Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The Foster 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

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the business and personal papers of Boston merchants Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster and Charles Orin Foster, U.S. Navy surgeon Charles Henry Wheelwright, and other Foster and Wheelwright family members.

Biographical Sketches

Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster (1859-1955) was born in Brookline, Mass., the second son of Charles Orin Foster and Caroline Blanchard (Candler) Foster. The family lived briefly in Cuba, but returned to Brookline. As a child, Charles attended the Chauncy Hall School. He graduated from Harvard in 1881 and immediately entered into business with his father at the Boston Sugar Refinery, rising to become superintendent. He also served as director and treasurer of the piano company Chickering & Sons. Foster was a sportsman at college and a lifelong sailing and polo enthusiast. He married Mabel Hill in 1885 in Brookline, Mass.

Charles Orin Foster, the father of Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster, was president of the Oriental Powder Mills and the Boston Sugar Refinery Company.

Charles Henry Wheelwright (1813-1862) was the uncle of Caroline Blanchard (Candler) Foster. As a boy, he attended the Round Hill School in Northampton, Mass. He received an M.D. from Harvard University in 1837 and became a surgeon for the U.S. Navy.

Collection Description

The Foster family papers consist of the business and personal papers of members of the Foster family and the related Wheelwright family, primarily Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster, Charles Orin Foster, and Charles Henry Wheelwright. The bulk of the business papers detail the family's activities related to the sugar trade in Cuba.

The collection contains personal correspondence, speeches, business records, and other papers of Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster, including papers of the piano company Chickering & Sons; business papers and correspondence of his father Charles Orin Foster of the Boston Sugar Refining Company and other companies; and correspondence of Charles Henry Wheelwright, a surgeon with the U.S. Navy.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Charles H. W. Foster, March 2004, with minor additions, 2010.

Restrictions on Access

The Foster 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

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster papers, 1867-2007

A. Loose papers, 1867-2007

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 1-7
Personal correspondence, 1867-1915

Personal correspondence consists primarily of letters to Foster from his father Charles Orin Foster, his mother Caroline Blanchard (Candler) Foster, and his sisters May and Susie, as well as a few from other family members and friends. The bulk of the letters relate to family matters. Included are letters to Foster and his siblings from their parents in Havana, Cuba, 1867-1872; a long letter from his father to Foster in Cuba discussing the sugar trade and political matters, 10 Jan. 1883; two printed invitations to receptions at the White House, one from William McKinley in 1899 and one from Theodore Roosevelt in 1908; and three letters from Foster to his mother, written while on his honeymoon in 1885.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 8-10
Speeches, 1890 and undated

Included are speeches made by Foster to the Thursday Club in Brookline, the Merchants Club, and the Marblehead Historical Society on topics such as atomic theory, investments, industrial trusts, and yachting.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 11-12
Chauncy Hall School papers, 1870-1875

Included are weekly grade reports and compositions written by Foster while attending Chauncy Hall School.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 13
Chickering & Son papers, 1890-1902

Papers consist primarily of financial records, but also include a printed exhibition catalog, an agreement between Foster and George H. Chickering, plans for a building extension, an article about the company printed in Music Trades, and a personal letter from Chickering to Foster.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 14
Will and related documents [photocopies], 1955-1964
Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 15-17
Printed matter, 1892-1953

Printed matter includes Foster's appointment as justice of the peace and newspaper clippings about William L. Candler, yachting, and other subjects.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 18-24
Miscellaneous papers, 1908-2007

Included are stamps, calling cards, a manuscript poem, sheet music, and other miscellaneous items.

B. Volumes, 1878-1919

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 25
Expenses, 1878
Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 26
Boston Sugar Refining Company records, 1881-1884

Included are accounts, by-laws, notices of meetings, and stockholder votes, as well as records related to the sugar refinement process.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 27
Account ledger, 1882-1887

Included are accounts for the Boston Sugar Refining Company, investments, and personal and household accounts.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 28
Real estate records, 1888

Office letterbooks, 1893-1899

Included are copies of outgoing letters on various business and financial matters. Each letterbook contains an index to correspondents at the front of the volume.

