Guide to the Collection of Debating Societies Records, 1836–1895, undated

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Research Library at the Nantucket Historical Association. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the internet.


This is an artificial collection of records of debating societies assembled by the Nantucket Historical Association comprised of the records of several debating societies of Nantucket, Mass. including meeting minutes, constitutions, by-laws, lists of members, treasurers’ reports, and debate topics 

Collection Details

Collection Number:
Collection of Debating Societies Record
1836–1895, undated
Nantucket Historical Association.
6 items
Nantucket Historical Association
Material is in English.

Information for Users

Restrictions to Access: No restrictions. Open for research.

Restrictions to Use: No usage restrictions.

Copyright Notice: Copyright is retained by the authors of items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation: [identification of item], in the Collection of Debating Societies Records, Nantucket Historical Association.

Acquisitions Information:

Franklin Debating Society records a NHA purchase (Acc. No. 1821); Sherburne Lyceum records a gift of Mrs. Mary Coffin Worth in 1927 (Acc. No 2836); and Sherburne Debating Club records a gift of Misses Tiffany and Boynton in 1977 (Acc. 77-9-4).

Sensitive Materials Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Nantucket Historical Association assumes no responsibility.

Subject Headings

  • Corporate Name
    • Forensics Association (Nantucket, Mass.)
    • Franklin Debating Society (Nantucket, Mass.)
    • Nantucket Social and Literary Society (Nantucket, Mass.)
    • Sherburne Lyceum (Nantucket, Mass.)
    • Sherburne Debating Club (Nantucket, Mass.)
    • Society for Mutual Improvement (Nantucket, Mass.)
  • Topical Term
    • Debates and debating--Massachusetts--Nantucket.
    • Fraternal organizations--Massachusetts--Nantucket.

Biographical Information

This is an artificial collection of records of debating societies assembled by the Nantucket Historical Association. In some instances, the NHA gathers materials of a single topic to preserve them and make them available. In these cases, the NHA is seen as the creator of the artificially constructed collection. 

The Forensics Association (1836-1837) and Franklin Debating Society (1837–1840)

The Forensics Association was founded in 1836 as a debate society. The organization held monthly debates and lectures. On 11 January 1837, members voted to change the organization’s name to the Franklin Debating Society. 

Society for Mutual Improvement (1840–1841)

The Society for Mutual Improvement was founded as a debate society and held their first meeting on 3 December 1840. Officers included M. Barney, chairman, and Andrew G. Coffin, secretary.  

Nantucket Social and Literary Society

The Nantucket Social and Literary Society was formed for the reading of original compositions and debates. 

Sherburne Lyceum (1877–1883)

The Sherburne Lyceum was founded for the “mutual improvement and mental culture of the members” and held regular debates and lectures at its meetings. Officers included Alexander Macy, Jr., president; Allen Coffin and Emma L. Nickerson, vice-presidents; Helen Marshall, secretary; Moses Joy, Jr., treasurer. Meetings also included music, poetry, and other recitations. 

Sherburne Debating Club (1895–1895) 

The Sherburne Debating Club was formed under the supervision of the Children’s Employment Society as a debating club for boys. Mr. Alvin E. Paddock was appointed as a representative of the Childrens’ Employment Society and was granted power to organize and conduct the club. The club had dissolved by May 1895. 

Scope and Content

This collection is comprised of the records of several debating societies of Nantucket, Mass. Most records are meeting minutes which include constitutions, by-laws, lists of members, treasurers’ reports, and debate topics  


Folder 1 Forensic Association and Franklin Debating Society meeting minutes, 1836–1837 

Includes meeting minutes of the Forensic Association, later renamed the Franklin Debating Society. 

Folder 2 Sherburne Debating Club records, 1895  

Includes the constitution and by-laws, list of members, treasurer’s reports, and meeting minutes. 

Folder 3 Sherburne Lyceum records, 1877–1879

Includes lists of debate subjects, members, and meeting minutes.  

Folder 4 Society for Mutual Improvement and Nantucket Social and Literary Society minutes, 1840–1841, undated 

Includes minutes of the Society for Mutual Improvement from 1840 to 1841 and the undated minutes of one meeting of the Nantucket Social and Literary Society. 


Processing Information

Finding aid by Ashley Miller, May 2023. 

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