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Whitman Family Papers

Identifier: MSS-4228

Content Description

The Whitman Family Papers contain correspondence, photographs, clippings, books, diaries, and memorabilia related to this prominent New England family, particularly the branch associated with Unitarian minister Jason Whitman (1799-1848). Approximately twelve files of correspondence, travel diaries, and notes document the activities of Jason’s son Bernard and his wife Minnie Hamilton Whitman, who lived in Brazil and Colombia in the 1870s and 1880s. Minnie Whitman wrote numerous letters from Pernambuco, Brazil, as well as a few from Rio de Janiero, describing her experience of Brazilian life to her mother, Mary Chase Hamilton, and other recipients. Some of the other travel materials in the collection recount observations of India. The photographs primarily depict people around the Boston, Massachusetts, area in the latter half of the nineteenth century, including members of the Whitman and Hamilton families. A few images represent individuals in South America or important family-related locations in New England.

The collection contains a patient symptom book that belonged to Dr. Martha F. Whitman, who received a medical degree in Boston in 1884. There are also Christian books and pamphlets by Jason and his brother Bernard Whitman (1796-1834); as well as memorabilia, financial documents, and genealogical materials related to the Whitman family in Massachusetts.


  • 1830-1950

Language of Materials

Materials are in English. A few items of correspondence are in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections.

For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical / Historical

The Whitman family of nineteenth-century New England traced its ancestry largely back to John Whitman, who emigrated from England to Weymouth, Massachusetts, around the 1630s and died in 1692. Notable descendants include Rev. Jason Whitman (1799-1848), who served as a Unitarian minister in Lexington, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine; and his brother, Rev. Bernard Whitman (1796-1834), a Unitarian minister in Waltham, Massachusetts. Jason Whitman married Mary Fairfield in 1832. They had five children. Their daughter Sarah Nason Whitman died in 1846 at age twelve. Another daughter, Martha Fairfield Whitman (1840-1884), received her medical degree in 1884 from Boston College and served as a physician at the Boston Conservatory of Music. Their son John Fairfield Whitman fought in the volunteer Navy during the US Civil War. Their other son, Bernard Whitman, married Minnie Chase Hamilton, daughter of a Boston merchant, in 1870. Bernard and Minnie Hamilton Whitman moved to Pernambuco, Brazil, where Bernard, an engineer, was involved in the construction of the Pernambuco Street Railway. He later took part in building a rail line in Colombia. He died in Bogota, Colombia, in 1885. After Bernard’s death, Minnie Whitman returned to the United States to live in Boston, where she gave lectures about South America to local societies. They had five children, including Sarah Nason Whitman (b. 1877).


2.6 Linear Feet


The Whitman Family Papers contain correspondence, diaries, photographs, clippings, books, and memorabilia related to the members of this prominent New England family, particularly Jason Whitman (1799-1848), a Unitarian minister in Portland, Maine, and Lexington, Massachusetts; and Bernard and Minnie Hamilton Whitman, who lived in Brazil and Colombia in the 1870s and 1880s while Bernard worked in South America as an engineer and street railway builder.


Files of correspondence are arranged at the beginning of the folder list, followed by other materials, and then photographs. Each grouping of materials appears in chronological order.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The University of Alabama Libraries acquired the Whitman Family Papers in 2018.

Related Materials

Hamilton, Samuel King. The Hamiltons of Waterborough (York County, Maine): Their Ancestors and Descendants. Privately printed. Boston: Press of Murray and Emery Company, 1912. (Contains photographs. Full text available online through the Internet Archive, --

Farnham, Charles H. History of the Descendants of John Whitman of Weymouth, Massachusetts, Vols. 1 and 2. New Haven, Connecticut: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, Printers, 1889.(Full text available online through the Internet Archive,; --

Rippy, J. Fred. “Dawn of the Railway Era in Colombia.” The Hispanic American Historical Review 23, no. 4 (1943): 650-663.

Processing Information

Processed by Erin Ryan, August 2018.
Guide to the Whitman Family Papers
Erin Ryan
August 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266