Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the personal, business and research papers of historian Richard Frothingham related primarily to Charlestown, Mass., 1634-1890.

Biographical Sketch

Born in 1812 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, Richard Frothingham was the son of Richard Frothingham and Mary Thompson. In 1833 he married Vrylena Blanchard and later had six children. He worked for the Middlesex Canal Company, eventually rising to the position of treasurer, from 1834 until 1860. After writing columns for the Boston Post for many years, in 1852 he became one of its proprietors and managing editor and served as its principal contributor until 1865.

Frothingham led an active and busy public life and long served governmental bodies and many local charitable institutions. These included libraries, literary groups, educational institutions and historical organizations including the Massachusetts Historical Society (of which he was treasurer between 1847 and 1877), Tufts College, and the Universalist church. As a Democratic politician, he was a representative to the state legislature, delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention (1853), mayor of Charlestown (1851-53), and delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1852 and 1876. Frothingham ran unsuccessfully for Congress several times. In addition, he was a frequent speaker and honored guest at civic and military events.

Despite his significant interest in and contributions to local politics, he was known primarily as a historian. Working for many years on a History of Charlestown, which was never published, he published several other historical studies of local interest including Life and Times of Joseph Warren (1865) and History of the Siege of Boston (1849), which also included material pertaining to the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Bunker Hill Monument. Although he concentrated his research and writing on local history, Frothingham's most ambitious work was The Rise of the Republic of the United States (1872). He died in 1880.


For further biographical information, refer to Charles Deane, "Memoir of the Hon. Richard Frothingham, L.L.D.," Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings Series II, Vol. I, p. 381-393.

Collection Description

The Richard Frothingham Charlestown Papers consist of three document boxes and two cased volumes. The collection is divided into two series: Personal and Family Papers, 1777-1890 and Historical Papers and Research Notes 1634-1881. The Personal and Family Papers series, 1777-1890, consist of personal papers of Richard Frothingham, including his diary, 1848-1852, papers related to his political and civic activities including clippings and letters related to the Charlestown Lyceum, and historical writings. This series also includes bills, receipts, and letters associated with the business activities of various members of the Frothingham family.

The Historical Papers and Research Notes series, 1634-1881, consist primarily of original documents such as deeds, almanacs, and letters collected by Frothingham as research material for his books, writings, and speeches on American history; and includes his research notes.

Like the two other Richard Frothingham collections at Massachusetts Historical Society, this one consists of a range of personal papers and research notes for his various historical projects. However, this collection includes no material relating to Frothingham's work for the Middlesex Canal Company. Note that many of the early papers are very fragile.

The Richard Frothingham Charlestown Papers contain two disbound scrapbooks. The order of the first scrapbook has been retained and can be found within the series: Personal and Family Papers. The second scrapbook contained no discernable order and has been arranged with the other loose material throughout the collection.

Acquisition Information

On deposit from the Charlestown Preservation Society, 1985.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Personal and Family Papers, 1777-1890

This series has been divided into five subseries: Frothingham family papers, diary, business and professional papers, poetry and lectures, and obituaries and honors.

A. Frothingham Family Papers, 1777-1890

Arranged chronologically.

This series consists of bills, receipts, and letters associated with the business activities of various members of the Frothingham family. Included are a copy of the 1806 will of Jabez Frothingham and a stereo photograph of the Frothingham family house in Charlestown.

Box 1Folder 1

B. Richard Frothingham Diary, 1848-1852

Richard Frothingham's diary, 1848-1852, documents his involvement with various organizations (including material relating to the Charlestown Lyceum and the School Committee) and his political activity, covering part of the period during which he was mayor of Charlestown.

Vol. 1

C. Business and Professional Papers

1. Political and Civic Papers, 1829-1880

Arranged chronologically.

The disbound scrapbook is comprised mostly of clippings of various contemporary newspaper articles relating to Frothingham's political and civic activities between 1839 and 1880. Particularly noteworthy is an 1838 letter from John Quincy Adams declining Frothingham's invitation to speak before the Charlestown Lyceum. Business papers include letters, certificates, and other documents pertaining to his involvement with the Boston Post and other professional endeavors.

Box 1Folder 2-15
Scrapbook, 1829-1880(disbound)
Box 1Folder 16
Loose pages removed from scrapbook
Box 2Folder 1
Political and civic speeches, 1851-1874
Box 2Folder 2
Political and civic activities, 1837-1878
Box 2Folder 3
Charlestown Lyceum, 1836-1838
Box 2Folder 4
School Committee, 1833-1876

2. Business Records, 1832-1873

Arranged chronologically.

In addition to an 1836 cash book, this series consists of personal financial materials including various bills and receipts.

Box 2Folder 5
Correspondence, 1843-1873
Box 2Folder 6
Business records, 1833-1873
Box 2Folder 7
Personal financial records, 1832-1837

D. Poetry and Lectures, 1842

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains poems copied from various periodicals of the day and newspaper clippings describing Dr. Walker's twelve lectures on Natural Religion (1842).

Box 2Folder 8
Poetry, n.d.
Box 2Folder 9
Dr. Walker's lectures, 1842

E. Obituaries and Honors, 1880-1883

Arranged chronologically.

Here are obituaries about Frothingham, honors awarded to him, and notes of condolence from the Universalist church, Massachusetts Historical Society and other organizations and individuals to family members upon his death.

Box 2Folder 10

II. Historical Papers and Research Notes, 1634-1881

This series consists of original documents and Frothingham's notes pertaining to his historical research. Among the original documents are a 1634 letter from Edward Hull in London to his brother John Hull in Boston, a list of deeds at the Middlesex County Registry pertaining to Charlestown mills, the 1743 appointment of Samuel Headley to Lieutenant in the Charlestown Militia, a 1758 almanac, the 1778 petition of John Kettell to the General Court for pay, a ticket to the 1797 Washington Ball. Many of the research notes clearly correspond to some of Frothingham's published books. Wherever known, Frothingham's title has been retained. There is also a copy of his book Rise of the Republic of the United States with his interleaved research notes.

Box 3Folder 1
Original documents, 1634-1734
Box 3Folder 2
Original documents, 1735-1872
Box 3Folder 3
Rise of the Republic of the United States, 1643-1790
Vol. 2
Rise of the Republic of the United States(interleaved copy)
Box 3Folder 4
Life and Times of Joseph Warren, 1741-1775
Box 3Folder 5-7
History of the Siege of Boston, 1775-1776
Box 3Folder 8-12
General notes
Box 3Folder 13
1770 diary (manuscript copy)
Box 3Folder 14-15
Notes, 1775
Box 3Folder 16
Notes relating to American history, 1764-1781
Box 3Folder 17
Notes, 1840s

Preferred Citation

Richard Frothingham Charlestown papers, 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.


Frothingham family.


Charlestown Lyceum (Charlestown, Boston, Mass.).
Charlestown (Mass.)--Officials and employees.


Real property--Massachusetts--Middlesex County.
Charlestown (Boston, Mass.)--History.


The Rise of the Republic of the United States