1835-2010; bulk: 1883-1993

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The Bowditch-Knauth-Jones-Childs family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or

There are restrictions on the use of this collection. Users must sign an agreement stating that they understand these restrictions before they will be given access to the collection.

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of the Bowditch, Knauth, and Jones families, including correspondence, personal papers, account books, sketch books, and printed material. It also contains the papers of art dealer Charles D. Childs, primarily related to the Childs Gallery in Boston.

Biographical Sketch

These brief biographical sketches highlight the individuals most prominently represented within the collection. They are arranged chronologically.

Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840-1911) was born on 4 April 1840 in Jamaica Plain (later part of Boston) to Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch (1806-1889) and Lucy Orne Nichols Bowditch (1816-1883). He graduated from Harvard University in 1861 before joining the First Massachusetts Cavalry as a second lieutenant. Honorably discharged with the rank of captain in February 1864, he reentered the war as a major in the Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, an African-American regiment. Henry graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1868, then continued his studies in Paris, Bonn, and Leipzig. In 1871 he returned to Boston and Harvard, where he was appointed assistant professor of physiology. He was promoted to full professor in 1876 and served as dean of the medical school from 1883 to 1893, retiring in 1906. He held honorary degrees from Cambridge, Edinburgh, Toronto, Pennsylvania, and Harvard Universities, and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. Henry also served as a member of the Boston School Committee from 1877 to 1881, a trustee of the Boston Public Library from 1895 to 1902, and president of the Massachusetts Infant Asylum and Boston Children's Aid Society. He married Selma Knauth in 1871, and the couple lived in Jamaica Plain with their seven children. After a long illness with Parkinson's disease, Henry died on 13 March 1911.

Selma Knauth Bowditch (1853-1918) was born on 4 February 1853 in Leipzig, Germany, the daughter of Franz Theodor Knauth (1803-1874) and Fanny Elizabeth Steyer (ca. 1823-ca. 1907), and the sister of Percival, Manuel, Antonio, and Octavio Knauth. She met Henry P. Bowditch while he studied medicine in Europe, and the couple married in Leipzig in 1871. Selma and Henry moved to the Jamaica Plain area of Boston the same year, where they raised seven children: Ethel "Ellie" Bowditch Jones (1873-1945); Fanny Bowditch Katz (1874-1967); Theodora "Dody" Bowditch Jones (1878-1977); Selma Bowditch Stone (1880-1974); Eliza "Lily" Bowditch Van Loon (1880-1955); Harold Bowditch (1883-1964); and Manfred "Freidl" Bowditch (1890-1960). The family summered at Putnam Camp in St. Hubert's, N.Y. Selma died on 1 March 1918.

Henry Champion Jones (1856-1942) was born on 14 August 1856 in Tisbury, Mass., the son of Dr. Ralph Kneeland Jones (1823-1888) and Octavia Yale Norris Jones (ca.1833-1907). He was an assistant in the botany department at Harvard University, where he received his A.B. (1880) and A. M., later teaching and serving as head of the Latin Department at Boston Latin School. He married Ethel Bowditch in 1901, and the couple lived in Cambridge and at their summer home, "Sproats," in Middleborough, Mass. Henry died in Cambridge on 15 May 1942.

Ethel Bowditch Jones (1873-1945) was born on 29 January 1873 in Jamaica Plain (Boston), the daughter of Henry P. Bowditch and Selma Knauth Bowditch. She married Henry Champion Jones on 30 March 1901 and the couple had four children: Deborah Champion Jones Webster (1901-1998); Lucy Bowditch Jones Seiberlich (1904-1997); Ethel Bowditch Jones Childs (1906-1990); and Henry Bowditch Jones (1912-ca. 1965). After the birth of her fourth child, Ellie suffered from depression, and spent several years in a mental institution. She lived in Cambridge and summered with her family at "Sproats" in Middleborough and at the Putnam Camp in St. Hubert's, N.Y. Ellie died in Cambridge on 8 September 1945.

Charles Dyer Childs (1905-1993) was born in 1905 in Needham, Mass. the eldest child of Henry Thomas Childs (1868-1916) and Grace Dyer Childs (1874-1945). After graduating from Massachusetts Normal Art School (later Mass. College of Art and Design) in Boston, Childs worked at Goodspeed’s Bookshop in Boston. From 1935 to 1937 Childs ran the print department at Goodman Walker, Inc., and in 1937 he opened the Childs Gallery on Newbury St. The gallery focused on historic American and European art, especially prints, primitive, and marine works, helping to revive interest in American maritime artists Robert Salmon and Fitz Henry Lane. Briefly disabled by a brain injury in 1961, Childs returned to work in 1962 and ran the gallery until his retirement in 1967. In 1983, the gallery opened a second branch in New York City. Post-retirement, Childs worked as an exhibit consultant throughout New England and the northeast, appraised private collections, and continued to publish articles about American art. He married Ethel Bowditch Jones in 1933, and the couple had five children. Charles died in 1993 in Stow, Mass.

