American Antiquarian Society

Last updated

American Antiquarian Society
American antiq soc seal.svg
WorcesterMA AntiquarianSociety 2.jpg
View of Antiquarian Hall from the corner of Salisbury St. and Park Ave
American Antiquarian Society
42°16′38″N71°48′39″W / 42.27722°N 71.81083°W / 42.27722; -71.81083
Location185 Salisbury Street,
Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Established1812;212 years ago (1812)
Architect(s) Winslow, Bigelow & Wadsworth
Size4 million
Access and use
Population served1,052 (Membership, 2016)
Other information
DirectorScott E. Casper
American Antiquarian Society
USA Massachusetts location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Area1.8 acres (7,300 m2)
Architectural styleColonial Revival
NRHP reference No. 68000018
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 24, 1968 [1]
Designated NHLNovember 24, 1968 [2]

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS), located in Worcester, Massachusetts, is both a learned society and a national research library of pre-twentieth-century American history and culture. Founded in 1812, it is the oldest historical society in the United States with a national focus. [3] Its main building, known as Antiquarian Hall, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark in recognition of this legacy. [4] The mission of the AAS is to collect, preserve and make available for study all printed records of what is now known as the United States of America. This includes materials from the first European settlement through the year 1876. [5]


The AAS offers programs for professional scholars, pre-collegiate, undergraduate and graduate students, educators, professional artists, writers, genealogists, and the general public. [6]

The collections of the AAS contain over four million books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, graphic arts materials and manuscripts. The Society is estimated to hold copies of two-thirds of the total books known to have been printed in what is now the United States from the establishment of the first press in 1640 through the year 1820; many of these volumes are exceedingly rare and a number of them are unique. [7] Historic materials from all fifty U.S. states, most of Canada and the British West Indies are included in the AAS repository. One of the more famous volumes held by the Society is a copy of the first book printed in America, the Bay Psalm Book. [8] AAS has one of the largest collections of newspapers printed in America through 1876, with more than two million issues in its collection. [9] Its collections contain the first American women's magazine edited by a woman, The Humming Bird, or Herald of Taste. [10] The collection also contains over 60,000 pieces of sheet music, over 300 games (including puzzles, board games, and cards), a large historical pottery collection, extensive New England diaries and personal papers, a diverse collection of photographs dating from the 1830s to the 1920s, and children's literature dating back to the 1650s. [11]


Isaiah Thomas, the founder of the American Antiquarian Society Thomas jb revolut bible 2 m.jpg
Isaiah Thomas, the founder of the American Antiquarian Society

On the initiative of Isaiah Thomas, the AAS was founded on October 24, 1812, through an act of the Massachusetts General Court. [12] It was the third historical society established in America, and the first to be national in its scope. [4] Isaiah Thomas started the collection with approximately 8,000 books from his personal library. [13] The first library building was erected in 1820 in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. [14] In 1853, the Society moved its collections to a larger building at the corner of Highland Street, also in Worcester. [15] This building was later abandoned and another new building was constructed. Designed by Winslow, Bigelow & Wadsworth, the Georgian Revival building was completed in 1910 and stands on the corner of Park Avenue and Salisbury Street. There have been several additions to this building to accommodate the growing collection. The most recent addition was completed in 2019 and created room for an updated HVAC system, conservation lab, and multi-use learning lab. [16] AAS was presented with the 2013 National Humanities Medal by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House. [17]

History of printing

As part of AAS's mission as a learned society, it offers a variety of public lectures and seminars. One topic to which AAS dedicates significant academic energies is printing technology, especially in eighteenth-century British North America. Since Isaiah Thomas was a newspaper man himself, he collected a large number of printed materials. [18] With regard to printing, paper making, edition setting, and reprinting, not much had changed in European technology by the eighteenth century. It was not until the late eighteenth century that paper-making material began to evolve from a hand-woven cloth to an industrial pulp. AAS undertakes special efforts to preserve printed records from this time period, as the Society maintains an on-site conservation department with various sewing, cloth, and binding materials to aid in the preservation process. [19]

Past leaders

Over its two-hundred-year history, the Society has had 14 formal leaders who have shaped the organization's vision, collections, and day-to-day operations. Leadership roles at the AAS have historically overlapped in chronology, as different roles oversaw different aspects of the Society simultaneously.

