The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Salem Lyceum (Salem, Mass.)
Salem Lyceum Records
2.25 linear feet (5 boxes)
The Salem Lyceum Records
document the activities and administration of this Salem, Massachusetts,
SERIES I. Administrative Records SERIES II. Financial Records SERIES III. Business Records SERIES IV. Publicity Papers SERIES V. Miscellaneous Papers
Scope and Content Note
The Salem Lyceum Records document the activities and administration of this Salem,
Massachusetts, organization. The collection has been arranged into 5 series.
Series I. Administrative Records include: the
constitution and bylaws; legal papers such as insurance policies and real estate
records; building specifications; rules and regulations for leasing Lyceum Hall; a
seating plan of Lyceum Hall; and lists of renters of the building.
Series II. Financial Records include: treasurers'
reports; two account books; bills and receipts; a bankbook; and a checkbook.
Series III. Business Records include: correspondence;
lists of subscribers; and a record book that contains the constitution and by-laws,
minutes of meetings, and lists of lectures and lecturers. Correspondence written to
Robert Rantoul late in the 19th century gives information regarding the lyceum
movement in Massachusetts.
Series IV. Publicity Papers includes programs,
tickets, publicity brochures on lecturers, and copies of the texts of two lectures
that were presented before the Lyceum.
Series V. Miscellaneous Papers includes a history of
the Salem Lyceum, papers of the Essex County Lyceum, and information on other
The Salem Lyceum was founded in 1830 in Salem,
Massachusetts, for the purpose of "mutual instruction and rational entertainment by
means of lectures, etc." The first president was Judge Daniel A. White, who
delivered the introductory lecture on the subject "The Advantages of Knowledge." The
original subscribers included Daniel A. White, Leverett Saltonstall, John Forrester,
John Russell, George Choate, Francis Peabody, and John Derby. At first, lectures
were mostly delivered by members of the Lyceum who contributed their services
without fee or reward. Early lectures were given in the Methodist meetinghouse on
Sewall Street or the Universalist meetinghouse on Rust Street. Lyceum Hall was
constructed in 1830 to be ready for occupancy in January 1831 at a cost of
$3,036.71. The new hall could accommodate 700 patrons in amphitheater-style seating
and was decorated with images of Cicero, Demosthenes and other great orators of
Lectures were held on Tuesday evenings. Admission was $1 for men and 75 cents
for women, who had to be "introduced" by a male to gain entrance. Most of the early
speakers, including John Pickering, Henry K. Oliver and Charles Upham, were Lyceum
members and spoke gratis or for a minimal fee. The combination of unpaid lecturers
and sellout crowds (most talks had to be repeated on Wednesday) enabled the Society
to pay off the outstanding mortgage on its new hall in a short time. The
organization was incorporated in 1852.
Lecturers included: Charles F. Adams, John Quincy Adams, Louis Agassiz, Clara
Barton, Henry Ward Beecher, Rufus Choate, Rev. James Freeman Clarke, Frederic
Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Everett, Edward Everett Hale, Oliver Wendell
Holmes Sr., James Russell Lowell, Horace Mann, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner,
Henry David Thoreau, and Daniel Webster.
The most significant event to take place in the Lyceum Hall, Alexander Graham
Bell's first public demonstration of the telephone, occurred on February 12,
In 1898, the Salem Lyceum voted to dissolve the corporation. The records and
remaining monies were given to the Essex Institute. The money was to be invested and
to be known as the "Salem Lyceum Fund" to be used to maintain a course of
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.
Silsbee, William, 1813-1890
Worcester, Jonathan Fox, 1806-1869
Essex County Lyceum
Lyceum Hall (Salem, Mass.)
Lectures and lecturing
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
The records were donated to the Essex Institute in 1898 when the Salem Lyceum
dissolved the corporation. One letter from Jonathan Worcester to Simon Greenleaf
dated 1838 was purchased on October 9, 1989. The Reminiscence
of Prof. Golberg's lecture of Feb. 26, 1879 was donated by Mrs. Edna A.
Odell on January 31, 1956. Two plans of Lyceum property were removed from the
collection and cataloged in the print collection.
Collection processed by Terri McFadden, December 1987 and Marion Clark, June 1994.
Updated by Tamara Gaydos, November 2015.
The Salem Lyceum Records document the activities and administration of this Salem, Massachusetts, organization.
Lyceum Hall (Salem, Mass.); Essex County Lyceum; Salem (Mass.); Worcester, Jonathan Fox, 1806-1869; Silsbee, William, 1813-1890; Account books--1841-1889; Account books--Massachusetts--Salem; Lectures and lecturing; Lyceums; Societies
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.
The records were donated to the Essex Institute in 1898 when the Salem Lyceum dissolved the corporation. One letter from Jonathan Worcester to Simon Greenleaf dated 1838 was purchased on October 9, 1989. The Reminiscence of Prof. Golberg’s lecture of Feb. 26, 1879 was donated by Mrs. Edna A. Odell on January 31, 1956. Two plans of Lyceum property were removed from the collection and cataloged in the print collection.