Guide to the Microfilm Edition

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Richard Frothingham of Charlestown, Mass. including research notes and original documents collected for his History of Charlestown, Massachusetts (Boston: 1845), as well as financial and other business records of the Middlesex Canal (of which Frothingham was treasurer) and related canals, including the Amoskeag, Blodget, Bow, Hooksett, and Union Canals.

Biographical Sketch

Richard Frothingham was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts on 31 January 1812, the son of Richard (b. 1781) and Mary Thompson Frothingham. He died in Charlestown on 29 January 1880. In 1834, Frothingham entered the office of the Middlesex Canal Company and remained there until the corporation closed in 1860. There, he worked his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming treasurer. He was a proprietor of the Boston Post and served as managing editor from 1852 to 1865.

Richard Frothingham was closely connected with Charlestown throughout his life. From 1840 to 1851, he was a representative to the Mass. General Court from Charlestown, and in 1853, he represented the town at the state Constitutional Convention. He was mayor of the city for three years, from 1851 to 1853. From 1838 to 1843, he was a trustee of the Charlestown Free Schools, much of the time serving as president of the board. He also served on the state board of health.

Frothingham was a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in 1852 and 1876. He was a trustee of Tufts College and was active in many organizations including the American Antiquarian Society, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He was treasurer of the Historical Society from 1847 to 1877.

Frothingham devoted his leisure time to the research and writing of history. His most important books are: The History of Charlestown, Massachusetts (1845-49); History of the Siege of Boston (1849); The Command in the Battle of Bunker Hill (1850); the Life and Times of Joseph Warren (1865); and The Rise of the Republic (1872).

Frothingham (also known as Jr. and/or the historian Frothingham) married Vrylena Blanchard in 1833. They had six children, but only four daughters and one son survived him, including Thomas Goddard Frothingham (1840-1903). Thomas Goddard Frothingham's son, also named Thomas Goddard Frothingham (1865-1937), was a captain in the U.S. Army during World War I.


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

For more information on the Middlesex Canal, see Mary Clarke Stetson, The Old Middlesex Canal, Melrose, Mass.: Hilltop Press, 1974.

For further information on the Yazoo fraud, see Farris Cadle, Georgia Land Surveying History and Law, Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Collection Description

The papers of Richard Frothingham of Charlestown, Mass. consist of research notes and original documents collected for his History of Charlestown, Massachusetts (Boston: 1845), including lists of individuals infected or inoculated for smallpox (1730); papers and lists of damages sustained after the Battle of Bunker Hill; and town government documents. Other Revolutionary-era materials include records of the Cambridge Committee of Correspondence (1776-79); records of the ship Intrepid in Boston (1802); and diaries kept during the Siege of Boston by Samuel Bixby (manuscript copy), a private in Learned's Regiment, in Roxbury, 4 May 1775 - 3 Jan. 1776, and by John Kettell, a private in Little's Regiment, in Cambridge and Roxbury, 17 May - 1 Oct. 1775. Additional correspondents include James Kettell and Richard Devens.

The bulk of the collection consists of financial and other business records of the Middlesex Canal (of which Frothingham was treasurer) and related canals, including the Amoskeag, Blodget, Bow, Hooksett, and Union Canals.

Other papers include wastebooks probably kept by Frothingham's grandfather Richard (1748-1819) as a coach maker in Charlestown, 1783-1800; a small section of records of the Georgia Company regarding land disputes in Georgia, 1795-1800; and an unidentified household expense book, 1783-95.

Processing Note

At one time, the Frothingham papers were bound and the pages numbered. Upon their arrival at the Massachusetts Historical Society, they were disbound and arranged in chronological order; the papers have now been arranged into the four series described below. As a result, the page numbers which appear in the upper right corner of the documents should be disregarded. In addition, many of the documents in this collection have been individually described in the MHS manuscript catalog.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Thomas G. Frothingham of Charlestown, June 1889 and March 1895.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Family papers, 1783-1834

The Family papers series, 1783-1834, consists of two personal letters, 1833-34, and wastebooks probably kept by Frothingham's grandfather, Richard Frothingham (1748-1819), 1783-1800. Richard Frothingham (1748-1819) was a coach maker in Charlestown and also served as an officer in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He married Mary Kettell in 1778 and their firstborn son, Richard (b. 1781), was also a coach maker by trade. The wastebooks contain charges for leather, seats, harnesses, spokes, springs, and chaise bodies. There is also an unidentified household expense book, 1783-95.

1. Richard Frothingham family letters, 1833-1834

Arranged chronologically.

Reel 1

2. [Richard Frothingham] Wastebooks, 1783-1800

Arranged chronologically.

Reel 1
15 December 1783 - 30 August 1787
Reel 1
1 September 1787 - 23 October 1790
Reel 1
28 October 1790 - 7 March 1791
Reel 1
14 March 1791 - 18 August 1792
Reel 1
23 August 1792 - 29 December 1794
Reel 1
3 January 1795 - 9 December 1795
Reel 1
2 January 1796 - 31 December 1796
Reel 1
14 January 1797 - 1 December 1800
Reel 1
Unidentified household expense book, 1783-1795

II. Historical papers and research notes collected by Frothingham, 1683-1865

Arranged chronologically.

The Historical papers series, 1683-1865, consists primarily of research notes and original documents collected by Frothingham for his History of Charlestown, Massachusetts (Boston: 1845). Among the original documents are lists of those infected or inoculated for smallpox, 1730; documents pertaining to the non-importation of tea, 1773; lists of prisoners taken, and accounts of losses sustained, during the Battle of Bunker Hill, and a 1776 account of losses sustained when Charlestown was burned by the British during the battle. Charlestown town documents include town meeting minutes, votes, petitions, taxes, and letters to selectmen.

