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

 Lippitt Family Papers

 Cotton manufacturers and politicians, Providence and Newport, R.I.

 Papers, 1776-1976.

 Size: 2.5 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 538

 Processed by: Robin Flynn, March, 2000

 USE MICROFILM    HQ 1438. R45 Pt 2 Reel 27

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Lippitt family represented in this collection were prominent and wealthy cotton manufacturers and politicians.

            The Lippitts’ textile interests in Rhode Island were started in 1809 by brothers Christopher (1744-1824) and Charles Lippitt (1754-1845), sons of Christopher (1712-1764) and Catharine (Holden) Lippitt. The younger Christopher was a Revolutionary War officer who engaged in farming after the war. His brother Charles was a Providence merchant. In 1809, the brothers, along with Benjamin Aborn, George Jackson, Amasa Mason, and William Mason organized a cotton mill under the name the Lippitt Manufacturing Company. The company grew into a major cotton manufacturer during the 19th century, with several succeeding generations becoming involved in its operations and administration, and inheriting the benefits of its financial legacy.

            Charles Lippitt married Penelope Low, the daughter of John and Sarah (Wickes) Low, in 1783. They had at least three children. Julia (1784-1867) married Joseph Sweet. Sarah Wickes Lippitt (1789-1847) never married. Warren Lippitt (1786-1850) became a mariner at the age of sixteen, and was made captain by the age of 22. He sailed until 1816, then went into a business partnership in Savannah, Georgia, dealing in groceries and cotton. He alternated his residences seasonally between Providence and Savannah.

            Warren married Eliza Seamans in 1811. Their son, Henry (1818-1891), was heavily involved in the family textile business. Henry married Mary Ann Balch (1823-1889), daughter of Dr. Joseph Balch, in 1845. He was also governor of Rhode Island in 1875 and 1876. He and his wife Mary Ann had eleven children, including:

            Charles Warren Lippitt (1846-1924) R.I. governor, 1896

            Jeanie (Lippitt) Weeden (1852-1940)

            Henry Frederick Lippitt (1856-1933) U.S. Senator, 1911-1917

            Mary Balch (Lippitt) Steedman (1858-1938)

            Robert Lincoln Lippitt (1860-1910)

            Jeanie (Lippitt) Weeden lost her hearing at the age of four after contracting scarlet fever. Her mother rebelled against the contemporary belief that deaf and mute children could learn to communicate only by signing. She set about teaching Jeanie to lip read and speak so that she would not be isolated from general society, engaging household servants in the process. Jeanie’s speech was refined by the instruction of Alexander Graham Bell, who prior to his invention of the telephone taught voice physiology in Boston.

            Jeanie’s demonstrated success in lip reading and speaking ultimately led to the establishment of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf in 1876. That year, her father Henry Lippitt, at that time governor of Rhode Island, successfully presented a bill to the General Assembly requesting approval for the creation of the school. Jeanie married William Babcock Weeden in 1893.

            Charles Warren Lippitt graduated from Brown University in 1865. He married Margaret Barbara Farnum (1860-1940) of Providence in 1886. They had a total of six children. The first three (Charles, Alexander, and Jeanie) died of scarlet fever within a single week, from December 26, 1893 to January 1, 1894. A fourth child, Alexander Farnum (c1896-1918) was killed in World War I. The two youngest sons, Charles Warren (1894-1970) and Gorton Thayer (1898-1978) also fought in World War I, in France. Charles (“Charley”) was in the 26th “Yankee” Division A.E.F., 103rd Field Artillery, Battery “A”. Gorton was also in the 26th Division, 101st Engineers, Company A. Margaret B. F. Lippitt was president of the Battery A Welfare League of Rhode Island during WW I. The family owned two residences, one at 7 Orchard Avenue in Providence; the other in Newport, a mansion built by Charles Lippitt called “The Breakwater.”

            Upon returning from the war in 1919, Gorton Lippitt, suffering from physical and nervous effects from poison gas, spent several years attempting to determine his professional and financial future. In 1921, he married Wisconsin native Katharine (“Kay”) Lindsay, in Wisconsin. Soon after their marriage, and with money from both families at their disposal, they began a five-year sojourn around the world, traveling through countries in Europe and Asia; the Soviet Union; Hawaii; Japan; Australia; and the South Pacific between 1921 and 1926. They lived and worked in several areas along the way, and had two of their four children, Alexander and David, during their travels. Their other children were Ruth Hutchinson and Katharine. In the early 1950s, Gorton and Kay separated; it appears they legally separated or divorced in 1954, and Katharine re-located to either Massachusetts or Wisconsin. Gorton died at the age of 80 in 1978, and is buried in Swan Point Cemetery.



