October 2012 will mark the beginning of the fortieth year of operation of the Danvers Archival Center! Following a Danvers Town Meeting vote authorizing the establishment of the position of Town Archivist as a department head within the Peabody Institute Library budget, the Danvers Archival Center opened to the public in October 1972 in the Danvers Historical Society’s “Memorial Hall” building located at 13 Page Street.
The Society’s brick and concrete structure was designed in 1930 by Lester Couch, who back in the early 1890s had designed the Peabody Institute Library. The Historical Society lent their entire Memorial Hall basement to the Town of Danvers’s new Archival Center at no cost, and we resided there for nine years.
Then in 1981, the town completed a major renovation and expansion of the Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street. Through an all-volunteer effort, the contents of the Archival Center was moved from Page Street to the newly created Archive rooms in the underground addition to the library, located on the Peabody Avenue side of the building. Our new quarters included a large public research room, secure manuscript storage area and a walk-in vault with a 6-hour fire rated door.
As to what we collect, our collection policy notes that: “The Danvers Archival Center is a repository for information relating to the history and development of the geographical area encompassing Salem Village and Danvers, Massachusetts. The Archival Center performs its mission by gathering and collecting flat, informational materials through gifts and purchases and through permanent deposits in cases where the material is owned by functioning corporate organizations. Among items collected by the Archival Center are books, pamphlets, monographs, manuscripts, broadsides, newspapers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, prints, audio and video tapes, films, CDs and microfilms.” These materials are stored in a secure and stable environment, and are available to all who wish to use them.
The Archives’ combined collections of gifted, purchased, and deposited materials make us one of the largest and most important documentary resources of a community of its size in the entire country. This multi-faceted collection is a seldom-found mix of diverse municipal, corporate and private research materials gathered together through a cooperative pooling by many organizations that were willing to give up physical custody of their papers for their being conserved, preserved, properly stored, catalogued and accessible. We remain committed to continuously upgrading our collections. This report will spotlight activities relating to the Archival Center during fiscal year 2012, which dates between July 2011 and June 2012.
Library Director and friend Douglas Rendell retired in the fall of 2011 after many years of significant and dedicated service to the town and library. We were pleased to welcome our new Library Director, Alan Thibeault, who early on requested an in-depth tour of the Archives and a sit-down discussion. Alan’s actions have been very supportive to our department and its mission. I also appreciate the steadfast support of Assistant Director Suzanne MacLeod and the much requested technical assistance given to me by reference librarian Jennifer McGeorge. Thanks also to the nine-member Board of Library Trustees who are continually supportive of this department and our goals.
Eva Veilleux has been assisting in the archives for many years. She knows all aspects of archive work, and is greatly responsible for our smooth operations. Eva is a meticulous worker and knowledgeable in many skills. When needed, she can run our operations singularly and is a pleasure to work with. Long-time Wednesday morning volunteer Thomas Marsella donated over 74 hours this year in researching and cataloguing archival manuscripts and doing a myriad of other tasks, including sorting and storing archival materials within our collection. We thank Tom for his valuable assistance!
During FY 2012 we obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued 78 books for inclusion within our Public Reading Room collection. Thirty-six of the volumes were acquired through gifts, while 42 were purchased.
Among printed items added by gift to our nationally known “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection” were: The Witchcraft Hysteria by Leo Bonfanti (1971); A Time Traveler’s Maps of the Salem Witchcraft, by Marilynne Roach (1991); The Witchcraft Frenzy, by William Heitz (1967); and When Witches Once Reigned, by Michael Manheim (1971).
A significant number of witchcraft volumes, both fiction and non-fiction, were purchased for inclusion within our Brehaut Collection including: The Salem Witch Hunt, by Richard Godbeer (2011); Europe’s Inner Demons, by Norman Cohn (1975); “The Salem Witchcraft,” an article from The American Review (1846); The Wolves of Andover, by Kathleen Kent (2010); Deliverance From Evil, by Francis Hill (2011); You Wouldn’t Want to be a Salem Witch, by Jim Pipe (2009), with cartoon-like illustrations; The Devil Made Me Do It, by Juliet H. Mofford (2012); Sleeping With Satan, by Mary Ann Mulhern (2010); The Enduring Fascination With Salem Witchcraft, by John B. Hench (2003); Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of, by Rosalyn Schanzer (2011); and Illustrious Providences, by Increase Mather (1977 fascimile edition).
Several rare witchcraft books were also purchased, catalogued and shelved within our secure walk-in vault. These titles were: an original two volume copy of Charles W. Upham’s classic work, Salem Witchcraft, marked as “number 16 of 100” sets printed; a fine 1823 edition of Robert Calef’s More Wonders of the Invisible World obtained through a book dealer in Ireland; and a combined bound set of six important pamphlets on Salem witchcraft published between 1883 and 1885 with most of them signed by the authors and bound under the title, History of Witchcraft in Massachusetts. We also acquired through our Annenberg grant two rare volumes on witchcraft which will be described later.
