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MC 269

North Bennet Street Industrial School (Boston, Mass.). Records of the North Bennet Street Industrial School, 1880-1973: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 269
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: North Bennet Street Industrial School, 1879-
Title: Records of the North Bennet Street Industrial School, 1880-1973
Date(s): 1880-1973
Quantity: 78.63 linear feet (149 file boxes, 33 card file boxes) plus 65 oversize volumes, 1 folio folder, 2 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 2 feet of photographs, 3 motion picture films, 2 reels of microfilm (M-43)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Minutes, reports, correspondence, etc., of North Bennet Street Industrial School (Boston, Mass.), a trade school and settlement house.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 1291, 1331, 1407, 1415, 76-421
The records of the North Bennet Street Industrial School were given to the Schlesinger Library by the School in 1968 and 1976. They were partly processed by Timothy Stroup under two grants (76-73 and 77-123) from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission; processing was completed by Eva Moseley, with the assistance of Peter Webster.

Processing Information:

Processed: 1976-1980
By: Eva Moseley, Timothy Stroup, Peter Webster

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research with the exception of folders IIAvii.40 and IIBiv.90, which are closed until January 1, 202, and folder IIAix.208, which is closed until January 1, 2025. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by the North Bennet Street Industrial School is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

North Bennet Street Industrial School Records, 1880-1973; item description, dates. MC 269, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.


The following items have been removed from the collection. They were donated to the following repositories in 1980:
Schlesinger Library book collection:
Harvard College Library Gifts and Exchange Section:
Andover-Harvard Theological Library:
Harvard College Library: Fine Arts Library:
Harvard College Library: Government Documents Section:
Harvard College Library: Loeb Music Library:
Harvard College Library: Theatre Collection
Harvard College Library: Theodore Roosevelt Collection:
Boston Public Library: Prints Department:
Boston Public Library:
Massachusetts State Library:
Peabody Museum of Salem:
Social Welfare History Archives Center, Univ. of Minnesota:
Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities:
American Archives of Factual Film:


