 1852 November 21, various places; 1853 January 20; 1880 November 4
  39. 1 autograph letter signed to D.S. Wegg; 1889 April 22; 1 typed letter signed; 1891 February 10
  40. 1 typed letter (copy) to Benjamin M. Weil; 1918 September 21, October 10, Boston, November 18
  41. 1 autograph letter signed to Ellen Wellman; 1858 March 10, Mary 13, various places; 1859 December 26; 1861 January 4, April 13
  42. 16 typed letters signed and 2 telegrams to Henry F. Whitcomb; 1894 March 19; 1895 March 20, April 22; 1896 January 16, 24, 25, March 28, November 2, 12, 16, December 18, 30; 1897 January 7, 13, April 26; May 5, 26, July 30
  43. 6 autograph letters signed to Harold Whiting; 1887 February 21, March 1, 3, 11, 12, April 9
  44. 1 autograph letter signed to David Wilder; 1861 February 17
  45. 2 autograph letters signed and 39 typed letters signed to Sarah L. Woodberry; 1889-1899, various places
  46. 1 typed letter signed to Capt. G.A. Zinn; 1896 January 1

Partial List of Incoming Correspondence of Edwin Hale Abbot, 1834-1928

  1. Child, Francis James, 1825-1896; 15 autograph letters signed to Edwin Hale Abbot: 1892 February 7, various places; 1893 June 20, July 4, August 4, October 4, 9; 1894 May 11, June 23, 24, July 10; 1895 January 4, April 28, May 2; 1896 May 9, 19

Outgoing Correspondence of Henry Larcom Abbot, 1831-1927

  1. 56 autograph letters signed to Edwin Hale Abbot, 1834-1928; 1856 April 13, June 8, August, October 18, Washington, November 9, 19, December 14, 31; 1857 January 6, 14, February 8, 17, March 1, 8, 13, April 29, May 13, 24, 28, 20, June 29, July 12, 20, August 30, September 27, October 11, November 27; 1858 January 24, April 9, May 11, June 4, 10, July 7; 1859 January 3, April 10, May 1, July 18, December 18; 1863 January 20, July 8 (telegram), Various places; 1864 January 3, 4, 17, 31, February 13, May 22, November 13; 1865 April 4, 13; 1866 December 18; 1867 April 4; 1871 July 16; 1896 January 25, 28
Guide to the Edwin Hale Abbot Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by William E. Brown, Jr., John Espy and Susan Brady
April 1987
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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