1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Samuel Ames Family Papers

 Family, of Providence, R.I.

 Family papers, 1793-1914

 Size: 1.75 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 259

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, August 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Samuel Ames (1766-1830) was born in Groton, Mass. He married Anne Checkley (1785-1868) and became a Providence merchant. they had at least five children, including Anne C. (1802-1860), Samuel II (1806-1865), John C. (1808-1854), Francis (1811-1861), and William S. (1818-1840).

            Samuel Ames II (1806-1865) graduated from Brown University in 1823 and practiced law in Providence. He was selected as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1856, resigned in 1865, and died later that year. He married Mary T. Dorr (1811-1869), daughter of Sullivan Dorr, and sister of Thomas W. Dorr. They had five children: Sullivan D. (1840-1880), William (1842-1914), Edward C. (1845-1886), Mary B. (1852-1873), and Samuel III (1849-1900).

            Samuel Ames III (1849-1900) graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1868, served in the U.S. Navy, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1875, and then became a Providence lawyer. his speciality seemed to be defending companies against work-related injury suits by their employees. After the death of his uncle Sullivan Dorr, Ames resided in the Dorr Mansion. He was a founder of the Municipal League. He married Abby G. Harris (1851-1914), and had no children before his death from typhoid fever in 1900.

            Sullivan Dorr Ames (1840-1880) was a naval officer. He married Mary T. Bullock in 1870.


Biographical Cyclopedia of Rhode Island, 342

Cutter, William R. New England Families, genealogical and Memorial (Baltimore, Md.: Clearfield, 1996), III-1288.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

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Scope and content:

            This collection begins with the mercantile letter book of Samuel Ames I, and also includes miscellaneous papers of Samuel Ames II and his wife Mary. Samuel Ames II's unpublished novel "Arthur Ledgeley" may contain interesting semi-autobiographical material. The collection also includes an account book / diary by Sullivan D. Ames which begins in 1879.

            The bulk of the papers are from Samuel Ames III. Particularly interesting Samuel Ames III correspondence includes a 6/5/1880 letter from "Jacoby" that mentions attending a Providence Grays game; a letter from George William Curtis dated 10/11/1885; and a letter from Henry T. Root of Providence, 3/16/1886; twelve letters from Anne B. (Francis) Woods, 1887-1895; and six personal letters from H.B. Torrey dated 1899. Ames' legal files are also interesting, as they document work-related injuries and their settlements. The case of Raia vs. Builders Iron Foundry, in which Giovanni St. Angelo was crushed by falling blocks on the job, was a particular test of Ames's talents, but the insurance company manager wrote told Ames that "I have confidence that if it comes to a hearing you will prevail as usual." He added with unusual frankness, "This company has no bowels of compassion." Ames settled out of court with St. Angelo's heirs for only $100.

Related papers at the R.I.H.S. include:

Letter, Samuel Ames I to Bennett Wheeler re high postal rates, 1827 (MSS 9001-W)

Letters between Samuel Ames II and Samuel King re Dorr Rebellion (MSS 9001-K)

Correspondence between Samuel Ames II and Elisha R. Potter Jr., 1840s-1860s (MSS 629, sg 3)

Folder on removal of Samuel Ames II as judge (MSS 144, box 28, folder 9)

Letters from Samuel Ames II to Herreshoff family, 1845, 1847 (MSS 487, sg 4 and 7)

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            The bulk of these papers were purchased at auction from Associated Appraisers in 1970, as part of the papers of Nathan Truman (Samuel Ames III's executor). The fictional day book was donated by Jeannie Arnold in 1915. The Samuel Ames II letter to Andrew Foote was purchased as part of the Shepley Collection in 1938. The Samuel Ames I letter book and Sullivan Ames account book were gifts from Mrs. Paul C. Nicholson in 1947, and the "Arthur Ledgeley" manuscript was a gift from Paul C. Nicholson in 1956. The provenance of the three folders of Samuel Ames II papers is uncertain, although they were apparently cataloged at the same time as the bulk of the papers. The provenance of the Sullivan Ames passport is unknown, but was apparently cataloged before 1950 or so. The provenance of the 1883 Mrs. Ames receipt is unknown, but probably shares no common provenance with the other papers. It was found in 2001 filed with the passport, but might very well relate to an entirely different Ames family.

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Processing note:

            Portions of this collection were processed by Nathaniel Shipton in the 1970s. In 2001, the papers were reprocessed as a family collection, and this finding aid was compiled. The four boxes of legal papers were left in their old boxes and folders. The unpublished novel, which had been tightly rolled, was unrolled and flattened at this time.

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Samuel Ames I (1766-1830)

Box 1, folder 1. Letter book, 1793-1804. Mostly regarding the exchange and discount of notes, mostly with Boston and New York merchants. Some letters deal with shipments of goods.