Within our “Danvers History” book collection we were gifted the following printed items which have all been processed, catalogued and put on the shelf: Life of Israel Putnam, by Increase Tarbox (1876); Statement on the Manner in Which Water is Used [in Danvers] (1881); Artists and Craftsmen of Essex County, by Henry W. Belknap (1927); Report to Adjust the Division of Town Property (1857); Danvers Garden Club Calendar (2006); Street List of Persons (2001); Danvers High School Heritage 2012 [Yearbook] (2012); The Indians and the History of Danvers, by Diana Woodman (1975); The Danvers 2000 Calendar (1999); Statement of the Accounts of the Town of South Danvers (1857); Report of Committee on Reduction of Tax Rate (1912); and As I Remember, by Betty Perkins (2002).
We are also often given annual reports of various town agencies for which we already have a catalogued copy. These extra copies are put in chronological order and stored in the Manuscript Storage Room for future use. Among this class of items donated this year were: Danvers School Reports (1882-1900, 1959); Valuations of the Town of Danvers (1875, 1894, 1913); and Statement of the Accounts of the Town of Danvers (1846, 1855-56, 1865, 1868, 1870-1872, 1880-1883, 1887).
Purchased books for our printed local history collection included: The Transcontinental Railroad, by Michael Uschan (2010); Peabody Institute Library Calendar (2012); Review of the Administration of the Government of the United States, by Timothy Pickering (1797); [Catalogue of the] Sale By Auction of the Famous Fern-Croft Inn (1899); volume seven of The Great Migration, by Robert C. Anderson (2011); The Read Family of Salem, Massachusetts, by Richard H. Benson (2005); Wenham, by Annette Janes (2011); Biographical Notes of Mr. Justice Story (1846); The Whites of Their Eyes, by Paul Leclerc (2011); and Second Trial of John Francis Knapp (1830).
One major rare book we were able to acquire was a copy of the earliest of the first editions of the most significant book on navigation in history, and a book still in use today. Nathaniel Bowditch was a Salem citizen who lived a number of years in Danvers. In 1802 his book, The New American Practical Navigator, was published by several printers, including Edmund M. Blunt for Thomas Biggs in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Our copy is a 589-page volume with a folding frontispiece map and 6 engraved plates. The history of this wonderful early copy is described in another volume we acquired this year titled, History and Bibliography of the New American Navigator, by John F. Campbell (1964). We are pleased now to have a copy of this classic volume with associations to Danvers, as well as a book about this book.
We are always on the lookout to expand our John Greenleaf Whittier Collection, much of which was originally gathered and in recent years donated to the Archives by Dr. Richard P. Zollo. One new item donated by Dick Zollo is an auction catalogue from 1909 containing descriptions of a valuable Whittier collection originally gathered by collector Frank Maier. Other books added to our Dr. Richard P. Zollo Whittier Collection were separate editions of The Poetical Works of Whittier published by Houghton Mifflin in 1888 and 1889. Also acquired was a first edition of Maud Miller (1867) and Whittier-Land, by Samuel T. Pickard (1904), inscribed by the author.
Purchased from Bauman Rare Books of Philadelphia was a fine and rare 1866 first edition copy of Whittier’s classic poetic work, Snow Bound, A Winter Idyl, housed in a custom-made slipcover box. Included with the volume was a small but significant manuscript letter written by Whittier in 1866 to two literary critics. Whittier beautifully described the work for which he is most famously known. The letter reads in part: “I presume my publishers will send you a copy of a little piece of mine, ‘Snow Bound, A Winter’s Idyl.’ You will take it for what it is, a simple picture of country life forty years ago. Its writing served to beguile hours of languor & illness, & I hope may do a good service to the reader.”
From among the Danvers Historical Society’s deposit collection we catalogued three rare publications bound together into one volume and owned in the 19th century by Peter Cross. The first item is a 163-page sermon by Danvers First Church minister Rev. Peter Clark on the doctrine of original sin and published in Boston in 1760. The second item is another sermon, this one written by John Cleveland concerning dangerous doctrine being preached in Gloucester. The 46-page 1776 sermon was published by local printer Ezekiel Russell. The third bound item has its title page and first 6 pages of a 24-page pamphlet missing, but is a rare imprint attributed to Samuel Clark. Also printed by Russell in 1776, this pamphlet is a description of the prophecy dreams of a resident of Cape Ann and includes a crude woodcut engraving of the dreamer in bed. A long footnote of 6 pages dated February 1776 describes the then present hostilities with Great Britain with a listing of those men, including seven men from Danvers, who were killed during the Lexington Alarm of April 19, 1775.
Broadsides are a sub-category of printed items that we collect. Broadsides are one-sided printed items, usually of a large format, and issued so that they could be posted. One such item donated this year was a notice of the dedication in 1870 of the granite Danvers Soldiers’ Monument erected in front of Town Hall. The broadside included names of program speakers at the dedication and a poem written for the occasion. Danvers lost 95 men during the Civil War, which number was 2% of the entire population of Danvers. Also catalogued through the Town of Danvers deposit collection were three Revolutionary War broadsides sent to the Selectmen of Danvers as official notices from the “State of Massachusetts-Bay.” The broadsides date 1777, 1778 and 1779 respectively. One broadside is concerned with towns gathering gun powder for use during the Revolution, while another (1779) calls the town to hold a meeting concerning the establishment of a state constitution. All three of these printed items had previously been conserved and put into inert Mylar folders by the Northeast Document Center. They are now reflected in our catalogue.
