COLLECTION GUIDES

1829-1977

Guide to the Collection

Restrictions on Access

The bulk of the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society records is stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at library@masshist.org or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.


Collection Summary

Abstract

This collection consists of the records of the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, 1829-1977, a charitable society that operated Seamen's Bethel, a church for sailors, and Mariner's House, a sailor's boardinghouse. The records of the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, 1832-1977, include annual reports, minutes, committee records, accounts, and rent records. Seamen's Bethel records, 1829-1879, include church records, minutes, membership records, and vital records including marriage, birth and death records. Mariner's House records, 1852-1973, include registration records, a baggage check, cashbooks, comparative cash statements, a credit ledger, a floor plan and miscellaneous volumes.

Historical Sketch

The Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society is an organization devoted to charitable activities that benefit sailors and their families, including the operation of Mariner's House, a sailor's boarding house, at 11 North Square, Boston.

Mariner's House originated from the work of Methodist minister Edward Thompson Taylor (1793-1871), known simply as Father Taylor. A former sailor himself, Father Taylor became the first minister of Seamen's Bethel, founded in 1829 by the Port Society of the City of Boston and its Vicinity (the Boston Port Society). The Seamen's Bethel ministered to the many seamen who were prey to the temptations and dangers of the nineteenth century Boston waterfront. Father Taylor's unique sermons, delivered in the language and imagery of a sailor, garnered him a widespread reputation and the Seamen's Bethel a sizeable attendance.

The Seamen's Aid Society, organized in 1833 as an auxiliary by women associated with the Boston Port Society, complemented their efforts by undertaking the task of assisting wives and daughters of sailors who were at sea. After sewing garments to be donated proved an inefficient form of relief, the Society undertook the operation of an outfitters shop in order to employ wives and daughters of sailors so that they could earn a livable income.

In response to growing concern over the moral and criminal effects of the boardinghouses populated by sailors in port, Father Taylor and the Boston Port Society, with the support of the Seamen's Aid Society, opened Mariner's House in a building on Ann St. in May 1837. Mariner's House provided affordable rooms on a daily or weekly basis, meals, a library, and daily morning and evening prayers. Father Taylor was the primary person responsible for the operation of Mariner's House during its initial years.

After its first edifice was condemned by the city in 1845, Mariner's House sought a new location. Temporarily re-locating in a small, unsuitable building, the Boston Port Society acquired two adjoining lots in North Square, on which the present Mariner's House was built. The structure was dedicated on March 24, 1847.

In 1867, the Boston Port Society and the Seamen's Aid Society merged to form the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society. With attendance declining after the retirement of Father Taylor and the rise of the Catholic population of the neighborhood, the Seamen's Bethel was sold in 1884.

Source

Leehey, Patrick M. A History of the Mariner's House. Boston: Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, 1995.

Collection Description

Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society records consist of 69 volumes and other records in 17 record cartons, as well as 3 reels of microfilm, spanning the years 1829 to 1977. The collection is divided into three series: Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, Seamen's Bethel, and Mariner's House.

The first series, Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society records, contains annual reports, minutes, committee records, accounts and rent records. Annual reports include those for the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society as well as its two predecessors, the Boston Port Society and the Seamen's Aid Society. The primary activity documented by the records is the management of Mariner's House and Seamen's Bethel.

The second series, Seamen's Bethel records, contains minutes, membership records, birth and death records, and marriage records for the church of Father Taylor and his successors. Of particular interest are marriage records, some of which provide personal and demographic information on sailors in Boston, including country of origin and race.

The third series, Mariner's House records, contains registration records, a baggage check, cashbooks, comparative cash statements, a credit ledger, a floor plan, and miscellaneous volumes. Personal and demographic information on sailors in Boston can be found in registration records, the baggage check, most cashbooks, and the credit ledger.

Acquisition Information

The Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society deposited their records with MHS, April 2001.

Treatment

Eight volumes of Mariner's House records were treated for mildew damage and microfilmed at the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Treatment included cleaning, deacidification, repair, and removal of text blocks from their bindings. The eight volumes are on three reels of microfilm, P-717. The original volumes are stored in conservation phase boxes with the remainder of the Mariner's House records, however researchers should use the microfilm.

