Guide to the Wetmore family papers, 1847-1950 and undated

(bulk 1847-1854)

Redwood Library and Athenaeum
50 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840
Tel: (401) 847-0292
Fax: (401) 841-5680

Published in 2013

Collection Overview

Title: Wetmore family papers
Date range: 1847-1950 and undated, (bulk 1847-1854)
Creator: Wetmore family
Extent: .03 linear feet (3 folders)
Abstract: This collection consists of personal correspondence sent to and from members of the Wetmore family of Newport, Rhode Island. An unidentified photograph is also included.
Language of materials: English
Repository: Redwood Library and Athenaeum
Collection number: RLC.Ms.546

Scope & content

This collection consists of three folders, all pertaining to a different member of the Wetmore family of Newport. The first folder pertains to William Shepard Wetmore and contains three letters from his good friend and business associate, George Peabody (1795-1869) in London on October 23, 1847, September 19, 1851, and April 28, 1854. In these letters Peabody describes his banking business and offers a partnership to Wetmore.

The second folder includes three letters addressed to Mrs. Edith Wetmore (George Peabody Wetmore’s wife) and an unidentified photograph, all of which are undated. The letters are invitations for Edith to meet others for lunch are dinner. The senders of these letters are difficult to decipher since these letters were ripped into pieces at an unknown time and are in fragile condition.

The last folder contains one letter from Edith Malvina Ketaltas Wetmore on July 24, 1920, to Peyton R. Hazard, Secretary of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, in which she declines a position on the Library’s Board of Directors.


This collection is arranged in chronological order by family member.

Biographical note

William Shepard Wetmore (1801-1862) was born on January 26, 1801, in St. Albans, Vermont, and later moved to Middletown, Connecticut, to work for his uncle Samuel Wetmore. In 1815, Wetmore entered the mercantile business with the firm, Edward Carrington & Company in Providence, Rhode Island. While sailing as the firm’s supercargo on a ship bound to Chile in 1823, Wetmore was shipwrecked and stranded in Valparaiso, Chile. In Chile, he met import merchant, Richard Alsop, and together they formed a partnership, Alsop & Wetmore, conducting trade with the United States and England. This eventually led to a partnership with John Cryder, a Philadelphia merchant, renaming the firm Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder in 1825. Wetmore retired from the firm in 1829 and returned to the United States with a large fortune. In 1833, Wetmore left for Canton, China, and soon established a new successful merchant house there. In 1839, Wetmore left China to establish the company in New York City and he later formed a commission firm, Wetmore, Cryder & Company, with his former partner, John Cryder in 1844.

Wetmore formally removed himself from all business in 1847 and retired to Newport, Rhode Island, where he finished building one of Newport’s first grand mansions in 1852, the Chateau-sur-Mer. While in Newport, Wetmore was involved in the Newport Historical Society, Redwood Library, Butler Hospital, and the Newport Reading Room.

William Shepard Wetmore was first married to his cousin, Ester Phillips Wetmore (d. 1838) on October 24, 1837, in London, who later died in October 1838. Five years later, Wetmore married his second wife, Anstiss Derby Rogers (1822-1889) of Salem, Massachusetts, on September 5, 1843, and together they had three children: William Shepard Wetmore, Jr. (1844-1858), George Peabody Wetmore (1846-1924) and Annie Derby Rogers Wetmore (1848-1884). Wetmore died on June 16, 1862.

William Shepard Wetmore’s only surviving son, George Peabody Wetmore (1846-1921), was able to maintain the family’s wealth and became active in Rhode Island politics, servings as both governor and senator. George lived between the family home’s in Newport and New York and on December 22, 1869, he married Edith Malvina Ketaltas (1848-1927), with whom he had four children: Edith Malvina Ketaltas (1870-1966), Maude Alice Keteltas (1873-1951), William Shepard Keteltas (1875-1925), and Rogers Pickman Derby Keteltas (1882-1917). The family often traveled throughout Europe and maintained residence at Chateau-sur-Mer while also having leased residences in New York, Providence, and Washington, D.C., depending upon where George was working. George Peabody Wetmore died on June 12, 1921, in Boston, and his wife Edith passed away on May 21, 1927 in Paris. Upon their deaths, the Wetmore estate was passed on to their daughters, Alice and Edith, who would be the last of the Wetmores to live in the Newport mansion.

Edith Malvina Keteltas Wetmore (1870-1966) was born on September 23, 1870, in Geneva, Switzerland. She was an avid patron of the arts, a prominent collector of rare children’s books from around the world, gardener, and a well-known Newport socialite. Edith was involved in many Newport and New York interests including the Newport Casino Theater, Newport Horticultural Society, Preservation Society of Newport, Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New York Society Library. Edith M. K. Wetmore died on March 10, 1966, at her winter residence in New York and left behind an estate valued at ten million dollars.

Access & Use

Access to the collection: Access is open to members and researchers at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Use of the materials: This collection is owned by the Redwood Library and Athenaeum. Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Special Collections Librarian of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Preferred citation: Wetmore family papers, RLC.Ms.546, Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
Contact information: Redwood Library and Athenaeum
50 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840
Tel: (401) 847-0292
Fax: (401) 841-5680

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Gift of Donald Magee.
Processing information: This collection was initially processed by Aimee Saunders in 2010.
Author: Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Delmage.
Encoding: Finding aid encoded by Elizabeth Delmage 2013 October 24
Descriptive rules: Finding aid based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Sponsor: Funding for processing and cataloging this collection was provided by the van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

Additional Information

Related material:
  • Wetmore-Sherman family papers, MSS 1078, Rhode Island Historical Society.
  • William Shepard Wetmore papers, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.
  • Collins, Holly. Rites of passage : the Wetmores of Chateau sur Mer. The Preservation Society of Newport Count, April 4, 2002.
  • Inventory

    Manuscripts Box 1, Folder 1 Letters to William Shepard Wetmore
    1847 Oct 23-1854 Apr 28
    Folder 2 Letters to Edith Malvina (Ketaltas) Wetmore
    Folder 2 Photograph
    Folder 3 Letter from Edith Malvina Ketaltas Wetmore
    1950 Jul 24