Local Leaders

Edward Everett (1794-1865)

The heart of the People, North and South, is for the Union.

Edward Everett was of America’s most esteemed politicians and speakers of the 19th century. Over his long career, he held an impressive series of posts including U.S. representative, U.S. senator, governor of Massachusetts, and minister to Great Britain. 

Everett was invited to give the keynote address at the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg in November 1863. His thundering speech lasted two hours, but it was eclipsed in history by President Abraham Lincoln’s two-minute, 272-word address.


Edward Everett
Politican, orator, and statesman.


Featured Items from the BPL Special Collections


PUBLIC LIBRARY OF THE CITY OF BOSTON, Printed form acknowledging A Gift to the Library. Boston: 1864.
When the BPL opened in 1852 as the first free municipally-funded library in America, Everett was designated the first president of its five-member Board of Trustees, a post he held for twelve years from 1852-1864. As president, he signed this document acknowledging the gift to the library of the American Anti-Slavery Society’s 1863 Annual Report.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
ALBERT J. WRIGHT, Manuscript Letter to Edward Everett. Boston: 1864.
In this intriguing letter, dated October 7, 1864, friend A.J. Wright expresses concern to Everett that one of Everett’s servants is Confederate sympathizer, a “rebel in disguise.” Wright based his suspicion on a small printed extract of a speech by Abraham Lincoln that the servant gave to a household visitor which proclaimed, “Any people anywhere, being inclined, and having the power, have the RIGHT to rise up and shake off the existing government.”
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
EDWARD EVERETT, Address by Hon. Edward Everett, Delivered in Faneuil Hall, October 19, 1864: The Duty of Supporting the Government in the Present Crisis of Affairs. Boston: 1864.
In the 1860 presidential election, Everett ran as the vice presidential candidate for the Constitutional Union Party, which claimed as its sole platform the preservation of the Union. The party’s ticket garnered less than 13% of the vote in Massachusetts, compared to the 63% of votes cast for Abraham Lincoln. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Everett–an ardent Unionist–devoted his efforts to raising support for the Union cause through public speaking.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department

Eliza Henderson Boardman Otis (1796-1873)

My life’s work will not be finished so long as I breathe.

Eliza Henderson Boardman Otis, or “Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis,” as she was known, was an heiress, socialite, and patriotic supporter of many civic ventures. Her husband, Harrison Gray Otis, Jr. (1792-1827), was the son of a Boston mayor and died soon after their marriage. Although her name is little known today, Mrs. Otis was one of the most popular society figures of the nineteenth century.At the outset of the war in 1861, she was invited to oversee Boston’s City Donation Room to collect goods and money for Union soldiers and their families. Mrs. Otis took her responsibilities extremely seriously, never missing a single day of service at the house during the four-year duration of the war except on Sundays and during religious festivals.


Eliza Boardman Otis
Society hostess and leader of soldier relief efforts.


Featured Items from the BPL Special Collections


CITY OF BOSTON, COMMITTEE ON MILITARY DONATIONS, Printed Certificate signed by Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis. Boston: 1861.
The City Donation Room distributed a wide variety of supplies to Union soldiers including shirts, drawers, socks, mittens, towels, comforters, blankets, hospital garments, wines, coffee, chocolate, and sugar. Mrs. Otis demanded that all items be homemade.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
CITY OF BOSTON, City Document—No. 51. Report of Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis on Donations for Soldiers. Boston: 1864.
As Mrs. Otis reported to the Boston City Council on May 16, 1864, the City Donation room received $4,000 in cash and collected and distributed 200,000 articles to the Union troops during the previous seventeen months. Between 1861 and 1865, her organization received and expended over one million dollars in goods and services for soldier relief efforts.
BPL Research Library
NEW ENGLAND WOMEN’S LEAGUE, To the Editors of the Boston Daily Advertiser. Boston: 1864.
On July 4, 1864, a group of 57 women belonging to the New England Women’s League signed a pledge to “retrench our expenditure in dress, in the household, in social entertainments, and in all luxuries,” and to “give preference to the products and manufactures of our own country.” Signers included Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe. Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis took this pledge a step further: although a noted lover of fashion, she did not purchase a new dress, nor have any repaired, during the entire four-year duration of the war.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
NEW ENGLAND WOMEN’S AUXILIARY ASSOCIATION, Directions for Hospital Supplies. 1861.
While Mrs. Otis’s City Donation room was a locally-run endeavor, Boston was also home to a federally-organized relief effort: The New England Women’s Auxiliary Association, the Northeastern arm of the United States Sanitary Commission. This organization coordinated supplies from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts and distributed over 75,000 flannel shirts, 125,000 pairs of stockings, and 22,000 bottles of wine and spirits between 1861 and 1865. This list of requested supplies from December 1861 includes manuscript annotations identifying most desired items, including short shirts, quilts, white wine, and pickles, with “Flannel garments specially needed.”
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department
Programmes of concerts in aid of The Sanitary Commission, and sick and wounded. Boston and Newton, Massachusetts: 1862-3.
Musical concerts were popular social occasions and fundraisers during the war. This series of programs from Boston-area performances benefited the Sanitary Commission and soldier relief agencies.
BPL Rare Books & Manuscripts Department