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

 Nelson W. and Abby P. Aldrich Papers

 U.S. Senator and wife of Warwick, R.I.

 Papers, 1868-1915

 Size: 0.75 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 938, sg 1

 Processed by: Amy Spence Lappin, June 1997

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich (1841-1915), known as a protectionist and spokesperson for business, was an influential Republican member of the U.S. Senate.

            The Concise Dictionary of American Biography asserts, "[In 1896], when the Republican party regained strength, the coterie - called the 'Big Four' and composed of Aldrich, Allison of Iowa, Platt of Connecticut and Spooner of Wisconsin - acting with almost complete unanimity dominated the Senate until Platt's death in 1905."

            Aldrich was born in Foster, R.I., the son of Anan E. Aldrich and Abby Burgess. He married Abby Pearce Chapman Greene in 1866.

            In addition to his career as a U.S. Senator, Aldrich served as president of the Providence Common Council, 1872-1873. He was a member of the R.I. General Assembly, 1875-1876 and was Speaker of the House of Representatives, 1876. Before his election to the U.S. Senate, Aldrich was a U.S. Representative to the 46th and 47th Congresses, 1879-1881.

            Aldrich entered the senate in 1881 and ended his political career in 1911. After leaving the senate, he remained an active businessman and turned his focus to the Aldrich Plan, a scheme for banking reform in the U.S.

            Abby Pearce Chapman Greene (1844-1917) was born in Norwich, CT, the daughter of Robert and Amy (Morgan) Chapman. Abby took the name Greene when she became the ward of Duty Greene of Providence.

            Nelson and Abby had ten children:

                        Nelson Wilmarth, Jr.(1867-1871)

                        Lucy Truman (1871-1955)

                        Edward Burgess (1871-1957)

                                                                        m. 1st Mary Dorrance (div.)

                                                                        m. 2nd Lora Lawson

                        Abby Greene (1874-1948)

                                                                        m. John D. Rockefeller

                        Stuart Morgan (1876-1960)

                                                                        m. Martha Louise Blackwell

                        Robert Chapman (1878-1878)

                        William Truman (1880-1966)

                                                                        m. Dorothea Davenport

                        Emma Louise (1882-1884)

                        Richard Steere (1884-1941)

                        Winthrop Williams (1885-1974)

                                                                        m. Harriet Alexander

                        Elsie (1888-1968) m. 1st Stephen M. Edgehill (d.1921)

                                                                        m. 2nd N. Stuart Campbell


Aldrich, Alvin J. George Aldrich Genealogy. Published by the author, 1971.

Hopkins, Joseph G.E., ed. Concise Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles             Scribner's Sons, 1964.

Sternstein, Jerome L., “Nelson W. Aldrich and the Silver Trust,” in Capitol Studies 6, Spring 1978, 13-37.

Sternstein, Jerome L., “Nelson W. Aldrich: The Making of the ‘General Manager of the United States,’ 1841-1886,” dissertation, Brown University, 1968.

Stevenson, Nathanial Wright. Nelson W. Aldrich: A Leader in American Politics. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930.

Return to top

Scope and content:

            This collection dates from 1868-1915. The bulk of the papers is from the years 1910-1915.

            Series 1 (Nelson W. Aldrich) includes correspondence and papers mainly addressed to Aldrich, but also contains some copies of letters sent out by him. The correspondence relates primarily to business and political matters. Some correspondence involves Aldrich's personal finances and includes scattered bills and receipts. Occasional letters involve property and interior decoration, but which piece of Aldrich's property is referred to is not always clear. Also included are pleas for money and favors from distant relatives and acquaintances and letters requesting autographs.

            Series 2 (Abby Aldrich) includes two diaries kept by Abby Aldrich, 1910 & 1911, an account book, 12/1868-12/1870, and a small amount of correspondence from 1898.

            Series 3 (biographical and genealogical) contains a draft of a manuscript of a biography about Nelson W. Aldrich, 1929 and papers removed from the draft concerning Aldrich genealogical information.

            Series 4 (miscellaneous) contains only an undated poem by an unknown author.

Return to top


            The account book and other scattered papers of Abby Aldrich were part of the Winthrop W. Aldrich estate given to the Society in 1974, and stored at the Aldrich House museum until 1995. The bulk of Nelson Aldrich's correspondence came from the estate of David Patten. A note found in one of the correspondence files indicates that some of this correspondence was given to David Patten by Nelson's son, Edward Aldrich in 1957. These records probably came to the Society in 1975, along with 14 boxes of Patten's personal papers and notes. One folder of Nelson W. Aldrich's papers came from an unknown accession; they may be the "manuscripts belonging to the late Abby Aldrich Rockefeller" mentioned in Library Committee minutes from 1955.

