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Clara Barton papers, 1822-1982 (Bulk: 1860-1912)
12 boxes (4 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 11 UUID:ad460970-4a0e-4777-8d2b-999a58d16bd3

Nurse; Founder and President, American National Red Cross. Worked as a nurse in the Civil war and initiated a campaign to develop the American Red Cross. Papers include correspondence, manuscript notes, speeches, writings, photographs, memorabilia, and files documenting her work for the Civil War, Red Cross, and other relief organizations.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The literary rights to the Wells papers belong to the Sophia Smith Collection. The holder of the copyright to Clara Barton's unpublished works is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Sophia Smith Collection
Smith College
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Clarissa Harlow Barton was born in North Oxford, MA, on December 25, 1821, the fifth and last child of Stephen and Sarah (Stone) Barton. She was a shy and lonely child, and for two years at the age of eleven she devoted her time to nursing her brother David during a protracted illness, an experience which later affected her life's work. At eighteen she began to teach in neighboring schools. In 1850 she spent a year at the Liberal Institute of Clinton, NY. She resumed her teaching in New Jersey where, in 1852, she founded the state's first free or public school in Bordentown. In February 1854 she resigned to take up a position as clerk in the Patent Office in Washington DC., possibly the first regularly appointed woman civil servant. Deprived of her position in 1857 after a Democratic victory, she returned to Oxford. She returned to the Patent Office in late 1860. At the beginning of the Civil War, witnessing the almost total lack of first-aid supplies at the battle of Bull Run, she advertised for provisions. Using her own limited quarters as a storeroom, she accumulated supplies and, with a few friends, began in the summer of 1862 to distribute them by mule team to hospitals and camps on the battlefields. Barton had an uncanny ability to short-circuit military routine, appearing at military engagements with needed supplies, and increasingly she won the respect and admiration of commanding officers and surgeons. As the Sanitary Commission and other agencies grew more organized, Barton's role diminished, but in June 1864, she accepted an appointment as head nurse in Benjamin Butler's Army of the James. In 1865 she established an office in Annapolis where she and a few assistants sought to piece together information concerning missing men and in July 1865 she directed the marking of the graves of almost 13,000 men who died in Andersonville Prison. Between 1866 and 1868, while continuing her missing persons work, she lectured throughout the North and West. Exhausted by her activities, she went to Europe in 1868 for rest and recuperation. While there she worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71). She also distributed funds provided by American relief committees in France. At the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war in 1877 she initiated a five-year campaign for the organization of the American Red Cross Society. In March 1882, American affiliation with the International Red Cross was accomplished and Barton was chosen president of the American Association of the Red Cross. Between 1881 and 1904 she devoted her energies to Red Cross work, providing relief in disasters domestic and abroad, including aid to Cuban civilians and American soldiers during the Spanish American War. By 1904, new methods and leadership were needed and she was forced to resign by the board of directors. She moved to Glen Echo, MD in 1897, where she organized the National First Aid Association of America in 1906. She died April 12, 1912, and was buried in North Oxford, MA.

Mary Kensel was born in 1879. In 1905 at the age of 26 she became secretary (and close friend) to Clara Barton, a position she held until Barton's death in 1912. She married Roscoe Wells, treasurer, vice president, and assistant to the president of the National First Aid Association, which was founded by Barton in 1906. The Wells in their later years moved in with the family of Sally Hooper. After the death of Roscoe Wells (circa 1959) Sally Hooper continued to care for Mary (then an invalid) until her death in 1969.

Scope and contents of the collection

The Clara Barton Papers consist of 4 linear feet of correspondence, printed material, manuscript notes, speeches, writings, photographs, and memorabilia. The bulk of the papers date from 1860 to 1912. There are two separate accessions. The first consists of writings, correspondence, and memorabilia collected as sources by Rev. William Barton for his biography of his cousin. It contains memorabilia, clippings, and organizational records from Clara Barton's work in the Civil War, Red Cross, and other relief organizations, as well as material of a more personal nature, including correspondence between Barton her friends and family. Barton was very much interested in spiritualism and there is material about this in SERIES I and II.

