Five College Archives and Manuscript
Home >> Sophia Smith Collection >> Martha J. Lamb Papers, 1838-1969
Smith College seal
Martha J. Lamb Papers, 1838-1969 (Bulk: 1862-1893)
12 boxes (4.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 88

Author, historian, editor. The Lamb Papers consist of extensive personal and some professional correspondence; copies of all major articles and published books; diaries; research notes and reviews for her History of the City of New York; and copies of her Magazine of American History. Topics reflected in writings include women's rights, social reform, politics, and personal remembrances. Notable correspondents include Louisa May Alcott, Presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt, and John Jay.

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The copyright owner of unpublished works in this collection is unknown.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

Martha J. Nash was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts on 13 August 1826, the third of the four children of Arvin Nash and Lucinda Vinton. Her mother died when Martha was a child and her father remarried and with his second wife had two more children. Martha Nash was educated at several schools in Massachusetts: in Goshen, at the Williston Seminary in Easthampton (1844-45), and at the Northampton High School. She did especially well in mathematics and taught that subject at schools in Newark, New Jersey and Maumee, Ohio.

On 8 September 1852 she married Charles A. Lamb in Maumee. He was a mechanic who had two daughters from an earlier marriage. The Lambs moved to Chicago in 1857 and Martha became involved in charity work. She was a founder of the Home for the Friendless and the Half-Orphan Asylum. In 1863 she served as secretary of Chicago's first Sanitary Fair, held to raise money for soldiers' relief.

Martha Lamb, n.d.

Martha Lamb, n.d.

Shortly after the Civil War, Martha Lamb's marriage ended in divorce and it became necessary for her to support herself financially. She moved to New York City after 1866 and acted upon her belief that a woman "with any brains or any sort of intellectual capacity" should work at a significant occupation. She decided to follow her literary aspirations (first manifested in 1847 when she published an article in her local newspaper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Massachusetts) and published a series of children's stories in 1869 and 1870. In the 1870s she also wrote Spicy, a romance novel featuring the Sanitary Fair and the Chicago Fire; several Christmas annuals; and articles on a wide array of subjects for Harper's and other periodicals. She also edited The Homes of America. In the course of this writing she realized writing history was her true calling and she began extensive research for History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress. The first volume on the colonial period was published in 1877; the second volume appeared in 1880. Although she was not trained as a professional historian and favored a narrative rather than analytical approach, her work was praised by the renowned contemporary historian, George Bancroft. In 1883, Lamb purchased the Magazine of American History, a financially struggling monthly founded in 1877. She devoted herself to editing the magazine for the last decade of her life, producing over fifty signed articles and more that were unsigned. She also published articles by others, original documents, book reviews, and other standard components of a professional historical journal at a time when there was little precedent for such an endeavor. The magazine ceased publication shortly after her death in 1893.

Lamb was a fixture in New York social circles; she had connections with many of the old families she chronicled in her historical writings. She also belonged to numerous historical and patriotic societies. She was twice invited to the White House: President Grover Cleveland gave a dinner in her honor in 1886; in 1889 President Benjamin Harrison recognized her contributions to the centennial celebration of Washington's inauguration with an invitation.

Martha Lamb died of pneumonia in January 1893. Her funeral service was held at the Madison Square Presbyterian Church and she was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Florence, Massachusetts.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Martha J. Lamb Papers are related to both her personal and professional lives. They consist of biographical and genealogical material, scrapbooks, memorabilia, extensive personal and some professional correspondence, diaries, copies of Lamb's major articles and fifteen volumes of her published books, research notes and reviews for History of the City of New York, and organization files. The biographical and correspondence series contain considerable material related to her family, especially the family of her sister, Maria Nash Whitmarsh, because Maria's daughter, Martha P.Whitmarsh, originally collected the Papers and donated them to the Northampton Historical Society.

