The Boston Brahmin or Boston elite are members of Boston's traditional upper class. They form an integral part of the historic core of the East Coast establishment, along with other wealthy families of Philadelphia and New York City. They are often associated with the distinctive Boston Brahmin accent, Harvard University, Anglicanism and traditional Anglo-American customs and clothing. Descendants of the earliest English colonists, such as those who came to America on the Mayflower or the Arbella, are often considered to be the most representative of the Boston Brahmins.
The term was coined by the physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in an 1860 article in the Atlantic Monthly. The term Brahmin refers to the highest ranking caste of people in the traditional Hindu caste system in India. In the United States, it has been applied to the old, wealthy New England families of British Protestant origin which were influential in the development of American institutions and culture.
The term effectively underscores the strong conviction of the New England gentry that they were a people set apart by destiny to guide the American experiment as their ancestors had played a leading role in founding it. The term also illustrates the erudite and exclusive nature of the New England gentry as perceived by outsiders, and may also refer to their interest in Eastern religions, fostered perhaps by the impact in the 19th century of the transcendentalist writings of New England literary icons such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman, and the enlightened appeal of Universalist Unitarian movements of the same period.
Typical dress of the Boston elite
The nature of the Brahmins is hinted at by the doggerel "Boston Toast" by Holy Cross alumnus John Collins Bossidy:
- And this is good old Boston,
- The home of the bean and the cod,
- Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots,
- And the Cabots talk only to God.
While some 19th-century Brahmin families of large fortune were of bourgeois origin, still fewer were of a somewhat aristocratic origin. The new families were often the first to seek, in typically British fashion, suitable marriage alliances with those old aristocratic New England families that were descended from landowners in England to elevate and cement their social standing. The Winthrops, Dudleys, Saltonstalls, Winslows, and Lymans (descended from English magistrates, gentry, and aristocracy) were, by and large, happy with this arrangement. All of Boston's "Brahmin elite", therefore, maintained the received culture of the old English gentry, including cultivating the personal excellence that they imagined maintained the distinction between gentlemen and freemen, and between ladies and women. They saw it as their duty to maintain what they defined as high standards of excellence, duty, and restraint. Cultivated, urbane, and dignified, a Boston Brahmin was supposed to be the very essence of enlightened aristocracy. The ideal Brahmin was not only wealthy, but displayed what was considered suitable personal virtues and character traits.
The Brahmin was expected to maintain the customary English reserve in his dress, manner, and deportment, cultivate the arts, support charities such as hospitals and colleges, and assume the role of community leader.:14 Although the ideal called on him to transcend commonplace business values, in practice many found the thrill of economic success quite attractive. The Brahmins warned each other against avarice and insisted upon personal responsibility. Scandal and divorce were unacceptable. The total system was buttressed by the strong extended family ties present in Boston society. Young men attended the same prep schools, colleges, and private clubs, and heirs married heiresses. Family not only served as an economic asset, but also as a means of moral restraint. Most belonged to the Unitarian or Episcopal churches, although some were Congregationalists or Methodists. Politically they were successively Federalists, Whigs, and Republicans. They were marked by their manners and once distinctive elocution, the Boston Brahmin accent, a version of the New England accent. Their distinctive Anglo-American manner of dress has been much imitated and is the foundation of the style now informally known as preppy. Many of the Brahmin families trace their ancestry back to the original 17th- and 18th-century colonial ruling class consisting of Massachusetts governors and magistrates, Harvard presidents, distinguished clergy and fellows of the Royal Society of London (a leading scientific body), while others entered New England aristocratic society during the 19th century with their profits from commerce and trade, often marrying into established Brahmin families.
