George G. Wright Collection Records 1814 - 1930
5 Record Cartons, 164 bound volumes
Processor: Megan Cox
41 linear feet
Date: April 2006
Revised: November 2006
Access: There are restrictions on several original items in the collection due to condition. Please consult box and folder list for details. Use copies are provided for researchers.
Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.
Copyright: The Cambridge Historical Society does not hold copyright on the materials in the collection.
George Grier Wright was born on 27 October 1848 in Cambridge, MA. His parents, William and Ellen Wright, owned a bakery on Mount Auburn Street in Harvard Square. George was one of five children, having three brothers and one sister, Helen. He and Helen would ultimately remain together in their parents’ home on Mount Auburn Street for the greater portion of their adult lives. All five of the siblings attended the local public schools. George served as secretary for his graduating high school class and it was during these years that his interest in civics likely formed, probably due to his active participation on the debate team. He graduated in 1867 and accepted a job in Boston at the Gilman Brothers, a wholesale pharmacy, where he was employed as a clerk. In 1870 he resigned and returned to Cambridge where he operated a grain business out of the same building as his parents’ bakery. He ran the grain distribution business until 1902 when he entered real estate, serving as a property manager and insurance provider. At one point he was overseeing properties that totaled over $1,000,000 in value (about $19,820,000 in modern currency). He remained in this profession until his death in 1928.
Throughout his adult life George Wright was an active member of numerous clubs, associations, and societies. His interests fell with municipal and civic causes; over the years he belonged to twenty-three groups devoted to improving quality of life in Cambridge. Although at different times he served as an officer for six different clubs, he was most involved in the Harvard Square Business Men’s Association (HSBMA) and the Library Hall Association. The HSBMA (now the Harvard Square Business Association) was formed when subway station construction in Harvard Square restricted customer access to the businesses located there; also, the large amount of dirt and dust produced by the construction damaged or soiled the businesses’ products and store displays, causing additional customer deterrence. The association was formed to “bring about conditions beneficial to the whole trade and to advance the business and public interest of Harvard Square.” They launched numerous advertising campaigns in an effort to draw customers to the square and became involved in municipal planning when it concerned Harvard Square. Wright served multiple terms as president and became the only President Emeritus of the Association. He was often urged into office, seldom seeking the positions of his own accord; this was also true of his participation in the Library Hall Association (LHA), for which he was secretary for a number of years. The LHA’s main objective was to “secure the nomination and election of proper candidates for municipal office; [and] to procure the punishment of all persons who may be guilty of election frauds, misadministration of office or misappropriation of public funds; to advocate and promote a public service based upon character and capability only; and to promote intelligent discussion of municipal affairs by the publication and distribution of reliable information…” It was later renamed the Good Government League and, later, the Cambridge Taxpayers Association. Wright collected ephemera from all of the clubs he belonged to and many others that simply piqued his interest. He amassed a collection of meeting minutes, publications, fliers, pamphlets and programs, often having the materials bound together into books that he would keep for his own reference.
Wright was also something of an amateur historian and shortly after his high school graduation he began saving printed material relating to Cambridge history. He was regarded as the “sage of Old Cambridge” and was something of a local institution in and of himself. He was respected for both his “sterling integrity and high purpose” in matters professional and personal. He published or presented numerous articles about Cambridge history, contributing to local papers and forums. He presented three papers before the Cambridge Historical Society, of which he was a charter member.
George Wright also was an amateur naturalist and enjoyed the outdoors. In his youth he would often collect leaf samples and press them into his journals. When he reached his sixties he began taking walks of eight to fifteen miles daily, often starting at one railway station and walking to another.
George G Wright died on 20 May 1928 after a long and severe illness. He never married and fathered no children. He was buried on the Wright family plot in Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Crawford, F. Stuart. “The George G Wright Collection.” Cambridge Historical Society Publications, 37. (1958),
Howe, Lois Lilley. “Harvard Square in the ‘Seventies’ and ‘Eighties’.” Cambridge Historical Society Publications, 30. (1951), 23.
Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell. Images of America: Cambridge. Arcadia. Charleston, SC., 1999.
