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Collection area: Rhode Island (page 1 of 2)

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Samuel Austin Collection, 1718-1920

2 boxes (1 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 937

An historian and educator, Samuel Austin (1816-1897) was known for his long association with the Friends Boarding School in Providence, R.I. (later renamed the Moses Brown School). An alumnus who married an alumna, Elizabeth H. Osborn, Austin taught at the Boarding school for decades and was instrumental in gathering and preserving documents relating to the school. He wrote and lectured regularly on the history of Friends’ education and on the Boarding School, and its noted teachers and alumni.

A product of the historical work of Samuel Austin, the collection contains both essays, notes, and talks on the Friends’ Boarding School in Providence and on Moses and Obadiah Brown, and some significant original documents used by Austin in his research. Noteworthy among the original materials are a fascinating series of records from monthly and quarterly meetings in and near Rhode Island, mostly in 1787-1793; a rich series of epistles received by Smithfield Monthly Meeting from other meetings in New England (1718-1767); some key printed epistles from Yearly Meetings, including those on war (London, New England, and Philadelphia Yearly) and slavery (London and Philadelphia). Of equal note are a series of letters from Elisha Thornton (a New Bedford merchant, educator, and antislavery advocate), a lengthy letter on doctrine from John Wilbur, and a 1765 sermon from Rachel Wilson.


  • Antislavery movements
  • Brown, Moses, 1738-1832
  • Friends Boarding School (Providence, R.I.)
  • Peace movements--Rhode Island
  • Quaker women--Rhode Island--18th century
  • Quakers--Education--Rhode Island
  • Rhode Island--History--18th century
  • Society of Friends--History--Rhode Island


  • Thornton, Elisha, 1748-1816
  • Wilbur, John 1774-1856

Types of material

  • Correspondence
  • Minutes (Administrative records)

Brinley Family Papers, 1643-1950

(4.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 161
Deborah Brinley and infant son Francis, 1729<br />Copy by Charles U. Bond (1830)<br />after John Smibert
Deborah Brinley and infant son Francis, 1729
Copy by Charles U. Bond (1830)
after John Smibert

A prosperous family of merchants and landowners, the Brinleys were well ensconced among the social and political elite of colonial New England. Connected by marriage to other elite families in Rhode Island and Massachusetts — the Auchmutys, Craddocks, and Tyngs among them — the Brinleys were refined, highly educated, public spirited, and most often business-minded. Although many members of the family remained loyal to the British cause during the Revolution, the family retained their high social standing in the years following.

The Brinley collection includes business letters, legal and business records, wills, a fragment of a diary, documents relating to slaves, newspaper clippings, and a small number of paintings and artifacts. A descendent, Nancy Brinley, contributed a quantity of genealogical research notes and photocopies of Brinley family documents from other repositories. Of particular note in the collection is a fine nineteenth century copy of a John Smibert portrait of Deborah Brinley (1719), an elegant silver tray passed through the generations, and is a 1713 list of the library of Francis Brinley, which offers a foreshadowing of the remarkable book collection put together in the later nineteenth century by his descendant George Brinley.


  • American loyalists--Massachusetts
  • Book collectors--United States--History--19th century
  • Brinley family
  • Brinley, George, 1817-1875--Library
  • Businessmen--Massachusetts--History
  • Businessmen--Rhode Island--History
  • Craddock family
  • Landowners--Massachusetts--History
  • Landowners--Rhode Island--History
  • Libraries--Rhode Island--18th century
  • Massachusetts--Economic conditions--18th century
  • Massachusetts--Politics and government--19th century
  • Rhode Island--Economic conditions--18th century
  • Rhode Island--Genealogy
  • Rhode Island--Politics and government--19th century
  • Slavery--United States--History
  • Tyng family
  • United Empire Loyalists

Types of material

  • Deeds
  • Realia

Moses Brown Papers, 1713-1840

3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 930

In the early Republic, Moses Brown emerged as an ardent abolitionist, a social reformer, and one of the best known philanthropists in his native Providence, R.I. A Baptist who converted to the Society of Friends in 1774, Brown had made a fortune as a merchant, partly in the triangular trade, but a crisis of conscience brought on by the ghastly results of an attempted slaving voyage in 1765 and the death of his wife in 1773 led him to reexamine his life. Withdrawing from most of his business affairs, Brown joined the Society of Friends and emancipated his slaves. He was a founder of the Providence Society for the Abolition of Slavery in 1786 and a strong voice for peace, temperance, and universal education.