The second accession, incorporated as SERIES VI, contains material related to Mary Kensel and Roscoe Wells and their relationship to Clara Barton, the National First Aid Association of America, and the Red Cross. Clara Barton gave a portion of the material to her secretary Mary Kensel Wells who supplemented the papers with her own family material. It then appears that Sally Hooper, who was given the papers by Mary Kensel Wells, used items for exhibit purposes and also added more recent material about Clara Barton

Although the bulk of Clara Barton's papers are located at the Library of Congress, the papers in the Sophia Smith Collection provide a significant insight into Barton's life and professional accomplishments. Personal correspondence, Civil War writings and memorabilia, and Red Cross material are of particular interest.

Organization of the collection

This collection is organized into six series:

  • I. Biographical Material
  • II. Correspondence
  • III. Speeches and Writings
  • IV. Civil War and Relief Activities
  • V. Memorabilia and Photographs
  • VI. Kensel-Wells Family

Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The papers are open to research according to the regulations of the Sophia Smith Collection.

Restrictions on use:

The literary rights to the Wells papers belong to the Sophia Smith Collection. The holder of the copyright to Clara Barton's unpublished works is unknown. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use" must also be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection as owners of the physical property.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Clara Barton Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

Additional Formats

This collection is available on microfilm in the Sophia Smith Collection and via interlibrary loan. A reel index is also available. (Contact the SSC for more information).

History of the Collection

The Clara Barton Papers were given to the Sophia Smith Collection in 1953 by Mary Stilwell Bryant and four other relatives who were joint owners. They were formally owned and collected by their grandfather, Rev. William E. Barton, when he wrote a biography of his cousin, Clara. Additional papers were donated in 1987 by Oliver Hooper, who inherited them from his wife, Sally, who received them from Mary Kensel Wells, Clara Barton's secretary.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Susan Boone, 2000.

Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Series Descriptions
.5 linear ft.

This series contains genealogical and biographical notes, printed material about Clara Barton (1910-79), teaching certificates (1849-53), her funeral service and will, and memorials and tributes (1869-1917). There are also records of the Clara Barton Literary Committee, a committee of literary executors in charge of the disposition of Barton's papers (1915, 1918). In addition there is Percy Epler's correspondence and notes (1907-19) for his biography, The Life Of Clara Barton; and notes and correspondence (1910-28) of William E. Barton for his biography, The Life of Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross. Epler's notes contain recollections of Stephen Barton, Herman Riccius, Saidie Riccius, and William Barton.

.5 linear ft.

This series is divided into three subseries: From Clara Barton, To Clara Barton and Miscellaneous.

The bulk of the correspondence is personal in nature. Of particular interest in the first two sections (both arranged alphabetically) are letters and manuscript notes (1863, n.d.) from John J. Elwell with whom Barton had a romantic relationship in 1863. There are additional Ellwell letters in Barton's papers at the Library of Congress. In 1874-75 Barton corresponded with doctors and clairvoyants in search of medical advice. Of interest are letters from Dr. Edward B. Foote (1875), Dr. S.W. Hewett (1875), Dr. Charles Main (1874-75), Mrs. C.W. Morrison (1874-75), and Dr. H.B. Storer (1875) which, along with notes located in SERIES III which Barton made during her illnesses, not only provide information on Barton's health, but also interesting insights into late nineteenth century medicine and spiritualism. Correspondence with her family, William E. Barton (1895-1919), Esther P. Barton (1900-02), Julia Porter Barton (1854), David Barton (1853-57), and the Vassall family (1853-56), provide a look at her close relationship with her brothers and sisters and their families. There are letters (1887-89) also from Louise, Grand Duchess of Baden, who befriended Barton when she was in Europe; statesman Elihu Benjamin Washburne; and General J.C.Breckinridge (1898).

