Beacon Street Blog

September 25, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"470","attributes":{"alt":"Joseph Ward statue in the National Statuary Hall collection","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 273px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Joseph Ward statue in the National Statuary Hall collection","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]While doing research for the blog post on Joseph Ward two weeks ago, I discovered that he has a statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection housed at the Capitol Building in DC. This got me to wondering — how many other Congregationalists have been honored in such a way?

The list below is by no means comprehensive and there may in fact be others in the collection with Congregational ties that I neglected to uncover. However, a representation of 9 out of the 100 statues (9%!) is, I feel, rather impressive!

Note: Clicking on each person's name will take you to their biography over at the Office of the Architect of the Capital.

Ethan Allen — Vermont State founder and, like many of his contemporaries, member of a Puritan church.

Frances Willard — Congregationalist who later converted to Methodist. Willard also attended the Congregationalist Female College of Milwaukee.

John Winthrop — English Puritan whose beliefs eventually lead him to become Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Jonathan Trumbull — Intended to become a Puritan minister and spent a year at Harvard, but was recalled home by a death in the family.

Joseph Ward — Congregational minister and American Missionary Association missionary to the Dakota Territory.

Marcus Whitman — Congregational missionary in the western territories.

Roger Sherman — The only member of the Continental Congress to sign all four major documents produced by the group, and, like so many of his contemporaries, a Puritan.

Roger Williams — Church of England minister turned Puritan pastor whose ideas were too radical for the folks of Massachusetts Bay Colony to deal with.

Samuel Adams — The Boston Tea Party leader was baptized at Old South Church (now Old South Meetinghouse) – the same church as Benjamin Franklin!


Interested in learning more?

-- Sari

September 24, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"461","attributes":{"alt":"\"Mainline Christianity\" cover image","class":"media-image","height":"400","style":"width: 150px; height: 225px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"\"Mainline Christianity\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"267"}}]]Jason S. Lantzer's research and writing centers on the intersection of religion, politics, and law in American History. His book, Mainline Christianity: The Past and Future of America's Majority Faith, critiques the standard decline narrative of the Mainline and argues for a reconceptualization of the Mainline for the twenty-first century that seeks to recognize the vibrancy of American Christianity. Come discuss his findings with us.

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

Join us for lunch at noon.
Program begins promptly at 12:15.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

September 21, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"471","attributes":{"alt":"Claudette Newhall","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 215px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Claudette Newhall","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]On Thursday, September 13, 2012, I was invited to speak on a panel at the first class of the semester to the students in LIS 501 — Internship in Library and Information Science. This course entails an internship of 150 hours of field experience and four class sessions. The students work under professional librarian supervision to gain hands-on experience in the library information environment. Jennifer Andrews and Kris Liberman are the instructors for this class.

I was asked to be on the panel because of my experience in supervising interns from this class and my expertise in networking within the library community. Rachel Moore and I supervised interns at the library from this class during the 2011 Summer and Fall semesters and the 2012 Summer semester. Our interns were Peter Laurence, music cataloger at Harvard, Steven Picazio, now a member of our staff, and Ethan Wattley, who completed his internship here in August.

Megan Allen, Assistant Director at the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, and Kelly Alice Robinson, Career Information Services Manager at Boston College, were the other two panelists. Our combined experiences covered every type of library (public, academic, and special) except school (K-12) libraries. As panelists we were asked to describe our career histories and provide information on what we look for in a job applicant and on a resume. Students were encouraged to ask questions. Two recommendations made to the students were to be enthusiastic about their work and to use their networking skills.

While I was at Simmons, I stopped in to see Em Claire Knowles, Associate Dean. Dr. Knowles asked if I would be interested in mentoring a new student beginning in January. I have done this in the past and agreed to be a professional mentor to an incoming student. Mentoring involves being available to answer questions, discuss career paths, and provide friendly, supportive encouragement. Contact is generally by email and phone, and I always invite the student to visit the library.


September 20, 2012

We are pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit in our Reading Room. The Church Records exhibit features examples of pre-1800s church records and offers explanations as to their relevance.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"472","attributes":{"alt":"Church Records Exhibit","class":"media-image","style":"width: 250px; height: 131px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Church Records Exhibit","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Church records are by far the largest holding of primary source materials here at the library. These records range in age from the colonial period to the present and they document both the history of individual churches and the people who made up their membership. These records also illustrate overarching trends through history, provide genealogical details, and oftentimes document civil government and town history.

As a celebration of these unique and diverse records, we have chosen to highlight a carefully selected set of records. In this exhibit you will find examples of excommunications, admonitions, covenants, relations, and baptisms. (Don't recognize a term used here? Stop by the library and check out the exhibit to learn more!) We invite you to come visit the next time you are in Boston to see these fascinating items!


September 18, 2012

If you haven't registered for tomorrow's Brown Bag Lunch yet, there's still plenty of time. Bring something to eat, learn something new, and connect with other local folks.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"473","attributes":{"alt":"memorial to Jonathan Edwards","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 153px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"memorial to Jonathan Edwards","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Jonathan Edwards wrote some of the most brilliant books of his time — but the actual production of those books from start to finish was a huge achievement, too. How did an eighteenth-century Congregational pastor, living in the wilds of western Massachusetts, get the paper, the writing space, the library, and the right contacts with publishers in order to become an internationally known author?

Join us as Ken Minkema, director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale Divinity School, walks us through the "material culture" of Edwards' Northampton study, providing a fascinating glimpse of the place where ground-breaking theology was written.


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

Join us for lunch at noon.
Program begins promptly at 12:15.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

September 17, 2012

The Congregational Library gets a lot of traffic from genealogists. Often they are hoping that church records will give them more clues about where their ancestors lived, who their parents and children were, and so on. About 90% of the personal records that have been collected by churches are very minimal: names, dates of baptism and/or admission to membership, and dates of death or departure to another church. However, sometimes you'll get a real treasure of a collection that kept membership records with amazing detail. I hit the genealogist jackpot with my current project: Hyde Park First Church and their individual membership cards.

Some time around 1910, one of Hyde Park's recordkeepers established the tradition of having current and new members fill out their own card upon arrival. It feels like the only thing not listed is shoe size, and preference of ice cream or a nice cheese plate for dessert.

Here is an example from a long-deceased member:

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"474","attributes":{"alt":"membership card from Hyde Park 1st Church collection","class":"media-image","style":"width: 320px; height: 427px;","title":"membership card from Hyde Park 1st Church collection","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
A sample of the membership cards
in the Hyde Park Collection.
(Click on the image to enlarge.)

Not every card has all the information filled in, but many do. After a brief survey I found that the bulk are from the 1910s through 1959, with some up through the 1990s. There is a total of four boxes that look like this:

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"475","attributes":{"alt":"Hyde Park 1st Church collection membership cards","class":"media-image","style":"width: 320px; height: 240px;","title":"Hyde Park 1st Church collection membership cards","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
One of the 4 boxes of membership cards

Note that the box in the photo above has a section on the right side with a lot of orange tabs. That represents those people who were current members, although when the cards went out of vogue has yet to be determined. The remainder of this box and the other three are all past members. The one frustration is that we do not have cards for last names beginning with T through Z.

A closely related resource within this collection is an entire large (banker's) box of membership biographies. They also span from the 1910s through 1959 (thus the index cards origin hypothesis). The majority of later records are surveys with all the details listed on the cards, but the earliest of these have letters from members and the minister and a significant number of "in memoriam" obituaries.

As exciting as this find is, we record guardians must tread carefully. Many of the historic documents in our collections are 100 or more years old, but some are quite recent. For the latter, not everyone mentioned in those records has moved or passed away. Requests we get for any recent names will be carefully considered to protect the subjects' privacy.

This collection is still a work in progress. Stay tuned. We will announce when the processing is complete and the guide ready for use.



September 14, 2012

You may remember back in July when we announced the opening of our new digital exhibit "Moustaches, Muttonchops, and Beards" and invited you to spend some time getting to know a few of the most influential historic Congregationalists who happened to also sport noteworthy facial hair. We also invited you to vote for your favorite, and today I am pleased to announce our winner!

Joseph Ward portraitThe prize for Favorite Historic Congregational Figure with Superlative Facial Hair goes to Joseph Ward (1838-1889), pastor, missionary, and South Dakota state founder!

