Charles W. Eliot II Papers, 1971-1976

Administrative Information

Historical Sketch

Related Collections


Scope and Content Note

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Series Description and Folder Listing

Extent: .83 linear ft.
Processor: Daniel Becker
Date: March 2014

Acquisition: There are no formal acquisition records for this collection. It is assumed that it was donated to the Cambridge Historical Society by Charles W. Eliot II during his presidency, ca.1976.
Access: There are no restrictions on this collection.
Permission to Publish: Requests for permission to publish from the collection should be made to the Executive Director.
Copyright: Records are in the public domain.

Historical Sketch

Charles William Eliot II was a city planner, landscape architect, government official, professor, and, in his retirement, president of the Cambridge Historical Society. Born in Cambridge in 1899 into a family with strong Harvard pedigree (his grandfather, Charles William Eliot I, served as the university’s president for 40 years in the early twentieth century; his uncle, Charles Eliot, was a landscape architect and the person for whom the professorship that Charles W. Eliot II would later occupy was named), his education followed the expected path of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard. Eliot began his professional career as a city planner in Washington, D.C., however, and then moved to the New Deal-era National Planning Board and National Resources Planning Board, both of which formed part of the Public Works Administration. He returned to Cambridge after World War II and taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1955 to 1966. He lived in Cambridge until his death in 1993.

Partly due to his background as an urban and regional planner and partly due to his role as president of the Cambridge Historical Society, Eliot became involved in a half grassroots, half official group formed to prepare events and festivities for the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in the city of Cambridge. These informal efforts morphed into the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation, which was established in 1974 to coordinate and oversee Bicentennial activities in 1975-1976. Eliot served as one of the directors of a 20-member board composed mainly of community leaders and headed by Robert Moncreiff, a former city councilor, and Jane Reed, the administrative director.

The Corporation worked in concert with several other local bicentennial organizations, particularly Boston 200, its Boston counterpart and the Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission, as well as local historical associations such as the Cambridge Historical Society, the Cambridge Historical Commission, and certain units and individuals of Harvard University.

Among the various bicentenary events and celebrations organized by the corporation were the ceremony for the dedication of Dawes Island in Harvard Square on Patriot’s Day (April 19, 1975), the anniversary of George Washington’s taking command of the Continental Army in the summer of 1975, and the Fourth-of-July parade in 1976.

The corporation voted to dissolve and closed its offices in December 1976.

Lambert, Bruce. “C. W. Eliot 2d, 93, An Early Advocate of Urban Planning.” New York Times, March 19, 1993.

Scope and Content Note
The collection consists primarily of correspondence, minutes, memoranda, and other notes concerning the planning of the local Bicentennial celebrations in Cambridge. The material was collected by Eliot as his own personal collection rather than as an official record of the corporation. It is therefore slightly tilted toward those among the corporation’s activities that suited Eliot’s interests more closely, such as background research on various historical events and aspects of city planning raised by the bicentenary celebrations and events in Cambridge.

Of particular interest are the meeting minutes and correspondence with the bicentennial committees in Boston and Massachusetts, which not only document the local activities in Cambridge but also shed light on the interplay of local, regional, and state planning efforts for the Bicentennial. In addition, select exchanges with such personalities as Archibald MacLeish and John Updike, as well as with significant local institutions such as Harvard University, are included.

Folder titles were created by the processor. The collection is arranged alphabetically. For papers related to Eliot’s professional work, see related collections.

Related Collections

Cambridge Historical Commission, Maryellen V. Fitzgerald Cambridge Bicentennial Collection

Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Archives
Revolutionary War Bicentennial Commission. Committee files, 1967-1978.
Revolutionary War Bicentennial Commission. Sound recordings and visual materials, 1961-1976.

Harvard University – Frances Loeb Library
Papers of Charles William Eliot II.

Harvard University – Harvard University Archives
Harvard University. Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Records of the Harvard University Bicentennial Exposition on the American Revolution, 1974-1976 (inclusive).
Harvard University. Vice President for Government and Community Affairs. Records of the Vice President for Government and Community Affairs, 1971-1974 (inclusive).

Library of Congress – Research and Reference Services
Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation (Cambridge, Mass.) records, 1974.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

  • American Revolution Bicentennial, 1976–Massachusetts–Cambridge
  • Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Eliot, Charles W. (Charles William), 1899-1993
  • Cambridge (Mass.)–History–Revolution, 1775-1783
  • Cambridge (Mass.)–History–20th century


Charles W. Eliot II Papers, 1971-1976 (inclusive), 1974-1976 (bulk)

Container List
[table colwidth=”15%|85%”]
1.01|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Communications with Boston 200 – Office of the Boston Bicentennial, 1973-1975.
1.02|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Communications with the Cambridge Historical Commission, 1974-1975.
1.03-1.04|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Communications with the Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission, 1971-1975.
1.05|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Communications with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), 1973-1974.
1.07-1.09|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Correspondence, incl. Harvard University, Archibald MacLeish, John Updike, 1973-1976, n.d.
1.10|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Founding Documents, 1973-1975.
|See Folder OS 2 for Proclamation of the Establishment of the Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation, April 15, 1974.
1.11-2.01|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Internal Correspondence, Memoranda, and Publications, 1974-1976. (3 folders)
|2.01-M Cambridge Bicentennial sticker.
2.02|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Meeting Minutes, 1974.
2.03|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Meeting Minutes, 1975.
2.04|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Meeting Minutes, 1976.
2.05|Cambridge Bicentennial Corporation: Personnel Matters, 1973-1974.
2.06-2.07|Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission: Publications, 1973-1976.
OS 1|Massachusetts Bicentennial Commission: Publications, 1973-1976.
2.06|Photographs, 1975.
|1.01 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975. “Phila Troupers who rode from Philly to Camb. Behind. Red jackets with pants in which couldn’t sit down.”
|1.02 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.03 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.04 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.05 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.06 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.07 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.08 CWE – Pageant, Cambridge Common, 1975.
|1.09 CWE – Parade, Cambridge Common/Garden Street, 1975.
|1.10 CWE – Parade, Cambridge Common/Garden Street, 1975.
|1.11 CWE – View of the Charles River from Memorial Drive/Magazine Beach, 1975. “Compliments of Councillor Daniel Clinton.”
2.09-2.11|Research Material, Notes, and Writings Concerning Bicentennial Events, 1973-1975, n.d.
|See Folder OS 2 for maps, flyers, clippings removed from folder 2.11.
OS 2|Items removed from folders 1.10 and 2.11.
Separated Materials

The following items were transferred to the Cambridge Historical Society Book Collection:
The 1776 Guide for Massachusetts. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1975. ISBN: 060904135
Boston: The Official Bicentennial Guidebook. Introduction by Cleveland Amory. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1975. ISBN: 0876901461

The following items were transferred to the Cambridge Historical Society Newsletter and Periodical Collection:
Newsletters/Calendars of the “Cambridge Forum” organized by the United Ministry at Harvard and Radcliffe, 1975 (3).

The following items were removed:
The New England Spy: America’s Bicentennial Newspaper, vol. 1, no. 5 (November, 1974).
Several issues of Bicentennial Times, published by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (vol. 1, nos. 9-10; vol. 3, no. 1).
Several issues of the newsletter of the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (Bicentennial Era/Bicentennial Newsletter), 1970-1973.