Just Launched! Nine Fully Digitized Civil War Collections
By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services
Reading handwritten letters and documents by men who experienced Civil War battles and military life can be a riveting experience. Nine collections of Civil War manuscripts are available at the Massachusetts Historical Society's website as complete online collections. You are invited to examine digital facsimiles of over 9,000 pages including letters from a surgeon (Charles Briggs) serving in the 54th Regiment, letters from a 16-year-old drummer (Edward Peirce, who later served as a private) describing routine life within a military unit, and warm and informative letters from a Captain (Richard Cary) in the 2nd Regiment to his wife.
The following collections are available on our website:
Charles E. Briggs letters
This collection primarily contains letters by Dr. Charles E. Briggs, assistant surgeon with the 24th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 1862-1863, and surgeon with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, 1863-1865.
Richard Cary letters
Captain Richard Cary served in the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Unfortunately he was shot during the battle at Cedar Mountain in Virginia and died a short time later. This collection includes the letters he sent to his wife, as well as condolence letters she received after her husband’s death.
Norwood Penrose Hallowell papers
Hallowell began his service in the Civil War in the 20th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and then later served as lieutenant colonel of the 55th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the second Black regiment in the state. This collection contains letters and a large number of clippings assembled in scrapbooks. These materials relate to a wide variety of Hallowell’s activities—from his time as a student at Harvard College, through his years serving in the Civil War, to his activities as a Boston businessman.
Frederick Newman Knapp papers
Knapp was a clergyman and teacher from Plymouth, Massachusetts. He wasn’t a soldier, but he held the position of superintendent of the Special Relief Department, U.S. Sanitary Commission. The focus of this commission was to assist sick and wounded Union soldiers. This collection includes Knapp’s personal and professional letters as well as a manuscript of a history of the Sanitary Commission.
Francis William Loring papers
This collection contains letters Loring wrote to his mother and sister while he served in a variety of military units. Loring was a sergeant major in the 24th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; first lieutenant and adjutant in the 38th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; and aide-de-camp for Gen. William H. Emory of the 19th Corps.
Edmund Miles papers
Miles was a lieutenant in the 41st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, later renamed the 3rd Regiment of Cavalry Massachusetts Volunteers. This collection includes letters Miles sent to his family describing his activities in the Civil War, and letters he received from his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Charles F. Morse papers
This collection contains letters (some with drawings) written by Lieutenant Colonel Morse of the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, who saw action at Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Resaca, and the Siege of Atlanta in 1864. The collection also includes some correspondence relating to his post-war activities in the railroad business.
Edward Burgess Peirce letters
Peirce was a drummer and a private in Company F. of the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery, from July 1863 to September 1865. This collection includes letters he wrote to his parents in Lowell in which he described many aspects of day-to-day activities as an enlisted soldier including accounts of camp life and troop movements.
Stephen Minot Weld papers
This collection contains letters written by Weld who was promoted several times during the four years he served in the Union Army. Weld was a second lieutenant and then captain in the 18th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1863, and later was lieutenant colonel and then colonel in the 56th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1864-1865.
Please explore and read these collections from any location where you have a web browser and access to the Internet!
Funding for the digitization of the nine Civil War manuscript collections that enabled both the creation of preservation microfilm and the online version of the collections was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
| Published: Thursday, 2 October, 2014, 1:00 AM
Perry-Clarke Collection Guide Online
The guide to the Perry-Clarke collection is now online! Originally acquired by the MHS back in 1968, this collection has been available for research since then, but the old unwieldy paper guide needed a major overhaul. We hope this streamlined, fully searchable online guide will bring even more researchers to these wide-ranging and important materials.
Primarily the papers of Unitarian minister, transcendentalist, author, and reformer James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) and his family, the collection consists of 64 boxes of correspondence, sermons, lectures, journals, notebooks, and other papers and volumes. Included are papers of Clarke's wife Anna (Huidekoper) Clarke and members of the Huidekoper family, who were involved in the establishment of Meadville Theological School in Meadville, Pennsylvania, as well as papers of James and Anna's children, Lilian, Eliot, and Cora. Much of the collection documents the family's interest in social reform movements.
The Perry-Clarke collection may be best known to our researchers as the home of the 1844 journal and commonplace-book of Margaret Fuller, a close friend of the family. But I found many other items equally interesting. For example, one small manuscript diary entitled “Notes of a Nile voyage by S. A. Clarke, 1873.” S. A. Clarke was James's older sister Sarah Anne, better known, it turns out, by the name she adopted later, Sarah Freeman Clarke (1808-1896). She was an accomplished artist, teacher, and philanthropist, and her Nile diary is that of a well-educated, well-traveled, late-Victorian American woman in an unfamiliar country.
Here's an excerpt from 22 Dec. 1873:
We left Alexandria at ten o’clock A.M. The way was of perpetual interest. The camels pleased us particularly, walking along the embankment. They walk with their long necks stretched out, and their heads well up. They are ugly, but most picturesque, and one never tires of watching their solemn stride. They carry wonderful burdens. Four or five large building stories bound together with ropes, on each side, and which must bruise them at every step, is a common burden. They are the most patient of laborers, and with their backs piled with burdens, and an Arab on the top of all they make a most sketchable mass.
