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John Robinson (1846-1925) Papers

John Robinson (1846-1925) Papers

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JOHN ROBINSON (1846-1925) PAPERS, 1802, 1848-1926, 1950-1974

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Robinson, John, 1846-1925
Title:John Robinson (1846-1925) Papers
Dates:1802, 1848/1926, 1950/1974
Quantity:8.25 linear feet (9 boxes)
Abstract:The John Robinson papers reflect Robinson's various interests and his involvement in the Peabody Academy of Science, and later the Peabody Museum of Science in Salem. The papers contain Robinson’s research and manuscripts on various topics, some personal papers, correspondence, and some materials relating to the Peabody Museum.
Collection Number:MH 197

Series List

SERIES I. Research and Manuscripts
SERIES II. Personal Papers
SERIES III. Correspondence
SERIES IV. Museum Papers
SERIES V. Numismatics

Scope and Content Note

The John Robinson papers reflect Robinson's various interests and his involvement in the Peabody Academy of Science, and later the Peabody Museum of Science in Salem. The papers contain Robinson's research and manuscripts on various topics, some personal papers, correspondence, and some materials relating to the Peabody Museum. This collection has been divided into five series.

Series I. Research and Manuscripts contains research, articles, and other short manuscripts written by Robinson. The contents in this series have been arranged alphabetically by their original topic or title. The research includes notes, sketches, news clippings, and excerpts from publications. At the end of this series are stamps collected by Robinson, some are loose, others are in what appears to be an unbound scrapbook, which contain items with stamps and postage marks. There is also a scrapbook about Robinson's book Ferns: In Their Homes and Ours.

Series II. Personal Papers contains a stock certificate from the estate of Robinson's father, materials about a donation of annuals to the New York Public Library, and some other miscellaneous items. There is also a catalog of the coins that Robinson gave to the Essex Institute.

Series III. Correspondence contains correspondence. Some of the correspondence is to or from Robinson; there a number of letters that are neither to or from Robinson, but do involve Peabody Museum business. All of the correspondence is business related or related to Robinson's research, or to matters relating to the Peabody Academy of Science or Peabody Museum.

Series IV. Museum Papers contains materials relating to the Peabody Museum of Science, and the Peabody Museum. This includes a catalog of negatives given to the Peabody Academy of Science, financial reports, news clippings, proposals for Ropes Memorial lectures, U. S. Fish and Wildlife permits issued to the Museum, and a mailing list. This series has been arranged chronologically.

Series V. Numismatics contains material relating to Robinson’s interest and work in the field of numismatics. This series contains correspondence, bills, receipts, notes, sketches, dealer catalogs, and pamphlets. This series also contains seven scrapbook volumes created by Robinson. For preservation purposes, the items have been removed from the volumes, and placed in folders; however, the order of the items has not changed. Three of the scrapbook books were correspondence from Henry A. Ramsden.

Biographical Sketch

John Robinson was born to John (1796-1846) and Lucy (Stone) (1815-1893) Robinson on July 13, 1846, in Salem, Massachusetts. John was educated in Salem schools, received private instruction, and also took botany courses at Harvard College (although he never matriculated there). After finishing school at 19, he became a clerk in the counting room of Alden Speare, a commission merchant on Central Wharf, Boston, until 1874, when he became part of the staff in the marine room, and later treasurer, at the Peabody Academy of Science in Salem, which later became the Peabody Museum of Salem. In 1875, he became a trustee. During his time with the Museum, he worked to enlarge the collection in order to better engage the interest of the public, and contributed to maritime publications.

John also had an interest in horticulture, working for two years as an assistant at the Arnold Arboretum, in charge of the herbarium. He lectured on botany at the Salem Summer School of Biology, delivered lectures on botany in many places throughout Essex County, and wrote a number of papers and books. He laid out the gardens for the Salem Club in 1895, and for the Ropes Memorial in 1912, in addition to helping friends with their gardens. John also had an interest in coin collecting, particularly those of the Far East, and donated his collection to the Essex Institute in 1913.

John was very active in his community: he sat on the City of Salem's common council for several years; sat on the sewerage commission in 1876; was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution; a member of the Patria club of Salem; senior member of the Essex Institute; was a life member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society; senior member of the Boston Numismatic Society; member of the American Numismatic Association; member of the Yokohama Numismatic Society of Japan; and a member of the Numismatic Society of India at Lucknow. He was also an honorary member of the Salem Marine Society. John was a trustee of the Ropes Memorial, the Salem hospital, Salem Athenaeum, the East India Marine Society, and the Salem Public Library.

He married Elizabeth Rollins Kemble (1850-1935). They had three children: John Robinson, Mary Kemble Robinson Wheatland (1870-1962), and Mrs. John Bertram Ropes. John died April 9, 1925.

Index Terms

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.

Bradlee, Francis Boardman Crowninshield, 1881-1928
Jenkins, Lawrence Waters, 1872-1961
Peabody, George Augustus, 1831-1929
Ramsden, Henry A.
Robinson, John, 1846-1925
Sargent, Charles Sprague, 1841-1927
Wood, Howland
Essex Institute
Jun Kobayagawa Co.
Library of Oriental Numismatics
Peabody Museum of Salem
Stamp collections
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Robinson’s personal and family autobiography (box 1, folder 30) is not to be used or quoted from without permission from Robinson’s family.

Administrative Information


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.

Preferred Citation

John Robinson (1846-1925) Papers, MH 197, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material is an integration of four manuscript collections, MH 197, Fam. Mss. 837, NH 26, and UNP 2. MH 197 was donated by Mrs. Wheatland in 1943; the other three collections were found in the collection. Two scrapbook volumes were donated by Robinson to the Essex Institute library, and given the call number 737.51 R18.6.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, October 2017.

Related Material

"John Robinson of Peabody Museum Died Suddenly Yesterday." Salem Evening News, April 10, 1925.

Related Collections

John Robinson's photograph album / assembled by John Robinson of Salem between 1900 and 1920; reproduced from the original loaned to David P. Wheatland by John Robinson, Jr. ; photographed by Stephen Grohe of Boston.

Lucy Johnson Papers, 1860-1872. Fam. Mss. 508

Lucy Stone Robinson Papers, 1824-1846. MSS 317

Richard and Mary K. Wheatland Family Papers, 1862-1951.MSS 907

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