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Papers of Lily Macalester Berghmans Laughton

Identifier: RM-576

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection is correspondence to Mrs. Laughton concerning Mount Vernon and the work of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Other material includes correspondence from Mrs. Laughton, formal reports and papers of the MVLA, personal correspondence and memoirs, photographs, printed material, and ephemera. The overall dates range from 1850 to 1891 with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1860s-1880s.

This collection contains correspondence from a significant number of members of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association including:

• Ann Pamela Cunningham • Christie Johnson – Secretary to Ann Pamela Cunningham • Vice Regents – Margaret Sweat, Susan Hudson, Nancy Halsted, Margaret Comegys, Letitia Walker, Emily Harper, Martha Mitchell, Magdalen Blanding, Abby Chace, Hannah Farnsworth, Ella B. Washington

Other notable correspondents represented in the collection: • Harriet R. Lane Johnston – First Lady of the United States during the administration of her uncle, President James Buchanan, married Henry Elliott Johnston from Baltimore • Selina Pauncefote – Wife of the British Ambassador to the United States, Julian Pauncefote • Edward Everett – U.S. Congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, orator, pastor • John J. Jacob – Governor of West Virginia • Gilbert S. Meem – Brigadier General for the Confederate States of America, Virginia State Congressman, U.S. Postmaster General • James L. Kemper – General for the Confederate States of America, Governor of Virginia • George Riggs – American businessman and banker • Montgomery C. Meigs – Quartermaster General of the United States Army, engineer • Thomas F. Bayard – Secretary of State, U.S. Senator from Delaware • Flora Payne Whitney – Heiress, socialite, philanthropist, daughter of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney


  • Creation: 1850-1891


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research during scheduled appointments. Researchers must complete the Washington Library’s Special Collections and Archives Registration Form before access is provided. The library reserves the right to restrict access to certain items for preservation purposes.

Biographical / Historical

Lily Macalester was born on July 29, 1832 to Philadelphia businessman and financier, Charles Macalester, and his wife, Eliza Lytle. Ann Pamela Cunningham, the Founder and First Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, met Macalester while in Philadelphia receiving medical treatment and later appointed her the Vice Regent of Pennsylvania. Macalester married Alfred Berghmans in 1861 and the couple had one daughter, Camille. When her husband died in 1874, Mrs. Berghmans remained a widow for three years then married John Scott Laughton of Philadelphia. The couple moved to Algeria in an attempt to better Mr. Laughton’s health, however, he died a few months later in January 1878.

Mrs. Laughton, a popular and well-connected woman, was an extremely successful fundraiser for the MVLA. Her home state of Pennsylvania ranked fifth among state contributions for the Association. A generous donor herself, Laughton dutifully sought Washington-related artifacts at auctions and donated many valuable items to Mount Vernon. Ann Pamela Cunningham personally selected Laughton as her successor and she was unanimously appointed Regent in 1874. Laughton’s daughter, Camille, married Spanish nobleman, Jose de Pedroso in 1887. After returning from a trip to Spain to visit a newborn grandchild, Mrs. Laughton died suddenly in December 1891.


1.96 Linear Feet (2 Hollinger boxes, 1 half Hollinger box, 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials



The Papers of Lily M.B. Laughton are divided into two series and three subseries. Ephemera, printed material, and photographs are described at the end of the contents list. All series are arranged chronologically then alphabetically. Series 1. Correspondence Subseries 1.1 Correspondence to Laughton Subseries 1.2 Correspondence from Laughton Subseries 1.3 Correspondence, other Series 2. Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and personal papers

Existence and Location of Copies

Some items from this collection have been digitized. Please see the online collection here:

Related Materials

Early Records of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, Minutes of the Council, Annual Reports of the Council, Papers of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association

Papers of Lily Macalester Berghmans Laughton
Rebecca Baird, Project Archivist
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Repository

PO Box 3600
Mount Vernon VA 22121 USA