(Van Lennep Family Letters)
Archive of Edward James Van Lennep and Family, Director and Owner of the Sedgwick Institute, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, son of, the Rev. Henry John Van Lennep, Smyrna Missionary, 1830s-1970s.

Approximately 310 letters, comprising 1,172 pages, dated 1837-1972, with the bulk (145 letters, 582 pages) written in the 1890s. The letters are mostly manuscript, some are typed, most of the letters are without envelopes, there are several incomplete letters, and 67 undated letters. The letters mainly center on the family of Edward James van Lennep and his wife Alice Norton Shedd (1870s-1890s), with the later letters also including their children, particularly Cara Hart van Lennep Nesbit. Many of the letters were written on the letterhead of the Sedgwick Institute, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Edward van Lennep took over the management of the school from his father, the Rev. Henry John van Lennep.

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The archive also includes 4 Diaries (1880, 1898-99, 1899, 1901), 2 Account Books (1863, 1914), 2 Notebooks (1875-76, 1 not dated), 1 Commonplace Book (not dated), 1 Guest Book (c1890s).


The collection contains approximately 306 pieces of ephemera, which includes printed and manuscript ephemera, including letterhead business receipts, medical receipts, legal documents, property deeds, school documents, banking documents, telegrams, manuscript pages of verse, manuscript notes and memoranda, postcards, greeting cards, invitations, calling cards, receipts, accounts, newspaper clippings, pencil drawings, photographs, used envelopes, as well as printed ephemera such as pamphlets, booklets, circulars, advertisements, and a map. Ephemera pieces are dated from 1880s-1960s.

  Description of Collection:

 Correspondence: 310 letters, 1172 pages, dated 1837-1972 as follows:

1830s-1880s: 15 letters, 65 pp., dated 1837-1888, mostly 1880s, related to the Bird and Shedd families, particularly Alice N. Shedd, who married Edward J. van Lennep.

      1890s: 145 letters, 582 manuscript pp., this section begins with letters to and from Alice N. Shedd, from her mother and others. Then collection also has letters relating to the courtship of Alice by her future husband Edward J. van Lennep, and their marriage in 1895. There are letters to and from Alice from her husband, mother, and other family members, as well as letters by Edward to his mother, wife and others. Many of the letters are on the letterhead of the Sedgwick Institute, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Edward J. van Lennep had taken over management of the school from his father, Rev. Henry John van Lennep.

      1900s-1910s: 39 letters, 96 pp., (mostly manuscript, some typed), most without envelopes.

      1920s: 26 letters, 116 pp., mostly manuscript, some typed, most without envelopes, letters to mother (Alice), letters to daughter (Clara), some written by Alice, some by Edward, others,

     1930s-1970s: 18 letters, 90 pp., mostly manuscript, some typed, most without envelopes.

      Undated Letters: 67 letters, 223 pages, mostly manuscript, (without envelopes).

     Account Books, Commonplace Books, Diaries, Notebooks, etc:

      Account Book, inside cover states "Property of William Jackson, 1863," 37 manuscript pages, measures 4" x 6", bound in limp calf, dated 1863. The book appears to list the property of a school (globes, desks, chairs, etc.), amongst other related things.

       Notebook of William Van Lennep, 67 manuscript pages, bound in half black leather, pebbled cloth covered boards, measures 7 ¼" x 8 ½", written in ink, in a legible hand, dated 1875-1876. This volume appears to be notes for his senior year chemistry class, First Session Sept-Dec 1875 and Second Session Jan-April 1876.

        Diary of M. J. Shedd, of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 21 manuscript pages, bound in black cloth, limp boards, folding flap type diary, measures 3" x 5 ¾", three days per page format. Of the 21 pages, they comprise 40 days of entries dated from April 8th to December 18th, 1880. The diary was kept in ink and pencil, in a legible hand, and is in good condition. The first page of diary is lacking.

       Guest Book, 16 manuscript pages, written in ink, in various legible hands, bound in wrappers, measures 6 ½" x 8", dated 1890-1899. Appears to be a guest book for someone named Eunice, it contains the signatures of visitors to Eunice's house, and the towns of their residences.

         Diary of Mrs. Alice Norton Shedd van Lennep , 67 manuscript pages, entries dated 21 October 1898 to 21 October 1899, bound in paper backed boards, measures 5 ¼" x 7 ¾", paper on boards mostly torn off, text good, written in ink, in a legible hand. The diary starts at the birth of her daughter Emily Bird van Lennep, on 27 March 1898. Mrs. Shedd is the wife of Edward James van Lennep (1856-1934).

