Bates family papers

Biographical and Historical Notes

Arlo Bates (1850-1918)

Arlo Bates (1850-1918) was a novelist of over fourteen works of fiction, a poet, and a professor of English at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) in Boston. He was born in East Machias, Maine, on December 16, 1850 to Dr. Niran Bates and Susan Thaxter Bates. Bates studied at Bowdoin College where he earned a Bachelor's degree in 1876 and a Master's degree in 1879. He later received an honorary Litt.D in 1894.

Bates began writing while still a student at Bowdoin, and for a year after graduation, he painted china, tutored, and even worked as a clerk in a metal foundry. Eventually, he was offered the position of editor of the Boston Sunday Courier where he remained until 1893.

In 1882, Bates married Harriet Lenora Vose (1856-1886) who was herself a published writer under the pseudonym, Eleanor Putnum. Harriet was the daughter of Abba Valentine Thompson Vose (1834-1870) and George Leonard Vose (1831-1910), a respected professor of civil engineering at Bowdoin with expertise in railroad construction and management. Bates and his wife collaborated on a novel, Prince Vance, published in 1886. On the eleventh of March, 1886, Harriet Vose Bates passed away at Brookline, Massachusetts. Every volume Bates published thereafter was dedicated to her. Together, Arlo and Harriet had one child, a son, Oric, who was three years old when his mother died.

In 1893, Bates accepted a position as professor of English at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he stayed until his retirement in 1915. During this time, Bates lectured extensively and wrote several textbooks, including Talks on Writing English (1896); Talks on the Studies of Literature (1906); and Talks on Teaching Literature (1906). Bates is the author of fourteen novels that include Patty's Perversities (1881); A Lad's Love (1887); In the Bundle of Time (1893); The Diary of a Saint (1902); as well a collection of short stories, The Intoxicated Ghost (1908). In addition, Bates published seven volumes of poetry, including The Berries of the Briar (1886); Under the Beech Tree (1899); and Sonnet in Shadow (1887), a dirge in memory of his wife. In 1912, Bates wrote an introduction to E. P. Whipple’s posthumous two volume edition, Charles Dickens, a biography of the English author. Bates passed away on August 24, 1918.


Kunitz, Stanley and Howard Haycraft, eds. American Authors, 1600-1900. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1938.

Additional biographical material derived from collection.

Oric Bates (1883-1918)

Oric Bates (1883-1918), was an archeologist, museum curator, explorer, and writer at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum and Museum of Fine Arts. He led Peabody expeditions under the direction of Dr. George Reisner to various African locations including Egypt and Sudan. Oric Bates married Natica Inches and the couple had two sons (Mandon and John Chester) and a daughter (also Natica) in the time preceding his untimely death from pneumonia in 1918.


Additional biographical material derived from collection.

Content Description

The Bates family papers comprise 1.3 linear feet of correspondence, diaries, and ephemera documenting the personal and professional lives of three generations of Bates family members and largely centering on materials relating to writer Arlo Bates. The collection also offers insights into the archeological work of Arlo’s son, Oric Bates, while documenting the social and professional lives of Arlo’s daughter-in-law Natica Inches Bates and his grandson John Chester Bates.

Series I.A. Arlo Bates letters to Oric Bates, contains letters, clippings, and ephemera sent from father to son predominantly during a time when Arlo Bates was lecturing at M.I.T. and Oric Bates was working as an archeologist in Egypt and Syria. The letters were sent to inform Oric of events and business in Boston and Maine, particularly in regard to Arlo Bates’ social and professional affairs. Often the letters announced the activities of the Tavern Club and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, two organizations with which Arlo Bates was closely affiliated. The letters also forwarded clippings taken from Boston newspapers, primarily regarding the affairs of Harvard University (Oric Bates’ employer) and also archeological events around the globe. Additionally, Arlo Bates frequently offered his literary opinions in these letters, commenting on figures such as Poe, Shakespeare, Emerson, Mark Twain, William and Henry James, and also on his own writing. (Sometimes these opinions would be in anticipation of his own M.I.T. lectures on these subjects.) In addition, Arlo wrote Oric often as a stern father, reminding his abroad son of the unpaid debt he owed back in the United States.

