Needham, Robert James Collection

Robert James Needham Collection

Drew Archival Library

Collection Overview:
Title: Robert James Needham Collection
Dates: 1861-1953 (Bulk: 1861-1872)
Accession/Call Numbers: DAL.MS.043
Repository: Drew Archival Library
Quantity: 1 box
Language: English

Administrative Information:
Access Restrictions: The Robert James Needham Collection is open to researchers. There are no restricted materials in the collection
Administrative Note:
Preferred form of citation: DAL.MS.043, The Robert James Needham Collection in the Drew Archival Library.
Finding Aid Prepared By: Dylan Kornberg, February 2011/Carolyn Ravenscroft 2015

Scope and Content:

The collection contains the personal and business papers of Robert J. Needham, a telegraph operator for the French-Atlantic Cable Co in Duxbury, MA.  Also included are photographs of the Needham family, the Needham house on St. George Street, Duxbury and fellow employees.

Biographical Information:

Robert James Needham was born on 11 April, 1838 in Liverpool, England. In 1851 at the age of thirteen he began working as a telegraph operator for the Electric Telegraph Company there, starting a profession that he would follow for the rest of his life. From 1851 until approximately 1895 he worked as a telegraph operator and superintendent in Liverpool, London, Egypt, Tripoli, Malta, New York, Germany, and Duxbury where he eventually settled. He moved there in 1869 to work at the French-Atlantic Cable station, where he eventually became a superintendent in 1889. Shortly before the move from Europe, he married Sarah Welch, with whom he had six children: Ruby, Frank, Edith, Harry (who drowned in a boating accident), Hubert, and Robert George. Robert Needham died on 30 August, 1927.


Series I: Photographs
Series II: Professional Material
Series III: Personal Material

Series I: Photographs (c. 1868-1928)


  1. Portrait of Robert James Needham
  2. Portrait of Robert James Needham. Photographer: Wallinger Studio, Chicago
  3. Tintype of Robert James Needham and Charles Needham, photographer: Harris’s Souvenier Auto, South Beach
  4. Portrait of Harry Needham
  5. Huburt Needham, keeper of Gurnet Light, age 57. 1928
  6. George Needham standing in front of Cable office, Washington St., c. 1900
  7. School and school children, possible Point School, Duxbury
  8. Lester Wright Osborne and Powder Point School class, Duxbury, MA

Folder 2:

  1. Robert James Needham and others, Egypt, Christmas 1868.
  2. Employees of the Western Union Staff,
  3. Postcard with picture of Needham house, St. George St., Duxbury, c. 1900
  4. Postcard of St. George Street, Needham house on left, c. 1900
  5. Henry Briggs driving horse and buggy. c. 1900

Series II: Professional Material (1861-1824)

  1. Reference by Charles Seel, Red Sea and India Telegraph Company, London, 1861
  2. Articles of Agreement – Robert J. Needham to work as telegraph operator in Persian Gulf, 1866
  3. Robert J. Needham (Duxbury, MA) to R. T. Brown, Superintendent of Societe du Cable Transatlantique Francais, 1872
  4. Edward Cockey, President, Old Time Telegraphers (New York, NY) to Robert J. Needham (Duxbury, MA), 1895
  5. Edward Cockey, President, Old Time Telegraphers (New York, NY) to Robert J. Needham (Duxbury, MA), 1895
  6. Application for membership, Old Time Telegraphers and Historical Association, 1895

Series III: Personal Material (1900-1953)

  1. Invitation to Partridge Academy graduation, 1900
  2. Partridge Academy diploma, Edith Mary Needham, 1900
  3. “Cable Superintendent’s Diary: Robert Needham Immigrated by Way of Duxbury Beach,” Patriot Ledger, 27 November, 1953.









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s