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Catton family Papers
mssHM 68106-68147  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Catton family papers
    Inclusive Dates: 1875-1968
    Bulk Dates: 1931-1951
    Collection Call Number: mssHM 68106-68147
    Extent: Approximately 700 items in 14 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    The Huntington Library
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Fax: (626) 449-5720
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: The Catton family papers consist mainly of travel letters, diaries, and scrapbooks kept by Margaret Mary Louise Catton (1882-1971), a medical social worker in Honolulu, Hawaii.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Catton Family Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Gift of Barry Menikoff, December 1986.

    Biographical Note

    Robert and Brereton Catton left their native Scotland and arrived in Hawaii in 1878. They had six children: Margaret Mary Louise (known as "Mary"), Janet Renny (known as "Renny"), John Herbert, Robert Redford, Andrew Allen, and Richard Belmont. Mary, who is the chief figure in this collection, was born February 9, 1882, in Huelo, Maui. She was educated at Punahou School as well as other private schools in Hawaii and Scotland. In 1917, she entered the New York School of Social Work, where she majored in hospital social service. She graduated in 1919 and returned to Hawaii. In 1932, Mary became the director of the Medical Social Service Association, the new social service program she helped found at Queen's Hospital in Honolulu. Mary also helped start several other groups and organizations including the Hawaii Medical Service Association, the first voluntary prepaid plan for medical care in the United States; the Bureau of Mental Hygiene at Queen's Hospital; and the convalescent nursing home at Maunalani Heights. Mary retired as director of social service at Queen's Hospital in 1948, and in 1959, she published a semi-autobiographical book entitled Social Service in Hawaii. She stayed active in the Honolulu community until her death in 1971 at the age of 89.

    Scope and Content

    The collection comprises 66 items including 23 travel letters, 15 diaries, 4 scrapbooks, 22 photographs and 2 pieces of miscellaneous ephemera. The travel letters cover two trips taken by Mary Catton: 1. Trip to Japan, China, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Egypt, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, France, England, Scotland and the United States in 1931-1932; 2. Trip to Canada, the United States, Panama, New Zealand, Australia and Fiji in 1938-1939. Her travel letters, which are written like diaries but addressed and sent to family members back in Hawaii, contain detailed descriptions of each place she visited. They are illustrated with photographs and postcards, many with handwritten captions (the travel letters contain over 1,000 photographs). While Catton visited the typical tourist sites at each city, because she was a social worker, much of the content of her travel letters is dedicated to comments and discussions regarding the lesser-seen parts of the cities, their hospitals, conditions of the poor, the homeless, the available social work services, government and politics, and education and schools. She often met with doctors and social workers and talked to them about their experiences; Catton was also often a guest of honor at events where she was asked to give talks about her work in Hawaii.
    While in Thailand she met with Princess Sangwan Mahidol and her three young children including the future kings Ananda Mahidol and Bhumibol Adulyadej. There are letters by Princess Mahidol and several photographs of the family in Volume 6. While in New York she visited her alma mater, the New York School of Social Work. The cities in which she spent the most time and about which she wrote the most are: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima-shi (Japan); Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong (China); Saigon (Vietnam); Angkor, Bangkok (Thailand); Calcutta, New Delhi, Bombay (India); Cairo (Egypt); Milan, Rome, Venice (Italy); Geneva, Saint Moritz (Switzerland); Paris (France); London, Stratford-upon-Avon (England); Edinburgh, Inverness, Melrose (Scotland); New York, Baltimore (U.S.); Auckland, Wellington (New Zealand); Melbourne, Sydney (Australia).
    The 15 diaries, all of which belong to Mary Catton, span the years 1939 to 1951. The diaries describe in great detail all aspects of Mary's life in Honolulu including: her daily activities; her work at Queen's Hospital, her difficulties with the doctors and hospital administration, her work with nurses, patient care, hospital costs; teaching social work; Mary's work with the many groups of which she was a member including several medical and social work associations; the attack on Pearl Harbor and aftermath including blackouts and the fear of another attack; World War II events; treatment and views of Japanese living in Hawaii; Mary's work in starting a convalescent home in Hawaii; various other medical issues such as adoption, sterilization, staffing, and fundraising. More specifically, Mary discusses her work with the following associations and organizations: Hospital Social Service Association (later the Medical Social Service Association), Bureau of Mental Hygiene, Hawaii Medical Service Association, the Hawaiian Chapter of the American Association of Social Workers, the Hawaiian Department of Public Welfare.
    Two of the four scrapbooks belong to Mary Catton and two belong to her sister Renny Catton. The four scrapbooks include photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, invitations, calling cards, programs for shows and events, telegrams, tickets, notes, dance cards, post cards, and greeting cards (birthday, Christmas, etc.). The photographs are of Catton family members.
    There are Catton photo albums in the Photograph Archives of the Huntington Library, but access is restricted due to their fragile condition (photCL 432).
    More material was found in October 2016 and added as an addenda (Boxes 12-14) which consists mainly of correspondence between the Catton family members.


