Houston Public Library, Houston Metropolitan Research Center

William Marsh Rice Collection MSS.0140

Descriptive Summary

Creator Rice, William Marsh, 1816-1900
Title: William Marsh Rice Collection
Dates: 1831-1869
Identification: MSS.0140
Quantity: 1.5 Linear feet, 3 boxes
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library

Biographical Note

The life of William Marsh Rice -- cotton merchant, realtor, philanthropist, and entrepreneur extraordinaire -- is intimately connected with the early history and development of the city of Houston. His involvement in Houston's civic life spanned a period of some sixty years. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1816, the enterprising young Rice moved to Houston in 1839, attracted by the wide-open possibilities of the young city, which had been founded only three years before. For the next twenty-five years, Houston served both as Rice's home and a base for his numerous business interests. Even after Rice moved to New York in 1865, he remained deeply involved with Houston for he continued to maintain business ties with the city and, together with his wife, he made almost annual visits to the city until 1897. In 1891, nine years before his death, Rice completed the formulation of plans for his greatest legacy to Houston, his provisions for the founding of Rice Institute.

Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection consist primarily of Rice's personal and financial correspondence as well as financial records covering virtually the whole period of his residency in Houston, with the earliest papers dating from 1841. There are some financial records dating back to 1869. The collection also contains personal and financial papers of Frederick Rice, Rice's brother, and of John H. Brown, a business associate of Rice and the first husband of Rice's second wife, Julia Elizabeth Baldwin. A grouping of miscellaneous records and correspondence covers the years 1837-1868.

This collection is valuable to anyone researching the early history of Houston. Persons interested in Civil War history could also profit from this collection, as there are numerous personal letters regarding the war as well as many financial records relating to Rice's struggle to keep his finances solvent in the latter days of the Confederacy. Finally, there are several financial ledgers in the collection which are of importance to social historians as they provide both lists of goods being purchased by Rice's customers as well as the prices which were paid for them.



The materials in the William Marsh Rice collection are arranged by subject matter (e.g. personal correspondence) in three boxes beginning with those materials relating directly to William Marsh Rice, with the second box containing those items relating to Frederick Rice and John H. Brown. The third box contains miscellaneous correspondence and records. Within each of the nineteen folders in this collection, the correspondence or records are arranged in chronological order.


Access Restrictions


Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the William Marsh Rice Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Index Terms

Brown, John H.
Rice, William Marsh, 1816-1900
Houston (Tex.)
United States--History--Civl War, 1861-1865

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

William Marsh Rice Collection. MSS 140. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Hugo Neuhaus, Jr.

Processing Information

Processed by Steven Strom, 1980.

Detailed Description of the Collection


William Marsh Rice

Box Folder
1 1 Personal Correspondence, 1854-1869
2 Financial Correspondence, 1860-1865
3 Financial Correspondence, 1866-1869
4 Financial Records, 1845-1862
5 Financial Records, 1863-1864
6 Financial Records, 1865-1866
7 Financial Records, 1867-1869, undated
8 General Correspondence, 1841-1865
9 Financial Records-Ledgers, 1858-1862
10 Financial Records-Ledgers, 1858-1863


Frederick Rice

Box Folder
2 1 General Correspondence, 1855-1868, undated


John H. Brown

Box Folder
2 2 Personal Correspondence, 1831-1866
3 Financial Records, 1844-1854
4 Financial Records, 1855-1865
5 Financial Records-Ledgers, 1844-1848, 1860



Box Folder
3 1 Personal Correspondence, 1864-1868
2 Financial Records, 1836-1863
3 Financial Records, 1842-1868, undated
4 Financial Records-Ledgers, 1864-1865