The Library Catalog is Live!

We are pleased to announce that our online catalog is nearly complete and is now live to the public. Cataloging the CHC Research Library has been a long process, but entirely worth it. We are especially grateful for the hard work of our cataloging intern, Becky Shea, whose efforts made it possible to complete the catalog.

Check it out (pun intended) at!



New! Lunch Carts and Dining Cars of Cambridge, Mass.

The CHC is proud to present a new GIS Story Map created by our own Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner, available here! This fun Story Map focuses on the long-gone lunch carts and dining cars in Cambridge.

“From the earliest horse-drawn lunch carts to the streamlined stainless steel cars, diners were once plentiful in Cambridge. But where did they all go? Some diners moved into brick and mortar locations and others relocated to other towns. The recent Food Truck trend appears to be a revival of the portable dining car, but they don’t offer the seating and table service of yesterday.”


Take a tour of Cambridge diner photos and share your diner memories with us at Have you been to any of these diners?

ArchivesSpace and the CHC

Recently, the CHC formed a partnership with the Cambridge Public Library (CPL) in an effort to make our collections more digitally accessible. With the help of CPL Archivist Alyssa Pacy, we have begun to encode finding aids from our repository and upload them into an ArchivesSpace account that the CPL is kindly sharing with us.

Some of our readers may be wondering why this project is beneficial, or you may be unsure about what encoding a finding aid means. Let’s start at the beginning:

After a collection is donated to us, we perform a number of steps to ready the materials for research and use. Among these are physical processing as well as arrangement and description. The final product of this process is an organized collection with an accompanying finding aid, a document that describes the records and their significance.


A typical collection donation–unorganized and waiting to be formed into a usable resource. Source: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

At the CHC, we create print and PDF copies of our finding aids to be used in our office and to make available on our website.



PDF finding aid for the Xonnabel Clark Collection

Whereas these versions are text-searchable, encoding a finding aid renders the text machine-readable and gives meaning to each section described. This is achieved by encoding the finding aid in XML (Extensible Markup Language). This process is akin to writing HTML to create a website.


A snippet of the XML document encoded for the Xonnabel Clark Collection using Oxygen XML Editor software.

After our finding aids are encoded, we upload the XML document to a platform that can convert this information to display nicely for human eyes while still retaining the machine-readable “meaning” behind the words. In our case, we are using ArchivesSpace.


The Xonnabel Clark Collection finding aid – available on ArchivesSpace

One example of this capability is in the subjects section. In paper or PDF finding aids, these items are simply words that convey the multiple subjects that may exist within a collection. Employed digitally, these subjects link collections with the same subject by just clicking your mouse.


So, we hope you are as excited about our ArchivesSpace partnership with CPL as we are! We hope to continue to encode both new and existing finding aids to make all of our resources from the CHC more accessible. In the meantime, follow the links below to view our ArchivesSpace page or browse one of our available finding aids: the Cambridge Manual Training School/ Rindge Manual Training School/ Rindge Technical School Collection. We would love to hear your feedback!

Cambridge Archives Test

Rindge School

Dr. Charles E. Vaughan and Radcliffe Yard

The CHC recently opened a small but significant group of materials: the Dr. Charles E. Vaughan Collection.

Charles Everett Vaughan was born into the prominent Vaughan family of Hallowell, Maine on August 24, 1835. By the time he was 15, Charles and his family had relocated to Cambridge. His father, also named Charles, worked as a brush dealer for J. J. Adams & Co. in Boston. Below are two of the company’s advertisements from 1922.


The Vaughans were descended from British merchant and Jamaican plantation owner Samuel Vaughan and his wife, Sarah Hallowell. Charles E.’s grandfather Charles was one of the first settlers of this historic Maine town. His great-uncle Benjamin Vaughan, a well-known political radical in England before settling in Hallowell, was a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.[1]


Image of a historic bridge at Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead in Hallowell, Maine. The homestead is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is now a part of the Kennebec Land Trust. Photograph by Norm Rodrigue.

After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1863, Dr. Charles E. Vaughan served as an assistant surgeon during the Civil War. He later married Elizabeth F. Wells of Cambridge in 1866.


Marriage announcement of Dr. Charles E. Vaughan and Elizabeth F. Wells in Quincy, Mass. Cambridge Chronicle, 28 April 1866.

That same year, the couple moved to a house on Garden Street between Mason Street and Appian Way across from Cambridge Common. Dr. Vaughan also used the home, now known as 8 Garden Street, as the base for his medical practice.


