The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

A Church for a Zombie: Architecture in Salem, MA

One thing that I like about working as a reference librarian is the extreme variation in the nature of questions I receive from outside researchers. In a library like the MHS, it is commonplace to work on inquiries relating to 17th century matters, such as King Philip’s War or early Puritan evangelization of the Indians. In the same day, a researcher might ask about the Revolutionary or Civil Wars and the role of Massachusetts men in them. Then a researcher in Europe e-mails me looking for a single letter held at the Society written by composer Felix Mendelssohn in 1845. Some of these are stranger than others but all fit the description of historical research and pertain to materials we hold.

Something that I do not expect is to field a question that crosses over with my own enjoyment of heavy metal music. Specifically, we recently received via e-mail a very brief question from a researcher who was looking for information about a church that appeared in the horror film the Lords of Salem (2012). The movie was directed by Haverhill, MA native Rob Zombie (a.k.a. Robert Bartleh Cummings). Before getting into movie-making, he founded the band White Zombie in the late-1980s and the group went on to produce two multi-platinum albums in the ‘90s. After that band dissolved he continued on to a solo career. Unfamiliar with the movie, the connection gave me a chuckle and I decided to field the question myself.

I started by looking up the movie online to find screenshots that feature a church. It took a few tries, but soon enough I found an image of a woman sitting with a dog in front of a small stone church. Part of the movie was filmed on location in Salem, MA, so I thought it likely that the church was located there. I continued searching the web for more shots of and/or information about the church but to no avail. So, I took to the Society’s online catalog, ABIGAIL, to see what resources might be of use.

Beginning the search with the subject term “Salem (Mass.)” I soon found a sub-heading “Salem (Mass.) -- Buildings, Structures, etc., -- Guide Books.” This seemed to be an appropriate place to check and, lo and behold, the only title under this heading is Architecture in Salem: An Illustrated Guide. I called for the volume and, using the index, flipped through for images of churches in Salem. There were far more than I expected to see, a few of which looked like potential candidates. Then, near the back of the book, I found an image of the Dickson Memorial Chapel and Conservatory located in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Salem.

 

 

While the still shot that I saw from the movie showed only the back of the church, I used this photo and a couple others online to compare some prominent features to conclude that they are the same.

With Halloween quickly approaching, why not visit Salem and take a stroll around Greenlawn Cemetery to get a closer look at this little church? And, if you are so inclined and want to disrupt your sleep patterns, follow it up with some of Mr. Zombie’s horror films.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 24 October, 2014, 12:00 PM

“To the Women of Boston…”

Like many New Englanders, I followed the recent Market Basket labor strike with near-obsessive interest. Of course, a small, selfish part of me was irked that my “More for Your Dollar” shopping had been temporarily suspended. But beyond that, I was inspired by the employees’ bravery and revolutionary spirit. After weeks of negotiations and uncertainty, I was pleasantly surprised that the workers had triumphed over the CEOs. I’d noticed two important things while following the story; first, that many of the employees who were protesting “on the front lines,” as well as the consumer advocates who boycotted the store, were women. And secondly, that in the news media, many labor activists discussed the "record breaking" strike as distinctly unique to Massachusetts. These two facts are not particularly startling, given the state’s strong history of labor organizing and activism, much of which began with Massachusetts women.

In the 1830s, more than fifty years before labor movements became popular throughout the United States, the Lowell Mill women began organizing and striking, forming the first union of female workers in the United States. Over the next few decades, the same radical spirit picked up momentum and moved to the city of Boston. 

In 1874, forty-six years before the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, a group of female business owners in Boston formed the Business Woman's Mutual Benefit Association, which published circulars in Boston newspapers to advertise its services.

This circular, dated 27 February 1874, explains that “the object of [the] association [was] threefold:”

1st. To provide a fund from which a certain sum shall be paid to any member in case of sickness.

2nd. To provide a fund from which members in case of extreme need can obtain small loans, without interest, said loans to be returned by installments, in such sums and at such rates as shall be agreed upon.