The bulk of the papers date from 1862 to 1893, primarily related to Lamb's years in New York City, but there is also a significant amount of material generated by her family in Western Massachusetts during these years, as well as some correspondence and biographical material from the late 1830s through the 1840s. There is very little material from her years in Maumee, Ohio, and Chicago during the 1850s and early 1860s. Topics addressed in the papers include New York City history and social life, children's literature, late-nineteenth century historiography, and daily life in rural Western Massachusetts in the last-half of the nineteenth century.

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 copyright owner of unpublished works in this collection 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:

Martha J. Lamb Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.

History of the Collection

Martha P. Whitmarsh, Martha Lamb's niece, originally donated the Lamb Papers to the Northampton Historical Society, circa 1930. The Society in turn donated the Papers to the SSC in 1968.

Processing Information

Processed by Amy Hague, 2001.

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
1.5 linear ft.

This series provides an overview of Martha J. Lamb's life, as well as the genealogy and activities of her family in Western Massachusetts. Susan Lyman's Lady Historian Martha J. Lamb (1969), which is a comprehensive summary of her life, draws upon these papers as well as professional papers of Lamb at the New York Historical Society. There are also numerous articles about her life and career. Scrapbooks and a few other items represent her early life in Massachusetts, but the bulk of this material reflects her career in New York. Images of Lamb and her family are almost exclusively portraits, including a few daguerreotypes. There are also a few items about her family members, most notably, a diary kept by Lamb's sister, Maria Nash Whitmarsh from 1848 to 1849 while she was a teacher.

.5 linear ft.

This series is organized into two subseries: Family and Friends and associates. The bulk of the Family subseries is from the period during which Lamb lived in New York; there is also correspondence between family members ("Third party"), notably courtship letters from Jacob Whitmarsh to Lamb's sister, Maria Nash. The Friends and associates subseries includes a few well-known correspondents, such as Louisa May Alcott, Presidents Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt, and John Jay, almost all of it related to Lamb's public life; there are also letters to Lamb's family members, mostly condolences upon her death.

(1847-91, n.d.)
1.8 linear ft.

This series includes diaries, copies of Lamb's major articles and published books, research notes and reviews for History of the City of New York and correspondence with publishers and others related to her writings. Many of the articles are about various historical topics, but there are also writings related to women's rights, social reform, politics, and her reminiscences. There are also copies of her books for children.

.75 linear ft.

The organizations in this series range from those to which Martha Lamb belonged and had some significant involvement, to those with which she apparently had minimal involvement. Most of the folders, arranged alphabetically, contain only a few items. Types of material include correspondence, annual reports, receipts, membership certificates, invitations, programs, and membership lists. It appears that for many of these organizations only a token number of items were saved, including the Northwestern Sanitary Fair (Chicago 1865) for which Lamb was an organizer and secretary; a few others, such as the Huguenot Society of America, have slightly more extensive material.

Contents List


Box 1: folder 1

Nash Family,

Box 1: folder 2

Box 1: folder 3
Correspondence between Mary Persis Crafts (Northampton Historical Society) and Dorothy Barck (New York State Historical Association) re: Lamb's family and genealogy,

Box 1: folder 4
Articles and notes,
1882-1963, n.d.

Box 1: folder 5
Biographical sketch by R. B. Wyllyss: typescript,

Box 1: folder 6
Obituaries and photo of grave,

Box 1: folder 7
Lady Historian Martha J. Lamb by Susan Elizabeth Lyman (Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.),

New York Historical Society: brochures and permissions

Box 1: folder 8
Manuscript and corrections

Box 1: folder 9

Box 1: folder 10
Published pamphlet

Box 1: folder 11
Speeches by Lyman at Northampton Historical Society and the Sophia Smith Collection

Box 1: folder 12
Financial and legal materials

Stock certificates,

Box 1: folder 13

Box 1: folder 14

Plainfield, MA: invitations and receipt,
1842, 1847, n.d.

Box 1: folder 15
Autograph books (1840s, 1867), calling lists (1881-85), and calling cards (n.d.)

Box 1: folder 16
Dress samples

Box 1: folder 17

Correspondence, clippings, invitations, calling cards, and printed materials,
1863, 1881-87

Box 2
Biographical clippings, correspondence, poems and articles by Martha Lamb, and printed material,

Box 2

Box 2
"Summer Gleanings," journal with pressed flowers and notes

Box 2
Newspaper clippings, 1870s-80s (2 volumes)

Box 3

1878, 1889, n.d.

