Beacon Street Blog

June 3, 2013

Since February, Evelyn Walker, Rare Book Cataloger, has been reviewing and updating our rare book catalog records. Evelyn brought some interesting items to our attention. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"303","attributes":{"alt":"title page of \"The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony\" (1799)","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 239px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"title page of \"The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony\" (1799)","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The library has two copies of the Hartford, 1799 edition of The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony, who died in Newport ... in the sixty-fifth year of her age. Susanna was born in Newport, RI and was the youngest daughter of a goldsmith. Although raised as a Quaker she converted to Congregationalism during the Great Awakening in 1741. Susanna's diary chronicles a complicated spiritual existence. She penned over a thousand pages of diary entries which were excerpted by Rev. Samuel Hopkins for this book. The most notable highlight excerpted by Hopkins was the account of her 1741 conversion.

Each of the library's copies has noteworthy provenance: Copy 1 was owned by the Cheshire Theological Institute of Keene, NH. This institution was formed in 1830 around the 700 volumes owned by Rev. Z. S. Barstow. It was a corporation in which many of Keene's prominent men held shares, designed to furnish the clergymen of the county with literature that might aid them in their work. It existed for about twenty years. Copy 2 was also owned by a small library, the United Social Library of Cornish, NH. During the 1830s and into the mid-nineteenth century, "a circulating library for adults called the 'Cornish Social Library,' was maintained in town, much to the pleasure and edification of the people. The records of this library have not been found, and whatever of such there was, is doubtless lost." (History of the town of Cornish, New Hampshire, with genealogical record, 1763-1910 by William H. Child, p. 240-41)

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"305","attributes":{"alt":"flyleaf of \"The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony\" (1799) formerly owned by the United Social Library","class":"media-image","style":"width: 250px; height: 192px;","title":"flyleaf of \"The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony\" (1799) formerly owned by the United Social Library","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]   [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"304","attributes":{"alt":"flyleaf of \"The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony\" (1799) formerly owned by the United Social Library","class":"media-image","style":"width: 250px; height: 182px;","title":"flyleaf of \"The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony\" (1799) formerly owned by the United Social Library","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

If you know of any additional information about either of these two libraries, we would love to hear about it.

A copy of the Portland, 1810 second edition of The Life and Character of Miss Susanna Anthony is available through Google Books.


May 31, 2013

Our reading room will be closed on Monday, June 3rd for our board's annual meeting. Staff will be on hand to answer questions by phone or email, and all of our online resources will be available as usual.

May 30, 2013

Continuing on the success of using the "MPLP" standard to process backlog archival collections, the D.M. Fisk papers are now available for research. They were originally donated to the Congregational Library from the Chicago Theological Seminary.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"307","attributes":{"alt":"Rev. D. M. Fisk's address on Lincoln's presidency","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 252px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Rev. D. M. Fisk's address on Lincoln's presidency","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Daniel Moses Fisk was born in in New Hampton, NH on April 10, 1846. He was educated at Brown University and Harvard Medical School before becoming an ordained minister in Jackson, Michigan in 1886. During his career, Fisk's pastorates were primarily in the Midwest and Plains. He settled in Kansas, in 1899 where he worked as a minister and then as professor and dean at Washburn College before his death in Topeka in 1932.

This collection includes Fisk's sermons (published and unpublished), addresses, and notes. Of particular note are a series of sermons written about President Lincoln's assassination.

Note: This collection has been minimally processed for access and is available for researcher access.

Take a look at the finding aid for more details.

May 28, 2013

Recently, while at the 2013 Digital Commonwealth Conference, I learned about two great websites that use geospatial planning tools to create maps that share history and tell stories in visually compelling ways. Here's a little more information on each one. Each one of these tools harnesses the use of primary source archival materials and technology in new and exciting ways. Check out the links — they are pretty amazing!

  • [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"309","attributes":{"alt":"Neatline logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 44px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Neatline logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Neatline is, "a geotemporal exhibit-builder that allows you to create beautiful, complex maps and narrative sequences from collections of archives and artifacts, and to connect your maps and narratives with timelines that are more-than-usually sensitive to ambiguity and nuance." Neatline is a project of the Scholar's Lab at the University of Virginia Library.

    You can see examples of Neatline's interactive maps in action on their website.


  • [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"310","attributes":{"alt":"HistoryPin logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 26px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"HistoryPin logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]History Pin bills itself as a global community built around history. Individual people, groups, or organizations can take their photos and "pin" them to maps using behind the scene geo-referencing tools. This nonprofit's goal is to "liberate" photos from archives, families and attics from all around the world. You can search by topic, timeline, or location and even log in to add your own photos.

    Visit the History Pin site for more information.



May 27, 2013

1704 Deerfield Captive to Congregational Missionary Interpreter for the Mohawks

Eight-year-old Rebecca Kellogg was one of the 112 English colonists captured by French/Canadian/Iroquois forces in 1704 in Deerfield, Massachusetts. She was adopted into the Mohawk community of Kahnawake on the St. Lawrence River. Rebecca married a Mohawk man and raised children, but then, quite surprisingly, she came back to British territory. She eventually became an interpreter to the Mohawk for the famous Jonathan Edwards when he preached in Stockbridge to Mohegan and Mohawk Christians. She then translated for a young Gideon Hawley as he attempted to set up his first mission in Mohawk country. In Edwards's letters and Hawley's dairy, we meet a woman who was loyal, funny, strong, kind, and stubborn. How Edwards and Hawley wrote about Rebecca delightfully challenges assumptions we might have about Indian captivity, mission work, and women in the eighteenth-century backwoods.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"294","attributes":{"alt":"Rebecca Kellogg Ashley memorial outside Windsor, NY","class":"media-image","style":"width: 400px; height: 356px;","title":"Rebecca Kellogg Ashley memorial outside Windsor, NY","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
Rebecca Kellogg Ashley memorial outside Windsor, NY
dedicated by the Daughters of the American Revolution

Joy A. J. Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia where she teaches early American literature courses and introductory classes. She received her Ph.D. from Purdue University and wrote a dissertation exploring how colonial writers altered the long-standing discourse of spirit possession stories. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"295","attributes":{"alt":"Joy A. J. Howard","class":"media-image","style":"width: 100px; height: 135px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Joy A. J. Howard","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]She's interested in colonial writings where religion intersects with constructions of the self and representations of the body. Her recent studies on Jonathan Edwards's Indian sermons in Religion in the Age of Enlightenment have led her to her work on Rebecca Kellogg because she translated for Edwards in Indian country. Some of this work will appear as "Rebecca Kellogg Ashley: Negotiating Identity on the Early American Borderlands, 1704-1757" in Women in Early America, edited by Tom Foster, under contract with New York University Press.

Wednesday, June 19th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Program begins promptly at noon.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

May 24, 2013

The Congregational Library will be closed on Monday, May 27th 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, leave a voicemail, or use our website's contact form, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office next week.

May 23, 2013

At the 155th Annual meeting of the Massachusetts Congregational Christian Conference in May 1954, held in Bethany Congregational Church, Quincy, MA, Dr. John L. Lobingier was designated Emeritus Secretary of Christian Education. Dr. Lobingier had been Conference Minister of Education from 1942-1954. The resolution for this honor reads in part: "He has directed the work of our youth in this Commonwealth with great insight and vision."

I started looking into Dr. Lobingier when I was reviewing a shelf of plays in the library's stacks. The shelf list cards indicated that these short one act plays were gifts of Dr. Lobingier. The necrology in the United Church of Christ Year Book for 1974 listed the following: He was born in Chicago, IL on January 1, 1884. He studied at Union and Lexington Theological Seminary and was ordained a Disciple of Christ in Lexington, KY in June 1907. From 1906 to 1907 he was assistant pastor at Magnolia Avenue Christian Church then pastor of Christian Church of Ocean Park, CA from 1908-11. His next pastoral assignment was Christian Church of Santa Monica CA from 1911-14. In 1921, he became pastor of United Church of Christ, Oberlin, OH and was there until 1926. He then began his other religious work in this building at 14 Beacon Street with the Society of World Fellowships and the Congregational Education Society until 1926 before moving to the Massachusetts Congregational Conference. Dr. Lobingier died in Winchester, MA on August 4, 1974 at the age of 90.

