Beacon Street Diary

June 30, 2017

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, July 3rd & 4th in observance of Independence Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Wednesday the 5th.

fireworks over the U.S. fleet in Sasebo, Japan
fireworks over the U.S. fleet in Sasebo, Japan


We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday weekend.


photograph of sailors, family members and Japanese citizens gathered to watch fireworks on U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan (2005) by U.S. Navy Photographer's Mate 1st Class Paul J. Phelps

This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

June 9, 2017

The books in the Town Histories section tell us more than the stories of towns big and small; they show the history of the book in the nineteenth-century. Prior to 1800, every aspect of book production — papermaking, casting and setting type, printing, and binding — was done by hand. The book world began to experience the effects of the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of steam-powered printing presses around 1800. Papermaking was mechanized at the same time, and wood pulp paper was first used in the mid-nineteenth-century. By the mid-1800s, enormous rolls of paper were fed through steam-powered presses, creating large quantities of books at unprecedented speeds.

Hand-bookbinding slowed down book production, and this problem was solved when starch-filled bookcloth was introduced in the 1820s. The bookcloth was glued to boards. These covers, or "cases", were made separately from the pages, or text block, which were then glued into the cases. Publishers stamped multi-colored and gold- or silver-colored decorations onto these bindings using metal dies.

The Isles of Shoals. An Historical Sketch by John Scribner Jenness, published by Hurd and Houghton, New York, 1873

The Theology section also includes one book with an extraordinary publisher's binding.

Future Punishment; or Does Death End Probation? Materialism, Immortality of the Soul; Conditional Immortality or Annihilationism, Universalism or Restorationsim; Optimism or Eternal Hope; Probationism and Purgatory. By the Rev’d William Cochrane, D.D., published by Bradley, Garretson & Co., Brantford, Ontario, 1886

"Deluxe" bindings mimicked fine leather volumes bound by hand, using inexpensive leathers and false bands across the spine. It can be difficult to determine whether a book has false bands without taking the book apart and destroying the binding. The book pictured below may be one of these nineteenth-century deluxe bindings.

Two Hundred Years Ago; or, A Brief History of Cambridgeport and East Cambridge, with Notices of Some of the Early Settlers written by S.S.S. Published by Otis Clapp, Boston, 1859

Many books also contained multi-colored illustrations created by chromolithography, a color-printing technique developed by the French in the 1820s where colors are applied on top of each other to create a multi-colored image.

This lithograph is pasted to the front cover of: World’s Columbian Exposition 1893 Chicago: Catalogue of the Russian Section published by the Imperial Russian Commission, Ministry of Finances, St. Petersburg, 1893

Stereotyping and electrotyping were two popular printing techniques in the nineteenth-century. A stereotype plate is created by pressing papier-mâché onto set type. The dried papier-mâché forms a mold into which type metal is poured, and the result is a metal plate that contains all of the text for one page of a book. Once a printer had created stereotype plates (or stereos) for all of the pages of a book, he could free the type set by hand and use it to set the pages of other books. In the future, when he wanted to reprint a book, he could use the stereos — whereas in the past, he would have had to reset all of the pages by hand. Electrotype plates are created using water, metal salts, and electricity. The electricity is applied to a solution in which metal has been placed, causing the metal to spread over the surface of a mold, taking its shape. Like stereos, electrotype plates each contain an entire page of text. Needless to say, the use of stereos and electrotype plates sped up the process of printing.

The City of Cincinnati. A Summary of the Attractions, Advantages, Institutions and Internal Improvements, with a Statement of Its Public Charites by George E. Stevens, published by Geo. S. Blanchard & Co., Cincinnati, 1869   Walks and Rides in the Country Round About Boston Covering Thirty-Six Cities and Towns, Parks and Public Reservations, Within a Radius of Twelve Miles from the State House by Edwin M. Bacon, Published for the Appalachian Mountain Club by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston, 1897

Walks and Rides in the Country Round About Boston has a unique binding feature: pockets in the front and back covers. These pockets contain four lithographed maps.

For decades, the mechanization of typesetting eluded printers and publishers. The linotype machine, which cast one line of type in a single slug, was invented in the 1880s, and it further sped up the printing process. Today, most typesetting is done by computer; only fine press publishers continue the tradition of setting type and printing by hand.

In the nineteenth-century, publishers added advertisements to their books. These ads range in size from single leaves to pamphlet-sized advertising supplements, and they were glued ("tipped") or bound into books. One book in the Special Topics in Theology section contains both tipped-in and bound-in advertisements.

