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Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem Records

Identifier: M.19

Scope and Contents

The records of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem contain both primary and secondary sources relating to the creation and growth of the organizations predecessor, the Salem Fraternity. Records include: meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, superintendents notes and correspondence, as well as a collection of photographs. The bulk of the photographs date 1900-1950 and were taken during summer trips to Camp Rowley.


  • 1899 - 2017

Biographical / Historical

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem was founded in 1869 as the Salem Fraternity. It is the oldest boys club in Massachusetts and the second oldest in the country. The Fraternity was created to give Salem’s youth a safe and wholesome place to spend their free time, after many Salemites had noticed young boys and girls loitering and pulling pranks in Salem’s downtown. The city was faced with “how to reach this class of young people with some wholesome attraction which would employ their evenings better, and save them from the exposures of the saloon and of the street.” In October of 1868, a few traveling Salemites were inspired after hearing of the work of the Union for Christian Work in Providence, Rhode Island and hoped to adopt some of their methods in Salem. The Salem Fraternity was formed in the early months of 1869 during a series of meetings in the parlor of Benjamin H. Silsbee. In April, the organization opened rooms on the second floor of the Downing’s Block on Essex Street. The building featured a library, amusements room with games, and women’s room for conversations and lessons. Due to attendance, the Fraternity later became exclusive to young men and boys.

In 1898 the Salem Fraternity reorganized, moving into the second floor of the Lyceum Building on Church Street. While in the Lyceum Building, the Fraternity hired its first employee in January 1899. Superintendent Stephen Ives Duncan made many changes to improve the function of the organization, but his service was short-lived as he died unexpectedly only six months after taking office. He was succeeded by Herbert C. Farwell, who would serve as superintendent for the next fifty years. Less than a year after moving into the Lyceum Building, the Fraternity purchased and retrofitted 11 Central Street, a former bank building designed by Charles Bulfinch.

In December 1875, the Salem Fraternity incorporated with Henry Wheatland serving as the first president.


6.18 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem Records
Jen Ratliff
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Repository Details

Part of the Salem State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Archivist
352 Lafayette St.
Salem MA 01970 United States