The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Williams, Mary Elizabeth, 1825-1902
Mary Elizabeth Williams (1825-1902)
0.75 linear feet (2 boxes)
The Mary Elizabeth Williams
papers document the life of this Salem, Massachusetts, artist, author, and art
SERIES I. Mary Elizabeth Williams and Abigail Osgood
Williams Papers SERIES II. Mary Ann Bell Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Mary Elizabeth Williams papers document the life of this Salem, Massachusetts,
artist, author, and art dealer. The collection has been divided into two series.
Series I.Mary Elizabeth Williams and Abigail Osgood Williams
Papers contains personal and professional correspondence of the two
Williams sisters. The personal correspondence relates to the abolitionist sentiments
of the time in the writings of Henry W. Williams to his sisters, describing American
slavery as "the great sin of the nation" (25 January 1842). The professional letters
of the two sisters describe their teaching endeavors, travel, and art collecting
ventures. One group of letters describes the process of publishing Mary E. Williams'
book The Hours of Raphael in 1891. Some of their
correspondents include Augustus Saint Gaudens (B1 F13), Henry Cabot Lodge, Rose
Morris Moore, and George Peabody. Miscellaneous materials include watercolors,
pencil sketches, and notebooks.
The Williams family papers (B1 F12) include a group of letter from Charles H.
Williams (their nephew) to his parents while on a European tour. The letters
describe Wagner in Vienna supervising the opera "Lohengrin." The letters also
describe Charles' study of the latest European eye treatment advances which would
have been of interest to both father and son, as both were eye doctors.
Series II. Mary Ann Bell Papers contains the personal
correspondence of Mary Ann Bell, friend of Mary Elizabeth, who was also known as
"Molly." Many of the letters describe New Hampshire and Bell's extended family,
consisting of Bell and Upham uncles, aunts, and cousins. There is a letter in 1861
from Mary Ann's brother, Luther V. Bell (who was stationed at Camp Baker on the
Lower Potomac), describing the fighting in the Civil War. There are also many
letters to and from female friends which describe the profession of teaching in
Mary Elizabeth Williams, artist and author, was born in
Boston, Massachusetts, on January 12, 1825, the second daughter and youngest of
three children born to Willard and Betsey (Osgood) Williams. She was the sister of
Dr. Henry W. Williams (1821-1895), the celebrated eye doctor, and Abigail Osgood
Williams (1823-1913), with whom she lived and traveled for much of her life. Her
father died circa 1833 and her mother two years later; she and her sister apparently
then went to live with Mary Osgood, a relative on her maternal side, at the Osgood
farm in South Salem.
Mary Elizabeth studied and taught art in Salem for many years. In 1860, she and
her sister Abigail traveled to Rome, Italy, where they resided for 18 years (making
an occasional return to their Salem home), studying and collecting art. Although
primarily based in Rome during this period, Mary Elizabeth and Abigail traveled
throughout Europe, visiting at some point England, Paris, Venice, and Florence. The
two sisters took lessons in the Italian school of painting while in Rome, and made
contact with many people of importance in the art world during this period.
Upon their return, Mary Elizabeth and Abigail resided on Lafayette Street in
Salem, where they ran a gallery of art in their house. In approximately 1894, they
took a trip through the Mediterranean, going up the Nile River in their own private
boat, visiting Athens, the Dardanelles, and stopping at Constantinople.
Mary Elizabeth never married. She died in Salem on September 15, 1902.
Abigail Osgood Williams, artist, was born in Boston,
Massachusetts, in October 1823 to Willard and Betsey (Osgood) Williams, and was the
older sister and companion to Mary Elizabeth Williams. During the 1850s Abigail
Williams helped run the house of her divorced brother, Dr. Henry W. Williams and his
son, Charles H. Williams. In 1860, she traveled to Rome, Italy, with her sister,
where they resided for 18 years. Upon their return Abigail lived with her sister in
Salem until her death on April 26, 1913.
Mary Ann Bell, the daughter of Samuel and Mehitable
(Dana) Bell, and sister of James and Luther V. Bell, was born in Chester, New
Hampshire, on October 26, 1802. Her father, Samuel Bell (1770-1850), was the
governor of New Hampshire from 1819 to1823, and her brother, Luther V. Bell
(1806-1862), was the head of the McLean Asylum in Boston from1837 to 1856. Her
brother, James Bell (1804-1857) with whom she made her home for at least part of her
life, was a United States senator from New Hampshire form 1855 to 1757. It is not
known how she became acquainted with Mary Elizabeth Williams. She apparently never
married; she died on February 24, 1831 in St. Augustine, Florida.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Bell, James, 1804-1857
Bell, Luther V., 1806-1862
Bell, Mary Ann
Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924
Moore, Rose Morris
Peabody, George, 1804-1892
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 1848-1907
Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883
Williams, Abigail Osgood, 1823-1913
Williams, Charles H. (Charles Herbert), 1850-1918
Williams, Henry W. (Henry Willard), 1821-1895
Art--Collectors and collecting
Publishers and publishing
The Hours of Raphael
Women art patrons
Women art teachers
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
Mary Elizabeth Williams (1825-1902) Papers, MSS 253, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex
Museum, Salem, Mass.
The provenance of this material is unknown.
Collection processed by Daniel S. Curtis, December 1991. Updated by Tamara Gaydos,
Belknap, Henry Wyckoff. Artists and Craftsmen of Essex County,
Massachusetts. Salem, MA: Essex Institute, 1927. pp. 14-15.
Edmund West, comp. Family Data Collection - Individual
Records [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.
Ellis, George E. Memoir of Luther V. Bell, M.D.,
LLD. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1863.
Grace, George C., and David H. Wallace. The New York
Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860. New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1964. p. 688-689.
Salem Evening News, obituary (M. E. Williams), 16
Salem Evening News, obituary (A. O. Williams), 28
Upham, F. K. Upham Genealogy the Descendants of John Upham
of Massachusetts, Who Came from England in 1635, and Lived in Weymouth and
Malden: Embracing over Five Hundred Heads of Families, Extending into the Tenth
Generation. Albany, NY: J. Munsell's Sons, 1892. p. 182
The Mary Elizabeth Williams papers document the life of this Salem, Massachusetts, artist, author, and art dealer.
Rome (Italy); New Hampshire--Description; Bell, James, 1804-1857; Bell, Luther V., 1806-1862; Bell, Mary Ann; Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1850-1924; Moore, Rose Morris; Peabody, George, 1804-1892; Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 1848-1907; Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883; Williams, Abigail Osgood, 1823-1913; Williams, Henry W. (Henry Willard), 1821-1895; Williams, Charles H. (Charles Herbert), 1850-1918; The Hours of Raphael; Art--Collectors and collecting; Physicians; Publishers and publishing; Slavery--United States; Women art patrons; Women art teachers; Women authors; Eye--Diseases--Treatment
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.