Nichols Family Papers, 1831-1958

Administrative Information

Biographical Sketch

Related Collections


Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Series Description and Folder Listing

2 boxes, 1 photo box
1.75 linear feet
Processor: Joey Gran
Date: April 2008

Acquisition: Copied letters donated by Susan Pulsifer, 3 November 1971. “Stories” and 2 photographs donated as gifts to the house by Susan Pulsifer, 6 December 1971. Journals donated to CHS prior to 1972 as referenced in letter written by Dr. George Nichols Jr., 9 February 1972.

Access: Nothing can be copied from the letters without express permission per meeting with Susan Pulsifer. 3 November 1971.

Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from this collection should be made to the Executive Director.

Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold the copyright on the materials in this collection.

Biographical Sketch:

George Nichols
George Nichols (1809-1882) was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1809 to George Nichols Sr., a merchant and shipmaster, and Sarah Pierce Nichols. George Nichols graduated from Harvard divinity school in 1828. He bought the (Harvard) University Press in 18331 with Charles R. Metcalf and Owen S. Keith and the (Harvard) University Bookstore with James Munroe in 1847. In 1843, Nichols worked at Harvard University in the library as proofreader, appointed by Harvard President Josiah Quincy. He edited the works of Burke and completed a five-volume edition of the papers of Charles Sumner.

George Nichols married Susan Farley Treadwell in 1834. After marriage the couple lived at 144 Coolidge Hill, Cambridge, then moved to Brighton. In 1850 the Nichols family returned to Cambridge moving to 159 Brattle street, now known as the Hooper-Lee-Nichols house, purchasing it in 1860. Together George Nichols and Susan Farley Nichols had seven children, six daughters and one son. George Nichols died in Cambridge in 1882.

Susan Farley Nichols
Susan Farley Nichols, (1810-1892) née Treadwell, was born in Salem to John White Treadwell and Susan Kendall Farley in 1810. She was educated at the Eastern Female School in Salem, established by John White Treadwell, Joseph Peabody, Stephen White, and Judge Story for the education of their daughters. In 1828 George Nichols and Susan Farley Nichols became engaged and the two married in 1834. Charitable work was important to Susan Farley Nichols throughout her life, though little specifics are mentioned in her journals. She also held an astronomy class for neighborhood boys and girls called the “Constellation Club,” and was deeply involved in the parish of the Christ Church. Susan Farley Nichols had seven children, six girls and one boy. She survived her husband by ten years, passing away in 1892.

John White Treadwell Nichols
John White Treadwell Nichols (1852-1920) was born in Cambridge in 1852, the only son of George and Susan Nichols. John White Treadwell Nichols married Mary Blake Slocum in 1876. John White Treadwell Nichols was treasurer and partner of Minot Hooper and Co., a textile sales firm in New England. He was a world traveler for his business, often traveling with his wife and/or family. He had six children, three boys and three girls. John White Treadwell Nichols died in 1920.

1. According to obituaries found within the collection. 1842 was the year cited in, Mary I. Gozzaldi, “Merchants of Old Cambridge in the Early Days,” in the Cambridge Historical Society Proceedings VIII, (1913) p. 39.


Gozzaldi, Mary I. “The Hooper-Lee-Nichols House.” Cambridge Historical Society Proceedings XVI, (1922): 18-20.

Gozzaldi, Mary I. “Merchants of Old Cambridge in the Early Days.” Cambridge Historical Society Proceedings VIII, (1913): 39-40.

Steele, Chris and Ronald Polito. A Directory of Massachusetts Photographers, 1839-1900. Camden, ME: Picton, 1993.

Related Collections:

George Nichols Correspondence (MS Am 1307). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

George Nichols Additional Letters from Various Correspondents (MS Am 1307.1). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

George Nichols Letters from Various Correspondents (MS Am 1180). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Scope and Content Note:

The Nichols family papers document the lives of the Nichols’ family from the 1830’s through the 1890’s. The Nichols Family Papers consists of journals, professional correspondence of George Nichols, personal correspondence of the Nichols family, family ephemera, and photographs. It is arranged in three series, Series I. Journals, Series II. Correspondence, which is divided into two sub-series, IIA Professional Correspondence and IIB Personal Correspondence and Family Ephemera, and Series III. Photographs.

