Longfellow National Historic Site

Longfellow National Historic Site

Sights to See

Longfellow National Historic Site possesses a rich and varied collection of artifacts and archival materials. Fine arts, decorative arts, furnishings, textiles and clothing, toys, tools, and far more are to be found in the collections. The archives hold numerous family papers, letters from prominent historical figures, drawings, sheet music, and other documentary material.

Historic Library

The historic books represent the largest single collection of objects at Longfellow National Historic Site. They number approximately 12,000 volumes dating from the fifteenth to twentieth century, and consist of the combined libraries of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Fanny Appleton Longfellow, their five children, grandson Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, and fifty volumes once owned by the American artist Washington Allston.

The collection illustrates Longfellow's international academic interests, and includes leisure reading and presentation copies from admiring authors and friends as well as family books. Of note are the books in many languages, including Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portugese, Russian, Swedish, Welsh, and others.

Subjects covered by books in the collection include foreign language dictionaries, novels, collections of poetry and folktales, drama, ancient culture, mythology, biographies, and published letters and histories.

Significant volumes include:
          *Folios printed by Giambattista
          *Illustrated atlases of China, Africa,
           and Asia from the 1670s.
          *Gustave Dore's illustrated works of
          *A 1496 Venetian edition of Plutarch.
          *A Danish book about the Greenland
           Eskimo dialect.
          *Children's books from the Longfellow
           family collection.
          *380 Scandanavian language books,
           including books in translation.


Longfellow National Historic Site boasts an impressive archival collection, comprised of over 750,000 individual items ranging from George Washington letters to pamphlets on Soviet theatre. The archival material provides context for much of the house's furnishings and other objects in the museum collections. Park staff, independent scholars, writers and others make use of the archives to research a diverse array of topics ranging from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's views on slavery to early twentieth century garden design. 

Research in the archives is by appointment. Please call (617) 491-1054 to make arrangements with the park archivist for research sessions.

Furnishings and Decorative Arts

The historic furnishings and decorative arts in the museum collections date from the mid eighteenth to early twentieth century. The majority of the furnishings came into the house between 1837 and 1928, and were acquired by the Longfellow family by purchase, inheritance, or gift.

The Longfellows possessed a reverence for the past. For them, having antique objects and furniture stimulated their awareness of America's past and their house's association with George Washington and the American Revolution. The family's cosmopolitan interests are also reflected by many items from around the world within the rooms.

All of the exhibited pieces of furniture are from the house, and are placed in their historical locations within the rooms. There are over 450 items ranging from utilitarian to high-style pieces. The collection serves as a history of decorative styles over the years, beginning with the William and Mary Transitional style to the Arts and Crafts style of the 1920s.

The silver collection includes approximately 150 pieces that belonged to the Appleton and Longfellow families, and dates from the late 1780s to the late 1860s. In the collection are coffee and tea services, pitchers, flatware, and other pieces by:
            *Shreve, Brown & Co. of Boston
            *Reed & Barton
            *Lows, Ball & Co.
            *Silversmith Hester Bateman
            *Meriden Britania Company

Ceramics and Glass
The collection holds over 250 ceramic and glass objects, both utilitarian and decorative, dating from the mid eighteenth through the early twentieth century. American, European, and Asian manufacturers include:

Of special interest are a tea service from the 1806 wedding of Fanny Appleton Longfellow's parents, a Bloor Derby bowl from the 1830s, and 135 eighteenth century ceramic tiles installed around three bedroom fireplaces.

Lighting Fixtures
The house retains most of its original 1852 ceiling light fixtures that were installed as gasoliers. In 1924, electricity was installed in the house and some light fixtures were converted over from gas to the new power source. Many of the second and third floor fixtures date from the 1890s to the 1920s, and most have a more austere appearance with a few having a distinct colonial revival design.

Other lighting fixtures include:
           *An 1820s three-arm whale oil Argandchandelier
           *Eighteenth century French Rococo candle sconces
           *Early twentieth century bracket lamps

Most of the rooms retain their historic wallpaper, dating from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Fifty additional wallpaper examples have been uncovered throughout the house. This layering of wallpaper allows for the study of the rooms' decoration from the 1790s to the 1920s. These samples are preserved in a study collection.

Textiles, Clothing and Domestic Items

This collection consists of over 400 Longfellow, Dana, and Thorp family clothing items from the eighteenth to early twentieth century. Included are waistcoats, jackets, trousers, hats, caps, bonnets, shoes, gowns, parasols, children's clothing, and stockings.