Having learned about Dr. Lobingier's involvement with religious education, I began to understand the reasoning behind this gift of plays. The plays are Baker's Plays, currently owned by Samuel French Inc. The origin of Baker's Plays dates back to the 19th century. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"312","attributes":{"alt":"\"The Years Ahead\" by Elliot Field cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 229px; float: left; margin: 8px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"The Years Ahead\" by Elliot Field cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]According to Katy DiSavino, "Baker's predecessor, the Herbert Sweet Company, published and sold plays in Boston from 1845-1872. When the great Boston Fire of 1872 destroyed many of the company's printing plates and other material, it moved into the newly rebuilt district and continued operation under the name of George M. Baker & Company." George's brother, Walter took over the company in 1892 and in 1921 the company became Baker's Plays. Baker's was known for its list of family friendly and religious plays. It offered an large selection of plays suitable for high school and middle school students.

Typical of these plays is one titled "The Friendly Kingdom" by Dorothy Clark Wilson. The play is described as the story of a boy king who follows the commandment "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Another play, "The Years Ahead" by Elliot Field, is the story of a young couple who declines a "tempting business offer in Boston" and decides despite family pressure to go as missionaries to Persia.


May 21, 2013

Don't forget to let us know if you'll be joining us for tomorrow's free lunchtime lecture.

Park Ranger Dorothy Rivera will give us an exclusive preview of a new National Park Service tour The Great Equalizer?: Black Boston and the Struggle for Education.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"313","attributes":{"alt":"Freedman's Bureau classroom, Richmond, VA, ca. 1866","class":"media-image","style":"width: 201px; height: 124px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Freedman's Bureau classroom, Richmond, VA, ca. 1866","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Join us to discuss the growth of the educational system in Massachusetts and the role that it played in the struggle for civil rights and abolition from the colonial period through the 20th century.

This event is the first in a new partnership with the Boston African American National Historic Site which is headquartered here at 14 Beacon Street.

Wednesday, May 22nd
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Program begins promptly at noon.

Register through SurveyMonkey.


image "The Misses Cooke's school room" courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

May 20, 2013

It's been a few months, but we're pleased to announce at last that four more of the collections in our New England's Hidden Histories program are now available for use. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"314","attributes":{"alt":"page from the Georgetown First Church records","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 233px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"page from the Georgetown First Church records","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]You can access them through the NEHH collections list, or go directly to each collection page:

There are more collections at various stages in the process, and we will let you know as soon as they are ready for use, as well.

May 17, 2013

Working at the Congregational Library has given me a soft spot for large illuminated manuscripts, particularly Bibles. So when I came across a recent article on the British Library's Medieval manuscripts blog, I just had to share it. This early-8th century tome went on quite a journey in its day, being taken from northeastern England, through France, and finally ending up at an Italian monastery.

King Offa and the Ceolfrith Bible

Our story begins with Ceolfrith, saint and abbot of the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in Northumbria from 690 to 716. Ceolfrith was Bede's early mentor, and during his rule the size and wealth of the monastery increased greatly and the number of books in the library doubled. Most famously, Ceolfrith commissioned three large Bibles from his own scriptoria: one for Jarrow, one for Wearmouth and the third for the Pope.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"315","attributes":{"alt":"Ceolfrith Bible illumination","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 271px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Ceolfrith Bible illumination","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Realising that he was close to death, Ceolfrith resigned from the abbacy in 716 and set out for Rome, where he planned to present one of the Bibles to Pope Gregory II (715-731) and to remain to await his death. But he died en route, at Langres in Burgundy, and the Bible he was carrying instead made its way to the monastery of Monte Amiata in Florence. It is the only one of Ceolfrith's three Bibles to survive intact, and is now in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana at Florence, known as the Codex Amiatinus and the oldest surviving full copy of the Bible in Latin. The image [to the right] of Christ in Majesty with the four Evangelists is one of two full-page miniatures from this huge volume, which is over 48cm tall, weighs 35kg and has more than one thousand pages.

If you'd like to learn more about the fate of this book and see some of its text, you can read the full article on the Medieval manuscripts blog. Or if Bibles don't strike your fancy, you can explore other beautiful books in the British Library's Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, where all of the images are free to use under public domain copyright rules.


May 16, 2013

This is our 1,000th blog post!

It's been a little more than seven years since Jessica started writing here in Febrary 2006. Back then, we had just started adding records to our online catalog. It now contains over 88,000 item records for books, pamphlets, periodicals, archival collections, images, and objects, with more being added every day. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"316","attributes":{"alt":"our website, circa 2006","title":"our website, circa 2006","height":275,"width":350,"style":"width: 200px; height: 157px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","class":"media-image media-element file-media-original"},"link_text":null}]]We had a hand-coded website. (How many of you remember the purple pages?) Since then, we have redesigned our site twice and are in the middle of doing so again. We now have a dedicated exhibit site, and our online presence has expanded to include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

Six years ago, we launched our Brown Bag Lunch lecture series, awarded our first joint research fellowship with our neighbors at the Boston Athenaeum, and initiated a church records microfilming preservation project.

Five years ago, we added our e-newsletter, and expanded our educational programs to include Peggy's popular Growing Deeper Roots course on Congregational history. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"317","attributes":{"alt":"our homepage, 2008-2013","title":"our homepage, 2008-2013","height":359,"width":350,"style":"width: 200px; height: 205px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","class":"media-image media-element file-media-original"},"link_text":null}]]When we launched the current incarnation of our website, we added a database of citations for clergy and missionary obituaries that has proven immensely useful.

Four years ago, we digitized early Congregational yearbooks, John Vinton's collection of missionary biographies, and Harold Worthley's inventory of Massachusetts Congregational church records with the help of the scanning lab at the Boston Public Library and the Internet Archive.

Three years ago, we hosted a conference in celebration of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions' bicentennial. We also launched the exclusive member content on our website, and started uploading pictures from our image collection to Flickr.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"318","attributes":{"alt":"our exhibit site","title":"our exhibit site","height":325,"width":350,"style":"width: 200px; height: 186px; float: left; margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 0px;","class":"media-image media-element file-media-original"},"link_text":null}]]Two years ago, we joined in the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, added our first records to the Digital Commonwealth catalog, and launched our first digital exhibits.

Last year, we vicariously traveled through England with some of our board members, and made the first collections in our New England's Hidden Histories program available for use online.

Over the years, staff members have come and gone. We have nurtured dozens of interns and student volunteers through their first archival processing projects or cataloging experiences. As we have learned about useful resources and interesting events at other institutions, we've done our part to help promote them.

It has been quite a journey so far, and we will have even more exciting things to share with you in the coming years. We hope you'll come along for the ride.

May 14, 2013

I recently processed a new missionary collection from Zimbabwe. Before the 1980s, Zimbawe was known as Rhodesia, or even earlier as Southern Rhodesia. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) had a station in Southern Rhodesia starting in 1893 at Mt. Silinda and a sub-station at Chikore. One of the mid-20th century missionaries who served there was Charles Lord, who donated a 9-folder collection, primarily of reports from the field dating to the mid 1950s. There are also a few histories, some correspondence and photographs. The collection originally came with a number of pamphlets about the mission or the region, which will be added to our missionary pamphlet collection.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"319","attributes":{"alt":"Southern Rhodesia Mission collection, \"Chikore School, 1922\"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 500px; height: 282px;","title":"Southern Rhodesia Mission collection, \"Chikore School, 1922\"","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
photograph from the Southern Rhodesia Mission collection,
captioned "Chikore School, 1922"

A rare but not unusual feature in the collection is a history written in what I have been told is a blend of chiShona and chiNdau. I do not have any background in African linguistics, but I'm privileged to have a very good source who does, as do her colleagues. Thank you to Wendy Urban-Mead for confirming the languages so our catalog record will be as precise as possible.

This collection is available to all researchers and the finding guide is up on our website. Please contact us if you plan to visit.


May 13, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"320","attributes":{"alt":"RIAH Bendroth interview graphic","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 235px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"RIAH Bendroth interview graphic","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Many of our readers know Peggy Bendroth as the Executive Director of the Congregational Library, but some of you also know her as Dr. Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, esteemed religious historian and author. She is featured in this month's installment of the Four Questions interview series on the Religion in American History blog.

Four Questions with Peggy Bendroth

The historian Peggy Bendroth is the executive director of the Congregational Library in Boston, MA. Since her first book appeared 20 years ago, she has shaped the field of American religious history in profound ways. Her insightful work on gender, childhood and family, and the cultures of fundamentalism is as familiar to the grad student as it is to the established professor. Among other things Bendroth has explored the day to day lives of believers and helped us understand how men and women, young and old, came to terms with the tumultuous 20th century.