Carton 2SH 17B8 TFolder 1
No. 1, 4 Jan. 1893-14 Dec. 1896
Carton 2SH 17B8 TFolder 2
No. 2, 18 Dec. 1896-1 July 1899
Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 29
Family library suggestion book, ca. 1919

II. Charles Orin Foster papers, 1858-1889

A. Business papers, 1860-1889

This subseries contains incoming and outgoing correspondence; contracts and agreements; and accounts, receipts, and other financial papers related to the Boston Sugar Refining Company; the Oriental Powder Mills; Foster, Candler & Co.; and Charles O. Foster & Co. Correspondence includes letters from John E. Claussen in Havana, Cuba, about the sugar trade and the insurrection there, 1869-1870, and correspondence with William Schmidt in Trinidad and New York, 1869-1889.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 30-33

B. Letterbooks, 1858-1882

Included are copies of outgoing letters from Foster in Cuba and Boston, primarily related to business matters. Among the most frequent correspondents are Adot, Spaulding & Co.; Jose M. Alfaya; Edward L. Alfonso; Baring Bros. & Co.; Burgess & Ellis; John E. Claussen; Albert A. Cobb; E. E. Eaton; Henry W. Graeve; William E. Paddon; P. Parraviani; Parsons & Petit; Henry W. Poor; William F. Safford; William Schmidt; and Col. E. Wade. Some of the letters relate to personal and political matters.

Carton 2SH 17B8 TFolder 3
25 May 1858-22 Sep. 1868
Carton 2SH 17B8 TFolder 4
6 Feb. 1865-19 Aug. 1875
Carton 2SH 17B8 TFolder 5
27 Aug. 1875-21 Mar. 1879
Carton 2SH 17B8 TFolder 6
19 May 1879-28 June 1882

III. Charles Henry Wheelwright papers, 1811-1862

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 34-35
Personal correspondence, 1823-1862

Included are letters from Wheelwright at the Round Hill School in Northampton, Mass., to his father Lot Wheelwright, his mother Susannah (Wilson) Wheelwright, his brother William W. Wheelwright, and his sister Susan Wheelwright Candler, 1823-1824; and letters to his sister Susan Candler from Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Hong Kong, and other places, 1833-1862. Letters written on his travels describe sights seen, his health, family matters, and his life as a navy surgeon. Also included is a biographical sketch of Wheelwright and a letter from Dr. C. H. Burbank about Wheelwright's death.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 36
Harvard essays, 1832-1833
Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 37-38
Bills and accounts, 1811-1837

Also included are a few bills for Susan Wheelwright and William Wheelwright.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 39
Memorandum book, 1850-1860

This volume primarily contains financial notations.

IV. Miscellaneous family papers, 1925-2005

This series contains a photocopy of the will of Mabel H. Foster, 1925; a speech by Theodore Sizer entitled "A Walpolean at War," 1945; and two DVDs of Foster family films, ca. 2005.

Carton 1SH 17B7 SFolder 40-42

Preferred Citation

Foster 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.


Claussen, John E.
Foster, Caroline Blanchard Candler.
Foster, Charles Henry Wheelwright, 1859-1955.
Foster, Charles Orin.
Schmidt, William.
Wheelwright, Charles Henry, 1813-1862.


Boston Sugar Refining Company.
Chauncy-Hall School.
Chickering & Sons (Boston, Mass.).
Round Hill School (Northampton, Mass.).
United States. Navy--Surgeons.


Account books--1850-1860.
Account books--1878.
Account books--1881-1884.
Account books--1882-1887.
Account books--1888.
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce--Cuba.
Cuba--Description and travel.
Cuba--History--Insurrection, 1868-1878.
Cuba--Politics and government--1810-1899.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
Family history--1900-1949.
Sugar--Manufacture and refining.
Sugar trade--Cuba.
Sugar trade--Massachusetts--Boston.
Voyages and travels.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Foster family photographs (Photo. Coll. 500.130). Subjects include: the Chickering & Sons building; the U.S.S. Constitution at Marblehead, Mass.; and Foster's Wharf, the location of the Boston Harbor Hotel.

The following printed items have been removed from the collection: The American System of Practical Book-Keeping, by James Bennett (New York: Collins & Hannay, 1831), and a pamphlet about Marblehead's naval history.

The following printed items have been removed from the collection and cataloged separately: tickets to the World's Peace Jubilee and International Music Festival, 1872; the Beverly Yacht Club constitution and by-laws, 1884; and a book by George Gale Foster entitled Sketches of My Life, 1953.