Secretary’s Notes: Eighty-third Meeting Minutes. Cambridge Historical Society Publications, 20. (1928),
The records of the George G. Wright collection document George Wright’s life and the social and political climate of Cambridge, MA in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection contains journals, correspondence, photographs, business records, school records, club proceedings, and collected ephemera. Especially well documented are the Harvard Square Business Men’s Association and the Library Hall Association. At the time of processing the collection was lacking in any original order, having been rearranged numerous times since its donation. The collection is divided into five series, which are outlined below.
Series I - Personal records
Series II - Clubs
Series III - Collected ephemera
Series IV - Business records
Series V - Photographs
Series I contains the personal records of George Wright dating from 1858-1922. These records reflect the private life of Wright, the bulk of which date from the 1860s. The series is divided into five subseries:
Subseries A contains the Journals of Wright dating from 1862 through 1882. The entries chronicle his daily life and are often little more than a brief outline of the day’s activities. Earlier journals speak of his school lessons and occurrences at his father’s bakery that day. After his graduation they document his workday only, relating very little about his personal life. Oftentimes newspaper articles and other ephemera are pasted into the books or pressed between the pages. Items that were pressed between the pages were marked with their original location and then removed to a separate folder. Journal 1869-1871 contains a copy of William Wright’s will. The 1864-1865 journal has a portrait of George Wright (1A.01 GGW) inside the front cover that was taken during his high school years. Also within this series is a journal kept by William Wright dating from 1852-1855. In the back of this journal George Wright later drafted several letters. Additionally an account book George Wright kept on a trip to Europe in 1863 is included in the series. There are several folders of items that are restricted due to their condition. These records have been photocopied and the copies are available for use. (Box 1, Folders 1-23)
Correspondence (subseries B) (Box 1, Folders 24-30) ranges in date from 1858 to 1923. This series contains outgoing drafts of personal letters composed by George Wright as well as letters received. The bulk of these letters pertain to municipal causes with which he was concerned, yet they also contain correspondence written by William Wright during his European travels and sent to his son, George. Also housed with William Wright’s letters are two licenses for a Newfoundland dog from the City of Cambridge dating from 1863 and 1864. Incoming correspondence also contains several letters and transcripts of letters from Lucius Page, author of The History of Cambridge Massachusetts. Additional personal correspondence can be found in the William Wright and Helen Wright scrapbooks in Series I, Subseries E, Scrapbooks (Box 2, Folders 50-54).
Subseries C, Schooling (1860-1863), documents George Wright’s high school career and includes a lesson book from his last year of school. Another notebook contains award certificates given to George Wright and his siblings for exemplary conduct or academics. Often George Wright transcribed the essays for which he or his siblings received certificates; other certificates are pasted in sans explanation. Information about the Cambridge High School Class of 1867 is also found in this series, including records about the graduation ceremony and class government. (Box 1, Folders 28-30)
Subseries D, Writings, contains essays, published articles, speeches, and notes by George Wright, the bulk of which were written from 1921 to 1922. Most essays focus on Cambridge history and local issues. Topics include: the Concord River, the first Cambridge City Hall, a general history of Cambridge, the Cambridge public schools, the town water supply, George Wright’s memories from his childhood. One essay regarding European Anemones stands out as an anomaly. Published articles are often abbreviated forms of the original essays. Speeches are about the history of Cambridge public schools. A folder of general notes includes specifications for binding ephemera into books and research for articles and essays. There are two folders of transcriptions from Revolutionary era records. There are several folders of items that are restricted due to their condition. These records have been photocopied and the copies are available for use. (Box 2, Folders 34-49).
Subseries E, Scrapbooks (Box 2, Folders 51-63), is composed of scrapbooks created by Wright, including five small, tissue paper scrapbooks he crafted during his high school years, containing articles and anecdotes he cut from local papers, two memorial scrapbooks created after the deaths of his father William, and sister Helen, and one containing newspaper clippings written by or about George Wright.