If you'd like to learn more about Peggy's educational path, research techniques, and upcoming projects, go read her answers to Randall Stephens's four questions.

May 10, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"321","attributes":{"alt":"CL window bookplate","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 230px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"CL window bookplate","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]If you've ever seen the image to the right, than you likely know it to be the Congregational Library's bookplate, which can be found adhered to the inside cover of many of the books in the library's collection. Upon first glance, it is reasonable to interpret it as a lovingly rendered image of our Reading Room, with its view of the Park Street Church. A closer inspection, however, reveals some details that seem off, when compared to the actual Reading Room. While the church seen in the window is undoubtedly the Park Street Church, the window through which it appears looks too small and incorrectly shaped to be one of the windows in the Reading Room. Also, the boat near the window and bust upon the bookshelf do not resemble any items from the library's collection. As the Reading Room has remained largely unchanged since the Congregational House at 14 Beacon Street opened in 1898, it doesn't seem likely that the bookplate shows an older version of the Reading Room. So what is the bookplate actually meant to show and why was so much artistic license taken?

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"322","attributes":{"alt":"bookplate image detail","class":"media-image","style":"width: 400px; height: 508px;","title":"bookplate image detail","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
bookplate central image
click to enlarge

Fortunately an article in the March 26, 1925 issue of The Congregationalist explains the origins of the bookplate's design and gives further details of the artistic intentions of its creator. The bookplate was created in 1925 by a Boston architect named Harold A. Rich. If you look closely at the rug in the bookplate, you can see "H.A. Rich 25" written along its border. His architectural training may explain why he chose the Classical framing that surrounds the Reading Room picture. According to the article, Rich illustrated an "idealized picture of a corner of the main reading room." Rich's purpose for creating an "idealized" picture seems to have been to allow him to incorporate details that invoke Pilgrim and Puritan history. As the library has been involved in preserving this history since its inception, creating a picture, which combines the Reading Room with icons of the Pilgrim and Puritan past provides a visual summary of one of the library's primary missions. There are four items shown in the bookplate, which are meant to recall the past. This first is the ship by the window, which is a model of the Mayflower. Above the ship, there is a framed picture of a church steeple. This is the steeple of St. Botolph's Church in Boston, England, otherwise known as the Boston Stump and the church where John Cotton preached, before immigrating to New England. The bust above the bookshelf is meant to show a quintessential 18th-century parson, complete with wig, gown, and bands. Finally, the small statue found on the table in the foreground is a small replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens's statue of Deacon Samuel Chapin, one of the early settlers of Springfield, Massachusetts.

A picture of an idealized Reading Room, rife with symbols of the Puritan past was probably chosen for the library's bookplate as a subtle means of marketing the library's purpose and mission. In 1925 when the bookplate was first put into use, the library sought to expand its patron base, by encouraging new patrons living outside of the Boston area to take advantage of the library’s resources, by borrowing books through the mail, rather than visiting the library in person. For these new borrowers, who may never have seen the actual Reading Room and who may not have been fully aware of the library's history and purpose, the bookplate provided an apt artistic representation of the library and its mission, despite not showing a precise visual representation of the Reading Room. Now, eighty-eight years later, the library continues to add this bookplate to its new acquisitions and the message that it sends about the library still holds true.


May 9, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"323","attributes":{"alt":"Lafayette WI first church","class":"media-image","style":"width: 320px; height: 213px;","title":"Lafayette WI first church","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

A patron sent a picture of this gorgeous church out in rural Wisconsin. The cheerfulness of the day that our patron, Major, captured and the charming quality of the church encourages a bit of the backstory of why he sent the photo.

Major emailed me initially to get help getting a copy of his ancestor's obituary notice, which is in our "Find a Congregationalist" (aka Necrology) database. The Yearbook that the Rev. Stevens was listed in was available online through the Internet Archive. That success lead to questions about whatever happened to the church and the graveyard that Stevens served? I was able to confirm there was only one church in the area he could have been at, that it had closed, and the local town or county office might help direct to their locations. Finally, some many days later, Major wrote one more time, to report a complete success: the church and graveyard are still in excellent condition. He was able to visit and find out a bit more about his ancestor. He found out on this first trip that there's a Civil War museum in the church basement now and the sexton maintains the original ledger book. Major got confirmation about Rev. Stevens's presence, plus a portrait of the gentleman is still on hand. He had the satisfaction of some mysteries solved. I had the satisfaction of knowing that I helped direct him to the answers. Thank you for that.


May 7, 2013

Review of Red Ink: Native Americans Picking Up the Pen in the Colonial Period by Drew Lopenzina
(SUNY Press. 2012)

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"324","attributes":{"alt":"\"Red Ink\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 181px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"Red Ink\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]One of the things I enjoy in my job as Librarian is spending time reading about newly published books that will fit into our collections. Perusing academic publications, I was intrigued by the title Red Ink. One of my responses was to consider the political correctness of "red" and Native Americans. Looking into the book, I found the "red" did describe the literature of Native Americans AND the red ink used to correct and change the meaning and output of the Natives by the white culture. Red was also the color of bloodshed in the contacts between Native and other cultures. I will admit I had not considered a written record of Native American although I was familiar with the colonial missionary work that taught reading and writing. My thinking was that the tradition was oral and that any Native American literature was about the Natives not by them.

Lopenzia reviews America colonial literature and reports Native Americans were very active writers in the Colonial period and acquired the skill rapidly. This book includes the story of Samson Occom, who learned the western style of writing through the missionary schools and became a Presbyterian minister. He was the first Native American to publish his writings in English. Occom was a missionary and a teacher and raised a notable amount of money that would fund Dartmouth College. He used his knowledge to protect the Native Americans from predatory land rights deals.

Red Ink covers the period from first European contact with Native Americans to the founding of Brothertown in 1785. Chapters describe Wussuckwheke, or the Painted Letter, Praying Indians, Printing Devils, King Philips Signature, maintenance of Native tradition in hidden transcripts, and the road to Brothertown. Comprehensive detail notes and an extensive bibliography are included. An interesting note to researchers — in 2006 Joanna Brooks collected all of Occom's writings together.

Drew Lopenzina is professor of Early American and Native American literature at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. His work has appeared in the journals American Literature, American Quarterly, American Indian Quarterly and others. He is currently working on a biography of the nineteenth-century Pequot activist and minister William Apess.


May 6, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"325","attributes":{"alt":"Waverly Congregational Church","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 169px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Waverly Congregational Church","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Our latest addition to our collection is from the First Congregational Church of Waverley. Normally churches derive their name from the town in which they reside. However, Waverley is a neighborhood/village within the town of Belmont, Massachusetts. The church was established in 1865, although the start date for the earliest records goes back to 1861. That is when our star of the collection, the Society ledger book, begins. Another interesting feature is a page-a-day calendar from 1866. The unknown author didn't write every day, but did fill in entries steadily throughout the year. We hope a future researcher will crack the code and find out who authored it. The church closed last year. We are grateful to their last minister for saving the material he sent to us. The collection is now available for researchers to study.



photograph of First Congregational Church of Waverley in Belmont courtesy of the Belmont Citizen Herald via

May 3, 2013

Last week, I was pleased to attend a reception at Simmons in honor of Louise Lincoln. Miss Lincoln, an undergraduate at the eve of World War II (1936-1940), donated her scrapbook to her alma mater. It was integrated into the program's Notable Women project, which scans and meticulously catalogs alumni scrapbooks. Longtime readers with a very good memory may remember that I mentioned another Notable Woman several years ago, Daisy Helyar. All the Notable Women projects are generated by Candy Schwartz's digital library class. She selects scrapbooks from the college archive and her class transforms it over the span of a semester into a fully viewable and cataloged digital surrogate. In this case our own Sari Mauro was part of the team that made the magic happen. It was impressive to hear how a small group of students broke out the work, collaborated, and produced a highly detailed and technically perfect product.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"326","attributes":{"alt":"Louise Lincoln project logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 61px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Louise Lincoln project logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Miss Lincoln, a notably quiet and devout woman, grew up during the Great Depression and joined the work force just as the second World War started. This influenced her to add to her secretarial skills with nursing; she continued her education at Yale. The scrapbook focuses on her years at Simmons, however. She valued her time as an undergraduate, she stayed in close contact with the school and that is reflected in the scrapbook pages. Each page is described at item level. I recommend taking time to browse the pages as well as trying out the search features.

