The Gibson Family
By most measures, the Gibsons were regarded as part of Boston’s elite. In his 1954 book, The Proper Bostonians, Cleveland Amory claims that there are two requirements for “proper Boston lineage”: an eighteenth-century merchant ancestor (preferably a sea captain) and a nineteenth-century capitalist. The Gibson family qualified on both counts. They could also claim connections to Boston’s patriotic Revolutionary War history. Gibson family members preserved their own history through self-published memoirs, and also letters, journals, and photographs. Thanks to this rich documentary record, the Gibson House Museum is able to reconstruct the details of their lives, both big and small.
CATHERINE HAMMOND GIBSON (1804-1888)
Catherine Hammond was born in 1804 to Samuel Hammond, a prosperous boot and shoe merchant, and Sara Dawes Hammond, half-sister of William Dawes, who rode alongside Paul Revere on his famous ride.
Her brother introduced her to John Gardiner Gibson, a sugar trader, and they were married in 1833 when Catherine was twenty-nine. For the first two years of their marriage, they lived in Cuba. The couple returned to Boston in 1835, when Catherine was pregnant with their first son. John Jr. was born later that year, and his brother, Charles Hammond Gibson, followed in 1836. Sadly, John Gardiner Gibson died just two years later, leaving Catherine a widow with two small children.
In 1859, she decided to move to the newly created and fashionable Back Bay neighborhood with her son, Charles. She paid $3,696 for the property at 137 Beacon Street (approximately $112,000 today).
In 1871, Charles married Rosamond Warren Gibson and Rosamond moved into their home at 137 Beacon Street. Catherine, who was sixty-seven at the time, moved upstairs to a small bedroom suite, where she may have entertained close friends. Eventually, her three grandchildren occupied the nursery across the hall. Catherine never remarried and lived at 137 Beacon Street until her death in 1888 at the age of eighty-four.
CHARLES HAMMOND GIBSON SR. (1836-1916)
Charles Hammond Gibson, Sr. was born in 1836 to John Gardiner Gibson, a sugar merchant, and Catherine Hammond Gibson. He grew up with his mother, grandmother, and brother in his grandmother’s home on Beacon Hill, and at the family’s summer home in Nahant.
Charles was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. As a member of Boston’s elite, he attended society dances, parties, and musical evenings, at which he frequently played the flute. His wealth also allowed him to avoid military service in the Civil War.
His uncle, John Hammond, introduced Charles to Rosamond Warren, another young socialite, and the two met at various social functions, often playing music together. They met, too, on trips abroad, traveling with their families; in 1869, the Gibsons and the Warrens returned from Europe to New York together by steamer.
In December 1871, Charles and Rosamond were married. After honeymooning in New York City, they returned to live at 137 Beacon Street, with Charles’s mother, Catherine. The couple eventually had three children together.
Charles formed a cotton brokerage firm in partnership with Charles Joy, but their offices were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872. Later, the firm became Gibson & Grey, then Gibson & Haughton, but by 1901, Charles was the sole proprietor.
In 1914 Charles was taken ill—an illness that lasted for two years—and he died in April 1916. He is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in the family plot. After his death, Rosamond wrote, “It seemed hard, after forty-five years of love and devotion, to face life alone.”
ROSAMOND WARREN GIBSON (1846-1934)
Rosamond Warren Gibson was one of five children born to Jonathan Warren, a noted Boston surgeon, and Annie Crowninshield Warren, daughter of William Crowninshield, Secretary of the Navy under Presidents James Monroe and James Madison.
She had a classic childhood for a young girl of her social class, including dancing and French lessons and her first trip to Europe at age ten. She had her debut in 1864, at the age of eighteen. She later wrote the event was attended by “Charlie Gibson.”
Rosamond and Charles were married in 1871, when she was twenty-five. The couple had Mary Ethel in 1873, Charles Jr. in 1874, and “little” Rosamond in 1878. In addition to raising her three children, Rosamond cared for her mother-in-law, Catherine, until Catherine’s death. The two shared a home for almost seventeen years.
