John Alston autobiography  1789-1932 (bulk 1789, 1811)
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Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection contains approximately 155 items related to the Hillard family and Low family of New York and Boston, including correspondence, documents, photographs, poetry, ephemera, and pamphlets. Family members wrote around one-third of the approximately 110 letters and typescripts, as well as 35 pages from a letter book, while living and working in China in the mid-1800s. Other letters and additional material concern the families' social and business lives in New York and Massachusetts throughout the 19th century. The families were related by marriage.

The Correspondence series contains the following subseries: Manuscript Correspondence, Edward Low Letter Book, and Low Family Typescripts.

The Manuscript Correspondence subseries contains around 100 items related to the Hillard and Low families. "Caroline," a friend of Harriet Low, wrote letters to Harriet in New York City from Macau, China, in 1834 and 1835. Caroline commented on aspects of her life abroad, such as William Napier's arrival from Great Britain and the difficulty of having goods shipped from the United States. Other early correspondence includes personal letters between members of the Low family, who often wrote from Boston about family news and their social lives.

Francis (Frank) A. Hillard wrote 25 letters to his parents and siblings between June 1844 and July 1846, including 2 while traveling onboard the ship Honqua and 23 while living in Canton (now Guangzhou) and Macau, China. He described many aspects of his everyday life and of his career as a merchant, and provided detailed accounts of scenery, people, customs, and local news. He also commented on his experiences as a foreigner living abroad. After returning to the United States and settling in Brooklyn, New York, he corresponded with his brother Oliver, to whom he wrote approximately 30 letters between 1847 and 1853. Frank discussed his mercantile career and social life, which included interactions with members of the Delano family. The bulk of the correspondence ends in 1853.

Abiel Abbot Low wrote 4 letters to his wife Ellen on June 12, 1841, and from June 28, 1845-August 21, 1845. In his first letter, he described his travels in northern New York along the Erie Canal. Low's letter of June 28, 1845, pertains to his transatlantic voyage to Manchester, England, on the Great Western : he discussed his fellow passengers, his leisure activities on the ship, and his reunion with his sister Harriet and her children. The final 2 items (August 16, 1845, and August 21, 1845) concern Low's life in New York City after his return from England; he provided news of acquaintances and briefly mentioned the possibility of war with Mexico.

The subseries contains a letter Frank received from his brother Oliver, who provided news of United States politics (June 9, 1846), a letter from a girl named Hattie to her mother that mentions a sermon by a "Mr. Longfellow" [1864?], and a letter and membership card from the New York State Woman Suffrage Association sent to Mary Loines (September 21, 1895).

The Edward Low Letter Book is comprised of 35-pages of retained copies of letters that Low wrote to various family members, including William Henry and Abiel Abbot, while living in Macau, China, from May to September 1842. He discussed his life and work in China, as well as the Chinese economy and current events.

A group of Low Family Typescripts contains 12 letters exchanged by members of the Low family between 1829 and 1841, accompanied by a table of contents and a letter about the original material, dated 1935. The location of the original letters is unknown. Harriett Low wrote the first 9 letters between 1829 and 1834, while traveling in the Pacific and living in Macau, China. She told her mother and sister of her life onboard steamships and about her loneliness, caused by separation from her family in the United States. The remaining 11 letters include items by Frank and William Henry Low concerning their travels to China and around the Pacific region. They also commented on financial affairs.

The Documents series has 2 subseries: Legal and Financial Documents (5 items) and Passports (2 items). Included are an indenture between John Hillard, Harriet Low, and Seth Low (November 1, 1836); 4 receipts (August 1894-March 9, 1896, and undated); and passports for John Hillard (1842) and George Stillman Hillard (1859). Each passport is housed in a leather wallet.

The Photographs series contains 3 cartes-de-visite of Samuel Stillman and Rebecca Allen Stillman, as well as 3 card photographs of George Stillman Hillard.

Poetry and Other Writings (10 items) are comprised of 3 small poems, including one Francis A. Hillard wrote for his brother Oliver; 1 long poem entitled "The Tale" (27 pages); a preface and notes concerning the preparation of a work on the Low family papers; 3 loose pages and 1 packet of notes; and a 2-page prose draft.

The Genealogy series holds a 25-page document with genealogical information about the Hillard family and associated families.

Printed Items are divided into 3 subseries. Printed Ephemera (4 items) includes an illustrated envelope for the company Fritz and Dean, a business card for John B. Hillard, an image of George S. Hillard, and a bookplate for items bequeathed to the Massachusetts Historical Society by James Savage. The Currency (13 items) was all issued in North America between 1770 and 1780. Three of the four published Pamphlets were written by George Stillman Hillard between 1843 and 1852. The final pamphlet is a copy of "A Clipper Ship and Her Commander" (1924).

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