This Week @ MHS
On Tuesday, 15 April, Gloria Whiting of Harvard University presents "'How can the wife submit?' African Families Negotiate Gender and Slavery in New England." This seminar is part of the History of Women and Gender series and is rescheduled from 13 February 2014. Whiting's paper discusses the various ways in which the everyday realities of slavery shaped gender relations in Afro-New England families. While the structure of slave families in the region was unusually matrifocal, these families nonetheless exhibited a number of patriarchal tendencies. Enslaved African families in New England therefore complicate the assumption of much scholarship that the structure of slave families defined their normative values. Barbara Krauthamer of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will provide comment. Please note that this seminar takes place at the Schlesinger Library and begins at 5:30PM. Be sure to RSVP for this program by emailing email@example.com or phoning 617-646-0568.
And on Friday, 18 April, stop by the Society at 2:00PM for a free gallery talk as Samantha Anderson of Northeastern University presents "The Battles of the 54th: Norther Racism and the Unequal Pay Crisis." When Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew proposed to raise the first military unit consisting of black soldiers during the Civil War, he was assured by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that the men would be paid, clothed, and treated in the same way as white troops. As the recruiting posters and newspaper advertisements stated, this included a state bounty and a monthly pay of $13. In July of 1863, an order was issued in Washington fixing the compensation of black soldiers at the laborers' rate of $10 per month. This amount was offered on several occasions to the men of the 54th, but was continually refused. Governor Andrew and the Massachusetts legislature, feeling responsible for the $3 discrepancy in pay promised to the troops, passed an act in November of 1863 providing the difference from state funds. The men refused to accept this resolution, however, demanding that they receive full soldier pay from the federal government.
Learn more about this pay controversy, and how it was resolved, through items on display in our current exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial.
Finally, please note that the Society is closed on Monday, 21 April, in observance of Patriot's Day. Normal hours will resume on Tuesday, 22 April.
| Published: Sunday, 13 April, 2014, 12:00 PM
Answers to Questions of Chinese Script, 1801
By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services
In a prior blog post, "Chinese Hanzi Characters in 1801," I wondered what message the Chinese script on the verso of the 30 July 1801 letter from Captain Samuel Barrett Edes of the snow Pacific Trader to American merchant Sullivan Dorr expressed. Last month, to my great surprise, I received two separate e-mails regarding the script.
The first correspondent, professional Chinese translator Ye Aiyun, graciously gave me a direct translation of the Chinese characters:
[This letter] is to the Sixin Grocery Store at Stoning Street in Canton, and the store will send it to Dorr of the flower flag country (United States of America). If Dorr writes back, his letter will be sent to Canton in the same way. This letter should arrive at Macao on [September] 22nd and back to Canton on the 23rd. If the foreigner [does not have a letter to send back in return], the store will just leave it [alone]. The postage is two dollars, and [the people in] Macao have paid one dollar.
Ye's translation confirmed my first assumption about the script. It definitely gives directions for delivery of the letter to Sullivan Dorr.
Paul A. Van Dyke, professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Canton, China, and former Benjamin F. Stevens fellow at the MHS, also wrote concerning the Chinese script. Van Dyke gave me further context for the letter:
"The address on this envelope is to Sullivan Dorr's residence in Canton, which was in the Thirteen Factories area. It is clear from the Chinese inscription that this [letter] was sent to the Thirteen hong district 十三行。 The confusion comes in the name of the street Zao Shi Street (鑿石街) which does not exist on any maps [of which] I am aware. And the name of the building Si Xing Ban Guan (泗興办館) is also very strange and appears in [none of the] listings of the buildings in this district. In short, we know all of the Chinese names of the streets and buildings in this district at this time and these names do not appear."
Yet another mystery arises from this letter! Van Dyke explained that perhaps this address is a small undocumented alley within the American Factory, a trading post that American Consul Samuel Shaw constructed and Sullivan Dorr, at one time, managed. Responding to my previous post, Van Dyke also addressed my final query concerning who might have written this note. He stated that Chinese compradors (provision purveyors), pilots, linguists, and merchants were generally literate, so any one of them could have written the instructions for delivery.
Thank you to my generous correspondents Ye Aiyun and Paul A. Van Dyke for their answers to my questions. Do you have any additional information to contribute to this conversation? Please leave a comment on the blog or feel free to e-mail me.
| Published: Wednesday, 9 April, 2014, 8:28 AM
This Week @ MHS
The Red Sox are back in town, increasing foot traffic around the Society. This week, though, is a quiet one at the MHS, with only two events on the schedule.
