The extraordinary depth of AAS collections is due in part to the many collectors who, after painstakingly assembling a library on one topic, have generously placed it in perpetuity at the Society. In the era before Google or the Internet, these collectors often wrote to Librarian Clarence S. Brigham with research or citation questions. He wisely cultivated many long term, long distance relationships that eventually yielded significant harvests for the Society. Three such specialized collections are exhibited here.
Nearly four hundred volumes of early American imprints and European Americana collected by the Boston antiquarian and genealogist Frederick Lewis Gay arrived in 1918. In 1925, Albany, New York, industrialist Samuel Lyman Munson, who had built a collection of over 10,000 almanacs, gave one third of them to AAS. In the 1930s, one of the most enduring relationships the Society would have with specialized collectors began. At that time the Hunnewell family of Charlestown, Massachusetts, started to place parts of their multi-generational library at AAS, including holdings of New England election sermons and, perhaps more importantly, a remarkable collection of Hawaiiana. Important donations from Hunnewell descendants continue today.