Guide to the Collection
This collection consists of records of the Good Government Association, formed in Boston by a group of businessmen interested in promoting progressive reform in the government of the city.
The Good Government Association (GGA) was formed in Boston by a group of businessmen interested in promoting progressive reform in the government of the city. It grew in part from an impulse to counter the largely Democratic (party) control of the local political machine and the tendency of local government to spend more than was raised from taxes, making up the deficits through long-term bond issues.
The stated purpose of the Good Government Association was "to awaken public interest in city affairs and to arouse in the citizens of Boston a sense of their political duties and awaken their civic pride." The Executive Committee of the association acted on behalf of the larger membership. A finance committee raised money to meet the expenses of the organization through an annual appeal. The association achieved its objectives by conducting personal interviews with candidates for local office, publishing pamphlets that outlined all candidates with recommendations by the GGA, and publishing a newsletter (from 1905) entitled City Affairs, their official bulletin.
Some active members of the GGA included George Nutter, James Jackson Storrow, Robert Treat Paine, and Edward A. Filene. The organization disbanded in early 1934 from a combination of lack of interest, aging membership, the waning of the Progressive movement in American politics, and disagreement among members about the backing of specific candidates for office.
The above information was excerpted from the typescript history of the Good Government Association by Joanne Devlin, May 1999, located in Series II, General Records, Box 21.
This collection consists of records of the Good Government Association (GGA), created to promote civic duty and to elect "honest and capable men" to political positions in Boston. Records include reports made about prospective politicians such as James Curley, Calvin Coolidge, Martin Lomasney, Patrick Collins, and John F. Fitzgerald; investigations into the management of budgets and contracts relating to municipal infrastructure projects in Boston; inspection of the city budget and the activities of the Finance Commission; and promotion of the 1909 revision to Boston’s City Charter. The collection also contains GGA correspondence; membership records; financial statements, auditor’s reports, and cashbooks; publications and brochures; 45 scrapbooks; newspaper clippings; and individual candidate investigation files with clippings, correspondence, interviews, and campaign ephemera. Also included are records of the Boston Charter Association; carriage bills, 1902-1914; and non-GGA printed materials.
The Good Government Association candidate files (Series I) are available on microfilm, P-745, Reels 1-31.
Gift of George Read Nutter, 1934.
Detailed Description of the Collection
I. Candidate files, 1903-1933
Arranged alphabetically by candidate name.
This series contains material collected by the Good Government Association on candidates for local (Boston) and state government offices. The material was originally composed of newspaper clippings, glued onto boards, as well as some non-newspaper material. Newspaper clippings were discarded after microfilming, and only non-newspaper material has been retained.
For complete files (including newspaper clippings), use microfilm, P-745.
II. General records, 1900-1935
This series includes institutional correspondence and other papers, 1903-1935; alphabetical member records, 1903-1933; publication committee records; local government spending records; and ephemera and printed miscellany.
III. Financial records, 1900-1933
This series includes both loose financial papers, 1905-1933, and financial volumes, 1901-1933, as well as a record of donations to the organization.
IV. Subject files, 1901-1933
Arranged alphabetically in two sequences.
This series contains two subseries of subject files dated mostly 1901-1919 and 1920-1933. The original arrangement of the material by the Good Government Association has been maintained. The files are mainly (but not exclusively) composed of newspaper clippings glued onto boards, slightly larger than 8 1/2 x 14" paper, so that many of the pages have been photocopied and reduced. Also included is loose correspondence, notes, memoranda, pamphlets, and other miscellaneous printed material. Newspaper clippings have been discarded, and only photocopies have been retained with other (non-newspaper) material.
A. Subject files I, 1901-1933; bulk: 1901-1919
B. Subject files II, 1904-1933; bulk: 1920-1933
V. Miscellaneous papers, 1908-1936
This series consists of two sets of papers filed separately by the Good Government Association. Included is correspondence of Lincoln Steffens, who was hired by the Executive Committee to research and report on the political situation in Boston. His report (in book form) was not published, but some controversy regarding the report surfaced in 1931 when Steffens published his autobiography, which contained references to his investigations. This series also contains manuscripts, typescripts, and notes of George Nutter for a history of the Good Government Association.
VI. Scrapbooks, 1900-1933
These scrapbooks, which contain newspapers clippings and other printed material, have been photocopied and boxed using the volume numbers supplied by the Good Government Association. (Vols. 1a, 2a, and 3a were not numbered by the association.) The original scrapbooks have been discarded due to the poor condition of the newspaper clippings.
Good Government Association records, Massachusetts Historical Society.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.
Materials Removed from the Collection
Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Good Government Association photographs (unprocessed) (Photo. Coll. 500.92).