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Joseph B. Felt (1789-1869) Papers

Joseph B. Felt (1789-1869) Papers

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JOSEPH B. FELT (1789-1869) PAPERS, 1710-1868


Processing of this collection was funded by a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission).

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Felt, Joseph Barlow, 1789-1869
Title:Joseph B. Felt (1789-1869) Papers
Quantity:5.25 linear feet (5 boxes)
Abstract:The Joseph B. Felt Papers contains sermons, diaries, letters, and copies of diplomatic correspondence.
Identification:MSS 462

Series List

SERIES I. Personal and Collected Papers
SERIES II. Diplomatic Correspondence

Scope and Content Note

The Joseph B. Felt Papers contains sermons, diaries, letters, and copies of diplomatic correspondence. It has been arranged into two series. Series I. Personal Papers contain Rev. Felt’s diaries, letters and sermons as well as historical documents he collected. Boxes 3, 4, and 5 each contain a single volume with letters and documents pasted in by a librarian at an earlier date. Material has been listed by page number for easy reference. Series II. Diplomatic Correspondence contains handwritten copies of correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and various ambassadors (1791-1794) and correspondence between other diplomatic officials (1785-1794). It is unknown how or why these copies came to be in the Joseph B. Felt collection.

Biographical Sketch

Joseph Barlow Felt, son of John and Elizabeth (Curtis) Felt, was born in Salem, Massachusetts on December 22, 1789. His father, a ship master in the European and Indian trade, died on Martha's Vineyard in 1802, leaving little property to his wife and five children. At the age of fourteen, he went to work in a store. In June 1808, he entered a private academy in Atkinson, New Hampshire, which was then under the charge of John Vose. In 1809, he became a member of the freshman class of Dartmouth College and subsequently graduated in 1813.

In January 1814 he began preparation for the ministry, under the direction of Rev. Samuel Worcester of Salem. While pursuing his studies, he taught at a private school until December 17, 1819. Meanwhile he received a license to preach on March 2, 1815 from the Essex Association and was frequently employed by congregations in Salem and its vicinity.

He married Abigail-Adams Shaw (1790-1859) on September 18, 1816. After declining several calls from other congregations, Felt was ordained as a minister of the Congregational Society at Sharon, Massachusetts on December 19, 1821; he remained there until April 19, 1824. On June 16, 1824, he settled at Hamilton, Massachusetts, as successor of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, and continued to perform his parochial duties until December 4, 1833, when he dissolved his pastoral relation with that church due to ill health.

On October 31, 1834 Felt moved to Boston, Massachusetts with his family. He was commissioned by Governor Everett, in April 1836, to arrange the disorganized ancient state papers; in 1845 he spent six weeks in England searching for duplicates of lost records. By 1846, the state archives were contained in several scores of classified volumes. In 1839 he published a History of Massachusetts Currency, which was an expansion of two lectures delivered at the request of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Felt served as librarian of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1842-1858. He was president of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1850-1853, recording secretary of the American Statistical Association in 1839-1859, and a member of many other historical societies. Dartmouth gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1857.

Mr. Felt's first wife of nearly forty-three years, died in Boston, July 5, 1859. In June, 1861, he retired to Salem, where he engaged in literary work. He studied New England history and published many books: Annals of Salem (Salem. Massachusetts, 1827; 2d ed., 2 vols., 1845-1849); History of Ipswich, Essex, and Hamilton, including numerous biographies (Cambridge, 1833); Historical Account of Massachusetts Currency (Boston, 1839); memoirs of Roger Conant (1848), Hugh Peters (1851), and William S. Shaw (1852); Genealogical Items for Gloucester and Lynn (1850-1851); The Customs of New England (1853); Ecclesiastical History of New England (2 vols., Boston, 1855-1862); and various addresses.

He married a second time on November 16, 1862 to Mrs. Catharine Bartlett Meacham (1795-1869), of Haverhill, Massachusetts. He left no children. He died on September 8, 1869, at the age of 80 years.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Cotton, Josiah, 1680-1756
Felt, Joseph Barlow, 1789-1869
Foote, Calem, 1803-1894
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
Stone, John
Wheatland, Henry, 1812-1893
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Request for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Joseph B. Felt Papers, MSS 462, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was found in the collection. The Catalogue of Ministers was a gift of the Peabody Academy of Science to the Essex Institute in August, 1913.

Processing Information

Collection processed and cataloged by Tamara Gaydos, January 2013.

Related Material

Felt, Jonathan C. "Joseph Barlow Felt." N. H. Felt Family Association. N. H. Felt Family Association, 2003. Web. 04 Jan. 2013.

Morris, John Emery. The Felt Genealogy: A Record of the Descendants of George Felt of Casco Bay. Hartford, CT: Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1893.

Felt Family Papers, MH 95

Felt Family Tree

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