Cambridge Humane Society Records, 1814-1911

Administrative Information

Historical Sketch


Related Collections

Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Box and Folder List

1 file box
0.42 linear feet
Processor: Bruce Vencill
Date: December 2011

The bulk of the Cambridge Humane Society records were donated by that society in 1913. One publication regarding the society was donated in 1910 by William C. Lane, and an updated copy of the same publication was donated again in 1916, though no donor is recorded for the latter acquisition.

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.

Copyright: The copyright is expired on items in this collection.

Historical Sketch:

The Cambridge Humane Society founded in 1814 by Dr. Abiel Holmes “to provide for the relief and comfort of the indigent sick.” The society raised subscriptions to purchase some basic equipment, such as bathtubs, bedpans, and bed chairs, which they maintained in a central location and loaned to inhabitants of Cambridge who were ill and destitute. Also in 1814, the society presented a letter to ladies in Cambridge, and prompted the formation of the Cambridge Female Humane Society.

In 1817 the Cambridge Humane Society commissioned William Hilliard, Esq. to examine and remove “any nuisances which endanger[ed] the health of the town.” The society also funded the establishment of a boat in 1818 to aid in the recovery of people in danger of drowning in the Charles River.
In 1823, the society expanded the scope of its efforts to include cases of extreme poverty. They began annually collecting money to distribute to the destitute. The society also purchased firewood to sell in small quantities to the poor when prices became prohibitively high. In 1866, the society voted Mrs. H.W. Paine, who served as president of the Female Humane Society of Cambridge, to distribute the funds raised by the charity as she saw fit. She held the position until her death in 1887, at which point Alice C. Wells was chosen to replace her, and to distribute the society’s funds in the same manner. The Cambridge Humane Society disbanded in 1911, declaring that its original purpose of helping the indigent sick could better be accomplished by other charitable organizations and by hospitals that had been founded since the establishment of their society.


Hall, Edward, H., The Cambridge Humane Society. Proceedings of the Cambridge Historical Society, 6: 27-32, 1911.

Related Collections:

Female Humane Society of Cambridge, Records, 1814-1914, Collection consists of minutes, financial records, annual reports, and membership lists in 1 document box. Brinkler Library, Cambridge Historical Society, Cambridge, Mass.

Female Humane Society [of Cambridge], Records, 1814-1888 (inclusive), Collection consists of constitution, minutes, financial records, and membership lists in 2 folders. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, Mass.

Scope and Content Note:

The collection documents the Cambridge Humane Society’s charitable actions from 1814-1911. The bulk of the collection consists of two record books containing membership and donor lists, the society laws, and meeting minutes. The first volume contains records for the entirety of the society’s existence, while the second provides additional records for the years 1844-1866.
The collection also includes a copy of the address of the Cambridge Humane Society to the Ladies in Cambridge, dated 1814, which was the impetus for that society’s formation. Several publications about the Cambridge Humane Society are also located within the collection, including an account of the society’s formation and a general history titled “An Old-Time Society” by Arhur Gilman and reprinted from The Cambridge of 1896 by George Howland Cox. One document titled “To the Citizens of Old Cambridge” was cut from a larger original and is missing some text. Additional, unbound documents include meeting minutes, correspondence of the society, financial records, and treasurer’s reports documenting the years 1891-1907.

Library of Congress Subject Headings:

  • Charities—Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts—Societies, etc.—Charitable and social work.
  • Cambridge (Mass.)—Societies, etc.—Charitable and social work.
  • Cambridge (Mass.)—Social life and customs.

Cambridge Humane Society Records, 1814-1911

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||Series I. Records, 1814-1911

1|1|Cambridge Humane Society record book, 1814-1911

1|2|Records of the trustees of the Humane Society, 1844-1866

1|3|Address to the ladies in Cambridge, 1814

1|4|Publications, 1819-1896

1|5|Meeting minutes, 1852-1898

1|6|Correspondence, 1869-1911

1|7|Financial records and treasury reports, 1891-1907