The William Wright scrapbook (Box 2, Folders 52-54) contains correspondence both sent and received, photographs, membership certificates for various organizations, his baptismal certificate, a copy of his military records, voting certificates, and commissions naming him a Justice of the Peace (See Also: Map Case, Drawer 3). There is a small portrait of him on page 12. At the back of the book is information about Ellen Wright, George Wright’s mother, including a telegram, and some correspondence and news clippings. A small copy of the carte de visite (1E.07 GGW) of Ellen Wright is pasted on page ninety-three. There are also news clippings, telegrams, and letters about the death of his brothers, Hastings Doyle and Edward Clarence Wright, and his nephew, Chandler Porter Wright.
The Helen Wright scrapbook (Box 2, Folders 50-51) contains correspondence, telegrams, and newspaper clippings pertaining to his sister’s life and death. Most of the letters are consoling in nature, but pages one and three contain notes written by Helen from her hospital bed shortly before her death. Several other pieces of correspondence refer to her work as president of the Cantabrigia Club and one article written by Helen Wright is also included. On page 123 are two photographs, one showing a memorial plaque placed in the Cambridge Christ Church Sunday School on her behalf (1E.02 GGW) and another showing an altar desk (1E.01 GGW) donated to the “Church in Plymouth” by George G. Wright in her memory.
A third scrapbook (Box 2, Folder 55) pertains to George Wright himself and is composed solely of newspaper clippings of articles written by or about him. Many of the articles were inspired by Wright’s weekly walks and highlighted the natural beauty he saw in the Cambridge landscape. Also included is a biographical memo from 1925.
Clubs, series II, contains the incomplete records of numerous clubs from various years, to which George Wright or his family members belonged. (Box 3, Folders 67-105; Box 4, Folders 106-131). There are several folders of items that are restricted due to their condition. These records have been photocopied and copies are available for use. Included are the:
Cambridge Club (1917-1919, 1927)
Cambridge Historical Society (1911, 1918, 1920, 1926)
Cambridge Republican Ward (1878)
Cambridge Taxpayers’ Association (1908-1910)
Cantabrigia Club (1895-6, 1899-1900, 1904-5)
Citizens’ Trade Association (1893)
Colonial Club (1890, 1892-3, 1897, 1904, 1920)
Committee of Municipal Affairs (1919)
Committee of One Hundred (1884-5, 1893-4, 1927)
Harvard Square Business Men’s Association (1854, 1899, 1909-1927)
Library Hall Association (1883, 1888-90, 1892-5, 1896-1905, 1909-1911, 1923)
Municipal Reform Convention (1884, 1899, 1914)
National Municipal League (1894, 1899-1902, 1904-5)
Prospect Union (1904-5, 1909) (2.09 GGW)
The bulk of the series documents the Harvard Square Business Men’s Association and the Library Hall Association.
The Harvard Square Business Men’s Association (HSBMA) records (Box 3, Folders 84-101; Box 5, Folders 151-155) document George Wright’s tenure as secretary of the club. Records contain annual reports, by-laws, correspondence, internal documents (i.e. memos, etc), president’s reports, publications, and scrapbooks. The main issues represented are the removal of overhead electrical wires in Cambridge, the implementation of car regulations, and the removal of the subway station in Harvard Square. Correspondence, research notes, photographs, newspaper clippings, meeting minutes and copies of city regulations represent the development and resolution of these issues. Several items from the HSBMA were removed to oversize storage. These include a 1925 subway report that contains photographs and architectural plans of the Harvard Square subway station and a plan of Harvard Square dated 1912. (See Map Case, Drawer 3).
The bulk of the Library Hall Association records contain ballots for alderman, school committee, common council and mayor. Some of the ballots have been removed to oversized storage, along with several newsletters from 1900 and 1902 (See Map Case, Drawer 3). There are also alderman nomination letters, annual reports, correspondence, meeting minutes and notes, and publications (meeting notices, by-laws, candidate endorsements, etc). These were once bound into binders, but were removed in their original order to consecutive folders. Included in the publications are form letters sent out to members to notify them of upcoming meetings and events (Box 3, Folders 102-105; Box 4, Folders 106-122).
Of note in this series are the Cambridge Republican Ward records (Box 3, Folders 66-72), which contain lists of voters in Cambridge for 1883-1884. These lists include names, addresses, and political affiliations. The remaining club records contain an incomplete collection of correspondence, member lists, charters, by-laws and annual reports of the aforementioned local clubs and organizations.