You can learn more about Rev. Ward's life story by visiting our exhibit. For a more in-depth introduction to the man, we have put together this short list of web resources:



September 13, 2012

The theme for this year's Boston Charter Day celebration is:

Stirring the Pot: Women in Early Massachusetts
September 20-24

In the decades after Boston's founding, women had their fingers in many pots. As they helped bring food to the table, they nourished kin and neighbors in other ways: as educators, caregivers, and models of piety. September 20th through 24th, the Partnership of the Historic Bostons will sponsor several events aimed at shedding light on the role of women in the 17th and 18th century Massachusetts. The long weekend devoted to our "founding mothers" offers the opportunity to interact with women from the past, worship at the Boston Charter Day Sabbath Gathering, and listen to scholars explore the special roles women played in early Boston. Two different walking tours offer unique perspectives on life four centuries ago, "Women's Heritage Trail" will offer a special tour for the event and "Boston Founders Trail" will be led by Dr. Will Holton, Founding President of The Partnership of the Historic Bostons.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"476","attributes":{"alt":"a reinactor at Plimoth Plantation","class":"media-image","height":"202","style":"width: 200px; height: 202px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"a reinactor at Plimoth Plantation","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"200"}}]]"Bringing the Worlds of 17th Century Women to Life" kicks off the events as author Eve LaPlante moderates an interactive presentation between the audience and costumed role players from Plimoth Plantation. On Monday, September 24th the weekend will be capped off with a panel discussion featuring Charlotte Gordon, author and Assistant Professor at Endicott College and Associate Professor Cornelia Dayton from the University of Connecticut. They will consider how individual women navigated the tensions that surrounded their important and visible place in community life.

For more information about the four days of programs and other events visit the Partnership of the Historic Bostons website,



image of a Plimoth Plantation role player courtesy of the Historic Bostons Newsletter, Summer 2012

September 11, 2012

This month the archive received a new member to its ranks, a hard-backed volume with "Europe 1930" on the spine, and nothing else. The only information I was given about the book was that it was a travel diary, which turned out to be an accurate assessment. There is no name on the flyleaf or the first few pages, so I sat down and started to methodically read through to see what I could find.

When you pick the book up, you notice that the text block has buffering strips in between each signature, which makes sense for a travel diary where the author intends to paste in programs, clippings, and other bits of paper. There is a significant addition of all these things. It's very fortuitous that there are all these additions, since a glued in invitation was the key to determining the book was Francis Wayland Pattison's.

Reverend Pattison left from the US East Coast on June 14th with a number of notable Congregationalists bound for England and the 5th International Congregational Council, to which Pattison was a delegate. The Reverend documented his boat journey, describing his day-to day activities, and made regular mention of his fellow passengers. The Council was not scheduled until the first week of July so he and other delegates traveled around significant historical and religious sites around England. Pattison spends more time visiting in England before finishing up his time in Freiburg/Oberammergau, Germany, which was hosting its decennial passion play. Pattison meticulously included postcards, travel-related papers, programs, stickers, photographs — everything and anything that would fit onto the page and a few that did not and were folded up.

Researchers will find it a fascinating window into what it was like to travel in the early 20th century. They will get a backstage pass into the activities of the international council, and get the reactions of an American for the world-famous Oberammergau passion play.

It has been a lovely diversion to dive into the mystery that was this nondescript book. I went on scavenger hunts through our stacks, talked to my colleagues, made inquiries via Claudette from extremely helpful folks on the ATLA listserv, and had the chance to use the online 1930s census for the first time. There are fewer things more gratifying in this job than going from an anonymous manuscript to one that is bursting with information that I can then share with the world.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"477","attributes":{"alt":"sample from Pattison's diary","class":"media-image","style":"width: 320px; height: 293px;","title":"sample from Pattison's diary","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
a sample from Pattison's diary
Click on the image to enlarge.



September 10, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"478","attributes":{"alt":"NEHGS logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 120px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"NEHGS logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Some of our readers might be interested in this Wednesday's evening lecture at the New England Historic Genealogical Society:

New Israel - New England: Jews and Puritans in Early America

Where: 99-101 Newbury Street, Boston MA
When: September 12, 2012 6:00PM - 7:00PM

Author Michael Hoberman will discuss his book New Israel /New England: Jews and Puritans in Early America, which examines the history of colonial New England through the lens of its first settlers. The New England Puritans' fascination with the legacy of the Jewish religion has been well documented, but their interactions with actual Jews have escaped sustained historical attention. New Israel/New England tells the story of the Sephardic merchants in Boston and Newport between the mid-seventeenth century and the American Revolution. It also explores the complex and often contradictory meanings that the Puritans attached to Judaism and the fraught attitudes that they bore toward the Jews as a people.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"479","attributes":{"alt":"\"New Israel / New England\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 180px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"New Israel / New England\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Among the intriguing episodes that Hoberman investigates is the recruitment and conversion of Harvard's first permanent instructor of Hebrew, the ecumenical friendship between Newport minister Ezra Stiles and Haim Carigal, an itinerant rabbi from Palestine, as well as the life and career of Moses Michael Hays, the prominent freemason who was Boston's first permanently established Jewish businessman, a founder of its insurance industry, an early sponsor of the Bank of Massachusetts, and a personal friend of Paul Revere.

Watch an excerpt from a recent lecture by Michael Hoberman

This event is cosponsored with the American Jewish Historical Society, New England Archives.

Free. Please RSVP to or 617-226-1226.

If you can't make it to the talk, you can still read the copy of New Israel/New England in our collection.

September 7, 2012

Our reading room will be closed on Monday for our board's quarterly meeting. All our online resources will be available as usual, and staff will be in the office to provide assistance by phone or email.

September 6, 2012

Spending most of my time reorganizing the library and our governing association's records rarely leads to noteworthy moments that compel me to write a post here. However, today I found something entirely strange.

It started innocuously enough with a ledger book in the building superintendent's records. It's an unremarkable and mostly anonymous book with no obvious label. You have to flip through and look for context to get your clues. The first thing I do in this kind of situation is to at least get a date range, since it's the easiest. This one starts in 1904 and the back pages are 1925. Okay, nothing to pique anyone's interest.

The lion's share of the book appears to be a daybook for building expenses. This is entirely not a surprise given where it was found. It has moderate historical value overall, and significant value if people wanted to know how much it cost to run a building in downtown Boston in the early 20th century.

However, a closer look shows the first 50 pages have a slightly different format than the back. The handwriting is also remarkably different. Instead of cramped and crabbed, it's a classic and beautiful example of clerical script. Then the column headings "Crime" and "Fine" jumped off the page at me. Crime?! What exactly was going on in this building that would cause the building superintendent to keep a book of them and have the capacity to levy money for them? This was worth a trip down to Claudette's office to try to make some sense out of it together.

The total list of headings for this section are:
Number, Date, Reservation, Name, Residence, Crime, Disposition, Fine, Remarks.

"Reservation"? The entries in that column are beaches, parks, and parkways. Huh. So, it looks like this ledger started off as a park ranger infraction ledger. The most popular infractions are drunkenness and "auto rule". Some of our favorites, however, are: Drunkenness and mutual assault; playing cards on the lords day; larceny; profanity; and the ever-intriguing "indecent act", which may or may not have been the same as out-and-out fornication, which was only listed once in comparison to the several "acts".

Fines were anything from 2 or 3 dollars (the equivalent of approximately $25 today) to a staggering $30 ($677 after inflation). Some of the fines for the same infraction varied. I was quite puzzled to see that a lady was fined $12 when caught in an indecent act, but her male companion was charged $15.

In the end we determined the book was likely held by an officer/ranger working for the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC). There's a ten year gap between the first and second sections. We surmised that it was a case of recycling. Why waste 250 pages of perfectly useful ledger? It seems unlikely we'll fully solve the mystery of how the book landed here, but it did make for some entertaining speculation and commentary on our culture 100+ years ago.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"480","attributes":{"alt":"Sample from a ledger book from our institutional records","class":"media-image","style":"width: 500px; height: 375px;","title":"Sample from a ledger book from our institutional records","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
A sample page featuring crimes such as "Playing cards
on the Lord's Day" and "Making a fire."



September 4, 2012

Steven Picazio is joining us as part-time Assistant Librarian for Cataloging and Reference. He is a graduate of St. Michael's College, Colchester, VT with a BA in English in 2007, and received his MSLIS from Simmons College, Graduate School of Information and Library Science here in Boston this past December.

Steven was a cataloging and reference intern at the Congregational Library from August-December 2011. Prior to attending Simmons, he worked as a sales associate at Borders. Steven sees this position as "a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the library as it grows and as it continues to provide unparalleled access to the history of Congregationalism, New England, and religion in America."

Steven will be at the desk in the Reading Room on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. We're pleased to welcome him back as part of the staff.