Restrictions on Access

The bulk of the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society records is stored offsite and must be requested at least one business day in advance. Contact the Library at library@masshist.org or (617) 536-1608 to request materials. Please discuss your request with the reading room staff before requesting cartons by barcode.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, 1832-1977

A. Annual Reports, 1832-1940

Two record cartons, arranged chronologically by organization, contain annual reports for the Boston Port Society, the Seamen's Aid Society, and the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, formed in 1867 when the two groups merged. Annual reports for the Boston Port Society include the following years: 1832, 1836, 1844, 1849, 1851, 1853, and 1858. Seamen's Aid Society annual reports include the following years: 1836, 1838, 1843-1851, 1853, 1855, 1857, 1859, 1861, 1863, 1864, and 1866. Annual reports for the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society include 1870-1875, 1878-1889, 1892-1904, 1906, 1908-1915, 1917, 1919-1921, 1924-1940. The series also includes the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' "Act of Incorporation and By-Laws, Managers of the Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society," 1935.

Annual reports include yearly reviews, treasurer's reports, lists of officers, members, and donors, acts of incorporation and by-laws, historical sketches of Mariner's House, biographies of Father Taylor, and lists of lectures, musical programs, and evening entertainments.

NOTE: Although the collection is stored offsite, the MHS also holds duplicate copies of some years of the Annual Reports in the serials collection, which is stored onsite.

Carton 1SH 188P 1
Boston Port Society, 1832-1858 (with gaps)
Carton 1SH 188P 1
Seamen's Aid Society, 1836-1866 (with gaps)
Carton 1SH 188P 1
Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, 1870-1909 (with gaps)
Carton 2SH 12TF 6
Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society, 1910-1940 (with gaps)

B. Minutes, 1832-1940

Five volumes of minutes contain records for annual meetings of the Boston Port and Seamen's Society and monthly meetings of the Board of Managers (or House Committee). Two volumes also include a few pieces of board correspondence. Annual meetings recorded attendance, approved treasurer's statements, and elected officers. Monthly meetings of the Board of Managers oversaw the operation of Mariner's House, took the report of the Committee for the Month, and authorized expenditures.

Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 1
Minutes, 1832-1867
Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 2
Minutes, 1871-1926

(Includes copies of Act of Incorporation and by-laws)

Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 3
Minutes and letterbook, 1880-1898
Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 4
Minutes and letterbook, 1899-1919
Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 5
Minutes, 1919-1930

C. Committee Records, 1892-1940

The Committee for the Month (or Visiting Committee) consisted of two people selected on a monthly basis to visit and inspect Mariner's House several times a month, approve its accounts at the end of the month, and report on the condition of the house. Committee for the Month records include visit reports, tallies of monthly lodgers and boarders, and monthly account statements. Visit reports mention the general state of Mariner's House, cleaning projects, purchases of new supplies, and other notable activities. See also Mariner's House comparative cash statements for additional inspection visit reports.

Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 6
Committee for the Month, records, 1892-1902
Carton 4SH 185T 2Vol. 7
Committee for the Month, records, 1903-1916
Carton 5SH 184Z 7Vol. 8
Committee for the Month, records, 1928-1940

D. Accounts, 1882-1947

Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society accounts include two volumes of treasurer's accounts and one volume of investment accounts. Treasurer's accounts include detailed listings of the Society's income, including interest and legacies, and expenditures, including salaries, expenses, and investments. Treasurer's accounts also include lists of shares held by Boston Port and Seamen's Society. The volume of investment accounts includes detailed listings of the Society's investments in many companies as well as accounts for income, the general fund, and legacies. There is an index in the investment accounts volume.

Carton 5SH 184Z 7Vol. 9
Treasurer's Accounts, 1882-1903
Carton 5SH 184Z 7Vol. 10
Treasurer's Accounts, 1904-1923
Carton 5SH 184Z 7Vol. 11
Investment Accounts, ca. 1904-1947

(Includes an index)

E. Rent, 1937-1977

One volume records rent collected from tenants in Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society property at 319-323 Hanover St. The entries are organized by tenant, year, and month. The property is located directly behind Mariner's House and served as housing for Mariner's House employees, overflow space for Mariner's House, and affordable housing for retired sailors.

