Ames Family Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Ames Family Papers consist of 60.5 linear feet of biographical materials, correspondence, diaries, artwork, writings, photographs, and printed materials dating from 1812 to 2004. The bulk of the collection pertains to suffragist and early birth control advocate, Blanche Ames Ames, and to her father, Civil War general Adelbert Ames; the papers of her daughter, Pauline Ames Plimpton, are also significant in volume. Other family members are included through their biographical materials, correspondence and, in some cases, their writings. There is also considerable genealogical information about the extended Ames and Butler families, compiled primarily by Blanche Butler Ames and added to over time by other family members, that traces the family's roots back to its European origins.
Correspondence comprises a large part of the collection and reveals the inner workings of numerous primary family relationships, as well as offering insight into the moral, social, and political climates through a long continuum of U.S. history. Of particular interest are the courtship letters of Blanche Butler Ames and Adelbert Ames, Blanche Ames Ames and Oakes Ames, and Pauline Ames Plimpton and Francis T.P. Plimpton, as well as life-long correspondence between these couples after they married. Letters among several sets of mothers, daughters and sisters are also significant, especially in that they span the entire lives of the individuals concerned.
The military careers of Benjamin Franklin Butler and Adelbert Ames are well documented in the portions of the collection pertaining to them. Legal documents relevant to numerous lawsuits in which Butler was involved may also be of interest to scholars of legal history. Further information about Adelbert Ames is located in the papers of his daughter, Blanche Ames Ames, who researched and wrote Adelbert Ames: Broken Oaths and Reconstruction in Mississippi, 1835-1933 in defense of his political career in Mississippi during Reconstruction, and in SERIES III. CLIPPINGS.
The papers of Blanche Ames Ames contain significant materials about the early birth control movement, especially the Massachusetts Birth Control League. There is also some information about Margaret Sanger and about other birth control organizations, including the American Birth Control League, in this portion of the collection. Documents generated during Ames's tenure as board member and as president of the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston are included, as well. Blanche Ames Ames's papers contain information about her career as an amateur artist, including drawings and sketches of family and friends, and information about the System of Color Theory. There is a small amount of material about the suffrage movement, notably political cartoons by Ames and others. Ames' papers also shed considerable light on her involvement in the career of her husband, Oakes Ames.
Pauline Ames Plimpton wrote several books about various members of the Plimpton family, which document much of that family's history, and the bulk of that information is located in her papers. Materials about the life of noted literary figure and editor of The Paris Review, George A. Plimpton, are also included in the collection.
The history of various pieces of real estate owned by the Ames family in the U.S. and in Europe is well documented, most significantly that of Borderland, the North Easton, Massachusetts home of Blanche Ames Ames and Oakes Ames, and the Villa Balbianello on Lake Como in Italy. There are also files pertaining to Bay View, a compound of summer cottages in Gloucester, Massachusetts; the Whim, the family's winter retreat in Ormond, Florida; and several Boston-area residences. Photographs of these properties are located in SERIES IV. PHOTOGRAPHS.
The bulk of the papers date from 1861 to 1995 and focus primarily on the Civil War, Reconstruction, birth control, suffrage, and the personal and professional lives of members of the Ames family. Types of material include correspondence, diaries, writings, speeches, legal documents, photographs, journal articles, newspaper clippings, memorabilia, and printed sources.