AAS Leaders
NameDates of LeadershipRoleOccupation
Isaiah Thomas 1812–1831PresidentPublisher
Christopher Columbus Baldwin1831–1837LibrarianLawyer
Samuel Foster Haven 1838–1881LibrarianArchaeologist/Anthropologist
Stephen Salisbury II1854–1881PresidentLandowner
Edmund Mills Barton1883–1908LibrarianLibrarian
Stephen Salisbury III 1887–1905PresidentPolitician
Waldo Lincoln1907–1927PresidentManufacturer
Clarence S. Brigham1908–1959Librarian/DirectorAuthor/Bibliographer
Calvin Coolidge 1929–1933PresidentPolitician
R.W.G. Vail1930–1939LibrarianLibrarian
Clifford K. Shipton 1939–1967DirectorArchivist/Historian
Marcus A. McCorison1960–1992Librarian/PresidentRare Books Librarian
Ellen S. Dunlap1992–2020DirectorLibrarian
Scott E. Casper2020–presentDirectorHistorian

Notable members

The American Antiquarian Society's membership includes scholars, writers, journalists, historians, artists, filmmakers, collectors, American presidents, and civic leaders. [20] Notable members include the following individuals:


AAS was presented with the 2013 National Humanities Medal by President Obama in a ceremony at the White House. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antiquarian</span> Specialist or aficionado of antiquities or things of the past

An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient artifacts, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts. The essence of antiquarianism is a focus on the empirical evidence of the past, and is perhaps best encapsulated in the motto adopted by the 18th-century antiquary Sir Richard Colt Hoare, "We speak from facts, not theory."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Nichols (printer)</span> English printer, author and antiquarian

John Nichols was an English printer, author and antiquary. He is remembered as an influential editor of the Gentleman's Magazine for nearly 40 years; author of a monumental county history of Leicestershire; author of two compendia of biographical material relating to his literary contemporaries; and as one of the agents behind the first complete publication of Domesday Book in 1783.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isaiah Thomas (publisher)</span> American printer, newspaper publisher and author (1749–1831)

Isaiah Thomas was an early American printer, newspaper publisher and author. He performed the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Worcester, Massachusetts, and reported the first account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. He was the founder of the American Antiquarian Society.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Allen (Massachusetts politician)</span> American politician (1797–1869)

Charles Allen was a United States representative from Massachusetts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Massachusetts Historical Society</span> United States historic place

The Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) is a major historical archive specializing in early American, Massachusetts, and New England history. The Massachusetts Historical Society was established in 1791 and is located at 1154 Boylston Street in Boston, Massachusetts, and is the oldest historical society in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abijah Bigelow</span> American politician

Abijah Bigelow was a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enoch Lincoln</span> American politician (1788–1829)

Enoch Lincoln was an American politician, serving as U.S. Representative from, successively, Massachusetts and from Maine. He was the son of Levi Lincoln Sr. and his wife, and the younger brother of Levi Lincoln Jr. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Lincoln graduated from Harvard College in 1807. He was elected and served as Governor of Maine from 1827 until his death in October 1829.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Pelham</span> English painter and engraver

Peter Pelham was an American portrait painter and engraver, born in England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Still River Baptist Church</span> Historic church in Massachusetts, United States

Still River Baptist Church is the home of the Harvard Historical Society. It is an historic Gothic Revival-style meeting house located at 213 Still River Road in Harvard, Massachusetts. The building houses the Harvard Historical Society's museum and archival collections.