The North Bennet Street Industrial School is located in Boston's North End, long an immigrant neighborhood and since the turn of the century predominantly Italian. In 1879, when No. 39 North Bennet Street housed the Seamen's Friend Society, Mrs. L. E. Caswell rented space there for a sewing room for poor women; a laundry room was added soon after and the establishment called the North Bennet Street Industrial Home. In June 1880 the Home leased the entire building. It gradually added other activities: a cooking school, printing shop, kitchen garden, circulating library, cafe, and others. Probably in 1880, the Home asked Pauline Agassiz (Mrs. Quincy A.) Shaw (1841-1917) to open a day nursery there, as she had elsewhere in Boston; she did so and evidently from then on took an active interest in the Home, so that she has been regarded as the founder of the North Bennet Street Industrial School. In June 1884 the Home's lease expired and Mrs. Shaw and others bought No. 39. During this time the name was changed to its present one. In April 1885 the School was incorporated and the building conveyed to it.
For several decades, beginning in 1885, the School had an arrangement with the Boston School Department under which it taught cooking, sewing, woodworking and other vocational skills to public school pupils; eventually the public schools began teaching these courses themselves, and the School added other trades to its curriculum. North Bennet Street Industrial School also has had after-school classes and both day and evening classes for older people, female and male. In addition, the reports do not generally mention staff by name and none of the correspondence has survived. In 1909 Alvin E. Dodd became director; he was succeeded by George Courtright Greener, who had been assistant director. Greener was a potter from Columbus, Ohio, and was evidently responsible for the School's considerable involvement in crafts and other activities geared to interior and garden design. He himself spent several summers in Europe buying antiques for the School's annual sales, and it is clear from the correspondence that he advised wealthy patrons on home design and took a personal interest in repairs and refinishing of items bought at the School or its Industrial Arts Shop. During his term the School twice, once after each world war, undertook the training of veterans at the expense of the federal government, and also the Depression work relief program mentioned above, in which the School arranged for temporary work for the unemployed, much of it repair or maintenance work at the School or at other social agencies. The bulk of the records at the Schlesinger Library dates from Greener's term as director and the ubiquity of his name in the office files indicates the extent to which he personally managed most of the School's affairs. He was succeeded in 1954 by Ernest Jacoby; who had been his assistant since 1947 and who like Greener took a personal interest in all aspects of the School's management.
Other staff members whose names appear with some frequency are Grace Caldwell, director of the day nursery and then of the Play School for Habit Training; Jenny Swartzman, office manager; Elizabeth Lewis, director of vocational guidance; Norman Franzeim, head of Shaw House and the caddy camps; Eva R. Crane, Head Worker of Social Service House.
The School has had a Board of Managers since its incorporation and the Board has always attracted numerous prominent Bostonians, many of them active well beyond attendance at meetings: serving as teachers, club leaders, or home visitors; organizing benefit performances; pricing antiques and managing the sales; chaperoning or hosting children's outings; serving on visiting committees; advising on building or camp repairs, insurance, investments, and other financial matters.
As is to be expected, the clientele of the School, and even most of the teachers and other staff, are usually only indirectly represented (i.e., in the third person rather than the first or second) in the records, unlike the director, department heads, and Board members. Nevertheless, there is considerable information here on immigrant life in the North End, and even some demographic data on family size, health, welfare assistance, employment, and education. Because of the School's pioneering role, the records are useful for studying the history of vocational education (see Marvin Lazerson, Origins of the Urban School, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971) and early childhood education. The School provides relatively early examples of cooperation between a private agency and branches of local, state and federal governments. Correspondence and other papers about formal (Boston Council of Social Agencies) and informal (Monday Lunch Club) contacts between staff members and their counterparts elsewhere provide at least glimpses of local and national networks among professionals in social work and education. From Executive Committee minutes and the extensive correspondence of the directors with Board members and other benefactors of the School one can get a good deal of information about Boston's elite, their social conscience, and their interactions with other social classes in the city. The changes in trades taught at the School and the success or failure of the industries can be seen as a microcosm of economic and technological, as well as educational, change. And, except for the first three decades or so, there is fairly complete documentation of the administration of the School and its work.



