Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online

For Participating Institutions

Wetmore family papers (RLC.Ms.546)

Redwood Library and Athenaeum

50 Bellevue Avenue
Newport, RI 02840
Tel: (401) 847-0292
Fax: (401) 841-5680
email: redwood@redwoodlibrary.org

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.