The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Happy Birthday, MHS!

Today marks the 222nd anniversary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the nation's oldest historical society.  The Historical Society (being the only one, there was no need for the Massachusetts in the name at the time of our founding) had its first official meeting in the comfortable home of William Tudor in downtown Boston.  Only eight of the ten founding members -- the ten being James Sullivan, William Tudor, John Eliot, Peter Thacher, James Winthrop,  George Richards Minot, Thomas Wallcut, Reverend James Freeman Clark, Dr. William Baylies, and Reverend Jeremy Belknap --  attended that first meeting. At that meeting they selected officers, developed a constitution, and set the maximum number of members at 30 resident members and 30 corresponding members. 

As laid out in a circular letter first disseminated in the fall of 1791, Jeremy Belknap, the catalyst behind the formation of the Society, envisioned both a repository and a publication program -- an institution that would collect, preserve, and disseminate resources for the study of American history.The collection, which today boasts over 12 million pages of manuscript documents in addtion to thousands upon thousands of published items, photographs, and artifacts, began at that first meeting through pledges of family papers, books, and artifacts from the founding members personal collections. And with the appearance of their first title at the start of 1792, volume 1 of the still published Collections of the Massachusetts HIstorical Society, they also made the MHS the nation's first institution of any description to publish in its field.

We are proud to say that 222 years later the MHS is still an active repository and publisher.  Our collection continues to grow and supports the work of thousands of researchers every year, who access our holdings through visiting our library, exploring our website, reading our publications (and the many publications that result from the work of our researchers), and corresponding with our staff members. 

Wishing a very happy birthday to the MHS -- and many, many more. 



**For more on the history of the MHS, see Louis Leonard Tucker's The Massachusetts Historical Society: A Bicentennial History, 1791 - 1991 (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1995).



permalink | Published: Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 8:00 AM


Feb 21, 2013, 1:25 pm

Robert Newsom

It was not James Freeman Clarke (not Clark) who attended, but the Rev. James Freeman, Clarke's step-grandfather, who brought Clarke up. Clarke was not born until 1810. James Freeman's dates are 1759-1835.

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