Historic and Cultural Collections

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Red kimono
Kimono and other Asian objects
c. 1860s

Asian Collections

The Japanese and Chinese collections at Longfellow National Historic Site 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.

Many of the Chinese ceramics in the house are export ware, collected by Charles Appleton Longfellow in the 1870s.


Japanese screen with windows
Japanese screen
c. 1860s


Charles Longfellow (1844-1893), Henry and Frances Appleton Longfellow’s oldest son, collected a wide range of ceramics, textiles, paintings, and bronzes during his twenty-month sojourn in Japan, from June 1871 until March 1873, and shipped more than twenty crates of furnishings and decorative arts home to his family in Cambridge.

Japanese room
Japanese Room (late image)
Longfellow House
c. 1899

Soon after his return, 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 fans, and displaying prints and furniture in the room.

The Longfellow House’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 1870s-1890s.

Charley in Japanese robe
Charles A. Longfellow

In addition, the site holds 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, maps, printed books, watercolors of Noh theater productions, scrolls, parasols and over 350 photographs, including rare images of the Ainu people.


Grueby Tile
Boston area
Early 20th c.


Arts and Crafts Collections

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 (Grueby, Fulper and Marblehead), jewelry, lighting fixtures, wallpapers and furniture (Roycroft, David Wolcott Kendall for Phoenix Furniture Co.).

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.

Library detail
Library architectural detail



Architectural Collection

Included in this collection are approximately 300 architectural items dating from 1759 to the early 20th century. All are items from the Longfellow House or Carriage House, or elements from the formal garden and grounds.

They consist of

  • Shutters
  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Ornamental finials
  • Hardware
  • Moldings
  • Fencing
  • Fragments from the 1904 pergola.

The house itself is an important resource for studying architecture. It retains a high level of preservation and architectural integrity representing Mid-Georgian, Federal, and Colonial Revival styles.

Archaeological artifacts
Archaelogical artifacts found on site

Archeology Collection

The archeology collection numbers over 22,000 artifacts resulting from test digs and formal archeological excavations throughout the grounds and garden, as well as in the basement of the House. It includes artifacts from the pre-historic period (4500 years ago) as well as from the eighteenth through the twentieth century.

The collection includes:

  • Blown bottle glass
  • Window glass
  • Nails
  • Tools
  • Ordnance
  • Molded creamware
  • Slipware
  • Blue and white porcelain
  • Redware
  • Clay pipes
  • Animal bones
  • Plant material.



Natural History Collection

The herbarium was created by the National Park Service in the 1990s. It includes approximately sixty-five specimens of historic plant material extant within the Longfellow NHS property at that time.

Sheet music entitled The Death of Minnehaha
The Death of Minnehaha
Sheet music

Historic Sheet Music Collection

Most of the 450 items in the sheet music collection are original musical compositions based on Longfellow’s poetry. Some are in manuscript format and many are inscribed to Longfellow by the composer.


Architectural Drawings, 1847-1936

This collection ncludes drawings and blueprints created by twelve different architectural firms, including Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow Jr. (Henry’s nephew and a former associate in H.H. Richardson’s firm) and Ellen Shipman. The collection documents the historically sensitive changes made to the Craigie-Longfellow House.

Violet Seller print by William Morris Hunt, 1857
Violet Seller (print)
by William Morris Hunt

Longfellow Family Historic Site Print Collection                                               

The Longfellow family historic print collection includes over 1200 items. It is a diverse assortment of lithographs, etchings, engravings, wood block prints, and other types of prints and printing plates, varied in subject and date. It ranges from pages of the Nuremberg Chronicles printed in 1493 to twentieth-century prints and includes scenes of Europe, reproductions of artworks in galleries and museums, portraits of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and other notables, views of the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, as well as illustrations for Longfellow’s poems. Many of the prints were collected by Longfellow and his family and consequently reflect the interests, social interactions, and taste of a Victorian New England family.

Postcard Collection of the Longfellow Family, c. 1870-1970                 

This collection consists of 2700 picture postcards received by members of the Longfellow family, or blank postcards collected by them. They represent scenes from around the world, views of the Longfellow House, and subjects such as fine arts and theater.



© 2004 Longfellow National Historic Site