The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 28 May, for Memorial Day.

As we return to the building after a long holiday weekend, we are looking at a fairly quiet week before the activity increases in June. Here are the events on the schedule this week:

- Wednesday, 30 May,12:00PM : This week's Brown Bag talk is with short-term research fellow Abigail Cooper of Brandeis University. "Conjuring Emancipation: Making Freedom in the U. S. Civil War's Refugee Camps"  examines the political work of revival in wartime refugee camps and envisions emancipation as a religious event. It reckons with religion as a mediating force between the enslaved and the state, asking "Who belongs and how?" for those negotiating statelessness and peoplehood in the midst of self-emancipation.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Wednesday, 30 May, 6:00PM : "Apostles of Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, Monroe, & the Struggle against the Old Order in America & Europe" is an author talk with John Ferling of University of West Georgia who discusses his newest book of the same name. As Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Monroe risked their lives and their liberty for  American independence, and as reformers, each rejoiced at the opportunity to be part of the French Revolution, praying that it in turn would inspire others to sweep away Europe’s monarchies and titled nobilities. But as the 18th century unfolded, these three embarked on different routes to revolution. As writers, soldiers,and statesmen, these three men reshaped their country and the Western world.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows, or EBT cardholders). Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.

- Saturday, 2 June, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or

While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 27 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

Anna Peabody Bellow’s Travel Diary

Anna Peabody Bellow’s 1864 travel diary documents her voyage to England and France as a young and wealthy New England young woman during the Civil War. Included among her paragraph-a-day entries are watercolor and pencil sketches, perspective as a tourist in Europe, and a reminder that some things never change.

The Paris Bellows describes is under the Haussmann renovation and many famous landmarks make cameos in her diary.  She records sights such as the Champs Elysees, the Madeline, Notre Dame, and the Pantheon, which she described her visit as “a little uncomfortable visiting the tombs underneath.” I had a similar experience visiting the Pantheon crypt a few years ago, but seeing the resting place of legendary French writers was worth the chill. 

Though a tourist in the 1800s, Bellows’ account of Parisian museum going could be a post on TripAdvisor.  In an entry, Anna Peabody Bellows and her brother-in-law Charles are turned away from a museum without a ticket, “However by some hocus pocus Charles soon got in of course.”  I’m amused that charming one’s way into museums is not recent practice, and Bellow’s dry humor regarding museums does not stop there. At the Louvre’s sculpture gallery her blasé tone is incredible: “These much disappointed. Venus of Milo really the only thing we appreciate.”

Bellows and her entourage vacationed in Europe during the Civil War with little reference to current events in her diary full of social calls, travel itineraries, and statements of health.  I wonder her reason for traveling to Europe in the midst of a war and if she felt more anxiety for her country beyond the page. While the daily entries are short, they capture the essence of the day in the lists of monuments visited and names of the people with whom she dined.  In the lists of sight-seeing, she includes sketches to prompt her memory.

 For example, she meets “women with very funny hats on” as they wear traditional Lyonnais dress for a summer festival.

As a high school student preparing to take a gap year to study in Tours, France, I feel encouraged to keep my own travel journal for the sake of being fashionable in the 1860s.  Inspired by Bellows’ diaries, I would like to capture my surroundings not only through words but also in my amateur watercolor illustrations. I would like to research into the reason for the Bellow’s family trip during the Civil War, but in the meantime, I make the connection: Bellows left the Boston she knew well to see France, as I will this fall. While I’m not leaving the country during a war, Bellows and I have looked to Europe for a brief escape, in my case, one year of studying language for pleasure before jumping into four years of academics.