Congratulations to Sari and her classmates on a job masterfully done.


May 2, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"327","attributes":{"alt":"archival intern Mary Guinan","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 177px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"archival intern Mary Guinan","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]I have been interning here at the Congregational Library for the past two months as part of my internship requirement for my LIS 438 class at Simmons College. In those two months, I have had the wonderful opportunity to gain experience processing a small archival collection from start to finish.

The collection consisted of the personal papers of Edward Franklin Williams, a Congregational minister, lecturer, and writer from the mid-to-late-nineteenth century. I started out just taking an inventory of sorts to try to understand who this person was and what materials were in the collection. I think I probably spent more time than necessary doing research about Williams and his life. I really enjoyed working with his actual documents and trying to put together the pieces of his life. I felt like a sort of historical detective!

The arrangement and series I decided on reflect, I think, the most appropriate and logical organization of the materials. I really learned a lot about the various aspects of archival processing. There were a few bumps along the way. The fact that some of the series are split up between boxes wars with my desire to have everything fit exactly right and be 'just so'. Then there was the issue of how to number the folders when the series are split up. These 'bumps' were the instances where I learned the most. I was able to get real-world examples of things that were discussed in my classes.

I was also lucky enough to get experience or at least an exposure to aspects of archival processing that I didn’t really expect to. I heard a lot of talk about EAD and got to work a little bit with DACS. These are both concepts that, I'm told, I will be very familiar with after taking more classes. It was nice to get a little bit of an introduction and get to see how these concepts are applied in the real world. I was also able to get a little bit of preservation experience. Though it was only the basics, I'm glad that I was able to get some exposure to that aspect of archival processing.

-Mary Guinan

April 30, 2013

While researching the histories of the churches in our 1843 Boston Almanac church engravings digital exhibit, I used a lot of historical maps to figure out where some of the buildings used to be. The names and configurations of Boston's streets have changed a lot over the centuries, for a number of reasons.The Back Bay marshland was filled in to create a new neighborhood; fires and revitalization projects caused entire sections of the city to be rebuilt in new ways; and existing streets have been renamed to honor prominent individuals.

A recent blog post by the Mass. State Library has some further insights:

For instance there used to be two streets in what is now Government Center called King Street and Queen Street. King Street is now State Street and Queen Street is now Court Street. In the book: What they never told you about Boston, or, What they did that were lies by Walt Kelley. He tells us that King and Queen Streets were changed to distance themselves from the Royalty in England. In 1722 these two streets were near Corn Hill which is near where Tremont Street and Cambridge Street meet. King Street was named after King Charles I who was in power when the Puritans settled in Boston in 1630. Charles Street, the Charles River and Charlestown, Massachusetts are all named for King Charles I as well.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"328","attributes":{"alt":"John Bonner map of Boston from 1722","class":"media-image","style":"width: 320px; height: 222px;","title":"John Bonner map of Boston from 1722","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
John Bonner map of Boston from 1722.
Copy of rare map of Boston.
Published by George B. Foster, Boston, 1872

If you'd like to do some further investigation of your own, the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library has digitized approximately 200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases from around the world, including almost 600 depicting Boston itself.

Researchers, start your engines.


April 29, 2013

Park Ranger Dorothy Rivera will give us an exclusive preview of a new National Park Service tour The Great Equalizer?: Black Boston and the Struggle for Education.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"313","attributes":{"alt":"Freedman's Bureau classroom, Richmond, VA, ca. 1866","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 124px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Freedman's Bureau classroom, Richmond, VA, ca. 1866","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Join us to discuss the growth of the educational system in Massachusetts and the role that it played in the struggle for civil rights and abolition from the colonial period through the 20th century.

This event is the first in a new partnership with the Boston African American National Historic Site which is headquartered here at 14 Beacon Street.

Wednesday, May 22nd
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Program begins promptly at noon.

Register through SurveyMonkey.


image "The Misses Cooke's school room" courtesy of the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

April 26, 2013

In this final post in celebration of Preservation Week, I am here to talk to you (write to you?) about some steps you can take a home to preserve your own personal digital files.

Digital preservation isn't like paper or photograph preservation — and that probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. How many of our blog readers have 3.5-inch floppy disks floating around with files on them? And how many of you actually have a computer with a 3.5-inch floppy drive? How many of you have storage media hanging around with WordPerfect files on them? [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"329","attributes":{"alt":"floppy disks","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 126px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"floppy disks","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]How many of you have tried to open an old file, only to be met with myriad gibberish?

Digital preservation is tricky because the things we are trying to preserve can't be seen without the aid of a computer. Whereas we can always pick up a book or a piece of paper or a photograph and see it, use it, and evaluate it, no tools required, digital files require us to use tools — big, complicated, tools — to even know that the file exists. This can made digital preservation daunting, but no less necessary.

With this in mind, here are some simple tips for preserving your digital files at home:

1. Always give your files a descriptive, yet short, file name.

  • Don't use spaces in your file name.
  • Don't use special characters, either (underscores are alright to replace spaces)
  • And, yes, this means even renaming all those photos you took on your vacation.

2. Always place your files in a logical place on your hard drive

  • Use sub-folders, if need be, to logically organize your items

3. Back-up your files — don't store them all on one device, or even all in one physical place

  • You can do this using an external hard drive, or by utilizing a cloud-storage service like Dropbox, Amazon Cloud, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Carbonite, etc. Consider, also, off-site back up. This can be a cloud storage service or a hard drive that is stored somewhere other than your house. Off-site digital back up helps mitigate the risk of a local disaster or incident (say, a flood) wiping out your important documents.

4. Consider making some of your older, inactive documents into PDFs

  • PDFs are a better solution for long-term storage, particularly because they aren’t as subject to obsolescence as other file types are

5. When upgrading your software or hardware, check to see if the new software can open your old file types (you can check this with an internet search). If not, save your old file types as a different type that does migrate to the new software. This way, you won't lose access to your old files.

  • Some pretty universal file types (at the moment) include:
    • rich text (RTF)
    • plain text (TXT)
    • PDF — for text and images
    • CSV (Comma Separated Value) — for spreadsheets and databases
    • jpeg — for images
    • png — for images



April 25, 2013

We now return to Preservation Week!

Nothing is more evocative of a particular time, place, or person as a photograph. Yet, given their chemical composition, photographs can be rather delicate items and they need special consideration for their long-term preservation. All photographs are comprised of three basic layers: the bottom support (paper, glass, leather, etc.), a top binder (gelatin, albumen, etc.) and a sandwiched layer between containing the fixed image in suspension (this can be made of silver, platinum, organic dyes, etc.).

There are many different kinds of photographs and photo-mechanical processes used in the last 175 years to produce photo-static images. Ironically, this is one instance where new is not necessarily better — chromogenic photographs popularized by 1960 are among the least stable of photographic processes, due to the migration of organic dyes, rather than salts, to make them. For more information on the various kinds of photos go to the Graphics Atlas from the Image Permanence Institute.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"330","attributes":{"alt":"reflexive Daguerreotype","class":"media-image","style":"width: 350px; height: 276px;","title":"reflexive Daguerreotype","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
untitled Daguerreotype, ca. 1850
click to enlarge

Many of the most important things you can do to aid in the preservation of your personal photographs can be done at low, or even no, cost.

  • Photographs are very sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations.
    They are best stored out of basements or attics and away from pipes and windows. It is critical to keep photographs away from all water sources, including humid air. This is another reason not to frame important photographs directly against glass. High levels of moisture may cause the top level binder to get tacky, causing photographs to adhere to the glass frame.
  • Photographs are enormously ultra-violet light sensitive.
    Exposure to ultra-violet light expedites the degradation of photographs. As much as you may wish to hang an image of a loved member of your family, if the image is particularly important to you, you may wish to scan the original and hang the copy to enjoy. This will allow you to have a "convenience" copy available without harming the original image. This is particularly important if you no longer have the original negative from which to create another image.
  • Photographs are easily affected and damaged by air pollutants and surface dirt.
    Particles, even small ones, can easily scratch the surface of photographs, damaging the emulsion adhered to the support. Additionally, beyond darkening or staining the image, pollutants may also affect the chemical composition of an image, leading to discoloration or pigment migration. The easiest way to limit damage caused by pollutants and dirt is to keep photographs appropriately covered.
  • Photographs, more than many other paper based archival materials, are easily damaged by handling.
    This is one instance where we strongly recommend wearing cotton gloves to handle photographs and limit their handling to the edges of the item, only. Fingerprints can cause real chemical damage to the image, causing dyes to fade and deteriorate.
  • Keep albums and scrapbooks together, whenever possible.
    Generally speaking, don't disassemble albums, they are important as objects and provide a great deal of contextual information. One exception may be for failed adhesive on magnetic albums, however. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to rehouse the photographs. The photographs will still have residual failed adhesive on the back, do not attempt to remove it, the chances of damaging the photo is too great. In the case where photographs are stuck in magnetic albums, it is recommended to leave them alone or consult a conservator. Again, the chance of damaging the images is too high to attempt their removal without professional consultation.

