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William Bentley & His Library

The Reverend William Bentley (1759-1819) made a substantial bequest to AAS on his death. Best known for the lengthy and richly detailed diary he kept over a period of thirty five years, Bentley spent the majority of his career as the minister of East Church in Salem, Massachusetts. His diary is an important document of New England life in the early Republic.

An avid book collector, Bentley accumulated a library totaling more than 4,000 volumes. Bentley and Isaiah Thomas had known each other for many years before Bentley was elected a member of the Society in 1813. In his will, Bentley left his books printed in New England, his substantial collection of German titles, and his paintings and prints to AAS. The bequest amounted to about 1,100 volumes. Bentley’s manuscripts, including the important diary, came to the Society in 1866 as the bequest of his nephew William Bentley Fowle.
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Inventory of Bentley Library
William Bentley Diary
Woodcut of Richard Mather
An Abridgement of Dibdin's Classics
Bust of John Winthrop
Portrait of Elisha Cooke

Christopher Columbus Baldwin Collects for AAS

As the Society’s librarian, Christopher Columbus Baldwin (1800-1835) accomplished a remarkable amount in less than four years, acquiring material for the library and preparing most of the first catalogue of the AAS collections.  After attending Harvard College, Baldwin studied law in Worcester, but found himself more interested in antiquarian pursuits.  Isaiah Thomas’s will made provision for a salaried librarian, and in 1832 Baldwin was given this position. He conducted his duties with great energy, begging for books and other materials from historically-minded people across the United States. 

Baldwin’s most notable acquisition was a collection of more than two tons of books, pamphlets and manuscripts belonging to the Boston collector Thomas Wallcut.  The young librarian removed these from the attic of a warehouse in Boston during several hot summer days in 1834. Baldwin’s tenure was tragically cut short in 1835 when he was killed in a carriage accident while traveling in Ohio.
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Baldwin Diary from 1833-35
Baldwin portrait by Goodridge
Catalogue of Pamphlets & Sons of Africans
Copy of Church-Covenants
Several Rules, Orders and By-Laws

Lucy Chase and Sarah E. Chase Collect Contemporary History

The coming of the Civil War led to a widespread appreciation of the historical significance of current events, and these feelings were shared at AAS. As the war began librarian Samuel Foster Haven wrote “If there ever was a time when Historical Associations should be busy in their vocation, it is now, when documents are to be gathered and preserved which may yield a true solution to the exciting questions that agitate the land . . ..”

Many individuals and organizations sent war-related publications to the Society for preservation. Among the most interesting were materials collected in the South by two Quaker sisters from Worcester, Lucy (1822-1909) and Sarah E. Chase (1836-1915).  The sisters went to Virginia in 1863 to teach in freedmen’s schools. Their correspondence (also at AAS) reflects their interest in preserving material as evidence of the historic events which were happening around them. In this way, the sisters activity parallels that of Isaiah Thomas who earlier had preserved broadsides, newspapers and books documenting the American Revolution.

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Account book of slave auctions
Coffee beans from U.S.Grant
Public Laws of the Confederate States
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