Orphaned at the age of eight, Adams lived with his older brother until the age of sixteen, when he set out on his own. He moved to Boston and worked in the mercantile business until beginning his own express shipping company, Adams & Co., eventually in partnership with William B. Dinsmore and D.H. Haskell. The company also expanded into banking. in 1860 Adams built Fairhaven, a home in Watertown Massachusetts, where he opened his art collection to the public on a weekly basis.
Ballou's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, 17 February 1855:108