Cyclopedia of Rhode Island Biography, 88-90, 400-402.

Lippitt, Henry F. 2nd, “The Lippitt Family”, published by author, 1952.

Rhode Island Cemetery Transcription Project.

Stattler, Richard. “A Guide to Women’s Diaries in the Manuscripts Division of the Rhode Island Historical Society Library,” 1999.

Return to top

Scope and content:

            The papers of five generations of Lippitts are present in the collection. Generally, the papers are derived from the personal lives of the authors, and do not reveal much about the family textile business. However, the way in which the family’s wealth affected their mode of living is obvious in the correspondence, diaries, and household financial documents. In this regard, the papers of the most value are those of Margaret B. F. Lippitt; her husband Charles Warren Lippitt; and especially their son Gorton Thayer Lippitt, whose emotional health, as well as lifestyle, was affected by his wealth.

            The papers of Christopher Lippitt, the earliest generation represented, pertain mostly to the Revolutionary War. A typescript of a memoir by Christopher’s nephew Warren Lippitt, covering the years between about 1788 and 1822, is an interesting and sometimes funny account of his childhood and sailing career. It includes references to international politics; places in which he traded and the cargoes involved; and problems encountered during his voyages, from weather, crew members, illness, and even impressment.

            Among the financial papers of Rhode Island governor Henry Lippitt is a multi-page account, from Providence merchants Anthony, Potter & Denison, for furnishings presumably purchased for the Lippitt mansion at 199 Hope Street, built in 1863. The account, dated between 1865 and 1868, is marked in places with room designations for purchased items; the account total is in excess of $20,000. There are several other accounts for furnishings, and for labor for furniture restoration (including description of materials used), dated between 1856 and 1868; some of these may be for the Lippitt residence that was at 198-200 Hope Street.

            Jeanie (Lippitt) Weeden's papers include three folders of correspondence, an 1882 travel diary, an essay on her education, and genealogical papers. Much of the correspondence is genealogical, and provides potentially useful information on the Balch and Lippitt families. There are also personal letters from her husband (1898), friend Hattie Peters (1898 and undated), brother Charles W. Lippitt (1905 and undated), Lillian Buffum Chace Wyman (1918), nephew Gorton Lippitt (1921-1928). A folder of 1935 correspondence re the Gilbert Stuart Memorial includes a short note from educator and author Caroline Hazard. Two letters from brother Henry F. Lippitt dated July 20 and August 26 1922 discusses the institutionalization of their brother Charles; the latter letter reads in part, "This dying business is a poor thing anyway & I suppose there is no really good way of pulling it off." There is also a series of letters relating to her step-granddaugter Florence Durfee's divorce proceedings in 1933.

            Almost all of the correspondence of Margaret B. F. Lippitt is from her son, Gorton Thayer Lippitt. A letter written to Charles Warren Lippitt, Jr. from Margaret, dated October 10, 1918, explains the circumstances of the death of his brother Alexander Farnum Lippitt. The letter is filed with Gorton Lippitt’s correspondence, as the letter was intended (per its content) to be passed along to him.

            Among Gorton’s correspondence is a letter from his former nanny, Annie Grant, dated March 14, 1921, congratulating him on his engagement to Katharine Lindsay. The language in the letter reflects Grant’s spoken dialect, and describes her Scotch background and the marriage of her grandmother in Scotland. Grant is also mentioned occasionally in correspondence sent to Gorton by his mother.

            Some of the writings of Gorton Lippitt from the 1920s, written as he encountered, observed and pondered international cultures, are amazingly prophetic in regard to the world’s political and economic affairs, especially in regard to the Great Depression and the second World War. In a journal entry written on October 30, 1920, he wrote: “‘Twenty or thirty years!’...They say a war is coming then; they say that it will be more terrible, more brutal, more scientific than this last? I guess that they are right, and that the world will survive the tempest but it seems that a further extension of horror than there was in the world these last few years would be impossible save with the extinction of the vanquished.”

