Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Unitarian minister Joseph Tuckerman, including correspondence, diaries, and other papers documenting his ministry and missionary work for the poor.

Biographical Sketch

Rev. Joseph Tuckerman, a Unitarian clergyman, was born on 18 Jan. 1778, the son of Edward and Elizabeth (Harris) Tuckerman. He graduated from Harvard College in 1798. In 1801, he was ordained as a Unitarian minister and began his tenure as pastor at the First Church of Chelsea, Mass. (later Revere), a position he held until 1826, when he moved to Boston. In Boston, he began his Ministry at Large, a city mission for the poor. He described his work in this area in a book entitled The Principles and Results of the Ministry at Large, in Boston (1838). From 1833-1834, he visited England, particularly London and Liverpool, where he started similar missions. A society of women who called themselves Tuckerman's Sewing Circle sewed and sold what they made for the Poor's Purse until 1888.

Tuckerman was an original member of the Anthology Society (publishers of the Monthly Anthology and Boston Review) in 1805 and started the Boston Society for Religious and Moral Improvement of Seamen (the first of its kind in America) in 1812. In 1803, he married Abigail Parkman. Following her death, he married Sarah Cary in 1808. He had ten children, including Joseph Tuckerman, Jr., Abigail Tuckerman, Sarah Tuckerman, and Lucius Tuckerman.

In 1836, ill health forced him to leave Boston and travel to Santa Cruz and Cuba. He died in Havana on 20 Apr. 1840.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the papers of Unitarian minister Joseph Tuckerman, including loose papers, 20 volumes of diaries, and 13 miscellaneous volumes. The papers document Tuckerman's work as a minister in Chelsea, Mass., and for the Ministry at Large in Boston, as well as his travels and missionary work in Europe. The loose papers include family correspondence, deeds to land in Chelsea, estate documents, and other papers. The diaries describe Tuckerman's studies, pastoral work, and activities in Chelsea, Boston, and Europe. Additional volumes in the collection include sermons, commonplace-books, and account books.

Acquisition Information

This collection is a combination of what were formerly three collections of J. Tuckerman papers. The J. Tuckerman papers contained the loose papers and the bulk of the volumes; the two-volume diary for 1816 was formerly known as J. Tuckerman II; and J. Tuckerman III contained one folder of letters from Tuckerman and his wife Sarah to their children, 1836-1837.

A diary was deposited by Bayard Tuckerman, Jr. in Dec. 1945, although it is unclear which diary. The 1816 diary (formerly J. Tuckerman II) was acquired by purchase in Jan. 1980. The source for the remainder of the J. Tuckerman papers and J. Tuckerman III is unknown.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Loose papers, 1803-1863

This series contains deeds to land in Chelsea, Mass.; correspondence between Joseph Tuckerman, his second wife Sarah Cary Tuckerman, and their children Joseph, Abigail, and Lucius; a few documents related to his ministry; documents related to the legal guardianship of Abigail Eliza Tuckerman; and papers related to the estates of William Harris (for which Tuckerman served as executor) and Rev. Tuckerman, including his will (1839).

Box 1

II. Diaries, 1799-1835

The diaries of Joseph Tuckerman document his studies, pastoral work, and activities in Chelsea, Mass., and his missionary work for the poor of Boston. The 1816 diary (in 2 volumes) was kept during a trip to London, Oxford, and Blenheim and describes working and social conditions there. The nine diaries written between 13 July 1833 and 18 July 1834 were addressed to his wife and document his extensive trip to Europe, particularly London and Liverpool, where he set up missions for the poor modeled after his Ministry at Large in Boston.

Box 2Vol. 1
21 Oct. 1799-3 Jan. 1800

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 2
27 Oct.-15 Nov. 1800

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 3
"Journal of my studies," 21 Sep.-17 Oct. 1801

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 4
31 Dec. 1801-9 Feb. 1802 (Chelsea, Mass.)

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 5
"Memoranda of employments in my study, of visits made & received, etc.," 15 Sep.-31 Dec. 1814

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 6
Journal of a visit to London, 14 July-23 Aug. 1816

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 7
Journal of a visit to London (cont'd), 23 Aug.-3 Oct. 1816

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 8
"Memoranda domestica," 29 Mar. 1818-25 Oct. 1819

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 9
10 Nov.-15 Dec. 1819

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 2Vol. 10
Missionary to the poor of Boston, 5 Nov. 1826-10 Nov. 1828

Available on microfilm, P-630.