View of the Cambridge Common from the northeast, 1875. Appian and Mason have been highlighted, as well as property between them.

Elizabeth passed away in 1883. Dr. Vaughan lived at 8 Garden until 1886 he moved to 4 Brewster Place in 1886. After the death of his first wife, Vaughan married Alice C. Carter of Cambridge on October 11, 1894. Dr. Vaughan kept his practice on Garden Street until his retirement in 1895.


Plan of land at 8 and 10 Garden Street, pre-1853

In 1895, Dr. Vaughan retired to Santa Barbara, California, and the following year he sold his property on Garden Street to Radcliffe. Dr. Vaughan died on June 24, 1904 and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

The Dr. Charles E. Vaughan Collection contains correspondence, deeds, maps, leases, and other documents related to the 8 Garden property and its sale by Dr. Vaughan to Radcliffe College in 1896. Documents relate to previous owners of the property including Charles C. Foster of Cambridge and Louisa Higginson of Brattleboro, Vermont.



Pages of Agreement to convey land – Louisa Higginson to C. C. Foster, 1852


Plans regarding the sale of the Garden Street property to Radcliffe College, 1896

To view these and other items from this collection, please stop by the CHC during our research hours: Monday: 2:00-7:00pm, Tuesday: 2:00-4:00pm, or Wednesday-Thursday: 10:00am-12:00pm and 2:00-4:00pm. To make a research appointment with our archivist Emily, please call 617.349.4683 or e-mail

[1] Vaughan family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Now Open: The Simplex Pennant Collection

Until the mid-20th century, the Simplex Wire & Cable Company on Sidney Street was one of the largest manufacturers in Cambridge. Founded in Boston in 1840, Simplex moved to Cambridge in 1916 and manufactured electrical appliances and wire in a multi-building complex near Lafayette Square. MIT bought the property after the company moved to New Hampshire in 1970; University Park now occupies the site.

This collection holds 18 issues from 1945 of the Simplex Pennant, the company’s employee newsletter that gives us an authentic glimpse into daily life in Cambridge during the 1940s.

blog photo #1

Scores from company bowling league and trivia section.

Dedicated to manufacturing wires and cables for electrical use, Simplex Wire & Cable rose in the industry as an innovator, developing a submarine cable with a significantly longer lifespan. This invention came in handy as war broke out once again in 1939. Simplex became a main supplier of telecommunications cable to the US Army and Navy.

blog photo #2

A thank you note to Simplex Wire & Cable Company from US War Department.

blog photo #3

Simplex awarded its Fourth Gold Star from the US Maritime Commission.


Simplex Pennant masthead showing US War Department awards.

1945 was a pivotal year in World War II from Hitler’s defeat to VE Day. Woven into the Pennant’s committee reports are hints as to what was going on in the wider world.

blog photo #5

Entries honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt.


As the war raged on, The Pennant was there to capture the goings-on of domestic life and the war effort. The newsletter included birthday and wedding anniversary announcements as well as updates on enlisted employees or relatives.

blog photo #7

An employee’s letter from his son who had been released from a German P.O.W. camp.

It also featured cartoon reminders of attendance and safety precautions to keep morale and productivity up.

blog photo #7

A newsletter cartoon joking about attendance.

Come take a step back in time and explore the Simplex Pennant Collection! View the collection finding aid here. You can also take a look at selected pages from issues of the Simplex Pennant, digitized and available on our Flickr page.

Now Open: Xonnabel Clark Collection

This post was authored by our Simmons 438 Archives intern, Jacky Martin.

You may have heard of the Clarks before.  Emory J. Clark Square sits at Fern Street and Concord Avenue.  Emory’s Pharmacy was the first Black-owned and operated pharmacy in Cambridge.

But this collection is about Xonnabel.

Xonnabel Clark was a teacher and counselor for various area schools over the years.  She received a Masters of Education from Harvard University.  She raised five children.  She was a very active member of her church, Grace Vision United Methodist.  And I think  – because I’ve not met her – that she is curious and passionate about learning and likes piecing puzzles together.

It’s the last two sentences that are important for this collection.

Clark became the unofficial historian for her church back in the 2000s, when the congregation needed to find the official deed for the church building.  She traveled to the Cambridge Registry of Deeds and successfully located the document.  That adventure sparked an interest in records and the history of her church that led to her working with the CHC to make the church into a historical landmark, and writing a report called The History of Grace Vision United Methodist 1871-2009: 138 Years of Christian Service (yes, we have a copy and yes, I’ve read it).

