Danvers Archival Center

The Annenberg Foundation Grant Report


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The Danvers Archival Center is a department of the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, Massachusetts. The purpose of the Archival Center is to collect and place in one central location, protected from fire, atmospheric, and insect damage, all the written and printed materials relating to the history of Danvers and Salem Village, Massachusetts.

The significance of the Archival Center rests with the fact that it was the first of its kind to bring together such a large collection of public and private records of a single community for purposes of preservation and accessibility to researchers. The Archival Center also houses the Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection, the largest collection of imprints relating to the Salem witchcraft events of 1692.

Back in November 2009, Charles Annenberg Weingarten, the vice president and a director of the Annenberg Foundation, a world-known private family philanthropic foundation, visited the Danvers Archival Center. Mr. Weingarten visits interesting places around the world and makes documentary films in which he showcases extraordinary nonprofit efforts. He wanted to visit the Salem area to discover and record the story of 1692 Salem witchcraft. Arriving on November 29 was producer Cynthia Scrima; camera operator Marissa Becker; Charlie, the director; and his dog Lucky. They were all enthusiastic about the visit, except Lucky who mainly slept. They filmed in the cinéma-vérité style with a hand-held camera and a natural flow, rather than creating a staged interview. We remained in the Archives for several hours and then I took them to the Salem Village Parsonage Archaeological Site and the Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial for a tour. It was a lovely fall day and all three Californians just loved the bright fall colors and the smells of New England.

Exciting news arrived in June 2010 when “out of the blue,” I was contacted and told that, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, wanted to give the Danvers Archival Center a two-year grant of $25,000 in support of our work. Such recognition by this well-regarded philanthropic organization of the validity of our efforts was very exciting and satisfying. In July 2010 the first check for $12,500 arrived, followed in July 2011 by the second installment. The money was deposited in the account of the Friends of the Peabody Institute Library, Inc., from which the Archival Center could draw funds.

By October, 2010, the nicely executed 30-minute video presentation produced by Charlie Weingarten’s Explore programming titled Salem Witch Hunt, went on-line at the Annenberg web site. It may be viewed by visiting the site at


It seemed fortuitous to receive this two-year grant, as I volunteered to use the bulk of the first year’s funds of $12,500 to assist in rectifying a significant potential danger to our Archival collections. In 2010 on two separate occasions, two sprinkler heads within the Library’s water sprinkler system failed for no apparent reason and seriously damaged library equipment and collections. Seeing this as a potentially devastating situation if it ever occurred in the Archival Center area with our valuable collection of manuscripts and rare books, it was determined to seek an alternative system with the use of the first year’s grant from the Annenberg Foundation.

Following research and outside assistance, we were able to recommend that the two Archive rooms and Walk-In Vault of the Archival Center be set up with an Inergen Clean Agent Fire Suppression System composed of inert gases which, if set off, would suppress a fire, but not produce by-products of decomposition that could damage our historic records. This would also alleviate the water damage associated with an accidental fire-suppression discharge of the water-charged sprinklers. With our commitment to offer the use of the majority of the first year’s grant of $12,500 by the Annenberg Foundation, the Town of Danvers was willing to request Danvers Town Meeting for an additional $18,000, which along with a small donation by me and a commitment by the Library Trustees to make up the difference, meant the project could be done.

At the May 2011 annual Danvers Town Meeting it was voted to fund $18,000 of the project. Unfortunately, the town has not prioritized this project as much the Library or I thinks necessary. I inquired of the Annenberg Foundation if it would be acceptable to encumber and not expend this first half of the grant money until the work is completed. The foundation was very amenable to this, for which we are grateful. We at the library have consistently recommended the scope of the project and the fire suppression agent we think best to protect the Archives. While we are frustrated with the deliberate pace of discussions with Town officials over the scope of the project and choice of agent, we are optimistic that this vital upgrade to our protection system will take place during FY2013.

First printing of the Brattle letter.

We did spend $608 from the first year’s grant in order to purchase two significant items for our Brehaut Witchcraft Collection.HopkinsWitchFinder The first item was a copy of the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for the Year 1798 (Boston, Samuel Hall, 1798) which first put into print the very important Thomas Brattle 1692 manuscript Account of the [Salem] Witchcraft. This hard-to-find, bound volume was acquired from Grey Matter Books, of Hadley, Massachusetts. The second item acquired was a rare 1792 engraving of Matthew Hopkins, Witch Finder General ( London, J. Caulfield, 1792) showing Hopkins depicted with two witches who are calling out the names of their imp familiars. This print was purchased from Blue Mountain Books & Manuscripts of Saranac, New York. Both items have been catalogued and made part of our Brehaut Rare Book Collection and are housed within the Walk-In Vault.

In late July 2011, a check for $12,500, the second installment of the /Annenberg Foundation grant, was received. We were very pleased to be able to purchase significant items for our collections and for educational outreach.

