Beacon Street Diary

June 3, 2015

The latest addition to our New England's Hidden Histories program is a collection of papers from the Rev. John Rogers (1666-1745) of Ipswich, Massachusetts.

The bulk of this collection is a handful of Rogers's sermons. Unlike most sermon collections, however, we have what seem to be two different versions of each sermon on a given Bible passage. Some revisions are dated less than a month apart and composed for different audiences. The ways in which Rev. Rogers changed his text could be quite interesting for dilligent readers.

Other personal items included are a letter to Rev. and Mrs. Rogers from John Wise proposing a courtship between their children, and Rogers's unsigned will.

You can find out more about this collection by reading the finding aid, or go directly to the collection page and view the documents that interest you.

June 1, 2015

The Congregational Library & Archives will be providing space for this discussion of how an old text is being given new life in digital form.

Catechismusa Prasty Szadei (The Simple Words of Catechism) by Martynas Mažvydas was the first book printed in Lithuanian. Of the few hundred printed, there are only two known copies still in existence, one in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius and one in Toruń, Poland.

Dr. Ian Christie-Miller has been hard at work on a project called Catechismusa 2 to study the text in depth. The music annotated on 24 pages of the Catechismusa has not only been recorded but the sound tracks have been integrated into high quality pdf images of the entire book. In addition the use of specialist front lighting and back lighting of every page of the Vilnius copy has revealed watermarks in every gathering of the book.

Prior to the project it was believed that there were no watermarks. Research into the paper has revealed the cultural and historical implications of that discovery.

Join us for a presentation that shows how the music can be accessed from the digital version of the text and examines ways in which watermark and paper research can reveal otherwise hidden data. The religious, cultural, musical, and bibliographical significance of the project will be shown.


Monday, June 8th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

To register, contact Ian Christie-Miller:


The project Catechismusa 2 is funded by the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Further information is at Europeana and in a podcast from Earlypaper.

May 29, 2015

Our reading room will be closed to the public on Monday, June 1st for our board's annual meeting.

All of our online resources will be available as usual, and staff members will be in the office to answer questions over the phone or by email.

May 27, 2015

Our own Sari Mauro will be giving a presentation at the New England Historic Genealogical Society next week.

The Congregational Library & Archives is an internationally recognized resource for scholars, religious leaders, and local churches. It also offers a treasure trove of unique materials for family historians! From 17th-century church records to the personal papers of ministers and missionaries, these materials provide names and dates of past generations as well as insight into a religious tradition that deeply informed American culture. Join Digital Archivist Sari Mauro to learn about the collections that are of special interest to genealogists — accessible online and onsite.

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99-101 Newbury Street, Boston

Friday, June 5
12:00 – 1:00 pm

Cost: FREE
Register through the NEHGS site.

May 22, 2015

The Congregational Library and Archives will be closed on Monday, May 25th in observance of Memorial Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.

image of historical American flags courtesy of

May 18, 2015

There's still plenty of time to register for this week's free lunchtime lecture.

The Congregational Library's holdings play a significant role in Theresa Strouth Gaul's recent book, Cherokee Sister: The Collected Writings of Catharine Brown, 1818-1823. Join us to find out more about this Cherokee woman whose letters and diaries give insight into early missions to the Cherokees, Cherokee politics in the era preceding the Trail of Tears, and women's writing in the early republic.

Theresa Strouth Gaul is Professor of English and Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program at Texas Christian University. In her research, she works to recovers the writings of early Americans marginalized in traditional literary histories, especially women and Native Americans. She is editor of Cherokee Sister: The Collected Writings of Catharine Brown, 1818-1823 (2014); To Marry An Indian: The Marriage of Harriett Gold and Elias Boudinot in Letters, 1823-1839 (2005); and the co-editor of Letters and Cultural Transformations in the United States, 1760-1860 (2009). Her articles on white-native contacts in the early republic and women's writing have appeared in numerous journals. She is Co-Editor of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers and Series Editor of the Legacies of American Women Writers book series, published through the University of Nebraska Press.


Thursday, May 21st
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.


The Congregational Library and Archives has a few other materials by and about Catharine Brown in our collections.

illustration of Catharine Brown in bed by J.R. Penniman (artist) and W. Hoagland (engraver), from Rufus Anderson's 1825 biography

May 14, 2015

One of our board members, Norm Erlendson, has gifted us with an essay about Rev. Washington Gladden and his role in advocating for fair labor practices in 19th century America.