Series I.B. Letters from Natica Inches Bates to Oric Bates and Arlo Bates, predominantly includes letters sent from Natica to husband Oric Bates from Boston while Oric was working as an archeologist overseas. The letters tell of Natica Bates’ life in Boston during her husband’s absence and include her commentary on her social and home activities, particularly in regard to caring for the couple’s infant first son, Mandon Bates (1915-2001). Other social and familial topics include accounts regarding the Bates’ dog, “Pickles”; the family car, “Fordy”; and the comings and goings of family friends. Writing during World War I, Natica also wrote of the censorship wall in Europe, as well as “the German’s sinking submarines in the Mediterranean.” Many of these letters were posted from the Bates’ home at 31 Lime Street, Boston, and were addressed to the American Consulates at Alexandria, Egypt and later Yokohama, Japan, both near Oric Bates’ archeological digging sites.

The series also includes six undated letters written by Natica Bates to her father-in-law, Arlo Bates, and sent from Cairo, Egypt where she had accompanied her husband on an expedition, probably in 1913. Most of these letters were written by Natica on the stationery of the Ghezirah Palace in Cairo, Egypt, where she was laid up with a mild case of diphtheria but still seemingly in good spirits, writing of learning Arabic and enjoying views from the hotel balcony.

Series I.C. John C. Bates letters to his mother, Natica Inches Bates, are reflective of John’s work with the International Greenfell Association (IGA), an organization that provided a medical and other services to fisherman and coastal communities in Northern Newfoundland and the coast of Labrador. Many of Bates’ letters are addressed from the Change Islands, Newfoundland, and describe the association’s activities in support of the fisherman there. Bates owned and skippered a fast cabin cruiser the Northern Arrow for his work with the organization, and described saving over thirty lives with the vessel as well as “treating 107 patients in 4 ½ days.”

Series I.D. Letters to Bates family includes twenty two letters written by various noteworthy individuals and largely addressed to Arlo Bates. These prominent contemporary writers, scholars, politicians, and intellectuals who wrote to Bates included Harriet McEwan Kimball, a poet; Edward Robinson, scholar and director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (praising Bates work "Diary of a Saint"); the abolitionist Wendell Phillips; U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge; and writer Theodore Dreiser, who wrote as editor of the American women's magazine The Delineator. Other letters were written by Minnie M. Curetis of Raleigh, North Carolina; C. E. Goodspeed, publisher/bookseller of Boston; Margaret S. Bowditch, of Boston; Archibald Cary Coolidge, educator and first director of the Harvard University Library; Curtis Guild, former governor of Massachusetts; Grafton Dulany Cushing, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; Fred N. Sterns of the Anthropology Section of the University Museum, Peabody Museum of Harvard University; and Laura D'Oremeiulx Roosevelt, wife of James West Roosevelt, cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Series II. Arlo Bates diaries, contains four diaries that span nearly forty years of the writer’s life and largely document his intercontinental travels while also revealing his insights on a variety of contemporary affairs and literary topics. In addition to these personal journals, Bates kept one diary devoted to his observations about his son, Oric Bates, as a boy and young man.

Series III. Bates family ephemera, includes items that offer further insights into the personal and professional lives of Arlo, Oric, Natica, and John C. Bates. The ephemera of Arlo Bates includes clippings of his own fiction and nonfiction from various publications; copyright documents relative to Prince Vance, a book Bates wrote with his wife “Eleanor Putnam” (pseudonym of Harriet Lenora Vose); cabinet card photographs of Bates; and other items. Ephemera of Oric Bates includes invitations, receipts, programs, notes, and one typed original poem. Natica Inches Bates ephemera centers largely on documents concerning the sponsorship of two boys from England for whom she was to care for during World War II. Other family ephemera includes a handwritten genealogy of the Vose family, as well as various notes and clippings of unknown origin.