Page from the 1693 Hale book

One of the first acquisitions was a purchase at an auction sale by Skinner, Inc. of Marlboro, Massachusetts, of an important volume on English witchcraft. Authored by Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676) the volume is titled, A Collection of Modern Relations of Matter of Facts, Concerning Witches & Witchcraft Upon the Persons of People…Written by the Late Lord Chief Justice Hale, Upon Occasion of a Tryal of Several Witches Before Him. The volume was printed in London by John Harris in 1693. The book has been accessioned and catalogued and a phase box created to store it within our Rare Book collection.

Included within this particular book was a 1679 engraving of famed English witchcraft judge Matthew Hale, Chief Justice of the Bench, executed by Frederick Hendrik van Hove. Hale is portrayed seated in a chair and wearing judicial robes. This earlier engraving had been added to the volume at some time after the book was published, but when acquired, the engraving was detached from the book’s binding. I decided to treat the engraving as a separate item. Unfortunately it was in a poor state. As described by the Northeast Document Conservation Center, which performed the conservation work, “The mounted print was heavily varnished with a penetrating and discolored natural resin. It was cockled overall and embrittled, with a few accretions and a minor edge-tear at the top.” The engraving was very dark and the paper almost translucent. The resulting conservation of the image made for a remarkable transformation. It has now been catalogued separately and secured in a Mylar covered acid-free folder.

Another rare book added to our Brehaut Witchcraft Collection through the Annenberg Grant was an anonymously authored volume titled, The Case of the Hertfordshire Witchcraft Consider’d. Being an Examination of a Book, Entitled, A Full and Impartial Account of the Discovery of Sorcery & Witchcraft, Practis’d by Jane Wenham.

HertfordshirePrinted in London in 1712, this 98-page volume was one of several which came out concerning this notorious witchcraft trial, including two authored by Rev. Francis Bragge, which volumes are already within our collection. Bragge was sure of Wenham’s guilt and this anonymous work refuted Bragge’s writings, and opposed the guilty verdict against Jane Wenham in one of the last witchcraft trials in England. The book was purchased through Bauman Rare Books of Philadelphia.

The volume was only bound in marbled paper wrappers. Using Annenberg bookcoverFoundation funds, I requested Praxis Bookbindery of Easthampton, Mass. to construct a cloth covered drop spine preservation storage box with interior platform and a leather spine label for solid protection of this rare item.

Two other imprints were purchased from the grant money, these representing the Revolutionary War era. From Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers I purchased an original copy of The Gentleman’s Magazine, published in London and dated June 1775. Included in this issue is a fold-out map showing “100 miles round Boston” at the time when the Revolution commenced. The magazine issue also included an early full two-page detailed account of “the skirmish between the King’s troops and a body of Provincials published by authority,” together with a brief but rare description of the Provincials capturing two British supply wagons. Danvers men participated in both events, during which seven were killed in action. This magazine gives the English perspective of these important events.

Intro 12.2The second imprint is very significant to both Danvers and American history. Ezekiel Russell (1743-1796) was a printer who came to Essex County, Massachusetts just prior to the Revolution and his press put out all types of interesting, illustrated booklets and broadsides. His numerous broadsides are considered the most collectible and historically significant of this era and we have several within our collections. In 1777 Russell moved from Salem to Danvers and established a printing office next to the Bell Tavern. In that year he printed at Danvers an almanac for use in 1778. Titled Bickerstaff’s Boston Almanack, for the Year of our Redemption 1778 … Calculated by Benjamin West, the 24-page almanac was an important source of information to the colonial family, including information about the seasons, tides, weather and coach routes. Russell always included within his printed items folksy, somewhat crude, woodcut engravings of public interest. On the cover of this almanac Russell produced just below the title and within paired ovals side views of two gentlemen dressed in military coats and facing each other.

Above these two is the identifying caption: “The Glorious WashingtonGatesWashington and Gates.” This engraving had been used once before on copies of the Declaration of Independence issued by Russell in 1776, but the men not identified. That broadside and this almanac represent the first printed likeness of George Washington ever produced, and though the image is highly conjectural, it is very important in the illustrated history of the United States. Horatio Gates (1727-1806), undeservedly received most of the credit for the victory at Saratoga and during the early war was a darling to much of the public.

I learned that in March 2012 Swann Galleries of New York City was auctioning a large collection of documents on “Revolutionary America from the Allyn Kellogg Ford Collection.” Two items in this auction were important Danvers documents, and via a previous bid and listening on the phone the day of the auction, we were able to snag these two items for our collection using grant money. I was elated by our being able to obtain them.


Thomas Gage

The first item is a short letter signed by Thomas Gage addressed to Hon. Jeremiah Powell at North Yarmouth [Maine]. Gage was the last royal governor of Massachusetts and Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. Following British reaction to the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the port of Boston was closed and the capital removed to Salem. Governor Gage chose as his official residence the Robert Hooper mansion in Danvers, and he was guarded there by two companies of “Red Coats.” His letter is addressed at “Danvers Saturday Eveng 6 Augt. 1774.” This is the first reference to Danvers I have ever seen in official correspondence. Gage desired Powell “to meet me in Salem on Tuesday the 16th instant at 11 o’clock PM on his Majesty’s Service.” Powell had been appointed a “mandamus councilor” by the King and this letter is probably concerning this appointment. But why the meeting at night? Powell, a strong patriot, refused to serve. Instead he served in the break-away, treasonous Provincial Congress.


