Special Collections & University Archives University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Lyman Family Papers

Lyman Family Papers, 1839-1942.
5 boxes (2 linear feet).
Call no.: MS 634

Edward H.R. and Catharine A. Lyman on their wedding day
Edward H.R. and Catharine A. Lyman on their wedding day

Associated with intellectual circles in mid-19th century Boston, the Lyman family produced a remarkable succession of scientists, savants, businessmen, and travelers. Joseph Lyman (an engineer and geology, abolitionist, and railroad investor), his brother-in-law J. Peter Lesley (geologist), and nephew Benjamin Smith Lyman (mining engineer and student of Japan) all had significant careers in the sciences and significant involvement in the public affairs of the day.

Consisting primarily of letters received by Benjamin Smith Lyman, many from his uncle Joseph, along with dozens of photographs from three generations, the Lyman family collection offers valuable insight into the life of the Lyman lineage extending from Edward Hutchinson Robbins Lyman (b. 1819) through Frank Lyman Jr. (b. 1908). Particularly rich in the period 1860-1880, it includes a long series of letters written during a tour of Germany and France and family letters written from both Jamaica Plain and Northampton. Perhaps most significant is an important series of nearly 800 letters to Joseph Lyman while he served as Treasurer of the Kansas Land Trust, an affiliate of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, regarding the purchase of “surplus” Delaware Indian lands in Kansas for antislavery settlers in 1856-1857. Although the majority concern inquiries on investment in the lands and financial arrangements, many letters also make reference to the political struggle over slavery in the territory, the founding of Quindaro as an antislavery town, and related matters. Many of the letters, which were originally bound into a letterbook, are addressed to Amos A. Lawrence, founder of the NEEAC and one of John Brown’s “Secret Six.” Among the correspondents are Geritt Smith (who curtly declines), Charles Robinson, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Subjects
  • Antislavery movements--Massachusetts
  • Kansas Land Trust
  • Kansas--History--1854-1861
  • New England Emigrant Aid Company
Contributors
  • Lawrence, Amos Adams, 1814-1886
  • Lyman, Benjamin Smith, 1835-1920
  • Lyman, Joseph B, 1812-1871
Types of material
  • Photographs
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