Box 4: folder 1
Anna C. Lamb (stepdaughter) (includes 1862 pencil sketch and home of her mother in Sharon, CT, n.d.),
1889, 1895, n.d.

Box 4: folder 2
Charles S. Lamb (husband),

Box 4: folder 3
Other family: John and Ellen (sister) Baker, Arvin Nash (father), Mr. and Mrs. James (brother) Nash, Maria Nash Whitmarsh (sister), and Mr. and Mrs. Nahum Whitmarsh,

Box 4: folder 4
Friends and associates: William Cullen Bryant, President Grover and Mrs. Cleveland, Edward Clarence Redman, Chief Justice M.R. and Mrs. Waite,

Box 4: folder 5
Places: Plainfield, MA church and town hall; homes in Chicago and New York City; and grave

Box 4: folder 6
Daguerreotypes: Arvin Nash (2) and Maria Nash,

Box 4: folder 4

Nash, Arvin: list of members of Plainfield Congregational Church,

Box 4: folder 7
Whitmarsh, Maria Nash


Box 4: folder 8
School composition and teaching certificate,
1846, 1854

Box 4: folder 9

"Index of Letters by Mrs. Martha J. Lamb" (Northampton Historical Society),

Box 5: folder 1

Conant, A. A. (cousin),

Box 5: folder 2
Miller, Harriet A. (wife of nephew),

Box 5: folder 3
Nash, James A. (brother),

Box 5: folder 4
Reed, Fred (brother-in-law?),

Box 5: folder 5
Reed, Sam R.,

Box 5: folder 6
Rice, Eunice Nash (sister),

Box 5: folder 7
Whitmarsh, Bessie (niece),
1883, 1889

Box 5: folder 8
Whitmarsh, Maria Nash (sister),
1862, 1885, 1890-91

Box 5: folder 9
Whitmarsh, Martha P. (niece),

Box 5: folder 10-12
Third party

Baker, Anna (niece)

to Martha P. Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 13
to Maria Nash Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 14
Baker, Mary (sister) to Maria Whitmarsh,
1879, 1893

Box 5: folder 15
Crittenden, L.M. to Anna Lamb (includes note from Mrs. C.H. Gardner),

Box 5: folder 16
Lamb, Anna (step-daughter) to Martha P. Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 17-19
Miller, Eugene (nephew) to Maria Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 20
Miller, Florence to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 21
Miller, Harriet (Mrs. Eugene) to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 22
Nash, Arvin and Dorothy to Eunice Rice,

Box 5: folder 23
Nash, Maria Dorothy to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 24
Nash, James to Maria Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 25
Reed, M.W. (nephew) to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 26
Whitmarsh, Jacob Sebert to Maria Nash,
1850-64, n.d.

Box 5: folder 27
Whitmarsh, Martha P. to "a friend,"

Box 5: folder 28
Friends and associates

Alcott, Louisa May,

Box 5: folder 29
Alden, Maria Weed to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 30
Baneker, Mary E.,

Box 5: folder 31
Barbour, Mrs. William H. to Anna Lamb,

Box 5: folder 32
Bassett, Ellen to Maria Nash Whitmarsh,

Box 5: folder 33
Bolton, Robert,

Box 5: folder 34
Chadwick, Ellen N.,

Box 5: folder 35
Cooke, Dr. N.F.,

Box 5: folder 36
Dall, Caroline Healey,

Box 5: folder 37
De Costa, B.F.,

Box 5: folder 38
de Lancey, Edward F.,
1873, 1882 [?], 1891

Box 5: folder 39
Doremus, Estelle E. to Anna Lamb,

Box 5: folder 40
Dwight, Theodore F.,

Box 5: folder 41
Erben, Peter,

Box 5: folder 42
Gardiner, C.H. to Maria Whitmarsh,

Box 6: folder 1
Gardiner, David and Coralie,

Box 6: folder 2
Garfield, Mrs.,

Box 6: folder 3
Ghiselin, George R.,
1873, n.d.

