Merrill-Magowan Family Papers
The Merrill-Magowan Family Papers represent the activities of the family beginning with Charles Morton Merrill and his wife Octavia Wilson Merrill and following the family primarily through Charles Edward Merrill (1885-1956; AC 1908), his son Charles Edward Merrill, Jr. and daughter Doris Merrill Magowan, her husband Robert Anderson Magowan and their children. The following biographical sketches describe family members most represented in the collection. See the Merrill-Magowan family tree (appendix A) and genealogical materials in Series I for relationships between family members and birth and death dates for extended family.
Charles Morton Merrill (1856-1928), was the son of Abigail Livermore and Riley Mead Merrill and father of Charles Edward Merrill. He was a country physician and drug-store proprietor in Glen Cove Springs, Florida.
Octavia Wilson Merrill (1861-1933) was the daughter of Emily Grace and Edward Alvah Wilson and mother of Charles Edward Merrill.
Charles Edward Merrill (1885-1956) was an American investment banker and founder of the company that became Merrill Lynch & Co., Pierce, Fenner & Beane, Inc., one of the largest and most successful brokerage firms in the United States. At the time of Merrill's death, Merrill Lynch & Co. had offices in more than 100 cities and was responsible for 10 percent of all business conducted on the New York Stock exchange. The many partners of Merrill Lynch led it to be known as "We the People" and "the Thundering Herd." In addition to his financial success, Charles Merrill's career on Wall Street was notable for two contributions: he was one of the first to appeal to the small investor, members of the middle class who had previously been discouraged from investing in stocks and bonds, and he was one of the few financiers who predicted the stock market crash of 1929. Due to Merrill's foresight, Merrill Lynch & Co., its partners and investors lost less in the crash than many others and fared better in the subsequent depression. Merrill also played an important role in the creation of Safeway Stores, Inc., under which he founded Family Circle Magazine.
Born in Glen Cove Springs, Florida in 1885, Charles E. Merrill attended a preparatory school affiliated with Stetson University and later accepted an athletic scholarship at the Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. Merrill attended Amherst College from 1904-1906 (AC 1908). Though he never graduated, Merrill stayed involved in Amherst alumni activities and committees as well as with Chi Psi, his fraternity. He was awarded an honorary master's degree from Amherst in 1935 and an honorary doctorate in 1948. He became a major donor to Amherst College, and after his death in 1956 his Trust continued to support projects at the college, the largest beneficiary of Merrill's will. Merrill was the father of Doris Merrill Magowan, Charles E. Merrill, Jr. and writer James I. Merrill (AC 1948).
Eliza Church Merrill (1912-1973) was the first wife of Charles Edward Merrill, and mother of Doris Merrill Magowan and Charles Edward Merrill, Jr.
Doris Merrill Magowan (1914-2001) was the first child of Charles Edward Merrill and Eliza Church Merrill. Born in Montclair, N.J. in 1914, she was the sister of Charles E. Merrill, Jr. and half-sister of James I. Merrill. Magowan attended the Ethel Walker School and the Florentine School for Girls in Florence, Italy. In 1935 she married Robert Anderson Magowan and had five children, Robert, Jr. ("Robin"), Merrill, Stephen, Peter and Mark. Magowan became an active philanthropist and worked with charitable organizations in the cities where she lived. In San Francisco, she worked with the Children's Hospital, Fine Arts Museum, Strybing Arboretum and Grace Cathedral; in New York City, she served on the boards for the Greenwich House, Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and New York Infirmary; in Southampton, she sat on the boards of the Fresh Air Home, St. Andrews Dune Church and Southampton Hospital; in Palm Beach, she was on the board for nonprofits such as Bethesda-by-the-Sea and the Society of the Four Arts. She also served on the board of national and international groups including the National Tropical Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, World Wildlife Fund and the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, where she was promoted to the rank of Dame in 1982 in recognition of her support of the St. John Eye Hospital. An avid antiques collector, she founded the San Francisco Antique Show in 1979. Doris Merrill Magowan died in 2001.
Robert Anderson Magowan (1903-1985) was born in Chester, PA and graduated from Harvard University in 1927. During his years at Harvard he was Editor of the Harvard Crimson and manager of the baseball team, and earned a living as a stringer for the Boston Globe and the New York Times. He began his business career as a men's wear buyer with R.H. Macy & Co. (Macy's) and became a vice president of the advertising agency N.W. Ayer & Co. in 1934. Magowan married Doris Merrill in 1935 and was hired by Charles E. Merrill to work for the supermarket chain Safeway Stores, Inc. In 1938 he left Safeway to become a Vice President of Merrill Lynch. From 1942-44, he took a leave from Merrill Lynch to serve as a Navy air combat intelligence officer during World War II. He remained with Merrill Lynch until 1955, when he returned to Safeway as chairman and CEO, a post he held until he retired in 1971. Under Magowan's leadership, Safeway laid the groundwork to become the nation's largest food retailer. Robert Anderson Magowan died in 1985.
Charles E. Merrill Jr. (1920- ) attended Harvard University from 1938-1941 and 1945-1946, and obtained an AB degree in 1946. From 1942-1945 he served in World War II forces, first as part of the Canadian military and then for the U.S Army. In 1946 Merrill co-founded the Thomas Jefferson School in St. Louis, and in 1957 founded The Commonwealth School in Boston. He served as The Commonwealth School's headmaster until his retirement in 1981 and remains a member of the Board of Trustees. Merrill wrote a history of the School's first twenty-three years, "The Walled Garden." Merrill was also Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Morehouse College in Atlanta and has been a trustee at Hampshire and Marlboro Colleges, and faculty at Spelman, Guilford, Warren Wilson, and Moravian Colleges.
Hellen Ingram Merrill Plummer (1926-1956) was born in Jacksonville, Florida. She was the second wife of Charles E. Merrill and the mother of James Ingram Merrill. Charles and Hellen Merrill divorced in 1939. Hellen's second marriage was to Colonel Plummer, who she survived by more than 30 years. She lived in Atlanta, Georgia and was a strong supporter of the arts there. Plummer's trust established the The Hellen Plummer Charitable Foundation.
James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995) was born in New York City on March 3, 1926, the son of Charles Merrill and his second wife, Hellen Ingram. He was raised in Manhattan and Southampton. He was enrolled at Amherst College from 1943 to 1947, with a leave from 1944-1945 to serve in the U.S. Army. Merrill taught for a year at Bard College following his graduation from Amherst in 1947. His volume of poetry First Poems was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1951. Over the next decade he authored two novels, The Seraglio (1957) and The (Diblos) Notebook (1965) and two books of poems, The Country of a Thousand Years of Peace (1959) and Water Street (1962). His 1966 collection of poems, Nights and Days, won the National Book Award and he earned numerous other awards in his lifetime, including the Bollingen Prize for Braving the Elements (1972), the Pulitzer Prize for Divine Comedies (1976), and a second National Book Award for Mirabell (1978). In 1983, his epic poem The Changing Light at Sandover (1982) won the National Book Critics Circle Award. James I. Merrill died on February 6, 1995.