Ethel Jones Childs (1906-1990), known as "Ellie," was born on 16 December 1906 in Cambridge, Mass., the daughter of Henry Champion Jones and Ethel Bowditch Jones. Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1928. She served as director of the Fitchburg (Mass.) Art Center, but left in 1933 shortly after her marriage to Charles D. Childs. The couple moved to Stow, Mass. in 1938, where they raised five children. Ellie wrote History of Stow, Mass. in 1983. She died in Stow on 13 April 1990.

Dorothea Bowditch Jones (1912-2003), known as "Dee," was born on 7 November 1912, the daughter of Eliot Norris Jones (1874-1948) and Theodora Bowditch Jones (1878-1977). She attended the Beaver School in Boston, Smith College, and the University of Munich in Germany, before working as an assistant in the pathology department of Babies Hospital, Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. During World War II, she served at naval hospitals in Newport, R.I. and San Diego, Calif. as a junior research psychophysiologist. After the war, she worked as the director of the U. S. medical mission to Poland for the Unitarian Service Committee, serving four years in British-occupied Germany and Silesia, Poland. Dee later earned a master's degree in pychiatric social work at Boston University, practicing at Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston and teaching at Simmons College School of Social Work. She retired to western Massachusetts in 1989 and died in 2003.

Collection Description

The Bowditch-Knauth-Jones-Childs family papers date from 1835 to 2010, with the bulk dated between 1883 and 1993, and are arranged into two series: family papers and the papers of Charles D. Childs. Family papers contain the correspondence and personal papers of Harvard Medical School professor Henry Pickering Bowditch; his wife, Selma Knauth Bowditch; their children, Ethel Bowditch Jones, Fanny Bowditch Katz, Theodora Bowditch Jones, Eliza Bowditch Van Loon, Harold Bowditch, and Manfred Bowditch; and their grandchildren, primarily Ethel Jones Childs, Dorothea Bowditch Jones, and Willem Van Loon. Also included are family papers of Henry Champion Jones and his brother Eliot Norris Jones, who married sisters Ethel and Theodora Bowditch. Of note is an 1848 account book of Needham physician Ralph Kneeland Jones, father of Henry and Eliot; letters of Ethel Bowditch Jones describing her travels through Germany in 1889 and 1890; and Ethel’s 1917 and 1918 letters expressing her struggles with severe mental depression.

Family papers also include the correspondence of Dorothea Bowditch Jones, who served as a hospital administrator for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee in post-World War II Poland and British-occupied Germany. Her 1946 letters describe her travels through London, Paris, and Prague; her observations of post-war life in Germany and Poland; the medical conditions of Polish refugees; stories of war atrocities and concentration camps told to her by staff and patients; and details of her work with hospital staff and her UUSC supervisor, Noel Field, who was later indicted as a spy for Soviet intelligence agencies.

The papers of art dealer Charles D. Childs contain correspondence, legal papers, and financial records primarily related to the operations of the Childs Gallery of Boston and its art exhibitions. Also included are papers related to Childs’s earlier work with Boston’s Goodman Walker, Inc. and Goodspeed’s Bookshop; his research and exhibition materials on American maritime artist Robert Salmon; copies of Childs's lectures and published articles, and his correspondence with Sinclair Hitchings, print curator of the Boston Public Library.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Faith Childs, November 2017.

Restrictions on Access

The Bowditch-Knauth-Jones-Childs family papers are stored offsite and must be requested at least two business days in advance via Portal1791. Researchers needing more than six items from offsite storage should provide additional advance notice. If you have questions about requesting materials from offsite storage, please contact the reference desk at 617-646-0532 or

There are restrictions on the use of this collection. Users must sign an agreement stating that they understand these restrictions before they will be given access to the collection.

Restrictions on Use

The Society cannot give permission to publish or cite documents by individuals for whom it does not hold copyright. Use of these materials does not imply permission to publish. It is the sole responsibility of the researcher to obtain formal permission from the owners of the literary rights (copyright) to publish or quote from documents in this collection.

Photocopies are for personal use only. Personal use photocopies may not be donated or deposited in other libraries or archives, or made available to other researchers without the written permission of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Family papers, 1848-1981

This series contains the papers of Henry Pickering Bowditch and Selma Knauth Bowditch; their children, primarily Ethel Bowditch Jones; and their grandchildren, primarily Ethel Jones Childs, Dorothea Bowditch Jones, and Willem Van Loon. Also included are the family papers of Henry C. Jones and his brother Eliot N. Jones, who married sisters Ethel and Theodora Bowditch. The papers consist of family and personal correspondence, journals, account books, sketchbooks, personal papers, and printed material.

