Broadsides

Broadsides are single sheets printed on one side that served as public announcements or advertisements from the beginning of printing in America through the early 20th century. They were the popular "broadcasts" of their day, bringing news of current events to the public quickly and often disappearing just as quickly.

The Society holds more than 10,000 broadsides, an unusually large and valuable collection since the temporary use of broadsides made their survival particularly rare.  Generally posted or read aloud, broadsides constituted official notices of laws and regulations and provided news of battles, deaths, executions, and other current events.

Highlights

Highlights include a notice of the Harvard commencement exercises in 1643, announcements of antislavery rallies, recruitment posters for the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first official black regiment raised in the North during the Civil War, and broadsides that run the gamut from dying confessions, to poems on natural disasters and topics of the day and official government proclamations.

A large collection of theater broadsides and playbills, chiefly from Boston, gives a glimpse of popular culture and entertainment in the 19th century.

Posters—works of art printed on single sheets—have been cataloged as part of the broadside collection. 

The Broadside Printing of the Declaration of Independence

The MHS holds copies of many different broadside printings of The Declaration, the single most important printed document in American history, including one of the few surviving copies of the first printing by John Dunlap of Philadelphia from 4-5 July 1776.  Dunlap's broadside brought news of Independence throughout the colonies. 

How to Find Broadsides

All of the Society's broadsides are cataloged in ABIGAIL, the library online catalog.

 

Upcoming Events

Author Talk; Online Event

Books for Idle Hours: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the Rise of Summer Reading

11Jun 5:30PM 2020
This is an online program

REGISTER HERE The publishing phenomenon of summer reading started in the nineteenth century, as both print culture and tourist culture expanded in the United States. ...

Conversation; Online Event

The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West

17Jun 5:30PM 2020
This is an online program.

REGISTER HERE Megan Kate Nelson reveals the fascinating history of the Civil War in the American West.Exploring the connections among the Civil War, the Indian wars, and ...

Online Event; Author Talk

1774: The Long Year of Revolution

24Jun 5:30PM 2020
This is an online program.

REGISTER HERE Mary Beth Norton will give us a preview of her new book, a narrative history of the “long       year” of 1774, or the ...

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