Massachusetts Historical Society
Massachusetts Historical Society Building
|Location||1154 Boylston Street|
|Architect||Edmund M. Wheelwright|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival|
|NRHP reference #||66000770 |
|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. In 1849, Frances Manwaring Caulkins became the first woman elected to the society's membership.
"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; it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965 in recognition of the society's distinctive contribution to historic preservation.
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 First Lady Abigail Adams (1744-1818), as well as other family members including Charles Francis Adams (1807-1886), President John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), First Lady Louisa Catherine Adams (1775-1852), Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), and Henry Adams (1838-1918). Among other papers, the collection includes correspondence, diaries, literary manuscripts, speeches, legal and business papers, and John Adams' handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence.
- Thomas Jefferson - the library holds Jefferson's handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Coolidge Collection, a collection of "Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts" containing thousands of pages of Jefferson's correspondence, manuscripts of writings, Monticello records including account books and journals, and more than 400 of Jefferson's architectural drawings.
- Other 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. Other notable manuscripts include John Winthrop's manuscripts on the early settlement of New England; Paul Revere's account of his ride; 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. The Massachusetts Historical Review has been published annually since 1999.
- American Antiquarian Society
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Boston
- National Register of Historic Places listings in southern Boston, Massachusetts
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
- 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.
- Scanlon, Jennifer; Cosner, Shaaron (1996). American Women Historians, 1700s-1990s: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-313-29664-2.
- King's handbook of Boston. 1881
- City directory of Boston. 1848
- Boston Almanac. 1894
- "NHL nomination for Massachusetts Historical Society". National Park Service. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- "Massachusetts Historical Review". Massachusetts Historical Society. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
- Membership, Massachusetts Historical Society website, retrieved November 16, 2013.
- Massachusetts Historical Society Annual Report, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015
- "This Month at the MHS". Massachusetts Historical Society website. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
Larry Ruttman, Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society
- Jonathan Sarna Elected Massachusetts Historical Society Fellow, Brandeis NOW, retrieved November 16, 2013
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). Encyclopedia Americana. .
- 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)
- Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society 1792-1939, Vol. 1-78 - 7 series, Vol. 10 of each series is an Index for the series
- Series 1 index
- Series 2 index
- Series 3 index
- Series 4 Index (Vol. 1-10)
- Series 5 index, p.331
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Review of "Adams Family Papers" website. Teachinghistory.org.
- "Life Portrait of John Quincy Adams", from C-SPAN's American Presidents: Life Portraits, broadcast from the Massachusetts Historical Society, April 18, 1999
- New International Encyclopedia. 1905. .