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.


Matchup 1

John Winthrop journal, History of New England (manuscript), volume 1, page 1

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Genesis, chapter 1, verses 1-24, of the "Eliot Indian Bible"

In 1663, Christian missionary John Eliot published this translation of the Holy Bible in Massachuset, the language spoken by Native Americans in eastern New England. It was the first Bible printed in any language in North America and the largest single printing venture of the early colonial period.

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Matchup 2

Samuel Sewall diary, 1685-1703, page with entry for 19 September 1692

Samuel Sewall served as one of the judges at the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692 and, on 19 September, described in his diary the gruesome torture and death of Giles Corey. Corey was pressed to death "for standing mute," that is, refusing to answer his indictment for witchcraft.

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Letter from William Bradford to John Winthrop, 11 April 1638

In this letter to Gov. John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony refers to "Mrs. Huchingson" (Anne Hutchinson), who was labeled an "Antinomian" and heretic, banished from Massachusetts Bay, and excommunicated from the church. Bradford asks about the rumor that she delivered a stillborn baby to her supporter Mary Dyer.

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Matchup 3

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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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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Matchup 4

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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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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Matchup 5

Tea leaves in glass bottle collected on the shore of Dorchester Neck the morning of 17 December 1773

This small glass bottle contains tea leaves gathered on the shore of Dorchester Neck, across the harbor from Boston, the morning after the Boston Tea Party. This is one of five relics of the Boston Tea Party (including tea caddies and a china punch bowl) in the collections of the MHS.

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Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 March - 5 April 1776

In the spring of 1776, with talk of independence in the air, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband and famously advised: "in the New Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, & be more Generous & favourable to them than your ancestors."

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Matchup 6

In Congress, July 4, 1776. A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress Assembled.

The first printing of this founding document is the single most important published item at the MHS. On 18 July 1776, Abigail Adams was in the crowd that gathered outside Boston's Old State House to hear the Declaration read aloud—perhaps from this very copy.

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Letter from Paul Revere to Jeremy Belknap, circa 1798

In this undated letter, Paul Revere describes his famous ride on 18 April 1775, when Dr. Joseph Warren urged him to ride to Lexington to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams of British troop movements. Revere wrote this letter at the request of Jeremy Belknap, corresponding secretary of the MHS.

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Matchup 7

Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Victory Parade : Instructions for Marchers

On 16 October 1915, supporters of women's suffrage in Massachusetts held a parade and rally in downtown Boston in support of a ballot measure to amend the state constitution and grant women the right to vote. This broadsheet contains instructions and, on the reverse, songs to be sung during the parade and rally.

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"Chief Tin-Tin-Meet-Sa"

This photogravure of “Chief Tin-Tin-Meet-Sa,” taken by Joseph K. Dixon in 1913, forms part of the Rodman Wanamaker Indian expeditions photographs. The aim of the expeditions was to “accurately” depict and publicize Indian life. Wanamaker was particularly concerned that the “vanishing race” would be lost to modernity and relegated to reservations.

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Matchup 8

Sarah Gooll Putnam diary 23, part of entry for 1 August 1902, page 118

Sarah Gooll Putnam kept a diary for over 50 years, starting in 1860 at the age of nine. These diaries document her life as an artist in Boston and her extensive travels throughout America and Europe. Included are ink and pencil sketches, as well as watercolors, like this one painted in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

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"Mess Hall, Bathroom, Barracks. Japanese Relocation Center. Heart Mt. Wyoming."

This watercolor painting by Estelle Ishigo depicts the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, one of ten internment camps established for Japanese Americans during World War II. Ishigo was recruited as a “Documentary Reporter” for the War Relocation Authority and recorded the internment experience in illustrations, line drawings, oil, and watercolors.

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