Selected Boston Brahmin
American statesman, Governor of Massachusetts, and founding father, Samuel Adams
Philanthropist, business magnate, namesake of Bates College, Benjamin Bates
Railroad executive and son of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, John Coolidge
Entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded the House of Morgan and the Peabody Institute, George Peabody
Other notable relatives:
Originally from Boston and Britain:
- Nathan Bradley I: earliest known member born in America, in Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts, in 1631
- Samuel Bradlee: constable of Dorchester, Massachusetts
- Nathaniel Bradlee: Boston Tea Party participant, member of Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association
- Josiah Bradlee I: Boston Tea Party participant; m. Hannah Putnam
- Josiah Bradlee III (Harvard): m. Alice Crowninsheld
- Frederick Josiah Bradlee I (Harvard): Director of the Boston Bank
- Joseph Putnam Bradlee (1783-1838), Commander of the New England Guards, chairman of the State Central Committee, Director and then President of the Boston City Council
- Samuel Bradlee, Jr.: lieutenant colonel during the American Revolutionary War
- Thomas Bradlee: Boston Tea Party participant; member of Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association; Member of the St. Andrews Lodge of Freemasons
- David Bradlee: Boston Tea Party participant; Captain in the Continental Army, member of the St. Andrews Lodge of Freemasons
- Sarah Bradlee: "Mother of the Boston Tea Party"
Originally of Hingham, Massachusetts:
Originally of Newbury and Nantucket:
Descendants by marriage:
Originally of Hingham, Massachusetts:
Descendant by marriage:
- Fabens Family
Of Marblehead and Salem:
- William Fabens (1810–1883): lawyer, member of Assembly, Senate
- Samuel Augustus Fabens (1813–1899): master mariner in the East India and California trade
- Francis Alfred Fabens (1814–1872): mercantile businessman, San Francisco judge, attorney
- Joseph Warren Fabens (1821–1875): U.S. Consul at Cayenne, businessman, Envoy Extraordinary of the Dominican Republic
- George Wilson Fabens (1857–1939): attorney, land commissioner and superintendent of Southern Pacific Railroad, namesake of Fabens, Texas
Originally of Essex county:
- Jonathan Gillett (1609–1677): colonist
- Edward Bates Gillett (1817–1899): Attorney
- Frederick Huntington Gillett (1851–1935): 37th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
- Arthur Lincoln Gillett (1859–1938): clergyman
- Mark Healey (1791–1872): originally of New Hampshire, merchant and first president of the Merchant's Bank
Descendant by marriage: Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856–1943): president of Harvard University
- John Ellerton Lodge, married Anna Cabot
- Richard Lyman (1580–1640): a founder of Hartford, Connecticut; cousin of Lord Mayor of London Sir John Lyman of the Lyman Baronets of England
- Roswell Lyman: China trade merchant, had an interest in The Ann & Hope
- Theodore Lyman (1753–1839): China trade merchant, commissioned Samuel McIntire to build one of New England's finest country houses, The Vale
- Theodore Lyman II (1792–1849): brigadier general of militia, Massachusetts state representative, mayor of Boston
- Theodore Lyman III (1833–1897): natural scientist, aide-de-camp to Major General Meade during the American Civil War, and United States congressman from Massachusetts
- Theodore Lyman IV (1874–1954): director of Jefferson Physics Lab, Harvard; eponym of the Lyman series of spectral lines. The crater Lyman on the far side of the Moon is named after him, as is the Lyman Physics Building at Harvard.
- George Williams Lyman (1786–1880): developed textile mills, director of the Boston and Lowell Railroad and the Columbian Bank, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company. His first wife was Elizabeth Gray Otis, the daughter of Harrison Gray Otis (U.S. senator and mayor of Boston) and Sally Foster Otis, prominent Bostonians who built a noted Federal-style mansion still standing.
- Arthur T. Lyman (1832–1915), and his sisters Sarah (Mrs. Philip H. Sears) and Lydia (Mrs. Robert Treat Paine)
- Arthur T. Lyman, Jr. (1861–1933): married Susan Cabot. Director and officer of textile manufacturing companies and the Massachusetts Life Insurance Company. Board member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Waltham Hospital. He was active in politics as president of the Democratic Club of Massachusetts, chairman of the State Democratic Committee.
