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An Introduction to Newburyport History

Sec Shape 11
Newburyport History: Bibliography & Links

A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, by Joshua Coffin (1845). This dense 416-page tome, packed with excerpts from town records, still stands the test of time over 150 years after its publication. The author, Joshua Coffin (1792-1864), was Dartmouth graduate, a founder of the New England Anti-Slavery Society (1832), an itinerant schoolmaster, and the town clerk in Newbury for seven years. (The link is to a copy online at the Internet Archive.)

History of Newburyport, Mass. 1764-1906 (Vol. 1) , by John J. Currier (1906). John James Currier (1834-1912) was an exceedingly prolific local historian — the first volume alone is 755 pages. Vol. 1 includes valuable information about Newburyport’s streets and buildings. (The link is to a copy online at the Internet Archive.)

History of Newburyport, Mass. 1764-1909 (Vol. 2) , by John J. Currier (1909). For those that didn’t get enough in Vol. 1, there are 679 more pages in Vol. 2. Currier also wrote History of Newbury, Mass. 1635-1902, a work of 755 pages. (The link is to a copy online at the Internet Archive.)

North End Papers 1618-1880, Newburyport, Massachusetts: Development of the North End of the City, by Oliver B. Merrill (1906-08). This series of articles was originally published in the Newburyport Daily News, 1906-1908. The series was transcribed by Margaret Peckham Motes, and published in book form in 2007. (The link is to a Google Books online preview.)

Patriots and Partisans: The Merchants of Newburyport 1764-1815, by Benjamin W. Labaree (1962). This focused study looks at the economy of Newburyport in its period of West Indies trade maritime prosperity, and the roughly 200 merchants that dominated local affairs in that period. The clash of money-hungry Federalists vs. democracy-advocating Jeffersonians plays out leading up to the 1807 Embargo Act, as Newburyport merchants generally preferred the status-quo of the slavery-based “Triangle Trade” profits. This link is to an Internet Archive online preview.

A Brief History of Old Newbury: From Settlement to Separation, by Bethany Groff (2008).This is an excellent up-to-date introduction to local history by historian and museum professional Bethany Groff Dorau. This book is also available at local libraries, booksellers, and museums.

Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth Century City, by Stephen Thernstrom (1980). (This is a limited online preview at Google Books.) This book is a study of the Newburyport economy and stratified society in the mid- to late-19th century. Inspired by the five-volume Yankee City series of 1930s social and economic analysis by W. Lloyd Warner, the author of this study tackles the earlier period with more historical context.

Life in Newburyport 1900-1950, by Jean Foley Doyle (2007). The author’s two books on the city’s 20th-century history proceed chronologically using a formula that covers political, economic, and social history separately by category. The raw material for the books included newspaper accounts, city records, interviews, and photos from the Newburyport Public Library’s Archival Center and the Historical Society of Old Newbury. The author is a lifelong Newburyport resident now retired from a 30-year career teaching history and international relations at Newburyport High School. This book is available at local libraries.

Life in Newburyport 1950-1985, by Jean Foley Doyle (2010).This book picks up where Doyle’s previous book left off, and using the same format, carries the story of Newburyport through the mid-1980s. This book is available at local libraries.

Newburyport: As I Lived It! The Trials and Tribulations of a Young Wharf Rat During the Early 1900s in Massachusetts, by John Lagoulis (2011). This book of first-person accounts is a compilation of the author’s columns that first appeared in the Newburyport Daily News. The author grew up in Newburyport in the 1930s Depression years, and his recollections give his impressions of the city in the early- and mid-20th century.

Newburyport and Its Business District, by Josephine P. Driver (1964). This 10-page article was published in the spring 1964 issue of Old Time New England, a quarterly journal of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now known as Historic New England). The article features 19th-century photos of Newburyport by George E. Noyes, and voices concern about urban renewal plans that were taking shape at the time.

Newburyport and a New Kind of Urban Renewal, by Paul J. McGinley, Executive Director, Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (1971). This 5-page article was published in the spring 1971 issue of Old Time New England, a quarterly journal of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now known as Historic New England). The article recaps the preservation vs. demolition decisions of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

City of Newburyport Historic Preservation Plan (1991). (1991). The city’s Historic Preservation Plan, which included a cogent and illuminating narrative of Newburyport history, was completed in 1991 and its findings were formerly referenced in the city’s Master Plan. The city’s  Master Plan of 2001 expresses many of the same ideals.

A Port in Progress. (2007) Between March and November 2007 the Newburyport Daily News published a 37-part series of articles on Newburyport’s 1970s renewal entitled “A Port in Progress.” The series included over 200 photos. A hardbound book of the same name was published by the Daily News in 2008, and is available at the Newburyport Public Library.

Walk Newburyport: Three Self-Guided Residential Walking Tours, With an Overview of Common Styles, Local History, and Significant Public Buildings, by the Newburyport Preservation Trust (2011). Prepared by local architects, writers, and designers, the book includes an introduction to the periods and styles of domestic architecture found in Newburyport, a glossary of terms, and historical sidebars in addition to the walking tours. Walk Newburyport is a must-have for residents who want to learn more about the buildings that give the city its special character. You can also purchase Walk Newburyport directly from the Newburyport Preservation Trust online, or from your favorite local bookseller.

Clipper Heritage Trail. Speaking of walking Newburyport, visit the Clipper Heritage Trail website for a fascinating immersion into Newburyport’s notable places and people through the centuries … and then get out and walk and see the sites for yourself. The walking tours and the website are the initiative of Newburyport historian Ghlee Woodworth.

A Measure of Change (Video, 1975, 29 min.). This award-winning documentary by Lawrence Rosenblum is a must-see for every new arrival to Newburyport. In just 29 minutes, the documentary examines the landmark decision to use historic preservation principles for the first time in federal HUD urban renewal projects. Go directly to the video here.