A small, but rich archive of the personal papers of Moses Brown, this collection centers on Brown’s activities in antislavery, peace, and educational reform and his connections to the Society of Friends between the 1760s and 1830s. In addition to significant correspondence with major figures in early antislavery cause, including Anthony Benezet, George Benson, William Dillwyn, and Warner Mifflin, and some material relating to the Providence Society for the Abolition of Slavery, the collection includes outstanding content on peace activism. In addition to materials from Moses Brown, the collection includes letters to Moses’ son Obadiah Brown and some fascinating letters and manuscripts relating to Moses’ friend and fellow Friend, Job Scott.


  • Antislavery movements--Rhode Island
  • Peace movements--Rhode Island
  • Quakers--Rhode Island
  • Rhode Island--History--18th century


  • Benson, George W., 1808-1879
  • Brown, Obadiah, 1771-1822
  • Mifflin, Warner
  • Providence Society for Abolishing the Slave-Trade
  • Providence Society for the Abolition of Slavery
  • Scott, Job, 1751-1793

Edwin S. Dethlefsen Photograph Collection, ca.1965-1970

1 box (0.25 linear feet)
Call no.: PH 020
Abigail Holman, d. 1702, Milton, Mass.
Abigail Holman, d. 1702, Milton, Mass.

Edwin S. Dethlefsen and his colleague James Deetz did pioneering work in the historical archaeology and material culture of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century gravestones in New England. Through a series of articles in the mid-1960s, based on intensive study of well documented sites in Massachusetts, Deetz and Dethlefsen developed a basic framework for understanding the stylistic evolution of gravestones. Their work was foundational for later studies in material culture and folk art, but also the broader study of death and bereavement and colonial culture.

The Dethlefsen Collection consists of nearly 2,900 negatives (black and white, 35m and 2×2″) of gravestones, primarily from eastern Massachusetts and Newport, R.I. Among the towns documented are Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown, Concord, Dorchester, Harvard, Lexington, Marblehead, Marshfield, Plymouth, Quincy, and Scituate.


  • Gravestones--Massachusetts
  • Gravestones--Rhode Island
  • Stone carving--Massachusetts
  • Stone carving--Rhode Island


  • Association for Gravestone Studies
  • Dethlefsen, Edwin S

Types of material

  • Photographs

Amory Gale Ledgers, 1840-1872

2 vols. (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 259 bd

A physician and native of Warwick, Mass., Amory Gale worked as an allopath after his graduation from Brown College in 1824, before turning to homeopathy in the mid-1850s. Often struggling with ill health, Gale plied his trade in a long succession of towns, including Canton, Scituate, Mansfield, and Medway, Massachusetts, as well as towns in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Between 1844 and 1853, he interrupted his medical practice for a turn in the pulpit.

Gale’s surviving ledgers include accounts with patients, their form of payment, lists of medical fees, and a draft of a business agreement with a fellow homeopath in Woonsocket, J.S. Nichols.


  • Physicians--Massachusetts

Types of material

  • Account books

Howland Family Papers, 1727-1886 (Bulk: 1771-1844)

2 boxes (0.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 923

The Howland family of East Greenwich, R.I., figured prominently in New England Quakerism during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and contributed to the state’s public affairs. Brothers Daniel (1754-1834), an approved minister, and Thomas Howland (1764-1845), an educator, were active members of the Society during the tumultuous years between the 1780s and 1840s, caught up in the moral demands for a response to slavery and other social issues and in the divisions wrought by evangelical influences.

