The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

To Russia With Tweets

Back in late May I wrote a post here titled "Was JQA a Tweeter?," in which I noted a visitor's observation of the similarities between John Quincy Adams' line-a-day diary entries and the micro-blog posts produced on Twitter. Well, that got the wheels spinning here at MHS, and when we realized that JQA begins a long series of line-a-day entries on 5 August 1809 as he departs on his voyage to Russia (where he would serve as the first American ambassador), we decided some opportunities are just too good to pass up.

So, beginning on 5 August 2009, we'll be posting JQA's line-a-day diary entries on Twitter, one per day exactly 200 years later. You can check out the project at, and if you use Twitter too we hope you'll follow along and receive the daily updates. We'll be posting JQA's exact words (his entries really do work perfectly as 140-character tweets), and where possible we will augment the posts with maps showing his location (thank him for providing regular latitude and longitude readings), links to longer diary entries, and other information. His short entries are surprisingly rich, full of wonderful details about his reading, meals, weather, and shipboard activities.

This is an exciting opportunity for us to test out some new technological tools (and to create a transcription of the line-a-day diaries, which will be useful for future projects as well). We certainly hope others will find JQA's journey as fascinating as we do, so please follow him on Twitter, and feel free to send me any feedback you have on the project (


[Note: the image included here, which you'll also see as the background of JQA's Twitter page, is his drawing of a ship from the inside back cover of his second diary (1780)]

permalink | Published: Thursday, 16 July, 2009, 10:28 AM


Jul 29, 2009, 11:45 am

Jim Cooke

John Quincy Adams embarked from Gray's Wharf just as the Boston and Charlestown clocks struck one. He was charged with a commission to serve as our "Minister Plenipotentiary" to Russia. It would be some time before this obscure, upstart, pip-squeak
nation would rate an "ambassador."

Jul 29, 2009, 2:30 pm


Indeed, the term used at the time was "minister plenipotentiary" - to simplify things, we've used "ambassador" for our purposes here.

Jul 31, 2009, 7:52 pm


This rocks!

Aug 1, 2009, 1:04 am

Jack Thompson

A similar effort is being made to repost George Orwell's diaries exactly 60 years after their writing, especially fascinating because 60 years ago from today offers a particularly ground-floor, citizen journalist's take on the beginning of WWII. Fascinating stuff, and followable through RSS (Not twitter too long, anyway) at

Aug 1, 2009, 1:07 am

Jack Thompson

Speaking of which: I'm curious about the project, but a direct RSS link would be appreciated - some of us, I'm sure, don't care for Twitter.

Aug 3, 2009, 10:21 am


Jack - you can subscribe via RSS at

Aug 4, 2009, 4:18 pm


Man, this is a great idea! I am now following JQA!

Aug 5, 2009, 1:53 pm

S Johnson

Wonderful! I'm visually challenged and need to do some reading exercises each day. I can do that and learn history at the same time. They are perfect length for me. Something to look forward to each day is great. Thank you.

Aug 5, 2009, 5:07 pm

Jackie Houchin

Thanks go to that visitor for catching JQA's mini-diary entries. How cool is it to be reading them 200 years later. I'm following them on Twitter!

Aug 6, 2009, 7:56 pm


This is terrific, can I get this on my IPOD?

Aug 6, 2009, 10:02 pm


Finally, a clever use for Twitter. Genius!

Aug 7, 2009, 8:54 pm

MaryAnn Blimline

Talk about bringing history to life - this is absolutely wonderful!!!!

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