Skip to main content

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

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.
Guide to the Edwin Hale Abbot Family Papers
compiled by William E. Brown, Jr., John Espy and Susan Brady
April 1987
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • September 1998: Finding aid revision description not supplied.

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)