Centered largely on the lives of Thomas Howland, his brother Daniel, and Daniel’s son Daniel, the Howland collection is an important record of Quaker life in Rhode Island during trying times. As meeting elders, the Howlands monitored and contributed to the era’s major controversies, and the collection is particularly rich in discussions of the impact of slavery and the passionate struggle between Friends influenced by the evangelically-inclined Joseph John Gurney and the orthodox John Wilbur. Thomas’ complex response to his commitment to the antislavery cause and his fear of disrupting meeting unity is particularly revealing. Also of note is a series of responses from monthly meetings to queries on compliance with Quaker doctrine, obtained during the decade after the American Revolution.


  • Antislavery movements--Rhode Island
  • East Greenwich (R.I.)--History
  • Peace movements--Rhode Island
  • Temperance--Rhode Island


  • Bassett, William, 1803-1871
  • Brown, Moses, 1738-1836
  • Friends' Boarding School (Providence, R.I.)
  • Gurney, Joseph John, 1788-1847
  • Howland, Daniel
  • Howland, Daniel, 1754-1834
  • Howland, Thomas, 1764-1845
  • Moses Brown School
  • New England Yearly Meeting of Friends
  • Shearman, Abraham, 1777-1847
  • Society of Friends--Controversial literature
  • Society of Friends--History
  • Tobey, Samuel Boyd, 1805-1867
  • Wilbur, John, 1774-1856

William P. MacConnell Aerial Photograph Collection, ca.1950-2000

ca.24,000 items
Call no.: Map Collection

In the 1950s, William P. MacConnell (Class of 1943), and his photogrammetry students in the Dept. of Forestry began using aerial photography to map forests, agricultural fields, wetlands, and other land cover in Massachusetts. Their work was eventually expanded to include the mapping of all land use for Massachusetts, making this state the first in the nation to be completely mapped in this fashion, and laying the foundation for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory.

The MacConnell Collection includes a comprehensive set of stereopair photographs derived from multiple transects of the state taken between 1950 and 2000. In addition to some original field notes, a stereoscope, and other project materials, the collection includes the following series:

  • 1951: Massachusetts, black and white prints (1:20,000 scale)
  • 1971: Massachusetts, black and white prints (1:20,000)
  • 1985: Massachusetts and Rhode Island, infrared transparencies (1:25,000)
  • 1990: Boston, Cape Cod, Buzzard’s Bay, infrared transparencies (1:12,000)
  • 1991-1992: Massachusetts, infrared transparencies (1:40,000)
  • 1991-1992: Merrimack River Valley, North Shore, MDC-1, infrared transparencies (1:12,000)
  • 1993: Massachusetts, Cape Cod, MDC-2, Nantucket, Dukes and Plymouth Counties, Naushon, West Metro, infrared transparencies (1:12,000)
  • 1999: Massachusetts. infrared transparencies and prints (1:25,000)

The collection is housed in the Map Collection on the 2nd Floor of the library.


  • Land use--Massachusetts
  • MacConnell, William Preston, 1918-
  • Maps--Massachusetts
  • Wetlands--Massachusetts

Types of material

  • Aerial photography
  • Maps

New England Yearly Meeting of Friends Records, 1654-2016

(384.5 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 902

In 1661, less than a decade after the first Friends arrived in British North America, the precursor to the New England Yearly Meeting was organized as the Rhode Island Yearly Meeting. As one of approximately two dozen yearly meetings in the United States, the NEYM currently comprises eight quarterly meetings and approximately 85 monthlies, which are the basic unit of organization for the Society. Like many Yearly meetings, the NEYM has been diverse in spiritual practice, reflected in a history of separations and reunions. Most famously, Orthodox Friends in New England divided in the 1840s into the increasingly evangelically-oriented Gurneyites, who went by the name Yearly Meeting of Friends for New England (joining Friends United Meeting in 1902), and the Wilburites, sometimes called Conservative Friends. In 1945, the disparate branches formally reunited.