Now that you know a little more about the things you can do to protect your photographs, you can them focus on how to store your photographs. We recommend storing items of like size will avoid warping and breakage. The next step is to invest in some good quality enclosures for the photographs and boxes for protection. While archival supply companies sell a variety of photograph enclosures, most are made out of paper or an inert plastic like Mylar©. Each has its own merits and detractions and your choice may be made by the type of photographs in your collections, the size of your collection, and your budget. See archival supply companies like Gaylord Brothers, Hollinger-Metal Edge, and University Products, or ask us, for more information.

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do to care for your personal photographs is take the time to identify and label the people, places, and dates associated with the images. When labeling photographs, avoid using ink pens, which can migrate and fade. Instead, use a soft pencil on the back of the photograph or even better, on the outside of a paper wrapper.

Additional Resources:




image "Untitled" by an unknown photographer courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, found via Flickr user Cea.

April 24, 2013

Congratulations to our friends at the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) for turning 40! This amazing organization is a gem. We've mentioned them from time to time, most recently in Monday's post kicking off the Amerian Library Association's Preservation Week. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"331","attributes":{"alt":"NEDCC logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 46px; float: left; margin: 8px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"NEDCC logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]They've recently redesigned their website, so even old friends of the Center might want to visit and see what's new. For example, a link to their preservation leaflets and disaster assistance resources are highly visible on their homepage. They are also offering new sections about conservation treatment for several types of media.

If you're in the market to learn more about preservation or conservation, working proactively on a disaster plan or are in the middle of a disaster, or if you need something conserved, we hope you'll contact our friends in Andover.


April 22, 2013

By the Rivers of Watertown we sat down and wept,
When we remember'd thee, O Boston.
Lord God of Heaven, preserve them, defend them,
Deliver and restore them unto us again.
A voices was heard in Roxbury which echo'd thro' the Continent,
Weeping for Boston because of their Danger.

William Billings wrote this remarkable song while his city was under lockdown. In July 1774, King George III decided it was time to punish the citizens of Boston for their infamous "tea party" and put the city under martial law and closed its ports; the main land entry, the narrow "Boston Neck", was guarded by soldiers. British authorities assumed that without food or supplies the citizens would soon come crawling back to royal authority.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"332","attributes":{"alt":"title page of a William Billings psalm book","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 126px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"title page of a William Billings psalm book","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]How strange and how familiar the "Lament Over Boston" seems today. Many of us will recognize it as a riff on Psalm 137 and its opening line, "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered thee O Zion." But the parallels with the turmoil of the past week are downright uncanny, almost as if in some spooky prophetic way that song had been composed for all of us.

As Mark Twain (supposedly) said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes." The circumstances were wildly different, but this week our experiences overlapped with 1774 in all kinds of ways: Boston under lockdown, Watertown in mourning, the rest of the Continent echoing with distress — and people choosing love instead of fear.

This might be just another "oh, neat" moment about history, but why stop there? Should it be surprising that someone living before us experienced shock and pain about a city he loved too? Or more than that, should we be surprised that the past actually has something to offer the present? The "Lament Over Boston" tells us that we are not alone, stranded in the present and separated by an enormous crevasse of time. Billings gave all of us alive in April 2013 a striking and beautiful lament, words to use when our own begin to fail.

Our ancestors created a lot of things and then left them behind for us to use. Some are uplifting and wonderful and others frustrating, painful, and in some cases even evil. It is a mistake to think that the past is simply passive, just lying there in case one of us needs a lesson or an anecdote to "apply" to our very different circumstances. Sometimes history jumps out from behind a corner with a yell, astonishing us with its clarity and power. Sometimes it bounds out into the middle of the room when we are least expecting it, forcing us to pay attention and recognize the full scope of the human family — across time as well as ethnicity, geography, and race — and all the fears and hopes we will always share in common.

-Peggy Bendroth


image of the title page of William Billings's The Psalm-Singer's Amusement courtesy of the Beinecke Library at Yale University via Wikimedia Commons

April 22, 2013

Welcome to Preservation Week!

I spend a fair bit of time helping churches deal with how to care for their historical records. Much of what I tell that audience can apply to what you might be keeping in your own home. There are several things you can do that cost you little to nothing and will do a lot to keep your stash of letters and pictures from unnecessary risk.

Here are the top 3 things to get you going in the right direction:

1. Be Proactive.

You can avoid a problem before you start if you review where you are keeping your valuable papers and if there is a high probability of that space being a problem, relocate before Grandma's old love letters are a mouse nest or under a foot of water. We try to find out of the way places to keep our stuff. Basement, attic, garage are the trifecta. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"333","attributes":{"alt":"ruined comics","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 133px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"ruined comics","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]They live there for a reason, usually — because those are not great living areas, because you don't have anywhere else to put them. We make due with the space we have.

Whenever possible, minimize exposure to overly moist air or potential water sources: sump pumps, pipes, leaky rooves, flooding basements, drafty garages. Minimize risk and check in now and then to make sure they're still OK, not after the disaster has struck.

2. Box It.

Create a barrier between your precious documents and the elements. Sunlight is the enemy for healthy skin for humans and healthy paper for archives: both get burned. Keeping things in a box will keep the sun off the papers. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"334","attributes":{"alt":"document boxes in our archive","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 150px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"document boxes in our archive","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]You have some choices when considering what kind of box to use. Ideally, archive-quality cardboard boxes are the best. Cardboard also provides extra protection from major changes in humidity, which is another of paper's enemies. However, if you feel plastic is the way to go, choose an inert plastic one and be very sure to check in to be sure that moisture doesn't get trapped in them, which can create a mold situation. Whatever box you choose, be sure it's clean and structurally sound.

3. Get Smart!

There are a lot of options when it comes to preserving paper records and books. It's been a topic of study and has been refined over generations. So much available online to help you learn more and make some smart decisions. Here's just a few to get you started:


photograph of waterlogged comic books courtesy of Flickr user Allen Holt

April 19, 2013

The library is closed today in compliance with the governor's shelter-in-place order.

We hope all of our neighbors are safe and well.

April 18, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"335","attributes":{"alt":"Francis Bremer leads a walking tour of New Haven, CT","class":"media-image","style":"float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Francis Bremer leads a walking tour of New Haven, CT","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]We've become pretty big fans of historian Francis J. Bremer over the past few years. As part of the celebrations for the 375th anniversary of the founding of New Haven, Connecticut, Bremer led a historical walking tour this past Saturday to share his knowledge about the city's religious founder, John Davenport, its civil leader, Theophilus Eaton, and the colorful history of its early days.

There is an entertaining description of his talk in the New Haven Independent, including prosecutions of heresy and witchcraft, and controversy over infant baptisms.

"One could imagine him [Davenport] being a 17th-century televangelist if had this technology," Bremer quipped.

If you'd like to know more about John Davenport, take a look at Bremer's latest book, Building a New Jerusalem: John Davenport, a Puritan in Three Worlds.


photograph courtesy of the New Haven Independent

April 16, 2013

Our reading room will be closed to the public on Thursday, April 18th from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for a meeting of the Advisory Circle, our friends of the library group.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions by phone or email, and all of our online resources will be available as usual.

April 15, 2013

Here at the Congregational Library we have more than just books and archival materials — we also have objects. We don't have many, and they aren't something we actively seek to collect, but those we do have hold some sort of significance to the greater story of Congregationalism or are part of a larger historical collection.

Objects are unique in that they don't always come with information. They don't have a title page (like a book) or a lot of intrinsic text that contextualizes them within a larger story (like many archival things do). Unfortunately, without that larger context, we often miss out on a large portion of what makes that object so interesting.

