Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of watercolors and sketches made by Henry Adams during his travels to the South Seas (1890-1891); South Carolina, Cuba, and the Rocky Mountains (1894); and the West Indies (1895).

Biographical Sketch

Henry Adams was the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886) and Abigail Brooks Adams (1808-1889) and the grandson and great-grandson of presidents John Quincy Adams and John Adams. Henry worked as a journalist, professor, historian, and political observer and traveled extensively throughout his life, spending time in Europe, Egypt, Japan, Cuba, and the South Seas. He had a strong interest in art and artists and created his own photographs and watercolors. Adams married Marian "Clover" Hooper in 1872, and she died in 1885. Henry continued his travels until his own death in Washington, D.C. in 1918.


Adams, Henry. The Letters of Henry Adams, vol. 3-4. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1982-1988.

Chalfant, Edward. Improvement of the World: A Biography of Henry Adams. His Last Life 1891-1918. North Haven, Conn.: Archon Books, 2001.

Georgini, Sara. "A Midwinter's Tale."

Scheyer, Ernst. The Circle of Henry Adams: Art & Artists. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970.

Collection Description

This collection consists of watercolors painted by Henry Adams during his travels to the South Seas (1890-1891); South Carolina, Cuba, and the Rocky Mountains (1894); and the West Indies (1895). The collection also includes a watercolor by Dora Norton Williams; a lithograph depicting the mansion house at Acton Park, Wrexham, England; and a photomechanical reproduction of Henry Adams's sketch of his dogs. Most of the images were originally in a scrapbook which was disbound in 1989.

Acquisition Information

The majority of the watercolors were removed from the Henry Adams papers, which were a bequest of Henry Adams, 1919. The Acton Park lithograph (item #45) was a gift of Mrs. Ward Thoron, 1957. "Looking through Tati's house" (item #46) was received Aug. 2013.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Box 1Folder 1#1digitized
"Tautira in Tahiti," 1890 or 1891
Box 1Folder 2#2digitized
"Papeete Harbor," May 1891
Box 1Folder 3#3digitized
"Coffin's Point. St. Helena Island," Jan. 1894
Box 1Folder 4#4digitized
"From cottage window. Coffin's Point," 1894
Box 1Folder 5#5digitized
"Afternoon in January. Coffin's Point," 1894
Box 1Folder 6#6digitized
"From Dos Bocas looking up the valley," 1894
Box 1Folder 7#7digitized
"Palm and Wind. Dos Bocas," 1894
Box 1Folder 8#8digitized
"Travelers Palm. Dos Bocas," 1894
Box 1Folder 9#9digitized
"Poinsettia against mountain top. Dos Bocas," 1894
Box 1Folder 10#10digitized
"Colors of sea at Nassau," 1894
Box 1Folder 11#11digitized
"Colors of sea. Nassau," 1894
Box 1Folder 12#12digitized
"Star-apple. Nassau," [1894]
Box 1Folder 13#13digitized
"Grand Teton. From Pacific Creek Camp," 8 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 14#14digitized
"Memoranda for color. Grand Tetons. From Snake River Camp," 10 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 15#15digitized
"Mount Moran. Full morning light. From Snake River Camp," 11 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 16#16digitized
"Unfinished drawing of mountains at head of Soda Creek," 14 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 17#17digitized
"Glade with flowers. Above Soda Creek Camp," 14 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 18#18digitized
"Source of the Yellowstone. Sunday," 19 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 19#19digitized
"Memoranda of Waterfall Camp. Upper Yellowstone Cañon," 21 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 20#20digitized
"Coulters Mountain," 23 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 21#21digitized
"Showery evening at Cache Creek," 29 Aug. 1894
Box 1Folder 22#22digitized
Unidentified harbor view, [1895?]
Box 1Folder 23#23digitized
Unidentified shore with beacon on hill, [1895?]
Box 1Folder 24#24digitized
Unidentified beach, [1895?]
Box 1Folder 25#25digitized
Unfinished landscape with donkeys, undated
Box 1Folder 25#26digitized
Study of donkeys, [1894?]
Box 1Folder 26#27digitized
"Saint Vincent," 9 Mar. 1895
Box 1Folder 27#28digitized
"After sunset on the savannah at Trinidad," Mar. 1895
Box 1Folder 28#29digitized
"Entrance to harbor of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. Morning light," 29 Mar. 1895
Box 1Folder 29#30digitized
Peak of Maua Roa, Island of Moorea, Society Islands, Tahiti, 1891
Box 1Folder 30#31digitized
Eight studies of bathers and one of palm trees on beach, [1891?]
Box 1Folder 30#32digitized
Studies of tropical jungle and unfinished figure, [1891?]
Box 1Folder 30#33digitized
Attempt at green on green, from porch at Tautira [unfinished], [1891]
Box 1Folder 30#34digitized
From Tati's back porch, looking under the [buraw?] tree seaward, [1891]
Box 1Folder 30#35digitized
Island of Moorea from Papeete, [1891]
Box 1Folder 30#36digitized
Memorandum from memory of afterglow in the Tautira Valley, from canoe on the reef, [1891]
Box 1Folder 30#37digitized
"Contra Costa," 1891Painted by Dora Norton Williams.Signed at lower right: "D. N. Williams 1891." Signed on verso: "[Bel] from D. N. W."

Watercolor of a lean-to set under a tree. Titled in graphite above signature. Note on verso in Henry Adams's hand: "Found in the wreck of R. L. Stevenson's house at Apia and brought away by Speck von Sternburg [Bel] was Mrs. Strong."

Box 1Folder 30#38digitized
Palm trees on beach with mountains in distance, probably Tahiti, [1891]
Box 1Folder 31#39digitized
Showery evening at Cache Creek, Wyoming, [29 Aug. 1894]
Box 1Folder 31#40digitized
Mt. Sheridan from hotel, Yellowstone Lake, [27?] July 1894
Box 1Folder 31#41digitized
"Grand Teton. From Pacific Creek Camp," [9?] Aug. [1894]
Box 1Folder 31#42digitized
[A beach in the Caribbean], [1894 or 1895]
Box 1Folder 31#43digitized
Beach in the Caribbean, [1894 or 1895]
Box 1Folder 32#44digitized
"Gossips," undatedPhotomechanical reproduction of Henry Adams's sketch of his dogs.
Box 1Folder 33#45digitized
Acton Park, [18--]Lithograph by Standidge & Co., London.

Lithograph of the mansion house at Acton Park. Note in Henry Adams's hand on mat: "Acton Park near Wrexham. Sir Robt. A. Cunliffe."

Box 1Folder 34#46digitized
Looking through Tati's house, [1891]

Preferred Citation

Henry Adams watercolors and sketches, 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.


Adams, Henry, 1838-1918--Journeys--Pictorial works.
Williams, D. N. (Dora Norton), 1909-1990.


Cuba--Pictorial works.
Landscapes (representations).
Nassau (Bahamas)--Pictorial works.
Saint Vincent--Pictorial works.
South Carolina--Pictorial works.
Tahiti--Pictorial works.
Watercolors (paintings).
West (U.S.)--Pictorial works.
Wyoming--Pictorial works.