And about two months later inside one of the temples at Karnak:
In the room next to that where is a portrait of Cleopatra, I unfold my easel to make a sketch of some Sphinx heads which lie there. The sun glares in at the door and the noise of the Arabs without is distracting. I close the door and the place is now lighted only from some holes in the roof. There is light enough for me, but if I move the dust rises in clouds. Is this the dust of the Ptolemaic or the Pharaonic dynasty? It is very choky. The flies are also tormenting. They are the direct descendants of the flies that Moses procured to plague Egypt. […] As I sit there working alone the spirit of the past comes over me with much power. I have never been so near the old Egyptians as at this moment. […] I get a Sepia sketch of this suggestive corner. There is no time for more. The door opens, the Arabs scream, my friends come to look me up and we must go on. But I have added something important to my gallery of memories, and also to my portfolio of sketches.
Sarah Freeman Clarke sailed the Nile in a dahabeah like this one (from the Perry-Clarke collection)
To learn more about James Freeman Clarke, Margaret Fuller, and the Clarke and Huidekoper families, see ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the MHS.
| Published: Thursday, 3 April, 2014, 11:26 AM
Harbottle Dorr Launched
By Peter Steinberg, Collection Services
The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) holds an important collection of Revolutionary-era newspapers assembled, annotated, and indexed by a Bostonian shopkeeper named Harbottle Dorr, Jr. The Society has just launched a digital presentation of this collection. Dorr's index terms and annotations offer a fascinating glimpse into his perspective and reactions to events, issues, and people discussed in newspapers of his time.
On Monday, 27 August 2012, I posted on The Idiosyncratic Index Subjects of Harbottle Dorr, Jr. In that blog post, I highlighted some of the more quirky index entries from Volumes 1 and 2 of the Harbottle Dorr, Jr. Annotated Newspapers collection, and also mentioned that a second posting would be forthcoming. Were you holding your breath? The wait is over! You can exhale now.
Cold Water, the Pernicious effects of drinking too much in hot weather &c. 212
Dogs Mad, Symptoms of 11
Drowned Persons Recover’d 638
Earth opening & swallowing Person's at Quebec 601
Mcdougal Capt. presented with venison (in Prison) 50
Rum Danger of drawing it by candlelight 192
Speaker of the House of Commons in Great Britain Sir John Cust died because the House would not let him go to ease the Calls of Nature; They Alter that Custom 85
Tea, Ladies of Boston sign not to drink any vid. Under Agreement 31.
Thunder Terrible, Broke on a Magazine & produced terrible Consequences. 418.
Auctioneer put up the Ministry for sale. 470.
America of what vast importance to Great Britain: the extent of it: will be the greatest Empire in the World: the King of Great Britain in time it's probable will fix his empire there, & great Britain become dependant on her, &c. 148.
Denmark Queen of, imprisoned (for attempting to poison the King.) with her paramour, &c. 52.
Deposition of John Mills, respecting a Tar Barrel put on the Beacon. 328.
Goal never intended as a place of Punishment. 24.
Giant at Hingham. 194.
Gun Powder Since found out, mens lives have been preserved, & c, & c, * 891.
Herculaneum City of in Naples, discovered, after being 1700 years buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. 77.
Hillsborough Lord, on his intended resignation: a miserable wretched Creature. 164
Lemmons, wine, &c: a great hardship, to oblige the Americans to enter them in England. 198.
Snow, will make Puddings in the Room of Eggs. 223.
The indexes are now all transcribed and encoded, and available on the new website (www.masshist.org/dorr). The MHS has worked hard to make it as easy to use as possible, and are confident you will find the images stunningly clear and, while Harbottle Dorr, Jr. did have very good handwriting, we hope that the transcriptions provided will be accurate and helpful.
Since I have your attention, perhaps you will allow a sidebar? We are not yet presenting on the website transcriptions of the annotations from the newspaper issues themselves, but in working with the newspapers and their digital surrogates, we noticed from time to time humorous marginal commentary. Here is one such annotation that Dorr made to a speech by "his Excellency Sir Francis Bernard," which was published in The Boston Evening-Post from 3 June 1765. It is in Volume 1, numbered by Dorr page 95: "This Speech the House did not Answer, perhaps they did not understand it. Who could?"
Not thinking myself better than Dorr, I have endeavored to read and understand Bernard's Speech. Bernard begins by admitting, "I have no Orders from his Majesty to communicate to you; nor any thing to offer myself but what relates to your internal Policy: I shall therefore take this Opportunity to point out such domestic Business as more immediately deserves your attention." I take this that the gentlemen of the council were hijacked – as you are right now by me – by Bernard's ego! The rest of the speech is on Bernard's desire to see an increased production and export of "Pot-Ash, Hemp and the carrying Lumber to the British Markets."