Newspapers are another sub-category of printed materials. This year we acquired from within this category a very full account of the ceremony of the driving of the last spike of the Transcontinental Railroad in Utah published May 16, 1869, in the Springfield Daily Republican. We also purchased a copy of The London Magazine for August 1758 reporting on the battle at Fort Ticonderoga, New York. Both events have important tie-ins with Danvers participants.
Among our subscription list of periodicals available as reference copies and to the public are: The Essex Society of Genealogy; American Archivist; Early American Life; Peabody Essex Museum; The Manuscript Society; Old House Journal; New England Archivist; About Towne by The Towne Family Association; and Preservation, the publication of the National Trust. We also have on hand the newsletters of the Danvers, Beverly and Peabody Historical Societies. Current issues are kept on the periodical case next to the Archive main entrance, and adjacent to our display of “Books For Sale.” Earlier issues are stored in the Manuscript Storage Room.
Cards typed and added to our Danvers History catalogue numbered 143, while 119 new main-entry, title and subject cards were created and interfiled into our Witchcraft catalogue.
The name “Ephemera” describes a class of printed paper items which are typically small, single items, pamphlets, sheets, etc., originally meant for temporary use. These items can be very revealing point-in-time bits of history, though they generally do not warrant individual cataloguing within our archival collection. We store our ephemera collection within acid-free folders under appropriate subject headings and placed in vertical file cabinets in our Manuscript Storage Room. Among items of ephemera donated to us this past year were: Services of Rededication of the Maple Street Church (1937); songsheet “Sing-along at Romie’s Ye Old Oyster House” (mid 1970s); Official Program of the 200th Anniversary of Danvers (1952); a copy of the magazine “Good Old Days” published in Danvers (November 1967); contemporary information and photos concerning a namesake community, Danvers, Illinois; series of articles by Myrna Fearer on the history of “The Meadows” (Jan. & Feb. 2010); a file on the creation of the Children’s Garden at the Library; photo processing envelope from S. M. Moore Drug Store (1950s); 80 brochures, pamphlets booklets and newspaper articles on Danvers history (1940s-1990s); news clipping and photo of police officer Jim George with President Gerald Ford at King’s Grant (1977); and 5 Danvers Co-Operative Bank pocket calendars featuring historic photos of Danvers (1950, 1954-1957).
Well-known former Danvers educator Robert Parsons presented the Archives with a fine collection of articles, booklets and newsletters concerning glassware bottles he and Robert Linden collected for many years, including many finds made in Danvers. Bob’s massive collection of bottles and demijohns was nationally significant. From original molds in his possession, Bob annually had created beautifully colorful violin bottles, which items were described in the newsletter “Fine Tuning.” The literature Bob donated to us tells much about these two local men and their significant collecting and studying of these artifacts of the past.
One group of ephemera items which we have recently gathered together and stored in an album is a collection of John Greenleaf Whittier First Day Postal Covers. On February 16, 1940, the U. S. Postal Department issued a two-cent red “rose carmine” commemorative stamp from the series “Famous Americans,” featuring a portrait of the poet Whittier. Various private companies created artwork on envelopes upon which the stamp would be affixed and on the official day of issue were marked the collectable “First Day” postal cancellation at various issuing post offices including Danvers, Amesbury and Haverhill. We have been able to gather over 20 different First Day envelopes affixed with single, two or block-of-four Whittier stamps.
Formal gift acknowledgments were sent to 24 individuals who donated books and/or manuscripts to the Archival Center, reflecting single or multiple donations to us. Items temporarily borrowed from our collections, including original or copies of photographs and documents for exhibition or research purposes, included: the Danvers Herald; Danvers Historical Society; Salem News; Calvary Episcopal Church; Danvers Garden Club; and several individual patrons representing reunion organizations, including the Danvers High School class of 1967.
This year we acquired 286 audio-visual items, mainly photographs, for our archival collection. Donations numbered 208 items, while 23 were given through permanent deposit and 55 items were purchased. Though we do not catalogue each new photo or illustration, special images worthy of inclusion in our public picture catalogue of merit due to their age, rarity or significance are catalogued. In this category we added 118 cards to the picture catalogue.
Among donated pictorial images were: 18 snapshot views of the High Street area prior to the building of Route 128 (1937); two photos of the barn and silo at Danvers State Hospital (1944); 48 color slides of apartment buildings in Danvers (1970s); a mounted photo of the Danvers Odd Fellows float in a July 4th parade (1916); portraits of Ropes family members (1880s-1920s); 31 4×5 color documentation prints of the condition of the Peabody Institute Library taken by Building Conservation Associates prior to the exterior restoration (1998); Fire Department Hose Company No. 2 (1905); various post cards of Danvers scenes (1900-1955); and donated from Japan, a watercolor painting of the front entrance to the 17th century Rea-Putnam-Fowler house off Locust Street (c 1900).
