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About the Adams Papers

The Massachusetts Historical Society established the Adams Papers editorial project in 1954, upon the Adams family’s commitment to donate their extensive collection of correspondence, diaries, and other documents to the Society. This collection is the most comprehensive and historically significant family archive held by an American cultural institution, public or private. Comprising nearly 300,000 manuscript pages, the material provides an intimate look at our nation’s history and culture from the era of the Revolution to the late nineteenth century. Since Lyman H. Butterfield first organized the project, three generations of editors have added over 27,000 items from hundreds of other public and private sources. The entire collection now contains about 100,000 documents. Access to information concerning the collection has been made available to the public with the completion of the NHPRC-sponsored Online Adams Catalogue (OAC) at

Unlike other founding generation projects, the Adams Papers does not end with the death of the first generation. John and Abigail Adams are the focus of the first generation, but the chronological end date for the edition is 1889. The first volumes, Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, appeared in 1961. As of 2012, 46 volumes have been published, including 37 in the founding generation. The Adams Papers edition was funded originally by Time-Life Inc. and the Ford Foundation. Over the years the Lyn and Norman Lear Fund, the J. Howard Pew Freedom Trust, and the Charles E. Culpepper Foundation contributed significantly to the support of the project. At present funding is provided by the NHPRC, the NEH, the Packard Humanities Institute, and the Florence Gould Foundation.

Access to other Adams digital resources at the Massachusetts Historical Society may be found at Information about the editorial project and other related resources is available at

See a complete list of Adams Papers volumes included in Founders Online, with links to the documents.

The letterpress edition of The Adams Papers is available from Harvard University Press.

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