Calvin Frye’s Library

  • Kelly Byquist
Calvin Frye portrait (inset) and office at 400 Beacon Street. Note the stacks of books that lined his shelves. Longyear Museum collection.

When reporter Sibyl Wilbur visited Pleasant View in 1907 to interview Mary Baker Eddy, she also sat down with household stalwart Calvin Frye. She caught his quiet, earnest nature and his “gentle mirthfulness in conversation.” He also gave her a glimpse into his life after his daily duties were performed: “A quiet corner and a book are all he requires, he told the writer good-humoredly,” she later said in an article in Human Life.1

Calvin Frye was Mary Baker Eddy’s right-hand man. When Mrs. Eddy sent for his assistance in the summer of 1882, he dropped everything to join her and would barely leave her side for the next 28 years. Mr. Frye kept the books of the household, oversaw purchases, paid the bills, tended the furnace, took down dictation, and answered correspondence. Enjoying a good book at the end of the day must have been a delight!

Although Mr. Frye never went to college, it’s clear from the wide variety of books he later owned that reading was part of his education. His book collection from his later years consisted of some 200 titles that spanned a wide range of subjects, including natural history, Bible study, algebra, chemistry, law, and investment. He also evidently read works of fiction.2

Left: Title page of Charles Conant’s The Principles of Banking (1908), inset with a check signed by Mr. Frye made out to William B. Johnson for collection taken at a church service in October 1888. Right: Page from James Homans’ Self-Propelled Vehicles: A Practical Treatise on the Theory, Construction, Operation, Care and Management of all Forms of Automobiles (1908), inset with a photograph of a group of household workers setting off for an outing in the White Steamer. Longyear Museum collection.

While some of the books in Mr. Frye’s library were acquired after working for Mrs. Eddy, many hark back to his days in her household. Take The ABC of Banks and Banking and Principles of Banking, which he likely referenced while working at 400 Beacon Street, Mrs. Eddy’s home in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Not having been trained as an accountant, he may have put these titles to good use when managing the household’s ledger.

Page from The Modern Way in Picture Making (1907), published by the Kodak company as an aid to amateur photographers. Longyear Museum collection.

Mr. Frye also owned a book published in 1908 about automobiles. That same year, a car arrived at Chestnut Hill. He wasn’t pleased at the household response. “Had engaged to buy [a] Columbia Electric car,” he reported in his diary, “but on its arrival the ‘kids’ made such a fuss over trying to monopolize it . . . that I refused to take it. . . .”3 He actually sent the car back! Eventually Mr. Frye softened, and later that year two White Steam cars were purchased.

The Modern Way in Picture Making must have spurred Mr. Frye’s creative outlet, as did books on musical theory, voice, and instrumentals.4 (He picked up photography as a hobby at Pleasant View and 400 Beacon Street, and often carried the tenor part in a household quartet that regularly sang hymns for Mrs. Eddy. He also played the piano and autoharp.) Books on astronomy also peppered his library. They may have been used at 400 Beacon when members of the household went to the roof to peer at the heavens through a telescope.5

Left: Frontispiece and cover page to Simon Newcomb’s Popular Astronomy (1892) , one of the books that Mr. Frye owned on stargazing. Right: This telescope, pictured in the cupola at 400 Beacon Street, is similar to the one that Mary Baker Eddy purchased for the stargazers in her household to use and enjoy. Longyear Museum collection.

Mr. Frye’s penchant for self-instruction led him to two English-Italian dictionaries that focused on vocabulary, conversation, and pronunciation. While we don’t know his level of fluency, we know that his interest in Italian took him to Italy in 1916.

Left: Calvin Frye (back row, far right) and a group pose for a photograph while traveling abroad in 1916. Right: Postcard from picturesque Venice that Calvin sent to a friend in Boston during his travels. Longyear Museum collection.

Mr. Frye also had his nose in some of the most epic and classic works of fiction. He owned an illustrated edition of The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, as well as several novels by Charles Dickens. The comedies and tragedies of William Shakespeare also stacked heavily on his bookshelf.

Left: At some point Calvin Frye acquired this three-volume set of Shakespeare’s collective works. Longyear Museum collection. Right: An illustration from an undated edition of Daniel Defoe’s The Life and Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe with illustrations by Gordon Browne.

An autographed early edition of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures must have been a special keepsake. In its flyleaf, Mrs. Eddy had tenderly inscribed it to “Calvin, dear,” and signed it “Mother, Author.” Below the inscription, Calvin wrote “August, 1903.”

That date marked Calvin’s 21 years of service to Mrs. Eddy. As tokens of gratitude and recognition, Mrs. Eddy rewarded him with a sizeable financial gift, asked the officers of her Church to honor him with a present, and gave him this signed copy of the latest edition of her textbook.6

As is evident from his bookcase, Calvin Frye never tired of reading for enjoyment, for self-improvement, and to aid his work and better serve Mary Baker Eddy.

Left: This 277th edition of Science and Health was a gift from Mary Baker Eddy to Calvin Frye in August 1903. Right: Mrs. Eddy’s inscription and Mr. Frye’s notation in its frontispiece. Longyear Museum collection.


  1. Sibyl Wilbur, “The Story of the Real Mrs. Eddy,” Human Life (November 1907): 14.
  2. The Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, owns the Calvin Frye Book Collection, which was purchased from Mr. Frye’s nephew, Oscar H. P. Frye. Click here to access the Mary Baker Eddy Library’s Finding Aid to the Calvin Frye Book Collection. Longyear Museum owns several titles that belonged to Mr. Frye as well.
  3. Calvin A. Frye diary entry, May 26, 1908, EF081, 147, MBEL. The “kids” he mentions refers to some of his fellow staff members.
  4. Mr. Frye owned a Pony Premo No. 6 Kodak camera. His book collection included two other books on photography: Everyone’s Guide to Photography; Containing Instructions for Making your own Appliances and Simple Practical Directions for Every Branch of Photographic Work  by E. J. Wall (1898) and The Watkins Manual of Exposure and Development by Alfred Watkins (1908). Calvin was also very musical. Titles in his library on music include Elson’s Music Dictionary by Louis Elson (1905) and The Theory of Music as Applied to the Teaching and Practice of Voice and Instruments also by Louis Elson (1911).
  5. The three books on astronomy in Calvin Frye’s book collection include: Popular Astronomy by Simon Newcomb (1892), Astronomy with the Naked Eye: A New Geography of the Heavens by Garrett P. Serviss (undated), and The Stars by George F. Chambers (1910).
  6. In 1903, Mrs. Eddy gave Calvin $1,000—which equates to over $30,000 today—and the Executive Members of The Mother Church purchased a roll-top mahogany desk and chair as a gift. See “In Recognition of Faithful Service,” published in the October 3, 1903, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel for reprints of the touching letters sent from the Executive Members of The Mother Church to Mr. Frye, and his response.