Carton 5aSH 1851 HVol. 12

II. Seamen's Bethel, 1829-1879

Founded in 1829 by a group of Methodists concerned about the moral welfare of sailors on the Boston waterfront, Seamen's Bethel ministered to sailors under the direction of the Port Society of Boston, Father Taylor, and other ministers. Three volumes of church records include member lists, articles of incorporation, minutes, birth and death records, and marriage records. Some marriage records provide personal and demographic information on sailors in Boston, including country of origin and race.

Carton 5aSH 1851 HVol. 13
Minutes and membership records, 1839-1876
Carton 5aSH 1851 HVol. 14
Marriage records, 1829-1867
Carton 6SH 15P6 $Vol. 15
Marriage records, 1875-1879

III. Mariner's House, 1852-1973

A. Registration, 1852-1965

Registration records for Mariner's House include nine bound registers and registration cards. The registers are organized by date and record the name of each lodger, room, address, the name of the ship on which they arrived, departure date, destination, and the name of the ship on which they will depart, as well as charges, debts, and credits. Registration cards, kept from ca. 1959-1965, are organized alphabetically and record name, address, room number, ship names, telephone numbers, and arrival and departure dates.

Due to mildew, three volumes of registration records have been microfilmed. Readers should use microfilm, P-717, reels 1-2. See box list for a list of the items on microfilm.

Vol. 16 (XT)
Register, 1852-1856
Vol. 17 (XT)
Register, 1856-1861
Vol. 18 (XT)
Register, 1861-1868
Vol. 19 (XT)
Register, 1868-1876

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 1.

Vol. 20 (XT)
Register, 1877-1885

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 1.

Carton 9SH 15NU IVol. 21
Register, 1885-1894
Carton 9SH 15NU IVol. 22
Register, 1894-1903
Carton 9SH 15NU IVol. 23
Register, 1903-1911

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 2.

Carton 9SH 15NU IVol. 24
Register, 1911-1920
Carton 3SH 15P3 -
Registration cards, ca. 1959-1965, A-L

(Formerly Box 1)

Carton 3SH 15P3 -
Registration cards, ca. 1959-1965, M-Z

(Formerly Box 2, Folders 1-8)

B. Baggage Check, 1927-1954

(Formerly Box 2, Folders 9-13)

Baggage check records include the following information for the years 1927-1953: check number, name and bag type, date checked, and date taken out. Types of baggage checked include suitcases, sea bags, trunks, and boxes. Occasional notes record the ship of the sailor. Some later baggage records include signatures of sailors.

Due to mildew, this volume has been disbound, encapsulated, and microfilmed. Researchers should use microfilm, P-717, reel 3. See box list for a list of the items on microfilm. Blank pages of the text block were discarded.

Carton 3SH 15P3 -

C. Cashbooks, 1881-1969

Forty Mariner's House cashbooks record income from board, lodging, meals, and sundries, and expenditures for refunded board, help wages, provisions, house supplies, water, electric, laundry, telephone, postage, and sundries. Some cashbooks also include safe keeping accounts. Most cashbooks include names of lodgers and of businesses with which Mariner's House had accounts.

Due to mildew, four cashbooks have been microfilmed. Researchers should use microfilm, P-717, reels 2-3. See box list for a list of the items on microfilm.

Carton 10SH 15NV JVol. 25
Cashbook, 1881-1884

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 10SH 15NV JVol. 26
Cashbook, 1884-1889

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 10SH 15NV JVol. 27
Cashbook, 1889-1904

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 10SH 15NV JVol. 28
Cashbook, 1890-1893

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 10SH 15NV JVol. 29
Cashbook, 1894-1898

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 11SH 15NW KVol. 30
Cashbook, 1904-1908

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 3.

Carton 11SH 15NW KVol. 31
Cashbook, 1908-1911

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 6SH 15P6 $Vol. 32
Cashbook, 1919-1923

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 11SH 15NW KVol. 33
Cashbook, 1920-1923

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 6SH 15P6 $Vol. 34
Cashbook, 1923-1926

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 11SH 15NW KVol. 35
Cashbook, 1923-1928
Carton 11SH 15NW KVol. 36
Cashbook, 1924-1927

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 3.

Carton 6SH 15P6 $Vol. 37
Cashbook, 1926-1927

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 6SH 15P6 $Vol. 38
Cashbook, 1927-1928

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 12SH 15NX LVol. 39
Cashbook, 1928-1930
Carton 6SH 15P6 $Vol. 40
Cashbook, 1929-1932

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 2.

