Skip to main content

Watson Family Collection

 Collection
Identifier: JDWF

Scope and Content

The Watson Family Collection (1830s-2012) consists of material created by the Watson family, such as correspondence, writings, clippings, travel ephemera, and birding material. Additionally, the collection includes a series of genealogical research collected by the family and by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory archivists.

The collection is divided into 5 series:

  1. James D. Watson, Sr., 1878-1967
  2. Birding Material, 1912-1960s
  3. Correspondence, 1830s-1992
  4. Mitchell Family, 1917-1954
  5. Genealogical Materials, 1940s-2012

The James D. Watson, Sr. series (1878-1967) comprises the largest portion of the collection. It includes a series of diaries, copybooks (transcriptions of famous quotes and essays), clippings, notes on literature and philosophy, and travel ephemera documenting his trips to Europe and Asia in the 1950s and 60s. It includes some of his writings, such as coursework from his time at Oberlin College (1915-16), as well as his essay on liberalism (1957). The series also includes a receipt from the Perry Springs Hotel, which was owned by Watson Sr.’s great-grandfather, Benjamin A. Watson.

Of historical interest is a letter to Watson Sr. from naturalist Donald Culross Peattie (1898-1964). This letter had been laid in a scrapbook of Peattie’s columns which were published from 1936 to 1937 that was assembled by Watson Sr. Many of the Peattie columns were loose on the pages and have been rehoused.

Watson Sr. was an avid birder. Material related to this pursuit has been collected in the Birding Material series (1912-1960s). The early bird records (1910s to 1940s) are very detailed, while later records are more casual and include a number of clippings related to birds, weather, and the natural world. The first folder of the series includes bird records by both Watson, Sr. and his son Dr. James D. Watson, Jr. Of note is a 1914 report on birding in the Chicago area written by Watson Sr. entitled “A Trip to the Woods.”

The Correspondence series includes family letters from the 1830s to 1992, including letters from Watson Sr. to his family during his tour of duty in World War I. The series also contains two letters concerning Watson Jr. participating in the 1940s radio show Quiz Kids.

The Mitchell Family series (1917-1954) consists of material related to Watson Sr.'s mother, Margaret Jean (Mitchell) Watson and her family. It includes three Wendell Phillips High School publications and a profile of her from the La Salle Extension University employee newsletter.

The Genealogical Material series (1940s-2012) consists of research files regarding Dr. Watson’s ancestry on both his mother and father’s sides of the family. It was collected by Dr. Watson and his family, as well as by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives staff members. This material was used by Dr. Watson while writing two memoirs, Avoid Boring People (2007) and Father to Son (2014).

Dates

  • 1830s-2012

Creator

Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply, see Archivist for details. Access is given only by appointment, 8:00a.m. to 4:45p.m. Monday through Friday.

Use Restriction

Archival materials must remain in the archival reading area. Item duplication is to be done by archivists. Fees are applied to copies made. Digital photography is permitted by users. Due to the very fragile nature of some materials in this collection, some are available through photocopies; others must be used under the supervision of an archivist.

Biography

James Dewey Watson, Sr. (Watson Sr.) was born to Thomas Tolman Watson and Nellie Dewey Ford in Minnesota in 1897. Watson Sr. and his three younger brothers, William Weldon IV ("Bill"), Thomas Tolman II, and Stanley Ford ("Chick") grew up in La Grange, Illinois.

He attended Oberlin College briefly. He joined the Illinois National Guard, and was in the 33rd Division during World War I. He worked for many years at La Salle Extension University, where he met his wife, Margaret Jean Mitchell (b. 1899). They married in 1925 and had two children. James D. Watson was born 6 April 1928, and Elizabeth "Betty" was born 23 June 1930.

Margaret Jean Mitchell died in 1957. Watson Sr. died in Huntington, NY, in 1968.

Extent

14 Boxes ; 6.5 linear feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Watson Family Collection (1830s-2012) consists of material created by the Watson family, such as correspondence, writings, clippings, travel ephemera, and birding material. Additionally, the collection includes a series of genealogical research collected by the family and by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory archivists.

Arrangement Note

The first four series are arranged chronologically by folder content. The final series, Genealogical Material, is arranged alphabetically by folder. Undated material has been placed on the end of each series.

Provenance

Much of this collection was assembled by the relatives of Dr. James D. Watson and passed on to him. It was donated to the CSHL Archives sometime between 2001 and 2007. Additional material was donated in 2011 (Accession # 2011-058). It was originally organized and processed by Charles Egleston in 2007. The finding aid was updated by John Zarrillo in 2010. After the donation of additional material in 2011 the collection was reorganized to better reflect the materials within by John Zarrillo. This document incorporates material from Egleston’s original finding aid.

Related Collections

The James D. Watson Collection includes numerous letters to and from his family. The Photographs record group contains a number of portraits and snapshots of the Watson family, dating back to the 1870s. The Memorabilia and Ephemera series also includes series related to his family and birding.

Related collections at other institutions include: The California State Library houses the Benjamin A. Watson Gold Rush Letters, 1849-1851, which documents the journey of Dr. Watson’s Great Great Grandfather from Springfield, IL to California during the California Gold Rush.

Title
James D. Watson Family Collection
Status
Completed
Author
Finding Aid Prepared by Charles Egleston, 2007. Finding Aid Updated by John Zarrillo, 2011. Finding Aid Updated by Em Longan, June 2022.
Date
2013
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives Repository

Contact:
Library & Archives
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
One Bungtown Rd
Cold Spring Harbor NY 11724 USA
516-367-6872