Purchased photographs obtained by the Archives this past fiscal year included: an Associated Press wire photo of the get-away car used in the Danvers Brinks truck robbery (1952); a carte-de-visite photograph of Captain Wallace A. Putnam (c 1864); An engraving by Robert Pollard of General Israel Putnam printed at Newcastle, upon Tyne, England (1779); a CDV of John G. Whittier (c 1865); a mounted photograph by Briggs Studio of the Holten High School Class of 1922; a print of the inside of the McIntyre Summer House (early 1900s); a CDV of George Peabody by Mayall, signed and dated by Peabody (1866); a double-page print of President Cleveland and his cabinet (including William C. Endicott) from Harper’s Weekly (January 1886); 31 sepia commercial photographic prints by Frank Cousins of the Fowler House, The Lindens & Oak Knoll (c 1890); a CDV of George Peabody by Matthew Brady Studio (c 1856); 9 glass plate negatives of farming activities at Essex Agricultural School (1919); and an advertisement from the magazine “Architecture” featuring drawings of the King Hooper House (1925). Among projects accomplished within the photographic collection was the accessioning, sorting and placement of images representing the Fowler House, and The Lindens in Mylar-type sleeves and then within acid-free storage folders.
Within the audio-visual category we also had several electronically readable items donated including a CD featuring the Danvers High School Falcons marching Band (2001); a CD of the Towne Family Association newsletter, “About Towne” (1981-2011); a DVD of still photos made by photographer Tom O’Connor of Danvers rescues, accidents and fires (1960s); a videotape titled “Days of Judgment” produced by Osram Sylvania (1993); and a DVD concerning the Danversport explosion and aftermath (2006).
Within our handwritten collections, progress was made this year in the continuing effort to process, catalogue, and store in optimum conditions the manuscript collections of the Danvers Historical Society. All the Society manuscript and local history book collections were deposited on permanent loan to the Danvers Archival Center back at its establishment in 1972. Among newly catalogued Historical Society manuscript items catalogued this past fiscal year were: the last will and testament of Dr. Samuel Endicott (1800); papers of the Danvers Volunteer Aid Society, a local group bringing aid to soldiers and hospitals during the Spanish-American War (June-August 1898); warrant to the sheriff to obtain tax monies collected by Tarrant Putnam (1765); inventory of the estate of Dr. Amos Putnam (1807); incorporation documents of the Danvers Chamber of Commerce (1960); photocopies of military correspondence of Levi Howard during the Civil War (1861-1864); a typed letter signed by William C. Endicott, Jr. to the Historical Society offering photographs of “The Lindens” (1912); three items, including a partially printed pattern, relating to the Danvers Carpet Factory originally located off Holten Street (1860s); estate papers of Dr. Jonathan Prince (1750s); an historical monograph written by Harriet Putnam Fowler concerning School District Number 3 (1890); a TLS by architect Lester Sanger Couch concerning a petition to the town to take over the care of the Village Training Field at 85 Centre Street (1932); receipt from Humphrey Peirce for his teaching in Salem Village (1749); subscription list pledging money for a presentation sword to be given to Captain Wallace A. Putnam by his company (1864); letter from Warren Porter concerning a teaching position in Danvers (1822); monograph by Rev. Alfred Porter Putnam on the history of various schoolhouses in Putnamville (1900); deed for land of Matthew Whipple (1752); letter from George Gardner Batchelder while serving on the USS Wyandank on the Potomac during the Civil War (1862); deed from David Putnam (1760); letter from Benjamin Porter concerning keeping school (1786); a pew deed for the First Church being sold by Sarah Fowler (1819); and a memorandum of agreement signed by Dr. Jonathan Prince, Jr. relating to expenses and profits of the voyage of the schooner Industry (1755).
Also catalogued this past year from among the Historical Society collections were several very early documents relating to Salem Village. These items had all been previously conserved and restored, with several encapsulated between Mylar sheets. These newly catalogued items included: a deed from Joseph Hutchinson to his son Benjamin for land in the center of the village witnessed with the signatures of Rev. Samuel & Elizabeth Parris and acknowledged by magistrate Jonathan Corwin, all of 1692 witchcraft fame (1691); a bond and arbitration finding concerning Thomas Small (1670); a deed from Nathaniel Ingersoll to James Smith (1705); two documents relating to Abraham Walcott, being a receipt and memorandum (1699) and a power of attorney given to John Buxton (1700); and a contemporary copy of a “deed of sale” by Rev. James Allen to Francis Nurse of 300 acres of land (1678), part of which today is the preserved Rebecca Nurse Homestead.
Among donated manuscripts this past year were papers kept by Horace Granville Putnam of the fraternal organization known as the “Knights of Honor,” donated to the Archives by the Rochester Hills Museum in Michigan (1878-1882); and an illustrated binder titled “Headstones & Legends of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead Graveyard,” researched and prepared by William Buttimer (2012).
Town records on deposit in the Archival Center which were catalogued included two from the Revolutionary War era. A receipt by Captain Gideon Foster indicated that, on payment of a fine, local printer Ezekiel Russell avoided military service for six months (1780), while militia Captain Jeremiah Page reported to the Selectmen that a little over a month before the Battle at Concord Page needed twelve guns and bayonets for members of his company (March 9, 1775). The Peabody Institute Library Board of Trustees Record Book (2004-2007) was also deposited within our Archives collection.
With the end of this fiscal year we have pretty much completed our efforts to gather and catalogue the backlog of papers of Dr. Samuel Holten. Holten was Danvers’s most noted son who served in numerous governmental positions before, during and after the American Revolution, including in the Continental Congress and the early U.S. Congress. We acquired several Holten collections via auctions several years back and are finishing up with cataloguing them. Items include: an invoice to Job Whipple for medical treatments to his family for over a decade (1783); three retained unsigned draft letters by Holten concerning his public service (1780s); and an Autograph Letter Signed from Holten while serving as Town Treasurer (1809).
