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Adams Family papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0010

Scope and Content

The Adams Family Papers (1618-2008, undated) contains correspondence, writings, diaries, newspaper clippings, the family bible and biographical materials. The biographical materials include newspaper clippings, journals, and diaries of the family members.

The first section features the correspondence of Reverend Samuel Newbury, Mary Sergeant Newbury, Thomas J. Newbury, Mary Newbury Adams, and Austin Adams. The letters of Mary Newbury Adams feature her experiences at Troy Female Seminary, correspondence with her sister Frances, and numerous family social events.

The second section contains correspondence of the following major characters: Mary Newbury Adams and her husband, Austin Adams; Bronson and Abby May Alcott; Mary's brothers Samuel S. Newbury and Egbert S. Newbury; Alvin Adams (cousin to Austin); Mary's sisters Frances Newbury Bagley, Catherine Sedgewick, Newbury Robb, and Jeanette Bishop Newbury; and Mary's Aunt Jeanette Sergeant Ames Rice.

The third section includes the correspondence of Mary and Austin Adams' children: Annabel Adams Goan, J. Eugene Adams, Herbert F. Adams, and Cecilia Keeler Adams. Additional family letters between cousins, nieces, and nephews are also found in this section. This section contains Mary Newbury Adam's genealogical and biographical papers, original manuscripts, writings, diaries, and bible. Additional biographical information for Austin Adams can be found in Box 4, Folder 1.

The writings included both prose and poetry on a variety of topics by a variety of members of the Adams family, and for some of the writings it is unclear who the author is. However, most of the writings are by Austin and Mary Adams. Most of the diaries are by Mary Adams, but also included are journals of Annabel Adams and several without a clear author. The family bible includes the family register (dates and information on family members) at the front.

The family information (Series 2) contains information about members of the Adams family including articles, photographs, a family tree, biographical information, and an edited version of a piece written by Mary Adams' aunt, Jeanette Sergeant Ames Rice, called Tales That Have the Rime of Age - Our Family in the 1830's: A Gift to my Niece Frances on her Fiftieth Birthday.


  • 1618-2008, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Reverend Samuel Newbury (1802-1868), a Middlebury College graduate and Presbyterian from Vermont, came west to start churches and establish schools. In 1853, he and the family came to Dubuque, Iowa.

Mary Newbury Adams (1837-1901), third child of Reverend and Mrs. Samuel Newbury, was born in Peru, Indiana. Her maiden name was Mary Keeler Newbury. Her father was a firm believer in education for both sexes. When Mary was nineteen years of age, she was sent to Mrs. Willard's Female Seminary in Troy, New York, where she graduated in 1857. She married Austin Adams, a young lawyer and teacher, a few months later. Their home in Dubuque became an avant-garde salon for intellectuals of the period (1860's through 1880's). In 1866, Mrs. Adams became interested in women's suffrage and did much to promote it through writing and speaking. She was a member of the Association for Advancement of Women, the American Historical Association, vice chairperson of Women's Branch of the World's Congress Auxiliary of the Colombian Exposition, and numerous literary societies.

Mary Newbury Adams' husband, Austin Adams (1826-1890), came from Andover, Vermont, to Dubuque in 1854. He graduated from Dartmouth College and studied law at Harvard. He practiced law in Dubuque and was a member of the Supreme Court of Iowa (1876-1888) during which he served two terms as chief justice. He was a regent of the University of Iowa, lecturer at the Law School for twenty-nine years, president of the Board of Education of Dubuque, and also started the public library in Dubuque.

Aside from the correspondence of prominent persons such as A. Bronson Alcott, many of the family letters offer insight into the interests and concerns of three generations during the second half of the 19th century in America.

Reverend Samuel Newbury (1802-1868) m. (1832) Mary Ann Sergeant (1808-1863)


Frances Elizabeth Newbury (1833-1898) m. (1855) John Judson Bagley (1832-1881)

Samuel Sergeant Newbury (1835-1864) killed in battled on Welden Railroad, south of Petersburg, Virginia

Mary Ann Keeler Newbury (1837-1901) m. (1857) Austin Adams (1826-1890)

Elizabeth Margaret Newbury (1839-1841)

Catherine Sedgewick Newbury (1841-1873) m. (1861) Patrick Robb (d. 1867)

Egbert Starr Newbury (1843-1880) m. Francis Maria Kellogg

Jeanette Bishop Newbury (1846-1895)

Children of Mary Newbury Adams and Austin Adams

Annabel Adams (b. 1858)

Eugene "Jerry" Adams (b. 1860)

Herbert Francis Adams (b. 1863)

Cecilia Keller Adams (b. 1865)


2.94 Linear Feet (in 7 document boxes)


The collection is organized into two series:

Series 1, Correspondence, Writings and Diaries (1618-1946, undated)

Series 2, Family information (1948-1976, undated)


Digital reproductions of a selection of materials from the Adams Family papers are available electronically. Please see the Electronic Resources section for a link.

Related collection materials

Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives also holds the following publication in its rare books collection:

Adams, Austin. Classical learning as an element of modern scholarship: an address delivered before the Erosophian Society of Lombard University, on Tuesday, June 18th, 1867. Dubuque, Iowa: Barnes & Ryan, Printers: Times Book and Job Printing House, 1867. (LC1003.A33 1867)

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0010. Adams Family papers, 1618-2008, undated
February 26, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672