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Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » Building on a Century of Collecting at the Clements Library » Pairing 10: Thomas Gage, from the Reading Room to the Digital World

Pairing 10: Thomas Gage, from the Reading Room to the Digital World

Pair 10: Thomas Gage, from the Reading Room to the Digital World

One principle of the Clements Library is free and open access to its collections. Over the past 100 years, its methods for providing access have expanded from the printed descriptive pamphlets and essays of the 1920s to the digitization of collections for online access in the present. The Clements Library’s largest and most-utilized collection is the papers of American Revolutionary Era Commander in Chief of the British Army Thomas Gage (1718/19-1787). Acquired from the Henry Rainald Gage, 6th Viscount Gage in 1930, the Gage papers total over 23,000 manuscripts representing the highest levels of British military and governmental administration in the American colonies between 1763 and 1775.

Rachel Revere’s note was published in a small pamphlet in 1939 and is referenced in subsequent published descriptions and bibliographies. However, with the advent of online descriptive catalog records, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funded the creation of a lengthy finding aid, complete with indices and extensive descriptive content in 2010. Leaping ahead to 2021, the NEH also funded a portion of the complete digitization of the Thomas Gage papers for free and open online access. In the coming year and a half, researchers will have full access to this important collection, which will be of chief importance to the many researchers who cannot afford travel to the Clements Library.

Improved access will also present the opportunity for scholars to uncover and highlight the many lesser told stories, hidden minutiae, and voices of historically underrepresented individuals without the pressure of the reading room’s closing time. A woman known as Mrs. Cooke verbally delivered intelligence to the British Army about the colonial insurgents around Boston in the fall of 1775, as shown in the second document here. Because women were able to travel more readily through enemy lines and because Mrs. Cooke could speak Gaelic to Irish soldiers, she was a particularly effective spy. Ostensibly seeking information about her husband, she moved between Roxbury and Cambridge, assessing the health of the colonial army, the feelings of soldiers toward their commanders, the state of the currency, encampments, and amounts of gunpowder on hand. After her capture and a brief stint in prison, George Washington returned her to the British under a flag of truce. This manuscript will be available as part of the digitized collection, each image scanned with a card showing measurement and color information.

R[achel] Revere autograph note signed to [Paul Revere], [April/May 1775]; [Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay].
Pen and Ink. Thomas Gage Papers. Finding Aid. 

Mrs. Cooke manuscript deposition, [September 1775]; [Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay.] 
Pen and Ink. Thomas Gage Papers. Finding Aid.