All in all, this journal is a delight for its pointed observations, illustrations, and addition to the account of Americans in Paris. If you are traveling this summer visit the library to check out this diary or other travel dairies at the MHS for inspiration on journal keeping.




comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 26 May, 2018, 1:00 AM

Immigration and Trade in Early 20th-Century Worcester

The Rockwood Hoar Papers at the MHS document the life and career of Rockwood Hoar, a Worcester, Massachusetts lawyer and politician who lived from 1855 to 1906. Hoar was the son of United States Senator George Frisbie Hoar, and he served in Congress himself toward the end of his life. Among Hoar’s papers are his legal files which are arranged alphabetically by client name, including immigrants from various countries. I looked into these files and focused specifically on the file relating to Ideem Fatool,* a Worcester resident who was, according to a September 1905 Hoar letter (a copy of which is in the collection), Syrian. Through my reading of these materials I got a sense of the research possibilities these papers offer for anyone studying the experiences of immigrants in late 19th- and early 20th-century Massachusetts.

Copy of a 6 September 1905 letter from Rockwood Hoar to George A. Carmichael of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad


Ideem Fatool lived at 31 Norfolk Street in Worcester and worked in “rugs” in 1905, according to the 1905 Worcester Directory (p. 238; Fatool’s first name is listed as “Saleem” in this directory). His file relates to a claim he made with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad after a trunk of goods he shipped was lost along the way to its destination in Pennsylvania. In an undated typescript copy of a letter addressed to the railroad company, Fatool lists items in the lost shipment along with their values. He lists the total value of the goods as $157. His letter is followed by correspondence between September 1905 and March 1906, primarily involving Fatool’s lawyers and railroad representatives. Hoar writes to railroad agent George A. Carmichael about the issue in September. Carmichael responds the following week indicating that the railroad would require more information, and writes again in October to state that he is passing the dispute along to Boston freight claim agent T. C. Downing.

In November and February letters, Downing follows up with additional details relating to the status of the claim, and writes in his February letter that, without additional evidence, they would not accept Fatool’s statement relating to the value of the goods as accurate. Hoar sends information about the case to another lawyer, Charles F. Aldrich, in a February letter, and a Downing letter sent the following month is addressed to Aldrich. Downing writes that the company believed Fatool claimed the goods to be worth five times more than they actually were, and in a xenophobic comment, attributes this to the fact that Fatool was an immigrant and implies that he was likely looking for money from the company.


Rockwood Hoar to George A. Carmichael, 30 October 1905.


The last two items in the folder are February and March 1906 letters written from Aldrich to Hoar. These letters contain updates relating to the case. In both letters, Aldrich writes that Fatool had left the country, but the lawyer doesn’t seem certain of Fatool’s destination. In his 27 February 1906 letter, he writes that “Fatool has gone back to Europe,” and in his 6 March 1906 letter, he writes that “Fatool has gone back to the interior of his native country, which is Syria or Armenia, I am not sure which.” In his final letter, Aldrich notes that he is still attempting to find out more from the company about the issue, but it seems that he had hit a roadblock.

The materials in this file provide some glimpses into the Worcester of the period and the ways that immigrants helped to shape it. The list of goods in Fatool’s shipment includes wool, perfume soap, a silk spread cover, a quilt, drawnwork, and other items. Additionally, the folder includes a card for Orfalea Bros. & Co. in Worcester. The card lists laces, drawn work, Turkish rugs, and kimonas as some of the items they sold. The card also lists various cities and countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe from which they imported items. These items provide brief but insightful evidence of international trade networks of the period and invite further research into the roles Syrian immigrants to the United States played within these networks and within the Worcester community.

On a side note, I took to the Internet to see if I could find out anything else about Fatool, and interestingly, according to a blog post by Chet Williamson of Jazz Riffing on a Lost Worcester, a Saleem Fatool was the father of Nick Fatool, a noted drummer born in Millbury, Massachusetts who played with Benny Goodman and other acts in the mid-20th century. Williamson references Millbury birth records that give Syria as the country of origin for Nick Fatool’s parents. A little more digging would be required to confirm whether or not this Saleem Fatool was the same individual as the person I write about in this post, so I can only speculate at this point, but this was an exciting find, and the fact that I also play the drums made it particularly exciting for me.

