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Radical Equality Primary Source List

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Additional details about images used in the online exhibits and throughout the Emerging America site are available on the Image Credits page. Links to the letters and other primary sources appear throughout the site, especially under “Story of the Steamboat Barnet.”. Or you may browse an annotated the list of all our primary sources grouped by type. Through the rich set of primary and secondary resources on this site, visitors can follow the voyage of the Steamboat Barnet, the first steam-powered boat to pass the Enfield Rapids of the Connecticut River in 1826 and open up western New England to water-based transport of goods and people. Students and teachers will learn about this significant event in the Transportation Revolution through an examination of a variety of primary sources, including letters, published memoirs, speeches, drawings, paintings and newspaper advertisements. The Cast of Characters, an interactive timeline and interactive map will place these sources and events in the context of this dynamic time in U.S. History.


Photograph by Historic Northampton.

From Eight Years Experience…, by Samuel Whitmarsh, Northampton, 1839.
c.1840-43. Photograph by Historic Northampton.
Poster. Frederick Douglass.
Shows several artifacts typical of schools in the mid-1800s.


In the 1831 Map of Northampton, look for “Broughton’s Meadow” in the Northeast quadrant of the map, along the Mill River. The adjacent “Oil and Saw Mills” became the silk factory and main dormitory of the NAEI in 1842.

The 1853 Map of Northampton hows downtown Northampton a few years after the NAEI. The Hampshire & Hampden Canal in the 1831 map has been replaced by a railroad along Market Street. Smith College would not appear until 1871. The map is oriented with North on the left.

1873 Map of Northampton, Florence, and North Leeds, the NAEI mill has grown into the Nonotuck Silk Mill complex.

School Records

Northampton Association Records

Northampton Association of Education and Industry. The original constitution of the Northampton Association, written in 1842, emphasizes the reasons why members chose to separate themselves from society. This founding document lists the various principles the members agree upon, including the productive qualities of labor and the importance of self-improvement, and concludes with a few regulations about the process for membership.
Northampton Association of Education and Industry. In 1843, the members of the Association modified the preamble and articles of the NAEI constitution. The new document included passionate language about the need for equality among all members of society. The updated version was also more specific about the requirements for new members and about the general governance of the Association.
Northampton Association of Education and Industry. In 1843, the members of the Association modified the preamble and articles of the NAEI constitution. The new document included passionate language about the need for equality among all members of society. The updated version was also more specific about the requirements for new members and about the general governance of the Association.

Book Excerpts

A Manual containing information respecting the growth of the Mulberry Tree with suitable directions for the Culture of Silk,” Boston, 1831.
“ What I Found at the Northampton Association” by Frederick Douglass in The History of Florence, Massachusetts, edited by Charles A. Sheffeld, 1895.

Hampshire Gazette Newspaper Articles

A query to silk growers. (Top of Column 4)
“Mulberry Culture” from Samuel Whitmarsh. Part of a series of articles on silk culture, offering advice on various aspects of the process. (Column 3, midway down)
“Caution to Purchasers of Mulberry Trees” A notice from Samuel Whitmarsh, encouraging local silk growers to come see his mulberry trees. (Column 4, near the top)
“Reeled and sewing silk…” A report from the cattle show praises the value of silk in helping prevent reliance on foreign products. (Far right column, paragraphs 5-8, in middle)
“Silk Worm Eggs” Advertisement selling silkworm eggs. (Column 2, near the top)
“Silk” Short statement about the ease of growing silk. (Column 5, near the middle)
“An Exhortation to Farmers’ Daughters” An article encouraging farmers to keep their daughters at home, rather than allowing them to go off to work in factories. (Column 4, at the top)
“Silk Convention” Resolutions of a silk growers convention. (Column 3, at the top)
“Silk Convention” Article explaining why silk could save agriculture in the region. (Column 4, near the bottom)
“Northampton Association” Column praising Association silk. (Column 2, near the top)
“The Community” A short account of the Northampton Association. (Top of Column 1)

Liberator Articles

Article on a fugitive slave residing at Association.
Article praising education at the Northampton Association, despite its other more radical practices.
Speech given by Sojourner Truth at the Proceedings at the Anti-Slavery Celebration. July 4, 1854, Framingham, Massachusetts.

David Ruggles writes to Garrison about inalienable rights.

