Massachusetts Historical Society
Massachusetts Historical Society Building
|Location||1154 Boylston Street
|Architect||Edmund M. Wheelwright|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||December 21, 1965|
The Massachusetts Historical Society is a major historical archive specializing in early American, Massachusetts, and New England history. It is located at 1154 Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts and is the oldest historical society in the United States, having been established in 1791.
The Society was founded on January 24, 1791, by Reverend Jeremy Belknap to collect, preserve, and document items of American history. He and the nine other founding members donated family papers, books, and artifacts to the Society to form its initial collection. Its first manuscript was published in 1792, becoming the first historical society publication in the United States. The society incorporated in 1794; signatories included William Baylies, Jeremy Belknap, Alden Bradford, Peleg Coffin, Manasseh Cutler, John Davis, Daniel Davis, Aaron Dexter, John Eliot, Nathaniel Freeman, James Freeman, Thaddeus Mason Harris, Isaac Lothrop, George Richards Minot, John Mellen Jr., Thomas Pemberton, William Dandridge Peck, John Prince, Ezekiel Price, James Sullivan, David Sewall, Peter Thacher, William Tudor, Samuel Turell, Dudley Atkins Tyng, James Winthrop, Thomas Wallcut, Redford Webster, and William Wetmore. Indeed, the Society claims to have been the only historical collection in the United States until establishment of the New-York Historical Society (1804) and the American Antiquarian Society (1812), after which time the Society's collecting activities began to focus primarily on Boston and New England.
"The society, for several years after its organization, met in the attic of Faneuil Hall; afterwards rooms were occupied in Hamilton Place, and then in Franklin Street. In 1833 ... quarters on Tremont Street were occupied" in the building of the Provident bank through the 1890s. The society's current building in the Back Bay was built in 1899.
Today the Society continues to collect, preserve, and communicate historical information about Massachusetts and the United States. It is now organized in five departments: Library, Publications, Education and Public Programs, Research Programs, the Adams Family Papers, and Administration. Major collections include:
- Adams Family Papers (1639-1889) - material relating to President John Adams (1735-1826) and Abigail Adams (1744-1818), as well as other family members including Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886), John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), Louisa Catherine Adams (1775-1852), Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), and Henry Adams (1838-1918). The collection includes correspondence, diaries, literary manuscripts, speeches, legal and business papers, etc.
- Jefferson - The personal papers and architectural drawings of Thomas Jefferson.
- Manuscripts and printed texts - approximately 12,000 biographies and more than 10,000 local histories, as well as newspapers and broadsides including John Dunlap's July 4–5, 1776, Philadelphia printing of the Declaration of Independence. Notable manuscripts include John Winthrop's manuscripts on the early settlement of New England; Paul Revere's account of his ride; handwritten copies of the Declaration of Independence by both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams; the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts containing thousands of pages of Jefferson's correspondence, manuscripts of writings, and Monticello records including account books, journals, and more than 400 architectural drawings; and the Francis Parkman manuscripts dealing with French Canada.
- Artwork - paintings by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815), Sarah Goodridge (1788-1853), Chester Harding (1792-1866), Alonzo Hartwell (1805-1873), Samuel Stillman Osgood (1808-1885), John Smibert (1688-1751), and Richard Morrell Staigg (1817-1881), as well as sculptures by Thomas Ball, Richard Saltonstall Greenough, Henry Dexter, and Hiram Powers.
The Society continues to produce scholarly books, but now augments these publications with digital editions available through its website and other online resources.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- The act of incorporation : with the additional acts and by-laws of the Massachusetts Historical Society : with a list of officers and resident members. Boston: printed for the Society, 1882.
- King's handbook of Boston. 1881
- City directory of Boston. 1848
- Boston Almanac. 1894
- Membership, Massachusetts Historical Society website, retrieved November 16, 2013.
- Massachusetts Historical Society Annual Report, July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010
- Jonathan Sarna Elected Massachusetts Historical Society Fellow, Brandeis NOW, retrieved November 16, 2013
- A short account of the Massachusetts Historical Society: originally prepared by Charles Card Smith, together with the act of incorporation, additional acts and by-laws and a list of officers and members. January 1791-June 1918.
- The act of incorporation: with the additional acts and by-laws of the Massachusetts Historical Society : with a list of officers and resident members. Boston: printed for the Society, 1882.
- Thomas Boylston Adams. "Here We Have Lived: The Houses of the Massachusetts Historical Society." Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 78 (1966)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Massachusetts Historical Society.|
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Review of "Adams Family Papers" website. Teachinghistory.org.
- "Life Portrait of John Quincy Adams", broadcast from Massachusetts Historical Society from C-SPAN's American Presidents: Life Portraits
- "Massachusetts Historical Society". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.