Box 3Vol. 11
13 July-7 Sep. 1833
Box 3Vol. 12
8-25 Sep. 1833
Box 3Vol. 13
30 Sep.-9 Nov. 1833
Box 3Vol. 14
9 Nov.-15 Dec. 1833
Box 3Vol. 15
16 Dec. 1833-19 Jan. 1834
Box 3Vol. 16
20 Jan.-14 Feb. 1834
Box 3Vol. 17
15 Feb.-18 Mar. 1834
Box 3Vol. 18
19 Mar.-26 Apr. 1834
Box 3Vol. 19
27 Apr.-18 July 1834
Box 3Vol. 20
12 Aug. 1834-16 Apr. 1835

III. Miscellaneous bound volumes, 1808-1839

This series contains three volumes of undated sermons, a commonplace-book of original poetry, a list of Bible passages read, an alphabetical list of pastoral visits, a personal account book, and an account book for Poor's Purse. Also included are commonplace-books kept by two of Tuckerman's children, Joseph Tuckerman, Jr. and Sarah C. Tuckerman.

Box 4Vol. 1
Sermons, undated
Box 4Vol. 2
Sermons, undated
Box 4Vol. 3
Sermons, undated
Box 4Vol. 4
Notes on Cogan's Theological Disquisitions and Ethical Questions, undated
Box 4Vol. 5
Extracts from Pinkerton's Geography, etc., undated
Box 4Vol. 6
Commonplace-book of poetry, 1808-1834

Included are original poems by Joseph Tuckerman, 1808-1811, 1833-1834; and by Sarah Cary Tuckerman, 1808, 1830.

Box 4Vol. 7
List of Bible passages read, 30 Sep. 1818-30 Sep. 1819
Box 4Vol. 8
Poor's Purse account book, 1827-1835

Included are notations of expenditures, 31 Dec. 1827-30 Jan. 1835; receipts, 1 Jan. 1828-26 Jan. 1835; memoranda re: loans, 2 Jan.-13 Oct. 1828; and wood account, 14 Oct. 1828-5 Jan. 1829.

Box 5Vol. 9
Alphabetical list of pastoral visits, 1828-1829
Box 5Vol. 10
Personal account book, 1839

Included are notations of expenditures, 1 Jan.-18 Dec. 1839, and receipts, 1 Jan.-27 Nov. 1839.

Box 5Vol. 11
Joseph Tuckerman, Jr. commonplace-book, 1824-1825
Box 5Vol. 12
Sarah C. Tuckerman commonplace-book, extracts, etc., 1825
Box 5Vol. 13
Extracts from papers of Samuel Cary

Preferred Citation

Joseph Tuckerman 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.


Harris, William, d. 1824.
Tuckerman family.
Tuckerman, Abigail Cary.
Tuckerman, Joseph, Jr.
Tuckerman, Sarah Cary.


First Church (Revere, Mass.).
Ministry At Large (Boston, Mass.).


Account books--1827-1835.
Account books--1839.
Church charities.
Church work with the poor.
England--Description and travel--1801-1900.
Estates (Law).
Europe--Description and travel--1800-1918.
Family history--1800-1849.
Liverpool (England)--Description and travel.
London (England)--Description and travel.
Oxford (England)--Description and travel.
Real property--Massachusetts--Chelsea.
Unitarian churches--Clergy.
Voyages and travels--Diaries.
Women's commonplace-books.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Printed Material

The following printed material has been removed to the MHS printed collection:

Tuckerman, Joseph. A Letter to the Executive Committee of the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches, Respecting Their Organization for the Support of the Ministry at Large in Boston. Boston: n.p., 1834.

Tuckerman, Joseph. A Letter Respecting Santa Cruz as Winter Residence for Invalids; Addressed to Dr. John C. Warren, of Boston, Mass. Boston: D. Clapp, Jr., 1837. (2 copies)

Tuckerman, Joseph. A Sermon, Preached on the Twentieth Anniversary of His Ordination. Boston: Phelps and Farnham, 1821.

Wolcott, Oliver. An Address to the People of the United States, on the Subject of a Report of a Committee of the House of Representatives, Appointed to "Examine and Report, Whether Monies Drawn from the Treasury, Have Been Faithfully Applied to the Objects for which They Were Appropriated... Boston: Russell and Cutler, 1802.

Museum Objects

The following item has been removed to the MHS artifacts collection:

Lock of hair, probably of Joseph Tuckerman, enclosed in paper wrapping with inscription: "A lock of hair presented by my mother, Dec. 20 - 1798."