Beacon Street Diary

March 27, 2015

Here at the CLA, we are privileged to hear our Executive Director Peggy Bendroth speak on historical topics frequently. If you would like to hear her, but can't make it to our events, we hope you can attend one of her other upcoming appearances. The next will be this coming Tuesday.

In the early 1880s, Mary Baker Eddy opened the Massachusetts Metaphysical College at 569 Columbus Avenue in Boston's South End. There she taught Christian Science, a new religious system she had recently founded. Only a few blocks away and a few years earlier, Boston's rapidly growing Catholic population embraced a new spiritual center, with the dedication at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Washington Street. Meanwhile the Congregational Church, descendant of Boston's Puritan founders, was reconfiguring its position in a city where it was once but no longer culturally dominant.

Please join us for an informal panel discussion with experts on Boston's religious history, to explore the cultural and spiritual dynamics of the city in the late 19th century.

The Panel includes:

  • Dr. Christopher Evans (moderator), Professor of the History of Christianity and Methodist Studies at the Boston University School of Theology. Among his courses, he teaches a class on the religious history of Boston. He is the author of Histories of American Christianity: An Introduction (Baylor University Press, 2013).
  • Dr. Margaret Bendroth (panelist), Executive Director of the Congregational Library and Archive in Boston, and author of many books, including Fundamentalists and the City: Conflict and Division in Boston's Churches, 1885-1950 (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • Dr. James O'Toole (panelist), Professor and Clough Millennium Chair in History at Boston College. Among his publications are The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America (Belknap Press, 2008) and Boston's Histories: Essays in Honor of Thomas H. O'Connor, co-edited with David Quigley (Northeastern University Press, 2004). Dr. O'Toole also served as Archivist, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, from 1978 to 1986.
  • Judy Huenneke (panelist), Senior Research Archivist, The Mary Baker Eddy Library.


Tuesday, March 31st
4:00 - 5:00 pm

Christian Science Publishing House
200 Massachusetts Avenue
3rd floor conference room

This program is free and no RSVP is required. If you have further questions, please contact Jonathon Eder at or 617-450-7131.

March 25, 2015

Following the excitement of our 2013 symposium, "Mather Redux: New Perspectives on Cotton Mather", we decided that our Mather collections were too good not to share with the rest of the world. With the generous support of the Carnegie-Whitney Foundation and the H.W. Wilson Foundation, we have created an annotated bibliography of all books and manuscripts related to Cotton Mather in the Congregational Library & Archives collection.

This bibliography contains a comprehensive list of our holdings, including books, sermons, contributions to the works of others, commentary and criticism, supplemental materials, journalism, comic books, and a recently-discovered genealogical chart of the Mather family. The accompanying webliography includes more recent materials from additional websites and other repositories. If you have an interest in any aspect of Cotton Mather's life, this is a great place to start.

Cotton Mather at the Congregational Library: An Annotated Bibliography


If you're doing research in other areas, we have other subject-specific guides on our Reference Desk page.

March 23, 2015

Don't forget to let us know if you'll be joining us for this month's free event. Please note that it begins at a special time of 3:00 pm.

American author and historian John Putnam Demos's most recent book, The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic is another compelling recount from a long line of his investigations into early American life and practice.

As the young United States looked beyond its shores, a group of eminent Protestant ministers formed a grand scheme for gathering the rest of mankind into the "redemptive fold of Christianity and 'civilization'." Its core element was a special school for "heathen youth" drawn from their homes around the world, including the Pacific Islands, China, India, and, more and more, the native nations of North America. After graduating, the plan was that they would return to join similar projects within their native populations. For some years, the school prospered and enjoyed a wide reputation. However, when two Cherokee students courted and married local women, public resolve — and fundamental ideals — were put to a severe test. The school born with the ideal of universal "salvation" plummeted into a controversy that exposed American racial attitudes and set off a chain of events that lead to the Trail of Tears.

The Heathen School has been nominated for the 2014 National Book Award. Demos was previously awarded the prestigious Bancroft Award for his book Entertaining Satan and the 1995 Francis Parkman Prize for his book The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story From Early America. Other books include A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony, The Enemy Within: A Short History of Witch-hunting and Past, Present, and Personal: The Family and the Life Course in American History.

Several of Demos's books are available for borrowing to members of the Congregational Library and Archives.


Wednesday, March 25th
3:00 - 4:00 pm

Register through EventBrite.

March 19, 2015

We have long been a resource for ministers and seminary students, and now the Congregational Library and Archives is also participating in the ATLA Reciprocal Borrowing Program. Anyone with borrowing privileges at any other participating institution can now come check out books from our circulating collections. To find out if you qualify, take a look at the list of libraries on the ATLA site.

If you'd like to use our collections for more intensive research, there are still a few weeks left to apply for the American Congregational Association / Boston Athenaeum joint fellowship. The award includes a stipend of $1,500; applications are due by April 15. Applicants must submit a curriculum vitae and letter of intent describing the proposed project and citing specific materials from the collections of the Boston Athenaeum. Graduate students must also include a letter of recommendation from their faculty advisor.