Series I consists of printed reports, most of them annual, 1881-1915, and most of the 19th century records that have survived, mainly Board of Managers' minutes, visitors' books (these continue to 1919), and lists of contributions. These records are distinct from the office files in Series II in being not files but volumes, and from the volumes in Series III and IV in their content, which is either more general or earlier or both. They provide an overview of the School's history during its first four decades. For other 19th century material, see IIAiii, which includes photocopies of deeds and other legal papers; IIAiv for papers on early bequests and trusts; Sloyd publications in IIBi; day nursery records in IIBiv and Series IV; and material removed from scrapbooks in Series VII.
Series II, Office Files, contains the bulk of the records of the School's first century.
The arrangement is somewhat arbitrary, in the sense that the School had no consistent filing scheme; the Schlesinger Library imposed a scheme intended both to reflect the School's work and to make the papers accessible to researchers. The office files were generally arranged in one alphabetical sequence, in a combined correspondence and subject file, with many folder headings that were inconsistent or overlapping. The files were also inconsistent over time: sometimes, but not always, a new alphabetical sequence for correspondence was begun with a new year or some longer period. While they were evidently kept centrally, probably in the Director's office, some files that appear here as subseries (e.g., Insurance, Vocational Guidance and Placement) have at least during some periods actually been kept as separate files at the School.
IIAi. Board of Managers, 1908-1967: Records of the governing bodies of the School (Board, Executive Committee, other Board committees, Corporation) include correspondence, mainly with the Director; lists of Board and committee members; resolutions; reports to the Board by staff; agenda and minutes of, and material for, Board and committee meetings.
IIAii. Staff/Personnel, 1900-1973: A chronological file of personnel records (applications, resignations, recommendations, etc.) is followed by applications for specific positions; files on individual staff members; staff memos, correspondence, and minutes; and files on attendance, payroll, withholding taxes, retirement, and staff pledges to the Greater Boston Community Fund and its successor agencies. There is a small amount of information on volunteers. See also Series V.
IIAiii. Physical Plant, 1900-1963: Plans and maps; copies of deeds, etc. (1736-1968, originals at the School) pertaining to School buildings and camps; correspondence, inventories, etc. on remodelling, repairs, maintenance, utilities, equipment, and supplies, mainly at the School and also for nearby rental properties. For camp building and maintenance, see also IIBv.
IIAiv. Financial, 1884-1966: Records of the Director, bookkeeper, Treasurer; reports for Community Fund and Community Federation (see also IIAvi); various financial data; audits; and files on banks, investments, fund-raising, gifts, bequests, trusts, antique sales, and benefits. Antiques were first sold at the annual sales at the School (1920s) and then at Courtright House, a shop on Beacon Hill in Boston. Benefits are fundraising performances or other events; special events in IIBiv are performances or exhibits by students, not intended to raise money. For ledgers, cash books, etc. see Series III.
IIAv. Insurance, 1905-1969: Inventories, correspondence, and claims. For camp insurance, see also IIBv.
IIAvi. Other Social Agencies, 1910-1972: The bulk of this sub-series consists of reports, correspondence, and other papers pertaining to the School's relations with the Boston Council of Social Agencies, its successor agencies, and the sub-group for settlement houses under its various names. (See also IIAiv and Series III for financial aspects of these relationships.) The rest concerns North End organizations and projects, and other social agencies, notably the National Federation of Settlements.
IIAvii. Government Agencies, 1908-1969: This sub-series documents the School's relations with three levels of government: Boston School Committee and other City departments; Departments of Education and of Public Welfare and other branches of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and federal agencies. The last are mainly veterans' agencies (Federal Board for Vocational Education, Veterans' Administration, etc.), with some files on other agencies and on civil defense and other matters during World War II.
IIAviii. History, Publicity, 1881-1972: Along with Series I and VII, this sub-series provides the most basic information about the School's founding, history, purposes, and activities. It includes founding documents; articles and speeches; reports, schedules, and other records on proposed and actual courses and other programs; special studies of the School, its departments, the North End, and Boston; school publications; and publicity efforts, both printed and radio.
IIAix. Correspondence, 1905-1967: Besides mailing lists and form letters, this sub-series consists of various alphabetical and chronological runs of correspondence, more or less as kept by the School, the bulk being the correspondence of Directors George C. Greener and Ernest Jacoby. Correspondents include Board members and officers, contributors, volunteers, purchasers of antiques or items made at the School, et al., and to a lesser extent teachers and students, during or after their time at the School. There is a large correspondence with President Henry Lee Shattuck (#106-109 and #171-178). Some of Greener's correspondence marked "personal" is in #220-239; some of it concerns School business.