Writer responds to critique of the Northampton Association on rights for women,
and governance by committee rather than a single leader.

Observations on the Association from William Lloyd Garrison.

An anonymous observer corrects local perceptions about the Northampton Association.

Reprints the 1843 Articles and Bylaws of the NAEI.
Letter reporting on a convention about forming a utopian community.

Stetson Letters

Stebbins gives his opinion on the proposed recruitment of new members.
Dolly recounts the details of a convention on utopian communities held at the Association.
Dolly writes about a new plan for adult education at the Association. She also disagrees with Sojourner Truth about the dangers of card games.
Mary shares the details of her day at school.
Dolly writes about the Lyceum program for adults. She also mentions Sojourner Truth’s return, and her subsequent discharge from laundry duties.
Dolly shares with James the conflict over management at the Association. A prominent member decided to leave because of conflict with Sojourner Truth over moralistic restrictions.
Dolly relates more to James about the conflict over management at the Association.
Sarah tells her father about her life, mentioning a paper the children are writing together.
Almira shares her ambitions and goals for the future.
Dolly recounts a debate over dancing in the new dining hall.
Dolly attempts to convince James to remain at the Association.
Dolly writes about the transition from life at the Association to living in Northampton.
James writes to convince Dolly to join the Association, writing on the back of the Association’s constitution.
Dolly expresses her concerns about money owed the family from the silk department, and whether the family should move to a different house on the property. She also celebrates her lack of housekeeping worries.
Almira writes about her work in the cocoonery, and Mary relates Sojourner Truth’s reaction to an event at the factory.
Dolly shares the events of daily life at the Association, including her confidence in the Association despite its mounting debt. She also mentions David Ruggles.

Explanation of Sources

Details the significance of the primary and secondary sources and why we included what we did.

Primary Sources

The Stetson Letters and Other Evidence from the 19th Century Typically, an account of life inside a community like the Northampton Association depends upon clues offered in newspaper articles and the papers of prominent members. Pictures, maps, organizational and public records often add useful evidence. Photographs, drawings, and artifacts can often give a face to people and places. Yet it is more rare for historians to have documents such as a diary or letters that reveal the daily life and family relationships of ordinary people. Thus scholars rejoiced in 1998 when a trove of seventy-five letters–written by members of the Stetson family during their stay at the Northampton Association–turned up among family memorabilia in a house in Brooklyn, Connecticut. The family donated the letters to Historic Northampton. Matched with existing sources such as those mentioned above, and supported by the work of scholars, the Stetson letters enable unique new insights into the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. This site features these letters, along with a wealth of other richly complementary materials. In their day, James and Dolly Stetson and their children were never famous. They were not key players in the abolitionist movement or in the rise of industry in 19th century America. Instead, their story reveals how larger national narratives of social reform, political debate, and economic transformation wove together with the many stories of America’s ordinary, and often unremarked individuals. During the Stetson family’s stay at the Northampton Association, James spent most of his time on the road selling the Association’s silk. His wife and children wrote him letters, filling him in on their activities at the Association. Thus these letters provide a personal window into the daily life and experiences of life in a utopian, abolitionist community. Links to the letters and other primary sources appear throughout the site, especially under “Story of the NAEI.” Or you may browse an annotated the list of all our primary sources grouped by type of document.

Secondary Sources: Scholarly Works

To understand and place primary source evidence in context, it is essential to study thoughtful and insightful secondary sources. We are fortunate again in that veteran scholars created excellent studies that aid immeasurably in interpreting the significance of the Association. Anyone wishing to know more about this unique community and its impact should access these fascinating works. You can buy any of the works listed below from the Historic Northampton Museum. Letters from an American Utopia: The Stetson Family and the Northampton Association, 1843-1847. Edited by Christopher Clark and Kerry W. Buckley. University of Massachusetts Press. Amherst and Boston. (2004). The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association. Christopher Clark. Cornell University Press. (1995). Northampton’s Century of Silk. Marjorie Senechal. The 350th Anniversary Committee, City of Northampton, Massachusetts. (2004). (Printed by Collective Copies, Florence, Massachusetts.) Thanks to the collections and stewardship of the Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center, we are able to tell the important local story of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry through a rich mix of more than 70 primary and secondary sources, grounded in scholarly research and tied to essential themes of traditional American history.

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