The solicitations folder contains fundraising petitions from the Cambridge Council of Girl Scouts, the East End Union, the Cambridge Homes for Aged People, Harvard University, the Liberal League, the Cambridge Welfare Union, the Cambridge Neighborhood House, and the Margaret Fuller House.
Series III, collected ephemera (Box 4, Folders 132-141), contains collected items including city of Cambridge municipal reports pertaining to poll taxes, traffic regulations, votes and elections, and the city water supply. There are several folders of items that are restricted due to their condition. These records have been photocopied and the copies are available for use. The bulk of this series is composed of 164 volumes of bound ephemera dating from 1814 through 1930. The volumes contain newspaper clippings, pamphlets, annual reports and many other forms of paper ephemera related to the city of Cambridge. There are also documents relating to business, social, and social work organizations. The items are bound without any semblance of intentional organization, and are stored separately from the rest of the collection. A separate finding aid detailing the volumes’ contents and outlining the organizations represented is available.
George Wright’s business records compose Series IV. They are from his third and final career as a real estate manager. There are seven volumes of renters’ accounts dating from 1907 to 1918 documenting payments received from and services rendered to renters at properties he oversaw. Also included is rental information about the College House Offices at 1430 Massachusetts Avenue. (Box 4, Folders 142-143; Box 5, Folders 144-149).
Series V, Photographs, is a virtual series that draws photographs from the entirety of the collection. Each photograph’s original location was noted on its reverse side before it was removed to this series; a copy of the image was placed in the photo’s original location, noting its new location. These photographs document the Wright family and Cambridge in the 1920s. The bulk of the photographs (2.10 GGW – 2.40 GGW) of Cambridge are associated with the Harvard Square Business Men’s Association’s endeavors to remove overhead electrical wires. Many of these had originally been housed in the CHS Image Collection, Series I, Cambridge Neighborhoods, but have been returned to the Wright Collection, a copy of each photograph and its new location being left in its former location. These photographs were taken in 1922-1923 and show Massachusetts Avenue, Waterhouse Street, Kirkland Street, Broadway, Cambridge Street and Mount Auburn Street among many others. The Wright family photographs include images from Helen Wright’s funeral (1914) (1E.03 GGW – 1E.06 GGW), and portraits of Ellen and William Wright (1E.07 GGW – 1E.08 GGW) (Box 5, Folder 150). All photographs have been assigned an identifying number corresponding to its original series and its order within its current location followed by GGW (George Grier Wright) to identify it as part of the collection. For example, the portrait of George G. Wright as a school child pasted in his journal for 1864-1865 (Box 1, Folder 3) is numbered 1A.01 GGW (Series 1, subseries A, photograph number one, George Grier Wright Collection). When known, the photographer’s name appears in brackets following the description of the photograph in the box and folder list.
United States—History—Early 20th Century—Cambridge (Mass)
Harvard Square Business Association—Commercial
Associations—Early 20th Century
Clubs—Cambridge (Mass)—Club Papers
Cambridge (Mass)—Politics and Government—1880s
Cambridge (Mass)—Politics and Government—Early 20th Century
Cantabrigia Club (Cambridge, Mass.)
Christ Church in Cambridge (Mass.)
Paige, Lucius R. (Lucius Robinson), 1802-1896
Women—Societies and Clubs
Cambridge (Mass.)—History—Societies, etc.