Original from Watertown, Massachusetts
- Peter Palfrey (1611-1663): one of the founders of Salem, Salem representative to the first General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony
- William Palfrey (1741-1780): American patriot, Aide-de-camp to George Washington, chief clerk to John Hancock, successful merchant
- John G. Palfrey I (1796- 1881): played a leading role in the creation of Harvard Divinity School, first Dean of Harvard Divinity School, U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts, Unitarian minister, historian
- Francis Winthrop Palfrey (1831-1889): historian, decorated Union officer
- Sarah Palfrey Danzig (1912-1996): won 18 national tennis championship titles (singles, doubles, mixed doubles)
- John G. Palfrey V (1919-1979): member of President Kennedy's Atomic Energy Commission, Dean of Columbia University
- John G. "Sean" Palfrey VI (b. 1945): pediatrician and advocate, Harvard Faculty Dean of Adams House with Judy Palfrey
- John G. Palfrey VII (b. 1972): educator and author, historian, Headmaster of Phillips Andover
Other notable relatives:
Originally of Sudbury, Massachusetts:
- Colonel Epes Sargent (1690–1762): colonel of militia before the Revolution and a justice of the general session court for more than 30 years
- Sylvanus Thayer (1785–1872), United States general and Father of West Point
- Nathaniel Thayer, Jr. (1808-1883): Financier, philanthropist. Partner in John E. Thayer and brother firm which he left to clerks Kidder and Peabody after his retirement. One of the most generous citizens of Boston donating Thayer hall to Harvard University. . He was an overseer of Harvard, 1866-1868, and a fellow, 1868-1875
- Nathaniel Thayer, III (1851-1911): Capitalist and pioneer railroad promoter
- Bayard Thayer (1862-1916): Millionaire sportsman, horticulturist.
- Eugene Van Rensselaer Thayer (1855-1907): Financier and Capitalist
- Eugene Van Rensselaer Thayer, Jr. (1881-1937)Harvard class 1904. President of Merchants and Chase National Banks. Chairman of Stutz motorcars.
- James Bradley Thayer (1831–1902), American legal writer and educationist
- Ernest Thayer (1863–1940), American poet, author of "Casey at the Bat", and uncle of Scofield Thayer
- Scofield Thayer (1889–1982), American poet and publisher
- Eli Thayer (1819–1899), member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts
- John A. Thayer (1857–1917), member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts
- John R. Thayer (1845–1916), member of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts
- John Milton Thayer (1820–1906), United States Senator and Civil War general
- Webster Thayer (1857–1933), the judge at the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti
- William Greenough Thayer (1863–1934), American educator
- Richard Warren (1578–1628): London merchant, Mayflower passenger
- James Warren (1726–1808): Army general, paymaster of American Army, president of Massachusetts Congress
- Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814): playwright, historian, revolutionary
- Joseph Warren (1741–1775): major-general, hero/martyr of Bunker Hill, president of Massachusetts Congress, sent Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride
- John Warren (1753–1815): founder of Harvard Medical School, surgeon at Bunker Hill, co-founder of the Massachusetts Medical Society
- John Collins Warren (1778–1856): surgeon, gave first public demonstration of surgical anesthesia, a founder of The New England Journal of Medicine, president of the American Medical Association, founding dean of Harvard Medical School, and a founder of Massachusetts General Hospital
- Winslow Warren (1838–1930): American attorney who served as Collector of Customs for the Port of Boston during the second administration of Grover Cleveland
- John Collins Warren Jr. (1842–1927): surgeon and president of the American Surgical Association
- Charles Warren (1868–1954): lawyer and legal scholar who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book The Supreme Court in United States History
- John Winthrop (1588–1649): governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony
- Lucy Winthrop Downing, mother of diplomat Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet, founder of New York, of Downing Street, London, and ultimately of Downing College, Cambridge UK. Lucy's letter to her brother Governor Winthrop provided the impetus for the founding of Harvard College.
- John Winthrop: married Anne Dudley, granddaughter of Thomas Dudley
- John Winthrop (1714–1779): acting president of Harvard, pioneer of American science
- Thomas Lindall Winthrop (1760–1841): lieutenant governor of Massachusetts
- Robert Charles Winthrop (1809–1894): lawyer, politician, philanthropist
- ^ "People & Events: Boston Brahmins". PBS. PBS Online. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
- ^ See generally, Burt.
- ^ Greenwood, Andrew (11 August 2011). An Introduction to the Unitarian and Universalist Traditions. Cambridge University Press. p. LX. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
- ^ Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Brahmin Caste of New England", The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 5, Issue 27, Chapter 1 (1860). The series of articles that this article was part of eventually became his novel Elsie Venner, and the first chapter of that novel was about the Brahmin caste.
- ^ Andrews, Robert (ed.) (1996). Famous Lines: A Columbia Dictionary of Familiar Quotations. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10218-6.
