The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

It's another busy week here at the Society with a nice selection of public programs happening. Here's what is coming up;

- Monday 23 October, 12:00PM : Pack your lunch and stop by for a Brown Bag talk with Laura McCoy of Northwestern University. "'Let it be your resolution to be happy': Women's Emotion Work in the Early Republic" explores the everyday realities of expressing and managing emotions as a foundation of daily labors - emotion work - and helps us understand women's actions and self-perceptions in the early republic. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Monday, 23 October, 6:00PM : "Advise & Dissent?" is a conversation that examines the role of public history in modern life. This compelling panel discussion is open to the public and registration is required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). Pre-talk reception takes place at 5:30PM followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM. 

- Tuesday, 24 October, 5:15PM : Join us for the next installment of the Modern American Society and Culture seminar series. Led by Jennifer Way of the University of North Texas, "Allaying Terror: Domesticating Artisan Refugees in South Vietnam, 1956" explores the publication of photographs of North Vietnam refugee artisans in English-language mass print media. They aimed at resettling and domesticating the refugees while diminishing white American middle-class anxieties about the potential spread of communism in South Vietnam, a place Sen. John F. Kennedy pronounced "the cornerstone of the Free World in Southeast Asia." Commen is provided by Robert Lee of Brown University. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. THIS EVENT IS CANCELED DUE TO ILLNESS.

- Wednesday, 25 October, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk this week is given by Nancy Siegel of Towson University, and is called "Political Appetites: Revolution, Taste, and Culinary Activism in the Early Republic." Culinary activists furthered republican values in the revolutionary era as part of a political and cultural ideology. They developed a culinary vocabulary expressed in words and actions such as the refusal to consume politically charged comestibles, like imported tea, and the celebration of a national horticulture. Through these choices, they established a culinary discourse involving food, political culture, and national identity from the Stamp Act to the early republic. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Wednesday, 25 October, 6:00PM : "Weird and Worrisome" is a special walking tour of Jamaica Plain. All neigborhoods have secrets but some are stranger than others. In this event, participants will stop at sites of anarchist robberies, stuffed elephants, and a nervine asylum and hear tales of trainwrecks and things that lurk beneath the surfact of Jamaica Pond. The tour is hosted in collaboration with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and Jamaics Plain Historical Society. THIS TOUR IS SOLD OUT!

- Saturday, 28 October, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute, docent-led walk through the public spaces of the Society's home at 1154 Boylston St. The tour is free and open to the public with no need for reservations for individuals or small groups. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition, Yankees in the West

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 22 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, October 1917

Today we return to the 1917 diary of Gertrude Codman Carter. You may read the previous entries here:

 

Introduction | January | February | March | April | May

June | July | August | September

 

October 1917 is a lean month in Gertrude’s records, possibly because of Gilbert Carter’s return home from his long absence while Gertrude was relocating the family to Ilaro. After a final, hurried day of preparation on October 1st, Gilbert and Wickham -- the household servant who had traveled with him -- arrive and are greeted in fine style by a “grand gala festival.”

The sketch of her son, pasted over the entry for October 28th, has a faint inscription that seems to indicate that the drawing was made on the day of the visit to the photographer -- an inference supported by the fact that John appears to be wearing the same outfit as he wore in the photograph pasted into the September pages of the diary.

 

* * *

Oct 1.

Paid servants & rushed on with G’s room. Mickey & I moved books, put up curtains, laid down mats.

 

Oct 2.

Gilbert (and Wickham) arrived.

Grand gala festival.

Mr. Soelyn came up & witnessed my will.

 

Oct 3.

Talked.

 

Sketch of John

 

Oct 28.

G & I dined with Sir F. & Lady Clarke at the Crane. Festive occasion.

 

Oct 29.

Tea at the Challums. Laddy drove Mrs Gregg out & me in. 9 the [illegible].

We went to Bleak House.

 

Oct 30.

4.15 Miss Burton stonework.

 

Oct 31.

All Hallow’e’en Fete at the MacClaren’s 

Fete in red [illegible.]