Series I. Journals, is comprised of the typescript of “Journey to Saratoga,” six journals, one typescript each of John White Treadwell Nichols’ Journal (March 1867 – July 1867) and Susan Farley Nichols’ Journal IV.. All loose items were removed from journals, their original location noted in upper right-hand corner of the document, and placed in a folder immediately following the journal to which they correspond. The Susan Farley Nichols journals have been paginated.

“Journey to Saratoga” was written by Susan Farley Nichols while she accompanied her parents on a trip to Saratoga in 1839. The journal describes visits to the Worcester House for the Insane and the Insane Hospital of Vermont. Susan Farley Nichols also describes the various towns visited throughout the journey, including Wocester, Brattleborough, Windsor, Royalton, Hanover, Montpelier, Burlington, Ticonderoga, Caldwell, Saratoga, Troy, Albany and New York. Typescripts of family letters written to Susan Farley Nichols during this journey can be found in Series IIB (folder 30).

Journals of John White Treadwell Nichols provides insight into his daily life at the age of fifteen. Journal 1 is dated 3 March and 25 July 1867. Journal 2 is dated 1 January and 2 March 1867, has a gap then dates between 27 May and 24 August 1867. Overlapping entries in these journals record similar accounts, with different wording at times. Journals describe chickens, particularly concerning eggs and the money he earns from this resource. He also notes the daily weather and describes the items (and their cost) that he purchases with the money he has earned. On 10 April he commented on the trial of “the Brighton incendiaries.” 7 June he comments the “Mary’s ‘Bee’ (a sewing circle of young women who made bandages for the Civil War effort) met here.” The journal has a single entry in the back from Susan Farley Nichols dated 1892. A book jacket of The Witch’s Breed, a note from the publisher of said book and a note about the journal were removed from the inside cover.

The journals of Susan Farley Nichols contain reminiscences of Cambridge and family life from the mid to late eighteenth century. There are also descriptions and comparisons over time of Cambridge, Brattle Street, and the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House. Journals I and II are Susan Farley Nichols reminiscences concerning her personal history. Journals III and IV are less reminiscent and typically contain regular entries reflecting her then current life. Susan Farley Nichols discusses books that she is reading, the weather, visitors to her home, and church routines.

Journal I, contains a table of contents (p II) added later in 1887. This journal provides a genealogical history. Susan Farley Nichols provides transcriptions of family letters to provide further details; a letter from John White (grandfather) to Thomas Blaney (great-grandfather) in 1743 (p 1), a letter from her great-grandmother to Thomas Blaney (great-grandfather) in 1725 (p 3), one from Susan Farley Nichols’s mother to her grandmother (p 11), one from sister “Cad” to Harriet in 1810 (p 14), and another from “Sister” to Sally 1814 (p 19). She also describes the Eastern Female School in Salem (p 25). One photograph was removed from the front cover of Vol. I, a reference copy left in its place, and the original added to Series III.

Journal II, includes a discussion of an entry in George Nichols’ journal about the Reception for General Lafayette (p 1); a mention of Longfellow’s death and the impact on George Nichols (p 2); a letter from John Redmond, a free black man in Salem, to George Nichols 1862 (p 19); a poem to daughter Sarah d. 1848 (p 21); a list of people at “Reception on Tuesday eveg, April 9th 1872,” (p 33); descriptions of Brattle Street (p 24); an inventory of inherited furniture at 151 Brattle Street (p 61); the Election of Grover Cleveland; and Mary’s “Bee” (p 72). The front cover of this journal is labeled Volume II, but the inside cover is labeled Volume 3.

Journal III, includes a discussion of Cambridge streets between 1836 and 1885 (p 5), and a commentary on reading Longfellow’s diary and her feelings that the diary sullied his memory (p 33). Removed from this journal, are two typed passages, ostensibly made to clarify handwriting that was difficult to decipher, and completed by an unknown family member.

Journal IV, contains descriptions of her great-grandfather’s connection to the Revolutionary war (p 22), Lafayette’s visit to America (p 24), a list of pupils from Salem’s Eastern Female School (p 39), and the centennial celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington (p 41).