September 3, 2012
Pedestrians walk by red
carnations placed at the
stone memorial with
Susannah Martin's name
in Salem. She was hanged
as a witch in 1692.
     --Ken Yuszkus /
     Salem News staff photo

If you're looking for something educational to do this coming weekend, consider this event we were alerted to by our friends over at the New England Historic Genealogical Society:

The Salem Witch Trials Memorial on Charter Street in Salem will be re-dedicated at a public ceremony on Sunday, September 9, 2012, at 4 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Salem Award Foundation for Human Rights and Social Justice, marks the memorial's twentieth year and celebrates its renovation this summer. Gregory Allen Williams, who was recognized for his heroism during the Los Angeles riots and received the first Salem Award at the memorial's dedication, will return to Salem to speak at the ceremony, which will include twenty descendants of witch trial victims.

"More than six million people have visited the Salem Witch Trials Memorial since its dedication," says event chair Patty MacLeod. "This speaks to the importance of Salem's history and to our responsibility to maintain this place in hallowed memory of the victims of the Trials." Commissioned by The Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Committee and the City of Salem in 1992, the memorial has received critical national acclaim for its design from the American Institute of Architecture, and the Boston Society of Architects. Visitation to the memorial continues to increase.

Questions about the event can be directed to Patty MacLeod at

(The events of 1692 are also recognized at the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims' Memorial, in Danvers, Massachusetts, across the street from the site of the original Salem Village Meeting House where many of the witch examinations took place.)

August 31, 2012

The Congregational Library will be closed this coming Monday, September 3rd, in observance of Labor Day.

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

We hope you have a safe and happy holiday weekend.

August 30, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"481","attributes":{"alt":"\"American Slavery\" title page","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 254px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"\"American Slavery\" title page","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]While reading through the recent posts on the Amistad Research Center's blog, I came upon their spotlight article for a unique copy of Theodore D. Weld's American Slavery As It Is.

Formerly owned by abolitionist Lewis Tappan and containing annotations in his hand, it is the association between Weld and Tappan that makes Amistad's copy all the more interesting.

Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-1895) came from a family of Congregationalist ministers and was one of the leading architects of the abolitionist movement in the United States. He was also responsible for converting Lewis Tappan and his brother, Arthur, into the abolitionist cause. Known as a magnificent orator, Weld lectured widely and often on the topic of slavery until, at the age of 33, his voice gave out. He married the abolitionist and women's rights activist Angelina Grimke in 1938.

Having lost his oratory skills, Weld turned to publishing as a way of spreading the abolitionist cause. He, along with his wife and her sister, Sarah, began work on a project that would result in the 1839 publication of the compendium work American Slavery As It Is. The trio combed through over twenty thousand copies of Southern newspapers to compile first hand accounts and narratives from slave-holders, freedmen, and others. The book described not only the conditions of slavery, but on the daily aspects of slaves' lives, such as diet, clothing, housing, work hours, etc. Accuracy was of the utmost importance to Weld and the Grimke sisters; so much so that a committee of prominent abolitionists was selected to verify their materials and work.

Out of curiosity, I did a quick search in our own catalog. It turns out that we also have a copy of American Slavery As It Is, though ours lacks the significant annotations found in Amistad's. (Ours was originally owned by Gilmanton Theological Seminary in New Hampshire, which is somewhat interesting.) We also have a few of Weld's other publications, two biographies, and the memorial publication for Angelina and Sarah.

If you'd like to learn more about this remarkable text and the people associated with it, read the full article on the Amistad blog. And if you're in the Boston area, come see what else we have to offer.


August 28, 2012

Many of our educational workshops and lectures take place during the workday. If evenings are more convenient for you, take a look at the Boston Public Library's upcoming Local & Family History Lecture Series. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"482","attributes":{"alt":"BPL logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 237px; height: 82px; float: right; margin: 10px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"BPL logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]They take place on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at the Central Branch in Copley Square.

Upcoming topics for the autumn include the life of John Quincy Adams, genealogy resources in police and military records, the history of poorhouses in Massachusetts, and the anniversary of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire. All sessions will be led by experts on their topics and hosted by the friendly BPL staff.

August 27, 2012

It's not often here at the Congregational Library that we specifically review a book that is unconnected to a new acquisition or an event being held here at the library — but too many of us like this book not to draw a little extra attention to it!

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"483","attributes":{"alt":"\"Puritanism\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 239px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"Puritanism\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Oxford's A Very Short Introduction series features short (125 pages or so) overview introductions written by experts in their field. This installment on puritanism is written by Francis J. Bremer, an expert on puritanism both in England and in America.

The book consists of 122 pages, broken up into seven chapters. The first two provide an historic overview of Puritanism, starting with its beginnings after the English Reformation, and continuing on to describe various experiments in puritan living. The following four chapters seek to context puritans and their beliefs in various aspects of life. In logical fashion, and helped along with illustrations drawn from puritan history, Bremer walks his readers through Puritans relationship with God, the puritan life, how puritans interact with their neighbors, and with larger society. The final, concluding chapter discusses the puritan legacy. The chapters are followed by supporting material, including Bremer's references, suggestions for further reading and study, and an index.

But perhaps the best feature of this book is how accessible it is. Bremer's Very Short Introduction is just that — a wonderfully concise introduction to all things puritan — history, beliefs, society, and contributions. He addresses topics you’ve always wondered about (what did the puritans do in their leisure time?), sheds new light on things you may have once learned but never quite understood, and works to combat long-held myths — and he does it all in clear, plain, concise language which makes this book accessible to all.

I highly encourage you to take a look at this little wonder of a book. I think it has high potential for use in many contexts (I wish I had known about it when working on my undergraduate Honors Thesis a few years ago), and would especially be great in confirmation or new membership classes.

-- Sari

August 24, 2012

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Accompanied by Professor Kenji Suzuki of the Department of International Relations and Professor Maiko Takeuchi of the Department of Music, nine university students visited and toured the library and archives Tuesday morning. The students were interested in the story of the Congregational Library, the American Board, Alpheus Hardy and Joseph Hardy Neesima. They viewed the bust of Mr. Hardy and took many pictures of the Reading Room and the Pratt Room.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"485","attributes":{"alt":"students from Doshisha Women's College tour the library stacks","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 133px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"students from Doshisha Women's College tour the library stacks","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

A highlight of their visit was being lead into the stacks which are normally closed to the public. They asked about the types of books in the collection and were impressed by the number of books and research materials on our shelves.


August 23, 2012

Recently while working with the diary of Rev. Clinton Clark, the settled pastor at First Congregational Church in Ridgefield, Connecticut (1850-1864), I noted this brief entry:

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"486","attributes":{"alt":"Clark's diary entry from 27 May 1861","class":"media-image","style":"width: 500px; height: 248px;","title":"Clark's diary entry from 27 May 1861","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

May 27th, 1861. My fourth child — a daughter — was born this day under circumstances calling for devout thanksgiving to the God of all mercy; namely Sarah Spencer.

A violent civil war is now raging between our government and a rebellion of a number of the slave holding states of the Union.

I find this short passage deeply profound. It is a reminder of the ways in which we view and record life on both small and large scales. This passage was written less than a month after the firing on Fort Sumter, marking the beginning of the American Civil War. Yet, while this information is important enough to note in Clark's diary, it comes after the birth of his daughter demonstrating how life is often viewed through a personal filter, this being the difficult labor and birth of a new child. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"487","attributes":{"alt":"Bombardment of Fort Sumter","class":"media-image","style":"width: 250px; height: 182px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Bombardment of Fort Sumter","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]It's also interesting that it appears Sarah Spencer's name was added at a later date, not surprisingly perhaps given the rate of child mortality in the mid-19th century.

While there was no way, at that time, for Rev. Clark to know the full magnitude of the Civil War, he clearly thought the event important enough to mark down for posterity. Beyond reading about the Civil War in historical or contemporary non-fiction texts, it is sobering to read about it through someone who bore witness to the events. Interestingly, there are no other entries regarding the Civil War in Clark's diary. In fact, the next entry is not until 1864 when Clark was dismissed at his own request from the First Congregational Church in Ridgefield, later becoming the pastor at Middlebury, Connecticut where he stayed until his death, at the age of 59, in 1871.



image of Fort Sumter courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; originally published by Currier & Ives, ca. 1861 [public domain]

August 22, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"383","attributes":{"alt":"Mass. State Library logo","class":"media-image","style":"width: 146px; height: 200px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Mass. State Library logo","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]If you're sad that we're taking this month off from our Brown Bag Lunch seminar series, the Mass. State Library might have just the substitute for you.

Brown Bag on Researching Civil War Family Members

Bring your lunch and join us to hear Connie Reik, Government Publications Coordinator at Tisch Library at Tufts University, speak about researching family members who served in the Civil War. With the continued sesquicentennial of the War much in the news, the interest in this major part of American history is stronger than ever.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
12 until 1:30 PM

State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House

For registration information and a list of their upcoming events, take a look at the State Library's full blog post.

