Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Perkins Family Papers, 1784-1861

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Perkins family papers
Creator: Perkins family
Inclusive dates: 1784-1891
Bulk dates: 1784-1861
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
The Perkins family papers contain letters and documents concerning Benjamin and Jane (Lawrence) Perkins, of Roxbury, Massachusetts, and their relatives, primarily from the mid-19th 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:

1965, 2001, 2009. M-1350, M-1370, M-4160, M-4780.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Perkins family papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Perkins family papers are arranged into two series:

  • Correspondence
  • Compositions and Memorial Book


Benjamin Perkins was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on June 8, 1797, the son of David Perkins (1770-1859), a merchant, and Hannah Fabens (1771-1851). In 1823, he married Jane Lawrence (1799-1890), daughter of Abel Lawrence and Abigail Page, and they moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, and then to Boston, where Benjamin established the publishing firm of Perkins & Marvin. They had several children: Charles (1824-1887), who became a clerk in Plymouth, New Hampshire; Mary (1826-1891); Jane (b. 1829); Benjamin (b. 1831); and Francis (b. 1833). The family was affiliated with the Congregational church and Benjamin Perkins served for 40 years as Treasurer of the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Perkins family papers comprise 177 letters and 2 compositions, which date 1807-1861, as well as a memorial book, published in 1891, containing biographical information on Benjamin and Jane Perkins.,

The majority of the collection is composed of correspondence between Benjamin Perkins, his wife Jane, and their family members, particularly Jane's parents and the couple's children. Between 1835 and 1850, the family exchanged approximately 120 letters on a number of topics. In addition to sharing a great deal of detailed family news, many letters discuss education and reading; in his letter of December 28, 1840, Benjamin wrote to his son, Charles, "I feel very desirous that you should be in the habit of having some useful book in hand always, altho' you are not able to read much at a time." Mary described her boarding school, on June 14, 1841. Additional items mention lectures by geologist Charles Lyell at the Lowell Institute (October 19, 1841), the publishing business (January 27, 1842), and travel to New York City and Philadelphia.

Religion is also a frequent subject of the collection's correspondence, and many letters mention church attendance, charitable societies, and missionaries. On April 12, 1842, Mary Perkins wrote a letter concerning minister Edward Norris Kirk's visit to Roxbury and the crowds that he attracted, and stated "I like him a great deal better than any minister I ever heard before, and should be as happy as could be if he would settle here." Also included in the collection are several letters written by Thomas S. Childs, prominent clergyman and future husband of Jane Perkins. In a letter of August 1, 1845, he discussed the situation of a minister whose congregation was "equally divided in regard to his remaining" because of his abolitionist tendencies.

This collection was originally thought to be related to the William and Isaac Perkins papers, but no connection between the two families has been found.

Subject Terms

    • Family life.
    • Kirk, Edward Norris, 1802-1874.
    • Lyell, Charles, Sir, 1797-1875.
    • Roxbury (Boston, Mass.)
    • Unitarianism.
    • Women--education.
    • Women and religion.
    • Childs, Susan.
    • Childs, Thomas S.
    • Lawrence, Abigail P.
    • Lawrence, Charles.
    • Perkins, Benjamin, 1797-1870.
    • Perkins, Jane Lawrence, 1799-1890.
    • Childs, Thomas S. (Thomas Spencer), 1825-1914.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Essays.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Correspondence [series]
     October 27, 1807-November 12, 1861 (32 folders)
     Undated (6 folders)
    Box   1  
    Compositions and Memorial Book [series]
    Notes on chemistry,  undated
    "I can conceive of no reason why any man should swear but often why he should not,"  undated
    In Memory: Benjamin Perkins and Jane Lawrence Perkins    [Note: Privately published, 1891.]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Ladies' Gleaning Circle of Newburyport records contain three letters from Benjamin Perkins, dated August 17, 1840; August 26, 1843; and December 10, 1844.

    This collection was originally thought to be related to the William and Isaac Perkins papers, but no connection between the two families has been found.

    The Childs Collection, Library of Congress, contains photographs related to Thomas S. and Jane Childs.