Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Mary Jane Hale Welles Papers, 1846-1848

Finding aid created by
Rachel K. Onuf, June 1998

Summary Information
Title: Mary Jane Hale Welles papers
Creator: Welles, Mary Jane Hale
Inclusive dates: 1846-1848
Extent: 6 items
Mary Jane Hale married Gideon Welles in 1835 and had at least three children. These six letters from Mary Jane to her mother primarily discuss her children's illnesses and exploits, and her social life in Washington D. C.
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:

1994. M-3021.3.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Mary Jane Hale Welles Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


Mary Jane Hale grew up in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, with her mother, Jane M. Hale, and at least two siblings, Reuben and Elias, who suffered from consumption. Mary Jane married Gideon Welles on June 16, 1835, and they had at least three children: Anna Jane, Tom, and Edgar. At the time these letters were written, the Welles family lived on H street, between 9th and 10th, in Washington, D.C., and Gideon was Chief of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing for the Navy. He would go on to serve as Lincoln's and then Johnson's Secretary of the Navy.

Collection Scope and Content Note

These six letters from Mary Jane Hale to her mother primarily discuss her children's illnesses and exploits, and her social life in Washington D. C. She also solicited her mother for news about her brothers and friends from home. Her letters rarely described anything in detail, probably because she was often writing from the midst of her family, with a "great noise" and "so much confusion" all around her.

Although she often mentioned charitable work, Mary Jane did not appear to take an active part in organizing either church benefits or the work at the nearby Female Orphan Society. She did apply to adopt a girl in 1847, but when the first applicants were refused, the Asylum managers thought it better not to place the girl at all, in order not to further offend the rejected applicants. Even with the help of two young women, caring for her family occupied her time entirely. When she could, she strolled on the grounds of the Capitol, and once went to hear John C. Calhoun speak, "though I scarce know how to take the time" ([1848 May 15]).

Mary Jane's most extended description was of the May Ball put on by her daughter's dancing school, which had been going on in D. C. "from time immemorial almost" (1848 May 5). She detailed the roles the girls played, the dresses, the flowers, and the procession. Mary Jane also wrote a sustained description of the cameo she had carved in her husband's likeness, which "looks as if it might speak. it is actually a better likeness than anything I ever saw. only think how valuable!" (1847 May 7).

She always referred to her husband as "Mr. Welles," and although little of his character comes through, they appear to have had a happy relationship. She told her mother that when she sprained her foot, her husband "insisted upon carrying me down to my meals, which I think was very unnecessary, but he made believe the victuals tasted better with me in sight," (1848 January 12). She also noted that Mr. Welles "would much rather see me reading" than doing fancy work.

Subject Terms

    • Female Orphan Asylum.
    • Washington (D.C.)--Description and travel.
    • Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs.
    • Women in charitable work.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Mary Jane Hale Welles papers,  1846 December 17-1848 December 26 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data


    • Hale, Jane M.
    • Welles, Mary Jane Hale
    Partial Subject Index
    • 1847 May 7
    Balls (Parties).
    • 1848 May 5
    Brisbane, William Henry, ca 1803-1878.
    • 1847 May 7
    Burns and scalds.
    • 1846 December 17
    Calhoun, John C. (John Caldwell), 1782-1850.
    • [1848 May 13]
    • 1847 May 7
    Female Orphan Asylum.
    • passim
    Hale family.
    • passim
    • 1847 May 7
    May Day.
    • 1848 May 5
    • [1848 May 13]
    Parent and child.
    • passim
    Polk, James K. (James Knox), 1795-1849.
    • 1847 May 7
    • 1847 May 7
    • 1848 January 12
    • [1848 May 13], 1848 December 26
    Union Benevolent Society.
    • 1848 January 12
    Washington (D.C.)--Description and travel.
    • passim
    Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs.
    • passim
    Welles, Anna Jane.
    • passim
    Welles, Edgar.
    • passim
    Welles, Gideon, 1802-1878.
    • passim
    Welles, Tom.
    • passim
    Women in charitable work.
    • passim