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George F. Dow Papers

George F. Dow Papers

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GEORGE F. DOW (1868-1936) PAPERS, 1882-1936, undated


Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 161 Essex StreetSalem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-948-6012
Creator:Dow, George Francis, 1868-1936
Title:George F. Dow Papers
Dates:1882/1936, undated
Quantity:7.25 linear feet (12 boxes)
Abstract:The George F. Dow Papers include manuscript materials, correspondence, genealogical research, and photographs created by George Dow throughout his career as a writer, editor, and historian.
Identification:MH 82

Series List

SERIES I. ManuscriptsSERIES II. Personal Papers

Scope and Content Note

The George F. Dow Papers include manuscript materials, correspondence, genealogical research, and photographs created by George Dow throughout his career as a writer, editor, and historian. This collection has been arranged into two series.

Series I. Manuscripts include drafts of books, articles, speeches and radio addresses written or edited by George F. Dow. The material in this series is arranged alphabetically by the title of the written work. Subseries A. through Subseries G. includes extensive manuscript material related to one particular literary project. Additionally these subseries include correspondence, photographs, and research material are included. Subseries H. Articles, Projects and Speeches include drafts and correspondence related to literary works written or edited by Dow. Much of the material in this subseries demonstrates Dow's continuous interest in early American colonial life and ideas; subjects touched upon earlier in his career appear in his later work as well. For example, the manuscript material entitled "Domestic Life in Early New England," found in Subseries B. as an unpublished manuscript, was later published by SPNEA as Everyday Life in Massachusetts Bay Colony, years after Dow's original research and drafts were penned.

Series II. Personal Papers include personal correspondence, genealogies, research, and photographs written or collected by Dow throughout his career. Subseries A. Correspondence includes correspondence to and from Dow and touches upon all areas of interest related to Dow. An active member in the antiquarian field, Dow corresponded with some of the leading art museum directors of the time including staff from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. Also included are materials related to Dow's public service, such as a civil service application from 1918, and material from the Massachusetts House of Representatives and the Massachusetts Republican Committee. Subseries B. Genealogies includes collected genealogical material related to the Dwinnell and Mather families, along with various other families from the Essex County area. Subseries C. Research includes town records, newspaper clippings, notes, and various articles collected by Dow, most of which relate to the town of Topsfield where Dow lived for many years. Subseries D. Photographs include architectural drawings and details of house plans, various book illustrations, and photographs collected by Dow for use in his various personal and professional projects. The material in this series is arranged chronologically within subject folders.

Biographical Sketch

George F. Dow (1868-1936) was born on January 7, 1868 in New Hampshire to George P. Dow (1837-1920) and Ada Bingham Tappan (b. 1836). He was a prominent resident in the town of Topsfield, Massachusetts where he lived for many years. He served on the Topsfield Board of Selectman from 1896 to 1899; served on the School Committee from 1895 to 1899; was a trustee of the Public Library from 1907 to 1918; and was a representative to the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1900. In 1897, he founded the Topsfield Historical Society, and served as this organization's president until 1918. Under his direction, the Parson Capen House in Topsfield, Massachusetts was restored in 1913. Dow was secretary of the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts from 1898 to 1918. During this time, he created the first period rooms in the United States for the Essex Institute, a precursor to the historic house museum movement. He married Alice G. Waters (b. 1871), a librarian at the Institute. In 1919, Dow became director of the Museum of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA, now known as Historic New England), and served in this position until 1936. In 1930, he created "Salem in 1630: Pioneer Village", during the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Dow was also a member of the Walpole Society, the American Antiquarian Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the American Historical Association. He published many books and articles on America's colonial heritage, including The Sailing Ships of New England, Whale Ships and Whaling, and History of Topsfield, Massachusetts. In addition to his own literary career, Dow was managing editor of Old-Time New England and editor of the publications of the Marine Research Society of Salem. Dow died on June 5, 1936.

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.

Dow, George Francis, 1868-1936
Dow, George Francis, Mrs., 1870 or 71-1953
Edmonds, John Henry, b. 1873
Erving, Henry Wood, 1851-1941
Isham, Norman Morrison, 1864-1943
Prime, Alfred Coxe, 1883-1926
Seymour, George Dudley, 1859-1945
Smith, Elias, 1769-1846
Waters, Alice G. (Alice Goldsmith), 1870 or 71-1953
Welles, Edwin Stanley
American Antiquarian Society
Massachusetts Historical Society
New England Historic Genealogical Society
Old-Time New England
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities--Periodicals
Walpole Society (U.S.)
Decorative Arts, Early American
Historic buildings
Middleton (Mass.)
Topsfield (Mass.)
Speeches, addresses, etc.


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use. Box 10 folder 2 is restricted due to fragility. Photocopies of the material are available in box 10 folder 1.

Administrative Information


Request 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

George F. Dow Papers, MH 82, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was acquired from various sources. The Peabody burial ground plan was a gift of the American Antiquarian Society on November 12, 1954. The majority of the material was acquired in 1976. Some personal correspondence was donated from the Topsfield Historical Society in November 1969. This material was originally arranged as Fam. Mss. 266, Fam. Mss. 266a, and MSS 232.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Halley Grogan, December 2012. Updated by Hilary Streifer, July 2019.

Related Material

Dow, George F. The arts & crafts in New England, 1704-1775. Topsfield, Mass: The Wayside Press, 1927.

Dow, George F. Domestic life in New England in the seventeenth century. Topsfield, Mass: 1925.

Dow, George F. "Lectures on historical & antiquarian subject."

Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Old-Time New England. Vol. 36. No. 1. Boston, Mass: Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, 1936.

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