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Cambridge City Documents, 1811-Present Edit

Summary

Identifier
050
Finding Aid Author
Christine Di Bella (finding aid author 2015) and Moira MacKay (EAD author February 2017).
Finding Aid Date
March 26, 2015 and February 2017
Description Rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of Description
English

Dates

  • 1811-2014 (Creation)

Extents

  • 56 Linear feet (Whole)
  • 43.8 Cubic Feet (Whole)
  • 6,300 Items (Whole)
  • 44 boxes (Whole)
    3 Hollinger, 35 Cartons, 6 oversized boxes.

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Subjects

Notes

  • History

    The City of Cambridge is located in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Middlesex County. It is a part of Greater Boston and borders the Charles River. The area was settled by Puritans in 1631 hoping to populate the land between Charlestown and Watertown. Its original name was Newe Towne, which changed to Newetowne soon after, and it was planned to be a fortified town, as well as the prospective place of government by Governor Winthrop and his council. However, these ideas were eventually abandoned in favor of Boston. Still, many moved to Newetowne, and William Wood, an English chronicler of New England said the town was, “one of the neatest and best-compacted towns in New England, having many fair structures with many handsome-contrived streets.” By 1636, Harvard College had been established, and Newetowne became home to the first institution of higher learning in the Americas. Therefore, in 1638, the town was christened Cambridge, in honor of the English college. For the first two centuries after its birth, Cambridge was most closely associated with education and Harvard. It grew as a town, but it was still considered an agricultural community. However, the town experienced rapid growth following the American Revolution after the West Boston Bridge was built in 1792, thus connecting the town directly to Boston. By this time, the town had become a place of prosperous businesses, increased transportation, and higher learning. Therefore, it became an industrial town that was also known for its fisheries along the Alewife and Charles Rivers. In 1846, Cambridge was officially named a city. Cambridge also boasted some of the most influential literary poets of the nineteenth century, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. During this period of time, many progressive ideas were brought forth, such as feminism. Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was a Cambridge native who advocated for women’s rights. From 1839-1844, she offered a series of seminars for women, and out of that came the publication of the influential feminist tract Women in the Nineteenth Century in 1845. She was also part of the transcendentalism movement that developed around Harvard University and included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, among many others. Abolitionism was another progressive movement in Cambridge during the nineteenth century. Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911) was a graduate from the Harvard Divinity School, and he was a captain of African American volunteers during the Civil War. This was the nation’s first black military unit, and it became the model for later units. Throughout the rest of the century, the city continued to grow, and with the help of philanthropist Frederick Hastings Rindge (1857-1905), many city buildings were established. Between 1888 and 1990, he funded the construction of the public library, a new city hall, and the Manual Training School, a vocational school for boys. This expansion continued into the twentieth century, and Cambridge experienced some defining changes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology moved its campus from Boston, and the subway was engineered to connect the two cities. A melting pot of different cultures formed as more immigrants moved to the city. Political and social movements revolved around social services, education, regulation of the economy, and religion. In 1902, Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House was established, and it was inspired by Fuller. Its main goal was to help immigrants successfully assimilate into American culture. The government at the time was a bicameral system with a mayor, a twenty-one member council, and a board of aldermen. The non-partisan era ended in 1902 when John H. H. McNamee, a bookbinder was elected the city’s first Irish Catholic mayor. After that, political parties played a strong role, which brought about charges of political favoritism and nepotism. Many citizens initiated reform movements to combat the corruption. Political reformers introduced Plan E in 1937, which changed the structure of government. Now, there was a nine-member council. The new plan encouraged proportional representation, which means all voters and political groups deserve representation in government based on voting numbers. Plan E changed how candidates campaigned because slate balloting was very important. This influenced the politically-charged atmosphere of the time, something that continued throughout the century. When the City of Cambridge entered the new millennium, many of the social issues of the twentieth century were still relevant. A process of urban renewal and economic development, from women’s suffrage to rent control, helped the city retain its appeal.

  • Collection Overview

    This collection contains reports and other documents pertaining to various aspects of Cambridge government and life, mostly prepared by or for various City of Cambridge departments and agencies. Some documents pertain to Cambridge but were not prepared by or for by a city department or agency. Some documents pertain to Boston or Massachusetts more broadly.

  • Collection Organization

    This collection consists of approximately 6,300 items organized into topical groupings (usually by department or agency), mostly chronological within each grouping. Many of the reports were previously cataloged individually in the Library’s online public access catalogue and may be found there.

  • Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open to research.

  • Conditions Governing Use

    This collection contains a mixture of public domain and copyrighted material. It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. The materials for which no copyright exists are believed to be in the public domain. For the materials subject to copyright and other intellectual property restrictions, researchers must obtain written permission from the copyright owner(s) if they wish to publish these documents. Questions concerning copyright should be directed to the Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.

  • Preferred Citation

    Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection: [Identification of item], Cambridge City Documents, 1811-Present, 050, [Box#, Folder title], Cambridge Room, Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.

  • Processing Information

    Processed by Christine Di Bella in March 2015 and converted to EAD by Moira MacKay in February 2017 under the supervision of Alyssa Pacy.

Components