Beacon Street Diary

November 22, 2016

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed this coming Wednesday through Friday, November 23-25, in observance of Thanksgiving.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Monday, November 28th.

We wish all of you a safe and happy holiday.

November 10, 2016

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Friday, November 11th, in observance of Veterans' Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have a question you'd like to ask the staff, send an us email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return on Monday.


November 1, 2016

By the 1640s Massachusetts had already moved beyond paper ballots.

Not that they had any voting machines; it was just that paper was too expensive. So in a cost-cutting move the government went to "Indian beanes" (kidney beans). Their voting law stipulated that in the annual election for Assistants (who comprised the fledgling upper house of the Commonwealth's General Court), "the white beanes manifest election, the black for blanks." (September 7, 1643)

Enter Mighill Smith. On May 26, 1647, the government voted to make Mr. Smith a freeman. That meant he had attained a coveted status in early New England. From the original handful of persons named in the Bay Company charter, the Puritan settlers quickly expanded the right to vote to include a much larger population, namely, all (male) church members. So Mr. Smith proudly joined the ranks of the freemen; and it appears he voted that very day in an election for the Colony's Assistants. It may have been the first time he ever voted in his entire life.

It isn't clear that Mr. Smith believed in voting early and often — but he did drop three beans into the receptacle. A poll watcher caught him. He was accused of violating the October, 1643 law against voting more than once. As a result, in what may have been the first case of voter fraud on these shores, a £10 fine was levied on Mighill Smith. That hefty sum could have amounted to almost half of his yearly income.

Justice was swift. In that same session of the Great and General Court, maybe even on the very next day, the Court reached a judicious and compassionate verdict. "For his puting in of three beanes at once for one mans election," says the record, "it being done in simplicity, & he being pore & of an harmles disposition," Mr. Smith's fine was suspended.

-David M. Powers


photograph of an early ballot box using ballottas courtesy of the National Museum of American History of the Smithsonian Institution, via Wikimedia Commons

October 31, 2016

Don't forget to let us know if you'll be joining us for tomorrow's free lunchtime lecture.

Taciturn New Englander, avatar of small government, Amherst alumnus, Governor of Massachusetts, and President of the United States. Calvin Coolidge is remembered for being all of these things but less well known yet central to his identity was his Christian faith. Coolidge was the only Congregationalist to serve as our nation's chief magistrate. Come hear the fascinating, inspiring story of how his experience in the Congregational Church shaped his life from rural Vermont to the White House.

Rev. Stephen Silver is the minister of the First Congregational Church of Lebanon, NH. He previously served as Affiliated Minister at Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord, MA, and Chief Development and Stewardship Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. Steve enjoyed two decades in educational advancement at leading institutions including Harvard Law School and Tufts University. He holds an A.B. in Politics from Brandeis University, an M.B.A. in Marketing and International Management from Cornell University, and both a Master of Liberal Arts in Religion and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Lebanon with his family.

Tuesday, November 1st
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.


photograph of President Coolidge from the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

October 27, 2016

This past Friday, October 21, 2016, the Congregational Library & Archives lost one of its greatest friends. Harold Worthley — known to many as simply "Hal" — died after a brief illness. He was 88 years old.

Hal was director of the Congregational Library for nearly three decades, from 1977 to 2003. Many will remember him as the authoritative source on all things Congregational, a wry and gentle man with a deep knowledge of the tradition and an endless store of anecdotes and stories. Researchers came to know Hal as a friend, always generous with his time and ready to answer any and all questions, no matter how obscure or remote the subject area. We are all deeply grateful for his years of careful stewardship of the library's collection, ensuring its survival in spite of limited staffing and financial resources.

A native of Brewer, Maine, Hal was ordained a Congregational minister in 1954, and served parishes in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Between 1963 and 1977, he taught at Wheaton College in Norton, where he was College Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religion.

Hal's deepest passion was for history. A graduate of Boston University and Harvard Divinity School, where he received his Ph.D. in 1970, he also did postgraduate work at Northwestern University and Simmons College.

Hal was, bar none, the world authority on New England church records. His Harvard doctoral thesis focused on deacons and ruling elders of the early Congregational churches of Massachusetts — but it was the appendix to the thesis (which he sometimes called a 700-page footnote) that became his legacy. Hal took upon himself the massive task of creating an inventory of all the Congregational church records in colonial Massachusetts, tracking them down in churches, historical societies, banks, attics, and basements in every corner of the state. Published in 1970, An Inventory of the Records of the Particular (Congregational) Churches of Massachusetts Gathered 1620-1805 lists by name every original record book, as well as the ministers and lay officers of each congregation. The Inventory became iconic among researchers of early New England history and religion, and remains so nearly a half century after its publication.

Hal's work is foundational to the one of the CLA's most important projects, New England's Hidden Histories. In many ways we are continuing the project he began so long ago, retracing his steps to the last known sites of old church records, and then making them available to researchers anywhere by digitizing, transcribing, and placing them online.