Of particular interest are:
         *Charles Longfellow's Civil War uniform
         *Nineteenth century Japanese items including nineteen kimono
         *Regional costumes from nineteenth century Greece and the Philippines
         *Henry Longfellow's smoking jacket
         *1840s textile samples from the Lowell mills

Other flat and rolled textiles consist of panels or fragments of curtains, drapes, upholstery, towels, blankets, slipcovers, rugs, runners, and carpets, all of which were used in the house. Fanny Longfellow's father, Nathan Appleton, was one of the founders of the Lowell textile mills, and was a pioneer in American textile manufacturing.

Domestic and Utilitarian Items
Domestic items used by the Longfellow family include both recreational and personal objects, such as:
          *Children's toys, dolls, and games
          *A child's sled
          *Canes and walking sticks
          *Picnic basket with accessories
          *Hat and hair ornaments
          *Desk and writing sets

Utilitarian items dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century include:
           *Fireplace utensils
           *Cooking implements
           *A metal sitting bath
           *Traveling trunks
           *Garden tools

Historical and Cultural Collections

Asian Collections
The Japanese and Chinese collections reflect generations of interest in Asian art, culture, and literature. The Longfellows' Asian collections are significant because of their provenance and context, and provide insights into the importance of international art to one nineteenth century family.

The site's Japanese collections reflect transformations in both Japanese and American culture. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japanese culture became increasingly westernized. In turn, late nineteenth century Americans' lives were transformed by the increased availability of Japanese imports and travel. A "Japan Craze" spread through Boston and beyond in the period between 1870 and 1890.

The collections include a rich assortment of silk kimono, obi, and other Japanese textiles, including some outfits custom designed for Charles Longfellow. Other early Meiji-era items include atlases, printed books, watercolors of Noh theater productions, scrolls, and over 350 photographs, including rare images of the Ainu people.

Soon after his return from Japan, Charles and his cousin Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr. decorated his sitting room in the Longfellow House with many of his finds, covering the ceiling with Japanese painted fans, and displaying prints and furniture in the room.

Charles Longfellow, Henry W. Longfellow's oldest child, collected a wide range of ceramics, textiles, bronzes, and paintings during his twenty month sojourn in Japan from June, 1871 until March, 1873. He shipped more than twenty crates of furnishings and decorative arts to his family in Cambridge.

Arts and Crafts Collection
The museum collections reveal Alice Longfellow's keen interest in the Arts and Crafts movement in England and the Boston area, as reflected in books, pottery, jewelry, and furnishings.

In 1897, Alice's cousin Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr. was one of the founding members of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston. Alice became a member of the Society in 1901.

Architectural Collection
This collection holds roughly 300 architectural items dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. All items are from the Longfellow House, Carriage House, or formal garden and grounds. Included are:
           *Ornamental finials

Archeology Collection
The archeology collection numbers over 22,000 artifacts resulting from test digs, and formal archeological excavations in the garden, grounds and house basement. It includes prehistoric artifacts as well as material from the eighteenth through twentieth century. Among the holdings are:
           *Blown bottle glass
           *Clay pipes

Fine Arts

The fine art collection numbers about 2000 works on exhibit and in storage. It includes paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture that range in date from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century.

The collection showcases the tastes and interests of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, his wife Frances, their children, and other family members and friends.

Significant parts of the collection include sculptures formerly owned by Longfellow's close friend Charles Sumner, and the art collection of Fanny Longfellow's brother, Thomas Gold Appleton.

Artists represented include:
            *John Kensett
            *Gilbert Stuart
            *Anna Klumpke
            *Winckworth Allan Gay
            *George Healy
            *Washington Allston

Of particular note for their fine quality are crayon portraits by Eastman Johnson, commissioned by Henry W. Longfellow of his family and friends in the mid 1840s. These include portraits of:
            *Charles Sumner
            *Ralph Waldo Emerson
            *Nathaniel Hawthorne
            *Anne Longfellow Pierce
            *Charles Appleton Longfellow
            *Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow

In addition to American artists, well-known nineteenth century European artists are represented in the collection, including:
           *Albert Bierstadt
           *Jean Baptiste Camille Corot
           *Myles Birket Foster
           *Lorenzo Bartolini
           *Friedrick Overbeck

Several of the rooms contain painted nineteenth century Japanese screens, including one 6-paneled screen by Kano Moritsune. Much of the collection is personal in nature, including gifts from artists the Longfellows met or knew, or purchases made during the family's travels. Professional and amateur works done by family members figure prominently in the collection, and are linked to family papers in the archives. Included are works by professionally trained artists Ernest W. Longfellow and Mary King Longfellow, as well as art by Henry and Fanny Longfellow, and Alexander W. Longfellow Jr. In addition, there are approximately 600 drawings and watercolors done by the Longfellow children in the 1850s and 1860s.  Many of these are annotated by Henry W. Longfellow as to date, artist, and location.

There are also approximately fifty silhouette portraits of Henry W. Longfellow, his extended family, and others by artists such as:
            *W. King
            *Master Hubbard
            *Auguste Edouard