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Guide to the Ward-Perkins Family Papers
Mss 129  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content Notes
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Materials

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ward-Perkins Family Papers
    Dates: ca. 1788-1954
    Collection number: Mss 129
    Collection Size: 5.6 linear feet (15 boxes and 2 oversize boxes).
    Repository: University of California, Santa Barbara. Library. Dept. of Special Collections
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106
    Abstract: Primarily correspondence relating to the Ward and Perkins families of Boston, New York and elsewhere. Other families who figure prominently in the papers are the Barkers, the Howards, and the Bruens. Many letters from noteworthy individuals outside of the family circles, such as James Russell Lowell, Amy Lowell, George Bancroft, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry and William James, George Santayana, and Theodore Roosevelt.
    Physical location: Vault.
    Languages: English

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Department of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    Ward-Perkins Family Papers. Mss 129. Department of Special Collections, Davidson Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Acquisition Information

    Multiple gifts from family members, ca. 1984-2011.


    The Ward and Perkins families embodied the ideal of the upper class New England family in the 19th century. Both were very well educated, with several generations of Harvard graduates, most of whom spent time studying and touring in Europe. Both were very wealthy, having found success at international business and finance. Both felt a duty to be active in the social, political, and intellectual movements of their time. The families were brought together by the marriage of Elizabeth Howard Ward and Charles Bruen Perkins in 1896. The collection primarily covers three generations of these families, with extensive correspondence and personal papers of Elizabeth Ward Perkins, her father Thomas Wren Ward, and her grandfather Samuel Gray Ward, as well as her husband's parents, Charles Callahan Perkins and Frances D. Perkins. The papers feature correspondence with many noteworthy individuals outside the family circles, such as George Bancroft, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry and William James, Amy Lowell, James Russell Lowell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Santayana.
    Samuel Gray Ward (1817-1907) grew up in Boston and graduated from Harvard University in 1836. His father, Thomas Wren Ward, was the American agent for Baring Brothers & Co. of London, a credit corporation for owners of merchant ships, which would prove to be the family firm for three generations. After graduation, Samuel Gray Ward went on the Grand Tour of Europe with the Harvard mathematician and astronomer John Farrar and members of his family. Among the group was a young relative of Farrar's, Anna Hazard Barker. Sam and Anna spent at least nine weeks of the trip traveling together. Although Anna was some years older and a much more experienced traveler than he, Sam convinced her to marry him, and they were wed in 1840.
    Anna Hazard Barker Ward (1813-1902) was the daughter of New York State Senator Jacob Barker, an extremely wealthy and successful businessman who was related to Benjamin Franklin's mother. She was raised in Bloomingdale, New York, on the Hudson River, though when she was a teen the family moved to New Orleans, where Jacob Barker increased both his reputation and his fortune. Following the Grand Tour of Europe, she and Samuel Gray Ward became heavily involved with the Transcendentalist movement. In 1838 their mutual friend Margaret Fuller, a noted Transcendentalist thinker and women's rights advocate, introduced them to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and they soon became close personal friends. Fuller, who cultivated an air of intellectual superiority, nevertheless saw Anna Barker as her equal. However, due to peculiarities of the Victorian mindset, Anna's involvement in the Transcendentalist circles waned following her marriage.
    In 1845, after working at his father's firm for a few years, Samuel Gray Ward took his young family to live in the rural community of Lenox, MA, where he worked as a farmer. They saw this "back to the land" experiment as a Transcendentalist quest of the spirit, and indeed, Sam, who had always been of a delicate constitution, grew more robust and invigorated through his labors. Unfortunately, the death of his father left a vacancy at Baring Bros. that Samuel Gray Ward was called upon to fill. His brother, George Cabot Ward, joined him as his partner, and he began a 35-year career with the firm. In 1862, the family moved to New York.
    Sam and Anna Ward had three daughters: Anna Barker Ward Thoron, born in 1841, who married a French merchant named Joseph Thoron, but died shortly after the birth of her son Ward in 1875. Their second daughter was Lydia Gray Ward Von Hoffman, born in 1843, who married a German Baron, Richard Von Hoffman, in 1870 and went to live with him in Rome, Italy. Known familiarly as Lily, she often signed her letters with a variety of nicknames such as "Lilypad," "Padsy," and "Dill." The youngest was Elizabeth Barker Ward, who became Baroness Schönberg when she married Baron Ernst Schönberg of Austria. She joined him in his castle, Schloss Pallaus, in South Tyrol, where she died in 1920.
    Thomas Wren Ward (1844-1940) was the only son of Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard Barker Ward, and he attended school in Vevey, Switzerland in the 1850s, before going to Harvard. His roommate at Harvard was Ralph Waldo Emerson's son Edward. The two had been friends previously and even went camping together before leaving for college. Although he was a sensitive, scholarly sort who dreamed of being a geologist, Thomas Wren Ward was drawn into the family business like his father before him. He would go on to serve the company for four decades. In 1872 he married Sophia Read Howard, and their eldest child was the aforementioned Elizabeth Howard Ward.
    In 1896, a few years after her own Grand Tour of Europe, Elizabeth Howard Ward (1873-1954) married the much older Boston architect Charles Bruen Perkins (1860-1929), also a Harvard graduate who had studied architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was the son of the noted author, musician, and painter Charles Callahan Perkins, who had himself graduated from Harvard in 1843 and went on to help establish the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The Perkins family had been wealthy philanthropists and patrons of the arts for generations, the earliest representative in this archive being Thomas Handasyd Perkins (1764-1854), who grew up amidst the turmoil of the American Revolution and went on to travel the world, building a fortune through international trade. Although the war prevented him from attending Harvard, as he was preparing to do, he nevertheless served 11 terms as a Massachusetts state legislator later in life. He and his wife, Sarah Elliott Perkins, were close friends with George Washington. His brother, James Perkins, was his partner in business, and James' great-great-grandson Francis Davenport Perkins (1897-1970) is also represented in the archive. Another Harvard man, Francis D. Perkins was a respected New York music critic who fought in the Second World War. In all, five generations of the Perkins family can be found in this collection.

    Scope and Content Notes

    The papers consist of approximately 2,000 related items (1,500 letters) relating to the Ward and Perkins families of Boston, New York, and elsewhere. Other families who figure prominently in the papers are the Barkers, the Howards, and the Bruens.
    The basic arrangement of the collection is based on Donald Fitch's article "The Ward-Perkins Papers," published in volume XVI of the UCSB Library publication Soundings (1985), which was itself based on the initial inventory of the collection prepared by Jeffrey Akard of the Santa Barbara firm A.B.I. Books. Citations are provided below, where available, for more detailed information of the items listed.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Perkins, Elizabeth Ward
    Ward, Thomas W. (Thomas Wren), 1786-1858
    Ward, Samuel Gray
    Perkins, Charles C. (Charles Callahan), 1823-1886
    Perkins, Charles Callahan, Mrs., d. 1909
    Boston (Mass.)

    Related Materials

    Papers of Samuel Gray Ward and Anna Hazard (Barker) Ward, 1823-1908. Harvard University, Houghton Library. (bMS Am 1465).
    Thomas Wren Ward Papers, 1717-1943. Massachusetts Historical Society. Refers to the elder Thomas Wren Ward, father of Samuel Gray Ward.
    Thomas Handasyd Perkins Papers, 1789-1892. Massachusetts Historical Society.