This series also contains Revolutionary-era materials apart from Charlestown, including records of the Cambridge Committee of Correspondence, 1776-79; three manuscript notebooks (a list of officers, a list of men on board, and an account of provisions) concerning the ship Intrepid in Boston, 1782; and two diaries kept by American soldiers during the Siege of Boston. There is a copy of part of the diary kept by Samuel Bixby (printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 14, 1875-76, p. 285-298), a private from Sutton in Learned's Regiment, in Roxbury from 4 May 1775 - 3 Jan. 1776. John Kettell (probably a relation of Frothingham's through his grandmother, Mary Kettell Frothingham) kept a diary from 17 May - 1 Oct. 1775 in Cambridge, Prospect Hill, and Roxbury.

Reel 2

III. Canal records, 1794-1854

The bulk of the collection, Canal records, 1794-1854, consists of correspondence, returns, accounts, stock certificates, and other records of the Middlesex and other canals, including the Amoskeag, Blodget, Bow, Hooksett, and Union canals. The records of the other canals, mostly financial, probably came to Frothingham as a result of the canals' connection with the Middlesex Canal for whom Frothingham served as an officer and treasurer. Most of the records relate to land transactions and the passing of traffic through the various canals and locks.

The Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal received a charter in 1793 and work was begun in 1794. The canal company was formed as part of a nationwide movement in the 1790s to open inaccessible timber and farm lands for transportation and trade. In the case of the Middlesex Canal, the canal increased Boston's trade by making lands in northern Massachusetts and New Hampshire accessible. The Middlesex Canal was a model of civil engineering and served as a prototype for other inland waterways. The company was financed through the sales of shares which sold for $25 per share in 1794 and $473 in 1803 upon completion of the canal, although the company did not pay its first dividend until 1819.

1. Correspondence and business records, 1795-1854

Arranged chronologically.

Correspondence and business records, 1795-1854, consist of general correspondence, deeds, and other papers, as well as some financial records which do not identify the canal or contain information on more than one canal.

Reel 3

2. Financial records, 1800-1854

Arranged chronologically.

The bulk of the financial records, 1800-54, consisting of payroll accounts, vouchers, receipts, and bills, are arranged by canal. Many of these documents were arranged in packets identifying the canal. This arrangement has been maintained, although users should be aware that financial records for one canal may contain records of one or more additional canals.

Reel 3
Amoskeag Canal, 1825-1835
Reel 3
Blodget Canal, 1813-1815
Reel 4
Bow Canal, 1809-1830
Reel 5
Bow Canal, 1831-1849
Reel 6
Hooksett Canal, 1809-1826
Reel 7
Hooksett Canal, 1827-1848
Reel 8
Middlesex Canal, 1800-1854
Reel 8
Union Canal, 1841-1849
Reel 8
Bow-Hooksett-Amoskeag Canals, 1825-1845

3. Returns, 1836-1844

Arranged alphabetically by canal.

Canal returns, 1836-44, are 'passport' slips for canal boats. The documents describe the materials being transported, the owner and destination of the boat, and canal fees.

Reel 9
Bow-Hookset returns, 1839-1841
Reel 10
Bow-Hookset returns, 1842-1844
Reel 10
Bow-Hookset-Amoskeag returns, 1836-1838

4. Share certificates, 1794-1828

Arranged alphabetically by canal.

Includes share certificates, 1794-1828, for the Amoskeag and Middlesex Canals

Reel 11
Amoskeag Canal, 1826-1828
Reel 11
Middlesex Canal, 1794-1824
Reel 11
Middlesex Canal cargo certificates (blank)

IV. Georgia Company records, 1795-1800

Arranged chronologically.

Georgia Company records, 1795-1800, consists of petitions, bonds, articles of agreement, and other records relating to land disputes in Georgia. As a result of the loose land policies in Georgia in the late 18th century, many fraudulent land grants were acquired and resold. (The Georgia Company was one of four "Yazoo" fraud companies involved in the selling of Georgia land. There were many lawsuits over the Yazoo claims, the final one being Fletcher v. Peck in 1810.) The connection between the Georgia Company and R. Frothingham is unclear.

Reel 11

Preferred Citation

Richard Frothingham 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.


Bixby, Samuel, 1721-1809.
Devens, Richard, 1721-1807.
Frothingham, Richard, 1748-1819.
Kettell, James.
Kettell, John.
Frothingham family.


United States. Continental Army. Regiment, Ebenezer Learned's (1775-1783).
United States. Continental Army. Regiment, Moses Little's (1775-1776).
Amoskeag Canal (Mass.)
Blodget Canal (Mass.)
Bow Canal (Mass.)
Cambridge Committee of Correspondence.
Georgia Company.
Hooksett Canal (Mass.)
Middlesex Canal (Mass.)
Union Canal (Mass.)
Intrepid (Ship).


Bunker Hill, Battle of, 1775.
Carriage and wagon making--Massachusetts--Charlestown.
Home economics--Accounting.
Land settlement--Georgia.
Municipal government--Massachusetts--Charlestown.
Account books--1783-1800.
Account books--1783-1795.
Boston (Mass.)--History--Siege, 1775-1776.
Boston (Mass.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Cambridge (Mass.)--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
Charlestown (Mass.)--History.
Charlestown (Mass.)--Politics and government.
Massachusetts--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Claims.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Personal narratives.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Regimental histories--Continental Army, Ebenezer Learned's Regiment.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Regimental histories--Continental Army, Moses Little's Regiment.