Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of correspondence, diaries, and other papers of historian Richard Frothingham. Historical research includes notes and manuscripts on the history of Charlestown, Mass. Journals and personal papers discuss national and state politics, especially the Democratic Party; Universalism; social life and events in Boston, Mass; Andrew Jackson and the National Bank controversy; Daniel Webster; and slavery.

Biographical Sketch

Richard Frothingham was born in Charlestown, Mass. to Richard Frothingham and Mary Thompson in 1812. In 1833 he married Vrylena Blanchard and had six children. In 1834 he became the treasurer for the Middlesex Canal Company and remained at that position until 1860. During that time he wrote articles for the Boston Post and, in 1852, became one of its proprietors and managing editor; he remained a contributor until 1865.

Throughout his life Richard Frothingham was active in government and his community. Between 1847 and 1877, he served as treasurer at the Massachusetts Historical Society. He was also active in Tufts College and the Universalist Church. Politically he was active both locally and nationally with the Democratic Party as mayor of Charlestown from 1851 to 1853, a representative to the state legislature, a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, an an unsuccessfully candidate for U.S. Congress several times.

Richard Frothingham was best known for his work as a historian. He wrote several works relating to local and Revolutionary War history including History of the Siege of Boston (1849), Life and Times of Joseph Warren (1865), The Rise of the Republic of the United States (1873), and a History of Charlestown that remained unpublished. He died in 1880.

Collection Description

The papers of Richard Frothingham consist of research notes and original documents collected primarily for his History of Charlestown including lists of early settlers, copies of the proceedings of the town government, and a large quantity of Revolutionary War-era materials. The collection also contains four annotated copies of his work: History of the Siege of Boston (two editions), Life and Times of Joseph Warren, and The Rise of the Republic. Inserted into the works are notes, newspaper clippings, and illustrations.

Also included is a large quantity of personal papers including correspondence, some referring to his grandfather, Richard Frothingham's attempts to recover payment due to him from his service in Col. Gridley’s Regiment of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook of reviews of his works, and volume entitled In Memoriam commemorating Major William F. Clark of the 30th Mass. Infantry, who lost his life during the Civil War. Correspondents include General John E. Wool, Robert C. Winthrop, R.C. Waterston, Justin Winsor, George Washington Warren, and others. Nine volumes of his journals from his early twenties to mid-thirties contain his thoughts on politics and society as well as discussions of his readings.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Mrs. Thomas G. Frothingham, Oct. 1959.


Frothingham's research notes are arranged topicially under the headings assigned by him.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Journals, 1834-1848

This series contains nine volumes of Richard Frothingham’s journals. They contain discussions on local and national politics including the National Bank Crisis, the Tyler Presidency, the Democratic Party, and the Whig party; social issues including capital punishment and slavery; and personal subjects such as philosophy, current readings, and daily activities. Frothingham's diary kept, Dec. 28, 1839-Jan. 29, 1840 contains newspaper clippings pertaining to the Massachusetts State Legislature and records issues pertinent the legislative session for that year.

Box 1Folder 1
1 Jan. 1834-27 Aug. 1834
Box 1Folder 2
6 Sept. 1834-21 Sept. 1835
Box 1Folder 3
29 Sept. 1836-28 Oct. 1836
Box 1Folder 4
27 May 1837-6 March 1838
Box 1Folder 5
7 March 1838-9 Aug. 1838
Vol. 1
18 Aug. 1838-18 March 1844
Vol. 2
19 Aug. 1838-20 July 1839
Vol. 3
28 Dec. 1839-29 Jan. 1840
Vol. 4
29 July 1841-26 June 1848

II. Personal papers, 1685-1895

This series contains documents relating to early colonial history, including marriage contracts and muster and payroll for the Continental Army, indenture contracts, and his grandfather Richard Frothingham’s correspondence regarding pension for service during the Revolution. Other items include a draft of an article "Discovery of America by the Northmen", and an official appointment as Inspector of State Prisons. Correspondence includes first hand accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill, Frothingham's tenure as mayor of Charlestown, possible nominees in the 1852 presidential election, and Frothingham's unsuccessful run for U.S. Congress. Also includes documents relating to his election as delegate to Democratic National Convention, a letter supporting the Irish Nationalists, a letter of condolences to Mrs. Frothingham over the death of Richard Frothingham, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings relating to his published works and his newspaper articles, and a volume commemorating Major William F. Clark of the 30th Mass. Infantry.

A. Loose papers, 1685-1895

Box 2Folder 1-17

B. Scrapbook of newspaper clippings and book reviews

Vol. 5

C. In Memoriam, Major William Frederick Clark

Vol. 6

III. Works, 1849-1873

This series contained annotated published works by Richard Frothingham interleaved with notes, manuscript corrections, and illustrations.

Vol. 7
History of the Siege of Boston (1849)
Vol. 8
History of the Siege of Boston (1851)
Box 2Folder 18
Clippings removed from History of the Siege of Boston (1851)
Vol. 9
The Life and Times of Joseph Warren (1865)
Box 2Folder 19
Clippings removed from The Life and Times of Joseph Warren (1865)
Vol. 10
The Rise of the Republic of the United States (1873)

IV. Research notes and primary sources for History of Charlestown

This series contains documents relating to Richard Frothingham's research for his publication, History of Charlestown. These documents are loosely arranged chronologically under the topical headings used by Richard Frothingham to organize his notes.

Box 3Folder 1-12
Early Charlestown, 1625-1846
Box 3Folder 13
Lists of Early Settlers
Box 3Folder 14
Dated Materials, 1614-1804
Box 3Folder 15
Settlement of Charlestown
Box 3Folder 16
Women of the Revolution
Box 3Folder 17
Annals of the Greaves Family
Box 3Folder 18
Box 3Folder 19
Ecclesiastical Documents

Preferred Citation

Richard Frothingham papers II, 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.


Clark, William F., ca.1829-1864
Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852
Frothingham, Richard, b. ca. 1750
Warren, George Washington, 1813-1883
Waterston, R. C. (Robert Cassie), 1812-1893
Winsor, Justin, 1831-1897
Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894
Wool, John Ellis, 1784-1869


Democratic Party (Mass.)
Democratic Party (U.S.)
United States. Army. Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, 30th (1861-1865)
United States. Continental Army. Continental Artillery Regiment, Richard Gridley's
Whig Party (U.S.)


Antislavery movements--United States
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Charlestown (Mass.)--History
Massachusetts--Politics and government--1775-1865
United States--Politics and government--1815-1861