Box 6: folder 4
Gilman, Daniel Coit,

Box 6: folder 5
Gregory, C.E.,

Box 6: folder 6
Halleck [?], William A.,

Box 6: folder 7
Harris, Jean to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 6: folder 8
Hayes, Rutherford B.,

Box 6: folder 9
Hostetter, A.F.,

Box 6: folder 10
Hotchkiss, Mrs.,
1876-87, n.d.

Box 6: folder 11
Hughson, S.S.,

Box 6: folder 12
Jay, John,

Box 6: folder 13
Johnson, Caroline T.A.,

Box 6: folder 14
McDowell, William O.

Box 6
Pelletreau, William S. to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 6: folder 15
Prelat, Reba G. to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 6: folder 16
Richards, William C.,

Box 6: folder 17
Roosevelt, Theodore,

Box 6: folder 18
Sage, Mrs. Russell (written by her secretary, Catharine Hunter) to Martha Whitmarsh,

Box 6: folder 19
Stedman, Edmund C.,

Box 6: folder 20
Stockbridge, Fanny,

Box 6: folder 21
Stockbridge, Helen,

Box 6: folder 22
Sussner, A. to Maria Whitmarsh,

Box 6: folder 23
Thompson, Frederick D.,

Box 6: folder 24
Waite, Mary F. and Amelia C.,
1890, 1891

Box 6: folder 25
Wells, E.S.,

Box 6: folder 26
Youmans, Kate L.,

Box 6: folder 27
Young, M.J.,

Box 6: folder 28
Miscellaneous business and personal (originally combined with a diary in letter book),

Box 6: folder 29
(1847-91, n.d.)

1857, 1872, 1880, 1882, 1885

Box 6: folder 30
Lists of works by Martha Lamb,

Box 6: folder 31

A.S. Barnes & Co.,

Box 6: folder 32
Century Magazine,

Box 6: folder 33
The Forum and readers re: series "Formative Influences,"

Box 6: folder 34
Funk & Wagnalls re: "Wall Street in History,"

Box 6: folder 35
Scribner's Monthly re: story "The Floating Volcano,"

Box 6: folder 36
White, Stokes, & Allen,

Box 6: folder 37
1890-91, n.d.

Box 6: folder 38
Articles and stories

"The Broken Pitcher: A Story," in Supplement to Andrews' Bazar for April,

Box 6: folder 39
"Columbus and His Times,"

Box 6: folder 40
Hampshire Gazette (Northampton, MA) article "by Emogene,"

Box 6: folder 41
"The Jeaf: From the Life of a Blackboard,"

Box 6: folder 42
Ladies Literary Society, Maumee, OH: Questions for Debate,"

Box 6: folder 43
The Ladies Offering: stories submitted, signed "Emogene,"

Box 6: folder 44
"Silk Industry of America," in Andrew's American Queen,
17 Jul 1880

Box 6: folder 45
"The Story of the Washington Centennial," Magazine of American History,
Jul 1889

Box 6: folder 46
U.S. Bureau of the Census: accounts, correspondence, etc. re: article about New York City,

Box 6: folder 47
1979, n.d.

Box 6: folder 48

History of the City of New York: It's Origin, Rise, and Progress, 2 Vols. (New York and Chicago: A.S. Barnes and Company),
1877, 1880

Manuscript notes for historical articles,
1885-92, n.d.

Box 6: folder 49
Contract and correspondence,
1872-82, n.d.

Box 7: folder 1
Genealogical notes,

Box 7: folder 2
Notes, brochures, miscellaneous correspondence, reviews, subscriptions, and draft of index,
1881, 1886, n.d.

