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Ralph Adams Cram papers

Call Number: FA 2015.01

Scope and Contents

The Ralph Adams Cram papers span the years 1618-1997, with the bulk of the material dating after 1885. The collection documents the life of Ralph Adams Cram, an American architect during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While there are some materials in the collection that relate to his career in architecture and his architectural firms, the collection mostly documents his non-architectural pursuits.

Manuscripts from his prolific literary career are well represented as well as drafts of lectures, articles, drama, poetry, short fiction, book reviews, and letters to the editor. He was a member of many artistic and literary clubs and organizations, including the Visionists, the Order of the White Rose, and the Mediaeval Society, and the collection contains Cram’s correspondence with members of these organization. The collection also contains materials that document the founding of the Order of the White Rose in the United States and the formation of the Mediaeval Society. Some papers illustrate Cram’s role in The Commonweal and The Knight Errant. Materials from his career as an educator are also present.

Cram had a strong interest in religion and this is represented throughout the collection in his correspondence and writings. Correspondence between family members and Cram illustrate life during the early 20th century. Other materials in the collection include: watercolors, drawings, sketches, journals, scrapbooks, photographs, and scrolls.


  • 1618 - 1997
  • Majority of material found within 1885 - 1997

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law.

Ralph Adams Cram

Ralph Adams Cram was born in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire in 1863 to Sarah Elizabeth (Blake) Cram and William Augustine Cram, a Unitarian minister. He had one younger brother, William Everett Cram (1871-1947), and one younger sister, Marion (1876-1974). In 1900 he married Elizabeth Carrington Read (1873-1943). They had three children: Mary Carrington (1901-1980), Ralph Wentworth (1904-1973), and Elizabeth Strudwick (1913-n.d.). Cram spent the early part of his career in the Boston area, while the rest of his life was lived at Whitehall in Sudbury, Massachusetts, with his family. He passed away on September 22, 1942 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Cram is a well-known American ecclesiastical and collegial architect of the 20th century. He is best known as an advocate for the revival of gothic architecture. He began his career as an apprentice in 1881 with the firm Rotch and Tilden in Boston before partnering with Charles Francis Wentworth in 1889 to create the firm Cram & Wentworth. In 1891, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue began working at Cram & Wentworth and in 1895 the firm became Cram, Wentworth & Goodhue. This partnership continued until Wentworth’s death in 1899. Frank W. Ferguson then joined the architecture firm and it continued to operate under the name Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. In the beginning of the 1900s, the firm opened a New York office which Goodhue managed. In 1913 the partnership with Goodhue dissolved and the firm became known as Cram & Ferguson, and remained so despite new members Frank E. Cleveland, Chester N. Godfrey, and Alexander E. Hoyle, and after Ferguson’s death in 1926. Throughout his career, Cram worked on many substantial buildings, most of them located in the New England and is known for his churches and college buildings. Notable commissions include: All Saints’ Church, Ashmont, Massachusetts; Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, New York; Conventual Church of St. Mary and St. John, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and buildings at Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts; Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey; and at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

Cram also was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Early in his career (approximately 1880s), Cram wrote for the Boston Evening Transcript as an art critic. His published works include: Black Spirits and White: A Book of Ghost Stories (1895); Church Building: A Study of the Principles of Architecture in Their Relation to the Church (1901); Impressions of Japanese Architecture and the Allied Arts (1905); The Gothic Quest (1907); Six Lectures on Architecture (1917); The Great Thousand Years (1918); The Significance of Gothic Art (1918); The Catholic Church and Art (1930); My Life in Architecture (1937). Cram was a member of a few literary and artistic societies such as the “Visionists,” the “Pewter Mugs,” the “Order of the White Rose,” and the “Mediaeval Society.”

Other notable positions Cram held in his lifetime include Chair of the Boston City Planning Board and head of the architecture department at MIT (1914-1921).


37.58 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during re-processing in the absence of a usable order. In some cases, dates were written on indivdual folders in an earlier inventory of the collection, however, it is unknown how this date was determined, as the dates do not always correspond with the materials contained in the folders. Nevertheless, the dates have been retained.

The collection is arranged into eight series. All except Series VII have been arranged into topical subseries. Chronological arrangement of dated materials within series and subseries was imposed during processing.

Series I. Writings

Series II. Personal Correspondence

Series III. Personal Papers and Documents

Series IV. Cram and Associates

Series V. Cram Family Papers and Documents

Series VI. Photographs

Series VII. Drawings and Watercolors

Series VIII. Oversize and Fragile Materials

Custodial History

After Ralph Adam Cram’s death in 1942, his personal papers, and the firm’s specification files, plans, correspondence, original drawings, memorabilia, and more were delivered to Ralph Wentworth Cram (the son of Ralph Adams Cram. Ralph W. Cram lived in Southborough, Massachusetts at the time.

In January 1973, Douglas Shand-Tucci facilitated the donation of Cram’s personal papers to Boston Public Library by Ralph Adams Cram II (the grandson of Ralph Adams Cram and son of Ralph Wentworth Cram).

Between 1973 and 1974 Cram’s personal papers were transferred from Ralph Adams Cram II to Douglas Shand-Tucci. Sometime thereafter Shand-Tucci delivered to collection to BPL.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Ralph Adams Cram II, 1973.

Related Materials

Related manuscripts in this library: Ralph Adams Cram to Francis D. White, 1922, MS Am. 1138 (1), Ralph Adams Cram to Rev. C.R. Peck, 1940, MS Am. 1138 (2-3), Ralph Adams Cram to Edith Guerruer, 1935, Mss. Acc. 1113.

Processing Information

Initially processed by staff of the Boston Public Library. Re-processed by Diane Rhee (2013) and Lillianne Germain (2014), under the supervision of Eve Griffin, Curator of Fine Arts.

Processing Information

This electronic finding aid is transcribed from legacy data. In many cases, transcriptions were not verified against collection materials at the time of transcription. As a result, this finding aid could be incomplete and might only reflect a partial understanding of the material.

Statement on harmful description

Archival description reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Creator provided descriptions may be maintained in order to preserve the context in which the collection was created and/or used. Legacy description and potentially offensive content may be made available online until a collection can be reprocessed because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections more equitably are iterative and ongoing.

Guide to the Ralph Adams Cram papers
Lillianne Germain, 2014 and Dianne Rhee, 2013, under the supervision of Eve Griffin.
2015 February
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2015: Lillianne Germaine revised the finding aid and arrangement in 2014. Eve Griffin submitted the final version in 2015.
  • 2024-05-30: To comply with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS) Version 2019.0.3, Margaret Peachy, Archivist, adjusted the following field(s): title, EAD ID, finding aid date, scope and contents note, biographical/historical note, immediate source of acquisition note, revision description, related materials, custodial history, and physical access requirements.

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

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