Poster for poetry reading celebrating John Wieners, representing many from the Cambridge poetry community, William Corbett Papers (068).

The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the William Corbett Papers, 1993-2004 are now available to research.

William Corbett–a poet, professor, and central figure in Boston’s literary scene–was born on October 11, 1942. He grew up in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and developed an interest in literature in his youth. He studied literature and history at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1964. Corbett and his wife, Beverly Mitchell, lived in Boston, Massachusetts, from the 1960s-2012. During their time in Boston, their home at 9 Columbus Square in the South End served as a valuable salon for Boston’s literary scene. The couple welcomed both established and emerging writers into their home, frequently hosting dinners where writers could read poetry and connect with other artists.

Corbett has published collections of poetry and prose, as well as editing books and journals. His poetry bears the influence of modernist poetry and the Black Mountain College community; it is also influenced by the landscapes of New England and the people in Corbett’s life. In 1999 Corbett, along with Daniel Bouchard and Joseph Torra, founded Pressed Wafer. Originally based at 9 Columbus Square, Pressed Wafer publishes poetry, art, and fiction and nonfiction writing. He taught writing at institutions such as Harvard University, Emerson College, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a professor for over twenty years. In 2012, the Corbetts relocated to Brooklyn, New York, to be nearer their children and grandchildren.

Collection Overview
This collection contains broadsides printed by Pressed Wafer, many of which commemorate poetry readings at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Some of these broadsides have been signed by the poet. The collection also includes several posters advertising poetry readings in Boston and Cambridge.

From the Mary Leno Ephemera Collection (124)

Cambridge History Through Buttons

Exhibition Location: 2nd Floor of the Main Library

The political button with an image of the candidate first appeared during the 1860 election; Abraham Lincoln and his opponents used tintypes as a way to advertise their campaigns. William McKinley and the election of 1896 saw the first mass produced “celluloid” buttons constructed of a metal disk covered with paper with a printed message and protected by a layer of clear plastic.

Throughout the 20th Century campaign buttons were ubiquitous, with millions made for every election cycle, protest movement, or slogan (political or otherwise). In the past decade, the trend has waned in favor of “web buttons” and disposable stickers.

This exhibition shows campaign buttons from the Mary Leno Ephemera Collection. Leno began collecting buttons in the late 1960s and amassed an impressive array of Cambridge-related themes: from City Council races to the protest against the Inner Belt Highway. Leno’s collection documents the later half of the Twentieth Century, including the LGTBQ rights movement, women’s rights, and rent control.


A list of the members of Jonathan Warner’s company of artillery in the American Revolution, from the Company of Artillery Register, 1779.

The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Company of Artillery Register, 1779 is now available to research.

Jonathan Warner of Brookline, Massachusetts, served in the American Revolutionary War from approximately 1776-1780. He held several posts, including captain of the Third Company of Artillery, which was commanded by Paul Revere. In the register in this collection, Warner recorded the members of his company of artillery.

Paul Revere was born January 1, 1735 in Boston, Massachusetts. The silversmith and patriot of the American Revolution is known for his 1775 ride to warn of the movement of British soldiers. Revere also fought during the Revolutionary War as a lieutenant colonel of the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery, one company of which is documented in this collection. His regiment sought to help take Newport, Rhode Island, from the British, though it was forced to return to Boston before the 1778 Battle of Rhode Island. Revere’s military career concluded with the Penobscot Expedition, a failed attempt to oust the British from Penobscot Bay in 1779. Revere died on May 10, 1818 and is buried in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.

Collection Overview
This collection contains one register of the members of Jonathan Warner’s company of artillery in the American Revolution. The company was under Paul Revere’s command, and the register bears Revere’s signature.


Camp Cameron/Camp Day Diorama:  An Exhibition
Exhibition Location: 2nd Floor of the Main Library

In 1861 North Cambridge and West Somerville was a very thinly settled area. Camp Cameron (Later named Camp Day) was a Civil War camp of Rendezvous and Instruction located on the North Cambridge / West Somerville town line. The Massachusetts First Regiment occupied the camp on June 1, 1861 and the last troops left in January 1863. The camp sat between what is now Mass. Ave. and Broadway. Cameron Ave. runs through the center of it.

