“Mother, don’t cry. Your child is happy.”

Paul Trefry

These were the last words spoken by the genteel, 24 year old Elizabeth Ropes Orne, in March of 1842. Dying from tuberculosis, young ‘Lizzie’ succumbed to the disease while lying in her own bed, in her second floor bedroom in the Ropes’ Essex Street mansion in Salem. These precious few words were discovered, like buried treasure, within the volume of personal correspondences written by Lizzie’s mother, Mrs. Sally (Ropes) Orne. During Lizzie’s three year battle with ‘consumption,’ her mother Sally was a loving and dutiful caregiver.  Ten months after the death of her only child, the still grieving Sally recorded her daughter’s final words, for all of history, when she wrote them down in a heartfelt letter sent to family members in Cincinnati. Read more

Colonial Corruption: The Failed Reform of His Majesty’s Customs in America in the 1760s

Daniel Cornette

Book of Records

Throughout the 1760s, the administration of His Majesty King George III’s Customs in America generated copious records related to the official business of collecting duties and enforcing the Navigation Acts.  Most of these records reveal the daily operations of the local customs offices, recording the arrival and departure of ships and the importation of goods.  While most of these records no longer exist in the United States, one notable exception is the Salem Custom House letter book from 1763 to 1772 which is now part of the collection of the Phillips Library.  This letter book, which contains a record of all official incoming and outgoing correspondence, provides invaluable insight into the day-to-day operations as well as a glimpse into the turmoil resulting from failed efforts to reform the customs administration during the ten-year period starting in 1763. Read more

What’s on my cart?

Today’s post marks the beginning of a new blog series we’d like to call “What’s on my cart?” This series gives library staff members the floor to share the materials that we’ve come across recently, perhaps things that we’ve stopped to show one another because they were just too cool to keep to ourselves. All of us do many different tasks throughout our daily work, but we each have our own trusted library carts, so we thought, why not start looking there? Read more