The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Social Library of Beverly (Beverly, Mass.)
Social Library of Beverly
2 linear feet (1 box, 1 volume)
The records of the Social
Library of Beverly consist of financial record and charge records.
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
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.
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.
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
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
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
Social Library of Beverly Records, MSS 259, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum,
This material is from an unknown source. It was removed from the Essex County
Collection in February 1993.
Collection processed by Susan Haggerty and Jane E. Ward, February 1993. Updated by
Tamara Gaydos, November 2015.
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.