August 20, 2012

Explore our historic space with Claudette Newhall as she tells the story of the library and provides visitors with an in-depth tour of the main Reading Room, the Pratt Room (formerly the Biblearium), as well as the 'stacks'. During the tour, you will also learn about the building's history, our collections, and the services the library provides.

Begins at 2:00 p.m.

Open to the public.

Reservations requested.
Call 617-523-0470 x229 or email Claudette to ensure your spot.


We welcome groups for tours of the Congregational Library. We have hosted conference groups, church committees, women's groups, local and international tourists, confirmation classes, historians, librarians, genealogists, archivists, and teachers. We're happy to discuss your group's interests. Advance reservations are required for group tours.

For details, see our Program & Workshop Schedule page.

August 20, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"473","attributes":{"alt":"memorial to Jonathan Edwards","class":"media-image","height":"255","style":"width: 120px; height: 153px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"memorial to Jonathan Edwards","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"200"}}]]Jonathan Edwards wrote some of the most brilliant books of his time — but the actual production of those books from start to finish was a huge achievement, too. How did an eighteenth-century Congregational pastor, living in the wilds of western Massachusetts, get the paper, the writing space, the library, and the right contacts with publishers in order to become an internationally known author?

Join us as Ken Minkema, director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale Divinity School, walks us through the "material culture" of Edwards' Northampton study, providing a fascinating glimpse of the place where ground-breaking theology was written.


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

Join us for lunch at noon.
Program begins promptly at 12:15.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

August 17, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"488","attributes":{"alt":"Easton (CT) Congregational Church","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 203px; float: left; margin: 0px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Easton (CT) Congregational Church","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]This fall the Easton Congregational Church in Connecticut will celebrate its 250th anniversary. As is true of many of our older churches the event is bittersweet: making it to the a quarter-millennium mark is an amazing achievement, but it also means facing some hard questions about the future. Easton has declined in membership, especially in recent years, and its people are aging. The congregation is not certain what the near future may bring.

The church is blessed with some loyal members, one of whom we had the pleasure of meeting in the library last month. Jon Stock is a retired law librarian with a great love for history and historical documents. There is no doubt that under his supervision the Easton records are well cared for — and even better, they are being used in creative ways to instill love and loyalty to the church and its long history.

Jon provides a "snippet" every Sunday, a short reflection based on an incident or short bit of text from the Easton records. He has also organized the snippets into monthly installments, under a theme (the Revolutionary War, problems with money, and so forth). By way of example, you can you can read Jon's four installments for July in a handy PDF document.

It strikes me that Jon's approach might be useful for others. It's tempting to want to drop the entire cart of history on the congregation at once, or to celebrate an anniversary in one big bash. But observing the anniversary year with weekly snippets keeps the church's history in the front of everyone's awareness, and it gives people a sense of the story as a whole.

Jon's approach also emphasizes the ongoing value of knowing your history. The events of the past described in his snippets are not just over and done, but are still reverberating in the life of the Easton church. This is the case in every local congregation, whether or not people recognize what is going on. Sometimes we remember the past as our high achievements, and sometimes we remember more difficult times, like old church battles over money and politics. But is within the warp and woof of these daily events, the long faithfulness of local congregations — not sudden divine visitations or once-in-a-lifetime miracles — that history is made.

Many congratulations to Jon and the Easton Congregational Church for reaching their 250th.

If you're not a member at Easton, but would like to receive Jon's upcoming historial tidbits, you can do so by contacting him directly.


August 16, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"489","attributes":{"alt":"Religion Census cover image","class":"media-image","height":"306","style":"width: 120px; height: 147px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Religion Census cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"250"}}]]2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study by Clifford Grammich, Richard Taylor, et al. (eds.)

We promoted this book a couple weeks ago when it was released, and now we have a copy of our own. It has been added to our catalog and is ready to be borrowed.

The Religious Congregations Membership Study 2012 (RCMS) is a county-by-county enumeration of religious bodies in the US. ... Each participating religious body supplies the number of churches, full members, adherents, and attendees for each county. This study will give a picture of county-level religious affiliation nationwide. The longevity of the study helps to identify trends and track religious change.


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"490","attributes":{"alt":"\"Embattled Ecumenism\" cover image","class":"media-image","height":"210","style":"width: 120px; height: 180px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"\"Embattled Ecumenism\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"140"}}]]Embattled Ecumenism: The National Council of Churches, the Vietnam War, and the Trials of the Protestant Left by Jill K. Gill

The Vietnam War and its polarizing era challenged, splintered, and changed The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC), which was motivated by its ecumenical Christian vision to oppose that war and unify people. The NCC's efforts on the war exposed its strengths and imploded its weaknesses in ways instructive for religious institutions that bring their faith into politics.

Embattled Ecumenism explores the ecumenical vision, anti-Vietnam War efforts, and legacy of the NCC. Gill's monumental study serves as a window into the mainline Protestant manner of engaging political issues at a unique time of national crisis and religious transformation. In vibrant prose, Gill illuminates an ecumenical institution, vision, and movement that has been largely misrepresented by the religious right, dismissed by the secular left, misunderstood by laity, and ignored by scholars outside of ecumenical circles.

August 14, 2012

This past Thursday Barron Tenney, Deacon, and Danny Ovalle, Pastor of the First Church of Christ Bradford returned their ancient records to the safekeeping of the Congregational Library's archive. The Bradford Church records were among the first to be microfilmed in the original Church Records Preservation Project sponsored by the library. Once the project moved into digitizing church records, the Bradford records were also digitized.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"491","attributes":{"alt":"Bradford collection sample page","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 273px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"Bradford collection sample page","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The records had been retrieved from the archive for display at the church in 2011 and held by Mr. Tenney to begin a transcription of these records. As another option has been selected for the transcription, the records have been returned. We look forward to adding the transcriptions to our database.

Both Pastor Ovalle and Mr. Tenney toured the library and archive and viewed a demonstration of the presentation software which will provide accessibility to the digitized church records including the ones of the Bradford Church. The tour of the archive provided a view into the secure, climate controlled area where the church records are kept.

The First Church of Bradford was established in 1682 and recently celebrated of the 200th anniversary of Ann Hasseltine Judson and Adoniram Judson sailing to the far east as American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) missionaries.

We welcome visitors to the library and with advance notice are happy to arrange tours for groups.


August 13, 2012

Last week we welcomed the students and faculty of the Congregational Foundation for Theological Studies (CFTS) to the library. CFTS was established by the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) in 1961 as an alternative to founding its own seminary. Each year CFTS holds the "Congregational History and Polity Seminar" in Boston. Students from various seminaries attend this seminar. While in Boston the students attend lectures, visit historical sites, and begin research into topics on Congregational history and polity. The staff of the library were glad to welcome and assist these students, and provide materials from the library and archive to create the foundation for their research projects.

Rev. Dr. Betsey Mauro is Dean of the program and a member of the Board of Directors of the Congregational Library.

CFTS students hard at work

August 10, 2012

Here at the Congregational Library, we work with all kinds of manuscript collections, from personal correspondence to the official records of national organizations. One of the trickier challenges of our archivists' process is tape. While it's a great short-term solution in many situations — wrapping gifts, hanging signs for events, etc. — it is terrible for long-term preservation. If we had our druthers, every book and document in our collections that has been damaged by tape would be sent off to the ace conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"492","attributes":{"alt":"tape-damaged baptismal certificate","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 137px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"tape-damaged baptismal certificate","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]A recent article in their newsletter contains a great example of tape damage repair, as well as a touching story:

1899 Baptismal Certificate Conserved for a Family Collection

The document belongs to Barbara Comer, a Collections Management Technician at the Nashua New Hampshire Historical Society. "The baptismal certificate, dated 1899, belonged to my great-uncle Franz Fink from Austria," she explained. "He carried it on his person, folded in his wallet, all his life."


During conservation treatment at NEDCC, surface soil was reduced using dry cleaning methods, and the tape was removed using heat. Adhesive residues were reduced in a solvent bath.

You can read more details of both Ms. Comer's touching family story and the delicate conservation treatments in the full news article.


August 9, 2012

There's a famous quote by H.L. Menken that Puritanism is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy". While their doctrines and daily lives did emphasize work over play, Puritans were not the dour fun-haters they have been portrayed as recently. In fact, they engaged in a lot of recreational activities including sports, visual arts, literature, and music, and saw these pursuits as necessary for reinvigorating both body and spirit.

Puritans particularly enjoyed spending time outdoors. Some of the more popular diversions were hiking, picnicking, and fishing. Hunting was seen as necessary for sustenance, but discouraged as a recreational activity. This was an aspect of their general discouragement of any sort of excess.

