Hall of Fame to Induct Harvard’s Cole, Boston Athenæum Founder Shaw

Arthur Harrison Cole, economic historian and library administrator at Harvard, and William Smith Shaw, a founding member, secretary and librarian of the Boston Athenæum. (Cole photograph courtesy of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh. Gilbert Stuart portrait of Shaw courtesy of Boston Athenæum.)

A former Harvard business economics professor and a private secretary to the second president of the United States are the two Haverhillites to be inducted into the Haverhill Citizens Hall of Fame next week.

Arthur Harrison Cole (1889 – 1974) is credited with collecting and preserving historically significant business records during his dual role as economic historian and library administrator at Harvard. William Smith Shaw (1778-1826), who was appointed private secretary to his uncle, President John Adams, went on to become a founding member, secretary and librarian of the Boston Athenæum.

Cole and Shaw join 36 other prominent citizens to be inducted into the Haverhill Citizens Hall of Fame, established in 1985 with a permanent exhibit at Haverhill Public Library. A ceremony takes place Saturday, Oct. 15, 2 p.m., at Haverhill Public Library. To be eligible for induction, nominees must be deceased and have achieved fame for accomplishments with significant impact beyond the borders of their hometown.

Arthur Harrison Cole

 

Arthur Harrison Cole. (Photograph courtesy of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh.)

Arthur Harrison Cole. (Photograph courtesy of the Estate of Yousuf Karsh.)

Cole was born Nov. 21, 1889 in Haverhill. He attended Governor Dummer Academy and graduated from Bowdoin College with a bachelor’s degree. He received his master’s and PhD in economics from Harvard University.

He tutored and taught economics at Harvard after completing his dissertation and eventually rose to associate professor. Cole worked in the U.S. War Department and the U. S. Tariff Commission from 1917 to 1920. In 1933, he became professor of Business Economics at Harvard Business School.

In 1929, Cole was appointed financial supervisor of the International Scientific Committee on Price History, which researched the commodity prices of leading European countries and the United States prior to 1861.

Cole assumed the dual role of economic historian and library administrator throughout his long professional career. At Baker Library, Cole’s pioneering efforts in collecting and preserving historically significant business records led to the accumulation of one of the finest collections on the subject in the world. In addition, his influence as an economic historian continued long after he left the classroom. He remained an integral part of the scholarly community as managing editor of the Review of Economic Statistics, chairman of Inter-University Research Commission on Economic History, associate editor of the Journal of Economic History, and executive director, Research Center in Entrepreneurial History. He retired to emeritus status from Harvard Business School in 1956.

Cole married the former Anne Steckel of Pennsylvania on August 5, 1913 and they had two children: Barbara and Jonathan. He died Nov. 10, 1974.

William Smith Shaw

William Smith Shaw. (Gilbert Stuart portrait of Shaw courtesy of Boston Athenæum.)

William Smith Shaw. (Gilbert Stuart portrait of Shaw courtesy of Boston Athenæum.)

Shaw was born in Haverhill Aug. 12, 1778 to Reverend John Shaw, minister of the First Parish Meetinghouse, and his wife Elizabeth Smith Shaw. Elizabeth was the sister of Abigail Adams and by all reports just as distinguished as her famous sister in intellectual power and literary attainments. He inherited his mother’s intelligence and it was said he could read written words before he could pronounce them. Although a sickly child, he devoted much time in recuperation reading books, which became a source of enjoyment and self-enrichment as well as later advancement. In spite of his physical obstacles William or “Billy,” as he came to be known, was admitted to Harvard College at the age of 16 and graduated in 1798.

After graduation, he was appointed private secretary to his uncle John Adams, by then the second president of the United States. He moved to Philadelphia, which was then the nation’s capital and later assisted in the transition to the “President’s House in Washington” in the District of Columbia. Shaw was a loyal and constant companion to Adams throughout his term and accompanied him on board his coach-in-four on nearly all of his presidential excursions.

Shaw left the service of the president after Adams’ defeat to Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and became a student of law in the offices of William Sullivan. He was admitted to the bar in 1804. It was during this period that his interest in the advancement of literature was re-established. He rapidly secured a reputation as one of the Early Republic’s “men of letters” and was a founder of the Anthology Society, which commenced the establishment of The Boston Athenaeum, the preeminent Reading Room and Library.

The Athenaeum became a means for men of intellect and position to disengage from commerce and politics and to focus on the more enlightened subjects of the day. It was an institution to which Shaw remained devoted for the rest of his life as founding member, secretary and librarian. Two hundred years later it endures as his intellectual legacy to one of the oldest and most distinguished independent libraries and cultural institutions in the United States.

Hall of Fame logoOther members of the Haverhill Citizens Hall of Fame include poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, Archie comic strip creator Bob Montana and movie mogul Louis B. Mayer.

The Massachusetts Historical Society’s Hobson Woodward will deliver remarks expected to delve into the numerous and noteworthy historical connections between Haverhill and the extended families of President John Adams. Woodward is an associate editor of the Adams Papers and has been a member of the MHS staff since 2002. He holds master’s degrees in history and library science from Simmons College. In addition to his work on sixteen Adams Papers volumes, he has recently been a consultant on the founding volume of “The Correspondence of Thomas Hutchinson.” He is the author of “A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest.”

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