1717-1943; bulk: 1778-1858

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the family papers, business papers, and diaries of Thomas Wren Ward (1786-1858) of Boston, a merchant who served as an agent in the United States for the English firm Baring Brothers from 1830 to 1853.

Biographical Sketch

Thomas Wren Ward (20 Nov. 1786-4 Mar. 1858) was a prominent Boston merchant and agent in America for the English banking firm Baring Brothers. Ward was born in Salem, Mass. to William Ward (1761-1827) and Martha Procter Ward (1762-1788). Following Martha's death just two years after Thomas's birth, William Ward married Joanna "Nancy" Chipman Ward. Thomas Wren Ward first followed his father into the mariner's trade, earning command of a ship at age 19, but after marrying Lydia Gray Ward (b. 30 July 1788) on 13 Nov. 1810, he relocated to Boston and established himself in business.

With the help of Josiah Bates, a friend and Baring Brothers partner, Thomas Wren Ward became the American agent for Baring Brothers in 1830 and held the post until 1853. Ward was essential in helping Baring Brothers weather the financial crisis of 1837-1842 and responsible for retaining Daniel Webster as the firm's legal council. After his retirement from active business life in 1853, his sons Samuel and John assumed the duties of the Baring Brothers agency. Among the other positions held by Thomas Wren Ward were Treasurer of Harvard College (1830-1842) and Treasurer of the Boston Athenaeum (1828-1836).

Thomas Wren Ward and Lydia Gray Ward had eight children: Martha Ann Ward (12 Aug. 1812-2 Nov. 1853), Mary Gray Ward (3 June 1816-6 Feb. 1819), Samuel Gray Ward (3 Oct. 1817-17 Nov. 1907), William Ward (6 Feb. 1819-24 July 1830), Mary Gray Ward Dorr (29 Sep. 1820-21 Oct. 1901), John Gallison Ward (12 Sep. 1822-5 June 1856), George Cabot Ward (4 Nov. 1824-4 May 1887), and Thomas Wren Ward, Jr. (3 Sep. 1831-3 Dec. 1859).

Collection Description

The Thomas Wren Ward papers consist of 13 boxes and 2 cased volumes spanning the years 1717 to 1943 (bulk: 1778-1858). The collection is divided into four series: family papers, bound manuscripts, business papers, and diaries.

The first series, family papers, contains family correspondence (including many typescripts), essays on faith, and genealogical materials. Family matters are the primary theme of the family correspondence, but Thomas Wren Ward frequently discussed business with his father and his sons, sharing information on the condition of trade as his family members traveled.

The second series, bound manuscripts, contains a compilation of letters, essays, and other manuscripts by Thomas Wren Ward, once bound together in a volume. The series includes letters to Nathan Hale (1784-1863) and Daniel Webster, essays on trade and finance, and papers relating to the Boston Athenaeum and Harvard College Library.

The third series, business papers, contains general business correspondence, Joshua Bates correspondence, Daniel Webster correspondence, and accounts. Most of the series relates to Thomas Wren Ward's duties as agent for Baring Brothers. The series also documents his earlier careers as a ship captain and Boston merchant. Among the notable correspondents are Edward Everett, Nathan Hale, and Thomas Baring.

The final series contains 8 diaries (with typescripts of most) and one typescript copy of a diary for which MHS does not hold the original. Of particular interest are the largest diary which Thomas Wren Ward kept from 1827-1853, which recorded business, family, and public events, and the smaller diaries he kept documenting his 1828 trip to England.

The diaries and many letters have been marked up, apparently for publication, but there is no record that the papers were ever published.

NOTE: Typescripts of manuscripts are extracts, not full transcripts.

Acquisition Information

Gift of the estate of George B. Dorr, April 1946.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Thomas Wren Ward family papers, 1717-1943

This series is divided into nine subseries, as listed below. Typescript copies accompany a majority of the manuscripts. There are also typescripts of letters for which MHS does not hold the originals. All typescripts and manuscripts are interfiled in one chronological sequence within each subseries. NOTE: Typescripts of manuscripts are extracts, not full transcriptions.

Correspondence is organized into series of letters between Thomas Wren Ward and individual members of the Ward family and two series of general family correspondence.

A. Thomas Wren Ward - George C. Ward correspondence, 1835-1853

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and his son George C. Ward. During George C. Ward's trip to Europe, 1846-1848, he traded many letters with his father discussing contemporary European events, including the 1848 Rebellion in France. Thomas Wren Ward frequently asked for information on the state of trade in places where George traveled and mentioned the economic situation at home in Boston. See also Thomas Wren Ward - John G. Ward correspondence for Thomas Wren Ward letters addressed to John and George Ward.