The old adage, "the more things change, the more they remain the same" is certainly true of the plight of the working poor and their struggle for a living wage in the present day, as well as in the Gilded Age. Then, as now, the call by workers for increased wages and benefits did not usually receive a sympathetic hearing by employers or the general public. Then as now, the power of labor was weak in comparison to the power of capital. In the 1870s and '80s the American Labor Movement began to gain momentum on a national scale around a list of demands to improve the lives of the millions of wage earning men and women across all trades and industries. Unionization was a response to cutthroat business practices which kept wages at rock bottom levels.

Read the full article.


photograph of child workers at the Washington Cotton Mills in Fries, VA (1911) by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons

May 12, 2015

Many authors turn to the stacks of the Congregational Library & Archives for original source material. For his latest book, The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War, author Dick Lehr conducted research here in our reading room.

The records at the library were of critical importance to the work. Rolfe Cobleigh, editor of The Congregationalist newspaper, played a significant role in the 1915 campaign, working in solidarity with William Monroe Trotter as a leading white voice against the film. In 1915, Cobleigh wrote: "I have expressed my disapproval of 'The Birth of a Nation' on the grounds of falsifying history, in a riot of emotions glorifying crime, especially lynching, immorality, inviting prejudice against the negro race, falsely representing the character of colored Americans and teaching the undemocratic, unchristian, and unlawful doctrine that all colored people be removed from the United States."

Lehr's notes from the Congregational Library & Archives show that our collection was valuable to his research. In addition to Cobleigh's articulate publications in The Congregationalist, one of his writing laid out a specific sequence of events in 1915, clarifying the timeline for Lehr.

If you would like to hear more on the matter from Professor Lehr himself, join us for a free evening event next month.

May 8, 2015

Norumbega Harmony will be filling our reading room with twenty voices and sharing the tradition that they are keeping alive for the future. Don't forget to let us know if you'll be joining us for this free concert.

Sacred Song in Revolutionary Boston: William Billings and Oliver Holden

With names like Hatfield, Lynn, Walpole, and Woburn you would think that you'd be looking at a map of Massachusetts. Then you spot Maryland, Pennsylvania, Cortona, and Bethlehem and you are off on a trip around the world. Not always.

When these names appear on Sweet Seraphic Fire, Norumbega Harmony's 2005 album, they point to delightful short songs from early New England (often titled from the composer's hometown). The singing group's style is called Sacred Harp, and it performs works by America's earliest itinerant singing masters. Those masters' schools comprised the principle form of music education in the Republic's early days. From four-part hymns called "plain tunes" and lively "fuging tunes" with independent lines for each part, the music is complex and inventive, and world respected Norumbega Harmony know how to make them come alive.

Stephen Marini, the singing master of Norumbega Harmony, is also the Elisabeth Luce Moore Professor of Christian Studies and Professor of American Religion and Ethics at Wellesley College. Professor Marini's research concentrates in three areas: religion in Revolutionary America, the history of sectarian religion, and the sacred arts in America.

Our hymnal collection includes several rare tune books from the 18th century, including The Easy Instructor by William Little and William Smith, which popularized the shape note muscial notation method used by many 19th-century singing masters.

Wednesday, May 13th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

Read more about Norumbega Harmony and listen to samples of their music in the Winter 2013 issue of Common-Place.

Sweet Seraphic Fire is available digitally through iTunes and New World Records.

April 29, 2015

We have been awarded a sizeable grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand our New England's Hidden Histories program over the next three years.

The New England's Hidden Histories program has been rescuing old records from church attics and basements, and making them widely accessible through preservation and digitization. With a significance that extends well beyond religion, they are of inestimable value to scholars interested in everything from political culture to epidemiology.

While CLA has begun the work of processing, the scope can now be greatly extended. This grant will create a minimum of 18,000 digital scans over three years, along with an online, fully searchable database of digital, transcribed documents. The impact of this project creates a record of life in colonial New England that will be easily accessible to anyone who is interested.

Read the full press release.

The Congregational Library and Archives is grateful to the NEH for its support, and very excited to bring our researchers new and improved resources.