Beacon Street Diary blog
Collection Highlight: The William A. Hallock Journal
While the staff of the CLA have been working from home, we have continued to remain engaged with our collections even while separated from them. These posts will highlight some of our smaller, relatively unused collections. Please note that the collections highlighted are not available online unless otherwise noted.
Today’s highlight is collection number MS0087, the William A. Hallock journal, 1822-1823. Mr. Hallock was an agent of the New England Tract Society and the journal highlights his time working for them between September 1822 and September 1823. The New England Tract Society was formed in 1814 with the goal “...to promote the interests of vital godliness and good morals, by the distribution of such Tracts, as shall be calculated to receive the approbation of serious Christians of all denominations”.(1) They sold tracts across the country and also had yearly and lifetime memberships. The organization decided to formally change its name in 1823 to the American Tract Society. In 1825, the New York-based Religious Tract Society called for a national American Tract Society; the formation of that society happened the same year. During his time working with these organizations, Mr. Hallock served as a Corresponding Secretary for the New England Tract Society and as a member of the American Tract Society’s Publishing Committee. (2)
Our collection contains a single journal from William A. Hallock which chronicles his work for the society between 1822-1823. The journal indicates that his job took him to various towns within New England in order to sell tracts, promote society subscriptions, and occasionally preach. The journal itself is organized into 5 columns throughout, though he does stop filling in some of the columns starting in May 1823. The columns included the date, his location, a description of his day, the miles he traveled, and the amount of money he made. From May-September 1823, Mr. Hallock switches to talking mainly about his day and indicates the date. The journal’s overall impression is that Mr. Hallock traveled extensively and was highly dedicated to both the New England Tract Society and American Tract Society.
Mr. Hallock’s travels took him to towns across New England and the journal takes a few “breaks” to tally his travels within a particular time frame. One such example can be found on page 19 of the journal where he comments “Thus in 17 days, I have travelled 383 miles mostly on foot, and collected $434.45. It has been me breaking up of spring, and I ought to be thankful that I am still in health. Expenses have been $13!!!!!!!” This statement is striking on multiple fronts as his numbers would indicate he walked an average of 22 miles a day and collected an average of $25 dollars of subscriptions a day, all while keeping his expenses under a dollar a day. His efficiency is certainly something to admire and his journal entries indicate nearly every action he undertook in that period. The historical value of Mr. Hallock’s journal is multifaceted and can inform us on the state of economics, travel, salesmanship, and more in 1822-1823 New England.
A link to the catalog record for this collection can be found here. If you have any interest in viewing this collection once the library reopens, or you have any other CLA related questions, do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe and have a great day!
1. S.J. Wolfe, “Dating American Tract Society Publications Through 1876 from External Evidences,” last modified 2001, https://www.americanantiquarian.org/node/6693#1.
2. “A Brief History of the American Tract Society, Instituted in Boston, 1814, and Its Relations to the American Tract Society at New York, instituted 1825.” MSU Libraries, 1857, https://archive.lib.msu.edu/AFS/dmc/ssb/public/all/briefhistory/brie.html