1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Chace Family Papers

 Of Philadelphia and Rhode Island

 Papers, 1845-1948

 Size: 1 linear foot

 Catalog number: MSS 998

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, April 1997

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Jonathan Chace (1829-1917) was born into a prominent Quaker family in Valley Falls, R.I. His father was textile manufacturer Harvey Chace (b.1797), and his mother was Hannah Wood Chace (1800-1833). Harvey Chace was a nephew of famous abolitionist Elizabeth Buffum Chace and had himself been active in the Underground Railroad. Jonathan settled in Pennsylvania, where he established a dry goods business, and met and married Jane C. Moon (1831-1914). They had two daughters: Anna H. Chace (1856-1945) and Elizabeth M. Chace (1868-1955). Neither of the daughters ever married.

            Jonathan eventually returned to Rhode Island, and served as U.S. Representative from 1881 to 1885. He was elected U.S. Senator in 1885, and resigned in 1889. In 1910, he and his family moved from their residence in Central Falls to 190 Hope Street on the east side of Providence.

            Both the daughters, Anna and Elizabeth, led active interesting lives, and seem to have generally acted together, with Anna perhaps the more frequent traveler while Elizabeth tended to stay in Rhode Island. According to their obituaries, they were both active in the international peace movement, and traveled frequently to Geneva as observers at League of Nations sessions. They both also remained devout Quakers.


Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy (New York: Lewis, 1932), vol. 4, 395-396.

Hinshaw, William W. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1969), vol. 2 (Pennsylvania), 965-966.

Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island (Chicago: Beers & Co., 1908), p.1152-1158.

Obituaries of Anna H. Chace (10/2/1945) and Elizabeth M. Chace (9/22/1955) in Providence Journal.

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Scope and content:

            The Manuscripts Division has diaries kept by the family from 1904 to 1921. "Kept by the family" is a specific statement, rather than an intentionally vague one. The authors alternated frequently between Jonathan, his wife Jane, and the two daughters Anna and Elizabeth. This is made even more confusing by the lack of signatures and the general use of third person. Anyone concerned with authorship of a specific passage should compare handwriting and examine the grammar. An entry referring to "Jane" rather than "Mother" was probably by Jonathan. An entry referring to "sister and Elizabeth" was probably written by Elizabeth.

            The content of the diaries is not usually very dramatic, and is dated after the end of Jonathan's political career. The Chaces manifested their Quaker beliefs by a serene verbal austerity. Among the more interesting passages is on describing the two sisters' visit to Geneva for a League of Nations conference.

            The other major portion of this collection is a file of letters received by Jonathan Chace between 1880 and 1890, mostly in an official political capacity. The large majority of these letters deal with the first international copyright bill passed by the U.S. Congress in 1888. The bill was enthusiastically supported by publishers, authors and typographers, and Chace was the driving force behind its passage.

            Frequent correspondents offering support or suggestions regarding the copyright bill included Boston publisher Dana Estes (1840-1909), New York publisher George Haven Putnam (1844-1930), New York editor Robert U. Johnson (1853-1937), Philadelphia publisher Henry C. Lea (1825-1909), and Boston publisher Henry O. Houghton (1823-1895). There are also letters from various representatives of the International Typographers Union. One letter dated November 4, 1880, is signed by Secretary of State William M. Evarts (1818-1901). The collection also includes drafts of the bills, copies of similar bills from other countries, and related speeches.

            There are also a few scattered family papers in the collection, including a poem signed by Jonathan Chace's famous abolitionist aunt Elizabeth Buffum Chace; biographical notes on Jonathan Chace; and a printed obituary from his mother Hannah Wood Chace dated Fall River, 1833.

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            The correspondence and other loose papers were donated by Malcolm G. Chace III in 1997. As Jonathan Chace had no grandchildren, much of his family's estate seems to have come into the hands of his first cousin Arnold Buffum Chace (b.1845); the donor is a great-grandson on Arnold Buffum Chace.

            The diaries appear to have been first cataloged circa 1960. This would roughly coincide with the death of Jonathan Chace's last surviving daughter in 1955. Though no record has been found, we can assume that the diaries probably arrived as part of the estate of Elizabeth M. Chace.

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Processing note:

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Box 1: Diaries (with their apparent authors)

1904    All by Jane.

1905    All by Jane.

1906    By Jane to 2/3; the remainder mostly by Jonathan and Jane; some entries by daughters.

1907    Mostly by Jonathan and Jane; some entries by daughters.

1908    Mostly by Jonathan and Jane; some entries by daughters.

1909    Mostly by Jonathan and Jane; some entries by daughters.

1910    Mostly by Jonathan and Jane; some entries by daughters.

1911    Mostly by Jonathan and Jane; some entries by daughters.

1913    Mostly by Jonathan; some by Elizabeth.

1915    Mostly by Jonathan; some by Elizabeth.

1916    Mostly by Jonathan; some by Elizabeth.

1917    Mostly by Jonathan; some by Elizabeth.

1920    Mostly by Elizabeth; some by Anna.

1921    Mostly by Elizabeth; some by Anna.

Box 2: Jonathan Chace

Folder 1. Correspondence, 1880-1885 (4 items)

Folder 2. Correspondence, 1886

Folder 3. Correspondence, 1887

Folders 4-6. Correspondence, 1888

Folder 7. Correspondence, 1889-1890

Folder 8. Three printed speeches on tariffs, 1882-1884

Folder 9. Speech at Haverford College, 1883, with responses

Folder 10. Bills and research notes re copyright, 1887-1889

Folder 11. Speech at Brown University on tariffs, 1887

Folder 12. Poem signed by Elizabeth Buffum Chace, 1892

                  Letter from cousin Arnold B. Chace, 1914

Folder 13.      Printed full-sheet obituary of Hannah Wood Chace, 1833

                        "In Memoriam: Jonathan Chace" by Lillie Buffum Wyman Chace (2 drafts)

                        "Jonathan Chace: A Friend in Public Life" (2 typescripts by E.M. Chace, 1948)

                        Extract from Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island

Condolence letter and poem from Camilla --- to Elizabeth Chace, 7/4/1917

                        Letter from Leicester Academy to Elizabeth M. Chace re Jonathan, 3/21/1918

                        "Jonathan Chace and the Copyright Bill," by George Haven Putnam, 7/3/1917

                        Essay on Jonathan Chace by Anna or Elizabeth Chace, undated

                        Obituary, Providence Journal

                        Untitled article on Jonathan Chace, by Anna H. Chace

Folder 14.       Letters between Jonathan Chace, brother James H. Chace and cousin Jonathan Chace Jr., 1845-1852.

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Chace, Anna H. (1856-1945)

Chace, Elizabeth Buffum (1806-1899)

Chace, Elizabeth M. (1868-1955)

Chace, James Hervey (1827-1921)

Chace, Jane (Moon) (1831-1914)

Chace, Jonathan (1829-1917)

Copyright, International

Diaries - 1904-1921

Estes, Dana (1840-1909)

International Typographical Union

League of Nations

Publishers and publishing - Law and legislation

Putnam, George Haven (1844-1930)

Quakers - Rhode Island

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