George G. Wright Collection
Series I: Personal Records:
Subseries A: Journals
1 1 1862-1864
1 2 Removed from Journal, 1862-1864
1 3 1864-1865
1A.01 GGW – George Grier Wright
1 4 Removed from Journal, 1864-1865
1 5 1865-1866
1 6 Removed from Journal, 1865-1866
1 7 Removed from Journal, 1865-1866:
1 8 1866-1867
1 9 Removed from Journal, 1866-1867
1 10 Removed from Journal, 1866-1867:
1 11 1867-1868
1 12 Removed from Journal, 1867-1868
1 13 Removed from Journal, 1867-1868:
1 14 1868-1869
1 15 Removed from Journal, 1868-1869
1 16 1869-1871
1 17 Removed from Journal, 1869-1871
1 18 1871-1872
1 19 1872-1882
1 20 Removed from Journal, 1872-1882
1 21 Removed from Journal, 1872-1882:
1 22 William Wright: 1852-1855
1 23 Account Book: 1863
Series I: Personal Records:
Subseries B: Correspondence
1 24 Outgoing Drafts: n.d., 1898-1899, 1909, 1917, 1922-1923
1 25 William Wright: 1858, 1861-1864, 1867- 1869, 1871, 1873, 1876, 1879-1880, 1884, 1888-1889
1 26 William Wright: 1862-1864, 1869
1 27 Received: 1900, 1921-1922
Series I: Personal Records:
Subseries C: Schooling
1 28 Lesson Book: 1867(?)
1 29 Class of 1867: 1867, n.d.
1 30 Certificates: 1860-1867
Series I: Personal Records:
Subseries D: Writings
1 31 Articles: Drafts: n.d.
1 32 Essays: Cambridge Memories: n.d.
1 33 Essays: Concord River: n.d.
2 34 Essays: European Anemonies: n.d.
2 35 Essays: First City Hall: 1915
2 36 Essays: First City Hall: 1915:
2 37 Essays: History of Cambridge: 1921
2 38 Essays: Public Schools of Cambridge: 1921
2 39 Essays: Some Christmas Memories: n.d.
2 40 Essays: Water Supply: 192-
2 41 Essays: n.d.: RESTRICTED
2 42 Published Articles: 1919, 1922, n.d.:
2 43 Published Articles: 1922, n.d.
2 44 Research: Marrett’s Diary, n.d.
2 45 Research: Notes
2 46 Research: Notes: General
2 47 Research: Transcript of Letters by ?, n.d
2 48 Speeches: Public Schools: n.d.
2 49 Speeches: Public Schools: n.d.:
Series I: Personal Records:
Subseries E: Scrapbooks
2 50 Scrapbooks: Helen A. Wright:1903, 1913- 1914
1E.01 GGW – Memorial Altar Desk
1E.02 GGW – Helen Wright Memorial Plaque
2 51 Scrapbooks: Helen A. Wright: Inserts:
2 52 Scrapbooks: William A. Wright:
2 53 Scrapbooks: William A. Wright: Inserts
2 54 Scrapbooks: William A. Wright: Inserts:
2 55 Scrapbooks: George G. Wright: 1919-1927
2 56 Scrapbooks: I: 1867
2 57 Scrapbooks: I: Inserts: 1867
2 58 Scrapbooks: II :1867
2 59 Scrapbooks: II: Inserts: 1867
2 60 Scrapbooks: III: 1867
2 61 Scrapbooks: IV: 1867
2 62 Scrapbooks: Papermaking: 1866
2 63 Scrapbooks: Papermaking: 1866
Series II: Clubs
3 67 Cambridge Club: 1917-1919, 1927
3 65 Cambridge Historical Society: 1911, 1918,
3 66 Cambridge Republican Ward: 1878
3 67 Cambridge Republican Ward: List of
Voters: Ward I: 1883-1884
3 68 Cambridge Republican Ward: List of
Voters: Ward II: 1883-1884
3 69 Cambridge Republican Ward: List of
Voters: Ward IV: 1883-1884
3 70 Cambridge Republican Ward: List of
Voters: Ward V: 1883-1884
3 71 Cambridge Republican Ward: List of
3 72 Cambridge Taxpayers' Association: 1908-
3 73 Cantabrigia Club: 1895-1896, 1899-1900,
3 74 Citizens' Trade Association: 1893
3 75 Colonial Club: Charter and By-laws: 1897,
3 76 Colonial Club: Charter and By-laws: 1890,
3 77 Committee of Municipal Affairs: 1919
3 78 Committee of Municipal Affairs: 1919:
3 79 Committee of One Hundred: 1884-1885,
3 80 Committee of One Hundred: 1893-1894:
3 81 Committee of One Hundred: Bound
3 82 Committee of One Hundred: Reports:1884
3 83 General: 1898, 1899, 1911, 1924, 1927,
3 84 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Annual Reports:1912-1919
3 85 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Annual Reports: 1920-1927
3 86 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Bound Ephemera: 1911-
3 87 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Bound Ephemera: Inserts:
3 88 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: By-laws: 1910, 1919
3 89 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Car Regulations:
Correspondence: 1919, 1922, 1924
3 90 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Correspondence: Incoming: 1913, 1919-1924
3 91 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Correspondence: Outgoing:
1911, 1913, 1916, 1919-1924
3 92 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Internal: 1854, 1899,
3 93 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Notes: Subway and Car
Traffic: n.d., 1923-1924
3 94 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: President's Reports: 1911-
3 95 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Publications: 1913, n.d.