With all this manuscript cataloguing during the past fiscal year, we added 500 main entry and tracing cards to the manuscript catalogue.
One interesting project accomplished this past year had to do not with acquiring, but with the disposing of historic documents. During the bloody American Civil War, a Danvers, Massachusetts officer had pilfered (as a war trophy) a group of ancient court documents which he came across at Warwick County, Virginia.
One hundred fifty years to the month after that small wartime souvenir theft, that same group of 17th and 18th century records was returned to its rightful owners in a ceremony at the Library on April 30, 2012. Carl Childs, Director of Local Records Services of the Library of Virginia, flew to Massachusetts to take physical custody of these early Virginia records from me and return them to the people of that Commonwealth.
In 1862 Second Lieutenant Wallace A. Putnam was serving with the 10th Massachusetts Regiment. His regiment participated in the Peninsular Campaign in early 1862 when General George B. McClellan invaded Virginia. The 10th Regiment arrived at the small hamlet at Warwick, Virginia, on April 5 and remained in the area for several days. While there Putnam acquired seven legal documents dated 1688-89, 1718-1719, and 1751, including an arrest warrant, and court and estate papers. A Putnam family letter dated May 1, 1862, mentioned how Wallace Putnam had mailed home “some old papers taken from the Warwick Ct. House – one bears the date of 1688.” Over time during the war most of the old county records stored at Warwick County were looted or destroyed.
Wallace Ahira Putnam died from war wounds in 1864, but family members kept the old documents with other family memorabilia and eventually they were all but forgotten. In 1991 the Israel Putnam birthplace at 431 Maple Street, and its entire family contents, was donated to the Danvers Historical Society. As per our previous agreement with the Society, all the Putnam manuscript and book materials were placed on permanent deposit at the Archival Center.
Several years back I had found among the Putnam collection a 1719 document with words written on the bottom: “From Warwick Court House Virginia by Wallace A. Putnam.” Knowing that there had to be more to the story, I did further research and learned of the destruction of much of the 17th through mid 19th century public records heritage of Virginia during the Civil War.
After some initial book and Internet research, I wrote to the 1810 Warwick County Courthouse in Newport News, Virginia, requesting information they might have about activities there during the Civil War. My letter elicited a response from preservationist Mary Kayaselcuk detailing the history of the events of April 1862 around Warwick Courthouse. I eventually found salted within the Putnam family papers seven identifiable Warwick County documents. As April 2012, approached I thought there would be no better time to allow these archival estrays, these small bits of history removed from their home one-and-a-half centuries ago, to be finally returned to their rightful owners. I spoke with Library Director Alan Thibeault and Trustee President Mary Beth Verry, and the Library Board about my discovery, as well as informing President Joseph Joslin and the Danvers Historical Society Executive Board, which owns the Putnam papers. I also contacted Mr. John Endicott Emerson, the last surviving of the two brothers and sister who originally donated this family collection, about my desire to return these documents. All were enthusiastic to have them returned and the Historical Society Executive Board authorized the transfer back to Virginia.
Virginia State Archivist Sandra Gioia Treadway was contacted. A response arrived quickly. Dr. Treadway wrote “I cannot begin to describe to you how thrilled I am concerning the wonderful news…. Your discovery would be exciting no matter where in Virginia these local records had originated, but their having come from Warwick County (now the city of Newport News), a county that has few surviving records from the pre-Civil War period, makes these documents even more precious.”
She indicated their gratitude for our recognizing the significance of the documents and securing the blessings of the appropriate people and agencies to allow the return of “these historic documents to the citizens of Virginia.”
On April 30, Mr. Carl M. C. Childs, Director of Local Records Services flew from Richmond to Danvers for the transfer program which was held that evening in the Gordon Room, before an overflow audience. Introductory remarks were made by Trustee President Mary Beth Verry and Society President Joe Joslin. Childs and I spoke about the documents, Putnam, and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s colonial records following the Civil War. I noted in an irony of history that if it were not for Putnam having taken these war trophies in 1862, they would undoubtedly have been destroyed along with the other county records as a result of the war. According to Childs, these documents add by almost 100% the known surviving documents of an otherwise decimated collection of pre-Civil War Warwick County public records. The documents were then formally turned over to Childs, with Galo P. Emerson, representing the Putnam Family Trust, and Verry and Joslin, representing the Library and Society respectively, participating.
At the program the documents were on display, along with several items from within the collections of the Danvers Historical Society and Danvers Archival Center relating to Wallace Putnam and the Civil War. The following day Childs hand carried the documents with him back to the Library of Virginia where they will be processed, preserved and made available to the public. Much media interest was generated by the story.
Maps are another area of collecting within the Danvers Archival Center. Among our map collection we include both manuscript and printed maps of the Town of Danvers, or of smaller geographical areas within the community. Two significant manuscript maps donated in FY2011 by retired Assistant Fire Chief Richard Wessell related to the industrial history of Danvers. They were large format layout maps of the Bernard Friedman & Company Leather Factory originally on Ash Street. One colored map prepared by the Underwriters Bureau of New England dates to 1896; while the other survey map was drawn by local surveyor Andrew Nichols in 1899. The large factory complex burned at the turn of the 19th century and now nothing remains of the former factory. These maps were in poor shape, with numerous folds and torn areas and with mud and grime all over them. We used some of our conservation monies to have the Document Conservation Center in Andover restore these items. Once they were returned, we catalogued the items and stored them in map folders within our metal map storage unit.