- ^ McPhee, John. Giving Good Weight. p. 163.
- ^ Ronald Story, Harvard and the Boston Upper Class: The Forging of an Aristocracy, 1800–1870 (1985).
- ^ Paul Goodman, "Ethics and Enterprise: The Values of a Boston Elite, 1800–1860", American Quarterly, Sept 1966, Vol. 18 Issue 3, pp 437–451.
- ^ Peter S. Field Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Making of a Democratic Intellectual Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. ISBN 0847688429. ISBN 978-0847688425
- ^ Ronald Story, "Harvard Students, the Boston Elite, and the New England Preparatory System, 1800–1870", History of Education Quarterly, Fall 1975, Vol. 15 Issue 3, pp 281–298.
- ^ Farrell, Betty (1993). Elite Families: Class and Power in Nineteenth-Century Boston. SUNY Press. ISBN 1438402325.
- ^ Muskett, Joseph James, ed. (1900). "Appleton of New England". Suffolk Manorial Families. Exeter: William Pollard & Co. 1: 330–334. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- ^ Jewett, Issac Appleton (1801). Memorial of Samuel Appleton of Ipswich, Massachusetts: With Genealogical Notices of Some of His Descendants. Boston.
- ^ Ipswich Historical Society (1906). "A Genealogy of the Ipswich Descendants of Samuel Appleton.*". Publications of the Ipswich Historical Society. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
- ^ There is some speculation on the actual date of birth of the patriarch of the Bates family, with many agreeing on the
- ^ "Benjamin Bates, Sr". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2016-03-22.
- ^ "Benjamin Bates, Jr". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2016-03-22.
- ^ Sarah Bradlee Fulton
- ^ Quinn, Bradleeq. "Sarah Bradlee". Boston Tea Party Museum. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- ^ Quinn, Bradlee. "David Bradlee". Internet Archive. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
- ^ History of the Town of Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Solomon Lincoln Jr., Caleb Gill, Jr. and Farmer and Brown, Hingham, 1827
- ^ History of the Town of Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Solomon Lincoln, Jr., Caleb Gill, Jr. and Farmer and Brown, Hingham, Mass., 1827
- ^ Perkins, Geo. A. (George Augustus), "Some of the descendants of Jonathan Fabens of Marblehead", 1881. Online at https://archive.org/details/someofdescendant1881perk
- ^ Perkins
- ^ Perkins
- ^ William Chandler Fabens https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/118960395
- ^ Perkins
- ^ Capt Samuel Augustus Fabens http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Fabens&GSiman=1&GSst=21&GRid=118950243&&
- ^ Perkins
- ^ Perkins
- ^ "History of Fabens, Texas". Fabens Independent School District http://www.fabensisd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=337295&type=d&pREC_ID=744789
- ^ George Wilson Fabens http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Fabens&GSiman=1&GSst=21&GRid=118950132&
- ^ Hall, Alexandra . The New Brahmins. Boston Magazine Archived August 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- ^ http://www.masshist.org/findingaids/doc.cfm?fa=fa0057
- ^ John J. Waters, The Otis Family in Provincial and Revolutionary Massachusetts (U. of North Carolina Press, 1968)
- ^ https://www.geni.com/people/Peter-Palfrey/6000000001784716766
- ^ https://www.geni.com/projects/Early-Families-of-Salem-Massachuetts/7146
- ^ https://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/nh/mmm.html
- ^ https://guides.library.harvard.edu/hds/john-gorham-palfrey/hds/john-gorham-pafrey/home
- ^ https://guides.library.harvard.edu/hds/john-gorham-palfrey/hds
- ^ https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-1962-08-31-C.aspx
- ^ http://www.wikicu.com/John_Gorham_Palfrey
- ^ https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/news/a3371/class-rebel/
- ^ https://www.jpmorgan.com/pages/jpmorgan/about/history/month/apr
- ^ Robert Moody, The Saltonstall Papers, 1607–1815: Selected and Edited and with Biographies of Ten Members of the Saltonstall Family in Six Generations. Vol. 1, 1607–1789 vol 2 1791–1815 (1975).
- ^ Malcolm Freiberg, "The Winthrops and Their Papers", Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, 1968, Vol. 80, pp 55–70