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

History of Women, Gender and Sexuality Seminar

"For I'd Rather Be Dead Than Not to Dream of a Better World": Mae Gadpaille's Vision of the ...

21Jan 5:15PM 2020

In 1967, Mae Gadpaille, the director of a black Montessori preschool in Roxbury, faced displacement; the church that housed her school was slated to be cleared for an ...

Author Talk

The Puritans: A Transatlantic History

22Jan 6:00PM 2020
There is a pre-talk reception at 5:30.

David Hall presents a sweeping transatlantic history of Puritanism from its emergence out of the religious tumult of Elizabethan England to its founding role in the story ...

Biography Seminar

The Art of Family History: Visual Imagery, Family Narrative and Native American Modernism

23Jan 5:15PM 2020

Decades ago, historian Philip Deloria (Harvard University) found some drawings in the basement. These distinctive prints turned out to be the iconic work of his great ...

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