Carton 12SH 15NX LVol. 41
Cashbook, 1930-1932
Carton 12SH 15NX LVol. 42
Cashbook, 1932-1936

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Note: Use microfilm, P-717, Reel 3.

Carton 12SH 15NX LVol. 43
Cashbook, 1933-1935
Carton 12SH 15NX LVol. 44
Cashbook, 1935-1937
Carton 13SH 15NY MVol. 45
Cashbook, 1938-1939

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 13SH 15NY MVol. 46
Cashbook, 1939-1941
Carton 13SH 15NY MVol. 47
Cashbook, 1941-1942

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 13SH 15NY MVol. 48
Cashbook, 1942-1943

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 13SH 15NY MVol. 49
Cashbook, 1943-1944

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 14SH 15NZ NVol. 50
Cashbook, 1945-1946

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 14SH 15NZ NVol. 51
Cashbook, 1946-1947

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 14SH 15NZ NVol. 52
Cashbook, 1947-1949

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 14SH 15NZ NVol. 53
Cashbook, 1949-1950

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 14SH 15NZ NVol. 54
Cashbook, 1950-1952

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 15SH 15P1 YVol. 55
Cashbook, 1952-1953

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 15SH 15P1 YVol. 56
Cashbook, 1953-1954

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 15SH 15P1 YVol. 57
Cashbook, 1954-1956

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 15SH 15P1 YVol. 58
Cashbook, 1956-1958

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 15SH 15P1 YVol. 59
Cashbook, 1958-1959

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 16SH 15P2 ZVol. 60
Cashbook, 1959-1961

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 16SH 15P2 ZVol. 61
Cashbook, 1961-1962

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 16SH 15P2 ZVol. 62
Cashbook, 1962-1964

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 16SH 15P2 ZVol. 63
Cashbook, 1964-1967

(Includes names of some lodgers)

Carton 16SH 15P2 ZVol. 64
Cashbook, 1967-1969

(Includes names of some lodgers)

D. Comparative Cash Statements, 1941-1973

Comparative cash statements for Mariner's House list monthly figures for two years (for example, listing both January 1967 and January 1966). The statements compare figures for house receipts, house payments, and lodgings and meals furnished. Safe Keeping Funds are also included in the statements. Two volumes also include inspection visit reports. See also Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society committee records for additional visit reports.

Carton 7SH 15P7 /Vol. 65
Comparative cash statements, 1941-1952
Carton 7SH 15P7 /Vol. 66
Comparative cash statements, and inspection records, 1951-1962
Carton 7SH 15P7 /Vol. 67
Comparative cash statements, and inspection records, 1962-1973
Carton 3SH 15P3 -
Comparative cash statements, 1966-1972

(Formerly Box 2, Folders 14-15)

E. Credit, 1913-1927

One [Mariner's House] credit book is a chronological list of persons to whom cash was lent on credit. The records include the amount borrowed and sums repaid, and occasionally record the date when the credit was settled.

Carton 16SH 15P2 ZVol. 68

F. Floor Plan, 1937

This item is stored in Manuscripts Large, January 1937

The series consists of one floor plan of the fourth floor of Mariner's House, dated January 1937, by architect G.K. Downer.

G. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1924-1953

One bound workbook contains steering and navigational calculations. One spiral bound notebook records notes on the weather as well as maintenance activities and meetings at Mariner's House.

Carton 7SH 15P7 /Vol. 69
Workbook, 1924
Carton 3SH 15P3 -
Notebook, 1951-1953

(Formerly Box 2, Folder 16)

(Includes notes on weather and Mariner's House activities)

Preferred Citation

Boston Port and Seamen's Aid Society records, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Taylor, Edward Thompson, 1793-1871.

Organizations:

Mariner's House (Boston, Mass.).
Port Society of the City of Boston and Its Vicinity.
Seamen's Aid Society (Boston, Mass.).
Seamen's Bethel (Boston, Mass.).

Subjects:

Account books--1881-1973.
Boardinghouses--Massachusetts--Boston.
Charities--Massachusetts--Boston.
Church charities--Massachusetts--Boston.
Sailors--Massachusetts--Boston.
Boston (Mass.)--Church history.
Boston (Mass.)--Statistics, Vital.