New Online Access to Digital Finding Aids

Hand-drawn Commission Merchant Card from MH 16, Benjamin Crowninshield Family Papers, announcing Ben Crowninshield as a Commission Merchant for New Orleans

The Phillips Library is pleased to announce that we have recently completed a project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a Federal agency which Congress established to promote the preservation and use of America’s documentary heritage. This project resulted in the processing of over 300 linear feet of archival materials of national significance.

Collections chosen for the grant fell into three categories: military records; the papers of prominent 18th- and 19th-century Essex County, Massachusetts, residents; and maritime manuscripts, which include the papers of ship owners, ship captains, and those who contributed to maritime trade, navigation, and sea travel throughout the world.

Sea Chest with papers from Captain Alexander Robinson, 1784-1848, before processing

We created 82 new finding aids, updated 82 catalog records, and made 82 finding aids available on the web. This is the first time that the military collections have been processed. Finding aids from the project are accessible from the library’s website and can also be viewed here.

Collections that were processed with NHPRC funds include the papers of William Bentley, noted Unitarian minister, scholar, and diarist; Captain Alexander Robinson, a Brooklyn, New York, merchant seaman who was a captain during the War of 1812; the Sons of Temperance, a group of men promoting the temperance movement; Henry Cabot Lodge, a United States Senator and historian; and Nathaniel Bowditch, early American mathematician and founder of modern maritime navigation. We processed over 9,400 Civil War patriotic envelopes and over 1,200 sailing ship cards.


Photo taken by H. E. Valentine of the 23rd Massachusetts Regiment Guard and Guard tent at Morehead City, North Carolina, 1863; MM 39, 23rd Regiment Association Records

These collections document personal relationships, professional lives, each of the national and international wars in modern history, and various cultural phenomena. Topics covered include banking, navigation, shipping, seafaring life, genealogy, military history, manufacturing, and the abolition of slavery. These 82 collections contain photographs, maps, drawings, and blueprints, as well as letters, diaries, account books, receipts, deeds, wills, and  other legal papers.

We are pleased that these collections are now fully accessible for research, and we are grateful to NHPRC for their support. If you have any questions about these collections or the project, please feel free to contact Tamara Gaydos at

2 thoughts on “New Online Access to Digital Finding Aids

  1. ThiT
    This is wonderful news and I’m so pleased to be able to further my research in history, my genealogy, and historic preservation. What a gift this is for us history buffs and scholars. ;-)

  2. I was down a few years ago to look at a small, leather bound MS of contra dances signed by Henry Johnson. Is this a MS that has been scanned for your historic documents scanning project? I came across a web listing for a man named Henry Johnson 1805 – 1850 and died in Salem. This would be the correct time-frame for the man who wrote the MS. Is there a way I could find out more about him at your library? Also do you have copies of the local newspaper for that time frame (especially 1830 – 1850? Do you know if any journals or letters from that time might mention local dances/balls or traditional musicians?
    This MS, I believe, is closely connected with the book I am researching. It has a plate connecting it to the Thomas Cole Bequest, is there a way to find out anything more about who it was purchased from? One of our local musicians William Whiddon moved to the area around 1900 and continued to perform, the book may be connected with him.
    I am not sure when I can get down to visit next, are your records back to being totally accessible? Would I have to reapply when I visit next? Thank you very much for your help.

    Alex Mann

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