Beacon Street Diary

May 15, 2009

If our lovely viewing audience would be so kind as to follow this link to a survey that will tell us how you get to these posts, as we suspect it's not just in the traditional via Typepad's URL. We will be using the results at our annual meeting in a few weeks.

Thanks! Click here to take survey.

May 11, 2009

Eliot Bible title page

The first Bible printed in America is a translation of the Old and New Testaments into the Algonquin language by John Eliot (1604-1690), “Apostle to the Indians". Rev. Eliot worked on his translation for over 10 years before the New Testament portion was issued from the press of Samuel Green, Cambridge, Mass. in 1661. This translation was of a language without a written tradition. The printing of the Old Testament took three years, and was finished in 1663. To make a complete Bible, it was bound up with the New Testament and the Psalms of David (the latter in verse form, translated from the English of the New England psalm book). A thousand copies were printed. Because many copies were destroyed in the wars of the 1670s, a new edition of the New Testament was printed in 1680 and a new Old Testament in 1685. Two thousand copies of the latter were printed. Eliot published his Indian Grammar in 1666.

John Eliot was pastor in Roxbury for 58 Years. Eliot was one of a few ministers who served as a missionary to American Indians in New England, and he organized several "praying towns" -- communities of converted Indians—in Massachusetts including one in Natick. Eliot was one of the few early settlers to believe that Indians had souls. He preached his first sermon in the Algonguin language in 1646 at Nonantum, now Newton.

The Eliot Bible appeared some 120 years before the first complete English edition of the Bible was published in what is now the United States.

Eliot is also credited with being one of the editors of the Bay Psalm Book and a supporter of the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in New England (the first Protestant Missionary Society) -- created to convert the New England Indians.

In 1961, the ACA sent the Eliot Bible to England. The Bible was defective, lacking pages at the beginning and end. A facsimile title page, the first two pages of Genesis and two pages in between the testaments were printed and the book bound in antique leather.

May 6, 2009

Thanks to the fantastic work of this semester's interns, plus my own diligence, our web site and online catalog has a number of newly organized collections. The following descriptions are pulled from the finding aids.

Hopkinton, New Hampshire - First Church. Records, 1757-1909. The archive assisted the Hopkinton church get these records microfilmed over the past many months; this collection is in microfilm form. The church maintains the original ledgers. Within the four volumes, there are records for membership (including admission/dismission), baptisms, deaths, marriages, meetings; the final volume includes the lists of ministers and deacons.

Charles Addison Richardson. Correspondence, 1794, 1798, 1848-1872. This collection is part of the Small Collections, which don't normally have guides of their own, however this Congregationalist editor's papers are a collection of letters; the guide is an index of who the correspondence is from.

Wendell, Massachusetts. Congregational Church. Records, 1783-1953. Last fall's intern, Kim Kinder organized these papers. Even though the church was relatively small throughout its life, it contributed to foreign missions as well as domestic, assisting in the mission work in China. The church belonged to the Franklin Association of Congregational Churches and worked closely with the Massachusetts Home Missionary Society to call and fund its ministers.


Intern Colleen Mahoney's contributions:

Henry Boynton Papers, 1824-1866. The Rev.Boynton served in Vermont, New York New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He was a member of the Anti-Slavery Society, and gave sermons on their behalf.

This collection includes 100 hand-written sermons and documents composed by Boynton between 1824 and 1858. Sermon topics include: slavery, prejudice, temperance, and missionary work. This collection also includes Boynton’s ledger book of marriage records, which includes records of weddings he performed between 1832 and 1866.

This collection came from the estate of Miss Ada Y. Harris of Bridgewater, New York, a descendant of Dr. William Yeats of Butternuts (Morris), New York. It was purchased by the Congregational Library in October 2008.

General Conference of the German Evangelical Congregational Churches of the United States. Records, 1883-1971. The General Conference of the German Evangelical Congregational Churches of the United States of America was founded in Crete, Nebraska in 1883, with the goal of improving communication and collaboration among German churches across the American west. This collection includes the incorporation records, minutes, correspondence, and some publications of the General Conference.

Massachusetts Conference. Essex South; Essex North. Records and Minutes, 1827-1972. The library had Essex records for years, but they had been in several separate collections. When the library acquired new material in 2008, we were motivated to consolidate. Includes the following five sub-sections: Essex South Association; Essex South Branch Missionary Association; Essex South Conference of Churches; Essex South South County Branch, Woman's Board of Missions, Executive Committee, also known as Essex South District; Essex North Association.


Konstancja Sinczak's contribution:

Massachusetts Council of Churches. Records, 1887-Present. Kasia organized the photographs -- Photographs of the activities of MCC and MCC affiliated groups. New analog additions dating after 2006 are not expected in any great volume due to the favoring of digital technologies. A more in depth guide to the photographs has been appended to this guide. The main guide now includes an overview of photograph subjects, as well as a more in-depth list. Both are appended to the web page version of the guide (link above).