Dr. Worthley's love for Congregational history did not end when he retired in 2003. He and his wife Barbara set to work transcribing documents, beginning with the diaries of missionary Gideon Hawley. They became indispensable to the Hidden Histories project as well. Hal was still transcribing the records of the church in Barnstable, Massachusetts, in his hospital bed.

Hal leaves his wife of 61 years, Barbara L. (Bent) Worthley, and his children: Susan L. Field of Cape Porpoise, ME; Laura M. Worthley and her husband, Andrew Lavash, of New Braunfels, TX; and David B. Worthley and his wife, Stephanie A. Worthley, of Norton, MA. He leaves five grandchildren: Jesse D. Field, Marshall D. Lavash, Morgan C. Lavash, Leah D. Worthley, and Nina B. Worthley. He was the brother of the late Bruce E. Worthley.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 5 at 2:00 PM, at the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Norton, MA. In lieu of flowers, Hal has requested that memorial gifts be sent to the Congregational Library & Archives, with a note that the gift supports New England's Hidden Histories.

October 26, 2016

For many years "14 Beacon Street" was the home address of American Congregationalists. An eight-story office building at the top of Beacon Hill, it was built in 1898 by the American Congregational Association, an independent organization intent on providing a single space for all the scattered efforts of a denomination dedicated to the principle of decentralization. The key piece, and the core passion of the ACA, was the Congregational Library, established decades earlier, in 1853, to hold hundreds of years worth of priceless historical records. For the last century and a half the Library has carried out that mission, not just safekeeping documents but holding the memory and identity of a long and rich spiritual tradition.

At their September meeting, and after much discussion and deliberation, the board of the ACA made the difficult decision to explore the sale of the building. The ACA has engaged a real estate broker, Jones Lang LaSalle, and marketing will begin in November. Whatever the outcome of this process, the Library & Archives will remain in its present location, under a long-term lease.

14 Beacon is a wonderful building — and it is also over a century old. The ACA has done its best to exercise good stewardship over the years, and made a policy of renting building space to nonprofit organizations. But for a long time now, the board has been aware of pressing and expensive repairs, far beyond the ability of a nonprofit organization to address. They have reached the unavoidable conclusion that the ACA's mission is not managing real estate in downtown Boston.

The board has absolute clarity about the library's mission and lots of energy and enthusiasm for carrying it forward. As always the ACA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and making accessible the story of the Congregational tradition. The past years have seen enormous success in growing public programs, building our collection and making it accessible in digital form, and nurturing cutting edge scholarship. Ambitious plans for the future are in store, especially with the approach of "2020," the 400th anniversary of Congregationalism in North America.

More specific information will unfold over the next several months. In the meantime, Lisa Campoli ( the real estate advisor to the ACA, is available to answer questions.

October 24, 2016

As we continue to feature the CLA's food-related collections for Archives Month, it feels like a perfect opportunity to share some of our favorite recipes, advertisements, and food related stories highlighted from our collections between the 17th and 20th centuries.

We have a recipe for samp, which is a version of a Native American recipe adapted by English colonists. I made the recipe, which is a porridge, adding a little maple syrup and berries for good measure. It made for a hearty breakfast, and tastes like a precursor to Johnny Cakes and pancakes. Also from the Colonial Era, there are multiple mentions of food and foodstuffs in the CLA's New England's Hidden Histories collections including cider from Northbridge, MA; cranberries from Wrentham, MA; and lists of gifts to ministers as payment including chocolate, pigs, and wine from Stoneham, MA and Haverhill, MA.

In the 19th century, we noted a lot of recipes for steamed puddings and baked goods including ingredients such as saleratus, a precursor to baking soda. Making some of these recipes proved harder than expected, as there was no standardization to ovens or thermometer gauges in the 19th century so we had to do a little guess work on recipes. Note that there's no salt, fat, or baking instructions to the Maple Molasses Cookies recipe at all!

Maple Molasses Cookies recipe –
Winnowed Gems Cookbook (1899)
by The Woman's Missionary Society of
the Congregational Church, Summer Hill, NY.
  Laconia Cake –
Mary Whitcher's Shaker House-keeper (1882)

Additionally, in the 19th century, it is easy to see the development of a mass consumer culture through the rise of advertisements for food and cooking related equipment. Here are some examples:

Shakers’ Sarsaparilla ­­advertisement –
Mary Whitcher's Shaker House-keeper (1882)
  Marvel Flour advertisement –
Winnowed Gems Cookbook (1899)
by The Woman's Missionary Society of
the Congregational Church, Summer Hill, NY.
Beardsley’s Shredded Codfish advetisement –
Tried and True Cook Book (1898)
by The Ladies League of
Emmanuel Church, Springfield, MA
  Rising Sun Stove Polish advertisement –
The Boston Almanac and Directory (1891)
Glenwood Range advertisement –
Tried and True Cook Book (1898)
by The Ladies League of
Emmanuel Church, Springfield, MA

Some of the staff's favorite recipes have, without doubt, come from 20th century church cookbooks. These recipes are nostalgic for some, amusing for others, and generally beloved for their usage and creative pairing of ingredients. Here are a few favorites, all from the 1978 Kettle n' Kirke Cookbook, a 175th anniversary historical cookbook from the First Congregational Church, UCC in Littleton, New Hampshire.

