Skip to main content

Joseph E. Sharkey Collection

Identifier: CHC070


This collection contains textual records created and collected by Joseph E. Sharkey related to his appointment as the Historian of the Advisory Historical Committee of the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety. Records relate to his efforts to research, compile material, and publish a factual pamphlet of the various contributions to the war effort during World War II and the impact of both World Wars. The collection consists of his correspondence with municipal, industrial, news, and community organizations; reports on work done by different organizations during the war; photographs; information on rations and food programs; articles and clippings; and notes all contributing to Sharkey’s work from 1943-1946.


  • ca. 1943-1946

Language of Materials

Material is in English.


Collection is available for research under the CHC rules of use.

Copyright Notice

Copyright for materials resides with the creators of the items in question, unless otherwise designated.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to understand and observe copyright law and to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyright. Questions concerning copyright and permission to publish should be directed to the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives.

Joseph Edward Sharkey

Joseph Edward Sharkey was born in Cambridge, Mass. on March 15, 1877 to James and Margaret Sharkey. James Sharkey, a blacksmith, Margaret, and their ten children lived at 125 Elm Street. Joseph E. Sharkey attended Harvard from 1895 to 1899 and started his journalism career at the Cambridge Chronicle, and then the Boston Traveler and the Boston Transcript. From 1899 to 1902 Sharkey was a member of the Cambridge City Council and then served on the Cambridge School Committee from 1902 to 1907.

In 1898 he began working for the Associated Press Bureau at its Boston office and in 1907 he was promoted to assistant correspondent at Paris, which began his career as an international correspondent. Still holding his School Committee position, Sharkey became the first committee member to finish his 1907 term abroad. After holding the assistantship position in Paris until 1913, Sharkey worked as chief correspondent for various Associated Press offices in Tokyo, Geneva, and Paris. He worked with the Associated Press for 40 years before retiring on December 31, 1937. While pursuing his career as an international correspondent covering political, economic, and military affairs, Sharkey also helped establish the Anglo-American Press Association in 1907, which he was president in 1912.

On June 14, 1915, Sharkey married Beatrice Laurens. After living in Europe and Asia, the couple moved to Cambridge for seven years following World War II. Sharkey resided at the Hotel Commander, located at 16 Garden Street. In 1944 Sharkey’s close friend Judge Edward A. Counihan, Jr., chairman of the Cambridge Committee on Public Safety appointment Sharkey the Historian and director of the Advisory Historical Committee of the Cambridge Committee on Public Safety. He was also appointed by Governor Saltonstall a member of the state-wide Advisory Historical Committee of the Massachusetts Committee of Public Safety.

The Advisory Historical Committee of the Cambridge Committee on Public Safety was tasked to collect and collate all available information concerning the war activities of Cambridge citizens, factories, schools, and organizations. It was the intent that at the end of the effort, a book or pamphlet would be published by the Riverside Press with chapter contributions by members of the various organizations. Other members of the Committee included Professors Julian L. Coolidge and Fred N. Robinson, Blanche McIntire, Daniel A. Buckley, Howard H. Litchfield, Thomas H. Mahoney, Frank H. Townsend, and John P. Lynch. The location of the final publication or product of the committee is currently unknown.

Sharkey also served on the Cambridge 1946 Centennial Committee and was Historian of the Centennial. He and Beatrice later moved back to Paris at 10 Rue Ernest Deloison, Neuilly-sur-Seine, where she died in 1956. Sharkey died in March 1958 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and was buried in Paris.

