Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association Records, 1880-1909

Administrative Information

Historical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Box and Folder List

1 1/2 file box
0.63 linear feet
Processor: Bruce Vencill
Date: October 2011

Acquisition: The records of the Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association (1880-1909) were donated by Richard Henry Dana, a member of that organization, on June 11, 1917.

Access: There are no restrictions on items in this collection.

Permission to Publish:
Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.

The copyright is expired on items in this collection.

Historical Sketch:

The Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association was founded with the intent of reforming the civil service to establish a system whereby employees of civil service offices at the federal, state, and municipal level would be appointed, promoted, or removed based on job merit. The Association formed in reaction to the spoils system, whereby a candidate for office would garner support by promising civil service appointments, leading to high rates of turnover due to political allegiance. Its first meeting was held on the 16th of December 1880 and a constitution was adopted February 1881. The members held their annual meetings in the Harvard Lyceum building.

The Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association was influential in civil service reform legislature in the late 19th and early 20th century. Around 1885, the state of Massachusetts passed a bill establishing the “reform system” at the state level. The association promoted the legislature and continued to campaign against amendments that would weaken the bill’s scope and strength. In 1888, the association drafted the Ballot Act, which provided guidelines and regulations for printing and distributing ballots in elections for public office in Massachusetts. They also developed the Fourth Class Postmasters Bill, which attempted to remove political influence in the appointment and removal of postmasters, and to allow an open and public selection of fourth-class postmasters by designated officers in each postal district. Massachusetts senator Henry Cabot Lodge introduced this bill into Congress in 1892. In the following years, the association continued to campaign for civil service legislature and sent representatives to the National Civil Service League.

In 1909 the members of the Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association voted to suspend annual dues, discontinue annual reports, and urged members to join the Massachusetts Civil Service Reform Association. It is assumed that they disbanded at this time.

Scope and Content Note:

The records of the Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association document the association’s activities from the years 1880-1909. The bulk of the collection consists of four leather-bound volumes of records containing minutes of annual meetings, the journal of the publication committee for the years 1881-1883, and records of the executive committee for the years 1891-1901. It also includes an address book containing members’ names, addresses, and years of membership, arranged alphabetically by members’ last name. The address book seems to document membership over the years 1881-1890. No membership records exist for any other years.

The records contain an incomplete collection of the published versions of the executive committee’s annual reports. These reports include officer lists, treasurers’ reports, adopted resolutions, and in some cases supplementary material such as reprints of important letters concerning the civil service reform movement, and statistics on civil service positions. The records also include essays on municipal reform written for the association, a publication concerning drafts of legislature, and the final version of the Fourth-Class Postmasters Bill.
Various loose papers were also found among the records of the Cambridge Civil Service Association, mostly consisting of correspondence from members wishing to join the association or withdraw their membership, but also contain some notes concerning meeting attendance and the selection of officers, as well as a publication from the Civil Service Reform Association of Brooklyn from 1882.

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

Civil Service Reform Association (Cambridge, Mass.)
Civil service reform
Civil service –United States
Patronage, Political

Cambridge Civil Service Reform Association Records, 1880-1909

Series I. Records (1880-1909)
1|1|Record book, volume 1, 1880-1900
1|2|Record book, volume 2, 1901-1909
1|3|Journal of the Publication Committee, 1881-1883
1|4|Records of the Executive Committee, 1891-1901
1|5|Address book
1|6|Annual reports, 1885-1909
1|7|“Essays on Municipal Reform,” 1884
2|1|First draft of the Ballot Act, 1888
2|2|First draft of the Fourth-Class Postmasters Act, 1889
2|3|Fourth-Class Postmasters Bill, 1892
2|4|Correspondence, notes, and related, ca.1882-1909
2|5|Items removed from #2.4