Through historian Jim McAllister of Salem, we were able to acquire a lovely disbound set of printed Danvers maps. The five plates obtained are large, double page format, color maps produced in 1897 by the Richards Company and include rich details of structures, ancillary buildings and streets. Along with these plates we also obtained a Danvers plate from the 1872 Beers Atlas. By the end of the fiscal year we added 95 new cards to our map catalogue.
Architectural Records is yet another collecting area within the Archival Center. Frequently referred to as “plans,” these drawings were created by architects to assist in the visualization and building of the all manner of structures. Both mechanical drawing skills and artistic pursuits are incorporated into architectural records. Local contemporary architect Robert D. Farley had previously gifted us plans of several Danvers structures. This past year he donated a significant collection of his working drawings done during the 1980s and 1990s in Danvers. Among the 134 sheets are 16 separate projects executed by Farley, including new designs and adaptations for single family dwellings, an apartment complex, barns, garages, a day care school; and even the design of a new press box at Deering Football Stadium. These contemporary plans add significantly to our collection of architectural records and produced an additional 48 cards for our plan catalogue.
The Danvers Archival Center has always included a modest budget for conservation. With the growing expense of conservation work and the reduction in items needing conservation due to our earlier rigorous program, by the early 1990s our conservation funds began to be used more for microfilming newspapers and ordering special phase boxes and containers for rare items.
This year I created a listing arranged by fiscal year of items within the Danvers Archival Center that have been sent out for conservation work since 1974. These items include individual manuscripts and documents, manuscript volumes, books, broadsides and newspapers. Most of these items were conserved by what is now the Northeast Document Conservation Center. For the first fifteen years or so the Danvers Archival Center successfully applied to the Massachusetts Council on Arts and Humanities for matching grants, until that funding source ceased to exist. Subsequently, several grants were applied for through the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, and one this year through the Annenberg Foundation.
Statistics on the public use of the Archives were kept for 49 weeks this year. Recorded were 836 visits by patrons who used our resources. We also logged in 877 telephone calls answered and 977 letters and emails sent out in answer to queries. These statistics are the highest in all categories for the last 6 years. I also gave talks and presentations to 9 separate groups representing various civic, college, school, genealogical and historical organizations. Among these were talks given before the Danvers Historical Society, Danvers Kiwanis Club, a genealogical group, and visiting students and faculty from New Jersey College.
Just at the end of last fiscal year I was involved in a documentary project produced by Tom Phillips. This cooperative project was sponsored by the Essex National Heritage Commission and the National Park Service in Salem, with the assistance of the Danvers Alarm List Company, through their Rebecca Nurse Homestead property, and by the Danvers Archival Center. The resulting 20 minute documentary program was titled Salem Witch Hunt and was designed to be viewed at the National Park Service Visitors’ Center four times a day to familiarize visitors to the accurate story of the 1692 witchcraft outbreak. I had assisted in coordinating the areas to be filmed in Danvers, including at the Nurse Homestead and several town-owned sites. Besides the conducting of a sit-down interview with me at the Archives on May 12, we filmed at and I spoke about the Salem Village Parsonage Archaeological Site off Centre Street and at the Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial.
The beautifully filmed program debuted at the Visitors’ Center on October 4, 2011, to a packed and enthusiastic audience. The first and final scene in the program shows me walking and looking at the Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial on Hobart Street in Danvers. Then on November 3, a reserved ticket special film viewing was followed at the Visitors’ Center by a Scholars’ Symposium about the film and the historic events.
Another documentary, part of which was filmed in December 2010 at the Archival Center, had its United States debut in the fall of 2011. Produced by Wide-Eyed Entertainment, the documentary titled Salem: Unmasking the Devil was produced for National Geographic of England and shown on BBC Worldwide. In this country it has only been broadcast on the National Geographic channel.
More recently, in late May 2012, yet another production company, Pilgrim Operations out of North Hollywood, California, traveled to Essex County to shoot a program for the History Channel. Not so much of a scholarly documentary, this production is part of a new series titled “Mystery Files,” with a focus “on haunted locations in America that have extraordinary backstories.” Though as a public resource, I can not discriminate as to whom I can assist; I did get assurances by the segment producer that their use of the Archives, Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial and Parsonage Archaeological Site would not be used for any kind of paranormal investigation or claim to the paranormal on site. On May 24 a large crew with a two-camera set-up, a sound man, producer, and assistants arrived at the Archives for what turned out to be the longest interview I have ever experienced. They were here for 6 hours, with 4 hours worth of interviewing being taped. I suspect this program will be aired this fall near Halloween, and the four hours of my “gems of knowledge” interview melted down to about 30 seconds.
Another media-related occurrence took place in March 2012, when Sotheby’s Auction House in New York was set to sell off a very rare 1692 witchcraft document. The document was an indictment against Margaret Scott of Rowley for practicing witchcraft. Unfortunately the minimum bid was far beyond the Archival Center’s pocketbook, though the media interest generated by the auction did spark attention. Within a two-day period I was interviewed for my reaction to the sale and the significance of the document by the Salem News; Boston Globe, WBZ-Radio; WBUR-Radio; and the New England Cable News Network. The single-sheet document sold for a bargain price of just under $30,000.