Return to top


The provenance of the collection is as follows:

Accession       Item                                                                Donor  

#1823.5           Christopher Lippitt memoir                            Christopher Lippitt

#1824.2           Sketch of the Lippitt family, 1821                  Christopher Lippitt

#1861.2           Letter to Charles Lippitt, 1835                       Mary Tibbetts

#1891.12.5      Christopher Lippitt orderly book, 1776          Jesse Metcalf

#1893.19.1      Deed, Christopher Lippitt to Hope Furnace   Edward Congdon

#1904.9           Charles Lippitt’s pension papers (B. 1, F. 24)      Charles W. Lippitt

#1941.13.1-    Henry F. Lippitt Papers                                  Mrs. Lippitt

#1964.54         Warren Lippitt account book                          Providence Public Library

#1964.57.8.1   Henry Lippitt furnishings bill, ca.1860          Purchase

#1973.272.1-  C.W. Lippitt addresses, 1928-1930                Lippitt Family

#1973.278.1-3 Jeanie Lippitt, etc.                                         Lippitt Family

#1973.286.1-  Five C.W. Lippitt letters, 1888-1912              Nino Scotti

#1973.300.1-  C.W. Lippitt diary; copies of 17th- century    Lippitt Family


#1973.301.1-  Gorton T., Charles W. Lippitt papers             Lippitt Family

#1974.68.1-    Warren Lippitt logbook, etc.                          Lippittt Family

#1976.99.1-    Jeanie Weeden letters re Gilbert Stuart,         Lippitt Family

                                    Memorial, Inc., 1935

#1976.118.1-4 Charles Lippitt letters, 1837-1841                 E.F. Marvin

#1976.145.1-4 Gorton T. Lippitt diaries                                Gorton T. Lippitt

#1977.87.1-    Gorton T. Lippitt diaries                                 Gorton T. Lippitt

#1978.61         Gorton T. Lippitt letter book, 1952-1960       Nancy E. Peace

#1993.154.1    C.W. Lippitt's “R.I. Declaration...”                Chris Stedman

            The folder of correspondence concerning the Gilbert Stuart Memorial among Jeanie Lippitt Weeden’s papers was originally assigned to MSS 9001-W. It was transferred from that collection in March, 2000. The 1822 Christopher Lippitt memoir is the earliest known manuscript donation to the RIHS that can still be identified in the collection.

Return to top

Processing note:

            The collection was removed from flat storage and re-housed in archival boxes in February, 2000. Additionally, the papers were arranged by family member. They had previously been arranged chronologically, with the papers of several family members mixed together.

            The contents of box 2, folders 17 and 18, are closed to the public until 2012.

Return to top


Series 1: Christopher Lippitt (1744-1824) (child of Christopher and Catharine (Holden) Lippitt)

Box 1, folder 1. Autobiographical sketch, 1822

Box 1, folder 2. Correspondence, 1776

Box 1, folder 3. List of soldiers and officers in 2nd RI Brigade, 1776 / day book, 1783-1784

Box 1, folder 4. Loose papers, 1785-1821

            Deed, Christopher and Wait Lippitt to Hope Furnace, 1785

            CL’s copy of 1794 record concerning resolution involving Pawtuxet lots

            Account of Lippitt family genealogy, 1821

Box 1, folder 5. Orderly book, 1776

Series 2: Moses Lippitt (1751-1844) (child of Christopher and Catharine (Holden) Lippitt)

Box 1, folder 6. Loose papers, 1776-1804:

            Military pass, 1776

            Agreement for improvement of Warwick lot, James Greene to Moses Lippitt, 1785

            Sales for schooners Lydia and Rebecca, Moses Lippitt and John Rogers, 1804

            Affadavit concerning cargo on the schooner Rebecca, 1804


Series 3: Charles Lippitt (1754-1845) (child of Christopher and Catharine (Holden) Lippitt; husband of Penelope Low)

Box 1, folder 7. Correspondence, 1835-1841 (some photocopies).


Series 4: Warren Lippitt (1786-1850) (child of Charles and Penelope (Low) Lippitt; husband of Eliza Seamans)

Box 1, folder 8. Ledger, 1815-1854 (includes loose receipt, 1838).

Box 1, folder 9. Logs for vessels John, Factor, and Union, 1809-1812 (single typescript).

Box 1, folder 10. Memoir, 1847.


Series 5: Henry Lippitt (1818-1891) (R. I. governor; child of Warren and Eliza (Seamans) Lippitt; husband of Mary Ann Balch)

Box 1, folder 11. Accounts, 1845-1880.

Box 1, folder 12. Correspondence, 1862-1891 and n.d.

Box 1, folder 13. Loose papers, 1862-1896:

            Certificate of membership in Society of Friends, Stephen Brooks, 1862

            Newspaper clippings, 1876, 1896

            Act to incorporate the Franklin Electric Lighting Company, 1886 (typescript)

Box 1, folder 14. Will, 1890.


Series 6: Jeanie Lippitt Weeden (1852-1940) (daughter of Henry and Mary Ann (Balch) Lippit; wife of William B. Weeden)

Box 1, folder 15. Correspondence, 1882-1922.

