1828-1912; bulk: 1828-1894

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of 62 diaries and 5 letterbooks kept by James J. Walworth, manufacturer, businessman, and the first to introduce steam heating to America.

Biographical Sketch

James Jones Walworth, the first to introduce steam heating to America, was born in Canaan, N.H. on 18 Nov. 1808, the son of George and Philura (Jones) Walworth. He was educated in Canaan schools and at academies in Thetford, Vt. and Salisbury, N.H. After teaching there for three years, he moved to Boston in 1829 in search of work. After a brief term of employment in a greenhouse, he found work in the Boston hardware business of Alexander H. Twombly & Co. He then became a partner in another hardware firm, Scudder, Park & Co., and was later superintendent of the Canton Hardware Co.

Walworth's marriage in 1837 to Elizabeth Chickering Nason led to further business opportunities. During a visit to England, his brother-in-law Joseph Nason became familiar with a system of heating using hot water and high pressure. The Perkins system, as it was known, was sold by J. Perkins & Co. of London, and in it Nason saw an opportunity to introduce steam heating to America. The two formed the firm of Walworth & Nason in New York in 1841. The new enterprise succeeded at several locations in New York, but it was its Boston plant, established on Devonshire St. in 1842, which saw its greatest success. Beginning with the first steam heating unit in the United States installed at the Middlesex Co. in Lowell, Mass., they installed their system in numerous mills and other large buildings throughout New England over the next few decades. The firm was also the first to introduce the combination of heating and ventilation through their work in the Boston Customs House in 1846. The firm designed and manufactured parts, including the development of the globe and angle valves and, in 1845, began using smaller pipes to accomplish the task. In 1853, Walworth was called in to redo the heating system in the White House for newly elected president Franklin Pierce.

Financial difficulties in the early 1850s forced the separation of the New York and Boston houses. Nason returned to New York while Walworth, with his brother C. Clark Walworth and Marshall S. Scudder, remained in Boston with the newly formed J. J. Walworth & Co. The firm flourished as one of the chief sources of supply for fittings, valves, and tools. It was reorganized in 1872 as the Walworth Manufacturing Co. J. J. Walworth served as its president until his retirement from active duties in 1890.

In 1855, the unsuccessful branch house of Walworth and Hubbard was established in Chicago, with the Chicago fire bringing about its eventual demise. A more successful enterprise was the Malleable Iron Fittings Co., incorporated at Branford, Conn. in 1864 by Walworth, Nason, and Henry R. Worthington. Walworth remained its president until his death.

On the more personal side, with the exception of time in Brookline and a move to Boston in his later years, Walworth lived most of his life in parts of Newton, Mass. He was a representative to the state legislature from that town in 1870 and 1871. He was an anti-slavery sympathizer, a free-soiler, and in favor of temperance reform. He was a life-long member of area Congregational churches, a founder of the Lasell Seminary in Auburndale (Newton), and president of the educational society in that city.

Elizabeth Walworth died in 1886, and in 1888, James married again, this time to Lydia Sawyer, the widow of a former business associate. His only son, Arthur Clarence Walworth, was born in 1844 and became president of the Walworth Construction and Supply Co., which in 1887 took over the construction business of the Walworth Manufacturing Company. James J. Walworth died on 28 Apr. 1896 at the age of 87.

Collection Description

This collection consists of 62 diaries and 5 letterbooks kept by James J. Walworth, manufacturer, businessman, and the first to introduce steam heating to America.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ellen (Mrs. John) Ebersole of Guilford, Conn., through Arthur C. Walworth, Jr. of Needham, Mass., August 1992.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Diaries, 1828-1894

Arranged chronologically.

The 62 diaries of James J. Walworth date from 1828-1894, with gaps in 1835, 1838-1845, 1862, 1865, 1871, and 1888-1893. The diaries were kept in Canaan, N.H.; Boston, Mass.; Newton, Mass.; and on a trip to Europe in 1847. Also included are notes on steam heating. Diaries listed only by year contain entries throughout the entire year, although they were often kept intermittently. Diaries kept during parts of a year are listed with specific dates.