 

* * *

As always, if you are interested in viewing the diary or letters yourself, in our library, or have other questions about the collection please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 20 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

“Mark, Traveler, this humble stone”: Quaint and Curious Epitaphs of Copp’s Hill Burying Ground

I find a visit to any of New England’s burying grounds fascinating year-round, but I consider treading among slate gravestones and timeworn monuments in October a quintessential New England experience. The leaves turn and fall, beautifully marking a transition from livelier months to the eventual stillness of winter. It’s a fitting setting to consider the lives and deaths of those memorialized on surrounding grave markers. In Historical Sketch of Copp’s Hill Burying-Ground with Descriptions and Quaint Epitaphs, published in 1909, John Norton provides an overview of Copp’s Hill in Boston and the burying ground’s gravestones. Norton begins with a history of Copp’s Hill, spanning its early days as “the North burying ground” through a time “when the well-to-do of Boston dwelt largely in the North End” to the end of the burying ground’s growth around 1832. The second half of this publication includes photographs and epitaphs of select gravestones and monuments.

Hull Street Entrance, Copps Hill Burying Ground

 

As I read through this Historical Sketch, I realized I neglect to spend as much time as I should to pause and read headstones as I walk through a graveyard. It’s a shame, because whether you appreciate some blunt wisdom from the grave or simply enjoy an eerie epitaph, these gravestones have you covered. Thankfully, John Norton mitigates my neglect with this compilation of “old epitaphs, many of them, as is usual in old burying-grounds, quaint and curious, some incoherent and ungrammatical.” Reading these lines on paper might not have the same effect as seeing them inscribed on their intended medium, but I found this publication a handy tool for noticing themes and considering intentions of particular inscriptions.

Copps Hill Buyring Ground. (Central Part.)

 

Norton includes his own commentary on certain epitaphs. He remarks, “Doubtless the oddest and most puzzling is that over the grave of Mrs. Ammey Hunt, who died in 1769. We have no clue to the neighborhood gossip hinted at in these peculiar lines:

A sister of Sarah Lucas lieth here,

Whom I did Love most Dear;

And now her Soul hath took its Flight,

And bid her Spightful Foes good Night.

 

Norton continues, noting an “even more amusing…tradition connected with the following conventional stanza” on the stone of Mrs. Mary Huntley:

Stop here my friends & cast an eye,

As you are now, so once was I;

As I am now, so you must be,

Prepare for death and follow me.

 

This reminder is a common theme of Copp’s Hill epitaphs, some phrased more motivationally than others:

Susanna Gray, July 9, 1798,––42.

Stranger as this spot you tread,

And meditate upon the Dead;

Improve the moments as they fly,

For all that lives must shortly die.

 

Mrs. Mary Harvey, died May 2, 1782, aged 63:

Mark, Traveler, this humble stone

‘Tis death’s kind warning to prepare

Thou too must hasten to the tomb

And mingle with corruption there.

 

Mrs. Hariot Jacobus, died, May 27, 1812, aged 20:

Stop here my friends as you pass by,

As you are now, so once was I;

As I am now, so you must be,

Therefore prepare to follow me.

 

Others take a more resigned, if not foreboding, approach:

Mrs. Mary Hughes, d. in 1765, aged 46:

Time, What an empty vapour t’is,

            And days, how swift they flay:

Our life is ever on the Wing,

            And Death is ever nigh.

The Moment when our Lives begin,

            We all begin to die.

 

Mrs. Sarah Collins, died March 29, 1771, aged 62:

Be ye also Ready for you

Know not the Day nor hour.

 

Many epitaphs of younger women and children express themes of virtue and youth, imagery of fading flowers:

Miss Mary Fitzgerald, died Sept. 30, 1787, aged 19:

Virtue & youth just in the morning bloom

With the fair Mary finds an early Tomb.

 

John S. Johnson, died Sept. 9, 1829, aged 6:

See the lovely blooming flower,

Fades and withers in an hour

So our transient comforts fly,

Pleasure only bloom to die.

 

Others offer a sort of rational wisdom to console mourners:

Mrs. Deborah Blake, d. in 1791, aged 21 years:

Friends as you pass, suppress the falling tear;

You wish her out of heaven to wish her here.

 

Mrs. Abigail Cogswell, died Jan. 19. 1782, aged 42:

To those who for their loss are griev’d

This Consolation’s given,

They’re from a world of woe reliev’d

We trust they’re now in heaven.