In early 2012 I was contacted by freelance writer Andrew Conway for an interview about a profile article on Danvers for inclusion in the slick and beautifully produced Northshore Magazine. The published article included extensive quotes about Danvers by Town Manager Wayne Marquis and me. Under the heading “Crown Jewel,” Conway wrote, “ Salem may be the witch-kitsch capital of the world but Danvers is the real deal – and not a broomstick or pointy hat in sight. Danvers may not shout about its compelling witchcraft heritage but it does everything in its power to preserve and protect it. For the past 40 years Town Archivist Richard Trask has been acquiring, documenting and safeguarding the Brehaut Witchcraft Collection – the world’s largest compendium of imprints….”
Though I am sure some visitors who come to the Archives are completely dissatisfied by my knowledge or help, if I had such complaints I certainly would not include them in my annual report!! Instead, let me “modestly” quote from one letter received November 4, 2011, from a “satisfied customer.” “While visiting from Miami last week, I stopped by the Peabody Institute Library with hopes of seeing any of the documents relating to the witch trials…. You were so very kind to take the time to share with me a few documents and a bit of your vast knowledge of the events of 1692. I had questions about property seizure and the stance of several ministers on spectral evidence. You were wonderfully patient and dynamically informative. My visit to the Danvers Archives was a true delight. Best Regards, Michele Keratsis.”
Among the genealogists and history students I see every year, at least a dozen times a year I am contacted on the phone or by email, or visited here at the Archives by authors requesting information, typically with witchcraft-related book projects. These encounters are usually pleasant and enjoyable. One such query turned out to be very much fun and stimulating. In July 2011 I received a letter at home from a Stacy Schiff of New York City asking if I would be willing to speak with and assist her on a writing project she was commencing on Salem witchcraft, as she heard that the Archive collection was quite good. Her name sounded familiar and her stationery of lovely quality, so I “Googled” her. Stacy Schiff wrote the then current best seller Cleopatra and in 2000 had won a Pulitzer Prize for her biography, Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov). She has also authored the meticulously researched volumes, Saint-Exupery (1994) and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (2005). We communicated via email and set up dates for a visit. In early November 2011, just before she was to visit the Archives, I happened onto an interview of her on C-SPAN’s program Questions and Answers hosted by Brian Lamb. Near the conclusion of the in-depth hour-long interview, Lamb asked Stacy where she planed on spending most of her time researching her next book on the Salem witchcraft trials. She graciously replied, “I hope to spend a lot of time … Um… There’s a fabulous archives in Danvers, Mass., run by Richard Trask.” How could I not be helpful?
Stacy did research here in November 2011 and then with research assistant, Rachel Riederer, for a week in January. She is a very stimulating, down-to-earth, smart and lovely young woman. We had lunch together daily, even twice with my wife Ethel, and I look forward to her return and to the book she will create.
In March, at the request of the Library Reference Department I gave an evening illustrated talk before a modest-sized audience on New England architecture and how to date ones’ house. A much larger audience was on hand on June 20, 2012, at Endicott College when I was a speaker at the National Endicott Cousins’ Reunion Lecture Series. The last of five presenters, at 4:30 I gave a talk on the history of the Endecott Pear Tree, and was incredulous that the audience seemed as bright and alert as when the lecture series had begun at mid-morning. The day before my talk, the Endicott folk had visited the Archival Center, which Reading Room I had set up with Endecott/Endicott related manuscripts, illustrations and artifacts from within our collections, to the delight of the family members. Eight months earlier I had set up one of our display cases located under the portrait of Governor John Endecott with related memorabilia. This was done in conjunction with the Essex National Heritage sponsored September 23, 2011, weekend “Trails & Sails” events held throughout the county. We had a number of visitors that particular Friday to view our modest display.
With the absolutely crucial assistance of Reference Librarian Jennifer McGeorge, we have been attempting to upgrade our Archival Center website. The archive menu page was redesigned so that information is sorted into the general categories of (1) Archival Center; (2) Danvers History; (3) Salem Village Witchcraft; and (4) Other Resources.
In November we put on-line an illustrated description of our “Historic House Marker Program,” outlining how home owners can order a marker for their dwelling through the Archival Center. Then in December we posted a short article titled “Discovering Paul Revere in a Dried Prune Box,” with six illustrations and placed under the “Danvers History” category.
I have selected, scanned, and captioned a representative 30 enlargeable old images of Danvers State Hospital that we will soon post on the Archive site. As the Danvers State Hospital is still a popular subject for research, I have written up a history of the site borrowing heavily from my building survey and the National Register nomination of the 1980s, as well as an essay I did on the destruction of just about every historic building on the hospital grounds. This too shall be added to the website as soon as possible.
Eva and I have continued, as time allows, to input into a master listing through a Microsoft Excel program the older and historic structures in town. These will eventually be included on our own web site and hopefully that of the Town of Danvers. We are generating the list from in-house resources including “Historic House Surveys” we have done, our “House Marker Program,” materials from our house file and other miscellaneous materials. The list includes the dwelling address, date of construction, name of builder or architect, name of first owner, occupation, architectural style of the house, any significant notes such as if the house were moved, and information source. Our listing now includes 900 Danvers dwellings, up 500 from last year.
