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Morse-Keith Family Papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Morse-Keith

Scope and Content of the Collection

Most of the letters are from Charles Ansel Morse to his family in New Bedford, Massachusetts. There are also letters from Charles Ansel Morse to his wife, Helen Morse. The subjects touched upon in the letters include business and real estate ventures in Chicago, caring for low income and aging family members, social life in Chicago, and Oscar Wilde’s tour of America.

Also included are calling cards and “at-home” cards of many early Chicago residents. There are also several wedding invitations. There are genealogical notes of the Small and Barnard family and the marriage certificates of Elias A. Morse and Mary Ann Small for Jay, Maine and Taunton, Massachusetts. There are several pages from a family bible of the birth, marriage, and death records of the Morse family.

The collection also includes several photographs of Helen and her sister Mary Keith from infancy to adulthood. Included is a tintype of Morgan Keith. There is a photograph of “Grandmother Morse” and a photograph of Elias A. Morse, as well as several photographs of unidentified individuals.


  • Creation: 1833-1938
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1864 - 1872



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Morse-Keith Family Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Morse-Keith Family Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Charles Ansel Morse

Chicago businessman.

Charles Ansel Morse was born on March 12, 1835. Charles’ father, Elias A. Morse (1806-1864) of Taunton, Massachusetts, served in various town and county offices. His mother, Mary Ann Small Morse (1810-1904), was born in Jay, Maine. Her grandfather, Samuel Small, served in the Revolutionary War and her father was a country doctor. Her mother, Elizabeth Barnard Small, lived to be over 100 years old.

Charles settled in Chicago in the early 1860s after working in Boston and in Springfield, Illinois. In Chicago he established a wholesale clothing firm on Michigan Avenue at Lake Street. In 1864 he married Helen Keith, the sister of Morgan L. Keith. Morgan L. Keith, who had arrived in Chicago in 1847, served as alderman, ran for mayor, and worked for the Stephen Douglas campaign.

Charles and Helen had two daughters, Helen and Mary. Charles Morse’s brother, Elias Morse, was also part of the household and in the family business as a clothing merchant.

Charles Ansel Morse died on June 4, 1894. Helen Keith Morse died on December 13, 1908.


0.4 Linear Feet (1 box)


Papers centering around Charles Ansel Morse (1835-1894) who settled in Chicago in the early 1860s, establishing a wholesale clothing firm. The bulk of the collection consists of letters home to family in New Bedford, Mass. There are also calling cards of many early Chicago residents, genealogical documents, and a few photographs.


The letters are arranged alphabetically, followed by miscellaneous material.

Collection Stack Location

1 26 4


Unknown, ca. 1998.

Processed by

Marisa Bell-Metereau, 2009.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Morse-Keith Family Papers, 1833-1938, bulk 1864-1872
Marisa Bell-Metereau
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States