Almshouse Admissions, 1758-1800 and the Revolutionary War

We’re proud to announce the completion of  our database of Black, Mulatto, Indian, Foreign-Born, Male and Female admissions to the Boston Almshouse from 1758-1800. The manuscript records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor, which the Massachusetts Historical Society obtained from the City of Boston in 1957, were transcribed in The Eighteenth Century Records of the Boston Overseers of the Poor, edited by Eric G. Nellis and Anne Decker Cecere.

We have added to the accessibility of this invaluable resource by providing a searchable database of admissions to the Boston Almshouse, as well as records of Children Bound Out.

The admissions records raise some interesting questions for historians to consider. Did foreign immigration shut down during the Revolutionary War Years  1775-1783 (the fighting actually ended in 1781)? During this time period were more ‘Blacks’, ‘Mulattos’ and ‘Indians’ admitted because for whatever reason they were marginalized by the war?    In what time period does immigration spike, and why ?

Check out this infographic for some highlights.

1843 Riot on Ann Street, Boston

Add to this Story

As we read more about this significant but mostly forgotten event, it would certainly add to the historical body of knowledge of the racial history of the city of Boston if we could draw upon additional sources to get a clearer picture of what actually happened. We have compiled a historical narrative employing the accounts of only two contemporary Boston Newspapers, the Emancipator and Free American and The Boston Semi-Weekly Atlas. It would certainly be beneficial if any visitors to our website could contribute any additional digitized sources to add to our existing body of knowledge concerning the August, 1843 Riot on Ann Street. Below the narrative we’ve asked a few questions.  What can you add to the story?


The following is a combination of contemporary Boston newspaper accounts of a racial riot in 1843 from The Emancipator and Free American and the Boston Semi-Weekly Atlas published August 31, 1834.  In this combined account we have added links to give the reader a broader perspective of the event. Hopefully as we crowd-source additional primary sources this new information can also be woven into the account of the Riot On Ann Street. [Continue reading]

“This is an age of radical and rabid iconoclasm…”

The Crispus Attucks Statue on Boston Common

The Crispus Attucks Statue on Boston Common

iconMob or Martyrs? Crispus Attucks and the Boston Massacre” was originally published in The Bostonian in March 1896.  The author, Franklin Moses, reflects on the constantly changing views of Crispus Attucks, and some of the reasons why the account of what happened changed over the first hundred years of the United States.  In Moses’ view, having a statue to Crispus Attucks on Boston Common was an ill-conceived idea.

In 1851, William C. Nell successfully petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature to appropriate $1,500 to erect a statue to Crispus Attucks on Boston Common.  The petition presents a completely different view from the one in Moses’ article.

This is a fascinating thread through our local and national history.  It is an interesting inquiry for students too.

How has our view of Crispus Attucks changed over time? What does Moses’ article say about his own time? What do you think?

The “What Ever Happened to…” Project

We’re excited to announce a new venture aimed at integrating the efforts of high schools, historical societies and anyone interested in local history. A collaboration of these institutions and interested people in Essex County will help curate documentary evidence and pictures pertaining to a range of topics.  We’re starting with Essex County simply because it is closest to us geographically.  Phase one of our search begins with two areas that we have already made a great deal of progress on: Slave Gravestones, and Child Apprentices in the Colonial Era.  (Later we will be looking at One Room School Houses, “Ten-Footer” Shoe Shops, and Poorhouses & Workhouses). Are you interested in being a part of this digital document collaboration?  Click on the projects below, and join us.

Children "Bound Out"
Children “Bound Out”: 
The social mobility of apprenticed, bound-out children in their respective Essex County communities
Slave Gravestones & Epitaphs
Slave Gravestones & Epitaphs
: The stories of these people during and after their lives as slaves