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Fairbank family papers

Identifier: MS 2483


This collection consists of papers belonging to Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. (1843-1917), his wife Sarah (Sallie) Sherwood Sinclair (1848-1933), and their children, Grace Carolyn (1876-1964), Charles Alexander Jr. (1878-1942), and Herbert S. (1888-1962).


  • 1868 - 1964


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. was born on April 22, 1843 in St. Michaels, Maryland. He moved to Balitmore after serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. Once in Baltimore, Fairbank became involved in the city school system, eventually serving as principal of School No. 9 on Courtland Street. He later accepted the principalship of the German-English School No. 3, and ultimately, the Oliver Hibernian Free School, established in 1890. Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. married Sarah Sherwood Sinclair in 1873 and the couple had three children, Grace Carolyn, Charles Alexander, Jr., and Herbert Sinclair Fairbank.

Sarah Sherwood Sinclair was born on November 17, 1848. She lived in Baltimore most of her life and worked as a school teacher within the city school system. In 1873, she married Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr.

Charles Alexander Fairbank, Jr., son of Charles A. Fairbank, Sr. and Sarah Sinclair Fairbank, was born in 1878. He attended Baltimore City College and graduated from the University of Maryland Law School in 1898. Fairbank was known as one of Maryland's leading authorities on real estate law. He served as head of the legal department of the Title Guarantee and Trust Co. and a member of its board of directors.

Grace Carolyn Fairbank, daughter of Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. and Sarah Sherwood Sinclair, was born on December 28, 1876. She graduated with honors from Eastern High School in July, 1895 and began a successful teaching career in September, 1895. Her first assignment was School No. 6 but was later transferred to Junior High No. 40 at Aisquith and Orleans Streets. In 1922, she was appointed first supervisor of Mathematics in the Baltimore City school system. In 1926 when Roland Park Elementary-Junior High School opened, Fairbank was offered the principalship. She accepted and remained there until her retirement in 1944.

Herbert Sinalair Fairbank, son of Charles Alexander Fairbank and Sarah Sherwood Sinclair Fairbank, was born on September 16, 1888. He graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in 1907 and from Cornell University in 1910. Immediately after college, he worked several months with the Bureau of Mines. Later in 1910, he began a long and successful career with the Bureau of Public Works. Between 1910 and 1920, he conducted research and constructed object-lesson roads. He also toured the country lecturing on the benefits of road improvements. In 1920, he was placed in charge of all publications printed by the Bureau and served as editor of Public Roads. In 1926, he was made chairman of the Research Committee of the Bureau. When he retired in 1955, Fairbank had given 45 years of service to the Bureau of Public Works. Throughout this time, he was awarded with numerous promotions, certificates, and honors.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language of Materials



The material in this collection is separated into subgroups containing the papers of individual family members. Within each subgroup, the material is arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Frank Fairbank.

Scope and Contents

Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. Papers, 1868-1909

The papers of Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. consists of incoming correspondence dated 1868-1909 with the bulk falling between 1868-1873. The majority of the letters were written by Sarah (Sallie) Sherwood Sinclair, a Baltimore teacher whom he later married. Charles and Sarah's letters include discussions of religion, education, their jobs, mutual friends, the theater, and most frequently, their feelings for one another. Also included are several letters to Charles from his son Herbert written while the latter attended Cornell Univ. between 1907-1910.

Sarah (Sallie) Sherwood Sinclair Papers, 1866-1917

Her papers consist of incoming correspondence from Charles Alexander Fairbank, Sr. Also included are approximately 15 letters written by M.A. McCord (fl.1872), a gentleman friend who was presumably not well received by Miss Sinclair given the notes she wrote on his letters. In addition, there are several letters written by Sarah's daughter, Grace Carolyn Fairbank, while the latter was vacationing at Mt. Lake Park, MD.

Charles Alexander Fairbank, Jr. Papers, 1898-1942

The documents contained within the collection are an invitation to the 1898 City College graduation, a receipt, and newspaper clippings and a memorial tribute written at the time of his death.

Grace Carolyn Fairbank Papers, 1892-1929

Grace Fairbank's papers include report cards (1892-95; 1920-29), a teachers certificate (1895), a church booklet (1917), and incoming correspondence (1911-1963). The correspondence contains several family letters as well as letters from the Balto. City School System in regard to appointments and promotions.

Mary A. Sinclair Papers, 1869-1889

Papers consist of guardianship certificate, two pieces of outgoing correspondence, and real estate papers concerning property on Chester Street.

Herbert Sinclair Fairbank Papers, 1918-1962

The Herbert S. Fairbank papers consist of incoming correspondence (1907-1962), a travel diary (1931), certificates/citations/diplomas (1907-1962), speeches (1946), souvenir programs (1907-1950), an address book (n.d.), engineering notes (n.d.) and other misc. items. The correspondence not only reflects Fairbank's active career with the Office of Public Roads but his personal life as well. Included are letters (1907-1910) written by family members while he was attending Cornell University; letters (1930) from a friend he met during a trip aboard the S.S. Levathan; get well cards (1952); White House and Foreign Embassy invitations; and, letters regarding his retirement in 1955. Also included are numerous letters dealing with road and highway construction, traffic regulation, and transportation legislation.

Miscellaneous Items

In addition to the Fairbank Family material, there are several items whose relation to the Fairbanks is uncertain. These include an account book for a sign painter (1874), two account books for the Howard Park M.E. Church Ladies Aid Society (1922-1930), and a class record book kept by a teacher named John Barker (1917-1918).

Guide to the Fairbank family papers
Under Revision
Janice E. Ruth
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-09-17: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States