Like many people today, they condemned violent sports such as boxing and cockfighting, primarily due to objections over causing harm to God's creatures. Some disparaged bowling due to the gambling that frequently happened on the side, and tennis because of a perceived association with Catholic monks, but others said the games were just fine in and of themselves. The main concern among Puritan leaders was that these pastimes not interfere with people's work or prayer, which should always come first.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"493","attributes":{"alt":"Puritan family reading","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 140px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Puritan family reading","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]New England Puritans were a remarkably literate group for their time. They strongly encouraged congregants to read and write, particularly religious materials. There is a wealth of sermons, personal diaries, and even poetry that has survived to this day, not only because they wrote so prolifically, but also because these materials were often published for others to study in their leisure time.

There is considerably less visual art, since their pragmatic ways made for simple decorations. Homes had little in terms of embellishments, but some Puritans did paint or draw. Women's handicrafts mostly produced practical items like clothing and quilts, but there was also the occasional embroidery project.

Although Puritans objected to the use of music in church as distracting and "Popish", they frequently enjoyed singing and playing instruments in the home. Similarly dancing was all about context; many denounced "promiscuous dancing" (i.e. both sexes dancing together) as they felt it could lead to fornication, but folk dancing that avoided physical contact between men and women was generally permitted.

If you'd like to learn more about how early Puritans truly lived, check out Puritanism: a Very Short Introduction by Francis J. Bremer. It's a quick, entertaining read, and contains a great list of suggestions for further study if you want to get more in-depth on any of the subjects it covers.

August 7, 2012

I received an email from a church administrator in New Jersey (Hi, Theresa!) who asked a question about maintaining records that others might well be pondering.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"495","attributes":{"alt":"membership list in a ledger","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 137px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"membership list in a ledger","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]This church currently keeps its membership records in a ledger, on index cards, and in a new-ish database. What do you maintain? They are interested in doing what's best historically speaking, but also don't want to maintain three different sets of records. What to do?

My suggestion in this case is to put all their current members into the database. A program that's worth using should be flexible enough to be searchable and to create reports that will hopefully make at least the cards redundant. In this case, there was even a fourth system: their newsletter mailing list. Ideally, they would import that newsletter list as a way to jumpstart the new database. (Then maybe you don't need that separate list, either!).

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"494","attributes":{"alt":"database entry form","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 102px; float: right; margin: 5px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"database entry form","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Regarding the question, "What about preserving the ledger book?", I admit I do love a good ledger book. It's fool-proof against computer crashes. I have two suggestions for this:

  1. Print out a report on a scheduled basis -- once a year, quarterly, whatever suits your needs -- that will duplicate the information you'd put into the ledger and keep that with the older, historical records. Those who want to boost the lifespan of that printed report can use high quality paper and print at the finest settings.*
  2. All churches tend to come with a bevvy of interested retirees who are waiting for a task that's important, but perhaps a burden to office staff. Find someone reliable with nice handwriting, give him or her a copy of the latest members, baptisms, communion class, and s/he can transcribe that list into the old ledger.

I hope this advice proves to be useful not only to our friends in New Jersey, but to those of our readers who hadn't realized they could ask one of our stable of archivists what the best practice might be on this sort of thing. Please do keep asking us. It's what we're here for.



* Webmaster's note: You should also back up your database on a regular schedule and keep a copy outside the church. If the church has a safety deposit box, put the file on a flash drive and take it over to the bank when you make a deposit.

Alternatively, there are a number of free or inexpensive online storage services (You may have heard it called "cloud storage".) with servers farther away that can protect your backup copies from local natural disasters. Just be sure to choose one that has guaranteed encryption, since membership records usually contain some personal information. If you have a contract for IT services, they should be able to help you set this up.

August 6, 2012
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"496","attributes":{"alt":"view of the burned area from Devonshire Street, Nov. 1872","class":"media-image","style":"width: 250px; height: 253px;","title":"view of the burned area from Devonshire Street, Nov. 1872","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
edge of the area destroyed in
the Great Boston Fire, with
Old South Meetinghouse safe
in the background (upper right)
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"497","attributes":{"alt":"Trinity Church after the Great Boston Fire of 1872","class":"media-image","style":"width: 250px; height: 256px;","title":"Trinity Church after the Great Boston Fire of 1872","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]
the remains of Trinity Church
after the Great Fire

During the 19th century, downtown Boston was a vibrant, bustling place. The first large groups of non-English immigrants were arriving, and the city was growing to meet the needs of its increasing population. While most of the buildings being constructed had stone or brick exteriors — including Boston's iconic brownstones — the interiors, doors, and window frames were still wooden, and the buildings themselves were densely packed among the web of streets. Although these practices made the structures easier to build, it also made them more vulnerable to the spread of fires.

On the evening of November 9, 1872 a fire started in downtown Boston. The blaze lasted for 15 hours, destroying 776 buildings over 65 acres, including a number of churches. Luckily, the original Old South Church building (now a historic site on the Freedom Trail) was just outside the burned area.

Other churches weren't so fortunate. If you look through the item records from the 1843 Boston Almanac collection on our exhibit site, you'll notice that several of them were lost in either the Great Fire, or in an 1862 conflagration that swept through the North End. Still others burned on their own. Tremont Temple, for example, was destroyed or gutted by fires at least four times in the late 19th century according to the Boston Fire Historical Society's timeline.

If you'd like to learn more about the Great Fire of 1872, there is an account on the BFHS website that is thorough and concise, along with more images and links to maps, newspaper articles, and digitized books. There are also a number of steroscopic photographs on the Boston Public Library's Flickr stream and the Mass. Historical Society website.



images courtesy of the Boston Public Library collections on Flickr

August 3, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"498","attributes":{"alt":"Ebenezer Wallen Sheppard","class":"media-image","style":"width: 200px; height: 276px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Ebenezer Wallen Sheppard","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]If you've enjoyed our recent digital exhibit -- Moustaches, Muttonchops, and Beards -- you might also like the selection of photographs featured in the Mass. State Library's gallery "A Celebration of Facial Hair Trends in the Legislature" on Flickr. If you need a bit more convincing, take a look at their blog entry on the topic from last fall:

Changes in facial hair styles have a long history, and until recently were primarily guided by the ruling monarch or clergy, some even specifying in law or edict which class of men should shave and which should grow their beards. ... Members of the Massachusetts legislature did not escape these trends. For example, in the 1880 House of Representatives photograph album, 230 of the 244 representatives pictured wear some sort of facial hair!

If you haven't voted for your favorite Congregationalist in our exhibit yet, go on over and do that first! Then peruse the lawmakers who lived alongside them.


August 2, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"489","attributes":{"alt":"Religious Membership cover","class":"media-image","style":"width: 150px; height: 184px; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 10px;","title":"Religious Membership cover","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]Last fall we told you about the latest Religious Congregations Membership Study that had just been completed by the National Council of Churches and the Glenmary Research Center. At the time, they had only released their data and preliminary maps online. Now the numbers have been crunched, collated, organized, and are presented with colorful maps in a hefty print version.

The Religious Congregations Membership Study 2012 (RCMS) is a county-by-county enumeration of religious bodies in the US. It is an update of the 1952, 1971, 1980, 1990, and 2000 studies originally done by the National Council of Churches and the Glenmary Research Center. Since 1990, the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) has sponsored the studies.

Each participating religious body supplies the number of churches, full members, adherents, and attendees for each county. Our data collection office can assist any group with compiling their data to the county level.This study will give a picture of county-level religious affiliation nationwide. The longevity of the study helps to identify trends and track religious change.

Publication Highlights:

  • Counts 344,894 congregations, and 150,686,156 adherents in 236 religious groups.
  • Religion census tables at the national, state, and county levels.
  • Special studies to count Amish, Buddhist groups, Hindu groups, Jewish groups, Muslims, Orthodox groups, and non-denominational churches.
  • Worship attendance data for 106 groups.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"499","attributes":{"alt":"U.S. religious population maps","class":"media-image","style":"width: 500px; height: 408px;","title":"U.S. religious population maps","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

One of the editors of this useful tome is our very own long-standing board member, Rick Taylor. You can view a sampler online and order yourself a copy from Nazarene Publishing House.


July 31, 2012

We're in need of a new Assistant Librarian to help care for our collections and patrons. Duties include cataloging, processing, subscription management, intern supervision, circulation, and answering reference questions. If those are things you enjoy doing, take a look at the full job description page and submit your resume.

July 30, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"500","attributes":{"alt":"first page of a letter in the Catharine Brown collection","class":"media-image","style":"width: 120px; height: 194px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"first page of a letter in the Catharine Brown collection","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]A little over a year ago, we highlighted one of our small archival collections -- a set of letters and reminiscences relating to Cherokee missionary Catharine Brown. We're now pleased to let you know that all 25 items in this collection have now been scanned and added to our exhibit site.

