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Ames Family Collection

 Record Group
Identifier: AFC

Scope and Contents

The Ames Family Collection is comprised of approximately 300 linear feet of archival records which document the Ames family of Easton, Massachusetts. The family’s multifaceted business enterprises extended beyond their well-known core business, manufacturing shovels. The Ames Family Collection complements the Stonehill Industrial History Center’s Arnold B. Tofias Industrial Archives, which documents the family’s shovel manufacturing businesses and the development of the town of Easton and other towns where Ames had manufacturing facilities.

The Ames Family Collection documents the investments, business dealings, and estates of several generations of Ameses. However, most of the enterprises originate with investments of Frederick L. Ames (1835-1893), the trustees of his estate, and his heirs, particularly his children, F. Lothrop Ames (1876-1921) and Oliver Ames (1864-1929). The materials continue to document heirs through the 1950s. The Ames Family Collection reflects the fact that large estates, like those of Frederick L. Ames, operated for many years past the death of their originator and operated much like modern corporate holding companies.

The Collection is divided into 6 series: 1. Specific Family Members – Non Estate Materials (75 linear feet) 2. Ames Estates, Trusts, and their Investments (165 linear feet) 3. Cambridge Lands (21 linear feet) 4. Copper Mining (36 linear feet) 5. Kinsley Iron and Machine Company (9 linear feet) 6. Ames History and Genealogy (3 linear feet)

Collection materials include correspondence, bills, invoices, cancelled checks, printed ephemera, stock and bond certificates, ledger books of various types, maps and plans, and a very small number of photographs and glass plate negatives. Paper based materials are both loose (now foldered and boxed) and bound. They include a diverse array of industrial, business, and real estate projects in addition to materials documenting personal and societal issues. There is some material related to the Shovel Company and the evolving family relationship with it and the physical plant in Easton, Massachusetts, particularly as the center of the company operations shifted away from Easton.


  • ca. 1830 - 1930


309 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into series:

  1. 1, Specific Family Members, Non Estate Materials
  2. 2, Ames Estates, Trusts, and Their Investments
  3. 3, Cambridge Lands
  4. 4, Copper Mining
  5. 5, Kinsley Iron and Machine Co.
  6. 6, Ames Genealogy

Custodial History

The Ames Family Collection was donated to Stonehill College in 2000 by Elizabeth M. Ames. Since that time small donations have been made by other family members to supplement the large collection donated by Mrs. Ames.

The group of material from Mrs. Ames had been stored in the basement of her home at 35 Oliver Street, Easton since 1992. The collection of material originated at the Ames [Office] Building at 1 Court Street in Boston where the Ames family’s various enterprises were managed. In 1981 these materials were moved from two large walk-in vaults at the Ames Building to the hay barn at Langwater Farm at 250 Main Street in Easton. They were stored in the barn for a few months until the collection was moved to a rental storage facility where they were located for about ten years before being moved to 35 Oliver Street.

None of these locations provided a proper climate for archival storage. In addition most items had been placed in acidic, brown moving boxes which had deteriorated due to dirt, humidity, and the weight of boxes stacked on top of one another. The boxes closest to the floor and walls suffered the greatest damage due to high humidity and poor air circulation. A few items were damaged irreparably to the point that even identification was impossible. Such items were disposed.

In winter 2000 Stonehill staff moved the collection from Oliver Street to the former squash court adjacent to Stonehill’s Donahue Hall for storage and preliminary processing. Although there was no climate control in that space, it was relatively stable and a large dehumidifier was added to limit high humidity. The collection dried out there which stopped mold growth. Basic sorting into major record series was completed. Particularly moldy items (27 cubic feet) which were identified when the collection was boxed at 35 Oliver Street were left unaddressed until summer 2003 at which time they were cleaned by Munter’s Corporation. From late 2001 through spring 2002 approximately 30 boxes at a time were taken to the Industrial History Center preservation workshop for processing by SIHC staff. In June 2003 the remainder of the collection (approximately 60 boxes) were moved to the SIHC workshop where they were stored on pallets. Processing was completed in early June 2005, except for items obtained in a second round of collecting in Fall 2005.

Also, a small group of additional letters were added to the Ames Family Collection by Elizabeth Ames in 2006. This group had been seperated from the main collection. Placed within Frederick Lothrop Ames materials ( - .24) 152 letters comprised of 201 pages were added to the Ames Family Collection with this additional donation.

In processing this collection Industrial History Center staff have done their best to maintain the original provenance and order of the collection. However the ability to do so was limited by the fact that the collection had been moved and re-boxed a number of times, its poor condition, and the questionability of the integrity of the provenance as early as its initial move from the Ames Building. Therefore, in many cases it was necessary to impose a new arrangement on sections of the collection in order to provide any logical order that would allow researchers to access the collection. Additional information is provided in sub-sections, below.

Some efforts were made to enhance preservation during collection processing and re-housing. Metals such as paperclips, staples, and other fasteners were removed and replaced with non-corroding paperclips when necessary. Most items were cleaned lightly, when required, with dust-collection cloths, brushes, and a HEPA vacuum. Some items that were more heavily soiled or molded were cleaned with dry cleaning sponges and/or erasers in addition to being brushed and vacuumed. A small portion of the collection which suffered extensive mold damage was treated by an outside contractor, first with freeze drying, then with similar dry-cleaning methods, as noted above.

All collection items, except for a few very large volumes, were placed in acid-free archival boxes. Some large volumes were placed in custom-made archival enclosures. All loose papers were placed in acid-free folders, which are now in boxes. Some tri-folded items, such as vouchers and some narrow papers, have been stored in archival Hollinger boxes without folders. Oversized items, such as plans, are stored in large folders and large archival boxes. Some particularly fragile items were encapsulated, although they were not deacidified.

Ames Family Collection
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Stonehill Special Collections Repository

Stonehill College Archives, 320 Washington St
Easton MA 02357 United States