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COLLECTION Identifier: B MS c23

Nahum Capen papers

Overview

The Nahum Capen papers, 1783-1885 (inclusive), 1826-1885 (bulk), consist chiefly of letters addressed to Capen and to the firm of Marsh, Capen, and Lyon, requesting information on or discussing phrenology; concerning establishment and meetings of phrenological societies in Boston and elsewhere; and other professional matters. Also includes social invitations, letters of transmittal and recommendation, documents from phrenological societies, and Capen’s collection of autograph letters.

Dates

  • 1783-1885 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1826-1885

Creator

Language of Materials

Papers are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Public Domain.

Extent

0.25 cubic feet (1 flat document box)
The Nahum Capen papers, 1783-1885 (inclusive), 1826-1885 (bulk), consist chiefly of letters addressed to Capen and to the firm of Marsh, Capen, and Lyon, requesting information on or discussing phrenology; concerning establishment and meetings of phrenological societies in Boston and elsewhere; and other professional matters. Also includes social invitations, letters of transmittal and recommendation, documents from phrenological societies, and Capen’s collection of autograph letters.

The collection includes letters to Capen from physicians, scientists, and others interested in phrenology, such as American naturalist Thomas Mayo Brewer (1814-1880), Scottish surgeon Sir Charles Bell (1774-1842), Scottish lawyer George Combe (1788-1858), American physician Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876), Boston mayor Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff (1810-1874), and Harvard Medical School professor John Collins Warren (1778-1856).

Papers are in English.

Biographical Note

Nahum Capen (1804-1886) was a writer, editor, and publisher with an interest in phrenology in Boston. He was born on April 11, 1804, in Canton, Massachusetts. Capen began to study medicine at age 18; however, ill health prevented completion of his apprenticeship, and in 1825 he entered into partnership in the Boston publishing firm of Marsh, Capen, and Lyon. After meeting the German physician Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832), a proponent of phrenology, Capen founded the Boston Phrenological Society in 1832. He also edited the Massachusetts State Record from 1847 to 1851 and was the editor-in-chief of the Annals of Phrenology. Capen wrote papers, articles, and books on history and politics, and was an advocate of free trade, federal copyright laws, popular education, and social welfare reform. Capen was postmaster of Boston from 1857 to 1861. He died on January 9, 1886.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Immediate source of acquisition is unknown.

Processing Information

Processed by Brooke McManus, 2018 April.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access.
Link to catalog
Title
Capen, Nahum, 1804-1886. Papers, 1783-1885 (inclusive), 1826-1885 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Author
Brooke McManus
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Sponsor
Preservation and description of the Nahum Capen papers was supported by the Colonial North America at Harvard Library Project.
EAD ID
med00526

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

Contact:
10 Shattuck Street
Boston MA 02115
(617) 432-2170