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Winthrop C. Durfee business and personal papers

Identifier: MC-166

Scope and Contents

The materials in the Winthrop C. Durfee Personal and Business Papers span from 1890 to 1930. The bulk of the collection is dated from 1910 to the late 1920’s. The collection consists of personal papers and correspondence and business papers and correspondence generated by Winthrop C. Durfee and his business associates, such as Edward S. Chapin. The collection pertains to Durfee’s career as an independent chemist and consultant who advised his clients in the mills and local textile industry about the purchase of dyewoods, dyes, waxes, and dextrin which he would procure for his contacts. The collection contains letters, reports, extensive correspondence, invoices from suppliers, invoices to clients, orders from clients, tests and samples of dyed materials, Durfee’s personal chemistry notes and calculations as well as product catalogs and miscellaneous artifacts. The subjects of the collection range from personal affairs with family members to Durfee’s business dealings as a Manufacturing Chemist and head of the Durfee Dye Business. Other subjects in the collection include international imports and exports and international business dealings with France and Germany. Some pieces of the collection are written in French and German. Durfee’s dye business was located in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. The Winthrop C. Durfee collection was created by Durfee and then purchased by the UMASS Dartmouth Archives and Special Collections via the Boston Book Company. The collection is arranged in 5 series consisting of 101 boxes.


  • Majority of material found within 1890-1930, 1910-1925

Language of Materials

Materials primarily in English. Some materials in French and German.

Conditions Governing Access

No restrictions

Biographical / Historical

Winthrop C. Durfee was born on April 23, 1858 in Fall River, MA. His parents were Walter Chaloner Durfee and Jane Frances (Alden) Durfee and he had ten siblings. Durfee attended Fall River Public Schools and later completed his education at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Durfee graduated from college in 1878 and returned to Fall River where he became employed at a local cotton mill. In 1881, Durfee married Sylvie Whitney of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. They had three children together; Walter Chaloner Durfee, Philip Sherwood Durfee, and Pauline Elizabeth Durfee. He was Episcopalian and at one time served as the warden of St. John’s Church in Jamaica Plain. He was a member of the Episcopalian Club and a committee member of the Diocese who worked toward increasing the salaries of the clergy. Durfee was also able to trace his ancestry back to the first settlement of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts Bay. Winthrop C. Durfee died on September 19, 1929 at 71 years old in his home located on 1 Dane Street, Jamaica Plain.

In 1881, the recently married Durfee moved from Fall River to Jamaica Plain and began his career in Boston. Durfee worked as a salesman for the St. Denis Dyestuff Company and then for the Thomas Leyland Company. Durfee would later build his own business as an independent Manufacturing Chemist and Consultant as well as achieve recognition as a successful drysalter. Durfee’s business, known as The Durfee Dye Business, was one of the last members of the Guild of Drysalters which had been founded in the Middle Ages. Durfee and his employees performed a number of dyeing’s under controlled circumstances in order to learn and demonstrate the effects of his chromate mordant with wool dyeing. In his business, Durfee used two types of mordants; tartar and chromate mordant. Durfee promoted his chromate mordant throughout WWI and its consistent use and color results was demonstrated on military uniforms.

Due to Durfee’s success in his field he was nicknamed the “Tartar King” by his associates. Durfee was very involved with professional organizations regarding the dye business. His professional associations included the Drysalters Club, an association of chemical and dye dealers in New England and of whom Durfee served as President in 1921. Others included the Engineers Club of Boston, The American Chemical Society, of which he was a councilor of the Northeastern section between 1919 and 1929, and he was a founding member and treasurer of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists in 1921. Durfee’s offices were located at 516 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA.


49.05 Linear Feet

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased via the Boston Book Company on November 18, 2008. Accession # 09-06.

Processing Information

processed by Rachel Breen (Simmons College GSLIS student intern), Summer 2015.

Winthrop C. Durfee business and personal papers
Rachel Breen
Summer 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Repository

285 Old Westport Rd.
N. Dartmouth MA 02747 USA