I recently found myself working with a Sabbath School handkerchief. My tasks were to determine a method of storing the handkerchief (up until this point it had been folded), and add it to our online catalog to make it find-able. I did just that, and the cloth is now secured to flat piece of archival cardboard with polyester strapping, thus ensuring it remains flat, and hopefully working out some of the creases. It's also been added to the catalog under the title "Sabbath School Hymn Handkerchief". But as I was creating a record for it, I realized that we really don't know much about the item.

The handkerchief bears the title "Sabbath School Hymn" along with the hymn's staff music (in two parts) and six verses. There are, below it, two more pieces of verse: "We Never Part From Thee" and "The Golden Rule". It is decorated by motifs of grape leaves, flowers, open Bibles, and Sunday school children. The handkerchief was printed here in Boston by the Boston Chemical Printing Company, but no other attribution is given. The name "Clara E. Downing" is hand-written in the lower left hand corner followed by the word "Present". In a different hand is written "About 1835".

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"336","attributes":{"alt":"Sabbath school handkerchief","class":"media-image","style":"width: 350px; height: 367px;","title":"Sabbath school handkerchief","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
Sabbath school handkerchief
click to enlarge

I've included an image here in the hopes that one of our readers might recognize the handkerchief and be able to tell us a bit more about it. Have you seen something like this before? Do you have one? Do you know who might have been giving them out? Tell us about it! We'd love to know more about this very cool item.


April 12, 2013

The Congregational Library will be closed on Monday, April 15th in observance of Patriots' Day.

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

We wish the best of luck to everyone participating in the 117th Boston Marathon.



photo of the Lexington Minute Men relief (1948) by Bashka Paeff courtesy of user Daderot via Wikimedia Commons, released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

April 11, 2013

One of the benefits of living in the internet/digital world is the opportunity for collaboration. One such program that I learned about during the spring New England Archivist meeting's keynote by Tom Sheinfeld was the Papers of the War Department 1784-1800. The earliest records created by our government were primarily through the War Department, so when their offices burned in 1800, the nuts and bolts of what made up our infant nation was lost. But maybe not lost forever!

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"338","attributes":{"alt":"War Department Papers logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 96px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"War Department Papers logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]These Papers record far more than the era's military history. Between 1784 and 1800, the War Department was responsible for Indian affairs, veteran affairs, naval affairs (until 1798), as well as militia and army matters. During the 1790s, the Secretary of War spent seven of every ten dollars of the federal budget (debt service excepted). The War Office did business with commercial firms and merchants all across the nation; it was the nation's largest single consumer of fabric, clothing, shoes, food, medicine, building materials, and weapons of all kinds. "Follow the money," it is said, if you want to learn what really happened, and in the early days of the Republic that money trail usually led to the War Office. For example, the War Department operated the nation's only federal social welfare program, providing veterans' benefits (including payments to widows and orphans) to more than 4,000 persons. It also provided internal security, governance, and diplomacy on the vast frontier, and it was the instrument that shaped relations with Native Americans. In many respects, the papers lost in the War Office fire of 1800 constituted the "national archives" of their time.

Through this online project, dedicated souls have been piecing together the puzzle through dozens of repositories that collected correspondence, records, and articles relating to and by the War Department. They provide several search options, allow users to view images of the original documents, and are working on generating crowdsourced transcriptions. This repository is a valuable historical resource, and getting better by the day.


April 9, 2013

There's still plenty of time to sign up for Thursday's free lunchtime lecture.

God and Eighteenth-Century Seafarers

Atlantic travel narratives from the eighteenth-century reveal a kaleidoscope of practices and beliefs as people of varying persuasions intermixed on British sailing vessels without the established presence of any single religious tradition. This talk will focus on the spatial dimensions of shipboard life and its effects on passengers' religious practices as well as their interactions with one another. Despite the cramped quarters and social divides aboard ship, people carved out space to practice their religions.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"339","attributes":{"alt":"Stephen Berry","class":"media-image","style":"width: 96px; height: 150px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Stephen Berry","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Stephen Berry is an assistant professor of history at Simmons College in Boston. He has recently completed a book manuscript documenting the cultural history of the transatlantic voyage and its meanings for European passengers in the mid-eighteenth century.

Thursday, April 11th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Program begins promptly at noon.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

April 8, 2013

We recently received a new book about the Mount Silinda Mission in Zimbabwe, published by Global Ministries:

Almost all of the books one finds concerning the history of mission work in Africa have been written from the perspective of missionaries or western observers. The voices of indigenous Africans, who were in almost all cases the most effective agents of Christian mission, are seldom heard. With the release of Precious Mt. Silinda by Mrs. Kate E. Sukuta and her son, Dr. Sydney Sukuta, this void is beginning to be filled.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"340","attributes":{"alt":"\"Precious Mt. Silinda\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 180px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"Precious Mt. Silinda\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Precious Mt. Silinda examines the impact of Christian missionary work in Africa since the dawn of the twentieth century from an African perspective, focusing specifically on the history of long time Global Ministries partner, the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe. As coauthor Mrs. Kate Sukuta notes, "I feel as though God put me in a unique position to witness over a century of Christian work through my parents' eyes, starting when Mt. Silinda Mission and the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ) were simultaneously founded in 1893, followed by my and my late husband's Christian work to date. As we enter the twenty-first century I feel obligated to share this gift God gave me with the rest of the world, for perhaps this is part of my mission and purpose in life. Even though this "Century Missionary Report Card in Africa" represents my specific interpretations, opinions, and views, I am almost certain that most African people who share a similar background with me will generally agree with my overall conclusions."

Mrs. Kate Sukuta is a second generation member of the UCC Zimbabwe and much of the historical information comes from her personal experience. Her son, Dr. Sydney Sukuta, is a former member of the UCC Zimbabwe and now works as a professor in California.


More from the authors' website:

  • First-hand accounts of the impact of Western Christian missionary work in Africa since the late nineteenth century through African eyes.
  • How Tshaka Zulu's supremacy wars in KwaZulu/Zululand paved the pathway for the founding of Mt. Silinda Mission and the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ).
  • What Western Christianity needs to understand to better serve Africans, and specifically African Christians.
  • What Western clinical healing processes could adopt in order to be accepted as complete by Africans.
  • How Christian-oriented communities like Mt. Silinda Mission:
    • Exalted the status of African women in society during the colonial era.
    • Undermined apartheid by grooming scholars and intellectuals who would become the political catalysts in the African decolonization process.
    • Produced disciplined and cultured scholars who have gone on to break new grounds in education, business, agriculture, government etc.

You can buy a copy of your own through CreateSpace, or become a member and borrow ours.

April 5, 2013

We're always excited to learn about new digital projects from our neighbors. The Duxbury Rural and Historical Society recently announced an online archive of historical Duxbury photographs hosted on Flickr. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"341","attributes":{"alt":"Duxbury cable office","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 124px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Duxbury cable office","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The collection started by featuring over 250 photographs of Duxbury ranging from the late 19th to mid-20th century with many more to be added in the coming weeks.

From the DRHS announcement:

There are some fascinating images of familiar (and some not-so-familiar) Duxbury sites. We hope that residents will enjoy examining Duxbury of the past. The website enables viewers to comment on photographs and we encourage visitors to share if they have information regarding the sites depicted. In particular, there are a number of old photographs of unidentified Duxbury homes. We hope that some residents might be able to help us in identifying these locations.

You can learn more about the project on the DRHS website, or in the article from the Patriot Ledger, or just go take a look through the images on Flickr.


image of the Duxbury cable (telegraph) office courtesy of the DRHS via 

April 4, 2013

If you're looking for a way to get some fresh air while learning about local history this weekend, take a look at this walking tour of Cambridge architecture hosted by the North Bennet Street School:

A historic walk with Steven O'Shaughnessy

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"342","attributes":{"alt":"Steven O'Shaughnessy","class":"media-image","style":"width: 182px; height: 121px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Steven O'Shaughnessy","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Sunday, April 7
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Visit Brattle Street, a historic site in Cambridge, with our Preservation Carpentry instructor Steven O'Shaughnessy. A few of the notable stops along the walk are the 1880 Stoughton House, a shingle style built by H.H. Richardson; The 1759 Vassal-Craigie-Longfellow House, considered among the finest Georgian Mansions in the nation; and the 1689 Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, home of the Cambridge Historical Society. Please note, this is three hours of walking. Bring comfortable shoes, water, and your camera.