For twenty months thousands of troops were both recruited and trained at Camp Cameron. The camp consisted of thirty permanent buildings and several smaller temporary buildings and tents.

Here are two firsthand descriptions of the camp:

“This was a Farm extending from the Old Lexington Pike, (now Broadway) which crosses Winter Hill and thence over the ridge in Somerville to Arlington, south to North Avenue (now Massachusetts Ave) in Cambridge, or to the old Pike that leads from Harvard Square in Old Cambridge to Arlington, and there unites with the road from Somerville, the southern half of the farm in Cambridge was a plateau of perhaps ten acres, extending back from the Cambridge road, and falling off quite abruptly to a meadow through which ran a little brook, a branch of the Alewife. (Tannery Brook) On the Northern border of this plateau, extending with intervals between them, clean across the plain, were barracks. About midway in the range of buildings, and between the two middle barracks in the range a road passed from the Cambridge road, north dividing the plain in two, and crossing the little brook and the sloping field beyond,  which was in Somerville, the barracks at the east of this bridle-road were occupied by the boys of the First Light Battery, and those on the west were early during our stay in this camp, used by men of the Twenty-Sixth, of which the old Sixth, that went through Baltimore on the 19th of April, was the nucleus. Between the barracks and the Cambridge road was the drill ground, and a fine one it was.”

“Near the south bank of the little brook, and to the east of the bridle-road, was the Commissary and Quarter Masters Department building, and to its left and rear, if you were looking south, were our stables. North of the brook and well up the slope to the west of the bridle-road, were the headquarters of the battery.”  [Story of the First Massachusetts Light Battery, Attached to the 6th Army Corp., Andrew J. Bennett, 1886, Press of De Land & Barta, Boston, Ma, pg. 18-19.]

It was described as: “truly it was a heterogeneous compound representing nearly every race of people in Europe, and plentifully sprinkled among them was a leaven of the whole smart, shrewd, intelligent, quick-eyed and quick-witted Americans and such a confusing babble as prevailed I have never heard before. Wrangling and swearing, drinking and eating, talking and laughing, —-all combined to give me no very agreeable foretaste of what I had to expect in my new vocation. I noticed others, new, like myself, to such scenes, who seemed mentally dumb founded, or unconsciously comparing the quiet routine of the life they led at home to the new one they had assumed, and, no doubt, to the great advantage of the former and the dislike of the latter.  [Soldiering in North Carolina…, Thomas Kirwan, 1864, Thomas Kirwan, Boston, pg. 6.]

The camp was often at odds with its neighbors because of noise and crime. For the first year of its existence Camp Cameron trained new regiments for the seat of war. In its second year its primary purpose was to recruit replacement men for the “old regiments, already at the front.” After January 1863 its function was moved to Fort Independence on Boston Harbor. Its biggest drawback was it had no fence and like most camps in the union at this time it was subject to bounty jumping. As recruiting became harder, lucrative signing bounties were added to entice recruits to sign up. Some people made a career out of this. They enlisted, collected the bounty, deserted, moved on to another town, and did it again. Ft. Independence was considered more secure.

If you look at today’s map you will see streets named not only Camp & Cameron but also Seven Pines, Yorktown, Glendale and Fair Oaks, all named for Civil War battles.

Diorama and Text by Dan Sullivan
Facebook:  Camp Cameron, Cambridge, MA


Handwritten letter from Thomas Jefferson to Isaac Story, December 5, 1801, from the Isaac Story Papers, 1795-1801.

The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Isaac Story Papers, 1795-1801 are now available to research.

Isaac Story was born in 1749. He was minister of the Second Congregational Church of Marblehead in Marblehead, Massachusetts, from 1771-1802. Story was acquainted with and corresponded with several of the founding fathers, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Story died in 1816.

Collection Overview
This collection comprises two letters to Isaac Story, one from George Washington and one from Thomas Jefferson. Washington’s letter, written in 1795, thanks Story for copies of his sermons. Jefferson’s letter, from 1801, discusses the transmigration of souls.

