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Almy, Butler, and Robson Family Papers, 1804-1982

Identifier: MSS 664

Scope and Content Note

The Almy, Butler, and Robson Papers consist of documents pertaining to various members of the Almy, Butler, and Robson families, all of whom were related by blood or marriage. The collection consists predominantly of personal correspondence between family members and close friends; however, the collection also contains photographs, ephemera from travels, cards, drawings, shipping papers, writing samples both written by and about family members, court papers, tax records, and baby hair. The collection contains documents in English, French, and German.

Series I. Almy Family contains papers relating to the members of the Almy family prior to the marriage into the Butler family. These papers include personal correspondence between James Fergus Almy and his brother Hiram Almy, who died in action during the Civil War, and guardianship papers of Dorothy Almy, one of two daughters of James F. Almy and his second wife, Emma Atkinson Almy.

Series II. Butler Family contains papers relating to the members of the Butler family after the marriage of Helen J. Almy and Frank Roscoe Butler. Subseries A. Elizabeth K. (Butler) Frothingham relates to Elizabeth "Libby" Butler, the third child of Warren and Helen Butler. This subseries is further divided into five sub-subseries. Sub-subseries 1. Personal Correspondence contains personal correspondence to Elizabeth from 1932 and 1975. Sub-subseries 2. European Trip Ephemera contains material from Elizabeth's 1948 European vacation. Sub-subseries 3. Salem Redevelopment Authority includes SRA meeting minutes and a copy of the Historical District Study Committee report on Salem to which she contributed research. Sub-subseries 4. Historic Preservation includes Elizabeth's work with Historic Salem Inc., notes and newsletters on both local and national historical houses and districts, historical documents from the early 19th century, correspondence relating to Elizabeth "discovering" the Gedney House of Salem, and zoning maps of the downtown districts of Salem. Sub-subseries 5. Other includes: an edited manuscript of "The Little Locksmith", a memoir of Katharine Butler Hathaway, Elizabeth's mother, written by Whitfield Cook and published in 1959; middle school reports of her son Jonathan Reardon; papers relating to the Daughters of the American Revolution; and photographs.

Subseries B. Frank R. Butler contains personal correspondences with family members and friends. Subseries C. Helen J. (Almy) Butler contains correspondence, mostly from her husband and children and drawings by her children. Subseries D. Warren H. Butler contains correspondence and personal writings. Subseries E. Katharine E. Butler Hathaway contains correspondence and a story. Subseries F. Lurana N. Butler, Subseries G. Helen H. Glover Butler, Subseries H. Jonathan Glover Butler (1917-1984), and I. Jonathan Almy Reardon (born 1957) all contain correspondence.

Series III. Robson Family contains papers pertaining to the Robson family, related through Lurana Newcomb Bigelow Almy. This series contains predominantly photographs of the Robson family; however the series also includes personal correspondence and papers relating to the family's connection to the Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church in Salem.

Series IV. Other Families consists of papers from the Alley and Pousland families, related through Helen H. Glover Butler (1890-1985), shipping papers from Captain William Pousland, correspondence from Captain Pousland's wife, Catherine, some Williams family papers, a letter from Charles Sanders to his grandfather, some genealogy, and more.


  • Creation: 1804-1982

Restrictions on Access

Box 7, folder 2 is restricted due to personal identifying information. The reels in box 23 cannot be accessed due to their format. The rest of the collection is open for research use.

Biographical Sketches

James Fergus Almy (1833-1899), son of Samuel Holder and Julia Elma Almy, was a Quaker who moved to Salem, Massachusetts, from North Adams, Massachusetts, and started a dry goods store. Lurana Newcomb Bigelow (1827-1880) moved to Salem from Stowe, Vermont, and opened a millinery store. They married in 1857 and the Almy's, Bigelow and Washburn store opened in 1858 at 156 Essex Street; two years later it moved to 188 Essex Street. In 1889, James married Emma Seecombe Atkinson (1856-after 1930). They had two daughters: Dorothy Bowerman (born 1890) and Alice Fidelia (born 1892). James died in 1899 in Salem.

James and Lurana had one daughter, Helen Julia Almy (1858-1936). She married Frank Roscoe Butler (1860-1905) in 1886 and they had four children: Fergus Almy (1887-1983); Warren Hathaway (1889-1974); Katharine Eliza (1890-1942); and Lurana Newcomb (1894-1983).

Warren Hathaway Butler (1889-1974), son of Frank R. and Helen J. Butler, married Helen Harris Glover (1890-1985) in 1914 and they had three children: Jonathan Glover (1917-1984); Harriet Hathaway (1919-1973), and Elizabeth Keats (1923-1983). Warren ran the department store business from the 1920s into the 1950s. In 1951, the Almy family sold the department store business to the Gorin family who ran the chain until 1985 when Almy's merged with the Stop & Shop Corporation; in February 1987, Stop & Shop Corporation announced that its Almy's division, comprising 19 department stores in the Northeast, would cease operations in May.

Elizabeth K. Frothingham (1923-1983), daughter of Warren and Helen Butler, was born and raised in Salem. She was a graduate of Smith College. She was married twice, to Robert Reardon (1913-1964) and Theodore Frothingham III (1918-1996), and had one son, Jonathan Almy Reardon (born 1957). She was active in the historic preservation movement in Salem and was President of Historic Salem, Inc.

Members of the Robson family are relatives of the Almy and Butler families through Lurana Newcomb Bigelow (1827-1880), wife of James Fergus Almy. All three families have resided in Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts, through the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.


6.5 linear feet (10 boxes; 1 flat file)

Language of Materials



The Almy, Butler, and Robson Papers consist of documents pertaining to various members of the Almy, Butler, and Robson families, all of whom were related by blood or marriage.

Series List

SERIES I. Almy Family

SERIES II. Butler Family

  • A. Elizabeth K. (Butler) Frothingham (1923-1983)
    • 1. Personal Correspondence
    • 2. European Trip Ephemera
    • 3. Salem Redevelopment Authority
    • 4. Historic Preservation
    • 5. Other
  • B. Frank R. Butler (1860-1905)
  • C. Helen J. (Almy) Butler (1858-1936)
  • D. Warren H. Butler (1889-1974)
  • E. Katharine E. Butler Hathaway (1890-1942)
  • F. Lurana N. Butler (1894-1983)
  • G. Helen H. Glover Butler (1890-1985)
  • H. Jonathan Glover Butler (1917-1984)
  • I. Jonathan Almy Reardon (born 1957)

SERIES III. Robson Family

SERIES IV. Other Families

Physical Location

Phillips Library Stacks


The typescripts of Hiram H. Almy letters were donated by Elizabeth K. Frothingham on July 13, 1979. The rest of the material was donated in three separate accessions: by Helen H. Butler in 1982 (acc #2011.023); by Elizabeth K. Frothingham in 1985; and by Dan Randall and Phillip Gillespie in 2016 (acc #2016.018).

Bibliography and Related Collections

Hathaway, Katharine Butler. The Little Locksmith: A Memoir. London: Aurum Press, 2001.

Salem Public Library. "Almy's." Salem Links and Lore Wiki, Salem Public Library, 21 Dec. 2016,

"Grand lady recalls Almy's", Salem Evening News, Feb. 2, 1985, p.1

Processing Information

Collection processed by Rachel Sherman and Tamara Gaydos, September 2017.

Processed by: Rachel Sherman and Tamara Gaydos; 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