The Miscellaneous subseries contains correspondence of William E. Barton and Stephen Barton (1906-24) with others. Of particular interest are letters from Julian G. Hubbell (1920-24) which concern Clara Barton and spiritualism and the settling of her estate; and from Saidee

Riccius (1916-28), Clara Barton's great niece, who helped William Barton with his biography. Three letters from Francis Atwater to William Barton contain personal reminiscences. Finally, there is one letter (1882) from Hannah McLaren Shepard to Joseph Christie relating to the Women's National Relief Association.

.5 linear ft.

This series contains speeches and writings mostly in Barton's hand. They are arranged chronologically with the exception of four volumes boxed separately. Of interest are notes Barton made to Dr. Foote about her health and miscellaneous notes she made during illness. Some of these relate to correspondence in SERIES II. Box 4 contains four volumes: "The Old-old-book" is a collection of handwritten verse; "Work and incidents of army life" and a volume of Civil War experiences, probably used as speeches, provide an eloquent and poignant view of life on the battlefields of the Civil War. The former is authored by Barton but written in the hand of Dorence Atwater. The final volume, "International and National Relief in War," was given as a paper to the Social Science Association in Saratoga, N.Y. in 1882. Other versions can be found in box 3.

.5 linear ft.

This series contains memorabilia, printed material, correspondence, and reports. It is divided into four subseries: Civil War, American National Red Cross, National White Cross of America, and the Woman's National Relief Association.

Civil War contains originals and copies of army passes and authorizations issued to Barton for passage onto the battlefields (1861-65); two reports to Congress, a financial report (1868) and a request for appropriations (1866); and material related to Dorance Atwater and Barton's activities related to soldiers who died at Andersonville Prison. This includes A List of the Union Soldiers Buried At Andersonville written by Atwater and published in 1868.

American National Red Cross contains memorabilia and pamphlets and printed material about the activities, history and origins of the Red Cross (1863-1918), many authored by Clara Barton. This subseries includes correspondence, printed material, congressional documents, and lawyers reports relating to the controversy between Clara Barton and Mabel T. Boardman over control of the organization (1903-16); conference and annual reports (1900-02); and relief in Cuba (1898), Asia Minor (1896), and Galveston, Texas (1900-01).

The last two subseries include a Senate Bill to incorporate the National White Cross of America (1899) and an annual report and printed material related to the Woman's National Relief Association of New York (1880-81).

.25 linear ft.

This series is divided into two two subseries: Memorabilia and Photographs.

The Memorabilia consists of postcards, calling cards, and miscellaneous items.

Photographs includes seven photographs of Clara Barton. Although most are undated, there is one of Barton as young woman and one dated 1903, otherwise they are of Barton in her prime, probably between 1860 and 1890. Family photos include William Barton, Sarah Stone Barton, and Capt. Stephen Barton (all undated). There are also photographs and postcards of various places: Barton's birth place and summer home in Oxford, MA; her homes in Dansville, NY and Glen Echo, NJ; Converse House, where she boarded while teaching in Charlton, MA; and the stone school in Charlton, MA, where she first taught school. There are miscellaneous photographs which include her cemetery plot and the Universalist Church in Oxford, Andersonville memorabilia, Grand Duchess Louise (1889), and a drawing of Kaiser Wilhelm, 1888.

2 linear ft.

This series is divided into five subseries: Personal material, National First Aid Association of America, Red Cross, Clara Barton, and Oversize material

The first subseries contains correspondence, memorabilia, writings, and photographs. The bulk of the correspondence, which is arranged chronologically, consists of letters from Mary Kensel to Roscoe Wells (1904-12). There are also a few miscellaneous letters: from Mary to her father (1912); to Mary from George (1919), and to Roscoe Wells from his father (1890). Memorabilia includes items such as a souvenir program from the 24th National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic (1890), an anonymous poem about Mt. Washington, military certificates of Albert S. Wells and G.A. Kensel (1865), and a scrapbook containing clippings and recipes. Mary Kensel was a poet as well as an amateur photographer. The writings include photographs with poetry attached, miscellaneous poems, and a copy of Challenging The Road of New England (1931). The photographs include pictures of Roscoe Wells, Mary Kensel Wells, their home and pet dog, and several Kensel and Wells ancestors.