If you are headed to Fenway Park on Tuesday, 8 April, why not stop by the MHS on the way for a free seminar? Starting at 5:15PM, Jonathan Anzalone of Stony Brook University presents "A Mountain in Winter: Wilderness Politics, Economic Development, and the Transformation of Whiteface Mountain into a Modern Ski Center, 1932-1980." Comment provided by Jim O'Connell, National Park Service. This seminar - part of the Environmental History series - examines the development of Whiteface Mountian as a skiing spot with the broader context of the Adirondack Park's transformation into a playground for the masses. Wilderness politics, class divisions, and the vicissitudes of nature combined to frustrate administrators and strain their relationship with business leaders, winter sports enthusiasts, and wilderness advocates. The debate sheds brighter light on disparate interpretations of modern recreation and economic development. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
On Saturday, 12 April, there will be a free tour that is open to the public. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour of the Society's home at 1154 Boylston Street. The tour explores all of the public space in the building, touching on the history, art, architecture, and collections of the Society. No reservation required for individuals or small groups. Parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending a tour. For more information please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, remember to visit the MHS soon to see the current exhibition, "Tell It With Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus-Saint Gaudens' Shaw Memorial." This exhibit, organized by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C., is open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM, through 23 May.
| Published: Sunday, 6 April, 2014, 12:00 PM
From Medicine to Music: #8 The Fenway
Around the Neighborhood - #8 the Fenway
These days, the Historical Society is hemmed in by institutions devoted to the study of music. Our neighbor to the east on Boylston Street is the Berklee College of Music. Around the corner to our southwest the New England Conservatory occupies several buildings. But, in looking through some old photos recently, I found that a very different group once rubbed shoulders with the MHS on the Fenway.
The second iteration of the Boston Medical Library was founded in 1875, thanks mainly to the efforts of the then 30-year-old Dr. James Read Chadwick with tremendous support from the older Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch. Beginning in December 1874, these two men and many other prominent Boston doctors held several meetings and published circular letters to gain support for the founding of a new medical library in the city. Once there was enough support, Chadwick drew up a constitution and by-laws for the new library and, in October of 1875, the Boston Medical Library opened in two rooms at No.5 Hamilton Place in downtown Boston. It would take only three years for the rooms to become inadequate for the Library’s needs.
In February, 1878, the Boston Medical Library Association began making appeals for help in acquiring a new space. The property they purchased was located at 19 Boylston Place, previously both the home of Dr. Samuel G. Howe and a boardinghouse. This spot served as the Library headquarters for the next 23 years until the space was outgrown once again. In his History of the Boston Medical Library¸ Dr. John Farlow noted that “There was no doubt that No.5 Hamilton Place was outgrown in 1878, and No. 19 Boylston Place was outgrown in a still greater degree in 1900. How the library ever continued to exist and serve its members in the overcrowded quarters, seems more or less of a wonder, as we look back on it.”[i]
In May 1899 members of the Library were asked to decide between two parcels of land on which to construct a new building. At the meeting, a committee presented brief statements advocating for either a lot at St. Botolph and Garrison Streets or a lot on the Fenway. Regarding the lot on the Fenway, the committee stated:
On the Fenway we can buy two (or three) lots facing west by south, and next the Historical building. The western light will be very strong on the front. We can build fifty feet front by one hundred deep. The rear is tolerable, but not attractive. The front view is unsurpassed. It will be quiet, clean, bleak. It will appreciate in value of land. We cannot build a symmetrical building, without wells and irregularities. We are limited to seventy feet in height on the front. We may be allowed to carry the rear higher for a book-stack. We must buy a third lot, and keep it wholly or partially unoccupied for side windows and for future growth. We shall have a building twice as long as it is wide, and with a dark centre, unless we have plenty of side windows.[ii]
With a vote of 53 for and 19 against, the Association decided in favor of the Fenway lots. A building committee composed of Drs. John Collins Warren, James Read Chadwick, and Farrar Cobb selected Shaw and Hunnewell as architects. In November 1899, the committee awarded the $86,000 contract for erecting the building to the McNeil Brothers. They also gave contracts for heating, bookstacks, wiring, and an elevator well with room for the machinery. By 12 January 1901, the Library opened to the public with a dedication occurring that evening, just two years after the completion of the MHS’ home at 1154 Boylston Street.
