Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601672

New England Watch and Ward Society records Digital

This collection includes material relating to financial and internal affairs of the society, vigilance associations in other states, legislation relating to gambling, prohibition, and censorship, the International Reform Federation, and theaters.

Dates

  • 1918-1957

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.

Extent

17 boxes

The records of the New England Watch and Ward Society (hereinafter "NEWWS") span the years 1918-1957, with the bulk of the material falling in the 1927-1957 period. The collection includes the office files of the NEWWS, alphabetically arranged and incomplete, and bound volumes comprising the minutes of board of directors' meetings, treasurer's reports and investigative reports; all of which are complete. The alphabetical office files include all financial files, membership information, incoming and outgoing correspondence, pamphlets from the NEWWS and allied organizations, newspaper clippings, federal and state bill texts, court opinions, trial briefs, internal memoranda including lists of books suppressed, bibliographies of gambling literature, annual reports of NEWWS and allied organizations, theatre playbills, and internal investigative reports.

The records relate to the day-to-day activities of the NEWWS during the height of its influence in Boston and New England. Founded as a citizens' vigilance society, the organization actively investigated crime and moral corruption in New England. The records range from active correspondence with allied organizations such as the Illinois Vigilance Association and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and personal correspondence with citizens to the briefs filed against Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour in 1936. There is also active correspondence with magazine distributors who needed the approval of the NEWWS before distribution of each issue in New England.

The records present a complete overview of a non-profit group in the 1930s. The financial records include audit reports, charitable corporation filings for the state and federal government, stock reports and treasurer's reports. Membership information is included showing dues payments, some of which date from 1906, and solicitation letters of the NEWWS.

The drawback of the collection is the incompleteness of the alphabetical files from 1927-1939. Since the collection was in use before processing, some of the original order has been lost and the researcher should be aware that correspondence is filed under an organization's name or the leader of that organization's name.

Historical/Biographical Information

  • 1878 New England Society for the Suppression of Vice formed.
  • 1882 Henry Chase chosen as first full agent, first office opens at 68 Eliot Street.
  • 1884 Society incorporated.
  • 1891 Name changed to New England Watch and Ward Society.
  • 1906 J. Frank Chase chosen as Executive Secretary to replace Henry Chase.
  • 1920 Prohibition begins.
  • 1926 H.L. Mencken arrested in Boston for selling his magazine American Mercury to J. Frank Chase in the famous "Hatrack" incident. Federal Court enjoins NEWWS for two years from threatening news dealers.
  • 1927 Charles S. Bodwell chosen as Executive Secretary following the death of J. Frank Chase.
  • 1933 Prohibition ends; the Howard Theater, a burlesque house in Boston, is closed due to the work of the NEWWS.
  • 1941 Louis J. Croteau chosen as Executive Secretary following the death of Charles S. Bodwell.
  • 1948 Dwight S. Strong chosen as Executive Secretary following the death of Louis J. Croteau.
  • 1957 Society changes name to New England Citizens Crime Commission.
  • 1967 Society changes name to Massachusetts Council on Crime and Correction.
  • 1975 Society merges with the Massachusetts Correctional Association (which was organized originally under the name of Massachusetts Prison Association by the same founders of the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1889) and changes name to the Crime and Justice Foundation. Present address: 95 Berkeley Street, Second Floor, Boston, MA (617) 426-9800.
1878
New England Society for the Suppression of Vice formed.
1882
Henry Chase chosen as first full agent, first office opens at 68 Eliot Street.
1884
Society incorporated.
1891
Name changed to New England Watch and Ward Society.
1906
J. Frank Chase chosen as Executive Secretary to replace Henry Chase.
1920
Prohibition begins.
1926
H.L. Mencken arrested in Boston for selling his magazine American Mercury to J. Frank Chase in the famous "Hatrack" incident. Federal Court enjoins NEWWS for two years from threatening news dealers.
1927
Charles S. Bodwell chosen as Executive Secretary following the death of J. Frank Chase.
1933
Prohibition ends; the Howard Theater, a burlesque house in Boston, is closed due to the work of the NEWWS.
1941
Louis J. Croteau chosen as Executive Secretary following the death of Charles S. Bodwell.
1948
Dwight S. Strong chosen as Executive Secretary following the death of Louis J. Croteau.
1957
Society changes name to New England Citizens Crime Commission.
1967
Society changes name to Massachusetts Council on Crime and Correction.
1975
Society merges with the Massachusetts Correctional Association (which was organized originally under the name of Massachusetts Prison Association by the same founders of the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1889) and changes name to the Crime and Justice Foundation. Present address: 95 Berkeley Street, Second Floor, Boston, MA (617) 426-9800.

Series List/Description

  1. Series 1: Alphabetical Office Files, 1918, 1927-1939 1918, 1927-1939 Boxes 1 to 13 Files start with C, omit D and E,contain F through T and omit U to Z. This SERIES is arranged into 6SUBSERIES:
  2. ___ Subseries A: Financial Records, Boxes 1-3 Contained therein are all financial records including auditreports, treasurer's reports, stock reports, disbursement envelopes,receipts and check stubs from the First National Bank of Boston, Form67 Massachusetts Income Tax Law, Charitable Corporation Filings,Capital Stock Tax Returns, leases, donation information includingwills, and correspondence in connection with financial matters.Insurance information is filed separately as are files from CharlesF. Rittenhouse, auditors of the NEWWS.
  3. ___ Subseries B: General Correspondence, Boxes 3-4 Contained therein is correspondence, which is definedherein as incoming and outgoing letters, whether copies or originals,memoranda, postcards, telegrams, some with attachments. The files arearranged alphabetically then chronologically.
  4. ___ Subseries C: Inquiries, Box 5 Containedtherein is correspondence from citizens seeking help from theNEWWS.
  5. ___ Subseries D: Legislative Materials, Boxes 5-11 Contained therein are pamphlets, bill texts from state andfederal governments, court opinions, and correspondence regardinglobbying activities.
  6. ___ Subseries E: Membership Information, Boxes 12-13 Filed under Subscribers, Lists, and Miscellaneous is thevarious correspondence from the members of NEWWS, including duesinformation and solicitation letters.
  7. ___ Subseries F: Theatres, Box 13 Containedtherein are playbills, correspondence and investigative reportsregarding theatrical entertainment, specifically burlesque and playsthe NEWWS sought to ban, such as The Children's Hour.
  8. Series 2: Bound Volumes, 1927-1957 1927-1957 Boxes 14-17

    This series is comprised of bound volumes of the minutes of theboard of directors, treasurer's reports and investigations (calledsecretary's reports), complete for the dates cited.

    Withineach series and/or subseries individual items or folders areidentified by box and folder number. For example, the number 5-12corresponds to box 5, folder 12.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The records of the New England Watch and Ward Society were donated by the Society to the Harvard Law School by a vote of its board of directors on October 15, 1968.

Processing Information

Processed by Martin E. Hollick, December 1994.
Link to catalog
Title
New England Watch and Ward Society. Records, 1918-1957: Finding Aid
Author
Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
EAD ID
law00001

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository

Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.

Contact:
1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Langdell Hall
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-4550