 

If you have the opportunity, I encourage an autumn visit to Copp’s Hill and other historic New England burying grounds. While you take in the site and scenery, spend some time considering the lives and deaths of the individuals whose graves are marked. Read what they or their loved ones chose to be inscribed on their stones. For inspiration, historical sketches, and legible transcriptions of “ye ancient epitaphs,” as Norton writes, read more about visiting the library to work with Norton’s Historical Sketch of Copp’s Hill Burying-Ground and related material.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It's a busy week here at the Society with programs galore for your enjoyment! Here is what's coming in the week ahead:

- Monday, 16 October, 12:00PM : The first Brown Bag talk this week features Hannah Anderson of the University of Pennsylvania and is called "'Lived Botany' : Settler Colonialism and Natural History in British North America." Anderson contends that natural historians in early America frequently benefited from information and plants provided by non-elite colonists who relied upon a form of knowledge that she calls "lived botany." Using methods inspired by material culture, household production, and more, "lived botany" shaped early American natural history, and facilitated settler colonialism by allowing colonists to adapt to new environments in the Atlantic world. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Tuesday, 17 October, 5:30PM : The first seminar this week is part of the History of Women and Gender series. "Gender, Sexuality, and the New Labor History" is a panel discussion with Anne G. Balay of Haverford College, Aimee Loiselle of the University of Connecticut, and Traci L. Parker of Umass-Amherst, and moderated by Seth Rockman of Brown University. The "New Labor History" is highly gendered, global, and often situated in spaces that are transitory or obscured. This session will consider the new directions that the path-breaking work of these three scholars indicates. Please note that there are no pre-circulated essays for this session which takes place at Fay House, Radcliffe Institute. To RSVP, e-mail seminars@masshist.org or call 617-646-0579.

- Wednesday, 18 October, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk of the week is about a project by Heather Sanford of Brown University. "Palatable Slavery: Food, Race, and Freedom in the British Atlantic, 1620-1838" uses food in the British Atlantic to understand ideas about the body, race, and freedom. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Thursday, 19 October, 5:30PM : "Chasing Your Subject: Traveling Biographers, Traveling Subjects," part of the New England Biography series of seminars, is another panel discussion. This session features a discussion with Paul Fisher of Wellesley College, Charlotte Gordon of Endicott College, and author Sue Quinn, moderated by Civil War biographer Carol Bundy. What do biographers learn when they travel to distant parts and foreign countries in pursuit of their subjects? Is travel a necessary component to writing biography? And what challenges does a traveling subject present to a biographer? Come listen to these biographers talk about their experiences with such questions. To RSVP, e-mail seminars@masshist.org or call 617-646-0579.

- Friday, 20 October, 2:00PM : "Looking West from the East" is a biographical sketch of Chiang Yee, artist, poet, lecturer, and best-selling author best known for his Silent Traveler books. Chiang was also good friends with historian, author, and Boston Athenaeum librarian Walt Whitehil, whose papers are at the MHS. This program offers a unique perspective on America and the immigrant experience as well as a glimpse into the life of the Silent Traveler through one of his closest friendships. Registration is required for this program at no cost. 

- Saturday, 21 October, 9:00AM : K-12 educators are invited "The Material Culture of Death." In this workshop, participants will use documents and photographs from the Society's collections to investigate spirit photography, the spiritualist movement, and other fascinating intersections of technology, faith, and grief. Registration is required for this event with a fee of $25.

- Saturday, 21 October, 2:00PM : Join us for a talk with Peter Manseau, author of The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, & the Man Who Captured Lincoln's Ghost. The stories recounted by Manseau offer a view of our nation's obsession with the afterlife and our reluctance to choose science over fantasy. This talk is open to the public free of charge, though registration is required. 

Finally, don't forget to come in and check out our current exhibition! Yankees in the West is open to the public, free of charge. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 15 October, 2017, 12:00 AM

Meet Your Archivists!

October is Archives Month, and to celebrate our wonderful archivists, we would like to introduce them to you! Every day the very talented and skilled archivists of the MHS work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that theSociety's collections are safe, properly preserved, well-organized, and accessible for use today and for future generations.

To introduce them to you, we asked our archivists a few fun questions, and here are their answers:

 

Collection Services:

Katherine H. Griffin, Nora Saltonstall Preservation Librarian

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Kathy: William Sturgis papers.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Kathy: I was in a “public history” master’s degree program at Northeastern University, thinking I wanted to work in museums, and I had an adjunct professor from the MHS.  We had a tour of the MHS for one of the classes, and I was completely captivated by manuscripts and paper conservation.

