Talk:Cotton Mather

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Why was the content added about Mather and Slavery deleted? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Mcommeyras (talkcontribs) 07:52, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

Well written article. I dont have time right now to do an edit, but I would like to point out 3 more things about Mather:

1. His scientific work got him elected to the Royal society.

2. Ben Franklin cited Mather as a positive influence on his own life.

Mike091020 (talk) 14:09, 20 May 2012 (UTC) Actually, Franklin cited only one of Cotton Mathers books "Essays to Do Good". He did not say, as a blanket statement, that Mather was "a positive influence on his own life". I think it pays to be accurate where possible. In Franklin's case it is possible to be accurate as he was a prolific writer and left a very big trail of his thoughts. From his autobiography, I conclude that DeFoe was more of an influence. He also cites Pythagoras, but only his "Golden Verses", not everything that man wrote.

3. Mather was a leader in the public health field--he is responsible for saving many lives by introducing small pox vaccination in the North American colonies when it was not yet the standard of care in Europe.

What about Cotton Mather's ideas about women? Why was that not touched at all?

Might want to mention that he was a slave holder.

Mike091020 (talk) 14:19, 20 May 2012 (UTC) Who wasn't in that era?

I wanted to point out that under the "Background" heading, it is said that Mather cautioned against the use of 'spectral evidence' during the Salem Witch Trials, whereas under the 'spectral evidence' link it is said that he urged its acceptance. I'm not sure which view is correct, just wanted to point out the discrepancy.

Requesting Prof Smolinski add anything, particularly descriptions of his major writings and their importance to the culture at large. cfelker 13:45, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Cotton Mather was appealed to by the board of teh Collegiate School in New Haven when funds were needed for a new building. Prominent in the New England colonies, Mather was thought to be well-connected to those who had money. Mather, in turn, wrote to merchant Elihu Yale, with whom he was acquainted, seeking funds to help the New Haven school because these schools, like Harvard, were essential in educating young men to lead pure and useful lives, and to combat the Devil's influence in the new world. After Yale donated a portion of a shipment to the school, Mather wrote the Collegiate School board to inform them of the gift, and apologetically announced that he had promised to rename the school in recognition of the donation. I do not know of any record of the response of the board to Mather, but clearly they acceded to his unauthorized promise to the merchant.

Whatever Mather said at the time about spectral evidence, his book Wonders of the Invisible World is one long compilation of anecdotes of often very visible supernatural occult phenomena. So apparently he liked to contradict himself on this issue. Perhaps he was "large and contained multitudes."

Cotton Mather, like many writers of his and earlier times, did not find consistency of view a necessity. As did his father, Cotton felt free to allow new evidence or further consideration to change his opinion on topics. Thus, in studying his viewpoint, one must be willing to understand that a particular opinion was held during a particular period of his life and might be changed at a later time. This willingness to embrace new opinions, while sometimes confusing because of the passion associated with religious clothing, was not inconsistent with his life-long fascination with hard science and scientific observation. It was this fascination which led him to create the first encyclopedia of New England flora and fauna, becoming the first new world-born member of the Royal Society.

Arkhamite 16:50, 11 February 2007 (UTC)

In section PostTrial, this statement is not accurate: "Of the principal actors in the trial, only Cotton Mather and William Stoughton never admitted guilt.[5]" This may be what Bancroft says, but off the top of my head, neither the judge Hathorn nor minister Parris, both very much principal actors, ever admitted any guilt whatsoever. It seems to me that there were several others as well. The community was very much divided as to whether the trials were a just action, probably between the liberal and conservative segments (as always). (talk) 12:26, 20 July 2009 (UTC)


As far as I remember, he even appeared in a Spiderman comic, right? -- 13:00, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

Correct. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:58, 1 February 2011 (UTC)

Cotton Mather and Robert Calef[edit]

It would seem important to include a section on the debate between Mather and Calef on the occurrences of the Salem Witch Trails. The dispute between the two greatly influenced the interpretation of the Salem Witch Trials throughout different periods. I see no mention of this in the article. (RorikStrindberg (talk) 04:58, 8 April 2008 (UTC))

