Abbott family papers (1881-1922, bulk 1912-1922)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Meg Hixon, October 2011
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Abbott family papers
Creator: Abbott, Tracy
Inclusive dates: 1881-1922
Bulk dates: 1912-1922
Extent: 0.75 linear feet
The Abbott family papers consist primarily of the correspondence of Bessie Abbott, an aspiring singer and stage performer, written to her family during the early 20th century.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. 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

1997. M-3378.3.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation

Abbott Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged into two series:
  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Photographs and miscellaneous

The correspondence series is arranged chronologically, with undated items placed at the end.


Bessie Abbott, an aspiring vocalist from Long Beach, California, was born to Tracy and Linnie Abbott ca. 1887. Bessie married Stanley Howland sometime before 1907 and, in 1912, moved to Brooklyn to study voice; she became acquainted with local notables such as Irving Berlin. During a 1913 trip to Washington, D.C., to see Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, Bessie injured her hand, igniting an insurance dispute that she later dropped. After a brief return to California in 1914, Bessie left for Hawaii, where her musical career continued to progress. Returning again to California, Bessie focused more on instruction and on the business aspects of her career. During the early part of the 1920s, Bessie spent time traveling around Hawaii, the Philippines, and southeast Asia, visiting her brother Will and sister-in-law Nita.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Abbott family papers consist primarily of the correspondence of aspiring vocalist Bessie Abbott, written to her parents and other family members in the early 20th century.

The Correspondence series makes up the bulk of the collection, and covers the years 1881-1922. The earliest letters in the collection originated from a variety of Abbott family members and acquaintances. Of particular interest is an item describing Bessie and Stanley's time in a tent city in Coronado, Mexico (June 19, 1907). After 1912, Bessie was the primary correspondent, and in her letters she discussed aspects her life during her late 20s. In the personal, richly detailed letters from 1912-1914, Bessie described her time in Brooklyn, New York, where she studied with a vocal coach. In 1913, she took a vacation to Washington, D. C. for the Wilson inauguration, and, while there, injured her hand and, as a result, initiated an unsuccessful insurance dispute. After her return to California in 1914, Bessie wrote more frequently about her health and, after a subsequent move to Hawaii, her continued professional success. Following her stint in Hawaii, Bessie's correspondence focused more heavily on business interests, and, in a late series of letters written in the early 1920s, she wrote about her travels throughout southeast Asia, including visits to the Philippines and to Saigon.

Other correspondents represented in the collection include Will Abbott, Bessie's brother; Stanley Howland, Bessie's husband; and Tracy and Linnie Abbott, Bessie's parents.

The Photographs and miscellaneous series includes the following three items:
  • A photograph of an unidentified man, taken by Eduard Glaubach in Greifswald, Germany, on March 10, 1880
  • A Christmas card, signed by Billy Warren
  • A program from a music recital in Honolulu, Hawaii

Subject Terms

  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)--History.
  • Hawaii--History--1900-1959.
  • Long Beach (Calif.)
  • Musicians--United States.
  • Southeast Asia--Description and travel.
  • Abbott, Bessie M.
  • Abbott, William.
  • Howland, Stanley.
Genre Terms:
  • Christmas cards.
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Photographs.
  • Programs (documents)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   1  
 August 27, 1881-October 27, 1914 (12 folders)
Box   2  
 October 28, 1914-May 13, 1922, and  undated (5 folders)
Photographs and Miscellaneous [series]
Box   2  
 Undated (1 folder)