The Everett Family Letters, 1851-1859


Image courtesy of the South End Historical Society.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, the South End Historical Society’s Richard Card saved a shoebox of letters from destruction.¹ These letters provide a rare and personal view into the lives of a middle-class family in Boston’s South End in the decade leading up to the Civil War. They help us understand the conversations that Otis Blake Everett, young merchant working in Calcutta, had with his parents Otis and Elizabeth Everett. Some 167 letters, spanning the years 1851-1859, highlight the concerns and everyday life of the middle-class living in the South End and the life of a Boston man living and working in India.

This exhibit examines the Everett family in Boston’s South End neighborhood and middle-class life in Boston in the 1850s as they observe societal changes and discuss business, socializing, marriages, and deaths with their son.This exhibit follows the Everett family’s experience living in Boston’s unique South End neighborhood during the 1850s. During this critical decade in American history, the family described significant changes which shaped their neighborhood–and the city–permanently. Their discussions of business, socializing, marriages, and deaths provides a lens through which to observe middle-class life in Boston in the antebellum era.

This project represents a collaboration between the South End Historical Society and University of Massachusetts Boston’s M.A. in History candidate, Corinne Zaczek Bermon. Without the guidance of Dr. Monica Pelayo Lock and Dr. Marilyn Morgan, this project would have never come to fruition. A special thanks goes out to Lauren Prescott, Executive Director of the South End Historical Society, for making this project possible and allowing me to come spend time at the SEHS every Monday.

Next: The Everett Family Tree

¹ Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly when Richard Card came into possession of these letters but some notes he left behind leads me to believe they were recovered in the late 1970s or early 1980s.