A. Correspondence, 1857-1968

Arranged chronologically.

Early correspondence is primarily between Ethel Bowditch (later Jones) and her father Henry P. Bowditch. In 1889 and 1890, Ethel writes from Dresden and other locations in Germany while visiting her mother’s family, the Knauths, incorporating detailed descriptions and sketches of German landscapes, activities, and people. Ethel’s later letters to her family are largely from Boston and, after 1901, from Middleborough, containing news of family, social activities, and the progress of her children. Several letters between Ethel and her sister Fanny Bowditch Katz in 1917 and 1918 discuss Ethel’s mental health while she was institutionalized for severe depression after the birth of her fourth child. Also included are letters from relatives and friends written to Ethel during this time.

Other correspondents include Selma Knauth Bowditch to her sister-in-law, Nellie Bowditch; Octavia N. Jones to her son Henry C. Jones; Henry P. Bowditch with his daughter, Eliza “Lily” Bowditch Van Loon; and Fanny Knauth to her granddaughter Ethel Bowditch Jones.

Later correspondence is primarily that of Dorothea “Dee” Bowditch Jones. Letters to Dee from her cousin Willem Van Loon in the 1930s describe his life in New York City as a student and later, a professional dancer. Other letters to Dee are related to her World War II service at naval training facilities in Newport, R.I. and San Diego. From January through November 1946, Dee writes weekly letters to her family describing her post-war service with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee as a hospital administrator in British-occupied Germany and Poland. Her letters include vivid descriptions of her crossing on the Queen Mary and her impressions of postwar London, Paris and Prague. Her descriptions of postwar Germany include the internment camp at Drancy, the devastation of Berlin, Hitler’s chancery and bunker, and stories of the war and concentration camps told to her by staff and patients. She also describes her Polish medical team and her interactions with her UUSC supervisor, Noel Field, who later was convicted as an American spy working for Soviet intelligence. Beginning in June 1946, her letters include copies of her monthly hospital reports listing staff, equipment, medical statistics, and patient data for Polish refugees. Additional letters from January through May 1949 describe Dee’s private employment in Germany and her travels after her UUSC position has ended. Several photos are attached to Dee’s letters.

Additional correspondence includes that of Elizabeth B. Jones (later Childs) related to her position as director of the Fitchburg Art Center; and letters to Deborah Jones Webster from Peter Oliver about the purchase of “Sproats,” the Jones family property in Middleborough, Mass.

Folders 1-55Carton 1SH 1A3B

B. Personal papers, 1865-1981

Arranged chronologically.

Personal papers include a photocopy of Henry C. Jones's "Journal of a Cross-country Trip," describing his journey from New York to California and back in the summer of 1883; the 1928 Radcliffe thesis of Ethel B. Jones (Childs); papers related to the Putnam Camp, the family's New York summer retreat; eulogies and memorials for Henry Pickering Bowditch, Eliot N. Jones, and Percival Knauth; family poetry and sketches; and the 1967 will of Fanny Bowditch Katz.

Carton 1SH 1A3BFolders 56-69

C. Volumes, 1848-1964

Arranged chronologically.

Volumes include an 1848-1849 account book of physician Ralph Kneeland Jones, father of Henry C. Jones and Eliot N. Jones, documenting his patients' accounts in West Needham. Also of interest are the eight sketchbooks of Ethel Bowditch (later Jones), whose pencil sketches and watercolors include scenes and portraits from Germany and New England between 1889 and 1909.

Carton 2SH 1A3CFolder 1
Ralph Kneeland Jones, physician's account book, 1848-1849
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolder 2
Ethel Bowditch Jones, autograph album, 1886
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolder 3
Ethel Bowditch Jones, botony lessons and sketchbook, 1887-1888
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolder 4
Henry P. Bowditch, "The Holmes Birthday Book," 1889
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolders 5-12
Ethel Bowditch Jones, sketchbooks, 1889-1909
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolder 13
Selma Knauth Bowditch, memo/address book, 1906-1913
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolders 14-15
Eliot N. Jones, memo books, 1911-1929
Carton 2SH 1A3CFolder 16
Ethel Jones Childs, sketchbook, 1924-1927
OS boxSH 1A3F
Fanny Bowditch Katz, birthday guest book, 1964

D. Printed material, 1891-1975

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries includes memorials of J. Ingersoll Bowditch (1909), Henry Pickering Bowditch (1911), and Charles Pickering Putnam (ca. 1914); Radcliffe College ephemera; genealogical material; articles and exhibit catalogs related to Nathaniel Bowditch; articles related to the life and work of Henry Pickering Bowditch; blueprints and lithographs of the Jones property in Middleborough, Mass.; and other newspaper clippings and ephemera related to the Bowditch and Jones families.

