Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Dall Family Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Dall Family Correspondence contains 86 letters documenting the daily changes in the family of William Dall, 3rd and his family. It is a good source of information on health, business, political, cultural, and family issues of the time.
The years bracketing the War of 1812 witnessed severe economic disruptions for American merchants, as trade restrictions and embargoes left only the astute businessmen intact. Based in Boston and Baltimore, the older male members of the Dall family engaged in merchant activities, and their correspondence reflects the personal consequences of the dire economic conditions.
William Dall, 3rd resided in Boston with his wife Rebecca, their two daughters Maria and Sarah, and one of their sons Joseph. Another son, John, attended college (probably at Harvard) before returning home, and a cousin John Robert Dall entered the same school in the year that John graduated, living with the family on weekends. William Dall, 4th and James Dall, the two remaining sons, lived and worked mainly out of Baltimore in the merchant trade. The father seems to have managed a store in Boston, dealing primarily in dry goods and foodstuffs. He coordinated trading activities with his sons mostly through the ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. William Dall 3rd stressed to his sons that they should improve their business acumen by maintaining a liberal education including strong reading, writing, and foreign language skills.
William (4th) suffered from severe attacks of Rheumatism, which was a constant concern to his family. Because of his consistent illness, health was a major issue in all of the correspondence. James Dall married Henrietta Austin in 1812, and remained the only one of his siblings to be married and have children (two of them). James' son, the Reverend Charles Henry Appleton Dall, was to become famous (for his missionary work) as was his wife for her writings and son for his accomplishments in science. Sarah was held in some regard within the family as an artist and was particularly adept at playing the piano. There is little to no information about Maria and Joseph. The Dalls seem to be religious although their religious denomination is not clearly defined.
Almost all of the correspondence was sent from Boston to William (4th) in Baltimore from various members of the immediate family. The most frequent correspondents were William (3rd), James, and John. William's (3rd) letters deal primarily with health and "fatherly advice". James' letters deal mostly with business and financial matters, while John's are most notable for their strong descriptive qualities of Boston and the political situations of the day.
Extended family mentioned in the letters include family in Baltimore. The Dalls in Baltimore include an aunt and cousins Eliza and Ellen. Also the Tildens, including Aunt Mary, Nathaniel, Harriet and Joseph. Other families and individuals mentioned often in correspondence are the Appletons', the Holleys', the Blairs', Mrs. Mitchell, Mr. Vose, Mr. Miller, and Mr. Heathcote.
There are some miscellaneous items at the end of the file that are unclear as to their nature and origin.
Please be sure to see the family trees available in the archives for further explanation as to where each member rightly belongs, their family connections, and also for dates of births, deaths, and marriages.