MHS Madness64 of our favorite items in head-to-head competition

In honor of our 225th anniversary—and this time of year—the MHS hosted a tournament to select the favorite object from the Society’s collection. The 64 competitors, divided into four centuries of American history, were hand-picked to showcase the range of items in our collection.

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Click completed rounds to view final vote counts.

FINAL RESULTS FOR:Round 1: 19th Century

Matchup 1

Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Edward Everett, 20 November 1863

The day after his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln wrote to Edward Everett, the day's featured speaker, to thank him for his praise of Lincoln's two-minute speech: "I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the little I did say was not entirely a failure." Everett's speech, by comparison, lasted two hours.

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Diagram to show the drill the Anti-Man-Hunting League had for the running off of a slave or man-hunter

This pencil-and-watercolor diagram shows how members of the Boston Anti-Man-Hunting League would surround a slave-hunter, or "SH," until he consented to release a captured slave. The League was a secret society founded in Boston in 1854 to resist the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

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Matchup 2

Elizabeth Freeman ("Mumbet")

This watercolor-on-ivory miniature portrait was painted by Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick in 1811. Its subject is Elizabeth Freeman, known as "Mumbet," a slave who sued for her freedom in 1783 and set the legal precedent for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts.

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Letter from Wilder Dwight to Elizabeth A. Dwight, 17 September 1862

This letter was written by Lt. Col. Wilder Dwight on the field at Antietam. He was writing to his mother when fighting broke out. After the battle, when troops had withdrawn and he lay wounded, he finished the letter. He died two days later. The letter is stained with his blood.

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Matchup 3

To Colored Men. 54th Regiment! Massachusetts Volunteers, Of African Descent

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, commissioned after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, was the first regiment of black soldiers raised in the North during the Civil War. Although this recruitment poster promised enlistees $13 a month, the regiment had to wait more than a year to receive full pay from the federal government.

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Daniel Webster

This watercolor-on-ivory miniature depicts Daniel Webster shortly after he was elected to the U.S. Senate. The portrait was painted by Sarah Goodridge, one of America's most distinguished and prolific miniature painters, who worked in Boston between 1820 and 1850.

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Matchup 4

Pen used by Abraham Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation

On 1 January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves of the Confederate states. He signed the document with this pen, which he then presented to Massachusetts abolitionist George Livermore.

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Bertha Louise Cogswell drawing book, volume 3, page 13

Young Bertha Louise Cogswell filled seven volumes of drawing books with pencil and crayon pictures of her life in Cambridge, Mass., including games, parties, holidays, social calls, and travel. She not only drew scenes from her childhood, but also imagined scenes of her future life as a wife and mother.

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Matchup 5

John Quincy Adams diary 41, entry for 29 March 1841, page 292

At the age of 73, former Pres. John Quincy Adams appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court and successfully defended the African captives who had seized the slave ship Amistad. Twenty days after the decision, Adams reflected on the fight against the slave trade in this diary entry.

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Three dogs at tea in garden

Marian "Clover" Hooper Adams took up photography in 1883, and her work was widely admired by contemporaries. Among her favorite subjects were her dogs Possum, Marquis, and Boojum, shown here enjoying a garden tea party. This photograph is part of a collection of three albums dating from 1883-1885.

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Matchup 6

The branded hand of Captain Jonathan Walker

Capt. Jonathan W. Walker was an ardent abolitionist who was convicted and sentenced for attempting to assist seven escaped slaves to freedom in 1844. His hand was branded with the letters "SS" for "slave stealer," as shown in this daguerreotype photograph by Southworth and Hawes. The reverse image, consistent with the daguerreotype process, depicts Walker's right hand.

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Cheyenne medicine pow-wow

This colorful scene was drawn by Bear's Heart, a Cheyenne warrior, during his captivity at Fort Marion in Florida after the Red River War of 1874-1875. While held by the U.S. military, Bear's Heart and other Indian prisoners depicted their lives in ledger art like this.

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Matchup 7

Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Henry Cabot Lodge, 3 July 1898

Theodore Roosevelt wrote this letter to his friend, Massachusetts senator Henry Cabot Lodge, from the trenches outside of Santiago, Cuba, after the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. In it, he betrays uncharacteristic anxiety about the outcome of the battle.

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State Street, 1801

This painting by James Brown Marston shows the eastward side of Boston's Old State House as it looked at the turn of the 18th century. The open square, a place of social and commercial activity, was the scene of many memorable events, including the Boston Massacre on 5 March 1770.

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Matchup 8

Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 2 November 1800

After spending his first night in the unfinished President's House (later called the White House), John Adams wrote to Abigail Adams: "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."

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Benjamin Sewall Blake jumping

This stop-action photograph of Benjamin Sewall Blake jumping was taken by his father, Francis Blake, an accomplished inventor and photographer. In the mid-1880s, Blake designed a distinctive shutter that allowed him to take photographs with very short exposure times.

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