You can browse the whole collection on the exhibit site, or use the finding guide on our main website to go directly to a specific item.

Items include letters from Catharine to her missionary friends and some to her family, but they are primarily about Catharine immediately following her death. There are many letters from Moody and Isabella Hall, Laura and William Potter, and Dr. Alexander Campbell. There is an excerpt of Catharine's personal journal (copy of original) from 1820-1822 included.

July 27, 2012

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"501","attributes":{"alt":"\"Accidental Revolutionary\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 140px; height: 216px; float: left; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px;","title":"\"Accidental Revolutionary\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The Accidental Revolutionary: George Whitefield and the Creation of America by Jerome Mahaffy

Patriots. Founding Fathers. Revolutionaries. For many Americans, the colonial heroes deserve special celebratory reverence. Yet while Washington's leadership, Franklin's writings, and Revere's ride captivate us, the inspiration and influence George Whitefield instilled within the revolutionary spirits of early Americans is regrettably unknown.

In this refreshing biography, Jerome Dean Mahaffey deftly moves beyond Whitefield's colonial celebrity to show how his rhetoric and ministry worked for freedom, situating Whitefield alongside the most revolutionary founders. As this Anglican revivalist traveled among the colonies, he delivered exhilarating sermons deeply saturated with political implications -- freedom from oppression, civil justice, communal cooperation. Whitefield helped to encourage in his listeners a longing for a new, uniquely American nationalism.

The Accidental Revolutionary tells the story of this forgotten founder, who may not have realized the repercussions of his words as he spoke them. Now, Mahaffey delicately shows that Whitefield converted colonists not just to Christianity but to a renewed sense of unification that ultimately made possible the American Revolution.


[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"432","attributes":{"alt":"\"Indian Great Awakening\" cover image","class":"media-image","style":"width: 140px; height: 211px; margin: 5px 10px 5px 0px; float: left;","title":"\"Indian Great Awakening\" cover image","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America by Linford D. Fisher

The First Great Awakening was a time of heightened religious activity in the colonial New England. Among those whom the English settlers tried to convert to Christianity were the region's native peoples. In this book, Linford Fisher tells the gripping story of American Indians' attempts to wrestle with the ongoing realities of colonialism between the 1670s and 1820. In particular, he looks at how some members of previously unevangelized Indian communities in Connecticut, Rhode Island, western Massachusetts, and Long Island adopted Christian practices, often joining local Congregational churches and receiving baptism. Far from passively sliding into the cultural and physical landscape after King Philip's War, he argues, Native individuals and communities actively tapped into transatlantic structures of power to protect their land rights, welcomed educational opportunities for their children, and joined local white churches. Religion repeatedly stood at the center of these points of cultural engagement, often in hotly contested ways. Although these Native groups had successfully resisted evangelization in the seventeenth century, by the eighteenth century they showed an increasing interest in education and religion.

While Indian involvement in the Great Awakening has often been seen as total and complete conversion, Fisher's analysis of church records, court documents, and correspondence reveals a more complex reality. Placing the Awakening in context of land loss and the ongoing struggle for cultural autonomy in the eighteenth century casts it as another step in the ongoing, tentative engagement of native peoples with Christian ideas and institutions in the colonial world. Charting this untold story of the Great Awakening and the resultant rise of an Indian Separatism and its effects on Indian cultures as a whole, this gracefully written book challenges long-held notions about religion and Native-Anglo-American interaction.

July 26, 2012

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you will know that we have had an ongoing project over at Old South Church in Copley Square for a few years now. For those of you just tuning in, the executive summary is as follows:

We have housed the church's earliest records for several decades now. When their historian suggested in December 2009 that there was material that was ready to come over to be added to the existing collection, it dominoed into a 2+ year project. In that time, we have had eleven spectacular students working to sort through their records on site. Our finished product is going to be a finding aid that describes the materials kept here at the library, the microfilmed material, and the records kept at the church.

One of the last students on the job now in a volunteer capacity is Veronica Denison. She is doing the last 10% of the work, writing up the finding aid, and reboxing the collection. Our goal is to be done by the end of August. She will be sharing her thoughts on her summer experience in a few weeks. 


July 24, 2012

If you haven't already, there is plenty of time to register for tomorrow's Brown Bag Lunch lecture on Joseph Hopkins Twichell with Steve Courtney.

[]It may come as a surprise that Mark Twain's best friend of forty years was a Congregationalist minister, Rev. Joseph Hopkins Twichell (1838-1918) of Hartford, Connecticut. After Twichell's education at Yale and his Civil War service as a Union chaplain, he took on his first (and only) pastorate at Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, then the nation's most affluent city. After a chance meeting, Twichell befriended Twain; assisted at his new friend's wedding; accompanied him on long walking tours of the Connecticut hills, Bermuda and the Alps; and presided over the Clemens family's weddings and funerals.

Steve Courtney, author of Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain's Closest Friend, will discuss how Twichell's personality, abolitionist background, theological training, and war experience shaped his friendship with Twain during a life emblematic of a broad and eventful period of American change. Participants should gain an appreciation of why the witty, profane, and skeptical Twain cherished Twichell's companionship.


Wednesday, July 25th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Join us for lunch at noon.
Program begins promptly at 12:15.

Register through SurveyMonkey.

July 23, 2012

If Beards Were All, Goats Could Preach

"Wisdom," a Swedish proverb holds, "is in the head, and not in the beard." You can find proverbs with similar sentiments in many different cultures, from variations on "A beard does not a philosopher make" (German, English, Italian, Indian, Romanian, Ukranian, and Bambara) to iterations of "If the beard were all, goats could preach" (Danish and African), and while we often imagine the sage on the mountain top with his long white beard, it is very clear that his wisdom does not flow from it. That said, images from throughout history show us that various forms of facial hair have been the favored fashion of many men, regardless of status or occupation.

Here at the Congregational Library we have put together a digital photo album from our image collection of devoted and influential Congregationalists who sported comment-worthy facial hair. We recognize, however, that it is not their tonsorial styling which made them great, but their dedication to education, scholarship, worship, and the Congregational Way.


Each one of the men showcased in this exhibit have contributed in some way, big or small, to the history of Congregationalism, and we encourage you to view this gallery and learn about their stories. We also invite you to then vote for your favorite, and we will announce the results on this blog at a later date.


July 20, 2012

When we receive collections for our archive or anniversary materials from churches, most of it is paper-based -- books, pamphlets, loose records in folders, manuscript sermons and correspondence, etc. From time to time, though, we get some truly unusual objects. Over the years, we've gotten everything from custom-printed napkins and balloons to full sets of communion dishes and altar crosses. We thought we'd highlight a couple of the more interesting items that have been sent to us in recent years for your enjoyment.

[]First up is a license plate commemorating a church's sesquicentennial. It's fun to know that there was enough demand among the congregation for the anniversary committee to have them printed, but we don't really have enough space for it among our local church history collections. We tend to photograph such physical objects and include those images with some notes in the collection instead. This especially applies to bulky items like commemorative mugs and baseball caps, or to materials that are prone to deterioration like napkins, balloons, and newspaper clippings.

[]Next is an item which we're fairly certain was given to us accidentally. A church that disbanded sent us their historical records, a practice we very much encourage. But tucked in amongst the ledgers of administrative records and Sunday school materials was a rusting blade from a circular saw. Our best guess is that it slipped in during some minor renovations at the church. (Pro tip: If you're doing construction on the room where your records are stored, move them someplace else for the duration.) Although we obviously removed it from the archival collection during processing, it has made a great conversation piece and an amusing example of what sorts of things donors should cull from their materials before sending them to us.

July 19, 2012

[]Our friends at the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University are in the process of making more of the finding aids to their archival collections available online. They recently announced a number of guides relating to the great abolitionist, author, and orator Frederick Douglass.

The Frederick Douglass letters represent a small collection of Douglass' correspondence written in his later years. In one eight-page letter Douglass wrote while traveling in Paris in 1886 to "friends Hayden and Watson," he offers his views on topics ranging from Alexander Dumas, the several great museums of Paris, and the recent death of President Chester A. Arthur. He also compares the standards of behavior of French politicians favorably in contrast to their American counterparts: "I saw no one squirting tobacco, smoking, or his feet above the level of his head as is sometimes seen in our National Legislature."

The collection of Paul and Gracia Hardacre includes a 1901 letter from Booker T. Washington, who thanks William B. Hoswell of Chicago for his donation of the dressing gown and smoking cap worn by Frederick Douglass at the Chicago World's Fair to the Tuskegee Institute. This collection also includes an item of personal correspondence from Douglass' daughter, Rosetta Douglass Sprague. The collection also includes a collected autograph from Douglass as well as a photograph of the man.