If you have reliable sources in this regard, please be bold and add it, preferably with suitable citations. --Flex (talk/contribs) 13:42, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, i would be using reliable sources. I find it interesting, and the differences between Mather's and Calef's accounts have changed the interpretation of the SWT. Calef's account, which blamed Mather, influenced Charles Upham's Salem Witchcraft where Mather influenced Chadwick Hansen's Witchcraft at Salem. (RorikStrindberg (talk) 03:34, 10 April 2008 (UTC))

The entire text of Calef's book is available at the Univ of Virginia. Cumbersome reading though. Someday it will hopefully be available thru Gutenburg too. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Juliegolden (talkcontribs) 21:33, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Hope I added enough to this with Poole (Mather) vs. Upham (Calef), having recently read every word of each book by these four gentlemen. My personal take is that if you wanna love Cotton Mather you have to take him warts and all, like Wagner, or countless others. Upham admires Mather, but doesn't let him off the hook. Calef risked his life going up against Mather and deserves better than Poole's cheap shots, which have lingered. If anybody can dig up more about Robert Calef Jr. or Sr. please do. --Juliegolden (talk) 20:56, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Named after paternal grandfather?[edit]

Cotton Mather had the same last name as his paternal grandfather. That's not the usual sense of "named after." What is the point of this statement in the article? --- OtherDave (talk) 02:30, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

I have seen references the the claim that "Cotton" was originally a transliteration of the Hebrew קטן (katan) meaning "small" or "younger". This could be the origin of the "named-after" reference Sabba Hillel (talk) 14:07, 7 August 2013 (UTC)

A reference in a mini-series to Cotton Mather[edit]

A quasi-fictional character in the HBO series Deadwood, The Widow Alma Garret, evocked Cotten Mather as one who would have found the School Teacher,"Ms Ringhousen", having said Cotten Mather would have found Ms Ringhousens methods hard and Joyless. And he being the Puritanican man as seen by his era, this being of some signifigance The Window Garret had immense respect toward toward Ringhouses training and intelligence and grattitude towards Sophia's education.

The inference to Cotten Mather suggests that his judgement or condemnation, were less than that of those tring to manage or manipulate the Nevada homesteaders, and indeed may have very well been an agent for the infamous pinkertens. A precursor to the FBI or CIA. WSBRODY —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:03, 26 August 2009 (UTC)


"Wonders of the Invisible World appeared at the same time as Increase Mather’s Case of Conscience, a book critical of the trial. [12]:455 Upon reading Wonders of the Invisible World, Increase Mather publicly burned the book in Harvard Yard.[2]:22"

Actually, Increase Mather publicly maintained entire agreement with Cotton Mather and all of his works. The book burned was Calef's More Wonders of the Invisible World, in which Calef insinuated that both of the Mathers ministered to Margaret Rule in a lascivious manner. This article, and those pertaining to the Salem witch delusion severally, are in a sad state.

I hope the editor(s) will correct this and other oversights. After a while and some other projects, I may have time to revisit the suite of articles if it is still necessary. Pulsadinura (talk) 15:47, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Good point, I made the change. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Juliegolden (talkcontribs) 21:35, 8 February 2012 (UTC) RE: "lascivious manner". Mather charged Calef but didn't show up for the court date to refute Calef's account of Margaret Rule. Calef never suggested anything beyond writing exactly what happened, but, truly, in seeking to understand those times, prurience on Cotton Mather's part seems like a plausible explanation for so much the deference that was given to the numerous afflicted young women and girls. If you, unlike so many historians since, can find negative information about Calef please publish it here. --Juliegolden (talk) 21:09, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Mather as a positive influence on the trials[edit]

I think this section is improperly named. It describes negative acts, such as forced conversion, as positive. It implies that the actions he took were right, that 'witchcraft' was extant, wrong, and criminal. Mather might have had some decent intentions, but that doesn't make him a positive influence. Also, the section is largely centered on one author's opinion, and opinions based on that one author. At least, that makes the section misnamed.