Rosamond was an active person: a member of the Vincent Club, a social and charitable organization; a volunteer at Boston Lying-In Hospital, one of the nation’s first maternity hospitals; a voice teacher; and a founding member of the “Maiden Aunts,” a sewing circle for charitable purposes.
In 1916, after forty-five years of marriage, Charles died. Rosamond continued to live at 137 Beacon Street for eighteen more years, with her sister Annie as company in later years. She died at the age of eighty-nine at the family’s home in Nahant.
MARY ETHEL GIBSON ALLEN (1873-1938)
Mary Ethel Gibson, born in 1873 to Charles Hammond Gibson and Rosamond Warren Gibson, grew up at 137 Beacon Street, eventually sharing a bedroom on the fourth floor with her brother, younger sister, and nanny. Mary Ethel made her official debut into Boston society in 1893 at the age of twenty.
Mary Ethel—known as Ethel to her friends and family—lived at home until she was thirty-eight. In that time, she traveled regularly, including a trip alone to visit cousins in California, which was fairly uncommon for an unmarried woman in her twenties. With her mother and sister, she was a member of the Vincent Club and regularly put on plays and other performances. She was also an avid horsewoman her entire life.
After a long courtship, Mary Ethel married Dr. Freeman Allen, a pioneer in the field of anesthetics (and the grandson of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe), in 1911. They had one son, Henry Freeman Allen, born in 1917.
In 1930, Freeman Allen died by suicide while being treated for an addiction to morphine. Mary Ethel continued to live at their home in Back Bay, remaining close with her sister and network of friends. She died eight years later at the age of sixty-five.
Charles Hammond Gibson, Jr., known as “Charlie,” was the second child born to Charles Hammond Gibson and Rosamond Warren Gibson. He attended boarding school at St. Paul’s in Concord, New Hampshire and spent a single year as an architecture student at MIT.
In his twenties, Charlie traveled to Europe, as was typical of many men of his social class. During his travels, he amassed material for a travelogue, Two Gentlemen of Touraine, which he published in 1899 under the pseudonym Richard Sudbury. This travelogue was a lightly fictionalized account of his romantic relationship with Maurice Talvande, a self-styled count. Charlie returned to Boston in 1902 and moved into rented rooms in Back Bay. He did not follow his father into business, but instead focused his efforts on writing. He maintained an active writing career until his death, self-publishing several volumes of poetry through vanity presses.
In 1934, at the age of sixty, Charlie returned home to 137 Beacon Street to care for his aging mother, Rosamond. She passed away later that year, and Charlie found himself living alone, aside from part-time staff, in his childhood home for the first time in over twenty years.
In 1936, he took a road trip to Florida, and stopped to visit his cousin, Henry Francis du Pont, in Delaware. Du Pont was in the process of turning his family’s estate into what would later become the Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, and Charlie seems to have been inspired by this project. When he returned home to Boston, he began preserving 137 Beacon Street as a Victorian-era historic house museum. As a gay man who never married nor had children, the Gibson House was his legacy.
Charlie died in 1954 at the age of eighty. Three years after his death, his family home opened to the public as the Gibson House Museum.
To learn more about Charlie, we invite you to explore more here and take our specialty tour “Charlie Gibson’s Queer Boston.”
ROSAMOND GIBSON WINSLOW (1878-1953)
"Little" Rosamond was the third child born to Charles Hammond Gibson and Rosamond Warren Gibson. Like her sister, and her mother before them, she was educated by private tutors and later at neighborhood schools. She made her debut into Boston society in 1896 at the age of eighteen. She was close to her mother and sister, participated in the Vincent Club, and, from surviving correspondence, seems to have had a close group of friends whom she spent time with in both Boston and Nahant.
In October of 1916, when she was thirty-eight, Rosamond married Charles Gibson Winslow, a distant cousin, at her home at 137 Beacon Street. After their marriage, Rosamond and Charles moved nearby to 310 Marlborough Street, a home they would occupy until 1945.
In 1918, the couple had their first and only child, Warren. Warren and his cousin, Henry Allen, were very close and grew up together. Sadly, Warren lost his life on the USS Turner in 1944 off the coast of New Jersey. Henry, who had lost his parents only a few years earlier, became like a second son to Rosamond and Charles.