Extract from Who’s Who in America (ca. 1940-1945)
SHARKEY, Joseph Edward, journalist; b. Cambridge, Mass. March 13, 1877; s. James and Margaret (Bradley); ed. Harvard, 1895-1899; m. Beatrice Laurence, June 14, 1913. Reporter and editorial writer, Boston Traveler; reporter Boston Transcript, 1895-1898p with Associated Press since 1898, reporter and editor Boston office, 1898-1907, asst. corr. in Paris, France, 1907-1913; chief of Japanese Bureau, 1913-Oct. 1921, chief of Paris Bureau 1929-1933, Geneva Bureau, 1933-1937. Served as corr. on missions, European and Asiatic countries. Went to Omsk, Siberia, winter of 1918, to report the expedition of Admiral Kolchak against Russian Soviet Army and to Korea 1918-1919; also to China and Philippines; called to Washington, 1921, by Associated Press, to report Conf. on Limitation of Armament and Far Eastern Affairs; reported international polit. confs. at Genoa, The Hague, Lausanne, and European Security Conf. at Locarno, Oct. 1925, which adopted the Rhine Pact and other machinery for the permanent pacification of Europe; also covered the Irish rebellion, Greek revolution, and Three-Power Naval Conf., Geneva, 1927, Stresa Polit. Conf., 1935, the League of Nations sessions, levying sanctions against Italy, 1935, and the 9 Power conference at Brussels of 1937, convoked to considered Japan’s military activities in China. Asso. Press corr. at Geneva, 1923-1929. Retired December 31, 1937, after 40 consecutive years of service in the Associated Press. Member City Council, Cambridge, Mass., 1899-1902, Bd. of Edn. 1902-1905. Sec. Harvard Club, Paris, 1911-1912; sec. U.S. sect. Franco-Am. Com., 1912; pres. Anglo-Am. Press Assn., Paris, 1912; mem. exec. council Am. Assn. of Tokyo, 1918-1919. Mem. Am. Acad. Polit. and Social Science. Vice-pres. Internat. Assn. of Journalists accredited to the League of Nations, 1933-1934. Clubs: Harvard of Tokyo (v.p. 1921-1922); Harvard of Geneva; American of Paris (mem. exec. com. 1933-1934). Author: The Ethics of Journalism. Address: Commander Hotel, Cambridge, Mass.

Mr. Sharkey reported political aspects of the present war during its early state from Geneva, in the neutral state of Switzerland.

Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety

The Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety was originally established in 1917 in preparation of the United States involvement in World War I and dissolved in 1918. It was reestablished on August 23, 1940 in preparation of World War II. The function of the committee was to coordinate and supervise local committees on public safety in the nine regional zones of the state. Along with the zone committees were administrative divisions, including Planning and Technical, Public Information, Protection, Health and Social Services, Services and Supplies, Women's Activities/Women's Division (later War Services), Medical, Identification, Evacuation, and Regions. The Committee worked with groups such as the U.S. Civilian Defense Corps, the American Legion, the American Red Cross, and the U.S. military. The Committee was dissolved on May 9, 1945 after President Truman abolished the U.S. Office of Civilian Defense on May 2, 1945.


2 Hollinger boxes

1 linear foot

Scope and Content

The collection is divided into seven series comprised of correspondence, drafts, newspaper articles, notes, reports, lists, and photographs. Most of the items were created during Sharkey’s time as the Historian of the Advisory Historical Committee of the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety.

Items of particular interest may include communications with Professor Thomas H. D. Mahoney, who wrote “The Life of Commander John H. Shea,” and war-related City committees, including the Cambridge Victory Gardens, Soldiers and Sailors Recreation Committee, War Services Bureau, and Protection Division. Also of note is the Block Leaders material distributed to Cambridge neighborhoods by the Cambridge War Services Bureau. Photographs include individual and group military images as well as community efforts to help support the war effort.

Collection Arrangement

Box 1 and 2 contain City Countil Orders/ Budget/ Excavation / Scrapbooks

Box 3 has a separate arrangement:
  1. Subseries 1: Correspondence
  2. Subseries 2: Pamphlets and Publications
  3. Subseries 3: Newspaper Articles
  4. Subseries 4: Notes

Physical Location

Collection is stored on-site.


Donated by Brian McCoy, November 2020. McCoy found the collection in his attic at 76 Aberdeen Avenue. The connection with Sharkey is currently unknown.

Related Materials

Doherty, Richard Powers. History of the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety 1940-1945. [Boston], October 1945. Digital copy available through HathiTrust.:link

Committee on Public Safety (Record Group PS16). Massachusetts Archives, 220 Morrissey Blvd. Boston, MA.: link

World War II pamphlets and manuals, 1940-1944. (PS16/1558X). Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety. (1.95 cubic ft.) Massachusetts Archives, 220 Morrissey Blvd. Boston, MA.: link

See Series V. Scrapbooks, 1933-1949 in Harold and Romayne Goldberg Papers (P-861). Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS, Boston, Mass.: link

Processing Information

Processing and finding aid by Brittany Fox, January-February 2021; encoded March 2021.
Inventory of the Joseph E. Sharkey Collection, ca. 1943-1946
Processing and finding aid by Brittany Fox, January-February 2021. Machine-readable finding aid by Brittany Fox, March 2021.
Description rules
Finding Aid Was Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge Historical Commission Archives Repository

831 Massachusetts Avenue
2nd Floor
Cambridge Massachusetts 02139 US