I removed a sentence that was asking the reader why Mather would have not pursued those accused by a woman convicted to die. The statement was pleading Mather's case in a POV, non-encyclopedic tone; I removed it. I can personally think of a few reasons why he'd do this, though: (1.) He would not take the word of a 'convicted witch' (2.) He knew the woman was just throwing out accusations to get back at others who had done her wrong (3.) She accused peoples with whom Mather associated.

Also, Wikipedia frowns on "Criticism of" and "Counter Criticism" sections. Try to integrate these opinions into the article. --IronMaidenRocks (talk) 04:18, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

Well put, I changed the title to understanding the positive spin of Cotton Mather. An earnest question. Hopefully it will not be too controversial. --jg — Preceding unsigned comment added by Juliegolden (talkcontribs) 21:38, 8 February 2012 (UTC)

Need to look into this fellow: W.F. Poole. Boston librarian, said to be a "militant champion" of Boston clergy. Loved Cotton Mather. Upham spent 300 pages refuting Poole (I think so, calls him the Reviewer). Burr agrees with Upham and dismisses Poole as mistaken. --Juliegolden (talk) 20:51, 10 February 2012 (UTC)

Boston Ephemeris[edit]

Cotton Mathers influenced many fields during his time. Although some research describes his scientific works, we want his scientific work to be represented by more than just his agricultural work. By adding this section, readers can see that Mather had strong influence in the field of mathematics, as well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cklosowski945 (talkcontribs) 17:46, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

Boyle's influence on Mather[edit]

Mather’s took many of Boyle’s scientific ideas and rearranged the words to make it fit his own research. It is found that pieces of Mather’s scientific works only differ by a word or two from Boyle’s — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mfagan156 (talkcontribs) 18:36, 15 December 2010 (UTC)

I am most familiar with pre-1700 C.M., but this would fit the profile. More info here would be welcome. Lewismr (talk) 17:25, 1 December 2015 (UTC)

Plutarch and Mather[edit]

The article on Plutarch mentions his influence on Mather but this article has a paragraph on the influence of Robert Boyle and no mention of Plutarch. G. Robert Shiplett 19:01, 25 February 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Grshiplett (talkcontribs)


The current page's capsule summary of "Pillars of Salt" is taken, practically verbatim, from the editorial remarks in "True Crime: An American Anthology" edited by Harold Schechter and published by the Library of America in 2008. (It is, with minor modifications, the second paragraph of page 3 of that book. A Google Books search for the phrase e.g. "Puritan execution sermon" will reveal a snippet, but not the entire passage.) I didn't want to remove it since I don't have a Wikipedia account and figured someone would automatically revert my changes (this has happened before when I have removed plagiarised content), and I couldn't think of a way of rewriting the summary. But someone should attend to this. (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 02:10, 14 October 2011 (UTC).

Yes, it read like an ad for that imprint. I culled it down but left the Library of America book as a citation. Hope I got it right. Lewismr (talk) 17:32, 1 December 2015 (UTC)


The article mentions "unease and self-deception". This is true enough, but very vague. If it refers to the sequestration of Red Indian land or the enslaving of Africans, this should be mentioned clearly. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:35, 18 August 2013 (UTC)

Cotton Mather owned slaves, as many did at that time and in that place. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:40, 17 February 2016 (UTC)


Is Mather pronounced with the "a" of "mat" (as opposed to "mate")? Flapdragon (talk) 11:51, 11 October 2014 (UTC)

Mather is pronounced with a short "a". It rhymes with blather not with bather. Pjefts (talk) 20:41, 11 October 2014 (UTC)

Problems with the article[edit]

The lead states that he is often remembered for his role in early hybridization experiments. Is he really, is this what people connect with his name? Further, his role in the persecution (with lethal results) of Quakers is missing. All in all, it seems like white washing. -- Zz (talk) 15:13, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:Cotton Mather/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

==Bibliography needed== Rating suggests the broad outlines of his life have been drawn. More important is the social / cultural consequence of his life on American life. Most recent biographies are more than 500 pages so a particularly useful addition would be a brief descriptive bibliography of his major works and their influence on the culture at large. cfelker 13:36, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Last edited at 16:42, 27 July 2015 (UTC). Substituted at 12:20, 29 April 2016 (UTC)