The National First Aid Association of America subseries contains Annual reports (1906-09), publications (1906-20), memorabilia, and photographs. Roscoe Wells was treasurer, vice president and assistant to the president and his involvement is evident in much of this material. He authored or edited a number of the publications, which include three issues of the Barton First Aid Text Book; Boys Drill Regulations; a committee report; and First Aid, the organization's newsletter (1912-21). Wells appears in many of the photographs and most likely was recipient of most of the medals and pins found in the oversized section.

The Red Cross subseries contains an undated handwritten history of the Red Cross, The American National Red Cross, Its' Origin and History (1898), and Drill Regulations for the Ambulance Corps, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (1895)

The Clara Barton subseries contains correspondence, clippings, miscellaneous printed material, memorabilia, and photographs. The correspondence consists of letters from Clara Barton to Mary Kensel and Roscoe Wells (1906-10), and a letter from HRH Grand Duchess Louise of Baden, evidently sent to Mary Wells on the death of Clara Barton. Most of the clippings are contemporary to Barton. The later printed material was apparently added by Sally Hooper and consists primarily of material about the Clara Barton Camp for Girls With Diabetes and a sesquicentennial celebration of Barton's life sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation in 1971. Memorabilia consists of several ribbons, a list of her decorations, and other miscellaneous items. Most of the memorabilia is in the Oversize material. There are fourteen photographs. They include snapshots of Barton with Mary and Roscoe Wells and some portraits.

The Oversize material consists of two flags; Women's Relief Corps medals; Civil War relics including items from Civil War battlefields and Andersonville Prison; Clara Barton memorabilia; and assorted buttons, medals and pins. In addition there are two certificates and two photographs in the flat file.

Contents List


Box 1: folder 1
Genealogy, biographical notes, and poems,

Box 1: folder 2

Box 1: folder 3
Clippings, articles, and obituaries,

Box 1: folder 4
Teaching certifications,

Box 1: folder 5
Funeral service,

Box 1: folder 6
Wills (Clara and Stephen Barton),
1918, undated

Box 1: folder 7
Clara Barton Literary Committee,

Box 1: folder 8
Memorials and tributes


Box 1: folder 9

Box 1: folder 10
Andersonville Survivors Association,

Box 1: folder 11
Correspondence of Percy H. Epler to William Barton re: biography of Clara Barton,

Box 1: folder 12
William E. Barton biography


Box 1: folder 13


Box 1: folder 14
With Stephen Barton,

Box 1: folder 15

From Clara Barton

1874-76, 1893

Box 2: folder 1
William E. Barton,

Box 2: folder 2
Mamie (Barton?),
1903, 1907

Box 2: folder 3
Esther P. Barton,
1900, 1902

Box 2: folder 4
General J.C. Breckinridge,

Box 2: folder 5
E. Herbst,

Box 2: folder 6
Secretary of State John Hay,

Box 2: folder 7
To Clara Barton

1852-92, undated

Box 2: folder 8

Box 2: folder 9
David Barton,

Box 2: folder 10
Julia Porter Barton,

Box 2: folder 11
Stephen Barton,

Box 2: folder 12
M.A. Denison,

Box 2: folder 13
John G. Elwell,
1863, undated

Box 2: folder 14-15
Dr. Edward B. Foote,

Box 2: folder 16
Lucy A. Frayer,
1885, 1886

Box 2: folder 17
Dr. S.C. Hewett,

Box 2: folder 18
Louise, Grand Duchess of Baden,

Box 2: folder 19
Dr. Charles Main,
1874, 1875

Box 2: folder 20
Antoinette Margot,
1880, 1888-90

Box 2: folder 21
Mrs. C.W. Morrison,

Box 2: folder 22
Joseph and Abby Sheldon (includes 1 letter to B..B. Vassall from J. Sheldon re C.B.'s health),