April 29, 2009

This was written by Simmons student, Colleen Mahoney. Today is her last day of her internship. Many thanks for all her hard work.

When people ask me what I’m going to school for, and I tell them I’m studying to be an archivist, I usually get blank stares back. A what? My stock response has become, “You know, like the girl in National Treasure,” which usually gets people far more excited. Sometimes I feel a bit misleading for comparing my future career with a character from an adventure movie. But spending this past semester as an intern at the Congregational Library has helped me realize that my explanation really isn’t that far from the truth.

My first project this semester was preparing a new collection the Library purchased so that it would be available for use. The Reverend Henry Boynton was a traveling Congregational minister who served churches in New York, Vermont, and Connecticut in the decades leading up to the Civil War. This collection included dozens of his handwritten sermons, each annotated with the dates and places where it was delivered. These sermons were by far the oldest documents I had ever handled at that point, and I was a bit awed reading through Boynton's sermons supporting abolition and temperance. Their subject matter serves as a reminder of our nation’s past, and the importance of preserving our history.

One of my other projects this semester involved going through the archive’s "Small Collections". Small Collections is the group of individual items that the CL has collected that don’t belong in a larger group -- individual letters, journals, sermons, and the like. In some cases, the archive has since acquired larger collections that individual items can be integrated with, or they would better serve our patrons by being located in another section. Going through each item and deciding where to relocate it to was in many ways like a treasure hunt. There was also an incredibly wide range of materials in this collection -- the autograph collection of a nineteenth century minister which included the signatures of such figures as Thomas Jefferson and Lyman Beecher, a letter from British Prime Minister David Lloyd George following World War I in which he encouraged greater cooperation between American and British ministers, and the financial records of a colonial Congregational minister who kept meticulous track of his expenditures.

There may not be any high speed chases or life-or-death crises at the Congregational Library, but the opportunity to help preserve this important aspect of American history has been an exciting opportunity.  I may be in the minority, but I would take a collection of sermons eloquently addressing real problems our nation faced over a treasure map any day.

April 27, 2009

Jonathan Mayhew

Jonathan Mayhew (October 8, 1720 – July 9, 1766) was a noted American clergyman and minister at Old West Church in Boston. Mayhew was born at Martha’s Vineyard, being a descendant of Thomas Mayhew (1592-1682), an early settler and the grantee (1641) of Martha's Vineyard. Jonathan’s father, Experience Mayhew (1673-1758), was active as a missionary among the Indians of Martha’s Vineyard and the vicinity. The Mayhews were also involved with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.

Mayhew graduated from Harvard in 1744. So liberal were his theological views that when he was to be ordained minister of the West Church in Boston in 1747, only two ministers attended the first council called for the ordination, and it was necessary to summon a second council. Mayhew's preaching made his church practically the first Unitarian Congregational church in New England, though it was never officially Unitarian.

Rev. Mayhew was opposed to the Stamp Act and is credited by John Adams as the author of the phrase, "no taxation without representation." Another of his quotes is "Extremes are dangerous."

In 1952 his portrait was taken to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for identification of the artist. The evidence from the Annual meeting report of 1875 stated the portrait was a gift in 1875 from Robert Dunning, Esq. of Georgetown, DC. The result of the examination authenticated the artist.

Rev. Mayhew’s portrait was painted by John Greenwood (American Colonial Era Painter, 1727-1792) one of the first Colonial portrait painters born in America. John Greenwood was one of that city's most prominent portrait painters during the 1740s, one of the reasons being that he had little competition. Greenwood painted many prominent merchants and members of the clergy. He worked in Boston from about 1745 to 1752. The painting is dated at approximately 1750 and appears to be in its original frame.

April 24, 2009

Edwards chair

Jonathan Edwards (May 26, 1745—August 1, 1801) was a theologian and linguist. Born in Northampton, MA he was the second son of Jonathan Edwards, the elder. He graduated from Princeton in 1765. He was tutor in Princeton (1767-69), and pastor in New Haven, CT (1769 -95). He was dismissed for opposing the Half-Way Covenant. (Only adults with personal experience of conversion were eligible to full membership but that children shared in the covenant of their parents and therefore should be admitted to all the privileges of the church except the Lord's Supper. The question arose (c.1650) whether this privilege should be extended to the children of these children, even though the parents of the second generation may have confessed no experience that brought them into full communion. It was proposed (1657) and adopted (1662) by a church synod that the privileges should be extended.) After serving as pastor in Colebrook, CT (1795 - 99), he went to Schenectady, NY to serve as president of Union College.

Edwards was a pioneer in the historical linguistics of Native North America. He was raised in the community of Stockbridge, MA, where Indian speakers of the Mohegan language were in the majority, and he was fluent in that language. He also acquired first-hand knowledge of other Algonquin and Iroquoian languages.

In 1787, Edwards published a study of the Mohegan language. In it, he presented evidence for the relatedness of Algonquian languages throughout northeastern North America and their distinctness from the neighboring Iroquoian languages.

April 22, 2009

Scrooby desk

From today's Brown Bag lunch series.

