This collection is made up of correspondence written and received by members of the Dall family of Boston, Massachusetts. Eighty-eight letters concern the friendship and courtship of Sarah Keene Dall and her future husband, Josiah Munro, between 1867 and 1870. Dall wrote approximately 680 letters to her brother William about her life in Buffalo, New York, 1874-1907. Reverend Charles Dall wrote 10 letters and postcards to Sarah Keene and William Dall when he worked as a missionary in India in the early 1880s. Caroline Healey Dall received approximately 65 letters from friends in the early 20th century. The papers also include 3 receipts, 1 cyanotype photograph, an original illustration, a newspaper clipping, and Caroline Healey Dall's 1898-1907 commonplace book.
The first 88 letters in the Correspondence series relate to the friendship and courtship between Sarah Keene Dall ("Sadie") and Josiah Munro, including 68 letters he received from Sarah and 18 he received from her mother, Caroline Healey Dall. Sarah wrote many of her letters from Baltimore, Maryland, and Boston, Massachusetts, and she regularly corresponded with Josiah about her social life and daily experiences. She spent much of her time traveling, and her letters include observations about steamboat travel in Ohio (May 23, 1868) and about travel around the South. Occasionally, particularly in her earlier letters, she commented on women's affairs and feminist subjects, including women's suffrage and the general difficulties faced by women who wanted to work outside the home. Three of her letters contain enclosures: a newspaper clipping about commemoration of Confederate Civil War casualties (October 16, 1867), a four-leaf clover (October 23, 1867), and two pieces of fabric (October 28, 1869).
Sarah's mother, Caroline Healey Dall, strongly opposed Sarah and Josiah's courtship and engagement. She wrote Munro 7 times between April 2 and April 26, 1870, requesting that he make his intentions clear and discuss the matter with her and with Sarah. Dall claimed that her daughter wished to wait to become engaged, though Sarah told Munro she preferred to marry before the winter (April 11, 1870). The letters surrounding the tense situation provide insight into aspects of late-19th century romantic customs. Munro also received a sympathetic letter of support from William Dall, his future brother-in-law (April 24, 1870), and a friendly letter from his sister Mary (July 31, 1870).
The bulk of the collection consists of approximately 680 letters William Dall received from his sister, Sarah Dall Munro, and mother, Caroline Healey Dall, between 1874 and 1907. Sarah wrote the majority of the letters while living in Buffalo, New York, and regularly shared news of her social life, travel, and daily experiences. Many of her letters concern housekeeping duties, charity work, and her sons, Willis and Charles. The letters also indirectly reflect William's life and travels around the United States and Europe, and occasionally provide insight into current events, such as the procession of President William McKinley's funeral train through Buffalo (September 11, 1901). William's mother wrote similar letters, though with less frequency. She commented on her life and provided family news. Josiah Munro, William's brother-in-law, sent him at least two letters.
Reverend Charles Dall wrote to Sarah and William while living in Calcutta, India, where he worked as a Unitarian missionary. His ten letters include a letter to Sarah dated November 22, 1872, and 9 postcards to William and his wife Nettie between January 2, 1882, and August 31, 1883. Dall's correspondence focuses on his travel between North America and India, and occasionally regards the local weather. He also often requested news of life in Boston and of his family.
Between 1911 and 1912, Caroline Healey Dall received approximately 65 personal letters from her daughter Sarah and from friends and acquaintances, largely pertaining to their social and personal lives. She also received letters of appreciation from libraries, acknowledging her donations of manuscripts or books.
Two later letters are a personal letter addressed to "Mattie" by a woman named Annie in Santa Barbara, California (September 12, 1922), and a letter from Charles Whitney Dall to Willis Dall (June 15, 1942). Charles W. Dall's letter pertains to a group of Dall family papers, including many letters written by his father and his aunt Sarah, that were moved away from Washington, D. C., to protect them in the event of a bombing raid against the capital. An undated, typed newsletter titled "Our Weekly Boston letter," pertains to anniversaries being celebrated throughout the city and to President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Receipts, Visual Materials, and Newspaper Clipping series holds 1 newspaper clipping concerning the commemoration of Sigourney Butler of Boston, Massachusetts; 3 receipts from E. Rollins Morse & Brother to Merchant's National Bank (June and July 1889); 1 cyanotype titled "Our tent. The Dunbars"; and a small drawing of a building in San Michael (San Miguel), New Mexico.
Caroline Healey Dall's Commonplace Book , dated 1898-1907, contains copied poetry, essays, and articles. Though a few early poems were written in the early 1800s, most date to the 1890s, and they concern a variety of subjects, such as memorials, nature, religion, and Theodore Roosevelt. She also recorded 8 pages of thoughts on criticism of William Shakespeare, biographical notes on prominent figures, and an essay on child marriages. Two poems and an article are clipped from printed sources and pasted into the book.