Register on the NBSS website.
Registration fee: $30

The weather forecast for Sunday looks lovely. Why not get out there and soak up some new knowledge?

April 2, 2013

Rabbi Judah Monis (1683-1764) played a significant role in American history. He was the first Jewish person in America to receive a college degree (MA from Harvard in 1720), the first college instructor of Hebrew in America, and the first person in North America to publish a Hebrew textbook (a Hebrew grammar, in 1735).

Rabbi Monis was born February 4, 1683, and was educated at Jewish academies in Livorno, Italy and Amsterdam. Following his ordination he served a congregation in Jamaica and then came to New York around 1715, where he opened a small store and also taught Hebrew. He additionally led discussions in theology, Kabbalah, and other topics. In 1720 he moved to Cambridge, MA, a city with a very small Jewish community.

A Grammar of the Hebrew Tongue published in 1735. (Library of Congress)

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"343","attributes":{"alt":"title page of Monis's Hebrew Grammar","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 159px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"title page of Monis's Hebrew Grammar","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]In 1720 he received an MA from Harvard, and for graduation submitted a handwritten transcript of a Hebrew grammar, which he continued to use in his classes until it was finally published in 1735.

After a number of years of study and contemplation, in 1722 Rabbi Judah Monis made a public confession of his faith in Yeshua. He continued to teach Hebrew at Harvard until his retirement in 1760. He died in 1764 and is buried in the First Parish Church Burial Ground on Howard Street in Northborough, MA.

For more about the tombstone of Rabbi Monis, you can check out this recent post I found on PollyBlog.

-Gordon Lothrop

April 1, 2013

We are very proud to announce that the Congregational Library will be joining the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, a collaboration of cultural agencies managed by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The NERFC awards eight-week research grants for scholars to study at its member institutions. Because of its granting schedule, we won't be hosting researchers sponsored by the Consortium this coming year. That means you have plenty of time to put together your application for the 2014-15 cycle before the February deadline. Proposal requirements can be found on the MHS website.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"344","attributes":{"alt":"NERFC banner","class":"media-image","style":"width: 300px; height: 110px;","title":"NERFC banner","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

March 29, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"345","attributes":{"alt":"Pawtucket Congregational Church, photo by Marc N. Belanger","class":"media-image","height":"333","style":"width: 120px; height: 200px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Pawtucket Congregational Church, photo by Marc N. Belanger","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"200"}}]]We are continuing to use the "MPLP" standard to process our backlog of archival collections. The latest is from Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Pawtucket Congregational Church was founded in 1828. Records in this collection document the founding, life, and merger of Pawtucket Congregational Church. This collection contains records pertaining to the formation of the church, bylaws, fellowship and history of the church as well as financial records, annual reports, and records of the clerk, treasurer, pastors, and various committees. Also included are membership listings, 19th-century relations, and records pertaining to the church's merger with Sayles Memorial Church in 2012. Additionally, there are two boxes of materials from Central Falls Congregational Church included in this collection.

Take a look through the collection's finding guide on our website for more details.



photograph of Pawtucket Congregational Church by Marc N. Belanger, released into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons

March 28, 2013

The Congregational Library will be closed on Friday, March 29th in observance of Good Friday.

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

We hope you have a lovely Easter weekend.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"346","attributes":{"alt":"Easter lamb bread","class":"media-image","style":"width: 300px; height: 272px;","title":"Easter lamb bread","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]


image of Easter lamb bread courtesy of Silar via Wikimedia Commons, released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

March 26, 2013

A few months ago we announced a new exhibit series called "Celebrating Churches" with the opening of an exhibit highlighting First Congregational Church, Danvers, Massachusetts. This month we are pleased to announce the next exhibit in the series, this time highlighting First Congregational Church in Falmouth, Mass.

Where the Danvers church's history is notable for the church's involvement in the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria, the history of First Church in Falmouth, is notable for its banality. The church in Falmouth is like the majority of Congregational Churches in America: a steadily faithful congregation who have been impacted and challenged by various social and political changes, but who have ultimately remained without lasting controversy or scandal. Instead, the Falmouth church has worked and thrived within its community, like so many churches have and do.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"347","attributes":{"alt":"sanctuary of First Church in Falmouth","class":"media-image","style":"width: 320px; height: 240px;","title":"sanctuary of First Church in Falmouth","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
sanctuary of First Church in Falmouth

We are pleased to feature First Congregational Church of Falmouth, Mass., as part of our Celebrating Churches series, and invite you to learn more about this church's vibrant, if staid, history by stopping by and perusing the exhibit. You are also invited to spend some time online browsing through First Church's early records hosted on our website as part of New England's Hidden Histories.


March 25, 2013

Our reading room will be closed to the public tomorrow from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm for a staff retreat. We have a lot of exciting projects in the works, so we're setting aside some time to plan, plot, scheme, and dream in order to make sure we bring you the best resources and services we can.

If you need to get in touch with us during that time, you can send an email, leave a voicemail, or use our website's contact form, and we'll get back to you when we break for the afternoon.

March 22, 2013

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"348","attributes":{"alt":"Commonplace logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 198px; height: 33px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Commonplace logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The latest issue of the online journal Common-place is focused on music in early America. From Native Americans to African slaves to French music publishers, Quakers to Methodists to Congregationalists, there are plenty of interesting topics to explore. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"349","attributes":{"alt":"Hymns from a manuscript attributed to John Wesley","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 235px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Hymns from a manuscript attributed to John Wesley","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]There's even a 13-minute video of a costumed performance of Puritan tunes by scholar/musician Larry Young.

A bit friendlier than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Common-place speaks — and listens — to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. Common-place is a common place for all sorts of people to read about all sorts of things relating to early American life — from architecture to literature, from politics to parlor manners. And it's a place to find insightful analysis of early American history as it is discussed not only in scholarly literature but also on the evening news; in museums, big and small; in documentary and dramatic films; and in popular culture.

If you're interested in any aspect of life during the colonial era, chances are good you can find something to whet your appetite on this site. Read the current issue or delve into the archive.


Image of Hymns 23 and 24 with music is from a manuscript hymnal attributed to John Wesley. Courtesy of Ms. Gwenda Grayiel Moore. Scan courtesy of Digital Collections, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.

March 21, 2013

Last week, we told you about the historic importance of early Puritan documents called relations. So it should come as no surprise that I was excited when I happened across some in the course of a new project.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"350","attributes":{"alt":"First Parish Church in Haverhill, ca. 1895","class":"media-image","style":"width: 180px; height: 175px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"First Parish Church in Haverhill, ca. 1895","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]I recently processed a newly acquired collection of relations from Haverhill's First Parish Church, which much later became known as Haverhill First Congregational Church. These relations and other accompanying church records were accumulated by Reverend John Brown, who served the parish from 1719-1742. While I received these materials in alphabetical order, I believe they were once kept in a kind of chronological order due to the numbering system the minister used on the back of the documents.

The relations chronicle the religious experiences and conversion stories of the people in this colonial community. These documents are valuable for a number of reasons, particularly because of the evidence of congregants relating their stories first hand on why they wanted to become members of First Parish. Relations do not generally survive. The Haverhill relations are often written on small scraps of paper, cut precisely to the size of the relation. This illustrates the value of paper in the early 18th century as well as the chances of the relations being lost to time due to their size and individual nature.

These relations and associated documents will be scanned and added to the New England's Hidden Histories materials.

Working with these records over a couple of weeks, I noticed some interesting trends:

  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are significantly more women than men offering their relation.
  • There are a number of relations from teenagers.
  • There's a spike in relations immediately following the Earthquake of 1727. Interestingly, according to Sidney Perley's Historic Storms of New England, the epicenter was felt along the Merrimac Valley, near Haverhill.
  • By using the sort function in Excel, I can report the most common names in this era and community were Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah for women and John, Samuel, and Thomas for men.
  • Not all items in this collection are formal Relations. Other items include dismissions, testimonies, confessions, and declarations. One touching declaration was written by Ebenzer Eastman and given to Rev. Brown to be read aloud in church on the occasion of the birth of his child. It states, "Ebenezer Eastman with his wife desire Gods name may be praised in this Congregation for his Goodness to hir in preserving his from the dangers of childe birth and making hir the living mother of a living childe."