On a related note is the scrapbook of Joseph E. Roy, which is primarily devoted to his chairmanship at the World's Congress on Africa at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (also known as the Chicago World's Fair). This scrapbook includes several clippings about Douglass' appearance at the Exposition, as well as his address at the 1895 annual meeting of the American Missionary Association.

Finally, the Rae Dalven radio drama script, written in 1952, consists of a short dramatization based on the efforts of Douglass and his daughter, the aforementioned Rosetta, to enter the previously-segregated Seward Seminary in Rochester, New York.

In these collections and more, Frederick Douglass is just one of many great American historical figures who lives on at the Amistad Research Center.

If you'd like to start your research with us at the Congregational Library, we have several biographies and scholarly works about Douglass, as well as some of his published materials.


Image from the DOD War and Conflict CD collection of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 558770.

July 17, 2012

We've got some new books ready to borrow. Follow the links below, or search our catalog to see if something else in our collections is more to your liking.


[]Red Brethren: the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the problem of race in early America by David Silverman

New England Indians created the multitribal Brothertown and Stockbridge communities during the eighteenth century with the intent of using Christianity and civilized reforms to cope with white expansion. In Red Brethren, David J. Silverman considers the stories of these communities and argues that Indians in early America were racial thinkers in their own right and that indigenous people rallied together as Indians not only in the context of violent resistance but also in campaigns to adjust peacefully to white dominion. All too often, the Indians discovered that their many concessions to white demands earned them no relief.


[]Was American Founded as a Christian Nation? A historical introduction by John Fea

Fea offers an even-handed primer on whether America was founded to be a Christian nation, as many evangelicals assert, or a secular state, as others contend. He approaches the title's question from a historical perspective, helping readers see past the emotional rhetoric of today to the recorded facts of our past. Readers on both sides of the issues will appreciate that this book occupies a middle ground, noting the good points and the less-nuanced arguments of both sides and leading us always back to the primary sources that our shared American history comprises.


[]The British Zion: Congregationalism, Politics, and Empire 1790-1850 by Michael A. Rutz

Drawing upon extensive archival research and a wide range of secondary sources, The British Zion traces congregationalist missionaries' involvement in domestic and colonial politics in early nineteenth-century Britain. As Michael A. Rutz ably demonstrates, evangelical nonconformists actively campaigned from both the Empire's metropolitan centers and its periphery to extend religious liberty and civil equality in Britain, open colonial territories to evangelization, abolish slavery, and secure civil rights for indigenous peoples. Moving beyond the dichotomizing pictures of evangelical missionaries as either the advance forces of colonial domination or innocuous humanitarians and educators, Rutz carefully examines the humanitarian and theological impulses of the missionary movement while critically examining its political, social, and cultural impact within the larger development of the British Empire.

July 16, 2012

[]The New England Historical Association holds a Spring and a Fall conference each year, bringing their members and guests together for intimately scaled, high-quality one-day conferences with a broad range of papers and presentations and a luncheon. Their next conference will be Saturday, October 13, 2012 hosted by Merrimack College in North Andover, MA.

One of the panels at the Fall conference might be of particular interest to some of you. A good friend of the Congregational Library, Cliff Putney (Bentley University), will be moderating a panel on the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The other panelists are:

  • Jennifer Fish Kashay (Colorado State University)
    Topic: Burial and mourning customs of the ABCFM missionaries to Hawai'i.
  • Paul Burlin (University of New England)
    Topic: The controversy over salaries among the ABCFM missionaries to Hawai'i.
  • Alice Hunsberger (Hunter College, CUNY)
    Topic: The early years of the ABCFM mission to India, with a focus on women missionaries.

The call for papers for the Fall conference has closed, so the other sessions should be announced over the coming months. If any of them strike your fancy, you should register. Spend a Saturday learning and enjoying scenic Andover.

July 13, 2012

[]Congregationalists were quite active in the abolition movement, so we have a pretty extensive collection of anti-slavery materials here at the library. One thing we're short on, though, is a publication called The Liberty Bell. We only have the first volume from 1839. Luckily, our neighbors at the Mass State Library have more 14 more volumes in their Special Collections.

The Liberty Bell [is] an annual gift book first published in 1839 by the American Anti-Slavery Society and edited by Maria Weston Chapman. These ornate publications were sold at the annual Boston Anti-Slavery Bazaar, a fair founded by Lydia Maria Child and Louisa Loring and sponsored by the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.

Each volume of The Liberty Bell contains poems, essays, and other pieces, as Weston described, "from those whose names are dear to the abolitionists." Contributions such as these were made by New England and European literary figures and abolitionists including Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and Alex de Tocqueville, among many others.

Just like our collections, the materials at the State Library are available to anyone who wants to use them. These books can provide valuable information to people interested in women's history in publishing, the abolitionist movement, early 19th-century New England society, and a number of other topics. Stop in to see them, and come by to visit us at the Congregational Library while you're in the neighborhood.


July 12, 2012


One of the advantages of being an archivist at the Congregational Library is the opportunity to work with different kinds of historical materials from throughout the centuries and without doubt, one of my favorites is architectural drawings. By their very nature, architectural drawings are generally oversized which intrinsically presents their own preservation and conservation challenges — oversized documents are often their own worst enemies due to their sheer size and weight. In the past, architectural drawings were commonly used in the field and they were often rolled or folded, creating creases that later become tears. Here are some of tips for working with oversized materials, and in particular architectural drawings, which you may very well have in your own collection.

  1. You will need A LOT of surface area to properly organize oversized items. These items are big and need enough space for you to carefully move items around without crushing / crowding them when arranging your materials.
  2. Once all your items are organized in whatever order you've decided — in this case I arranged our architectural drawings chronologically by project — record the information on a spreadsheet, database, on paper, or whatever method you'll use to retrieve the information later.
  3. When ready to re-file materials, I strongly recommend storing oversized materials flat in folders (approximately 15 items to a folder, depending on size and fragility).
  4. If you don't have flat files for your documents (or if the documents have been rolled for so many years that unrolling them without humidification would damage them) while not ideal, it is possible to store oversized materials rolled. In this case, make sure the tubes are large enough to fully support the documents and wrap the outside of the tube with an inert buffer to protect the items from further acidification from the tube. You can wrap Melinex or acid-free interleaving paper for a good barrier. Stack drawings (approximately 15 depending on size, condition, etc.) and roll them evenly together so there are no frayed edges or items hanging out. Wrap again with Melinex or interleaving tissue and secure with linen tape. Store tube inside an appropriately sized box and most importantly — store it horizontally NOT vertically. You want to minimize any shifting and crushing of ends inside the box.
  5. Don't forget to label your folders and tubed boxes to minimize the number of times you have to search for an item!

When specifically working with architectural drawings, you may also want to segregate diazo prints from blueprints or other paper copies because they were made using different chemical processes that don't always react well together, particularly when stored in close quarters. It's not uncommon to see bleeding from drawing to drawing or pink marks on the folders containing diazos. Also, consider having the drawings scanned as PDFs and TIFFs for a working and preservation copy respectively. This will not only limit your future handling of the hardcopy, it will come in handy to future architectural firms should you do any additional work in your space.


For more information on caring for oversized materials and architectural drawings in your collection, feel free to contact our office and check out the following resources:

Northeast Document Conservation Center Storage and Handling of Oversized Documents Leaflet

Books on Caring for Architectural Drawings

  • Kissel,Eléonore and Erin Vigneau. Architectural Photoreproductions: A Manual for Identification and Care. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, Bronx, N.Y.: New York Botanical Garden, 1999.
  • Lowell, Waverly B and Tawny Ryan Nelb. Architectural Records: Managing Design and Construction Records. Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists, 2006.
  • Price, Lois Olcott. Line, Shade, and Shadow: The Fabrication and Preservation of Architectural Drawings. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press; Winterthur, DE: Winterthur Museum & Country Estate; [Houten, Netherlands]: HES & DE GRAAF Publishers, 2010.

Archival Supply Companies



July 10, 2012

We here at the Congregational Library are happy to announce the availability of yet another new archival collection (we seem to be on quite a roll)! This particular collection came to us from Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) and contains materials by and about Ozora Stearns Davis (1866-1931).

Ozora Stearns Davis was born in White River Junction, Vermont, in July of 1866. As a child he helped his father, a baggage handler for the railroad, by sweeping out baggage rooms, delivering telegrams, and running errands all while also attending school at St. Johnsbury Academy. []He graduated from Dartmouth College and went on to attend Hartford Theological Seminary before receiving a fellowship that allowed him to attend school in Germany where he received both his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1896.

Davis then returned to the United States where he was ordained in Springfield, Vermont. He went on to serve several churches in New England before becoming president of CTS in 1909. He served as President until 1929 when his health began to fail and doctors informed him that he only had six months to live. Sobered by the news but in no way fearing death, Davis resigned his position as President and took up the task of writing the biography of his close friend journalist Victor Freemont Lawson (1850-1925), the manuscript of which is included in this collection.

