By Trent Shotwell
Title: Charles Spear Collection, 1840-1851
Primary Creator: Spear, Charles, 1801-1863
Extent: 1.0 Boxes
Arrangement: The collection consists of a certificate passport, a subscription book, journal, and handwritten correspondence concerning Charles Spear and his efforts to reform the prison system and address issues relating to capital punishment.
Subjects: Capital punishment, Criminals - Rehabilitation, Prisons - United States
Forms of Material: Spear, Charles, 1801-1863 - Correspondence
Scope and Contents of the Materials
The Charles Spear Collection (1840-1851, one box) contains the personal correspondence, journal, and passport of Charles Spear. The collection concerns Spear’s work to abolish the death penalty in the United States and his support of prison reform. Along with documents regarding Spear’s travels to England in pursuit of support to eliminate the death penalty in the United States, the collection also includes a subscription book carried by Charles Spear and his brother that contains signatures of prominent people of the time. Thomason Special Collections also has multiple editions of Essays on the Punishment of Death by Charles Spear, CJ Spec. HV8698 .S6 1844.
Collection Historical Note
Charles Spear, born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 1, 1803 was a Universalist minister who supported prison reform in the United States during the mid-1800s. He was an advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty and promoted progressive ideas on prisoner rehabilitation. Spear began working to encourage prisoner rights and prison reform while aiding ex-prisoners in their readjustment to society. Spear traveled the country speaking on the conditions of prisons and promoting new ideas and practices to reform inmates and prison administration. He even traveled to England to seek support for the elimination of capital punishment in the United States. Charles Spear died on April 13, 1863.
SHSU Special Collections & University Archives
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Charles Spear Collection. Thomason Special Collections, Newton Gresham Library, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.
Box and Folder Listing Browse by Box:
- Box 1
- Folder 1: Spear's Subscription Book, circa 1850s
- Subscription book carried by Charles Spear and his brother John that was used to collect signatures of those who supported prison reform. The book contains many prominent signatures in support of prison reform. The signatures include: Julia Ward Howe, Samuel Fessenden, George Peadody, Robert Rantoul, John Jay, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Arthur Tappan, Charles Barnard, Josiah Quincy, Thomas Starr King, Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, George Bliss, Marshall Wilder, Freeman Hunt, Lydia Sigourney, Henry Longfellow, Horace Greeley, George Copway, David Wilmot, Salmon Chase, William Seward, Henry Clay, Charles Sumner, Thurlow Weed, General Winfield Scott, and Jenny Lend. The book also contains copies of the signatures of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton.
- Folder 2: Daniel Webster Correspondence, 1851 February 7
- Handwritten letter from Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, to Sir George Grey, British Home Secretary, concerning Charles Spear.
- Folder 3: Edward Everette Correspondence, 1851 June 20
- Handwritten letter from Edward Everett, Harvard President and Secretary of State, to Abbott Lawrence, concerning capitol punishment in the United States and Charles Spear's opinions on the matter.
- Folder 4: Commonwealth of Massachusetts Passport, 1851 January 27
- Passport issued to Charles Spear by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a trip to England.
- Folder 5: Introductory letters for Spear's trip to England, 1851 September 4, 1851 July 16
- Two letters carried by Charles Spear on a trip to England.
- Folder 6: Envelopes addressed to Spear, 1851; no date
- Two envelopes and a stamped cover addressed to Spear.
- Folder 7: French Correspondence, 1840; no date
- Three letters from Frenchmen concerning Spear
- Folder 8: Spear Prison Journal Notes, circa 1840s
- Four handwritten pages of Spear's notes concerning his visits to prisons.