Adams National Historical Park is the only park where the story of two presidents from birth to final resting place can be told. Equally significant are the objects and stories associated with two First Ladies who are recognized as writers, mothers, partners, stateswomen and educators.
Built in 1731, this home occupied four generations of the Adams Family from 1788 to 1927. Each generation added it's own unique layer of history.
President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams.
Second Generation: President John Quincy Adams and First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams.
Third Generation: Civil War Minister to Great Britain, Charles Francis Adams and wife Abigail Brooks Adams and,
Fourth Generation: Literary historians Henry and Brooks Adams, Charles Francis Jr. and John Quincy II.
John Adams was born in the house on the right and John Quincy was born in the house on the left. John worked hard with his father on the farm, enjoyed going to school, fishing and flying kites. He described his father as honest and active in Church and town business. His mother came from a prominent Boston family.
John's father instilled hard work and an interest in public affairs. His mother introduced him to the customs and lifestyles of the elite of colonial Boston. Upon his father's death John inherited the small saltbox cottage adjacent to his birthplace and that is where he and Abigail lived upon their marriage.
In 1774 John was appointed one of the representatives from Massachusetts to the First Continental Congress. He helped write letters of protest to Great Britain. While separated from his family he continued to instruct Abigail to educate the children. …"Cultivate their minds, inspire their little hearts, and raise their wishes. Fix their attention upon great and glorious objects, sort out every little thing, and weed out every meanness”
John Quincy Adams was profoundly influenced by his upbringing in a small farmhouse. As son of John and Abigail Adams, he was also a son of the American Revolution. He would serve his country as Minister to foreign nations, Senator, Secretary of State, the sixth President of the United States, and a Congressman.
In August of 1776, Abigail wrote to John..."I most sincerely wish that some more liberal plan might be laid and executed for the Benefit of the rising Generation, and that our new constitution may be distinguished for Learning and Virtue. If we mean to have Heroes, Statesmen and Philosophers, we should have learned women. The world perhaps would laugh at me, and accuse me of vanity, But you I know have a mind too enlarged and liberal to disregard the Sentiment. If much depends as is allowed upon the early Education of youth and the first principals which are instilled take the deepest root, great benefit must arise from literary accomplishments in women.”
John wrote to Abigail in May 1780, “The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
John was asked by Congress to negotiate the terms of a peace agreement with Great Britain, which would mark the end of the American Revolution. The Treaty was signed on September 3, 1783. John Singelton Copley captured John at his finest moment. Abigail and Nabby could finally join John and John Quincy in Europe. This copy of the Copley hangs in the "Old House"
Portrait of President John Adams, painted by Jane Stuart, copy of her father's work. Oil on canvas. Original portrait Circa. 1800.
As president, he kept the country at peace when many were calling for war with France. Adams later described his peace decision as "the most splendid diamond in my crown."
Abigail Adams was first mother of one president and wife of another. She was our first first lady to live in the White House. Her letters to various family members were filled with advice, opinions and compassion. She depended on writing to communicate with John who was frequently separated from his family due to his commitment to public service.
John Adams' stand-up writing desk.
When the lid is raised there are pigeon holes all the way across the desk for filing papers. John used this desk in Quincy when he was Vice President and President of the United States. An interesting feature is that only one pigeon hole was assigned the Army and Navy papers.
First lady to John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, Louisa Catherine Adams was born in London, England on February 12, 1775. Her mother was British, and her father, a merchant from Maryland. She was educated in the arts, fluent in French and wrote poetry and theatrical productions for her family.
While serving as the Minister to Russia, John Quincy was called upon to negotiate an end of the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent, was signed December 24, 1814 that ended the war. John Quincy bid his wife to close up their home and meet him in Paris, she began one of the most extraordinary adventures of her life.
“Sculptor, thy hand has moulded into form The haggard features of a toil-worn face; And whosoever views thy work shall trace An age of sorrow, and a Life of Storm. And, canst thou mould the Heart? For that is warm; Glowing with tenderness for all its race....” “To Hiram Powers” written by John Quincy Adams. Powers and Adams shared the same abhorrence of slavery.
John Quincy inherited the property known as "Peace field" upon his father's death.
..."That moment was inexpressibly painful, and struck me as if it had been an arrow to the heart. My mother and father have departed. The charm which has always made this house to me an abode of enchantment is dissolved: and yet my attachment to it, and to the whole region round, is stronger than I have ever felt it before.” JQA Diary, 13 July, 1826
Louisa Catherine wrote of her father in law.. .“Among all the great characters that it has been my lot to meet…I have never met with a mind of such varied powers, such acute discrimination, and which…was so intrinsically sound; with a memory so fertile, so clear and so perspicuous. Every thing in his mind was rich, racy and true.”
In "The Education of Henry Adams", Henry describes this tea service in his account of his early memories in Quincy and of his Grandmother, Louisa Catherine ..."Sitting in her paneled room, at breakfast, with her heavy silver teapot and sugar-bowl and cream-jug... To the boy she seemed singularly peaceful, a vision of silver gray, presiding over her old President and her Queen Anne Mahogany..."
Louisa proved to be a significant asset to John Quincy in diplomatic circles and foreign courts. She was fluent in French, loved to dance and was often the charming contrast to her stern husband. Right after John Quincy was appointed Minister to Berlin, by his father, President John Adams, they married in London on July 26, 1797.
Describing his grandmother Louisa in "The Education of Henry Adams" he wrote “… The Madam was a little more remote than the President, but more decorative. She stayed much in her own room with the Dutch tiles, looking out on her garden with the box walks, and seemed a fragile creature to a boy who sometimes brought her a note or a message, and took distinct pleasure in looking at her delicate face under what seemed to him very becoming caps. He liked her refined figure ; her gentle voice and manner; her vague effect of not belonging there, but to Washington or to Europe, like her furniture, and writing-desk with little glass doors above and little eighteenth-century volumes in old binding, labelled “Peregrine Pickle” or “Tom Jones” or “Hannah More.” Try as she might, the Madam could never be Bostonian, and it was her cross in life, but to the boy it was her charm..."
American embroidered memorial wreath presented to Louisa Catherine Adams upon the death of her father in law, John Adams. Red, white and blue silk embroidered flowers create a wreath of color on a black silk background.
The lettering in the center of the wreath reads, "Presented to Mrs. Adams, Lady of the President of the United States of America by the Pupils of the Seminary for Female Education at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1826/A.B."
The piece is an extraordinary example of 19th Century American art. It honors the contributions of Adams women. It was presented to the First Lady, during John Quincy Adams’ Presidency, signifying the father son presidential connection. As a member of the Continental Congress, John Adams visited the Seminary for Female Education and witnessed for himself their fine embroidery skills. John wrote to his daughter about his visit to the school and noted it was a “remarkable Institution for the education of young ladies…” Brilliantly, the symbolic colors of the wreath highlight the date, July 4, 1826 when John Adams died
Adams National Historical Park
Quincy, MA 02169
Superintendent, Marianne Peak
Curator, Kelly Cobble
Museum Technician, Patty Smith