February 27, 2015

Lemuel Haynes 1753-1833, Freed 1774

As I was reading about the remarkable Lemuel Haynes, I could have thought that his story was set in the 20th century rather than the two hundred years earlier. Abandoned by his African American father and Caucasian mother, Lemuel Haynes achieved many firsts, as a former indentured servant who rose to become a celebrated preacher and internationally popular author, he was outspoken on issues of liberty and justice and completely dedicated to his Calvinist and Federalist beliefs.

Primarily self-educated, he was offered a place at Dartmouth College but opted to stay in his native Connecticut to study with successors of Jonathan Edwards. He served in majority white churches in Granville, MA; Rutland, VT; and later in Granville, NY. Like many of his profession, he married one of his flock, but it was Elizabeth Babbitt who, according to one source, proposed to him in 1783. Their interracial marriage produced 10 children who went on to live productive and prominent lives.
"Liberty is equally as precious to a black man, as it is to a white one, and bondage equally as intolerable to the one as it is to the other."

A popular figure known for a caustic wit, Haynes was recognized by preachers, civic leaders and academics through his prolific writings and poetry. It was his preaching that affected his congregations; one of his parishioners wrote: "I never heard a sermon from my minister without gaining something new."[1]

What pastor would not like to win this praise?

-Cary Hewitt

Read more about what others say.

Find more that is available on the Congregational Library & Archives site and in our catalog.


[1] "January 1, 1837". Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A. M.: For Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt., and Late in Granville, New-York by Timothy Mather Cooley

February 24, 2015

Last month on January 15, President Obama hosted a screening of the critically acclaimed film Selma. The movie recounts the1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. It opens with Dr. King's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo and ends in Montgomery, Alabama a little more than three months later. But the story extends far beyond those miles and few months; it is a microcosm of the Civil Rights Movement.

Cobleigh's editorial on "The Birth of a Nation" in The Congregationalist, 22 April 1915
click to enlarge

One hundred years earlier, a far different film was screened in the White House. Sponsored by President Woodrow Wilson, The Birth of a Nation became the first film ever shown in the presidential residence. D.W. Griffith's film included actors in blackface and heroic portraits of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. While the film was wildly popular, there were violent protests across the country. In Boston the fight against showing the film was led by William Monroe Trotter, editor of The Liberator. Along the way, Trotter was betrayed by many, but The Congregationalist assistant editor, Rolfe Cobleigh advocated for the cause in person and in print from his headquarters here at Congregational House.

In his most recent book The Birth of a Nation, Dick Lehr recounts the public confrontation that "roiled America, pitting black against white, Hollywood against Boston, and free speech against civil rights." It was complicated and messy, setting the standard for the civil actions of the 1950s and 1960s and continuing to the present day.

Lehr used CLA resources in the course of his investigation.

At the Congregational Library and Archives visitors can access numerous issues of The Liberator and bound volumes of The Congregationalist. Dick Lehr's book is available to our members at the library.

February 13, 2015

Our reading room will be closed on Monday, February 16th in observance of Presidents' Day.

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


portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1850, courtesy of the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, via Wikimedia Commons

February 10, 2015

Due to the severe weather we are currently experiencing in the Boston area, we have rescheduled this month's free lunchtime lecture to next week.

The good news is that you now have more than enough time to reserve your seat if you haven't already.

Decoding Roger Williams

Near the end of his life, Roger Williams scrawled an encrypted essay in the margins of a colonial-era book. For more than 300 years those shorthand notes remained undecipherable until a team of Brown undergraduates cracked the code. Linford Fisher and fellow professor J. Stanley Lemons immediately recognized the importance of what turned out to be Roger William's final treatise.

Professor Fisher's research and teaching relate primarily to the cultural and religious history of colonial America and the Atlantic world, including Native Americans, religion, material culture, and Indian and African slavery and servitude. His first book, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America looks at Native American communities in Rhode Island, Connecticut, western Massachusetts, and Long Island (NY), over the long course of the 18th century, particularly with regard to their involvement in the so-called "Great Awakening" of the 1740s. He is currently working on his next book-length project, a broad-ranging history of slavery and the shades of servitude in colonial New England and the Atlantic world among Africans and Native Americans.

Linford Fisher's books are available for borrowing to members of the Congregational Library and Archives.

Wednesday, February 18th
noon - 1:00 pm

Register through SurveyMonkey.


image of page 142 in An Essay Toward the Reconciling of Difference Among Christians by John Eliot courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

image of the statue of Roger Williams by Franklin Simmons in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol Building courtesy of The Architect of the Capitol via Wikimedia Commons

February 9, 2015

Due to weather and the suspension of MBTA rail service, the library will be closed Tuesday, February 10th.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office.

We will keep you updated if our planned schedule changes.

We hope all of our local patrons are safe and warm.


snowflake ornament image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons

February 8, 2015

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed Monday, February 9th due to weather.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office.

We will keep you updated if our planned schedule changes.

We hope all of our local patrons are safe and warm.


snowflake ornament image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil via Wikimedia Commons