In-person & Hands-on Early Worcester History, Featuring the Brown Family

Who and what springs to mind when you reflect on early Worcester history?

Figure 1: Portrait of Brown family ancestor John Moore, Jr.

Isaiah Thomas & his printing press? Major Taylor & his bicycle? Esther Howland & her Valentines? These classic Worcester historical figures will all be represented at AAS’s upcoming Chat with a Curator open house this Wednesday, but we hope many of the materials and stories are new to you. We are especially excited to feature items related to the Brown Family Collections from one of Worcester’s early Black families. Of particular interest books from the family’s library, which is one of the earliest and largest intact nineteenth-century Black family’s libraries in existence.

Chat with a Curator:

This Wednesday, September 28, 2022, from 5:30-7pm, at 185 Salisbury Street AAS will throw open its doors to anyone interested in an in-person experience with parts of Worcester’s early history. Whether you drop in for a few minutes or stay for the whole time, we hope you’ll come to chat about AAS’s collections with Curator of Manuscripts Ashley Cataldo, Curator of Books and Digitized Collections Elizabeth Watts Pope, and Programs Coordinator Amanda Kondek, and other AAS staff members. Among the more unexpected selections are objects like tomb keys and whiskey bottles (you’ll have to come to find out how these fit into Worcester history). There will be games to play and goodie bags of related material to take home. Children are especially encouraged to attend!

You will be able to get hands-on with original historical materials from the American Antiquarian Society’s collections, including printed pamphlets, handwritten letters, photographs, newspapers, and more. To help preserve collection materials for future generations we will ask that you handle items carefully with clean, dry hands (feel free to ask us why we generally don’t use gloves). Proof of vaccination is required but a reservation is not. More information about this Chat-with-a-Curator event is available here: https://www.americanantiquarian.org/chat-curator-celebrating-worcesters-300th-anniversary

Featured Items Teaser:

The Brown Family Collections at AAS include family papers, portraits & photographs as well as over 100 nineteenth-century books that belonged to the family. The Moore-Brown-Goldsberry family created and maintained a family archive over generations. It is now entrusted to AAS to be made available to aid the work of researchers, poets & artists, and community members for generations to come.

We are privileged to be able to see the faces behind the letters and books belonging to the Brown family. The collections center around William and Martha Ann Brown and their son, Charles Frederick and photographs of all three will out as part of the Chat with a Curator open house. An engaging portrait of one of William’s ancestors – his uncle and also guardian, John Moore, Jr., who was a barber in Boston – is on display behind the AAS reference desk.

Among the books from the family’s library that will be out for the Chat with a Curator event are books owned by children in the family: The Child’s Anti-Slavery Book (1859) owned by a young Charles F. Brown and Progress and Achievements of the Colored People (1917) owned by his daughter Martha Jane while she attended Bennett Street School in Worcester. Other books from the family’s library include inscriptions, annotations about which poems the owner likes most, or even hand-drawn pen illustrations added years later such as those drawn in the margins of Richard Vandermarck (1872) by Charles F. Brown’s other daughter, Bernice, in 1918.

Much more information about the Brown Family Collections, including links to digitized versions of all the family papers in the manuscript collection, are available here: https://www.americanantiquarian.org/brown-family-collection.

Published by

Elizabeth Watts Pope

Curator of Books, American Antiquarian Society

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