IIBi. Industrial Classes, 1890-1968: The industrial or trade classes have always been the core of the School's program. This sub-series includes brochures and course catalogues; files on teacher employment; files on students (attendance, graduation, etc., with temporarily restricted files on a few specific students); cost analyses and other financial data; information on tools, and on exhibitions of School work; plans for records of "prevocational" courses for children; alphabetical file of papers on courses; and material on prospective courses. See also IIAiv and series III for additional financial records, IIAvii for veterans' courses, Series IV for attendance records, and Series VII for brochures.
IIBii. Vocational Guidance and Placement, 1914-1967: Reports and plans for setting up a vocational placement service are followed by notes and other material from courses on guidance given at Harvard University; there are also later reports, files on testing and on various training projects; correspondence; and material on available jobs and on other placement agencies. See series V for card files of applicants, etc.
IIBiii. Industries, 1919-1956: Industries are arranged alphabetically; records include correspondence, financial information, brochures, price lists, etc. Also records of the Industrial Arts Shop and of exhibits and sales not held at the School.
IIBiv. Settlement, 1883-1963: The earliest records in this sub-series concern day nursery pupils (at North Bennet Street Industrial School and two other nurseries) and their families. Records created after the establishment of a settlement department include correspondence, reports, schedules, lists, etc. of Social Service House, Shaw House for Boys, the Social Service Credit Union, Alumni Association, clubs and classes, nursery school, Play School for Habit Training, summer programs (in Boston; out of town programs in IIBv), and special events, including parties, pageants, exhibits, plays, etc.
IIBv. Camps, 1912-1964: Mainly records of Boxford Camp, including purchase of site, records of building and repairs; lists of staff and campers; information for parents; correspondence; financial and other reports. Also similar records of Maplewood Caddy Camp, and a small amount on other camps, including some of those used before the School bought Boxford.
Folders in Series II for which original restrictions have expired were added to the collection in November 2009.
Series III, Financial Volumes, includes cash books, ledgers, special accounts, trial balance and payroll books, and financial records of industrial classes, camps, etc.
Series IV, Class Registers and Attendance Books, includes some of the earliest records of the School, with names of students and attendance information from 1886 to 1966. Most of the registers are arranged alphabetically by class. Those that include several classes are arranged chronologically. All but the first 30 volumes are so slender (and in some cases fragile) that they have been grouped in folders.
Series V consists of card files, arranged first by card size and then according to the sub-series of Series II to which each group of card corresponds. Most correspond either to IIBii, Vocational Guidance and Placement, or IIAii, Personnel/Staff. See inventory for a fuller description of the arrangement.
Series VI, Photographs, arranged by subject.
Series VII consists of items removed from scrapbooks: form letters, flyers, programs, tickets, and other printed materials, and photographs. Scrapbooks containing newsclippings have been microfilmed and returned to the School; discarded; for film, see M-43.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Amateur plays
Annual reports
Architectural drawings
Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Camps--New Hampshire
Clock and watch making
Community centers
Cooking, Italian
Credit unions
Emigration and immigration
Employment agencies
Femina : a magazine of inspiration
Interior decoration
Italian Americans
Jewelry making
Lighting, Architectural and decorative
North End (Boston, Mass.)--Social conditions
Nursery schools
Social service
Social settlements
Social workers
Technical education
Trade schools
Vocational education
Vocational guidance
Women--Vocational education
Woodwork (Manual training)
Agassiz family
Bigelow family
Boston Council of Social Agencies
Boston (Mass.). School Committee
Boston Social Union
Boxford Camp
Brush, George de Forest, 1855-1941
Caldwell, Grace M., 1874?-1950
Committee of the Permanent Charity Fund, Boston
Community Federation of Boston
Deane, Frederick
Deland, Margaret Wade Campbell, 1857-1945
De Mille, Agnes
Dodd, Alvin Earl, 1883-1951
Fenno, Pauline Shaw
Fessenden, Russell Green, 1869-1945
Fiske, Annie F. W.
Gould, Lawrence A., 1930-2012
Greater Boston Community Fund
Greater Boston federation of neighborhood houses
Greener, George C.
Greenough, Henry Vose
Hemenway, Augustus
Higginson, Ida Agassiz
Jacoby, Ernest
Lucas, Dione, 1909-1971
Lyman family
Massachusetts. Department of Education
Massachusetts. Department of Public Welfare
McGinley, Gertrude
Morison, Elizabeth Shaw, 1886-1945
M√ľnsterberg, Margarete Anna Adelheid, 1889-1957
National Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centers
North End Industrial Home (Boston, Mass.)
Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965
Play School for Habit Training
Saint-Gaudens, Augustus, 1848-1907
Sharp, Helen
Shattuck, Henry Lee, 1879-1971
Shaw, Pauline A. (Pauline Agassiz), 1841-1917
Sturgis, R. Clipston (Richard Clipston), 1860-1951
United Community Services of Metropolitan Boston
United States. Federal Board for Vocational Education
United States. Veterans Administration
Wight, Crocker
Williams, Mary Elizabeth