In March of 1931 while on a trip to California with his wife Grace, Davis became very ill. On the advice of a doctor he stopped treatment for his diabetes as it seemed he was reacting negatively to the insulin and, deciding he would rather die in Chicago than in California, boarded a train homeward. On March 15th while still onboard the train, he took a turn for the worse and passed away just outside of Kansas City, Missouri.

The Davis collection is an interesting one in that it is what archivist's term an "intentional collection" — that is, the materials in it were intentionally gathered into one place by a person or institution. In this case, they were gathered into one place by Chicago Theological Seminary. It contains materials written and owned by Davis as well as material concerning him that he didn't necessarily own himself. The two things of note in this collection are the manuscripts and scholarship produced by Davis (oftentimes in his hand) and the extensive correspondence between him and CTS's business manager, Robert Cashman.

We invite you to take a look at the finding guide for this collection, to contact an archivist with any questions you may have regarding this collection, and to come in and take a look at it, if you are so inclined.


July 9, 2012

[]Many of our church record collections at the Congregational Library originated in New England, because that's where we are. Other collections both here and in other regions often end up closer to home, in state libraries and archives, historical societies, or even local public libraries. Because so few religious denominations have the mandate for congregations to send their records to a specific place, it can occasionally be difficult to track them down.

This isn't a new conundrum for researchers, of course, which is why the Works Progress Administration (one of FDR's New Deal programs) spent the better part of a decade creating its Historical Records Survey.

The HRC, headquartered in Washington, D.C., was organized into subdivisions (regional, state, district) and much of the work was done at the behest of the National Archives and Records Administration or state archive agencies. The HRS sometimes cooperated with the Daughters of the American Revolution and other volunteer groups with an interest in local history and genealogy.

Among their accomplishments were the soundex indexes for the several of the states for several of the late 19th-century U.S. Censuses (1880, 1900, 1910, 1920), indexes of vital statistics, book indexes, bibliographies, cemetery indexes and newspaper indexes, the American Imprints Inventory, the Atlas of Congressional Roll Calls Project, a historical index of American musicians, surveys of portraits in public buildings, maritime records, a history of grazing, a food history project called America Eats, and a necessary survey of the federal Archives — NARA itself had been established only in 1934.

The HRS was generally considered the most efficient and inexpensive of the Federal One projects.

The National Archive has an excellent collection of the surveys that were published. To find published surveys for a state, e.g. Michigan, in their holdings go to the NARA Library catalog (ALIC) and search for key words "Historical Records Survey Michigan" (substituting the name of the state that you are researching, of course). You may need to change the display to see the full record.

To find unpublished surveys, check WorldCat to find the closest copy of Loretta Hefner's book, The WPA Historical Records Survey: a guide to the unpublished inventories, indexes, and transcripts. (And if there isn't a copy nearby, ask your local public librarian about getting one through interlibrary loan.)

Now that historical institutions are digitizing more of their resources, it's much easier to access some of these surveys online, or at least see what's in them through finding guides. The collection that brought these resources to our attention was a group of church records from Florida Memory, a project of the Florida State Library. A quick web search yielded results in at the State Historical Society of Missouri, the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Northwest Digital Archive, and the University of New Hampshire.

It may take a bit of legwork to find these records in your area, but they just might contain the information you're looking for, or even answer a question you hadn't thought to ask.



image of the Building Survey Form for the Town Hall, So. Hampton courtesy of the University of New Hampshire Library

July 5, 2012

If you missed the post about Week One, go read it now. We expected to update you on the journeys of our modern-day pilgrim last week, but they were just having too much fun to bother sending us pictures. Now that they're home, there is a lot to share.

Day 5 -- Saturday, June 23rd

With the London portion of their tour complete, the group headed northeast to spend the next several days in and around Ipswich. Their first day was spent among the nearby medieval churches, including stops at High Laver to see the church where Roger Williams and John Norton preached, and where the philospher John Locke is buried; and the historic Walpole Old Chapel.

A talk by Rev Bill Mahood at the chapel at Walpole,
an early place of worship for dissenters and puritans.


Day 6 -- Sunday, June 24th

Sunday morning began with a service at the Congregational church in Ipswich, followed by a drive westward to Hadleigh, Kersey, and Groton. While the group was in Groton, they took the opportunity to visit the church once owned and attended by John Winthrop.

Our latterday Puritans at John Winthrop's church.

They then turned north to visit Lavenham for lunch and a guided walking tour.

The Guild Hall at Lavenham. This was a center of the wool
trade which was the source of East Anglia's wealth.
It was also the home of John Winthrop's grandfather.


Day 7 -- Monday, June 25th

The next day took the travelers north to Norwich where they toured the Cathedral and attended a lecture on early separatist theology in the area. The trip back to Ipswich was a scenic drive along the North Sea coast through the towns of Blytheburgh, Aldeburgh, and Snape.


Day 8 -- Tuesday, June 26th

To the southwest of Ipswich lies Colchester, site of the earliest Roman settlement in Britain and the 11th-century castle commissioned by William the Conquerer.

Colchester Castle, at the site of the oldest Roman settlement in England.

In the afternoon, the travelers took a stroll along the river where landscape painter John Constable lived and worked, and then arrived at Dedham Church where "Roaring" John Rogers was minister.

Our group at the Stour River, Flatford, at John Constable's
home and the inspiration for many of his paintings.


Day 9 -- Wednesday, June 27th

On their final day in Ipswich, the group stayed in town to see the Ipswich Charter Hangings, a series of modern tapestries commissioned to commemorate the turn of the millennium and the 800th anniversary of the official founding of the city.

Isabel Clover, the creator, lecturing on the Ipswich Hangings,
celebrating 800 years of East Anglian history.

The panels are on display at St. Peter's by the Waterfront.


Day 10 -- Thursday, June 28th

Leaving Ipswich behind, the group moved west to spend their last few days in Cambridge. They took a bit of a detour along the way to visit the ancient ruins adjacent to the Cathedral in Bury St. Edmunds.

The gardens in the Monastery ruins

The lovely market town of Bury St Edmunds, the town
at which the nobles met to decide how to confront
King John and to force him to sign the Magna Carta.

Once they arrived in Cambridge, they traded their motor coach for a nice relaxing boat ride on the river Cam from which the city takes its name.

Punting on the Cam!!!


Day 11 -- Friday, June 29th

The next day was devoted to the University itself. The travelers were taken through Emmanuel, St. John's, and King's Colleges, as well as the Fitzwilliam Museum.

The Wren Chapel at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where many of
our Puritan forefathers studied divinity and were influenced to
confront King James the First and King Charles the First
over the worship of idolatry and other "Popery" practices.

After lunch, they fed their minds with a talk on C. S. Lewis and his Christian themes by Prof. David Goss, then continued their tour of "The Backs" (a stretch of campus along the river) and Trinity College.


Day 12 -- Saturday, June 30th

The last day took the group north to Ely, where they were guided through Ely Cathedral and visited Oliver Cromwell's home.

The hexagonal dome at Ely Cathedral

They then took in the fresh air with a tour and lunch at the Stow Hall Gardens.

The Elizabethan wall at the private Stow Hall Gardens.

Our farewell dinner in Cambridge at the
end of a very, very, very successful tour.

All that remained was for our travelers to return to London and wing their way back home.

Once again, we extend our thanks to Roger Burke for sending back his photographs, and to Olde Ipswich Tours for arranging this pilgrimage for our friends. We're glad they enjoyed their travels and allowed us to experience a small measure of it.


July 4, 2012

[]This week we pause to commemorate and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and Wednesday night will see people gathering around the Hatch Shell to hear the Boston Pops and to watch fireworks over the Charles River. We celebrate this day with so much pomp and circumstance that it's easy to forget 236 years ago July 4th was actually a day rather similar to those that had come before it (or the days that came after it -- the Declaration wasn't read publicly in Massachusetts until July 18th).

In fact, George Washington himself spent the day completing his household shopping. Among his purchases: a broom, mutton, veal, beef, cabbage, beets, beans, potatoes, and lobster. He also paid to have his carriage repaired. You can check out Washington's expenses for July 4, 1776, or learn more about the Library of Congress's George Washington Papers in their American Memory collections.

Happy 4th!


We would like to thank the Society of American Archivists twitter feed for pointing us towards this NPR blog post.


July 3, 2012

[]The Congregational Library will be closed on Wednesday, July 4th in observance of Independence Day.

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

We hope you have a safe and happy celebration.


image of fireworks over the Charles River in Boston courtesy of Pablo Valerio via Wikimedia Commons