The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Sedgwick Diaries Now Available

We are pleased to announce that the diaries of Rev. Theodore Sedgwick (1863-1951) are now available for research. Sedgwick, an Episcopal minister, graduated from Harvard College in 1886 and from the Berkeley Divinity School in Middleton, Connecticut in 1890. He served as the rector of churches in New York City, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and St. Paul, Minnesota before becoming the rector of St. Paul's American Church in Rome from 1930-1934.

Rev. Sedgwick's diaries consist of 46 loose-leaf volumes dating from 1884 to 1950. Chronicling numerous European voyages and trips throughout the United States, as well as Sedgwick's daily life in Rome, New York, Florida, and Sharon, Connecticut, they include newspaper clippings, postcards, photographs, letters, programs, brochures, and other mementos that have been pasted on pages opposite related text. Sedgwick begins regular journal-keeping in 1930, typing several pages each day for almost twenty years. His diaries eventually totaled 7,044 numbered pages compiled into two volumes per year. They came to MHS as a gift of his granddaughters in late 2008.

Sedgwick's motivation for compiling these amazing volumes is best expressed in his own words: "For a number of years my ministry was in Italy, which meant a divided family. A daily record, type-written with carbons, one to each member of the family across the sea, held us together. The weekly letters went then, and have not stopped since to keep alive the bond created by the daily happenings, which although of slight moment, yet tell of thoughts and reading, of church-going and gatherings, of political rallies and candidates, of friends and all that happens in intimate associations. One copy I have always kept and its pages were bound, at first in alluring Italian leather covers, but now in simpler form. Against the pages I insert newspaper items, of which I have made mention, and at least these clippings form a history of importance." ("Good Weaving: The Happy Values of Increasing Years," The Evangel, March 1949)

With rich detail and gentle wit, Rev. Sedgwick, or "Teedy", as he was known to his family, chronicles his observations of the Fascist revolution, the Great Depression, and World War II. My favorite diaries are those that he wrote in Rome (vols. 6-13), which contain many descriptions of the well-to-do American community in Rome, Sedgwick's changing impressions of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and comments on Italian politics and culture. Here's an example:

"Yesterday a priest came to me, I could not understand what he was driving at so I sent him to Sartorio. Henry told me he wanted to know of some rich American girls to whom he could affiance some poor Italian boys. Henry told him he was selling his soul. The priest did not like Henry." (9 February 1933)

You can read more about Rev. Sedgwick and his diaries in the collection guide. MHS also holds a large multi-generational collection of Sedgwick Family papers (1717-1946), as well as the papers of Rev. Sedgwick's brother, Ellery Sedgwick (1872-1960), former editor of the Atlantic Monthly.

permalink | Published: Tuesday, 19 May, 2009, 3:08 PM


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