Few couples have written letters to each other more extensive, and more compelling, than John and Abigail Adams, America’s second President and First Lady. The pair met in 1759, when Adams accompanied his friend Richard Cranch to see Cranch’s fiancée Mary Smith, and her younger sister, Abigail. Although unimpressed by the 15-year-old Abigail on this occasion, calling the sisters neither “fond, nor frank, nor candid,” Adams found himself smitten two years later by the young woman. Thus began a correspondence that spanned more than three decades, and offers a rare glimpse into the founding of the United States.
The early letters between the two lovers document their courtship; Adams addressed letters to “Miss Adorable,” requesting “as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O’Clock as [I] shall please to Demand.” Even after the couple married in 1764, they continued to exchange letters regularly, as John was frequently away for work. In later years, the correspondence often turned to political matters, as John valued his wife as an intellectual equal and trusted adviser. In one 1776 letter, in the throes of the American Revolution, Abigail famously urged her husband to “remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” The 1,160 letters the couple exchanged offer an incredible insight into this chapter of American history. All but one of the letters are kept in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society and are available online.