Item #72089 PLAN OF THE FIRST BAPTIST MEETING HOUSE, WORCESTER. Americana - Massachusetts.


circa 1850. A single sheet (13" x 14 ½") printed circa 1850 of the pew floor plan for the First Baptist Meeting House in Worcester, Massachusetts. The document is hand annotated with names, indicating the families renting the 100 pews outlined on the plan. This rare document is evidence of a practice that was common until the early 20th century of pew rentals in churches as a principal means of raising income. This was especially common in the United States, where churches lacked government support through mandatory tithing. It would appear from the plan that pew rental prices range from 30 to 300, but it’s not clear if that is an annual rate or lifetime charge, nor whether the prices quoted are dollars of cents. The most expensive pews are at the center of the church, four rows back from the pulpit. Among those occupying the most expensive seats is Daniel Goddard, possibly a watchmaker living in Worcester in 1850, according to Ancestry records. Joseph Taft (1828-71) in pew 79 worked in a boot factory and was married at the First Baptist Church in 1848, while Levi Howe (1798–1861), a wheelwright, staked his claim on pew 65. No name is written on the plan for more than a dozen of the available pews. Along with the seating chart, the floor plan indicates the position of pulpit center, the entry space, and aisles. Printed along the bottom of the floor plan are the conditions of sale: "One fourth cash, one fourth in three months; one fourth in 6 months; one fourth in 9 months, secured by mortgage on the pews. Those who have paid in all their Stock, it will be taken in payment for Pews." The plan was printed by Henry J. Howland (1810-97), who was active in Worcester printing during the mid-19th century. The First Baptist Church was founded in 1812 and established the first Sunday School in Worcester. Following a fire, the church reopened in 1939 at its current location on the corner of Park Avenue and Salisbury Street and counts among its neighbors the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the American Antiquarian Society. The floor plan is toned with some light edgewear and a one-inch closed tear along the lower right edge. The annotations are primarily in ink with a few in pencil; a bit of fading but overall quite legible. Item #72089

Price: $750.00

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