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Frederick E. Berry Library and Learning Commons

Local Histories of Essex County, MA in the 19th Century

Nancy Dennis & Anna Hocker

What types of materials will I find?

  • Local histories were published as books and articles. 
    • You might also find special commemorative scrapbooks.
    • Photographs, letters, and artifacts also tell local histories.
  • During the 19th century, many local histories were written in conjunction with the 1876 Centennial of the US. 
    • Other works celebrated town's anniversaries and the anniversaries of important churches.
  • Where will you find local histories?
    • in libraries - as print books, historical journals, historical newspaper, and microforms
    • in digitized collections on the web 
    • in photograph and artifact collections in local museums and local history room of public libraries

What should I search for?

  • Search for the name of a town and a key word like "history."
  • Search for the name of town and a key word like "centennial" or "anniversary."
  • Limit results by dates of publication between 1800 and 1899.

How do I access materials?

  • Berry Library at Salem State will have some print books in the circulating collection. There will also be books in the Archives and on microform. 
    • Archival materials and microform must be used in the library.
  • If you are very interested in exploring the history of your local town, it might be fun to visit your local museum and public library.
    • A visit to the Peabody Essex Museum's Phillips Library is a must if you identify a treasure in its holdings.
  • Fortunately, the Internet Archive, HathiTrust and other digitized collections make it possible for us to read the full text of many historical materials, and to download them for printing. 
    • Though Salem State is not a member of the HathiTrust, students can sign in as guests, using their Google or Facebook accounts. 
    • If you have any questions about finding digitized materials, please do not hesitate to contact Nancy Dennis, Research & Instruction Librarian at 

What towns and cities were in Essex County in 1884?

  • Public Domain
  • File:New Driving Road Map of Essex County, Mass., by Geo. H. Walker & Co, 1884.jpg
  • Created: 1 January 1884
  • By Geo. H. Walker & Co. - Digital Commons, Salem State, Public Domain,

What was the topography of Essex County like in 1856?

  • Public Domain
  • File:A topographical map of Essex County, Massachusetts LOC 2012592410.jpg
  • Created: 1 January 1856