3 96 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Scrapbook 1/3: 1923-1925
3 97 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Scrapbook 2/3: 1923-1925:
3 98 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Subway Station 1/2: 1909,
3 99 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Subway Station 2/2: 1909,
3 100 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Subway Station:
3 101 Harvard Square Business Men's
Association: Overhead Wire
[SEE ALSO: Box 5, Folders 151- 155; Map Case, Drawer 3]
3 102 Library Hall Association: Alderman
3 103 Library Hall Association: Alderman
3 104 Library Hall Association: Ballots: School
3 105 Library Hall Association: Ballots: Common
4 106 Library Hall Association: Ballots: Alderman
4 107 Library Hall Association: Ballots: Alderman
4 108 Library Hall Association: Ballots: Alderman
4 109 Library Hall Association: Ballots: Mayor:
4 110 Library Hall Association: 1890, 1902, n.d.:
4 111 Library Hall Association: Correspondence:
1888, 1897, 1899
4 112 Library Hall Association: Publications:
Annual Reports: 1894-1896, 1898, 1910-
4 113 Library Hall Association: Publications:
Record for the City Government: 1895,
4 114 Library Hall Association: Publications:
General: 1895-1899, n.d.
4 115 Library Hall Association: Publications:
4 116 Library Hall Association: Publications:
4 117 Library Hall Association: Publications:
4 118 Library Hall Association: Publications:
4 119 Library Hall Association: Publications:
4 120 Library Hall Association: Publications:
4 121 Library Hall Association: Meeting Notes:
4 122 Library Hall Association: Meeting Minutes:
[SEE ALSO: Map Case, Drawer 3]
4 123 Masons: 1874
4 124 Municipal Reform Convention: 1884, 1899,
4 125 Municipal Reform Convention: 1884, 1914,
4 126 National Municipal League: 1904-1905,
4 127 National Municipal League: 1894, 1899-
4 128 Prospect Union: Annual Reports: 1909-
4 129 Prospect Union: General: 1904-1905,
4 130 Prospect Union: General: 1909
[SEE ALSO: Box 5, Folder 150]
4 131 Solicitations: 1923, n.d.
Series III: Collected Ephemera
4 132 City of Cambridge: Annual Reports: 1943
4 133 City of Cambridge: Cambridge High
School: History: 1882
4 134 City of Cambridge: Cambridge High
School: History: Inserts: 1918, 1922, n.d.
4 135 City of Cambridge: Cambridge High
School: History: Inserts: 1922:
4 136 City of Cambridge: Poll Taxes: 1884
4 137 City of Cambridge: Traffic Regulations:
1917, 1920, 1924
4 138 City of Cambridge: Votes and Elections:
4 139 City of Cambridge: Votes and Elections:
4 140 City of Cambridge: Water Supply Report:
4 141 General: 1863, 1867, 1909, 1927, n.d.
[SEE ALSO: Bound Ephemera v. 1-164]
Series IV: Business Records
4 142 College House Offices: 1924
4 143 Renters' Accounts: 1907-1908
5 144 Renters' Accounts: 1909-1910
5 145 Renters' Accounts: 1910-1911
5 146 Renters' Accounts: 1911-1913
5 147 Renters' Accounts: 1913-1915
5 148 Renters' Accounts: 1915-1918
5 149 Renters' Accounts: 1918-1921
Series V: Photographs