Beacon Street Diary

June 17, 2015

We know that not everyone can make the trip to Boston to visit us in person. That's why our staff do what we can to come to you. If you're attending either of this month's denominational meetings, be sure to stop by the Congregational Library & Archives' table in the exhibitor spaces and say hello.

Our executive director Peggy Bendroth and digital archivist Sari Mauro will be at the NACCC Annual Meeting & Conference in Salt Lake City this coming weekend (June 19-23). Both will be leading workshops, and Sari will be manning our table and holding casual "office hours" in the lobby for individual questions about records stewardship or preservation. Their scheduled appearances are listed below, and attendees are always welcome to chat with them elsewhere. You can also find Sari on Twitter @ArchivistSariM.
Saturday (6/20) 10:30 am - 12:00 pm Office hours with Sari Mauro
Sunday (6/21) 2:45 - 3:35 pm Stewarding Your Church Records workshop with Sari Mauro
  4:15 - 5:15 pm Stewarding Your Church Records workshop with Sari Mauro
Monday (6/22) 4:30 - 5:30 pm The World Beyond the Hudson River: The Story of Congregationalism in the West workshop with Peggy Bendroth
  4:30 - 5:30 pm Office hours with Sari Mauro
Tuesday (6/23) 11:15 am - 12:00 pm Office hours with Sari Mauro
  1:45 - 2:45 pm The World Beyond the Hudson River: The Story of Congregationalism in the West workshop with Peggy Bendroth


Our archivist Jessica Steytler will be at the UCC General Synod in Cleveland next weekend (June 25-30) along with current and former board members Barbara Brown Zikmund and Virginia Childs. They will mostly be found in the exhibit hall and all three will be happy to chat about the work we do and answer any questions you might have. If you're looking for Jessica in particular, you can keep up to date with her whereabouts on Twitter @JessicaSteytler.

June 5, 2015

Don't forget to reserve your seat for Thursday evening's event.

Pulitzer-nominated reporter, historian, and Boston University professor Dick Lehr tells the story of Boston's forgotten place in the story of civil rights in his latest book, The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America's Civil War.

The 1915 film The Birth of a Nation is a groundbreaking technical achievement. It is also virulently racist, and glorifies the terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan. Early civil rights leader and radical newspaper editor William Monroe Trotter embarked on a campaign to have the film censored in Boston.

Dick Lehr will speak about his work, which explores the parallel lives of Trotter and the film's director D.W. Griffith, and the film which has remained controversial for 100 years. He will also be selling and autographing copies of his book.

This event is co-hosted with the Boston African American National Historic Site.


Thursday, June 11th
5:30 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

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.