Skip to main content

Ralph Adams Cram papers

Call Number: FA 2015.01

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the life of Ralph Adams Cram (RAC), an 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 materials mostly document 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. Other members of these organizations are represented in correspondence with RAC. Correspondence and other papers in the collection document the founding of the Order of the White Rose in the United States and the formation of the Mediaeval Society. Some papers document RAC’s role in The Commonweal and The Knight Errant. Materials of his career as an educator are also present. RAC had a strong interest in religion and this is represented throughout the collection in his correspondence and writings. Correspondence between family members and RAC illustrate life during the early 20th century. Other materials in the collection include: watercolors, drawings, sketches, journals, scrapbooks, photographs, scrolls, and documents.


  • 1618-1997
  • Majority of material found within 1885-1949

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.

Biographical / Historical

Ralph Adams Cram (RAC) 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.). RAC 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.

RAC was 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. He partnered 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 continues 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 was known as Cram & Ferguson. The firm remained Cram & Ferguson despite new members Frank E. Cleveland, Chester N. Godfrey, and Alexander E. Hoyle, and after Ferguson’s death in 1926. Throughout his career, RAC worked on many substantial buildings, most of them located in the New England. RAC 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.

RAC also was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Early in his career (ca. 1880s), RAC 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). RAC 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 RAC held in his lifetime include Chair of the Boston City Planning Board (1914-19?) 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

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Series VIII of this collection is not currently housed in boxes. Please request items in this series by the folder number.

Many items are fragile and require special handling.

Method of Acquisition

The Boston Public Library acquired the Ralph Adams Cram papers through Douglass Shand-Tucci from Ralph Wentworth Cram and Mary Carrington Cram Nicholas, in multiple acquisitions. Some items appear to have been added after the death of RAC, most likely by Shand-Tucci.

Related Materials

Ralph Adams Cram to Francis D. White, 1922, MS Am. 1138 (1), Rare Books

Ralph Adams Cram to Rev. C.R. Peck, 1940, MS Am. 1138 (2-3), Rare Books

Ralph Adams Cram to Edith Guerruer, 1935, Mss. Acc. 1113, Rare Books

Related Publications

Anthony, Ethan, and Ralph Adams Cram. 2007. The Architecture of Ralph Adams Cram and His Office. New York: W.W. Norton.

Shand-Tucci, Douglass, and Ralph Adams Cram. 2005. Ralph Adams Cram: An Architect's Four Quests : Medieval, Modernist, American, Ecumenical. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

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: Finding Aid initially written by Dianne Rhee, 2013, under the supervision of Eve Griffin. Lillianne Germaine revised the finding aid and arrangement in 2014. Eve Griffin submitted the final version in 2015.

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

700 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116 United States