Box 2: folder 23
Dr. H.B. Storer,

Box 2: folder 24
George and Mary Tower,

Box 2: folder 25
Bernard and Irving Vassall,

Box 2: folder 26
Frances Childs (Vassall),

Box 2: folder 27
Sarah (Barton) Vassall,

Box 2: folder 28
Vester Vassall,

Box 2: folder 29
Elihu Washburne,
1869, 1871

Box 2: folder 30
Joseph Wheeler,

Box 2: folder 31

William E. Barton to William Howard Taft (Secretary of War),

Box 2: folder 32
Julian B. Hubbell to Stephen and William Barton,

Box 2: folder 33
Herman P. Riccius to Stephen E. Barton,

Box 2: folder 34
Dr. William Barton,

Saidee Riccius,

Box 2: folder 35
Francis Atwater,

Box 2: folder 36
Hannah McLaren Shepard to Joseph Christie,

Box 2: folder 37

Cooper Institute,

Box 3: folder 1
Notes made during her illness,

Box 3: folder 2
Dansville, N.Y.

Box 3: folder 3
Saratoga, N.Y., American Social Science Association,

[see also Box 4, International and National Relief in War]


Box 3: folder 4
Boston Music Hall,

Box 3: folder 5
Girls College at Scuturi, address to alumnae,

Box 3: folder 6
Universalist Church, Oxford(?), Thanksgiving Day,

Box 3: folder 7
"To the girls of the teens and twenties," Woman's Home Companion,

Box 3: folder 8
Natural History Camp,

Box 3: folder 9
Place unknown,

Box 3: folder 10
Oxford Library,

Box 3: folder 11
Oak Park Church, Mother's Day,

Box 3: folder 12
Abraham Lincoln Center, Chicago,

Box 3: folder 13
Universalist Church (Notes for speech on Red Cross),

Box 3: folder 14
Woman's rights,

Box 3: folder 15
Tribute to Dr. Jackson,

Box 3: folder 16
Verse copied by Clara Barton,

Box 3: folder 17
Handwritten material in bound volumes/binders

"The Old-old-book,"

Box 4
"Work and incidents of army life,"

Box 4
Civil War experiences,

Box 4
International and National Relief in War,

[see also Box 3, Saratoga, N.Y., American Social Science Association]


Box 4

Civil War

Army passes and authorizations,

Box 5: folder 1
Financial report to Congress, 1868; Senate report for appropriations,
1866, 1869

Box 5: folder 2
Dorence Atwater and the Union soldiers at Andersonville Prison,
1868, 1912, undated

Box 5: folder 3
American National Red Cross

American Association for the Relief of the Misery of the Battle Fields, letter of Rev. Henry Bellows,

Box 5: folder 4
Organization, history, and miscellaneous printed material,

Box 5: folder 5
Mabel T. Boardman/Clara Barton controversy,

Box 5: folder 6

Box 5: folder 7
Cuban relief,

Box 5: folder 8
Disaster relief reports,

Box 5: folder 9

Red Cross

Box 5: folder 10
Russian famine relief,

Box 5: folder 11
National White Cross of America, Senate Bill 5583 to incorporate,

Box 5: folder 12
Woman's National Relief Association (N.Y. State Auxiliary): Annual Report, printed material,

Box 5: folder 13


Postcards and calling cards,

Box 6: folder 1

Box 6: folder 2

Clara Barton

[see also Oversize materials]

Box 6: folder 3
Portrait, one marked "at the time of the Civil War" (2 copies),

Box 6
Worcester (with a horse),

Box 6
As a young woman reading,

Box 6
Seated with white ruffled front,

Box 6
Standing facing left,

Box 6
Standing with hand on chair,

Box 6
Portrait marked "from Clara Barton to her little namesake,"

