The privileged son of an immensely wealthy mercantile family from Boston, Charles Russell Codman was born in Paris on October 28th, 1829. From an early education with private tutors through his attendance at Harvard law school, from which he graduated in 1852, Codman traveled in elite social and economic circles. Like many of the sons of the upper crust, it was de rigeur that he take a grand tour of Europe following graduation. From October, 1852, through September, 1853, he spent nearly a full year traveling through Britain, France, Italy, and Germany, with trips through Austria, Switzerland and the Low Countries, imbibing the culture, seeing the sights, and improving his mind.
After returning from Europe, Codman practiced law for only a short while, turning instead to the management of his father's property and affairs. He also devoted a great deal of time and energy to public service. During the Civil War, he raised the 45th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, serving as its colonel from 1862 through 1864. He held political office several times, serving as a member of the Boston school commission in 1861-62, as a member of the Massachusetts state Senate, 1864-66, and as a member of the state House of Representatives, 1872-76, during which time he was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Codman opposed James G. Blaine's nomination as the Republican candidate for the Presidency in 1884, and became an ardent supporter of the Mugwump faction. Outside of his political life, Codman was elected as an overseer of Harvard College in 1878, a position which he held for 9 years. In his later years he served as president or committee member for various organizations in and around Boston until his death on October 5th, 1918. He left his widow, Lucy Lyman Paine Codman, and 9 children.