Box 1, folder 16. Correspondence, 1923-1939 and n.d.

Box 1, folder 17. Correspondence concerning Gilbert Stuart Memorial, Inc., circa 1935.

Box 1, folder 18. Diary, 1882.

Box 1, folder 19. “Mrs. Lippitt’s Education of her Daughter”, author unknown, n.d.

Box 1, folder 20. Genealogical notes.

Box 1, folder 21. Application, Society of Colonial Dames (draft) and supporting papers, n.d.


Series 7: Henry Frederick Lippitt (1856-1933) (U. S. Senator; son of Henry and Mary Ann (Balch) Lippitt)

Box 1, folder 22. Correspondence, 1895-1933.

Box 1, folder 23. Household expenses, 389 Benefit St., 1882-1896 (includes one loose account).; expense / notebook for European trip?, n.d.


Series 8: Charles Warren Lippitt (1846-1924) (R. I. governor; child of Henry and Mary Ann (Balch) Lippitt)

Box 1, folder 24. Correspondence, 1897-1922. (including pension papers #1904.9)

Box 1, folder 25. Letter book, 1918, 1919 (Archival copy. Original in oversized storage).

Box 1, folder 26. Deeds, 1896-1923.

Box 1, folder 27. Diary, 1869-1885.

Box 1, folder 28. Diary - loose papers, 1879-1880, 1885.

Box 1, folder 29. Estate papers, 1922-1940.

Box 1, folder 30. Manuscript: “Address...Presentation of a Memorial Volume to Rodman Post”, 1895.

Box 1, folder 31. Manuscript: “The French in Rhode Island”, n.d.

Box 1, folder 32. Miscellaneous:

            Receipt for purchase of Fanny Sprague mansion, 1888

            Newspaper clipping, 1896

            Envelope with notations about pen used when governor

            Bios (2), Brown University and Who’s Who In Finance

            Receipt, income tax figures

Series 9: Margaret B. (Farnum) Lippitt (1860-1940) (wife of Charles Warren Lippitt)


Box 1, folder 33. 1904-1917.

Box 1, folder 34. 1918.

Box 1, folder 35. 1919.

Box 1, folder 36. 1920.

Box 1, folder 37. 1921.

Box 1, folder 38. 1922, 1923.

Box 1, folder 39. 1924.

Box 1, folder 40. 1925, January - April.

Box 1, folder 41. 1925, May - July.

Box 2, folder 1. 1925, August.

Box 2, folder 2. 1925, September - December.

Box 2, folder 3. 1926-1938.

Box 2, folder 4. Undated.


Box 2, folder 5. Biographical, 1884-1940.

Box 2, folder 6. Travel account (western United States), ca. 1905.

Box 2, folder 7. Miscellaneous:

            Providence Journal clipping, 1916

            “Y = D” (“Yankee Division”) Club card, 1920

            Deed from Herbert L. Pierce, 1930


Series 10: Charles W. Lippitt, Jr. (1894-1970) (child of Charles W. and Margaret B. F. Lippitt)

Box 2, folder 8. Correspondence, 1921-1940.

Box 2, folder 9. Manuscripts, radio address, 1928 and magazine article, 1930.


Series11: Gorton Thayer Lippitt (1898-1978) (child of Charles W. and Margaret B. F. Lippitt)


Box 2, folder 10. 1917-1919 (bulk 1918).

Box 2, folder 11. 1921.

Box 2, folder 12. 1921 (Founder’s Day).

Box 2, folder 13. 1922-1928.

Box 2, folder 14. 1930-1939.

Box 2, folder 15. 1940-1949.

Box 2, folder 16. Letter book, 1944-1960.

Box 2, folder 17. 1950-1952 (CLOSED UNTIL 2012)

Box 2, folder 18. 1953-1959 (CLOSED UNTIL 2012)

Box 2, folder 19. GTL to Mrs. Charles Cedric Pearson, 1956-1962.

Box 2, folder 20. GTL to Alexander Farnum Lippitt and Alexander Farnum Lippitt, Jr., 1957.

Box 2, folder 21. 1960-1963.

Box 2, folder 22. 1964-1966.

Box 2, folder 23. 1967-1969 (bulk 1967; no 1968).

Box 2, folder 24. 1970-1976.

Box 2, folder 25. Undated.

Appointment books, diaries, and journals

Appointment books:

Box 2, folder 26. 1921.

Box 2, folder 27. 1922 (2).


Box 2, folder 28. 1917, 1918 (World War I).