       Diary of [Mrs. Alice Norton Shedd van Lennep], 42 manuscript pages, lacks wrappers, measures 6 ¾" x 8 ½ ", written in pencil, in a legible hand, dated 25 June to 19 November, c1899. While not signed, there is much on "Birdie," who presumably is Mrs. Shedd's baby daughter, Emily Bird van Lennep.

       Diary of Mrs. Alice Norton Shedd van Lennep, 37 manuscript pages, bound in wrappers, measures 6 ½" x 8 ¼", entries written in ink, in a legible hand, dated 21 April - 26 July 1901.

       Account book, 7 manuscript pages, measures 3 ½" x 6 ½", unbound, written in ink, in a legible hand, dated 1914. Possibly belonging to either Mrs. Hiram Shedd, or E. J. Van Lennep, as two pages of the accounts show board being paid by Shedd to Van Lennep.

      Commonplace Book, 30 manuscript pages, lacks binding, measures 6 ½" x 7 ¾", not signed, not dated.

       Notebook, 26 manuscript pages, bound in stiff cardboard; flip top notebook style, measures 6" x 9", written in pencil, legible hand, not dated, not signed. This notebook appears to have been kept by someone who was either in the navy, or working on a ship, as a fireman, or signalman.

     306 Pieces of Ephemera as Follows:

      84 pieces of printed and manuscript ephemera, includes letterhead receipts, medical receipts, legal documents, property deeds, school documents, banking documents, telegrams, etc., mainly belonging to the family of Edward J. van Lennep, his wife Alice, and their children, dated c1890s-1930s.

      45 manuscript pages, mainly verse, but with 10 pages of genealogical notes, not dated, c1910s-1920s. Some of the verse is copied, some appears to be original. Possibly belongs to Clara Hart van Lennep.

      41 postcards, greeting cards, invitations, etc., c1910s-1920s. Several addressed to Mrs. Alice S. van Lennep..

      33 manuscript receipts, accounts, etc, dated 1880-1927. Mostly for E. J. van Lennep, or Alice S. van Lennep.

       31 newspaper clippings, c1920s, some deal with a Henry van Lennep, son of Edward J. Lennep, who was a famous high school baseball player.

       19 pieces of printed ephemera, including several pamphlets, or booklets such as "A Reference Guide to Salem, 1630" (1935), "Philadelphia" (1906), "A Gentle Hart" by J. R. Miller (1896), printed circulars and advertisements, "District School Journal of the State of New York" (1843), "Proceedings Forty-Second Continental Congress, National Society D.A.R. "(1933), map of Great Barrington, Mass. (1952), etc.

       19 used envelopes, dated 1920s-1960s. Most addressed to either Clara Hart van Lennep, or to her mother Alice S. van Lennep and father Edward J. van Lennep. Clara may have married a William Nesbit, needs to be researched.

       19 photographs, measuring from 2 ½" x 4" up to 6" x 8", not dated, includes 5 cdv's (only two identified), 4 black and white photos of Civil War re-enactors (c1950s-1960s), 2 photo postcards (identified on rear), plus others, some are identified, some not.

      15 pencil drawings, mostly of dogs, or horses, possibly belonging to Clara Hart van Lennep.

    History of van Lennep Family of Smyrna, Turkey, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts

     The Family of the Rev. Henry John van Lennep (1815-1889)

      Henry John Van Lennep was a noted 19th-century Christian minister, missionary, writer and educator, born in Smyrna, in what today is Izmir, Turkey, in 1815. The first van Lennep in Smyrna was the Rev. Henry John van Lennep's great grandfather, the merchant David George van Lennep (1712-1797). David was the chief merchant of the Dutch trading station and Consul of the Dutch Nation in Smyrna. He originally left Holland for Smyrna in 1731, with Philippe de la Fontaine to set up a business. An older brother of de la Fontaine had been in Smyrna as early as 1704 and they joined him. After the de la Fontaines died, retired, or were bought out, the business came to be called Van Lennep & Enslie. After Enslie withdrew from the business, it became known as "Jacob van Lennep & Co.," when David's son Jacob Van Lennep (1769-1855), the Rev. Henry's grandfather, took over the business from his father.

