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Charles Spear Collection


Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Box 1

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Charles Spear Collection, 1840-1851 | SHSU Special Collections & University Archives

By Trent Shotwell

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Collection Overview

Title: Charles Spear Collection, 1840-1851Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

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

Languages: English

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.

Subject/Index Terms

Capital punishment
Criminals - Rehabilitation
Prisons - United States

Administrative Information

Repository: SHSU Special Collections & University Archives

Use Restrictions:

The materials represented in this finding aid have been made available for research, teaching and private use. For these purposes, you may reproduce (print, make photocopies, or download) these items without prior permission on the condition that you provide proper attribution of the source in all copies.

Please contact the Newton Gresham Library's Special Collections and University Archives department to request permissions to reproduce materials for any other purpose, or to obtain information regarding the copyright status of a particular digital image, text, audio or video recording.

Preferred Citation: Charles Spear Collection. SHSU Special Collections, Newton Gresham Library, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1],

Box 1Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Spear's Subscription Book, circa 1850sAdd to your cart.View associated digital content.
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 7Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
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 20Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
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 27Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
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 16Add to your cart.View associated digital content.
Two letters carried by Charles Spear on a trip to England.
Folder 6: Envelopes addressed to Spear, 1851; no dateAdd to your cart.View associated digital content.
Two envelopes and a stamped cover addressed to Spear.
Folder 7: French Correspondence, 1840; no dateAdd to your cart.View associated digital content.
Three letters from Frenchmen concerning Spear
Folder 8: Spear Prison Journal Notes, circa 1840sAdd to your cart.View associated digital content.
Four handwritten pages of Spear's notes concerning his visits to prisons.

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