Another project I worked on this past year was to assist with interpretive signage to be used on the newly established 4.3-mile Danvers Rail Trail, walking trail. The trail was laid down upon one of the original railroad beds traversing the town and connected north and south to trails established in Wenham and Peabody. The Town had previously applied for and received a Partnership Grant from Essex Heritage to fabricate four signs that would depict local railroad history using photographs, text and maps. Town of Danvers Senior Planner Katherine A. Day contacted me and asked if I would be willing to assist with creating the signs. Soon Kate, Lori Dupont and I were meeting on a regular basis to discuss the signs and their content. During much of this past fiscal year we were joined in this task by talented local designer Laura Cilley, who put our raw data into an attractive layout. After internal Archival Center research, I suggested subjects and locations for the signs, wrote the primary text for three of them, chose illustrations, facsimiles and maps for each utilizing Archival Center resources and those found by other committee members, and submitted to the committee captions for each illustration. Following a lengthy period of editing, proof reading and fact checking with the assistance of other volunteers, the colorful and attractive signs were fabricated and sometime this summer will be placed along the trail. Topics for the signs were: (1) “Tapleyville Station” (sign to be located on Pine Street near the original station); (2) “The Railroad in Danvers” and (3) “Danvers Plains Stations” (both signs to be located at Hobart Street in separate locations near the municipal parking area); and (4) “Grenville M. Dodge” (sign to be located near Dodge’s birthplace in Putnamville).
For the second year I put together a group of books and pamphlets for special sale at the Friends of the Library annual book sale in June. Gathered were 63 items, being multiple or hard-used duplicates of local and witchcraft history items. I marked them for sale individually and shelved them on a book cart that was set up in the Gordon Room during the first and second day of the book sale. Twenty-nine items were sold, bringing into the Friends’ treasury $161.
I continue to serve as a Commissioner in the Essex County National Heritage Area as Danvers Town Archivist. Other organizational connections include serving as a member of the Salem Village Historic District Commission, which typically meets in the Archival Center for public meetings, a trustee of the Danvers Historical Society, and resource person for the Danvers Preservation Commission.
We attempt to continue to serve as a resource for citizens and town agencies needing historic or background information. Among departments assisted this past fiscal year were the Town Clerk, Police Department, Senior Citizen Center, Planning Department, Building Inspector, Fire Department, Town Manager, Historic District Commission, and Preservation Commission. The Preservation Commission requests reports by the Archives on local buildings for which application has been made for demolition, as part of the Danvers Demolition Delay By-Law. Unfortunately more and more requests are made each year. I made site visits to several houses and prepared reports on requested structures for the Commission, which reports were then made part of our house files.
At the beginning of this past fiscal year our Archive Special Fund had a balance of $11,745.94. This fund was established in order to have money available in case important but expensive items came to our attention and would overwhelm our regular budget. This year the Archival Center brought in reference and certified copy fees amounting to $234, while $180 was generated from four signs ordered as part of our Historic House Marker Program. Donations to the archives for talks given, fees for use of archival illustrations in publications, and books sold brought in an additional $570.98, for a total $984.98 being added to our special fund.
Equipment and supplies acquired this past year include a new monitor and speakers for our computer; a crosscut paper shredder; X-Acto paper trimmer; an additional thermo-hygrometer to monitor the temperature and humidity; archival boxes of several sizes; acid-free folders; Mylar sleeves for photographic prints; glass plate negative boxes; and permalife bond paper. We also purchased a manual operated Super Carrel Microfilm Reader from Indus International. The unit is equipped with a zoom lens offering variable magnification from 18x through 42x for use with both 16mm and 35mm microfilm. We could not afford a motorized version, with a printer attached, though this unit should take care of most research needs. There is a motorized reader/printer available in the Reference Department, however, which can be used by our patrons if needed.
In the dark of night on July 30, 2010, Richard Provencher knocked the massive bronze George A. Peabody Memorial Urn, located on the Library grounds, off its pedestal and into a truck. He then stole this public art-work to sell for scrap metal. An employee at the scrap metal yard called police concerning several suspicious items brought there and Provencher was subsequently arrested and served a term in jail, but with no recompense given the Library. The urn was cracked, purposefully stove-in on one side and a handle broken off. At the request of the Library Cassidy Bros. Forge in Rowley provided an estimate for its repair of $16,880, with an additional $2,400 for its reinstallation with the use of a crane, along with securing it from future theft. I was requested to research the history of this grand, ornamental lawn memorial and have produced a brief history of Peabody and the urn. (see the FY2011 Reprot for historical background on the urn.)
During FY 2012 the Danvers Archival Center was able to use the second instalment of the Annenburg Foundation Grant of $25,000 for the purchase of significant items for our collection and digitization of three imporant primary sources. For a complete description of these items and services, please see the FY2012 Annenburg Foundation Report.
Thanks to the generosity of Charles Weingarten Annenberg, Explore.org, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation and to the support of local citizens, organizations, and Danvers Town Meeting significant items were able to be added to our collections through purchase, gift or deposit. We continue to take seriously our role as the institutional memory and manuscript repository for the entire Town of Danvers.