Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Benjamin Ropes Nichols Papers, 1800-1831

Duane Norman Diedrich Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, 1998

Summary Information
Title: Benjamin Ropes Nichols papers
Creator: Nichols, Benjamin Ropes, 1786-1848
Inclusive dates: 1800-1831
Extent: 17 items
The Benjamin Ropes Nichols papers are letters written home from Nichols as a student at Harvard from 1800-1804, and later as a married man living in Boston from 1824-1831.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by D. N. Diedrich, 1989. M-2499.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Benjamin Ropes Nichols Papers, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.

Biographical/Historical Note

The lawyer and antiquarian Benjamin Ropes Nichols was born on 18 May 1786 to Capt. Ichabod (1749-1839) and Lydia Ropes (1754-1835) Nichols, members of two of Salem's most prominent families. In 1800, he entered Harvard College, where a brother, Ichabod (class of 1802), and cousin, Benjamin Peirce (1778-1831, class of 1801), had already distinguished themselves as scholars. Benjamin, too, graduated with distinction in 1804.

After graduation, Nichols returned to Salem to practice law. During a brief tenure there as county clerk, he organized and 'renovated' the town's records and was later employed by the State to organize the records of Plymouth Colony. In 1813, he married Mary Pickering (1793-1863) of Salem, with whom he had several children, including at least one set of twins.

In 1824, the Nichols moved to Boston to further his career. There he earned a reputation as a skillful financier and as clerk of the Boston and Providence and Boston and Lowell Railroad Corporations. His deep interest in historical (antiquarian) matters flourished in Boston and earned his election to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1829. Nichols died on 30 April 1848.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The letters comprising this collection fall into two discrete groups representing the periods of time when Nichols was separated from his family: those written while he was at college (1800-1804) and those written from Boston (1824-1831).

Benjamin's college letters give a strong impression of student life at Harvard shortly after the turn of the century. Of particular interest are his father's letter of advice on the proper conduct of a young man preparing to enter college (dated [1800]), Benjamin's apparently sincere apology for not having followed this advice (19 Sept. 1800), two letters describing student unrest following the expulsion of a classmate (1 and 14 Sept. 1800), and a letter regarding vandalism at the chapel (23 Nov. 1802).

Two of the letters written from Boston (11 and 16 February 1829) concern the Nichols' attempts to locate a suitable wetnurse following Mrs. Nichols' giving birth to twins.

Subject Terms

    • College Students.
    • College Students--Conduct of life.
    • Death.
    • Harvard University--Students.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   : Duane Norman Diedrich Collection  
    Benjamin R. Nichols papers [series]
    Correspondence from Harvard College,  1800-1804
    Correspondence from Boston,  1824-1831
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    • 13
    College Students
    • 1, 2, 6
    College students--Attitudes
    • 4, 8
    College Students--Conduct of life
    • 3-5, 7, 8
    Commercial Gazette (newspaper)
    • 5
    Communicable diseases
    • 4
    • 9
    • 9, 15, 16
    Fathers and Sons
    • 1, 5
    Harvard College--Students
    • 1-8, 10
    • 4, 6
    • 11
    • 14
    Student expulsion
    • 3
    Student housing
    • 2, 10
    Student societies
    • 7
    Student strikes
    • 3, 4
    • 13, 14
    • 13, 14