Box 1Vol. 1
14 May-18 Aug. 1828
Box 1Vol. 2
1 Sep.-9 Oct. 1828
Box 1Vol. 3
25 Nov. 1828-6 Apr. 1829
Box 1Vol. 4
9-29 Apr. 1829
Box 1Vol. 5
1 May-17 Nov. 1829 (move to Boston)
Box 1Vol. 6
28 Nov. 1829-20 Mar. 1830
Box 1Vol. 7
Commonplace-book, 1830
Box 1Vol. 8
21 Mar.-30 June 1830
Box 1Vol. 9
1 July-28 Sep. 1830
Box 1Vol. 10
29 Sep.-14 Dec. 1830
Box 1Vol. 11
18 Dec. 1830-19 Apr. 1831
Box 1Vol. 12
1 Jan.-18 June 1832
Box 1Vol. 13
20 June-8 Oct. 1832
Box 1Vol. 14
Sundry memoranda, 20 Aug.-8 Oct. 1832
Box 1Vol. 15
11-19 Nov. 1832 (trip to Hartford)
Box 1Vol. 16
7 Dec. 1832-22 June 1833
Box 1Vol. 17
12 July 1833-18 Oct. 1834 (with loose papers)
Box 1Vol. 18
5 Sep.-3 Nov. 1836 (with loose papers)
Box 1Vol. 19
21 Apr.-28 July 1837 (with personal accounts and loose papers)
Box 1Vol. 20
Box 1Vol. 21
Box 1Vol. 22
9 Feb.-30 July 1847 (voyage to Europe, with notes and drawings on steam heating)
Box 1Vol. 23
Box 1Vol. 24
Box 2Vol. 25
1 Jan.-18 June 1850
Box 2Vol. 26
27 June-31 Dec. 1850
Box 2Vol. 27
1 Jan.-6 Apr. 1850 (very intermittent entries)
Box 2Vol. 28
1 Jan. 1851-18 Dec. 1852
Box 2Vol. 29
1 Jan.-3 Dec. 1853
Box 2Vol. 30
1 Jan.-5 Dec. 1854 (intermittent entries)
Box 2Vol. 31
24 Jan.-31 Dec. 1855
Box 2Vol. 32
"Boiler statistics," 1856
Box 2Vol. 33
Box 3Vol. 34
Box 3Vol. 35
Box 3Vol. 36
Box 3Vol. 37
Box 3Vol. 38
Box 4Vol. 39
Box 4Vol. 40
Box 4Vol. 41
Box 4Vol. 42
Box 4Vol. 43
13 Jan.-21 July 1868 (exclusively for business memoranda)
Box 5Vol. 44
Box 5Vol. 45
Box 5Vol. 46
1872 (exclusively for business memoranda)
Box 5Vol. 47
1873 (exclusively for business memoranda)
Box 5Vol. 48
1874 (exclusively for business memoranda)
Box 5Vol. 49
Box 6Vol. 50
Box 6Vol. 51
Box 6Vol. 52
Box 6Vol. 53
Box 6Vol. 54
Box 6Vol. 55
Box 7Vol. 56
Box 7Vol. 57
Box 7Vol. 58
Box 7Vol. 59
Box 7Vol. 60
Box 8Vol. 61
22 July-27 Dec. 1887
Box 8Vol. 62
1894 (very intermittent entries)

II. Letterbooks, 1845-1893

Arranged chronologically.

The 5 letterbooks of James J. Walworth contain retained copies of personal and business correspondence dating from 1845-1850 and 1871-1893. Correspondents include Joseph Nason, R. H. Peters, Henry R. Worthington, C. Clark Walworth, and other Walworth family members.

Box 8Vol. 63
12 Dec. 1845-8 Mar. 1850
Box OSVol. 64
8 Aug. 1871-6 Mar. 1876

NOTE: This item is stored flat in Oversize.

Box 8Vol. 65
10 Apr.-25 July 1873; 8 Mar. 1876-21 June 1877
Box 9Vol. 66
21 June 1877-3 June 1881
Box 9Vol. 67
6 June 1881-29 Nov. 1893

III. Loose papers, 1877-1912

Box 9

Preferred Citation

James J. Walworth 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.


Nason, Joseph, 1815-1872.
Peters, R. H.
Walworth family.
Walworth, C. Clark.
Worthington, Henry Rossiter, 1817-1880.


J. J. Walworth and Company (Boston, Mass.).
Walworth and Nason (Boston, Mass.).
Walworth and Nason (New York, N.Y.).
Walworth Manufacturing Company (Boston, Mass.)


Business enterprises--Massachusetts--Boston.
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918.
Heating and ventilation industry.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.