Archivist as Detective: Hello, Newman

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist  After a long hiatus, I’m happy to return to my sporadic series about manuscript mysteries! As I’ve written in previous posts, sometimes the work of an archivist is like that of a detective: we follow clues, narrow searches, evaluate sources, and make educated inferences that hopefully lead us to […]

Archivist as Detective: Who Is “A”?

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist When I cataloged the papers of John Appleton Knowles, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by some cryptic references in his 1902 diary. Archivists, of course, don’t have time to read all the material they process—in general, we skim—but these references stood out to me because of their frequency […]

Archivist as Detective: One of These Account Books Is Not Like the Others

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist Last year, the MHS acquired a small collection of account books attributed to John Henry Clifford of New Bedford, Mass. Clifford was a lawyer who served in the Massachusetts legislature and as attorney general and governor of Massachusetts. This acquisition supplemented a large collection of Clifford’s papers that we already […]

Archivist as Detective: The Case of C.S.

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist When the MHS acquired a small collection of four sermons by Abijah Cross of West Haverhill, Mass., I was struck by one in particular. It’s a funeral sermon from 1832, and written across the top is the note: “By the dying request of C.S. a young female member of the […]

Archivist as Detective: Finding “Nannie”

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator The MHS recently acquired a fascinating letter, dated 10 August 1849 from Mecklenburg County, Virginia. It was written by “Nannie,” a young white woman from New England, to her brother back home. Over four large, densely packed, cross-written pages, she discussed a variety of subjects, including chattel slavery […]

Archivist as Detective: At Sea on the Paulina

by Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator As a processing archivist here at the MHS, I enjoy the opportunity to play detective, to research a newly acquired but unattributed manuscript and try to identify its author. I’ve described some of these “investigations” in previous blog posts: Benjamin Smith, Louisa Appleton, and one of my […]

Archivist as Detective: Francis Parkman’s Spurs

By Susan Martin, Collections Services The MHS recently acquired this letter by Mary Ware Hall about spurs belonging to famed historian Francis Parkman, possibly worn during his expedition on the Oregon Trail in 1846. To catalog the letter, I had to identify its writer, recipient, date, and subject. But not only is the letter undated, it […]

Archivist as Detective, Part II: The Mysterious Woman in John Albee’s Life

By Susan Martin, Collections Services I hadn’t expected to have the opportunity to indulge in another “investigation” so soon after my last one, but I caught a lucky break. Just a few weeks ago, the MHS acquired a diary of John Albee (1833-1915) that contained an intriguing mystery—the identity of the young woman with whom […]

Archivist as Detective

By Susan Martin, Collections Services When cataloging manuscript collections here at the MHS, I sometimes get the opportunity to play detective. The library recently acquired an anonymous 19th-century diary, and I was tasked with (hopefully) identifying its author. Since the diary came to us as an individual item rather than as part of a collection […]