The Amherst College Early History Manuscripts & Pamphlets Collection¬†includes administrative correspondence, petitions, pamphlets and other printed material from the first two and a half decades of Amherst College’s existence (1820-1845). While this collection does not fully document the administrative activities of this period, it does contain important documentation of the atmosphere and activities of the College and its administration in its early years.

Despite their similar names, this collection is distinct from the Amherst College Early History Collection, which contains printed materials about the early years of the College, as opposed to handwritten manuscripts.

This collection was an easy choice for the Bicentennial project for several reasons. First, the content of the collection provides a rare view into many of the early functions and activities of the college, from student organizations to discipline by the faculty. Many of the early records of the College were destroyed in the Walker Hall fire of 1882, so records prior to that date can be sparse.

Second, because the collection dates entirely to the 19th century, there were no concerns about copyright, privacy, or records restrictions. All of the material is firmly in the public domain, so we can make the images and content freely available for anyone to do whatever they wish with it.

Finally, for an archival collection, this is quite a small collection. It is only one archival records box worth of material, and each item is described somewhat in depth in the collection’s finding aid (what we call item-level description). This means both that the collection was easy to digitize, since there was relatively little of it, and also that our Bicentennial Metadata Librarian had a little bit of a head start on the descriptions of each item in ACDC, since she could build on the work of the archivist(s) who originally processed the collection.

First page of a letter from the Anti-Slavery Society to the Faculty of the College, 1834.
October 21 1834: the Anti-Slavery Society responds to the faculty’s request that they disband.

Of particular research interest in this collection are five letters from 1835 concerning the existence of the “Anti-Slavery Society,” a student group opposed by the faculty. Other items of interest include a large amount of correspondence on student admissions, financial aid, student activities, disciplinary cases, and commencement; two letters declining the presidency of the College in 1844; and a number of items relating to the founding of the College and the granting of the charter.

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Related Bicentennial collections