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Smith Brothers student letters

Identifier: M219

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Scope and Content

Consists of fifty-one letters and three Bowdoin term bills, written by students Joseph, Samuel, and Henry Smith. Samuel, a Harvard student, sent thirty-one letters home beginning March 24, 1850 and ending June 16, 1854. His brother, Joseph, a Bowdoin student, sent twelve home, beginning April 16, 1850, and ending March 14, 1854. Henry (H.W.F.) Smith sent eight letters home, mostly as a youth working in Boston but later as a student in Yarmouth, Maine. His first letter is dated May 3, 1853 and his last, October 23, 1854. Most of these letters were written to their father, the Hon. Samuel E. Smith, Sr., of Wiscasset, Maine, although a few were written to their mother. The letters are affectionate, sanguine, and day-to-day, revealing a fine picture of ante-bellum college life. The first two Bowdoin term bills (for Joseph) are for the spring semester, 1853, and the last is for fall, 1853. Joseph's bills include specific charges such as tuition, board, repairs, and wood. Topics in Joseph's letters include Franklin Pierce and presidential politics (1852), smallpox in Brunswick (1851), the interior painting of the Bowdoin College Chapel, the teaching of mathematics, and College expenses.


  • Creation: 1850-1854


Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Biographical/Historical Note

Joseph Emerson Smith, the son of the Honorable Samuel E. Smith (Bowdoin Class of 1839), was born March 19, 1835, and was a member of Bowdoin's class of 1854. Joseph had two brothers: Samuel E. Smith, Jr., a student at Harvard, and Henry W.F. Smith, who worked in Boston and later went to school in Yarmouth, Maine. All hailed from Wiscasset, Maine.

Joseph later became an attorney in Wiscasset, and then Chicago, Illinois, where he later served in the Illiois legislature from 1877-1878. He died on June 16, 1881, leaving behind his third wife, Amelia M. Bowie, and their two children.


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Consists of fifty-one letters and three Bowdoin term bills, written by students Joseph (Bowdoin Class of 1854), Samuel (Harvard), and Henry Smith. Letters are primarily addressed to their father Hon. Samuel E. Smith, Sr., of Wiscasset, Maine and reveal an interesting window into ante-bellum college life.

Guide to the Smith Brothers Student Letters
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011 Repository

3000 College Station
Brunswick Maine 04011 USA
(207) 725-3288