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"351","attributes":{"alt":"Ebenezer Eastman's declaration of thanks","class":"media-image","style":"width: 400px; height: 204px;","title":"Ebenezer Eastman's declaration of thanks","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
Ebenezer Eastman's declaration of thanks
click to enlarge


March 19, 2013

The New England Historical Association have announced the schedule for their Spring Conference, and it certainly looks interesting. There are sessions covering a broad range of topics from religion to politics, and from colonial fashion to modern technology in the history classroom. The presenters are historians, authors, and students from across New England. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"352","attributes":{"alt":"NEHA logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 29px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"NEHA logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]And the registration fees are quite reasonable, even for non-members.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"353","attributes":{"alt":"NEHA banner image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 117px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"NEHA banner image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]More details and registration information can be found on the NEHA website.

Saturday, April 20, 2013
8:00 am - 3:00 pm

Westfield State University
Westfield, MA

March 18, 2013

On Thursday we said goodbye to our most recent Administrative Assistant, Alexander Howard. Although he was only with us for nine months, he has been invaluable to our everyday operations and our long-term planning. He has organized events, worked on our fundraising and membership campaigns, and helped coordinate our new look, not to mention being a pleasant person to have around.

We wish Alex all the best as he moves on to his new position with the Providence After School Alliance, and hope they will appreciate him as much as we have.


Some of our more eagle-eyed readers may have already noticed that we're searching for a new Administrative and Development Assistant. If you know of someone who meets our needs, we are accepting applications through this Friday, March 22nd.

March 15, 2013

Most people think of Cotton Mather as the quintessential angry Puritan. After all he worried about witches and other forms of unrighteousness and wore a large dowdy wig — obviously a classic killjoy.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"354","attributes":{"alt":"Rick Kennedy speaks about Cotton Mather","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 201px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Rick Kennedy speaks about Cotton Mather","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The visitors to our brown bag lunch last Wednesday found out differently. Our speaker, Rick Kennedy, professor of history at Point Loma University, introduced us to a complex, learned, and astoundingly intelligent man. Prof. Kennedy is part of a large and significant Cotton Mather project, aimed at publishing an edited version of the Biblia Americana.

Mather spent most of his career as pastor of Boston's Second Church, previously led by his father, Increase. In his spare time he learned French, Italian, Spanish and Algonquin (to name a few) and pumped out a regular stream of books and treatises on an enormous array of subjects. He would walk the streets of Boston with his pockets filled with sermons and talks he had published and hand them out to passersby.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"355","attributes":{"alt":"Cotton Mather, ca. 1700","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 194px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Cotton Mather, ca. 1700","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Mather was no religious bully either. In fact, evidence suggests that his lifelong antipathy to the pastor of the Charlestown Church may have dated back to a bullying incident when the two were students at Harvard. In spite of his prodigious work load, Mather was also devoted to his 15 children, only two of whom outlived him. And his role in the Salem witch trials was as an observer — he wrote up a detailed account and analysis. Mather also took two young girls, assumed to be demon-possessed, into his home where they found a measure of healing and a new start in life.

One other point of information about Mather: he would have turned 300 years old on February 12, 2013. I haven't heard of any plans for celebrations — keep a lookout for party invitations from the Congregational Library later on this year.



mezzotint portrait of Cotton Mather (ca. 1700) by Peter Pelham courtesy Wikimedia Commons

March 14, 2013

Back in September we announced the opening of a new exhibit in our Reading Room featuring colonial church records. In that announcement, we mentioned that one of the record types on display are "relations". Relations, or perhaps more commonly referred to today as "conversion narratives", served as a written or oral public testimony of religious conversion or experience. These were usually made in front of a congregation as part of the process of becoming a member of that church. In each case, the congregation would then vote on whether or not the individual should be admitted to the covenanted membership of the church.

We tend to think of these relations as being a specifically New England (or maybe even Massachusetts) convention, but they were in fact common practice in Puritan and Congregational churches on both sides of the Atlantic. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"356","attributes":{"alt":"\"Puritan Conversion Narrative\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 180px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"\"Puritan Conversion Narrative\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]There have been several studies of Puritan conversion narratives (including one which draws a nice comparison between those in New England and England), so I won't go into too much detail here.

Suffice it to say that these narratives are rather rare to find in a church's archival collection, for several reasons. One, there simply aren't that many churches that were founded in a time period when relations were the "done thing" whose archival collections still exist. Two, many relations were made orally, and the only records of their existence that can be found are notations in church minutes. Three, written relations were usually made on rather small pieces of paper, which can be difficult to organize and keep together. In many cases, time, closings, reorganizations, decay, and natural disasters have wiped out these very personal expressions of faith.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"357","attributes":{"alt":"relation of Elijah Alden at Middleborough, 1794","class":"media-image","style":"width: 350px; height: 296px;","title":"relation of Elijah Alden at Middleborough, 1794","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
relation of Elijah Alden at Middleborough, 1794
click to enlarge

It's understandable, then, that we get pretty excited when we come across a previously-unknown trove of them. We get even more excited when we can share them with you! This will soon be possible as we get more and more collections online as part of New England's Hidden Histories. The relations found in some of these collections are from the 17th and 18th centuries, and they offer a great deal of insight into colonial public expressions of faith (stay tuned for more information!). We also recently uncovered some Civil War-era relations in a church collection from Pawtucket, RI. While we have no plans to offer these for online-access at this time, once the collection is available (watch this blog for that announcement), they will be available for researcher use.


March 12, 2013

God and Eighteenth-Century Seafarers

Atlantic travel narratives from the eighteenth-century reveal a kaleidoscope of practices and beliefs as people of varying persuasions intermixed on British sailing vessels without the established presence of any single religious tradition. This talk will focus on the spatial dimensions of shipboard life and its effects on passengers' religious practices as well as their interactions with one another. Despite the cramped quarters and social divides aboard ship, people carved out space to practice their religions.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"339","attributes":{"alt":"Stephen Berry","class":"media-image","style":"width: 96px; height: 150px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Stephen Berry","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Stephen Berry is an assistant professor of history at Simmons College in Boston. He has recently completed a book manuscript documenting the cultural history of the transatlantic voyage and its meanings for European passengers in the mid-eighteenth century.

Thursday, April 11th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Program begins promptly at noon.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

March 11, 2013

We've been concentrating on acquiring archival collections lately, but the occasional book still catches our eye. Two that we couldn't resist arrived recently:


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"192","attributes":{"alt":"\"One Colonial Woman's World\" cover image","class":"media-image","height":"500","style":"width: 120px; height: 176px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"One Colonial Woman's World\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"340"}}]]One Colonial Woman's World: the Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit by Michelle Marchetti Coughlin

This book reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, she began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. A previously overlooked resource, the diary contains entries on a broad range of topics as well as poems, recipes, folk and herbal medical remedies, religious meditations, and financial accounts. An extensive collection of letters by Coit and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences.

Michelle Marchetti Coughlin combs through these writings to create a vivid portrait of a colonial American woman and the world she inhabited. Coughlin documents the activities of daily life as well as dramas occasioned by war, epidemics, and political upheaval. Though Coit's opportunities were circumscribed by gender norms of the day, she led a rich and varied life, not only running a household and raising a family, but reading, writing, traveling, transacting business, and maintaining a widespread network of social and commercial connections. She also took a lively interest in the world around her and played an active role in her community.

Coit's long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous — and sometimes surprising — ways in which her personal history was linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"358","attributes":{"alt":"\"The Americans Are Coming!\" cover image","class":"media-image","height":"500","style":"width: 120px; height: 180px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"\"The Americans Are Coming!\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"334"}}]]The Americans are Coming! Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa by Robert Trent Vinson

For more than half a century before World War II, black South Africans and "American Negroes" — a group that included African Americans and black West Indians—established close institutional and personal relationships that laid the necessary groundwork for the successful South African and American antiapartheid movements. Though African Americans suffered under Jim Crow racial discrimination, oppressed Africans saw African Americans as free people who had risen from slavery to success and were role models and potential liberators. Many African Americans, regarded initially by the South African government as "honorary whites" exempt from segregation, also saw their activities in South Africa as a divinely ordained mission to establish "Africa for Africans", liberated from European empires. The Jamaican-born Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, the largest black-led movement with two million members and supporters in forty-three countries at its height in the early 1920s, was the most anticipated source of liberation. Though these liberation prophecies went unfulfilled, black South Africans continued to view African Americans as inspirational models and as critical partners in the global antiapartheid struggle. The Americans Are Coming! is a rare case study that places African history and American history in a global context and centers Africa in African Diaspora studies.