Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quincy A. Shaw - Very Rich Guy

Richards, L.J. 1899

The Shaw estate is at the top of the map along Perkins street.

I don't suppose that Quincy Shaw spent much time on Centre street. He did, however, reverse the pattern of wealthy businessmen who built summer homes on Jamaica Pond. He spent the winter at his Jamaica Plain estate, and summered at Prides Crossing. A couple of years after his death, it was revealed that his executors had underreported an inventory of his estate by half, to the tune of $7,000,000. giving a total of $21,000,000. As a result, a tax of $420,000 was paid to the city of Boston. The property was later owned by the Cabots, and finally shared the fate of so many three-deckers, becoming condos. The location of the property, along the Brookline side of Perkins street, is shown in this map. The story of the Calument & Hecla copper mines that brought Shaw his wealth is told here.

Boston Daily Globe June 13, 1908

Quincy A. Shaw Passes Away

Head of Noted Family Was 83 Years Old.

Gave Large Sums of Money for Philanthropic Purposes.

Heaviest Individual Taxpayer in the State.

Quincy A. Shaw, the heaviest individual taxpayer in Massachusetts, the largest individual owner of Calumet & Hecla stock in the state, and the head of the family whose members in various ways have done much to promote the educational and commercial interests of Boston, died yesterday morning at his home, 241 Perkins st, Jamaica Plain, aged 83 years. He had been in poor health since last fall.

Mr Shaw was born in Boston, Feb 8, 1825. His parents were Robert Gould Shaw of Gouldsboro, Me, and Elizabeth Willard Parkman of Boston. He graduated from Harvard in the class of '45, in the company with the late Justice Horace Gray of the U.S. Supreme court; A.P. Merrill, one-time minister to Belgium; Thomas Russell, who represented this country in Venezuela, Dr John P. Raynolds of Boston and many other distinguished men.

The foundation of Mr Shaw's wealth was a few thousand dollars which he inherited from his father, who was the representative of one of the oldest and most influential families in Boston. Mr Shaw married on Nov 30, 1860, Miss Pauline Agassiz, the daughter of Prof Louis Agassiz, the famous Swiss naturalist. She survives him, as do four children, Mrs L. Carteret Fenno of Boston, Mrs Harry Pratt McKean of Philadelphia, Quincy A. Shaw Jr and Robert Gould Shaw 2d, also of Boston.

Quincy A. Shaw Jr is second vice president of the Calumet & Hecla company, though his father retired from active connection with his mining interests some years ago.

Mr Shaw became interested in Caulmet & Hecla with Maj Henry L. Higganson, who also married a daughter of Prof Agassiz. The property had been prospected by Prof Agassiz, and his son Alexander was trying to develop it. Mr Higginson and Mr Shaw shared the tremendous efforts that were made before the mine became a dividend payer, and it is said that Mr Shaw put in nearly all the money he had before this happened. He picked up all he could afford to buy, even when it was selling at $1 a share.

The public will never know how large a proportion of the Shaw wealth has been dispensed in philanthropic enterprises. In all of them Mr Shaw, the giver, has kept in the background, the active work being done by Mrs Quincy A. Shaw. She is known as the foster-mother of the Kindergarten system of Boston; she has been the main prop of the North Bennett-st school; she it was who placed on a sound financial footing the civic Service house in Salem st and many of the day nurseries in the city, and scores and scores of men and women live in Boston today who have been helped to better things by the Shaw money and influence, in 1870 the Shaws opened the first public kindergarten in this country. Later, at their own expense, they opened two classes for the summer months, one in Jamaica Plain and the other in Brookline; the following year two more were opened, Mrs Shaw presiding over each for the first few weeks.

Mr and Mrs Shaw kept up this work until 1887, when they induced the Boston school committee to take it over; today there are more than 6000 children in that department.

They next turned their attention to day nurseries, establishing several in various parts of the city. And no charitable enterprise has been undertaken in Boston for the last 30 years that has not had Mrs Shaw as a willing subscriber.

Mr Shaw refused to move into Boston for the winter. He preferred to stay in the interesting mansion on the border of the parkway, where he had one of the best collections of Millet's paintings in America. He maintained, however, a summer home at Prides Crossing, known as the Commons, where the family has gone early in the season for a number of years.


  1. Thank you for sharing about Quincy Adams Shaw, his wife, and your upcoming post on his father-in-law Louis Agassiz. I am Louis Agassiz's second cousin five times removed and am very interested in his branch of my family. Thank you again and long live your interesting blog.

  2. Thank you for this history. Mrs. Shaw began Civic Service House which was expanded to include the Breadwinner's Institute. Frank Parsons became the director of the Breadwinner's Institute in 1905. Frank Parsons is known as the Father of Vocational Guidance, which was the beginning of the counseling profession. I was preparing a lecture on Frank Parsons for my students, and was thrilled to find information on Pauline Shaw to include in it.

  3. Thinking about writing a Wikipedia article about Quincy Adams Shaw, I came across this website. It was great to find; thank you for posting.

  4. Thanks for sharing this story about my great grandfather

  5. I'm late in posting new comments. Always happy to hear from descendants.

  6. Curious about what became of Quincy Shaw's younger son Robert after he and his first wife (the future English Parliamentarian Lady Nancy Astor) divorced.

  7. My Dad just sent me this article today. Great stuff!

    I'm Quincy Adams Shaw's 3rd great grandson. I put his profile on Geni and made it public: so other people can add or fix this information. I also copied the article above into the about_me text (with attribution). I'm happy to merge any new profiles or information into this tree. If you would like to contribute to this effort you can contact me from my profile:

    Thanks for the great information!

    - Amos