    The collection is arranged in the following order: Boxes 1-4: Travel Letters (Volumes 1-23); Boxes 5-7: Diaries (Volumes 24-38); Boxes 8-10: Scrapbooks (Volumes 39-42); Box 11: Photographs and Miscellaneous Ephemera; Boxes 12-14: Addenda.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  

    Personal Names

    Ananda Mahidol, King of Thailand, 1925-1946
    Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, 1927-
    Catton (Family)
    Catton, Janet Renny
    Catton, Margaret Mary Louise
    Catton, Robert
    Sangwan Mahidol, Princess, 1900-1995

    Corporate Names

    American Association of Social Workers
    Hawaii. Board of Health
    Hawaii Medical Service Association Foundation
    New York School of Social Work
    Queen's Hospital (Honolulu, Hawaii)



    Adoption -- Hawaii
    Adoption -- Law and legislation
    Charities -- Hawaii -- History
    Hospitals -- Administration
    Hospitals -- Case management
    Hospitals -- Hawaii
    Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
    Medical care -- Hawaii
    Medical social work -- Hawaii
    Mental illness -- Hawaii
    Nurses -- Hawaii
    Ocean travel
    Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941
    Physicians -- Hawaii
    Public health -- Hawaii
    Single women -- Diaries
    Single women -- Hawaii
    Social service -- Hawaii
    Sterilization of women -- Hawaii
    Sterilization of women -- Law and legislation
    Voyages and travels -- Anecdotes
    Women -- Hawaii
    Women social workers -- Hawaii
    Women social workers -- Travel
    Women -- Societies and clubs
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Japanese Americans

    Geographic Areas

    Angkor (Extinct city) -- Description and travel
    Australia -- Description and travel
    Bangkok (Thailand -- Description and travel)
    Beijing (China) -- Description and travel
    Mumbai (India) -- Description and travel
    Cairo (Egypt) -- Description and travel
    Kolkata (India) -- Description and travel
    China -- Description and travel
    Edinburgh (Scotland) -- Description and travel
    Egypt -- Description and travel
    England -- Description and travel
    Hawaii -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
    Hawaii -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
    Hawaii -- Social life and customs
    France -- Description and travel
    Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- Description and travel
    Hong Kong (China) -- Description and travel
    India -- Description and travel
    Inverness (Scotland) -- Description and travel
    Isreal -- Description and travel
    Italy -- Description and travel
    Japan -- Description and travel
    Jerusalem -- Description and travel
    Kyoto (Japan) -- Description and travel
    London (England) -- Description and travel
    Melrose (Scottish Borders, Scotland) -- Description and travel
    New Delhi (India) -- Description and travel
    New Zealand -- Description and travel
    Osaka (Japan) -- Description and travel
    Panama -- Description and travel
    Paris (France) -- Description and travel
    Rome (Italy) -- Description and travel
    Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) -- Description and travel
    Scotland -- Description and travel
    Shanghai (China) -- Description and travel
    Switzerland -- Description and travel
    Thailand -- Description and travel
    Tokyo (Japan) -- Description and travel
    United States -- Description and travel
    Vietnam -- Description and travel


    Diaries -- Hawaii -- 20th century
    Letters (correspondence) -- Hawaii -- 20th century
    Photographs -- Hawaii
    Scrapbooks -- Hawaii