John White Treadwell Nichol’s “Stories” consists of stories of his youth. The stories particularly concern friends at his school, but some are about his family and daily life.

Series II. Correspondence, comprised mainly of photostat copies of George Nichols’ correspondence, is divided into two Sub-series, Series IIA. Professional Correspondence and Series IIB. Personal Correspondence and Family Ephemera. They were originally housed in four black binders, numbered one through five (binder number four is missing). Binder number four, may have contained photostat copies of professional correspondence arranged alphabetically T-Z since binder three contained P-S. The first three binders were arranged alphabetically by sender and contained photostat copies of professional correspondence of George Nichols. The last binder contained photostat copies of personal correspondence and family ephemera.

Series IIA. Professional Correspondence, consists of the business correspondence of George Nichols providing insight into the publishing community in Cambridge and the Riverside Press in the mid to late nineteenth century. The bulk of his professional correspondence dates from 1860-1875, although there are many pieces that are undated. Correspondents of note include John Bartlett, Oliver Wendell Holmes, H. O. Houghton, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Charles Sumner. Most letters where kept in the original order in which they were found. The outgoing correspondence of George Nichols includes photostat copies of outgoing correspondence, drafts, and notes.

Series IIB. Personal Correspondence and Biographical Material, is comprised of all items in binder five that were not business related, mainly personal letters and ephemera. This series contains a small amount of original documents relating to the Hooper-Lee-Nichols house as well as original correspondence pertaining to George Nichols inquiries about other houses for rent; photostat copies of personal and family correspondence arranged alphabetically by sender, typescript of letters written to Susan Farley Nichols on here journey to Saratoga, which relate the transcript of “Journey to Saratoga” (box 1, folder 1); and two transcriptions of telegrams sent from Abraham Lincoln to the area concerning the Civil War. It also contains photostat copies of letters written to Aunt Helen until 1901; photostat copies of printed obituaries of George Nichols; copies of condolence letters to Susan Farley Nichols; an obituary pamphlet for John Taylor Gilman Nichols, 1877-1956; photostat copies of furniture inventories completed by Susan Farley Nichols, a list of books of George Nichols; maps of Boston, Lynn Woods, and the Atlantic Ocean; photostat copies of newspaper clippings relating to family or friends; advertisements; and a fire insurance policy.

Series III. Photographs is comprised of 22 photographs and 5 large photocopies of photographs. One photograph has been removed to oversize storage. The bulk of the photographs depict the exterior of the Hooper-Lee-Nichols house, one original photograph and five photocopies of the interior of the house, and three of the photographs are portraits of Susan Farley Nichols and John White Treadwell Nichols. The only prominent photographer identified in this collection is John H. Thurston, a Boston photographer active from 1890-1905.

Each original photograph has been assigned an identifying number that corresponds to its respective series and order within the series, followed by NFP to identify it as part of the Nichols Family Papers. For example, the photograph of John White Treadwell Nichols is the second picture in series III, hence 3.002 NFP, the photocopies have not been assigned a number. The identity of the photographer when known is noted in brackets in the box and folder list, following the identification of the subject of the photograph.

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

  • Cambridge (Mass)—Social Life and Customs
  • Nichols, George, 1809-1882.
  • Nichols, John White Treadwell, 1852-1920.
  • Nichols, Susan Farley, 1810-1892
  • Nichols, John White Treadwell, 1852-1920–Diaries
  • Nichols, Susan Farley, 1810-1892–Diaries
  • Photographs
  • Thurston, John H.
  • Riverside Press (Cambridge, Mass.).
  • Proofreading.
  • Publishers and publishing — Massachusetts — Cambridge.
  • Bartlett, John, 1820-1905.
  • Holmes, Oliver Wendell, 1841-1935.
  • Houghton, Henry Oscar, 1823-1895.
  • Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, 1807-1882.
  • Lowell, James Russell, 1819-1891.
  • Sumner, Charles, 1811-1874.