Box 1Folder 1-16

B. Thomas Wren Ward - John G. Ward correspondence, 1843-1855

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and his son John G. Ward. The series also contains letters from John to his mother, Lydia Gray Ward, and correspondence from Thomas Wren Ward addressed to both John G. and George C. Ward. John G. Ward traveled to Europe and on to China as a partner in A. Heard & Co., 1847-[1849]. He and Thomas Wren Ward exchanged business advice and observations on politics and trade during the trip and at other times.

Box 1Folder 17-26

C. Thomas Wren Ward - Martha A. Ward correspondence, 1816-1853

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and his daughter Martha Ann Ward. Martha A. Ward frequently wrote her father while he traveled on business and kept him informed of family matters.

Box 2

D. Thomas Wren Ward - Martha A. Ward correspondence, 1816-1853

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and his eldest son, Samuel G. Ward. Samuel followed Thomas Wren Ward as an agent for Baring Brothers, and business is a recurring topic in the later correspondence. Thomas Wren Ward wrote Samuel many letters describing his trip to England in 1853 in great detail.

Box 3Folder 1-21

E. Samuel G. Ward family correspondence, 1836-1901

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Samuel G. Ward and other members of the Ward family, not including Thomas Wren Ward. Among the correspondents are mother Lydia Gray Ward and sisters Mary Ward Dorr and Martha A. Ward. Family matters were the primary theme of the correspondence.

Box 3Folder 22-28

F. Thomas Wren Ward - William Ward correspondence, 1797-1825

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and his father, William Ward. The series also contains correspondence with Thomas Wren Ward's step-mother Joanna "Nancy" Chipman Ward. Of note are discussions of Thomas Wren Ward's adventures at sea and later discussions of business matters.

Box 4

G. Ward family correspondence, 1760-1855

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains the correspondence of various members of the Ward family, including but not limited to Thomas Wren Ward, wife Lydia Gray Ward, brother William Ward, Jr., sons William Ward (1819-1830) and Thomas Wren, Jr., daughter Mary Ward Dorr, daughter-in-law Anna Barker Ward (wife of Samuel G. Ward), as well as various friends of the family. Early family correspondence includes letters between William and Joanna "Nancy" Chipman Ward and William, Jr., Thomas Wren, and Lucy Ann Ward Lawrence. Also included are some of William Ward's business correspondence with William Gray, Jr. and Capt. John R. Dalling, as well as Joanna Ward's correspondence with members of the Chipman family. This series also includes Lucy Ward Laurence Reminiscences, [1850s].

Box 5
Box 6
Box 7Folder 1-13

H. Essays on faith, undated and 1717

Arranged alphabetically.

This subseries contains essays, also called "Confessions of Faith," by [Capt. John Gardner] and Elizabeth Gardner (Thomas Wren Ward's great-great-grandparents) and Ruth Putnam Ward (Thomas Wren Ward's paternal grandmother) that discussed each author's relationship with God and the nature of their faith. Several of the essays have typescript copies. See also genealogical materials for more information on the relation of the authors to Thomas Wren Ward.

Box 7Folder 14
[Capt. John Gardner?], undated [1]
Box 7Folder 15
[Capt. John Gardner?], undated [2]
Box 7Folder 16
[Capt. John Gardner?], 3 June 1717(manuscript and typescript copies)
Box 7Folder 17
Elizabeth Gardner, undated(manuscript and typescript copies)
Box 7Folder 18
Ruth Putnam Ward, undated(manuscript and typescript copies)

I. Genealogical materials, 1786-1943

This subseries contains materials related to the family history of the Ward family. The series includes one bound volume containing a family tree, William Ward sundry accounts, 1801-1809, and an autobiographical letter (and manuscript copy) from William Ward addressed to his grandchildren, [1820s?]. The series also includes a variety of manuscript, printed, and typescript materials including obituaries, family trees, brief family history essays, and correspondence concerning the genealogical research of the donor, George B. Dorr. For an additional autobiographical essay, see Lucy Ward Lawrence Reminiscences [1850s], in the Ward family correspondence.

Box 8Folder 1
Bound volume, 1801-[1820s?]
Box 8Folder 2
William Ward autobiographical letter to grandchildren(manuscript copy of original in bound genealogical materials)
Box 8Folder 3-4
Box 8Folder 5
George B. Dorr correspondence, 1901-1940

II. Thomas Wren Ward bound manuscripts, 1825-1840

Arranged by page number.

This series is comprised of letters, essays, and other papers of Thomas Wren Ward that formerly were bound in one volume. It is unclear who is responsible for compiling the volume. Due to the fragile nature of the volume, the MHS staff removed the binding while retaining the page order number. The volume includes letters to brother William Ward, Jr., Nathan Hale, and Daniel Webster. Essay topics include education, taxes, finance, foreign mercantile debt, and tariffs. Also included are papers relating to the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard College Library, and a savings bank.

Box 8Folder 6-14

III. Thomas Wren Ward business papers, 1805-1857

This series is divided into four subseries, as listed below.