The Boston Medical Library in 1919 at 8 Fenway. A portion of the MHS is seen on the left. What do you think happened to the planned side windows? ("Boston Medical Library" Unknown Photographer, 1919. From the Massachusetts Views collection. Massachusetts Historical Society.)
The Boston Medical Library remained at #8 Fenway for 64 years until the Library closed its doors on 14 June 1965. Over the next two all of its holdings were removed and merged with the collection of Harvard’s newly built Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. On 16 June, the Countway opened to readers.
On 15 January 1964, the Boston Medical Library trustees agreed to sell their building to the neighboring Boston Conservatory of Music for the price of $300,000. The actual sale did not occur until after the move to the Countway in July 1965, and the Library did not officially vacate the property until 2 September.[iii]
If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the Boston Medical Library you can search our online catalog, ABIGAIL, to see what materials we have relating to it. In addition to several printed volumes relating to the Library, the MHS holds significant collections of materials related to many early members of the Library, including Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Collins Warren, and Charles Pickering Putnam.
[i] Farlow, John W., The History of the Boston Medical Library, Norwood, Mass.: The Plimpton Press, 1918.
[iii] Garland, Joseph E., The Centennial History of the Boston Medical Library, 1875-1975, Boston: Trustees of the Boston Medical Library, 1975.
| Published: Friday, 4 April, 2014, 4:21 PM
Perry-Clarke Collection Guide Online
The guide to the Perry-Clarke collection is now online! Originally acquired by the MHS back in 1968, this collection has been available for research since then, but the old unwieldy paper guide needed a major overhaul. We hope this streamlined, fully searchable online guide will bring even more researchers to these wide-ranging and important materials.
Primarily the papers of Unitarian minister, transcendentalist, author, and reformer James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) and his family, the collection consists of 64 boxes of correspondence, sermons, lectures, journals, notebooks, and other papers and volumes. Included are papers of Clarke's wife Anna (Huidekoper) Clarke and members of the Huidekoper family, who were involved in the establishment of Meadville Theological School in Meadville, Pennsylvania, as well as papers of James and Anna's children, Lilian, Eliot, and Cora. Much of the collection documents the family's interest in social reform movements.
The Perry-Clarke collection may be best known to our researchers as the home of the 1844 journal and commonplace-book of Margaret Fuller, a close friend of the family. But I found many other items equally interesting. For example, one small manuscript diary entitled “Notes of a Nile voyage by S. A. Clarke, 1873.” S. A. Clarke was James's older sister Sarah Anne, better known, it turns out, by the name she adopted later, Sarah Freeman Clarke (1808-1896). She was an accomplished artist, teacher, and philanthropist, and her Nile diary is that of a well-educated, well-traveled, late-Victorian American woman in an unfamiliar country.
Here's an excerpt from 22 Dec. 1873:
We left Alexandria at ten o’clock A.M. The way was of perpetual interest. The camels pleased us particularly, walking along the embankment. They walk with their long necks stretched out, and their heads well up. They are ugly, but most picturesque, and one never tires of watching their solemn stride. They carry wonderful burdens. Four or five large building stories bound together with ropes, on each side, and which must bruise them at every step, is a common burden. They are the most patient of laborers, and with their backs piled with burdens, and an Arab on the top of all they make a most sketchable mass.
And about two months later inside one of the temples at Karnak:
In the room next to that where is a portrait of Cleopatra, I unfold my easel to make a sketch of some Sphinx heads which lie there. The sun glares in at the door and the noise of the Arabs without is distracting. I close the door and the place is now lighted only from some holes in the roof. There is light enough for me, but if I move the dust rises in clouds. Is this the dust of the Ptolemaic or the Pharaonic dynasty? It is very choky. The flies are also tormenting. They are the direct descendants of the flies that Moses procured to plague Egypt. […] As I sit there working alone the spirit of the past comes over me with much power. I have never been so near the old Egyptians as at this moment. […] I get a Sepia sketch of this suggestive corner. There is no time for more. The door opens, the Arabs scream, my friends come to look me up and we must go on. But I have added something important to my gallery of memories, and also to my portfolio of sketches.
Sarah Freeman Clarke sailed the Nile in a dahabeah like this one (from the Perry-Clarke collection)
To learn more about James Freeman Clarke, Margaret Fuller, and the Clarke and Huidekoper families, see ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the MHS.
| Published: Thursday, 3 April, 2014, 11:26 AM