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Social Library of Beverly Records

Social Library of Beverly Records

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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:Social Library of Beverly (Beverly, Mass.)
Title:Social Library of Beverly Records
Quantity:2 linear feet (1 box, 1 volume)
Abstract:The records of the Social Library of Beverly consist of financial record and charge records.
Collection Number:MSS 259

Series List

SERIES I. Financial Records
SERIES II. Charge Records

Scope and Content Note

The records of the Social Library of Beverly consist of financial record and charge records. The collection has been arranged into two series.

Series I. Financial Records includes the treasurer's account book, which contains the treasurer's accounts of monies received and paid. Although an occasional book title is mentioned, in general the accounts paid consist of cash paid to a specific person "per order." Accounts received include lengthy lists of assessments due. The treasurer's account book contains a record of the selling of library shares to fulfill assessments due, as well. This series also includes a separate list of the assessments for 1834 and 1835. The "Memorandum of Fines remaining unpaid," dated April 6, 1812, was removed from the assessment list of 1835.

Series II. Charge Records consists of eight volumes that list book titles, the dates checked out of the library, and the patron who received them. The first four volumes were kept on a day-to-day basis, but the later volumes are arranged like account books, with a page or more devoted to each patron. The run of charge books is complete, with the exception of August 1810 to July 1813. The envelopes in folder 10 at the end of the collection were stored with the Social Library's records, but do not seem to relate to the library.

Historical Sketch

The Social Library of Beverly was formed on March 12, 1802, when a number of people interested in taking shares in a proprietary library met in Beverly, Massachusetts. Nathan Dane, a prominent Beverly resident, was chosen moderator of the meeting. Dane and four other people – Joseph McKeen, Joshua Young, Dr. Joshua Fisher, and Thomas Davis – were chosen to form a committee with the power to select and purchase books. One dollar as levied on each share to finance these purchases. The share assessment was increased to $5.00 at a meeting on April 9, 1802 and 132 shares were distributed among 72 subscribers.

The town allowed the library to use the spare room on the lower floor of the town house, next to the grammar school room, and Silas Stickney, the teacher of the grammar school, was chosen librarian and collector in 1804. Teachers apparently often served as the librarian, due to the juxtaposition of the library and school. Robert Rantoul became treasurer and clerk in 1807 and served in that capacity until 1836 (most of the treasurer's book is in his hand), but other prominent Beverly residents were involved as well. At each annual meeting, officers were elected, assessments were levied, and other business matters transacted.

By 1843, the library held one thousand volumes and there were more than one hundred shareholders, but interest began to decline toward the end of the decade, particularly as Beverly moved toward opening a town public library. On October 6, 1855, the proprietors voted to give their books to the town library after all debts had been paid, and the Social Library of Beverly ceased to exist.

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.

Rantoul, Robert, 1778-1858
Library circulation and loans
Beverly (Mass.)
Account books


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

Social Library of Beverly Records, MSS 259, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material is from an unknown source. It was removed from the Essex County Collection in February 1993.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Susan Haggerty and Jane E. Ward, February 1993. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, November 2015.

Related Material

Lovett, Robert W. "From Social Library to Public Library: A Century of Library Development in Beverly, Massachusetts." Essex Institute Historical Collections 88 (1952): 219-53.

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