A. Business correspondence, 1805-1857

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains Thomas Wren Ward's correspondence with a number of business associates, including but not limited to John R. Dalling, William Gray, Jr., William Ropes, Jonathan Goodhue, Edward Everett, Nathan Hale (1784-1863) (see also Thomas Wren Ward bound manuscripts), George Ticknor, Baring Brothers, Thomas Baring, Edmund Forstall, Dr. James Jackson, and William Sturgis. Thomas Wren Ward's careers as ship captain, Boston merchant, and agent for Baring Brothers are all represented in the correspondence. See also Thomas Wren Ward correspondence with William Ward, Samuel G. Ward, George C. Ward, and John G. Ward for additional discussion of business matters.

Box 9

B. Joshua Bates correspondence, 1828-1857

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and Joshua Bates, a partner at Baring Brothers and close friend. The correspondence is a mix of business, American and European politics, family news, and gossip about mutual acquaintances. For additional Baring Brothers correspondence, see business correspondence.

Box 10
Box 11
Box 12Folder 1-21

C. Daniel Webster correspondence, 1824-[1845?]

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence between Thomas Wren Ward and Daniel Webster, as well as one letter from Joshua Bates to Webster. Webster served as legal council to Baring Brothers in America. The correspondence discusses matters before Congress and international politics and how both were likely to effect trade. For copies of additional letters to Webster, see also Thomas Wren Ward bound manuscripts.

Box 12Folder 22

D. Accounts, 1810-1811

This subseries contains several accounts involving shipping. The accounts include balances with William Ward, Thomas Wren Ward, and Essex Bank. It is unclear who kept the accounts.

Box 12Folder 23

IV. Thomas Wren Ward diaries, 1827-1855

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains eight original diaries and one typescript for which MHS does not hold the original. A typescript copy accompanies most of the diaries in the series. Several of the diaries are travel journals kept on trips to Cape Cod and to England. The largest diary, 1827-1853, records business and family events, as well as observations on politics and philosophy, the city of Boston, his involvement at Harvard College, and thoughts on hearing Ralph Waldo Emerson lecture.

Case 1
Diary, 1827-1853

Note: A typescript of extracts from this diary can be found in Box 13.

Box 13Folder 1
Papers removed from diary, 1827-1853
Box 13Folder 2-5
Typescript of diary, 1827-1853
Box 13Folder 6
Diary, 1827(manuscript and typescript copies)

Account of trip from Boston to Cape Cod.

Box 13Folder 7
Diary, 3 July 1828-[1828]
Box 13Folder 8
Diary, 15 Sep. 1828-[1828]
Box 13Folder 9
Diary, 19 Oct.-20 Nov. 1828
Box 13Folder 10
Typescript of portions of diaries, 3 July 1828-[1828] and 19 Oct.-20 Nov. 1828

Account of trip to England.

Box 13Folder 11
Diary, 1834
Box 13Folder 12
Diary, 14 July-6 Oct. [1834]
Box 13Folder 13
Typescript of diary, 1845

Note: MHS does not hold the original.

Case 2
Diary, 1855

Note: A typescript of extracts from this diary can be found in Box 13.

Box 13Folder 14
Typescript of diary, 1855

Preferred Citation

Thomas Wren Ward papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Bates, Joshua, 1776-1854.
Dorr, Mary Gray Ward, 1820-1901.
Everett, Edward, 1794-1865.
Gardner, Elizabeth.
Gardner, John.
Goodhue, Jonathan, 1783-1863.
Gray, William, Jr.
Hale, Nathan, 1784-1863.
Jackson, James, 1777-1867.
Lawrence, Lucy Ann Ward.
Sturgis, William, 1782-1863.
Ticknor, George, 1791-1871.
Ward, George Cabot, 1824-1887.
Ward, Joanna Chipman.
Ward, John Gallison, 1822-1856.
Ward, Lydia Gray, b. 1788.
Ward, Martha Ann, 1812-1853.
Ward, Ruth Putnam.
Ward, Samuel Gray, 1817-1907.
Ward, Thomas Wren, 1831-1859.
Ward, William, 1761-1827.
Ward, William, 1819-1830.
Ward family.
Ward family--Genealogy.
Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852.


Baring Brothers & Co.
Boston Athenaeum.
Harvard University. Treasurer.


Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--England.
Business and politics--United States.
China--Description and travel.
England--Description and travel--1801-1900.
Family history--1750-1799.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
France--Description and travel.
Ocean travel.
Religious thought--18th century.
Ship captains.
United States--Politics and government--19th century.
Voyages and travels.

Photomechanicals Removed from the Collection

The following photomechanicals have been removed from this collection for placement and cataloging with the Massachusetts Historical Society Photomechanical Collection.

Two photomechanicals, one of Paul Thoron, Esq., and one of Mrs. Paul Thoron, by J. Fabre, Marseilles, undated.