Harbottle adds another personal opinion on two of Bernard statements in this same speech:
"The general Settlement of the American Provinces, which has been long ago proposed, and now probably will be prosecuted to its utmost Completion, must necessarily produce some Regulations, which, from their Novelty only, will appear disagreeable"
"In an Empire, extended and diversified as that of Great-Britain, there must be a supreme Legislature, to which all other Powers must be subordinate."
To these Dorr writes, "Now the Wolf shews himself notwithstanding his Sheeps Cloathing."
| Published: Wednesday, 1 May, 2013, 1:00 AM
A Massive Machine for a Massive Job: Digitizing 55,000 Pages of China Trade Material
By Brenda Lawson, Collection Services
The Library Collections Services department is always a busy place, but this fall is an especially active time on the third floor. As the behind-the-scenes arm of the library, our department is responsible for the acquisition, cataloging, processing, preservation, conservation, and digitization of our collections, but in addition to our regular ongoing digitization projects, we are playing host to a large-scale scanning project for the next four to five months. The MHS has contracted with Adam Matthew Digital, Ltd., a British publisher of digital collections sold to libraries, to supply somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 manuscript pages to a forthcoming multi-archive digital publication, China, America and the Pacific: Trade and Cultural Exchange. Adam Matthew has contracted, in turn, with Luna Imaging in Los Angeles to do the scanning. In late August, Luna shipped all of the equipment shown here and sent a representative to install and test it and train a scanning technician. The technician, shown here, is now hard at work scanning correspondence, account books, ships’ logs, and letterbooks from multiple collections, including the extensive Forbes Family Papers. Other highlights of the final product, scheduled for release in late 2013, will include the manuscript of Richard Henry Dana’s seminal work, Two Years Before the Mast, and Robert Haswell’s log of the Columbia-Rediviva, the first vessel to circumnavigate the globe
| Published: Friday, 21 September, 2012, 8:00 AM
Glimpses of Harbottle Dorr, Jr.
By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services
The Massachusetts Historical Society has a collection of 796 newspapers dating from 1765-1776, collected, annotated, and indexed by a Boston man named Harbottle Dorr, Jr. This collection is comprised of 4 volumes containing 3,674 pages. Of that total number of pages, 3,314 are newspapers; 133 are handwritten index pages; and 227 are pamphlets and some introductory pages. Last summer when the MHS purchased volume 4, the collection was finally reunited! Volumes 2 and 3 had been donated to MHS in 1798 and in 1915, the MHS purchased volume 1. Please see the press release describing the exciting acquisition of volume 4 in 2011.
Harbottle Dorr, Jr. (1730-1794) was a shopkeeper, a member of the Sons of Liberty, and served as a Boston selectman for many years (but not all the years) between 1777 and 1791. Beginning in 1765, Dorr spent a dozen years purchasing newspapers, writing comments in margins (as well as inserting reference marks in articles), and assembling indexes. Bernard Bailyn, who wrote the essential essay about the annotated newspapers and their annotator, stated, "Dorr was an ordinary active participant in the Revolution. That is why what he began in 1765 and completed some twelve years later is so extraordinarily revealing."**
The annotated newspapers convey Dorr’s words and perspective on what he witnessed as a Boston citizen during the years leading up to the American Revolution. The MHS is currently digitizing the annotated newspapers and this project will be completed in early 2013. As we work on the digital project, we’d like to share a few glimpses of Harbottle Dorr, Jr. living and working in Boston.
On 14 August 1769, Harbottle Dorr, Jr. attended a dinner of the Sons of Liberty at Liberty Tree Tavern in Dorchester. A handwritten list by William Palfrey (who eventually became paymaster of the Continental Army during the Revolution), states the names of the 300 men who attended the event. Harbottle’s name appears below Ebenezer Dorr, who was probably Harbottle’s younger brother.
Harbottle’s handwritten introduction to his third assembled volume of newspapers indicates that he worked on his annotation project at his store. Dorr acknowledges that some of his marginalia includes misspelled words “which I hope whoever peruses will excuse, especially as they were wrote at my Shop amidst my business, when I had not leisure to be exact.”
A newspaper advertisement appearing in the 15 January 1770 issue of the Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal (on page 3) indicates that Dorr sold many kinds of nails and different types of steel in his shop located on Union Street. His inventory included jobents (nails used to fasten hinges and/or other thin iron plates to doors and window frames), deck nails (nails used to fasten planks to the decks of ships), German steel, and English steel. These details help us formulate a picture of Harbottle Dorr--at the counter of his shop, surrounded by hardware, with a newspaper open in front of him, writing in the margins in between transactions with customers.
Dorr’s funeral was held on 7 June 1794. The Columbian Centinel from that day included the following notice (on page 3) but didn’t mention the precise date of Dorr’s death:
In this town, Harbottle Dorr, Esq. Æt. 64. A number of years one of the Selectmen of Boston, which he served with honor and integrity. His funeral will be from the house of Mr. Thomas Capen, in Cross-street this afternoon at 5 o’clock, which his relations and friends are requested to attend.
**Bernard Bailyn, "The Index and Commentaries of Harbottle Dorr" in Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), 85-103.
| Published: Thursday, 16 August, 2012, 8:00 AM