Box 7: folder 3
Vol. I,

Box 7
Vol. II,

Box 8
The Homes of America, edited by Martha J. Lamb (New York: D. Appleton and Company),

Box 8
"Souvenir of the Centennial Anniversary of Washington's Inauguration, April 30, 1798 as First President of the United States of America," by Martha J. Lamb (New York; London: White and Allen, )
circa 1889

Box 9
Wall Street in History (New York: Funk & Wagnalls),

Box 9
Children's books

Aunt Mattie's Library series (Boston: Gould and Lincoln), 1870: Drifting Goodward, Fun and Profit, Merry Christmas, and Sabbath Schools

Box 9
Play School Stories for Little Folks series (Boston: D. Lothrop & Co.): Fanny, Harry (2 copies), Julia, and Mattie (2 copies)

Box 9
Snow and Sunshine: A Story for Boys and Girls (New York: White and Stokes),

Box 10
Christmas booklets,
1882, 1888, n.d.

Box 10
Spicy: A Novel (New York: D. Appleton and Company),


Box 10: folder 1
Published volumes (2 copies)

Box 10
Magazine of American History

Advertisements and review,
1889-92, n.d.

Box 10: folder 2
1883-92, n.d.

Box 10: folder 3

The Ladies Offering submissions,

Box 10: folder 4

Box 10: folder 5

American Academy of Political and Social Science,
1890, n.d.

Box 11: folder 1
American Association for the Advancement of Science,
1880, 1882, 1891

Box 11: folder 2
American Historical Association,

Box 11: folder 3
American McAll Association, New York Auxiliary,

Box 11: folder 4
Charity Organization Society of the City of New York,
1883, 1886

Box 11: folder 5
Christian League for the Promotion of Social Purity (New York),

Box 11: folder 6
Colonial Dames of America,
1891, n.d.

Box 11: folder 7
Columbian Exposition, Chicago,

Box 11: folder 8
Foster Home Society (Newark, NJ),

Box 11: folder 9
Huguenot Society of America,

Box 11: folder 10
Long Island Historical Society,

Box 11: folder 11
Madison Square Presbyterian Church,
1881-92, n.d.

Box 11: folder 12
Meridian Club (New York),

Box 11: folder 13
Minisink Valley Historical Society (Port Jervis, NY),

Box 11: folder 14
New Haven Colony Historical Society,

Box 11: folder 15
New York Academy of Sciences,

Box 11: folder 16
New York Genealogical and Biographical Society,

Box 11: folder 17
New York Historical Society,
1871, 1888-91

Box 11: folder 18
Nineteenth Century Club (New York),

Box 11: folder 19
Northwestern Literary and Historical Society (Sioux City, IA),

Box 11: folder 20
Northwestern Sanitary Fair, Chicago,

Box 11: folder 21
Rhode Island Historical Society,

Box 11: folder 22
Scientific Alliance of New York,

Box 11: folder 23
Sons of the American Revolution (William O. McDowell),
1890, n.d.

Box 11: folder 24
Tarrytown Historical Society (Tarrytown, NY),

Box 11: folder 25
Trinity Historical Society (Dallas, TX),

Box 11: folder 26
Union League Club (New York),

Box 11: folder 27
The Wetmore Home for Fallen and Friendless Girls (New York),

Box 11: folder 28

Scrapbook: clippings and illustrations,s

Andrew's American Queen: cover showing Nonotuck Silk Mills in Florence, MA,
17 Jul 1880

"Works of Mrs. Martha J. Lamb": flyer,

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.

  • Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888--Correspondence
  • Chicago (Ill.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
  • Children's literature--Authorship--19th century--Sources
  • Goshen (Mass.)--History--Sources
  • Hayes, Rutherford Birchard, 1822-1893--Correspondence
  • Historiography--United States--19th century--Sources
  • Jay, John, 1745-1829 --Correspondence
  • Lamb, Martha J. (Martha Joanna), 1829-1893
  • Lyman, Susan Elizabeth. Lady historian, Martha J. Lamb (1969)--Sources
  • Magazine of American History--History--Sources
  • New York (N.Y.)--History--19th century--Sources
  • Northampton (Mass.)--History--Sources
  • Roosevelt, Theodore, 1831-1878--Correspondence
  • Women authors, American--19th century--Sources
  • Women editors--United States--History--19th century--Sources
  • Women historians--United States--History--Sources

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
Home | Help | About | Search