3d. To provide respectable burial to deceased members.

To include as many people as possible, the Association established two tiers of membership: beneficiary members paid yearly dues and were subsequently entitled to all of the aforementioned benefits. Honorary members paid a one-time fee and received a certificate, but did not gain any benefits from the association. Men were “cordially invited to become Honorary members,” but the Board of Directors was comprised entirely of women.

Although women’s rights were not supported by the majority of Bostonians, the Association did have some allies. For instance, in its 2 April 1874 issue, The Index: A Weekly Newspaper Devoted to Free Religion, introduced the Association’s statement by writing:

We have been requested…to give a ‘word of notice’ to the following circular; but we find it so excellent that it seems proper to publish it in full in THE INDEX, with our heartiest approval of the organization and its object. Similar ones ought to be everywhere established; and the attention of all friends of the cause of women is called to one of the best plans yet devised to further it.

Nineteenth-century society provided independent women with very few legal and social rights, so these Bostonian businesswomen decided to organize and unite to protect themselves (and each other). Their circular states:

The constant complaint among women is that nothing is done to help them, pecuniarily, as a body, in case of need. The constant response of men is, that women will not unite as do men to help each other…by becoming members of, and thus supporting this association, women will not only effectually disprove the charge, but they will by this simple method do more to defeat the evil effects of unjust wages to women…

This last point seems particularly poignant and timely given that in mid-September, the United States Senate yet again blocked the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would have strengthened equal pay protections for women. Despite the valiant efforts of these pioneering ladies, women are still fighting to be paid equal wages, one hundred and forty years later. Perhaps we should look to these revolutionary nineteenth-century women for some twenty-first-century inspiration in our continued fight for gender equality.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 23 October, 2014, 1:00 AM

A Farewell to Summer in the Henry Daland Chandler Papers

The transition to autumn marks the end-of-summer close for many New England communities. Bustling summer destinations pack in, close up, and settle down for the upcoming winter. The long days of summer heat and noise grow cool, quiet, and short. New England foliage bursts with rich colors like a fireworks finale before surrendering to fate of the homeowner’s rake. Seasonal homes are winterized and summer residents return to their urban homes. In September 1921 Henry Daland Chandler supervised the winterizing of his family’s summer cottage, the Palace, in North Haven, Maine.

Among the earlier Bostonians to choose North Haven as a summer destination, the Chandlers’ presence on the island took the form of three summer cottages. In 1884-85, architect Francis W. Chandler designed the clubhouse called Paralyso for summer residents from Boston. This building later became a cottage. Frank also designed and built a family summer home named the Palace a few years later in 1887. A decade after the construction of the Palace, he completed a third cottage called the Anchorage in 1897.

This 15 September 1921 letter from architect Henry Daland Chandler, called Daland, to his parents, Frank and Alice Chandler, describes occurring and proposed improvements to the house and includes a beautiful illustration.

Here is what I had in mind for the alteration to the Palace: the large window to be plate-glass despite all the canons of architectural design. The dormer that you see peeping out on the north side of the house is an enlargement of that stuff room, and, though it doesn’t perhaps improve the appearance of the north side of the house it certainly would make that particular room more habitable in every way than it now is.

The house moves on apace here, and I really look forward to having the painters, and everybody out of here about the twentieth, so that it will be possible to have the cleaners in, and I may say they will have something to clean as this painting process isn’t the neatest thing in the world.

