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Henry Kemble Oliver (1800-1885) Papers

Henry Kemble Oliver (1800-1885) Papers

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HENRY KEMBLE OLIVER (1800-1885) PAPERS, 1822-1889

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:Oliver, Henry K. (Henry Kemble), 1800-1885
Title:Henry Kemble Oliver (1800-1885) Papers
Quantity:4 linear feet (9 boxes)
Abstract:The Henry Kemble Oliver Papers contain correspondence, business papers, writings, and music by or collected by Henry Kemble Oliver.
Collection Number:MSS 277

Series List

SERIES I. Personal Papers
A. Correspondence and Receipts
B. Newspapers Clippings and Memoirs
SERIES II. Speeches, Lectures, and Essays
A. Published Music by Other Composers
B. Manuscript Music by Henry Kemble Oliver
C. English Anthems

Scope and Content Note

The Henry Kemble Oliver Papers contain correspondence, business papers, writings, and music by or collected by Henry Kemble Oliver. The collection is divided into three series.

Series I. Personal Papers includes correspondence and receipts; a certificate of matriculation to Harvard College; and five volumes of newspaper clippings relating to his activities as a public official, musician, composer, and educator. The five volumes also contain his obituaries; memoirs; and a scrapbook of Oliver's daughter Mary Evans, which includes poetry and articles regarding the Civil War. The volumes of newspaper clippings also include some correspondence.

Series II. Speeches, Lectures, and Essays include many subjects, from "Aeronautics" to "Some Thoughts on Intemperance." They are arranged alphabetically by subject or title.

Series III. Music is subdivided into three subseries: published music by other composers which was collected by Oliver; manuscript music composed by Oliver; and Oliver's personal collection of English anthems. The anthems are filed in alphabetical order by title.

Biographical Sketch

Henry Kemble Oliver was born in Beverly, Massachusetts, on November 24, 1800, the son of the Reverend Daniel Oliver and Elizabeth Kemble of Boston. He was named Thomas Henry Oliver but changed this to Henry Kemble Oliver in 1820 to preserve his mother's name. His ancestor was Thomas Oliver of Bristol, England, who emigrated to American in 1632 and settled in Boston. Henry Kemble Oliver was educated at Boston Latin School, Phillips Academy Andover, Harvard University, and Dartmouth College, from which he graduated in 1818. In 1862, Harvard granted him the degrees of A.B. and A.M. (Genealogical note: Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes's grandfather and Henry Kemble Oliver's grandmother were brother and sister.)

Oliver was married on August 20, 1825, to Sarah Cook, daughter of Captain Samuel Cook and Sarah Chever of Salem. They had two sons and five daughters: Henry K., Jr., Samuel C., Maria, Sarah, Emily, Mary, and Ellen.

Oliver taught in Salem schools for twenty-five years. His military career began in 1821 when he joined the Salem Light Infantry. Twelve years later, he was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry and was soon promoted to its colonelcy. In 1844, he accepted the office of Adjutant General of the state troops. In the Ancient and Honorable Artillery of Boston, he gained a captaincy by 1846. During the Mexican War, he raised the only volunteer regiment to go to Mexico from New England, known as the 1st Massachusetts Volunteers.

Other positions of authority held by Oliver were: mayor of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1859; state treasurer during the Civil War; chief of the Labor Bureau; Labor Reform candidate for governor; State Board of Education member; and mayor of Salem, 1877-1880.

He sang for a Boston church as a boy, and, at the age of twenty-three, began his thirty-two-year career as an organist at churches in Salem and Lawrence. He organized the Salem Mozart Association, serving as its president, organist, and director. He wrote church music, his best known tune being "Federal Street," which he was called upon to conduct at the Peace Jubilee in Boston on June 25, 1872. He was an excellent performer on the organ, violoncello, flute, and pianoforte.

In 1873, Oliver retired to spend the later years of his life in Salem. He died on August 12, 1885, as the consequence of paralysis of the brain. His funeral was conducted from the North Street Unitarian Church of Salem, of which he was a member. He was buried in the Broad Street Cemetery. The monument on his grave is a natural boulder with a representation of organ pipes sculpted in relief.

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.

Salem Lyceum (Salem, Mass.)
Lectures and lecturing
Speeches, addresses, etc.
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests 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

Henry Kemble Oliver (1800-1885) Papers, MSS 277, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material wasacquired from a number of sources. Some of the items were acquired by gift or purchase on October 31, 1899; May 25, 1947; January 29, 1948; May 12, 1948; April 25, 1950; October 29, 1958; and December 19, 1983. The dates when known have been marked on the items. Other items were removed from the printed collections.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Marion Clark, June 1995. Updated by Anne E. Deschaine, June 2014.

Related Material

Buckham, John Wright. Henry K. Oliver: the composer of "Federal Street." Boston: New England Magazine, 1896.

Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Scribner, [1958]. Vol. XIV.

Jones, Jesse Henry. Henry Kemble Oliver. [Boston: s.n., 1886].

Oliver, Henry Kemble. Inaugural address as mayor of Salem, Jan. 1, 1877. Salem: [s.n.], 1877.

Oliver, Henry Kemble. Inaugural address as mayor of Salem, Jan. 7, 1878. Salem: [s.n.], 1878.

Oliver, Henry Kemble. Inaugural address as mayor of Salem, Jan. 5, 1880. Salem: [s.n.], 1880.

Oliver, Henry Kemble. "Tis more than sixty years since," or, "How I was educated" from six to fourteen. [Salem?: s.n., n.d.].

Salem Glee Club. Record book of Salem Glee Club, 1832-1845. 1832-1845. MSS 0.501

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