Consolidated beginning in the 1960s, the NEYM collection contains the official records of the New England Yearly Meeting from its founding in the seventeenth century to the present, along with records of most of its constituent Quarterly, Monthly, and Preparative Meetings and records of Quaker schools and trusts. As varied as the Quaker practice they document, these records include minutes of meetings for business; committee records; newsletters, financial records; some personal papers; printed books and serials; and an assortment of photographs, audiovisual materials, microfilm, and electronic records. Of particular note are the vital statistics recorded by the Monthly Meetings, including general information on births, deaths, marriages, membership, and obituaries, and specifically-Quaker information on removals (formal letters written as members moved from one meeting to another), denials, testimonies (beliefs and convictions), and sufferings (penalties Quakers suffered for following testimonies). The Archives Committee of the NEYM is a partner in records management and on-going documentation of the Meeting and its constituent bodies. The collection also includes several thousand Quaker books and pamphlets, including the libraries of Moses and Obadiah Brown and several individual monthly meetings. The records of most monthly meetings in Maine are held at the Maine Historical Society, while important bodies of records are held at the Newport Historical Society (some Nantucket and Rhode Island Meetings) or at individual Monthly Meetings.


  • Quakers--New England
  • Society of Friends--New England--History

Peck-Sisson-White Family Papers, 1772-1975 (Bulk: 1830-1875)

2 boxes (0.75 linear feet)
Call no.: MS 933

Perez Peck (1786-1876) and Asa Sisson (1815-1893) of the village of Anthony (Coventry), R.I., were innovative machinists and manufacturers of cotton looms. Active members of the Society of Friends, they were supporters of the antislavery struggle and sent their children to the Friends Boarding School in Providence, R.I.

Although the Peck-Sisson-White family collection spans three families and three generations, the bulk of material is concentrated on the lives of Asa Sisson and his wife Mary Ann (Peck) and their daughter Emily, who married Willis H. White, with an emphasis on their poetry and their time at the Friends Boarding School in Providence, R.I. The family also copied verse from other writers, including works from George Miller (not otherwise identified) extracting Anthony Benezet and “Remarks on encouraging slavery” and a “lamentation over New England” which touches on the execution of early Quakers in Massachusetts Bay.


  • Antislavery movements--Rhode Island
  • Death--Poetry
  • Friends Boarding School (Providence, R.I.)
  • Quakers--Rhode Island


  • Peck, Perez, 1786-1876
  • Sisson, Asa, 1815-1893
  • Sisson, Mary Ann, 1816-1882
  • White, Emily Sisson, 1856-1945

Types of material

  • Diaries
  • Poetry

Carol A. Perkins Collection, 2001-2002

1 box (0.5 linear feet)
Call no.: PH 033

Carol A. Perkins was born April 25, 1926 in Rochester, N.Y., where she attended Madison High School. Her father, Vernon Perkins, was a World War I Army Air Service photographer in France, and she became interested in photography through his photograph albums. She graduated from a correspondence program at the New York Institute of Photography and graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology School of Art in 1950. After matriculating from the Rochester General Hospital School of Medical Photography, she was employed at the Toledo Hospital Institute of Medical Research for twenty-two years, and then by the Medical College of Ohio for eleven years. While searching through New England graveyards for her Perkins ancestors, she became interested in gravestone studies and became a member of the Association for Gravestone Studies.

The Carol Perkins Collection consists of 1.5 linear feet of material, primarily color photographs of grave markers in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Box 1 has two indices: one alphabetical by deceased’s surnames, and the other alphabetical by state, then town, then cemetery. Box 2 photographs include transcriptions of the deceased’s names, dates of birth/death, and inscriptions, and are organized by state, then town. The collection includes one folder of genealogical material and 20 black & white photographs of markers in England. Photographs taken at AGS conferences include some AGS members and were taken in the following years: 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2003.


  • Gravestones--Connecticut
  • Gravestones--Indiana
  • Gravestones--Massachusetts
  • Gravestones--Michigan
  • Gravestones--New Hampshire
  • Gravestones--New York
  • Gravestones--Ohio
  • Gravestones--Vermont


  • Association for Gravestone Studies
  • Perkins, Carol A

Types of material

  • Photographs
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