In 1606, dissatisfied with the corruption and lapsed nature of the Church of England, religious Separatists in the village of Scrooby broke away from the established church. Scrooby Manor was William Brewster's home and became a meeting place for dissenters. Elder Brewster (1560-1644) led the Separatists (Pilgrims) from Scrooby Parish to Leiden, The Netherlands, and then on to Plymouth Colony. The clerk's desk in the Pratt Room is believed to have been used during Elder Brewster's tenure in Scrooby. The clerk's desk would have been located in the church below the pulpit on the same level as the congregation. It may have been below a reader's desk as well. The Parish Clerk stood or sat facing the congregation, who he led in the responses printed in the Prayer Book. He alos led the "lining of the psalms" and made community announcements from the desk.

In 1900, the desk was presented as a bequeathed to the Library by Charles Carlton Coffin (1823-1896) who obtained the desk from the Parish Clerk's House in Scrooby in 1880. Coffin was an author, journalist, war correspondent, and member of the Massachusetts Legislature 1884-1885.

The following was printed in the Forty-Third Annual Report of the Directors of the American Congregational Association of May 25, 1896: "The desk is doubtless contemporary with those forefathers (Plymouth Pilgrims), for it is reputed to be more than three hundred years old. With its solid oak, its quaint carvings, and its centuries of history, it is an object not to be regarded without emotion."

April 21, 2009

When you work on something day in, day out for weeks or months, you want to share what you've been doing. Particularly if you don't feel like you will be done soon.

Last week I had a major break through on one of these kinds of projects. I'd been running up against a brick wall with it given the size and content (majority of it correspondence). And despite help from one of my interns, Meg, I felt like it would never get done. So, while Meg was on hiatus, I hauled down some untouched boxes and tried to pare things down a bit. The donors are prepared to take the material we do not think fits the collection, so my rationale was figure that out and then when Meg returns, it might be more manageable.

The problem was that where do you draw the line? Even after its drawn, how much organization is enough? Solution: call in the cavalry, a.k.a. my boss. Peggy's not an archivist, but in this case, that's a good thing. As an historian, she sees things a bit differently. Within 10 minutes of me showing her the range of material and what had already been done, a new plan was hatched: stop doing so much. do bare bones and fill in the gaps as I can as it is needed.

Somewhere back in my training, perhaps in most of our training in whatever we do, I felt like I had to never leave anything half done. Then once you signed off, it would never change. Well, the world has shifted, and that's often not realistic. For example, a web site is never entirely done. Most things online are a work in progress that may never be done. Why shouldn't this be true of archive work? What's more important- having it perfect, or having it available? In this case, the former. Now that I have a revised directive, it's very likely that Meg will get to completely finish the big collection and I will be able to reclaim my work space just in time to refill it.


April 16, 2009

Added to the collection: John Calvin's Impact on Church and Society, 1509-2009 by Martin Ernst Hirzel

John CalvinContents: Preface / Thomas Wipf -- Introduction / Martin Ernst Hirzel and Martin Sallmann -- Calvin and the transformation of Geneva / Philip Benedict -- "Loved and feared" : Calvin and the Swiss Confederation / Emidio Campi and Christian Moser -- Calvinism in Europe / Andrew Pettegree -- Calvinism in North America / James D. Bratt -- Calvin's understanding and interpretation of the Bible / Wulfert de Greef -- Calvin's ecclesial theology and human salvation / Christopher L. Elwood -- Election and predestination / Christian Link -- Mutual connectedness as a gift and a task : on John Calvin's understanding of the church / Eva-Maria Faber -- Calvin's ethics / Eric Fuchs -- Calvinism and capitalism / Ulrich H. J. Kortner -- Calvin and religious tolerance / Christoph Strohm -- The contribution of Calvin and calvinism to the birth of modern democracy / Mario Turchetti.
Includes bibliographical references.

April 14, 2009

One of the downsides of having a small staff is that we have to limit how much research we can do for our long distance patrons. For as long as I've been the archivist here, there has always been a list of people I would keep on hand -- freelance researchers for these occasions.

People will make this arrangement when their research requires delving into the resources here that may not be in our online catalog, are not in a digitized form (meaning 99.9% of them thus far), are not available elsewhere (or perhaps just not as completely as we have), and/or require extensive study to determine a big question.

At first it was just two or three of our Association's board members who were also historians. Then after I had been here a while, I called upon the greater New England archivist community. That list went from 3 to 6 or there abouts. Well, after I renewed the call this spring, I have doubled the list. For some reason, I find this to be very gratifying.

It's actually quite rare that I have the occasion of offering the list to our distance researchers, but today I was able to offer that refreshed list for the first time. Ah-hah, I say to myself -- Perhaps part of the reason why I don't get many requests for the list is that people don't realize it exists!

I am here today to tell you that if you are hoping to do research here, but cannot visit, please consider asking me -- Jessica -- for this list. Our standard operating procedure is to let the patron review the names, contact the freelancer and they negotiate the terms.