Carton 2Folders 17-34SH 1A3C

II. Charles D. Childs papers, 1835-2010

This series contains the papers of art dealer and collector Charles Dyer Childs and the Childs Gallery of Boston. It includes personal and professional correspondence; financial and legal records; lectures and talks given by Childs; and printed material, including promotional material for the gallery and articles authored by Childs.

A. Correspondence, 1934-1993

Arranged chronologically.

This series consists of Childs’s correspondence, largely related to the management of the Childs Gallery, his work with the Boston Public Library, and various appraisals, exhibits, and art sales. The bulk dates from 1954 to 1984, including that with Sinclair Hitchings, keeper of prints at the Boston Public Library, and John Mitchell, an English art restorer. Also included are letters from friends and acquaintances asking for advice and appraisal of collections or individual works of art.

Of particular interest is correspondence related to a 1935 exhibition of the maritime paintings of Robert Salmon curated by Childs at Goodspeed’s Bookshop, which helped to foster a rediscovery of Salmon as an artist and renewed interest in his work. Later correspondence includes letters regarding the thirtieth anniversary of the Childs Gallery in 1967.

Carton 3SH 1A3DFolders 1-13

B. Business and personal papers, 1929-1974

Arranged chronologically.

Papers include Childs’s sales records from Goodspeed’s Bookshop; a legal agreement between Childs and Goodman Walker, Inc. when he separated from the company to form the Childs Gallery in 1937; and financial and legal records from Childs Gallery, including papers related to Ethel Bowditch Childs's medical conservatorship of Childs's business affairs during his recovery from brain surgery in 1961. Also of note are papers related to Childs’s work on various art exhibitions, including his 1935 Salmon exhibition at Goodspeed’s Bookshop and his work on a 1974 Paul Revere exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Carton 3SH 1A3DFolders 14-25

C. Lectures and talks, ca. 1930-1982

Arranged chronologically.

Included are several lectures and talks Childs gave from the 1930s to the 1980s as well as undated notes from various lectures Childs delivered at the Boston Public Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and other institutions.

Carton 3SH 1A3DFolders 26-31

D. Printed material, 1835-2010

Arranged chronologically by subject.

This subseries contains books and articles authored by Childs, including periodicals, exhibition materials, and a 1927 monograph about artist Samuel Chamberlain. Gallery promotional materials include postcard advertisements, exhibition promotions, bulletins, and catalogs for the Childs Gallery. Dratch's monograph contains a comprehensive collection of the Childs Gallery's exhibitions and publications over its forty-three years of business, compiled for an art librarianship course. Miscellaneous material includes yearbooks and other printed material related to Childs’s club memberships, three catalogs from Goodman Walker Inc. (1935-1937), historical and promotional materials collected by Childs from various exhibitions, newspaper clippings, and ephemera.

Carton 3SH 1A3DFolders 32-40
Writings, 1927-1972
Carton 3SH 1A3DFolders 41-57
Gallery promotional material, 1937-2010
Carton 3SH 1A3DFolder 58
Gladys Dratch, , 1982
Carton 3SH 1A3DFolders 59-65
Miscellaneous material, 1835-1995

Preferred Citation

Bowditch-Knauth-Jones-Childs family 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.


Bowditch, H. P. (Henry Pickering), 1840-1911.
Bowditch, Harold, 1883-1964.
Bowditch, Manfred, 1890-1960.
Bowditch, Selma Knauth, 1853-1918.
Childs, Charles D.
Childs, Ethel B.
Field, Noel Haviland, 1904-1970
Hitchings, Sinclair, 1933- .
Jones, Dorothea Bowditch.
Jones, Ethel Bowditch, 1873-1945.
Jones, Henry Champion, 1856-1942.
Jones, Ralph Kneeland, 1823-1888.
Jones, Theodora Bowditch, 1878-1977.
Katz, Fanny Bowditch, 1874-1967.
Salmon, Robert, 1775-ca. 1848.
Van Loon, Eliza Bowditch, 1880-1955.
Van Loon, Gerard Willem, 1911-.
Bowditch family.
Jones family.


Boston Public Library.
Childs Gallery.
Goodman Walker Inc. (Boston, Mass.)
Goodspeed's Bookshop (Boston, Mass.)
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.


Account books, 1848-1849
Art dealers--Massachusetts.
Art galleries, Commercial--Massachusetts.
Depression, Mental.
Family history, 1850-1899.
Family history, 1900-1949.
Hospitals--Germany (West)--Administration.
Voyages and travels.
Women in war.
Women travelers.
World War, 1939-1945--Atrocities--Poland.
Germany--Description and travel.
Germany (West)--Social conditions, 1945-1955
London (England)--Description and travel.
Paris (France)--Description and travel.
Poland--Social conditions, 1945-1955
Prague (Czech Republic)--Description and travel.

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the MHS Photo. Archives.