Box 2, folder 29. Providence Journal article on WWI diaries, November 11, 1981.

Box 2, folder 30. 1918-1919.

Box 2, folder 31. 1919-1920.

Loose journal entries:

Box 2, folder 32. 1916-1919.

Box 2, folder 33. 1920-1926.

Box 2, folder 34. 1938-1945.

Box 2, folder 35. Personal notes, and quotations, circa 1919-1940; 1970; and n.d.


Box 2, folder 36. Vital records, 1898-1949.

Box 2, folder 37. Record of infancy years, 1898-1901; statement of character, n.d.

Box 2, folder 38. Military certificates, 1918-1928.

Oversized storage: Croix de Guerre certificate (WW I), 1926.


Box 2, folder 39. School essays, 1919, 1921 and n.d.

Box 2, folder 40. High school diploma, 1915; college leave-of-absence, 1921.

Financial papers

Box 2, folder 41. 1921-1950 and n.d.

Legal papers

Box 2, folder 42. 1913-1954

Box 2, folder 43. Mary M. Gibson bank books and estate, 1939-1966.


Box 2, folder 44. Atlas showing personal travel routes, 1922-1925; passports, 1921, 1956.

Box 2, folder 45. Travel ephemera (international), circa 1921-1925.


Box 2, folder 46. Newspaper clippings and printed material, circa 1919-1971.

Series 12: Katharine (Lindsay) Lippitt (1899-?) (wife of Gorton T. Lippitt)

Sub-series 1: Correspondence

Box 3, folder 1. 1908 (one item, to Lindsay relative?), 1920. (Bulk 1920.)

Box 3, folder 2. 1921, January.

Box 3, folder 3. 1921, February.

Box 3, folder 4. 1921, March.

Box 3, folder 5. 1921, April.

Box 3, folder 6. 1921, May.

Box 3, folder 7. 1921, June.

Box 3, folder 8. 1923.

Box 3, folder 9. 1924.

Box 3, folder 10. 1926, February.

Box 3, folder 11. 1926, March.

Box 3, folder 12. 1926, July - August.

Box 3, folder 13. 1927, 1928.

Box 3, folder 14. Undated (from Margaret B. F. Lippitt).


Box 3, folder 15. Undated journal entries (2 pages); essay, “Bringing Father Home”, n.d.

Series 13: Lippitt Family

Box 3, folder 16. Miscellaneous:

            Bill of lading, Joseph Francis Lippitt (shipper), sloop Venus, 1810

            Legal document?, Charles Warren Lippitt?, 1878?

            Letter, William [Thompson?] to “Lincoln” (R. Lincoln Lippitt?), 1882

            Typescript concerning historical markers in Rhode Island, after 1906

            Trust agreement concerning Caroline Bourne (dau. of Mabelle Clifton Lippitt), 1917

            Typed copies of 17th-century Lippitt wills

Letters (2) between Henry F. Lippitt 2nd and American Heritage Publishing Co. concerning Corliss Steam Engine, April 1974

Return to top


Asia - Description and travel

Australia - Description and travel

Balch family

“Battery A” Welfare League of Rhode Island

Bradner, William (1900-?)

Chapin, Charles V.

China - Description and travel


Deaf - Rhode Island

Diaries - 1847

Diaries - 1869-1885

Diaries - 1882

Diaries - 1916-1945


Europe - Description and travel

Factor (ship)

Gibraltar - Description and travel

Gilbert Stuart Memorial (North Kingstown, R.I.)

Grant, Annie

Hawaii - Description and travel

Hazard, Caroline (1856-1945)


Japan - Description and travel

John (ship)

Lippitt, Charles (1754-1845)

Lippitt, Charles Warren (1846-1924)

Lippitt, Charles Warren (1894-1970)

Lippitt, Christopher (1744-1824)

Lippitt, Gorton Thayer (1898-1978)

Lippitt, Henry (1818-1891)

Lippitt, Henry Frederick (1856-1933)

Lippitt, Katharine (Lindsay) (1899-1990?)

Lippitt, Margaret B. (Farnum) (1860-1940)

Lippitt, Moses (1751-1844)

Lippitt, Warren (1786-1850)


Los Angeles, California - Description and travel

Mental illness

Merchant marine - Rhode Island - Providence

Providence, Rhode Island - Social life and customs

Soviet Union - Description and travel

Sunday, William Ashley (1862-1935)

Union (ship)

United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783

Weeden, Jeanie Lippitt (1852-1940)

West (U.S.) - Description and travel

World War, 1914-1918

Wyman, Lillie B. (Chace) (1847-1929)

End of finding aid - return to top