Preface to the chapter “Cambridge: 1815-1915” from The Flowering of New England and New England:  Indian Summer, handwritten by Van Wyck Brooks, from the Cambridge Book and Author War Bond Rally Manuscripts (094).

The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Cambridge Book and Author War Bond Rally Manuscripts, ca. 1940-1943 are now available to research.

During the Second World War, cities around America hosted Book and Author War Bond Rallies at which authors spoke and donated works to encourage the public to purchase war bonds. The city of Cambridge hosted one such rally on September 28, 1943. Several prominent authors spoke and donated manuscripts to the Cambridge Public Library. Local organizations raised money for war bonds to sponsor these donations. The event raised $1,125,163 in bonds for the war effort. The organizations that bought the greatest amount of war bonds were the Jewish Community of Cambridge ($122,461), the Cambridge Rotary Club ($53,852), and the American Legion Auxiliary ($35,065). The authors who spoke at the event were Roy Chapman Andrews, Van Wyck Brooks, Edna Ferber, and John Roy Carlson (also known as Arthur Derounian). This collection includes the manuscripts of Andrews, Brooks, and Ferber, as well as manuscripts of a poem by Robert Nathan.

Van Wyck Brooks (February 16, 1886-May 2, 1963) was a critic and historian who wrote extensively on the literary history of America. He won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1937 for his book The Flowering of New England. Edna Ferber (August 15, 1885-April 16, 1968) was a writer of fiction and theater, as well as autobiographies. Often focusing on diverse American workers, several of Ferber’s works were adapted into musicals or films. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1925 for her novel So Big. Roy Chapman Andrews (January 26, 1884-March 11, 1960) was an explorer and naturalist who became the director of the American Museum of Natural History. In addition to scientific articles, Andrews wrote popular accounts of his expeditions, including his work with dinosaur fossils in the Gobi Desert. Robert Nathan (January 2, 1894-May 25, 1985) was a writer of both fiction and poetry. Of the more than fifty books he published, the most well known if Portrait of Jennie.

Collection Overview
This collection contains four manuscripts donated to the Cambridge Public Library as part of a Book and Author War Bond Rally. The first three manuscripts are for the following books: Under a Lucky Star (1943) by Roy Chapman Andrews; Cambridge 1815-1915 (1943) by Van Wyck Brooks, made up of passages of his books The Flowering of New England (1936) and New England: Indian Summer (1940); and Saratoga Trunk (1941) by Edna Ferber. The fourth is of the poem Winter Tide (ca. 1940) by Robert Nathan.

A page from Samuel Atkins Eliot’s Manuscript, A History of Cambridge, 1630-1913, from the Samuel Atkins Eliot Manuscript  (102).

The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Samuel Atkins Eliot Manuscript, circa 1912 is now available to research.

Samuel Atkins Eliot was born on August 24, 1862, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents were Ellen Derby Peabody and Charles William Eliot, a chemist who went on to become the president of Harvard University. Eliot received his education at Harvard College, graduating in 1884. He then studied at Harvard Divinity School, graduating in 1889. He married Frances Hopkinson the same year. The couple had seven children, including the author Samuel Atkins Eliot Jr.

Eliot worked as a missionary in Seattle before completing his divinity school studies. After graduating, he preached at Denver, Colorado’s Unity Church. He also established the National Conference of Churches’ Rocky Mountain Conference. From there he moved on to Church of the Saviour in Brooklyn, New York, also becoming active in the American Unitarian Association. Eliot served as the executive of the American Unitarian Association for nearly thirty years, first as secretary beginning in 1898, then as president from 1900-1927. Eliot’s leadership saw the National Conference of Churches merge with the American Unitarian Association. After stepping down from his position of leadership, Eliot became a minister at the Arlington Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1913, Eliot published A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1913. This work built upon the histories of Cambridge written Abiel Holmes (1801) and Lucius Paige (1877) by recounting the city’s history through the early twentieth century. Eliot died on October 15, 1950.

Collection Overview
This collection contains one manuscript, that of A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1913. The manuscript includes drafts of chapters 2-11, as well as chapter headings and other writings that were not included in the final publication.