Mom's Perfection Salad recipe   Six Can Casserole recipe
Gum Drop Cookies recipe

It's been great fun celebrating Archives Month through food, but it also highlights a more serious message. Archival collections may be used for a myriad of purposes, far beyond their obvious subject matters. All of these materials shed insight into times gone by from, socio-economic, cultural, gendered and geographical perspectives. We hope you've enjoyed learning about the CLA's food related collections as much as we have enjoyed sharing them. Cheers!

P.S. Have a Potato Chip cookie

October 17, 2016

Don't forget to register for this week's free lunchtime lecture. There are still a few seats left.

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Harper's, Aeon Magazine, among many other publications. His latest book, American Philosophy: A Love Story, part intellectual history, part memoir is ultimately about love, freedom, and the role that wisdom can play in turning one's life around.

John Kaag is at sea in his marriage and his career when he stumbles upon West Wind, a ruin of an estate in rural New Hampshire that belonged to the eminent Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking, one of the last true giants of American philosophy and a direct intellectual descendant of William James, the father of American philosophy and psychology. It is James's question, "Is life worth living?" that guides this remarkable book.

The books Kaag discovers in the Hocking library are crawling with insects and full of mold. But Kaag resolves to restore them, as he immediately recognizes their importance. Not only does the library at West Wind contain handwritten notes from Whitman, and inscriptions from Frost, but there are startlingly rare first editions of Hobbes, Descartes and Kant. As Kaag begins to catalog and read through these priceless volumes, he embarks on a journey that leads him to the life-affirming tenets of American philosophy — self-reliance, pragmatism, and transcendence.

Wednesday, October 19th
noon - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.

October 14, 2016

This year's joint ACA-Athenaeum Fellow, Jessica Parr, will be presenting on her research. Her forthcoming book will explore the evolution of African American religious thought. This talk will focus on the first chapter, discussing the legal, religious, and cultural matrix that emerged in defense of slavery in the British Atlantic.

Jessica Parr is a historian, specializing in the history of race and religion in the Early Modern Atlantic World. She received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012 and also holds an MA in History and and MS in Archives Management from Simmons College. Parr is a regular contributor to The Junto: a Group Blog on Early American History, and a co-editor at H-Net. Her first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon, was published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2015. Parr teaches at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester and Emmanuel College.

Monday, October 17th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Boston Athenaeum
Bayard Henry Long Room
10 Beacon Street, Boston

No registration required.


image of "Jan Tzatzoe, Andries Stoffles, the Rev. Dr. Philip & Rev. Messrs. Read Senr & Junr, giving evidence before the Committe of the House of Commons" painted by H. Room and engraved by R. Woodman courtesy of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, via Wikimedia Commons

October 13, 2016

October is American Archives Month, an opportunity for us to share the Congregational Library & Archives' incredible resources, demonstrate the value of archival collections, and make connections with patrons and potential researchers far and wide. Celebrated since 2006, the Society of American Archivists hosts Archives Month as an outreach opportunity for archivists to share our work and demystify what we do all day. A popular feature of Archives Month is "Ask an Archivist Day", a Twitter hosted event that allows patrons, archivists, librarians, and the general public to interact. This year, the CLA's archivists participated via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As a result, we saw engagement increase and had an amazingly fun day.

We decided to continue featuring our collections throughout the month in the most fun way we know how — through food. To help celebrate Archives Month we will be featuring recipes and food-related materials from the library and archives collections. The goal is to share information about our collections, not only with regular patrons and researchers, but also with a general audience in mind.

Food is sustenance but it's also an engaging way to talk about cultural shifts, globalization, diversity, community, economics, anthropology, and more. Our NEHH collections highlight lists of presents presented to ministers in lieu of payment in Colonial America, as well as discourse on cider and cranberries. Other archival collections include cookbooks, such as Winnowed Gems from Summer Hill, NY in 1899 as well as food related advertisements buried between church records such as a ca.1955 roaster oven advertisement from East Chicago, IN. Our Local Church Histories collections feature numerous cookbooks like the Kettle and Kirke from Littleton, NH in 1978 and the Monroeville, OH community Congregational Church Commemorative Cookbook from 1932-1982. Our library has both primary and secondary sources featuring food, menus, and food culture from the 17th through 20th centuries.


Follow us on these platforms to see the food related collections and recipes we will be highlighting all month!

Twitter: @Congrelib