Samuel Ames II (1806-1865)

Box 1, folder 2. Correspondence, 1814-1861

            1814/07/12   Letter to aunt Mary Checkley, written in Andover

            1819/11/25   Letter to aunt Mary Checkley, written in Andover

            1837/01/24   Letter to aunt Mary Checkley, written in Providence

            1839/08/31   Letter to aunt Mary Checkley and mother Ann Ames, written in Pittsburgh

            1856/05/08   Letter of appreciation from Providence Children's Friends Society

            1856/12/25   Letter to daughter Sally

            1861/04/24   Letter to Capt. Andrew H. Foote of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Box 1, folder 3. Commissions and certificates, 1826-1861

            1826    Certificate of admission to the Rhode Island Bar

            1846    Certificate to practice before the United States Supreme Court

            1854    Appointment to committee to revise public laws of Rhode Island

            1856    Commission as Chief Justice of Rhode Island Supreme Court

            1857    Commission as reporter of the Rhode Island Supreme Court

            1861    Commission as R.I. delegate to national convention in Washington

Box 1, folder 4. Miscellaneous, 1839-1865

            1839    Marriage certificate

            1839    Marriage contracts

            1846    Last will and testament

            1853    Deed between Samuel Ames, Mary (Dorr) Ames and Sullivan Dorr

            1858    Quitclaim deed from Samuel Ames to Sullivan Dorr, trustee for Mary (Dorr) Ames

            1861    Membership card in Volunteer Relief Association

            1865    Memorial from Rhode Island Bar

Box 1, rear of box. "Arthur Ledgeley; Or, Some Passages in the Life of a Lawyer," an unpublished manuscript novel. 23 folders, 16 chapters.

Mary T. (Dorr) Ames (1811-1869)

Box 1, folder 5. Miscellaneous, 1866-1871.

            1866    Letter to Mrs. Ames from William S. Patten re death of Samuel Ames, enclosing memorial resolution of the Social Club.

            1867    Quitclaim deed, Dorr family to Mary T. (Dorr) Ames

            1869    List of stock values for Mary T. Ames

            1871    Financial memorandum

Samuel Ames III (1849-1900)

Box 1, folder 6. Letters received, 1880-1887

Box 1, folder 7. Letters received, 1888-1894

Box 1, folder 8. Letters received, 1895-1896

Box 1, folder 9. Letters received, 1897-1900

Box 1, folder 10. Letters received, undated

Box 1, folders 11-12. Two letter copy books, 1895-1900

Box 1, folder 13. Account book of Samuel Ames III estate, 1901-1914

Box 1, folder 14. Estate papers, 1900, 1913

Box 2. Legal Papers - Cases:

            American Box Machine Co. vs. Fletcher Mfg. Co., 1893-1894

            Ames, Samuel vs. Union Eyelet Co., 1897

            Besecolo vs. Providence Worsted Mills, 1893-1897

            Clark vs. Wixon, 1899

            Davis vs. Burges, 1885

            Durand vs. Social Manufacturing Company, 1898-1899

            Goglio vs. Builders Iron Foundry, 1893

            Hayden vs. Oriental Mills, 1881-1885

Box 3. Legal Papers - Cases:

            Kelley vs. Silver Spring Bleaching, 1874-1875

            Larson vs. Crampton Company, 1893

            DiMarcho vs. Builders Iron Foundry, 1892-1894

            Raia vs. Builders Iron Foundry, 1893-1896

            Robinson vs. Providence Worsted Mills, 1890

Box 4. Legal Cases - Estates:

            Abby Harris, 1889

            Caleb F. Harris, 1878-1892

Box 5. Legal Cases - Estates:

            Eliza Harris, 1884-1907

            George Jackson, 1892-1893

            Benjamin C. Simmons, 1889-1896

Sullivan D. Ames (1840-1880)

Box 1, folder 15. Account book, 1879-1883 (kept by widow after 1880).

            Includes very brief diary entries by Sullivan D. Ames, 12/1/1879 - 11/19/1880.

            Also notes on household servants by Mary T. (Bullock) Ames, 1880-1883.

Box 1, folder 16. Diplomatic naval passport, 1873, signed by Hamilton Fish;

            and manicure receipt to Mrs. J.D. or S.D. Ames from Mrs. Pray, New York, 1883


Box 1, folder 17. Student daybook, 1842-1843.

            Thought to be entirely fictional. A note explaining why is filed with the volume.

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American Box Machine Co. *

Ames, Mary T. (Dorr) (1811-1869)

Ames, Samuel (1766-1830)

Ames, Samuel (1806-1865)

Ames, Samuel (1849-1900)

Ames, Sullivan D. (1840-1880)

"Arthur Ledgeley; Or, Some Passages in the Life of a Lawyer"

Besecolo, Frank *

Builders Iron Foundry *

Burges, Walter S. *

Checkley, Mary (1783-1847)

Clark, Edward P. *

Crampton Company *

Curtis, George William (1824-1892)

Davis, William D. *

Diaries - 1879-1880

DiMarcho, Carmeno *

Durand, Onesime *


Fletcher Mfg. Co. *

Foote, Andrew H. (1806-1863)

Goglio, Luigi *

Harris, Abby *

Harris, Caleb F. *

Harris, Eliza *

Hayden, Isaac *

Industrial accidents - Rhode Island - Providence

Italian Americans - Rhode Island - Providence

Jackson, George *

Kelley , Thomas *

Larson, Jacob *

Lawyers - Rhode Island - Providence

Manicuring - New York

Merchants - Rhode Island - Providence

Oriental Mills *

Providence Base Ball Association

Providence, R.I. - Commerce

Providence Worsted Mills *

Raia, Frank A. *

Robinson, Charles H. *

Root, Henry T. (1830-1914)

Silver Spring Bleaching *

Simmons, Benjamin C. *

Social Club

Social Manufacturing Company *

St. Angelo, Giovanni (ca.1852-1892)

Torrey, H.B.

Truman, Nathan H. (1852-1914)

Union Eyelet Co. *

Wixon, Albert E. *

Woods, Anne B. (Francis) (1828-1896)

* indexing done circa 1970

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