Box 6
William Barton (?),

Box 6
Sarah Stone Barton,

Box 6
Capt. Stephen Barton,

Box 6
Grand Duchess Louise,

Box 6
Drawing of Kaiser Wilhelm,

Box 6
Barton homes,

Box 6: folder 3
Birthplace, Oxford, MA (3 postcards, 1 snapshot)

Box 6
Summer home, Oxford, MA (3 postcards, 2 snapshots)

Box 6
Dansville, NY

Box 6
Glen Echo, NJ (3 snapshots)

Box 6
Converse house where Clara Barton boarded while teaching in Charlton, MA

Box 6
Stone school in Charlton, MA where Clara Barton first taught school (3 snapshots),

Box 6
Cemetery plot where Clara Barton is buried (4 snapshots, 1 postcard),

Box 6
Universalist Church, Oxford, MA (postcard),

Box 6
Andersonville memorabilia,

Box 6

Personal material


Box 7: folder 1

[see also Oversize materials]


Box 7: folder 2

Box 7: folder 3
Mary Kensel Wells, writing,

Box 7: folder 4

Box 7: folder 5-6
National First Aid Association of America

Annual reports (1-4),

Box 8: folder 1

Box 8: folder 2
Certificate, incorporation papers, and letter from Clara Barton,

Box 8: folder 3

[see also Oversize materials]

Box 8: folder 4

Box 8: folder 5
Red Cross,
1895-96, undated

Box 8: folder 6
Clara Barton


Box 8: folder 7

Box 8: folder 8
Miscellaneous printed material,

Box 8: folder 9

[see also Oversize materials]

1900-24, undated

Box 8: folder 10

Box 8: folder 11


Clara Barton Staff colors

Box 9
Clara Barton Ambulance Corps colors

Box 9
Women's Relief Corps medals

Box 10
Civil War relics

Sewing kit and miscellaneous fragments from Civil War battlefields

Box 11
Civil War belt buckles

Box 11
Fragment of a Bible, baking pan, and spoon from Andersonville Prison

Box 11
Civil War money

Box 11
Miscellaneous memorabilia

Violet from a bonnet worn by Clara Barton

Box 12
National First Aid Association medals and pins (7)

Box 12
Pin of the St. John ambulance Association from it's first meeting,

Box 12
Assorted buttons, medal, 10 cent piece from canteen at Fort Warren, 2 small gifts presented to several of her friends by Clara Barton

Box 12
Pin: "Recuerdo"

Box 12
Copper plate with image of Clara Barton

Box 12
G.A. Kensel certificate of promotion to Colonel,

Flat file
Roscoe Wells' certificate of appointment to Major General in Clara Barton Ambulance Corps

Flat file
Photo of flags (NFAA?)

Flat file
Photo of NFAA with Clara Barton and Roscoe Wells

Flat file
Portrait of Clara Barton (2 copies)

Flat file
Framed signed portrait of Clara Barton

Flat file

Bound volume of clippings: reviews of William Barton biography

Barton, William E., The Life of Clara Barton, Founder of the American Red Cross. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin), (2 vols.)

Epler, Percy H., The Life of Clara Barton (New York: Macmillan Co.),

Williams, Blanche Colton, Clara Barton, Daughter of Destiny (New York, Lippincott),

Rhode Island. Joint Special Committee on Erections of Monument at Andersonville, Ga. Report. (Providence, E. L. Freeman & Sons, State Printers, )

Search Terms
The following terms represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. Use these headings to search for additional materials on this web site, in the Five College Library Catalog, or in other library catalogs and databases.

  • American National Red Cross--History--Sources
  • Andersonville Prison--History--Sources
  • Barton, Clara, 1821-1912
  • Breckinridge, John C. (John Cabell), 1821-1875
  • International Committee of the Red Cross--History
  • National First Aid Association of America--History
  • Nurses--United States--History--Sources
  • Red Cross--History--Sources
  • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care--Sources
  • Washburne, E.B. (Elihu Benjamin), 1816-1887
  • Woman's National Relief Association

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