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Bodman family papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00232

Scope and Contents

The Bodman Family Papers consist of 24 linear feet of biographical material, correspondence, diaries, financial and business records, genealogical research material, legal documents, memorabilia, photographs, writings, and miscellaneous papers of ten generations of Bodman family members dating from 1687 to 1980. The bulk of the material dates from the 1840s through the 1910s. The papers are an extremely rich source for the study of United States social history, providing a long-term look at an American family.

The earliest material (1680s-1830s) documents rural New England life primarily through financial records and legal instruments. Beginning in the 1830s such material is augmented by family and business correspondence documenting daily life and business ventures in New England and the Midwest.

By the 1880s, with few Bodmans remaining in New England, the geographical center of the papers shifts to New York and the Midwest. For the period 1880-1920, family correspondence makes up a significant portion of the material, while business and financial records appear in much greater bulk than in the preceding generations, particularly in the papers of Edward Cushman Bodman (generation VI). These materials are supplemented with diaries, memorabilia, photographs, writings, and papers relating to the service during World War I of Herbert Luther, Sr., and Theodora (Dunham) Bodman (generation VII).

The largest portion of the material from the period 1920 to 1980 is genealogy and family correspondence. In addition, there are a number of line-a-day and travel diaries, photographs, scrapbooks and other memorabilia, plus personal financial records.

Family history has long been of interest to the Bodmans. Genealogical research material and notes can be found in the papers of Clara Philena Bodman (generation VI), Ida (Berdan) Bodman (generation VI), George Milmine Bodman (generation VII), Henry Edward Bodman (generation VII), Henry Taylor Bodman (generation VIII), and Herbert Luther, Jr. and Ellen-Fairbanks (Diggs) Bodman (generation VIII).

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1687 - 1980
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1840-1920


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The Sophia Smith Collection owns copyright to the unpublished writings of Bodman family members. Copyright to materials created by other individuals may be owned by those individuals or their heirs or assigns. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights. Permission must be obtained from the Sophia Smith Collection to publish reproductions or quotations beyond "fair use."

Biographical / Historical

The history of this line of the Bodman family in the United States can be traced to John and Sarah Bodman, English immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the Great Migration of 1629-40. The Bodman Family Papers trace their descendants beginning with their son Joseph.

Joseph Bodman was raised in Boston. He first saw the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts in 1675 as a soldier in King Philip's War. He returned to the area to homestead in the early 1680s, eventually settling in Hatfield, where the family was to remain for almost 100 years. In the early 1770s, three of Joseph's great-grandsons left Hatfield for the new township of Williamsburg. Seventeenth and eighteenth century Bodmans supported themselves by combining artisanry with subsistence farming. In the nineteenth century the scarcity of good land and the uncertainties of farming in New England led some Bodmans to join the westward migration settling in New York, Ohio, and Illinois. Those that remained in the East tried new enterprises such as factory production at a sawmill and tannery in Williamsburg, shop keeping in Charlemont, and banking in Conway and Northampton.

Beginning in the 1850s, investments in Illinois land led to family involvement in banking and grain merchandising that was to last well into the twentieth century. The firm of Milmine, Bodman and Co., founded in 1861 by Edward Cushman Bodman, grew from small-town bank (in Bement, Illinois) to international grain brokerage by the early 1890s.

In the mid-1970s, four Bodman cousins took an interest in their family's history and researched and wrote A Bodman Chronicle (1980). This book provides much biographical detail on Bodmans through the nineteenth century, plus genealogical charts and records for all known descendants of John and Sarah Bodman and should be consulted as a supplement to this description.


23.814 linear feet (50 containers)

Language of Materials



Papers cover 10 generations of the Bodman family, from small town New England farmers to Midwestern bankers and grain elevator owners. They are an extremely rich source for the study of U.S. social history, providing a long-term look at an American family. The earliest material documents rural New England life. Family and business correspondence documents the daily life and business ventures in the Midwest. Materials include diaries, photographs, writings, and papers relating to the service during World War I of Herbert Luther Sr., and Theodora (Dunham) Bodman.


The papers are arranged by generation. Within each generation, papers of individuals, groups of siblings, or married couples are filed alphabetically by first name of Bodman descendant. Where applicable, papers of married couples are divided into three sequences beginning with common property, which is followed by papers of the Bodman descendant and then those of his or her spouse. The material is arranged by type.

Photographs and negatives are filed in separate sequences following the papers. Images of or by Bodmans are arranged alphabetically. Other images are arranged by subject.

Oversize items are stored separately. Removal sheets are filed throughout the papers and a listing of the contents of the oversize boxes is available as part of the folder-title list following.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The majority of the material making up the Bodman Family Papers was the gift of Herbert Luther Bodman, Jr. and Ellen-Fairbanks (Diggs) Bodman in 1985. Additions to the papers came from Elizabeth Holden in 1985 and from Robert Edgar Bodman and Henry Taylor Bodman in 1987.

Additional material was donated by Lydia Bodman Vandenbergh (2011), Whitney Bodman (2014), and Richard W. Bodman (2014).

Additional Formats

Selections from the Bodman Family Papers can be viewed in the Web exhibit Across the Generations: Exploring U.S. History through Family Papers.

Related Material

See also the Dunham Family Papers. Researchers should note that there is material related to the Dunham and Bodman families in both collections and that there are cross-references to the Bodman Family Papers throughout the Dunham Family Papers inventory. The papers of Theodora Dunham Bodman are mostly located in the Bodman Family Papers except for her correspondence to her parents (filed under Mary Dows Dunham).

Processing Information

Processed by Maida Goodwin, 1986.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Bodman family papers
Finding Aid
Maida Goodwin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss4 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:18-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2021-07-07: Content description added from accession inventories

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063