Late-Nineteenth Century Benefactors
Following the Civil War, the Society lacked acquisition funds and suffered under a too broadly defined collecting policy which accepted anything “ancient,” including European incunabula and South American archeological finds.
Fortunately, the Society also had strong local support at this time. Three Worcester residents in particular helped to shape AAS: Stephen Salisbury III, Nathaniel Paine, and George Frisbee Hoar. Salisbury gave his family library, his financial support, and property to accommodate future growth. Paine was devoted to the Society, serving for decades as treasurer. AAS embodied his two greatest passions: collecting and local history. Hoar, a Worcester lawyer and U.S. Senator, recalled, “my highest ambition [was] to spend my life as an office lawyer … which would enable me to have a room of my own in some quiet house and to collect rare books.” As the Society’s president, Hoar established important endowments for acquisitions and many of his books are now in the collection.
In this period, AAS also had many supporters outside Worcester. The Society received important bequests from George Brinley of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1879 and from Joseph J. Cooke of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1883. Each man left $5,000 to the Society, the funds to be expended at an auction of that collector’s library. After the final Brinley sale, AAS Librarian Edmund M. Barton reported: “[W]e have secured for all time, rarities which would have been added to this great library of American history in no other way.”