The correspondence within the Henry Daland Chandler papers documents the family’s return to their various homes in Massachusetts within the month. With summer drawing to a close, Daland returned to 40 Central Street while his parents arrived at 195 Marlborough Street in Boston. All good things must come to an end.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 22 October, 2014, 1:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It's all about Tuesday this week at the Society. First up that day, 21 October, is an author talk taking place at noon. Join local historian and author Barbara Berenson for "Civil War Boston" as she narrates a thrilling and memorable journey through the Hub in the Civil War. Black and white abolitionists dedicated to ending slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act and its repurcussions, soldiers marching to war, and women fighting to end slavery and realize their own desire to be full citizens of the Union are all included in the story. Berenson is the author of Walking Tours of Civil War Boston: Hub of Abolitionism (2011, 2nd ed. 2014) and co-editor of Breaking Barriers: The Unfinished Story of Women Lawyers and Judges in Massachusetts (2012). A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Barbara works as a senior attorney at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. This event is free and open to the public. 

Later that evening, beginning at 5:15PM, is "Popular U.S. Enthusiasm for Latin American Independence, 1810-1825," the latest installment in our Early American History seminar series. Presented by Caitlin A. Fitz of Northwestern University, this paper explores the reactions of those in the United States to the independence movements of Latin American nations in the 1800s. In general, U.S. observers were overjoyed by these movements; however, Massachusetts citizens were less thrilled. This presentation will analyze the national trend and the commonwealth’s deviation from it. Comment provided by John Bezis-Selfa of Wheaton College. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.

Finally, on Saturday, 25 October, come by the Society at 10:00AM for "The History and Collections of the MHS," a 90-minute docent-led tour of the MHS building which touches on the art, architecture, history, and collections of the MHS. While here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition, "Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I." Both the tour and the exhibition are free and open to the public. Parties of 8 or more, please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley in advance at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 19 October, 2014, 8:00 AM

“I can do nothing without you”: The 250th Anniversary of John and Abigail Adams

This month we celebrate the 250th wedding anniversary of John and Abigail Adams. Their marriage endured through separations, long in distance and time, war, partisan politics, and family hardships. Their distance and struggle became our treasure, because it is through their incredible correspondence that we obtain such an intimate look inside their lives—lives that in so many ways, are not so alien to our own.

     

About a month before their 25 October 1764, wedding, John Adams wrote to Abigail Smith movingly describing how important she was to him:

Oh my dear Girl, I thank Heaven that another Fortnight will restore you to me—after so long a separation. My soul and Body have both been thrown into Disorder, by your Absence, and a Month of two more would make me the most insufferable Cynick, in the World. I see nothing but Faults, Follies, Frailties and Defects in any Body, lately. People have lost all their good Properties or I my Justice, or Discernment.

But you who have always softened and warmed my Heart, shall restore my Benevolence as well as my Health and Tranquility of mind. You shall polish and refine my sentiments of Life and Manners, banish all the unsocial and ill natured Particles in my Composition, and form me to that happy Temper, that can reconcile a quick Discernment with a perfect Candour.

Abigail was that and more for John. His counselor and confidant, the one that even at the age of 61 and President of the United States, he could “do nothing without,” Abigail, while managing his beloved farm and caring for family, provided him with local news and gossip, advice, and a sympathetic ear. Likewise, for Abigail, when faced with trials of her own, she looked forward to a reunion with her dearest friend, where “I come to place my head upon your Bosom and to receive and give that consolation which sympathetick hearts alone know how to communicate.”

When Abigail died on October 28, 1818, just days after their fifty-fourth wedding anniversary, a heartbroken John wrote to his son John Quincy Adams, “My consolations are more than I can number. The Separation cannot be So long as twenty Separations heretofore. The Pangs and the Anguish have not been So great as when you and I embarked for France in 1778. . . . Love to your Wife. May you never experience her Loss.”

If you would like to learn more about this great American love story, the Abigail Adams Historical Society in Weymouth, MA, is holding a multi-day celebration and conference including remarks from Sara Martin, the Series Editor of the Adams Family Correspondence series, on October 24–26, 2014. Click here for more information.

 

 

Images:  Abigail Adams. Pastel on paper by Benjamin Blyth, circa 1766. Artwork 01.026; John Adams. Pastel on paper by Benjamin Blyth, circa 1766. Artwork 01.027

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 15 October, 2014, 1:00 AM

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