Series Description and Folder Listing:

The Nichols Family Papers

Series I. Journals 1839-1892 (Bulk 1882-1892)

[table colwidth=”5%|5%|90%”]

1|1|Typescript of Susan Farley Nichols “Journey to Saratoga” (1839)
1|2|John White Treadwell Nichols: Journal as a Young Boy, (March 1867 – July 1867)
1|3|John White Treadwell Nichols: Journal as a Young Boy, (January 1867 – August 1867 with gaps)
1|4|Items removed from John White Treadwell Nichols Journal (March 1867 – July 1867)
1|5|Typescript of John White Treadwell Nichols Journal (March 1867 – July 1867)
1|6|Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. 1 (March 1882)
1|7|Items removed from Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. I
1|8|Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. II (October 1882)
1|9|Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. III (November 1887)
1|10|Items removed from Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. III
1|11|Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. IV (December 1889)
1|12|Items removed from Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. IV
1|13|Typescript of Susan Farley Nichols Journal, Vol. IV
1|14|John White Treadwell Nichols “Stories” (Ca. 1910)

Series II. Correspondence
Series IIA. Professional Correspondence, 1831-1882 (Bulk 1860-1875)

[table colwidth=”5%|5%|90%”]
2|15|Professional Correspondence A-B
2|16|Professional Correspondence C-D
2|17|Professional Correspondence E-G
2|18|Professional Correspondence H-Hi
2|19|Professional Correspondence Ho-I
2|20|Professional Correspondence J-M
2|21|Professional Correspondence N
2|22|Professional Correspondence: Outgoing, Drafts and Notes of George Nichols n.d. to 1859
2|23|Professional Correspondence: Outgoing, Drafts and Notes of George Nichols 1860-1876
2|24|Professional Correspondence O-P
2|25|Professional Correspondence Pr-Pu
2|26|Professional Correspondence Q-R
2|27|Professional Correspondence S-St
2|28|Professional Correspondence Su-T
2|29|Professional Correspondence U-Z

Series IIB. Personal Correspondence and Family Ephemera 1839-1958 with Gaps

[table colwidth=”5%|5%|90%”]
2|30|Personal Correspondence Relating to House
2|31|Personal Correspondence
2|32|Personal Correspondence to Aunt Helen
2|33|Obituaries, Condolence Letters
2|34|List of Furniture, Lists of Books, Maps
2|35|Newspaper Clippings, Advertisements, Fire Insurance Policy

Series III. Photographs
(Note: The links to photo images will redirect you to the Nichols Family Papers collection on Flickr)
[table colwidth=”5%|5%|15%|75%”]
3|36|3.001NFP|Susan Farley Nichols (View image on Flickr)
||3.002 NFP|John White Treadwell Nichols (View image on Flickr)
||3.003 NFP|John White Treadwell Nichols and Susan Farley Nichols (View image on Flickr)
||3.004 NFP|Interior of HLN House, Parlor 1875 (View image on Flickr)

3|37|3.005 NFP|Exterior, North View of House (View image on Flickr)
||3.006 NFP|Exterior, Southwest View (View image on Flickr)
||3.007 NFP|Exterior, West View (View image on Flickr)
||3.008 NFP|Exterior, South View of House (View image on Flickr)
||3.009 NFP|Exterior, Southwest View, Bare Trees (View image on Flickr)
||3.010 NFP|Exterior, South View and Walkway (View image on Flickr)

3|38|3.011 NFP|Exterior, South View of House, Tree (Copy 1) (View image on Flickr)
||3.012 NFP|Exterior, South View of House, Tree (Copy 2)
||3.013 NFP|Matted Copy: Exterior, South View of House, Spring ca 1905 (View image on Flickr)
||3.014 NFP|Exterior, South View of House, Spring ca 1905
||3.015 NFP|Matted Copy: Exterior, South View of House, Winter ca 1905 (View image on Flickr)
||3.016 NFP|Exterior, South View of House, Winter ca 1905

3|39|3.017 NFP|Exterior, Southeast View (Copy 1) [Thurston]
||3.018 NFP|Exterior, Southeast View (Copy 2) [Thurston] (View image on Flickr)
||3.019 NFP|Exterior, South View from across the Street [Thurston] (View image on Flickr)
||3.020 NFP|Exterior, Southwest View [Thurston] (View image on Flickr)
||3.021 NFP|Exterior, North View of House [Thurston] (View image on Flickr)
||3.022 NFP|South View of House with Children Removed to Oversized Storage