Lexington Alarm

The second item obtained is a receipt signed by militia Captain Jeremiah Page dated March 18, 1776, indicating that he has received money from Samuel Holten, Esq. “for wages due to me & my company that went on ye Larm last April in the year 1775.” It is docketed on the reverse in the hand of Dr. Holten. Page was Captain of one of nine Danvers companies that marched to the Lexington Alarm of April 19, 1775. His house is now preserved by the Danvers Historical Society. Dr. Samuel Holten was Danvers’s greatest patriot, serving in many town, county, provincial, state, and federal positions. His house is preserved by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.


We have a small but significant collection of 17th century documents relating to Salem Village. One such document is a permanent deposit item from the Danvers Historical Society relating to the historic Nurse Homestead. This fragile document had been further weakened by the original use of iron gall ink which had eaten away the paper under the ink. Various edge tears and a weak fold made the document in danger of breaking apart. Through grant money the document was conserved and then housed in an inert Mylar sleeve.

The document itself is dated 18th of May, 1698, and signed by Rev. James Allen of Boston, owner of the 300-acre Nurse Homestead which in that year was to be transferred to the Nurse family following 20 years of payments. The receipt acknowledges payment by the Preston family for a part of the farm broken off by Francis Nurse for his son-in-law and is witnessed by the signatures of Samuel Nurse and John Tarbell. The matriarch of the family, Rebecca Nurse, had been executed for witchcraft in 1692. The document is now fully protected and catalogued.

A major project undertaken due to the support of the Foundation Grant was the ModestEnquiryIntoTheNatureOfWitchcraftpreservation copying of three witchcraft sources. We requested the Northeast Document Center’s Department of Imaging to make high resolution digital captures of these items for preservation purposes, in order to make hardcopy facsimiles of the items, and for us to be able to eventually put this material onto our website for public access. The first item chosen was A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft, by Rev. John Hale of Beverly. The book was written in 1697, but Hale desired it not to be printed until after his death. In 1702 it was published in Boston and is an explanation by one of the important participants in the 1692 events of what had gone wrong. As Hale declares in his work, “We walked among the clouds and could not see our way.” Our copy is a deposit copy from the Danvers Historical Society originally belonging to the Hale family, with its complete text of 176 pages. This is the rarest of American witchcraft books.

The second printed volume I decided to copy was A Further Account of the Tryals of the NewEvilSPiritsPersonatingMen England Witches. With the Observations of a Person who was Upon the Place Several Days When the Suspected Witches Were First Taken Into Examination. To Which is Added, Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcrafts and Evil Spirits Personating Men, by Increase Mather. The 1693 London 54-page imprint by J. Dunton is actually two items in one and covers both the beginning and the conclusion of the witchcraft events. Rev. Deodat Lawson wrote a pamphlet in April 1692 called A Brief and True Narrative, with his observations of the first witch examinations in Salem Village. The first part of our copy is that narration, followed by the thoughtful essay in which Increase Mather calls into question the use of Spectral Evidence during the witch trials. This book, and its original circulated manuscript, was the most important factor in bringing the witch proceedings to a close.

The third item digitized was 80 leaves from the Church Book Belonging to Salem Village. This manuscript volume was kept by the Salem Village minister to record ecclesiastical matters. The original volume, which includes material from 1689 to 1845, was restored in 1974, shortly after it was put on permanent deposit within the Archival Center from the First Church, Congregational of Danvers. Though the book has been microfilmed in black & white images, and several people have made an attempt to transcribe portions of the book, the handwritten copy has never been available for scholarship, except as the rare original upon which there are restrictions as to its use. The image captures I decided to include are all the records from 1689 with the establishment of the Church of Christ at Salem Village up through the death of the second minister, Reverend Joseph Green, and the coming of his successor, Peter Clark in 1717. Also captured were leaves at the rear of the book which list marriages, births & baptisms, and deaths in Salem Village up to 1717. The early ministerial records in the handwriting of Reverend Samuel Parris include the original church covenant, material on the outbreak of witchcraft (“The Devil Hath Been Raised…”), excommunication of Martha Cory, and controversy over Parris following the witchcraft times. Reverend Green’s writings include his attempt to expunge the Cory excommunication, and the 1706 confession of Anne Putnam, Jr., in which she apologizes for her role in the witchcraft events. These digital copies are stored on a portable hard-drive in several formats.

The excommunication of Martha Cory

Nearing completion of the grant funds, my final purchase was for three USB portable drives so that I can make copies of the three items from the hard-drive and place them elsewhere for security purposes should anything go wrong with the original. This last purchase left my original $12,500 grant for FY 2011 with a balance left of 57 cents.




Thanks to the interest and generosity of Charles Weingarten Annenberg and, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, significant items were able to be added to our collections. We continue to take seriously our role as the institutional memory and manuscript repository for the entire Town of Danvers.

Richard B. Trask
September 2012

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