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Perley Family Papers, 1869-1975, undated

Identifier: MSS 680

Scope and Content Note

The Perley Family papers contain manuscripts, notes, research from and correspondence to Sidney (1858-1928), Harriet (1861-1945), Eleanor (1894-1974), and Richard Perley (1894-1982). This collection has been divided into three series.

Series I. Sidney and Harriet Perley Papers contains the papers of Sidney (1858-1928) and his wife Harriet Hood (Spofford) Perley (1861-1945), and has been divided into two subseries. Subseries A. Sidney Perley contains Sidney’s papers, and includes manuscripts, notes, research, news clippings, and correspondence. Subseries B. Harriet Perley contains two manuscripts by Harriet.

Series II. Eleanor and Richard Perley Papers contains the papers of Eleanor Spofford (1894-1974) and Richard Hood Perley (1898-1982). This series contains Eleanor’s correspondence, as well as her notes on genealogical research. Richard’s correspondence and collection of Salem Oratorio Society materials are included as well. While some of the Oratorio Society materials are dated before Richard became involved in the group, he appears to have collected materials from past performances and news clippings from choral events.

Series III. Other contains miscellaneous materials found in the collection. This includes programs, advertisements, and notes whose author could not be determined. Also included in this series are a manuscript and a journal written by Ellen Wood Spofford. There is also a manuscript, or parts of a few manuscripts, written by an unknown individual, about historic figures, religion, and ancient Persia.


  • Creation: 1869-1975, undated


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

Sidney Perley was born March 6, 1858, to Humphrey (1808-1901) and Eunice (Peabody) Perley, in Boxford, Massachusetts. In 1885/6, he graduated from Boston University’s law school, and was admitted to the bar that same year. He then moved to Salem, Massachusetts, where he practiced law.

Perley was very involved in civic causes; from 1881 to 1886, Perley acted as auditor for the town of Boxford, Massachusetts. From 1900-1903, and 1908-1911, he was a member of the Salem school board, and was interested in politics, having run for attorney general and mayor of Salem. He was president of the Hadley Rescue Mission, was a member of the Essex Institute, which he joined in 1881, and a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society of Boston. Perley was also the curator of history at the Essex Institute, until 1926, when he resigned.

His interest in genealogy, poetry, and New England history was said to have begun at age seventeen, and led to his publishing a number of books and articles. His works include: History of Boxford, Mass., 1884; Goodridge Memorial, 1884; Poets of Essex County, Mass., 1889; Historic Storms of New England, 1891; and Dwellings of Boxford, Mass., 1893. Perley’s books about the law include: Law of Interest, 1893; Adjudicated Forms, 1895; Mortuary Law, 1896; Practice in the Probate Court of Massachusetts, 1898; and Practice in Personal Actions in the Courts of Massachusetts, 1902.

He married Harriet "Hattie" Hood Spofford (1861-1945) in 1889. Both Sidney and Harriet were active in the Tabernacle Church in Salem where they taught Sunday school. They had two children: Eleanor Spofford (1894-1974) and Richard Hood (1898-1982). Perley died June 9, 1928.

Harriet "Hattie" Hood Spofford was born on December 10, 1861, to George Milton and Sarah (Peabody-Hood) Spofford, in Georgetown, Massachusetts. She attended the State Normal School in Salem, Massachusetts before teaching for several years in East Bridgewater and Carlisle. She appears to have been a writer as well. Harriet died in 1945.

Richard Hood Perley was born October 17, 1898, to Sidney (1858-1928) and Harriet (1861-1945) Perley. He was a member of the Salem Oratorio Society. Richard died January 22, 1982.


4.25 linear feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Perley Family papers contain manuscripts, notes, research from and correspondence to Sidney (1858-1928), Harriet (1861-1945), Eleanor (1894-1974), and Richard Perley (1894-1982).

Series List

SERIES I. Sidney and Harriet Perley Papers

  • A. Sidney Perley
  • B. Harriet Perley
SERIES II. Eleanor and Richard Perley Papers


Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The manuscript, Centenaries of New England, was a gift from Eleanor S. Perley on November 30, 1955, and was previously cataloged as Fam. Mss. 748. One box of Perley and Spofford family papers (Acc. 2011.025) was donated by Richard Perley. The rest of the materials were found in the collection

Bibliography and Related Collections Massachusetts, Death Index, 1901-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013. Massachusetts, Death Index, 1970-2003 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

"Deaths: Sidney Perley." Boston Herald, June 10, 1928, 5.

Perley, M. V. B. History and Genealogy of the Perley Family. Salem, MA: M. V. B. Perley, 1906.

"Salem History Causes Dispute: Sidney Perley, Noted Historian, Resigns as Curator of EssexInstitute." Worcester Telegram, March 6, 1926.

Related Collections

Letter to Sidney Perley, 1895, MSS 0.844

Photographs of Perley and Spofford families, 1900-1961, PHA 115

Processing Information

Collection processed by Hilary Streifer, August 2018.

PERLEY FAMILY PAPERS, 1869-1975, undated
Processed by: Hilary Streifer; machine-readable finding aid created by: Rajkumar Natarajan.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Phillips Library Repository

Peabody Essex Museum
306 Newburyport Turnpike
Rowley MA 01969 USA