      Eventually the Van Lennep's business had an extensive network of international contacts, exporting silk and angora wool thread from the interior of Turkey, and figs, citrus and other fruits from the islands in the Aegean Sea. They imported rough cotton, linen, fine cloth, silver, and gold cloth, coffee, sugar, indigo, herbs, pepper, porcelain and glass. His company was also the most important commercial bank in Smyrna. Van Lennep’s firm was joint owner, along with others, in a vessel for which David George Van Lennep represented the company as agent and broker.

      David George van Lennep became one of the assessors in Smyrna for the Directorate of Levant Trade and Navigation in the Mediterranean, whose responsibility it was for the fitting out of all vessels which passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, to verify and check their patents and bills of lading and maintain contact and correspond with the various consuls in the Levant and North Africa. He was an assessor from at least 1752 until his death in 1797. David George van Lennep was described as the uncrowned king of the Dutch Colony and his house the rendezvous of the high society of Smyrna.

      David George van Lennep's son Jacob took over the business from his father, along with two of his younger brothers. Jacob served as the Consul General for the Netherlands at Smyrna from 1825 till his death in 1855. Jacob's son Richard eventually joined the firm. The Rev. Henry John van Lennep, whose archive is offered here, was the son of this Richard Van Lennep (1779-1827) and his wife Adele Maria von Heidenstam (1790-1867). Richard was born in Smyrna and became a partner in the firm of his father's Jacob van Lennep & Co. Richard van Lennep withdrew from the firm in 1804, visited the United States about 1808 to enter into new business relations, after his trip to the United States he rejoined Jacob van Lennep & Co. Richard was also for a time the consul of Sweden.

      A revolution in Holland in the mid-1790s, along with a naval defeat by the British in 1797, made continental trade difficult for the van Lennep family. These events, followed by continental trade restrictions introduced by Napoleon, normal overseas trade became almost impossible. It is therefore of interest that Richard, having left the family firm, made his journey to the United States in 1808 to seek commercial contacts there. As a consequence when he rejoined the family firm upon his return to Smyrna, the company’s business and trade became almost completely directed to the United States, and more especially to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston, while the West Indies also became an area of interest.

      The only son of Richard van Lennep who did not pursue a career in business was the Rev. Henry John van Lennep. Together with his younger brother Gustave Adolphe he was sent by their parents to be educated in the United States at Mount Pleasant School in Amherst and the Hartford Grammar School, no doubt to learn the ways of America to help with the family's international business.

      Henry John's brother Gustave Adolphe returned to Smyrna in about 1835, while Henry John continued his education at Amherst College. During his college years he decided to become a missionary and after graduation from Amherst in 1837 he spent a year at Andover Theological Seminary. He completed his training under the direction of a theologian and was ordained as a Congregational preacher the 27th of August 1839.

      Shortly after marrying Emma Bliss, Henry John left for Turkey, together with his new wife, as a missionary for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. This board had been created in 1812 as a variant of the Dutch Réveil Movement and had since 1830 begun spreading the “true” gospel amongst Jews, Greeks and Armenians in the Near and Far East. Their missionaries also concentrated on education so that under their direction an extensive network of schools was created in the Levant. Henry John’s first posting was in his birthplace, Smyrna. Unfortunately his wife Emma died in 1840. After travelling extensively in Turkey and Greece, Henry John returned to the United States in 1843, where he married for the second time, this time Mary Elisabeth Hawes, the daughter of his former tutor. Sadly, his second wife also died in Constantinople in September 1844 within a year of their marriage.

      During the following ten years Henry John did missionary work from Constantinople and taught at a seminary in that town. During visits to Syria and Palestine he gathered material for a subsequent publication, Bible Lands, Their 28 Modern Customs and Manners Illustrative of Scripture (1875).

      In 1849 he was again in the United States, where he married for the third time, Emily Ann Bird (1825-1898). Emily was born in Beirut, Lebanon, the daughter of Isaac Bird and Ann Parker. Four years after the wedding he was transferred from Constantinople to Tokat, a tiny town located along the foothills of the mountains flanking the northwestern part of central Anatolia. There he was to open a missionary post and theological seminary. During his various trips around Tokat he made detailed notes concerning the various archaeological sites he came across which he later published in two volumes as Travels in Little-Known Parts of Asia Minor (1870). He himself made the illustrations for this publication. It was at Tokat that his son Edward J. van Lennep was born in 1856. In November 1858 Henry was visited by the German Orientalist, Mordtmann, who described Henry John as "one of the very few erudite missionaries in this part of the world who have a solid knowledge of both the country and its languages. He is not only a linguist, but also a painter, musicologist, hunter and botanist, in short a universal genius."