After spending two weeks with this collection, I understand her interest.

Grace M.E. Church Postcard

A colored postcard of the church

The Grace Vision United Methodist Church was built in 1887.  Its original congregation was an outgrowth of a Sunday School-type program called the Sabbath School, which was run by Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist churches including the Harvard Street Church.  The original congregation was called the Cottage Street Methodist Episcopal Church, due to its location on Cottage Street, before it moved to the Magazine Street building and renamed itself Grace Methodist Episcopal Church.  Since then it’s gone through four name changes (from Grace M.E. to Grace Methodist to Grace United to finally Grace Vision United).  That’s five different names for one enduring congregation.

And by all accounts, the congregation’s focus on community and outreach that started with the Sabbath School didn’t change.  The church sponsored Scout Troops, ran arts programs, and remained an active part of the community.  From the original Sabbath School to Grace Academy, the Grace Vision UMC strove to always contribute to the local community.

Grace U.M.C. Scout Troop 17

One of the many Boy Scout Troops the church sponsored

The collection itself is an interesting mix of official documents and informal photographs.

Grace Church Herald, October 1903

An old church newsletter; note the baseball statistics

The largest part of the collection (aside from the History) are the church programs that Clark kept over the years.  From Martin Luther King Day celebrations to joint Easter Sunday services with other churches to Anniversary services and banquets, these programs run the gamut of the various events that are a constant part of a church’s life.


One of the multiple programs for Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations

More interesting – to me at least –  are the newsletters and correspondence in the collection.  Much of the collection consists of formal minutes from the multiple inter-church organizations that Grace United Methodist was a part of, but the rest includes church newsletters and messages to the congregation.  My favorite is the “Cakeless Cake Sale” letter, which is written almost entirely in rhyme.

Grace U.M.C. Cakeless Cake Sale

A Cakeless Cake Sale, a novel new way to do bake sales

The collection is a unique snapshot of the life of a church, taken by someone who clearly cares greatly for this church and its history.

Grace U.M.C. Service

A photograph of Sunday service

View the finding aid for this collection here. If you would like to learn more about this collection, please call us at 617.349.4683 or e-mail our archivist, Emily, at to make a research appointment.

“Douglass Day” Transcribe-a-Thon at Northeastern

If you are in the Boston-Cambridge Metro area, consider attending this “Transcribe-a-thon” on February 14 at Northeastern University, in celebration of Frederick Douglass’s 200th birthday. Archives staff members at the CHC will be participating online, which you can do, too. Click here for more information on participating online.

Details on the Northeastern event below:


Please join us this Valentine’s Day for a transcribe-a-thon in celebration of Frederick Douglass! In partnership with the library’s Open Access programming, the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks and the Women Writers Project, Northeastern University’s Digital Scholarship Group will be hosting a local event at Northeastern’s Snell Library, as part of a much larger celebration organized by the Colored Conventions Project, the Smithsonian Transcription Center and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Although Douglass was born into bondage, and never knew his birthdate, he chose to celebrate every year on February 14. We will commemorate his birthday by creating Black history together, transcribing at our library while streaming online with the national event. Pizza and snacks will be served!

Participants should bring their own laptops, if possible, but no previous experience is required. This event is free and open to the public. RSVP here: 

New Finding Aids Available

We are happy to announce the availability of three new finding aids and the addition of a subject inventory for one of our collections! Scroll down for descriptions and samples of images from the following collections: Traffic Proposals and Plans – A Supplement to the Cambridge Traffic Department Collection, Daniel White Charity Fund Cash Book, Hugh Russell Collection, and the Boston Globe Cambridge Clippings Collection Inventory.

Traffic Proposals and Plans – A Supplement to the Cambridge Traffic Department Collection

This collection contains report plans, transit reports, and studies prepared by agencies for improvement projects in Cambridge from 1962 to 1990. Subjects in this collection include Relocation/Construction of the Lechmere Station Project, Alewife Boulevard Alignment Study, and the North Point Roadway and Infrastructure Project.





Click here to view the finding aid.

Daniel White Charity Fund Cash Book

This collection consists of one ledger detailing the income, cash account, interest, and other financial aspects of the Daniel White Charity Fund in Cambridge from its inception in 1863 to early 1959. An introduction to the ledger is written by former Cambridge mayor J. Warren Merrill. White gave $5000 to the Mayor and certain Trustees of Cambridge to be held in trust with the following instructions:

Go hold and invest the sum safely and to apply the income thereof from time to time according to the discretion of the Trustees to the purchasing and gratuitous distribution of fuel among the worth and deserving poor of my (his) native City of Cambridge.


