Stephen Smith Collection 1805–1875
Boston cabinetmaker, inventor in the 1830’s of the roll-top desk; pioneer land developer and planner, and owner of a model farm and other properties in Barnstable. The papers record the conduct of the firm of Stephen Smith & Co., Cornhill, Boston, a furniture business and real estate partnership with considerable holdings in that part of Boston known as Ward Eleven, or South End. Many fine buildings, including Minor Hall, Concord Hall, Lincoln Hall, and the Smith Block, as well as properties on Washington, Concord, and Commercial Streets, were built and owned by this firm. The “desk” business was auctioned off in 1875 following the death of Stephen; but the real estate business continued in the family until 1945.
Included in these papers are bills and receipts, specifications for buildings and repairs, rental agreements, contracts, promissory notes, mortgages, lists of properties owned and tenant-occupied, insurances, and tax records, as well as agreements with the many craftsmen who were hired to make furniture for the firm.
Included also are papers arising from the operation of the Barnstable farm, which was conducted by Stephen in the early years as an absentee gentleman farmer. In the later years, when, when Stephen spent more time in Barnstable, letters were sent to his son Charles in Boston directing him in the conduct of the real estate business. The records reveal that in 1849–1850, in return for shares in expected profits, Stephen provided the necessary capital for persons “desirous of proceeding to the gold regions of California on adventures for gain,” and that Charles, in1869, in return for a share in the patent rights and any profits derived there-from, provided capital to an inventor of a “new method of recoloring cloths.”
Among the personal papers are biographical and genealogical data; correspondence of the children of Stephen and Eliza D.: Eliza D. (wife of John B. Bartlett); Adeline (wife of William Henry Allen); Edward F.; and Charles L., all of Boston; and Cousins George L. and Henry H. Stafford. The family correspondence includes letters and invoices relating to the order and delivery from Rome of a marble bust of Stephen, to be placed in the family plot in Forest Hills Cemetery. Also included are papers in the estate of Stephen and his wife (d. 1873); the last will and testament of Charles (1886); and records of church and other organizational affiliations of Stephen.
Stephen Smith (1805–1875) Collection ca. 1800–1900; 1920–1985; and n.d., gift of: Steven Bartlett, 1986, 4 boxes, 2 cartons. Prepared by Charlotte Price.