      His rather unconventional behavior caused jealousy amongst his colleagues, some of whom tried to have him removed from his post. Fortunately Henry John managed to forestall this attempt. In 1861 the couple left Tokat. After a short stay in the United States they returned to Smyrna to teach there for six years. By then the problems with his eyesight and further disagreement concerning missionary policy made him decide to return to the United States and to settle there permanently about 1867.

      In the U.S. he taught natural sciences, Greek and modern languages at Ingham University in LeRoy, New York for three years, after which he moved to Great Barrington, Massachusetts about the year 1870, where he became director and owner of the Sedgwick School for Boys, also known as the Sedgwick Institute. Henry's son Edward worked with him at the Sedgwick School and eventually took it over after his father’s death.

      Besides the two publications already mentioned Henry John also published Oriental Album (1862) and Ten days amongst Greek Bandits (1868). He also executed several drawings for Professor Edward Hitchcock that were included in his Geology of Massachusetts (1841), and Illustrations of Surface Geology (1860). Amherst College has a collection of his artwork (several sketch albums and individual pieces), and several folders of papers, mostly ephemeral items.

      Henry John van Lennep's son William van Lennep was a well-known surgeon and professor at Hahnemann Hospital at Philadelphia, a leader in the homœopathic field of medicine.

      Edward James van Lennep (1856-1934) and Alice Norton Shedd (1869-1957)

      Edward James van Lennep (1856-1934) was born at Tokat, Asia Minor (Turkey) on 26 July 1856. He first came to Great Barrington, after his father relocated from Turkey about the year 1870, when Edward was only 14 years old. He attended Sedgwick Institute (his father's school) and was prepared for Princeton University, where he graduated with two degrees (Bachelors and Masters). He took a job as a professor at his father's Sedgwick Institute. Edward worked at the school teaching languages (French, Greek, Armenian, Turkish), then took over as managing director and proprietor of the Sedgwick Institute, after his father's retirement.  Edward spent over fifty years (1877-1934) at the Sedgwick Institute. Besides teaching languages, he stressed rowing, organized crews for regattas, and at one time owned a boat house at Lake Buel where the students did their practicing. Many of those tutored by van Lennep continued the activities at college and made a name for themselves. He also emphasized gymnastics and practiced what he preached. When he was 75 years old, he noticed some children endeavoring to stand on their heads. He stopped and gave them a demonstration how to do it. At the same age of 75, he was still able to walk upstairs on his hands. Edward was a member of the First Congregational Church and served at one time as superintendent of the Sunday school. Edward John van Lennep died at Great Barrington, on 1 April 1946.

      Edward married Alice Norton Shedd, at West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on 18 July 1895. Alice was born in South Egremont, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, on 3 September 1869, and died at Great Barrington, on 29 June 1957. She was the daughter of Luke Shedd and Julia Ada Norton.  Luke Shedd was at one time a professor/teacher, and in retirement was listed as a landlord. Another name that appears in this archive is Urania Shedd, Luke Shedd’s sister.

      Edward and Alice had at least four children: Julia Norton van Lennep (1896-1897), who died as an infant, Emily Bird van Lennep (1898-?), Clara Hart van Lennep (1901-1980), and Henry John van Lennep (1902-1989).

      Henry John van Lennep was named for his grandfather and was a famous baseball player at the high school and college level (Brown University). An injury appears to have cut short his career. He became an officer in the Post Office at Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

      Clara Hart van Lennep married in 1937 to one William Bonnell Nisbet (1902-1976). Nisbet was an interior decorator. He was the son of William Browning Nisbet and Edith Bonnell. There are letters in this collection written by Clara, as well as artwork. She was stated to be a painter, particularly of horses, as well as a photographer, and an equestrian.

      Emily Bird van Lennep married in 1922 to Harold K. Allen (1896-2013). Together the couple had at least four children: Harold K. Allen, Jr., Peter Allen, Charles Ellsworth Allen (1925-) who married in 1952 Marilyn Ann Miller, and Robert Allen (1927-).