Heaven Our Home. We Have No Saviour But Jesus, and No Home But Heaven by the Author of "Meet for Heaven," "Life in Heaven," "Christ's Transfiguration" published by William P. Nimmo, Edinburgh, 1871

The nineteenth-century was an era of faster and cheaper book production, and its legacy can be seen today in any bookstore or library: shelves of books printed on wood pulp paper with cased-in bindings.


-Clarissa Yingling

June 8, 2017

The General Association of Connecticut (now the Connecticut Conference, UCC) was assembled from a number of county-level ministerial associations and church consociations. In partnership with the present conference leadership, we have digitized dozens of volumes of their earliest records. They contain meeting minutes, committee reports, membership lists, rules and recommendations for ordinations of ministers, as well as discussions of various matters of doctrine.

Check out the collection page for more information.


Special Thanks

This digital resource has been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.

June 2, 2017

Our reading room will be closed to the public on Monday, June 5th for our board's annual meeting.

Staff will be in the office to answer questions by phone or by email, and all of our online resources will still be available as usual.

June 1, 2017

In honor of June and the upcoming Pride Parade here in Boston, we have added some material to our Open and Affirming Coalition (ONA) collection.

Our friend Marnie Warner donated the material she had collected while she was active establishing the original Open and Affirming policy that was proposed and accepted by the United Church of Christ in 1985. Prior to the ONA collection's public availability here, Marnie volunteered many long hours to help sort out and arrange and clarify the boxes and files. Her insider's perspective was and is always appreciated.

May 26, 2017

The Congregational Library & Archives will be closed on Monday, May 29th in observance of Memorial Day.

All of our online resources will be available as usual. If you have questions for the staff, please send an email or leave a voicemail, and we'll get back to you when we return to the office on Tuesday.


image of historical American flags courtesy of

May 9, 2017

Don't miss this exploration of early American religious song, illustrated with live performances. Reserve your seat today.

From William Billings to Lowell Mason

Join choral ensemble Norumbega Harmony for a noontime concert exploring the musical and cultural transformation of Congregational sacred music from the Revolutionary Era's stark psalm tunes and lively fuging tunes, pioneered by William Billings of Boston (1746-1800), to the European Romantic melodies and harmonies of the city's great music educator and church composer Lowell Mason (1792-1872).

Wednesday, May 10th
12:00 - 1:00 pm

Register through Eventbrite.


Learn more about Norumbega Harmony on their website.

May 8, 2017

As an archivist, I will occasionally make site visits for potential new collections. While chances are good that I will be the one to eventually organize the records, there's no guarantee that the work will divide that way, with intern projects and more than one archivist on staff. However, when I went to Connecticut to visit the Rev. Dr. Davida Foy Crabtree about two years ago, I hoped that I would be the one who would organize her records. The reason why I felt so strongly about this collection is that it represents a side of our collection that I'm always eager to expand upon: that of recent history and a continuation of lesser heard voices. Rev. Crabtree has spent her life and career championing feminism and striving to even the playing field. She attended college during the height of the cultural movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A self-described trouble-maker who questioned authority and the status-quo, Crabtree became a member of the United Church of Christ's Executive Council by the age of 27.

As a campus minister, she saw a need for a women's center and helped co-found and lead the Prudence Crandall Center for Women in New Britain, Connecticut in the mid-1970s. She served at Colchester's Federated Church before tackling Conference Minister for the UCC's Southern California and then returned to serve in her home state of Connecticut as Conference Minister until she retired in 2010. Researchers interested in studying the cultural shifts of the 1960s and 70s, who wish to explore women's roles as leaders within the United Church of Christ, will want to come visit and spend some time with this collection. Crabtree is a prolific writer who maintained and donated the personal writings that delve into reactions to the current events of the day that are so often never spoken of or expunged from earlier generations' work.

The guide to this collection is now available on our website. We strongly encourage researchers to review this and to make an appointment before visiting.


April 25, 2017

This is Preservation Week, hosted by the American Library Association.

In honor of that, there is going to be a reprise of #AskAnArchivist day on Twitter tomorrow, Wednesday, April 26th. This is a great opportunity to get smart on how to care for and maintain your historically valuable items, no matter what their format: paper or digital! Our archivists, Jessica Steytler and Taylor McNeilly, will be following the hashtag and answering the questions. If any of our patrons or members have questions relating to preservation, send them our way!

April 18, 2017

Our reading room will be closed to the public on Thursday, April 20th from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm for a meeting of the Advisory Circle, our friends of the library group.

Staff will be on hand to answer questions by phone or email, and all of our online resources will be available as usual.