Click here to view the finding aid.

Hugh Russell Cambridge Urban Planning Collection

This collection covers the years 1972 – 2011 and is divided into two series. Click here to view the finding aid.

Series One consists of six boxes of Planning Board documents concerning special permit applications. The folder list is a spread sheet, which is arranged alphabetically by street address. The information for each address includes proponent, significant dates, PB number, project name and description, and a list of folder contents. Box 6 contains for the most part information concerning University Park. Click here to view the spreadsheet for Series 1.

Series Two consists of two boxes of reports, meeting minutes, newsletters, proposals, petitions, surveys from a variety of neighborhood committees and organizations as well city departments, all of which concern various urban planning and development issues in Cambridge. The folder list for this series is a word document. Click here to view the spreadsheet for Series 2.

As these materials are housed offsite, please contact our archivist, Emily at or at 617.349.6112 to make an appointment and view the collection.

Boston Globe Cambridge Clippings Collection Inventory

In relation to our previous post, the subject list inventory for the collection of newspaper clipping files from The Boston Globe clipping library is now available online. Click here to access the inventory.



Now Open: The Boston Globe Cambridge Clippings Collection

Last June, the commission received a donation of newspaper clipping files from The Boston Globe clipping library. Although The Globe was clipped from around 1900 until it went electronic in 1977, the clippings in this collection date from around the 1920s with some items dating into the 2000s.


The Boston Globe Cambridge Clippings Collection contains nearly 1,900 individual subject envelopes.

During the time when the clippings library was active, groups of clippings were organized by subject into single or multiple envelopes depending on the breadth of information on a given topic.


A selection of files related to Cambridge restaurants.

Envelopes can include stories of community interest to crime investigations, and originated not only from the Boston Globe, but from other newspapers and publications including the Boston Herald and the Transcript.


Vestiges of the past can be seen through use of less-modern terms, as this 1971 clipping from CAMBRIDGE: MASS: CRIME: FLIM-FLAM illustrates.

Some envelopes even included photographs once published in the newspaper, many depicting prominent Cambridge architecture or buildings that no longer exist.


Cambridge Children’s Museum, 1919.

The newspaper clippings have now been processed and a finding aid will soon be available to researchers on our website. Each title has been transcribed into a spreadsheet, and ordered via separate tabs for quick searching and topic browsing.


A selection of clippings regarding a new bridge over Broad Canal, 1928.

The next step in the Globe clippings collection will be to cross-index relevant clippings about buildings, social clubs, and other pertinent addresses with our architectural inventory files to facilitate an even more comprehensive history of Cambridge.


Mansion House, a restaurant and ice cream saloon once at the corner of Gore and Bridge (now Monsignor O’Brien Highway) Streets, 1905.

We look forward to welcoming patrons interested in researching this collection! To make a research appointment, contact our archivist, Emily at or stop by the CHC during our research hours: Mon: 4:00-7:00pm and Tue-Thur: 9:30-11:30am & 2:00-4:00pm.


Ring in the New Year with Genealogy Workshops (CPL/CCTV)

Happy New Year! We here at the CHC hope everyone had a lovely and restful holiday season. To kick off the new year, we’d like to share a fun event series hosted by our friends over at the Cambridge Public Library (original post at the Cambridge Room’s blog):

Are you looking for something fun to do in the new year?  Join the Cambridge Public Library for our popular 4-week beginner’s genealogy workshop series.   Classes will be held at CCTV, located at 438 Massachusetts Avenue.

Wednesdays, 6-8 PM
January 10, 17, 24, & 31
Instructors:  Alyssa Pacy, Archivist, and Drew Griffin, Senior Librarian
Location:  CCTV computer classroom, 438 Massachusetts Avenue

Join us for a 4-week, beginner’s genealogy workshop. For two hours each week, we will demystify the overwhelming process of sorting through online records as well as give tips for how best to make use of research visits to local repositories. We will help you find ancestors, organize your research, and start a family tree. Come with a new question every week and leave with an answer and something tangible to bring home, such as a copy of a birth certificate. By taking this class, you will be automatically eligible to enroll in a FREE, two-part course on digital storytelling taught by CCTV. Learn how to make a digital film about your family’s history based on your genealogical research. Create a treasured digital keepsake to pass on to family members. Registration is mandatory for the series.  To register, please contact Keaton Fox at