Philip J. Lampi is a scholar and historian currently employed as a researcher at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester, Massachusetts; he has spent much of his career reassembling records of early American election returns. "That effort has now led to A New Nation Votes, a digital record of Lampi's work sponsored by the AAS, Tufts University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. To the delight of graduate students, professional historians, and dabblers alike, the site makes public and searchable what, until now, could only be found in Lampi's loose-leaf notebooks: a comprehensive record of early American election returns from 1787 to 1825."

Philip F. Gura is an intellectual and cultural historian. He currently serves as William S. Newman Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he holds appointments in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, and American Studies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Harry Goddard House</span> Historic house in Massachusetts, United States

The Harry Goddard House or Goddard-Daniels House is an historic house at 190 Salisbury Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. Built in 1905 for a local wire company executive, it is one of the city's finest examples of Colonial Revival architecture, and a significant residential design of local architect George Clemence. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and has been owned by the American Antiquarian Society since 1981.

Norman Fiering is an American historian, and Director and Librarian, Emeritus, of the John Carter Brown Library.

Annie Russell Marble was an American essayist, whose work dealt with early American historical figures, authors of the Transcendental movement, some of whom she knew personally, and commentary on literature in general.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samuel Foster Haven</span> American archeologist and anthropologist

Samuel Forster Haven was an American archeologist and anthropologist.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Stephen Nissenbaum, is an American scholar, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's History Department specializing in early American history through to the nineteenth century. Most notably, he co-authored a book with Paul Boyer in 1974 about the Salem witch trials, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, called "a landmark in early American studies" by John Putnam Demos.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bibliography of early American publishers and printers</span>

Bibliography of early American publishers and printers is a selection of books, journals and other publications devoted to these topics covering their careers and other activities before, during and just after the American Revolution. Various works that are not primarily devoted to those topics, but whose content devotes itself to them in significant measure, are sometimes included here also. Works about Benjamin Franklin, a famous printer and publisher, among other things, are too numerous to list in this bibliography, can be found at Bibliography of Benjamin Franklin, and are generally not included here unless they are greatly devoted to Franklin's printing career. Single accounts of printers and publishers that occur in encyclopedia articles are neither included here.

Jonathan Senchyne is an American academic whose work spans the study of the history of books, print culture, material culture, literary theory, and American literature. He is a professor of book history in the Information School as well as the current director of the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is known for his work in American literary book history and print culture studies.


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. "American Antiquarian Society". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved July 10, 2008.
  3. Gura, Philip F. The American Antiquarian Society, 1812–2012: A Bicentennial History (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 2012), p. x.
  4. 1 2 "National Historic Landmarks Program (NHL)". Archived from the original on June 6, 2009.
  5. aasmaster (March 28, 2017). "Mission Statement" . Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  6. aaswebsite (August 25, 2012). "Programs & Events" . Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  7. aasmaster (October 2, 2012). "Tours" . Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  8. Gura, p. 24.
  9. aasmaster (October 22, 2012). "Newspapers" . Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  10. MURPHY, JILLMARIE (2016). ""The Humming Bird; or Herald of Taste" (1798): Periodical Culture and Female Editorship in the Early American Republic". American Periodicals. 26 (1): 44–69. ISSN   1054-7479. JSTOR   44630664.
  11. 1 2 "About | American Antiquarian Society". Retrieved October 28, 2022.
  12. Gura, p. 1.
  13. Gura, p. 33.
  14. Gura, p. 32.
  15. Gura, pp. 98–99.
  16. "Development Department of the American Antiquarian Society". Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  17. "President Obama Awards 2013 National Humanities Medals". National Endowment for the Humanities. July 22, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  18. Gura, pp. 14, 33.
  19. "Conservation at the American Antiquarian Society". Archived from the original on November 16, 2010. Retrieved June 13, 2011.
  20. aasmaster (February 28, 2018). "Members Directory" . Retrieved February 28, 2018.

Further reading