Return to top

Processing note:

            The papers which were donated by David Patten have been maintained in chronological order. Correspondence from other accessions was integrated in with these papers. In some cases, the papers from other collections came grouped in a particular subject file and was kept as such. This is clearly marked in the inventory of this finding aid. All papers have been transferred to acid-free folders and are housed in archival boxes. Pins have been replaced with archival staples where necessary.

Return to top


                                    Series 1 : Nelson W. Aldrich

Box 1, folder 1.           Correspondence and papers, undated.

Box 1, folder 2.           Correspondence and papers, 1869-1900.

Box 1, folder 3.           Correspondence and papers, 1905-1910.

                                                Includes letters between NWA and Lyman B. Goff (Union                                      Wadding Company of Pawtucket) re: foreign and domestic lace                                           and the helpfulness of labor unions in getting foreign workers                                             contracted here, 1/29/1909 and 4/28/1909.

Box 1, folder 4.           Correspondence and papers, 1911.

                                                Includes audit books and accounts (year ending 6/3/1911) of the                                                 Times Publishing Company, Pawtucket, R.I., 9/7/1911

Box 1, folder 5.           Correspondence and papers, 1/1912-5/1912.

Box 1, folder 6.           Correspondence and papers, 6/1912-12/1912.

Box 1, folder 7.           Correspondence and papers, 1913-1914.

Box 1, folder 8.           U.S. Naval War College and Torpedo School - Newport, R.I.

                                                Notes and correspondence, 1894.

Box 1, folder 9.           "Contract and specification for building a wharf for Hon. Nelson W.                                                 Aldrich at Warwick Neck, R.I.," 5/27/1897.

Box 1, folder 10.         Correspondence re: George A. Moriarity Jr. of Newport and a State                                                 Department scandal, 1912.

Box 1, folder 11.         Memorial on the death of Nelson W. Aldrich from                                                                the Newport Fishing Club, 1915.

Box 1, folder 12.         Warrant of discharge from the 1st Regiment of Infantry, 2nd Brigade,                                                 RI Militia, 6/29/1863.

                                    Series 2 : Abby P. Aldrich

Box 1, folder 13.         Letters to Abby Aldrich from A. Tetton, 1898.

Box 1, folder 14.         Account Book, 12/1868-12/1870.

                                                "Abby P. Aldrich in a/c with Nelson W. Aldrich."

Box 1, folder 15.         Appointment book in Abby Aldrich's handwriting, 12/27/1903-                                                      3/2/1904.

Box 1, folder 16.         Diary, 1910.

                                                The outside of the diary is imprinted "Nelson W. Aldrich," but                                                 the entries clearly belong to Abby Aldrich.

Box 1, folder 17.         Diary, 1/1/1911-5/3/1911.

                                                The outside of the diary is imprinted "Nelson W. Aldrich," but                                                 the entries clearly belong to Abby Aldrich.

                                    Series 3 : Biographical and Genealogical

Box 2, folder 1.           Draft manuscript of Nelson W. Aldrich: A Leader in American Politics                                                 by Nathaniel Wright Stephenson, chapters I-XVI, 1929.


Box 2, folder 2.           Draft manuscript of Nelson W. Aldrich: A Leader in American Politics                                                 by Nathanial Wright Stephenson, chapters XVII-XXVII, 1929.

Box 2, folder 3.           Editing notes - J.P. Nichols to N.W. Stephenson for NWA biography,                                                 1929.

Box 2, folder 4.           Aldrich genealogical information removed from draft manuscript of                                                 NWA biography, Nelson W. Aldrich: A Leader in American                                                 Politics.

                                    Series 4 : Miscellaneous

Box 2, folder 5.           Poem, unknown author, undated.

Return to top


x Abby Pearce Chapman (1844-1917)                       See Abby P. Aldrich

x Abby Pearce (Chapman) (Greene) (1844-1917)     See Abby P. Aldrich

Diaries, 1910-1911.

Moriarity, George A. Jr.

Rhode Island Militia

Times Publishing Company (Pawtucket, R.I.)

Union Wadding Company (Pawtucket, R.I.)

U.S. Naval War College (Newport, R.I.)

Warwick Neck, R.I.

End of finding aid - return to top