Several years later, a position came open at the MHS and Anne Bentley called me and told me to apply, which I did, and Voila!

What is a fun fact about you?

Kathy: I never wanted to live in a city, but now it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.

*****

Peter Steinberg, Digital Projects Production Specialist 

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Peter: The Wilder Dwight letter he wrote as he lay dying.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Peter: For the benefits.

What is a fun fact about you?

Peter: I like All Bran.

*****

 

Reader Services:

Alexandra Bush, Library Assistant

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Alex: It’s hard to choose a favorite, but one item from our collections that I really love is Christopher P. Cranch’s 1839 journal (part of the Christopher P. Cranch papers). It includes some great cartoons and rough doodles representing Cranch’s interest in the Transcendentalist movement. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is an early sketch of Cranch’s famous “transparent eyeball” cartoon, which is based on a passage from Emerson’s Nature. (Here’s a link to the digitized version of the journal -> http://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=3279&mode=large&img_step=12#page12)

Why did you become an Archivist?

Alex: I chose to become an archivist because I wanted an outlet for my love of history that allowed me to do my own research as well as help other people who also love history. I’m also really into organizing things!

What is a fun fact about you?

Alex: I’m an aspiring artist and also a dweeb who secretly loves video games.

Favorite archival tool?

Alex: The microspatula!

*****

Brendan Kieran, Library Assistant

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Brendan: One item I enjoyed working with, and writing about, this year is the volume of Cigar Factory Tobacco Strippers’ Union records, 1899-1904, that is included in the Society’s collection of Boston Central Labor Union (Mass.) records. It was exciting to read about some ways in which women in Boston organized and responded to their working conditions during that period. Eventually, I’d like to look through other items in this collection and learn more about union activities in late 19th- and early 20th-century Boston.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Brendan: I gained my initial exposure to the field as an archives volunteer during my junior year of college. After I graduated, I sought out more opportunities in libraries and archives, and, as I gained more experience, I came to the conclusion that this was what I wanted to do long-term. Now I’m in library school, and I’m definitely happy that I chose this field!

What is a fun fact about you?

Brendan: My go-to fun fact is that I’m an identical twin!

*****

 Erin Weinman, Library Assistant

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Erin: It is really hard to pick just one item, but I absolutely love our collection of Powder Horns from the American Revolution. The designs on the horns are so interesting to look at and make each one very unique. They always give such a unique perspective on the soldiers who fought during the war. They also show who can and cannot draw, which I think we can all relate to today!

Why did you become an Archivist?

Erin: I absolutely love history, and I was very active in gaining experience in museums and archives growing up. I was introduced to public history in college which put a lot of emphasis on the importance archives had in the field. I knew right away that I wanted to be the person who assisted researchers in gaining access to archival records, create exhibits, and educate future historians. It has been very rewarding to work first-hand with materials and provide reference to such a diverse group of researchers. To me, there is nothing more important than having full access to our historical past!

What is a fun fact about you?

Erin: It is my goal to visit all of the National Parks in our country! I have been slowly making my way through the parks in the North East, but there are over 450 to visit!

*****

 

Dan Hinchen, Reference Librarian

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Dan: I can't say that I have a single favorite. Usually, it is whatever collection/item I am currently working with. Recently, while working on a reference question, I did some digging through a small collection of Smith family papers. Included are some logbooks and account books kept by Capt. William Smith - apparently, the first ship captain to pilot a U. S. ship to Siam (Thailand), in 1818. Inside the volumes are several pencil drawings of various vessels, including a couple that depict the U. S. S. Constitution engaged in battle with the H. M. S. Gurriere, an event that was part of the War of 1812.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Dan: After college I was working a few part-time jobs and not pursuing a career in biology. Library school is something that was suggested by a couple of people near and dear to me, and I liked the sound of working in archives as a profession. Ten years later and here I am!

What is a fun fact about you?

Dan: In the summertime I have a second life, my weekends lived in the kitchen of a small clam shack on Cape Cod. Fry or die!

*****

 

Now that you have had the chance to meet some of our archivists, come visit the MHS to meet more of our fascinating staff. We welcome questions about the MHS collections as well as the archival profession, and would be happy to tell you more! Email us at Library@masshist.org or call us with any questions at 617-646-0532. 

 

Happy Archives Month from all of us at the MHS!

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 October, 2017, 3:50 PM

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