If you are interested in looking at the Rockwood Hoar Papers, feel free to view them here in the MHS library. Most of the collection is stored offsite, so library staff recommends requesting the materials through Portal1791 at least two business days before your intended visit, but they are otherwise open and available for research!


*Fatool’s first and last names are spelled multiple ways by the correspondents in the file. The name “Ideem Fatool” is used here, as it is the one that is written on the folder and used in the collection guide. However, as noted in the text of this post, the spelling “Saleem,” which does not appear among the papers in Hoar’s file, is used in the 1905 Worcester Directory and in the sources cited by Chet Williamson in the Jazz Riffing on a Lost Worcester blog post, which makes me wonder if “Saleem Fatool” is the correct spelling of Fatool’s name.





comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 25 May, 2018, 9:23 AM

Odd Accounts : Ship Sketches and More in the Smith Family Papers

As many of my colleagues have pointed out in the past here on the Beehive, one of the joys of working with the manuscript collections at the MHS is finding something unexcpected when going through a box of material.

Recently, I tried to answer a reference question from a remote researcher that deal with a ship captain from the early 19th century. As it turned out, I made a bit of a mistake and provided information on the wrong person. However, it turned out to be a happy accident because of what I ended up finding, and which may have otherwise escaped my notice.

The Smith family papers are a single-box collection of manuscripts that contains several volumes of Capt. William Smith of Boston. Each of these volumes is tucked inside its own folder with a brief title that indicates what the volume contains: "Account book," "Letterbook," "Log of Mary." However, within these volumes there are some surprises. For example, in a letterbook dated 1812, not only are there manuscript copies of several pieces of correspondence, but also several pages of accounts and ship inventories, and even a couple of poems.

Still, it is not so unusual to find something like poetry in a letterbook maintained by a man who would have been at sea for weeks or months at a time.

A standard account book page detailing a ship's inventory.

To me, the real treasure is inside a thin volume simply labeled "Accounts, 1812-17." While there are many pages of ship inventories, accounts, and invoices, as the title so faithfully indicates, much less expected are the myriad hand-drawn images of various ships done with wonderful detail.

"The Spanish Letter of Marque la Catalina, of 10 guns, Lorenze Joze Gonzales. Formerly the Brig Erin of Norfolk Virg. William Smith Master."


Elsewhere in the account book is another picture of the above ship where it is simply identified as the Brig Erin of Norfolk, mastered by William Smith.

Another drawing shows the Brig Mary, the log of which is also housed in the Smith family papers.

"Mary of Boston."


"Independence, 74 Guns [Commodore] William Bainbridge."

In addition to these standalone images there is a series of three drawings that detail the encounter between the United States Frigate Constitution and H. M. S. Guerriere on 19 August 1812.

"The United States Frigate Constitution, Isaac Hull, Esq, Commander, bearing down upon and preparing to engage the British Frigate Le Gurriere, Capt. Dacres, August 19, 1812."

The story of this naval battle early in the War of 1812 is well-known and well-documented with many tributes in text and in image available, so I will not attempt to rehash that here, except to say that this battle is where the U. S. ship received its nickname, "Old Ironsides." [See below for some websites that recount the battle.]

But the drawings themselves are worth a look.

"In 15 minutes the Constitution cuts away the Gurriere's mizen mast."

"In 43 minutes the Gurriere totally dismasted, when she fires her Lee gun and surrenders."


Finally, the account-keeper even included a couple of rebuses in this volume. Longtime visitors to the Beehive may remember a post here a few years ago about rebuses, written by MHS alum Kittle Evenson. ["Cryptic Communique..."] After you re-read Kittle's entry, you can come back here and see if you can figure out one of the word puzzles. As of publication, I have yet to crack it!


As always, if you see something here of interest and want to view it in person, consider Visiting the Library!

Further Reading

- "USS Constitution in the War of 1812." Naval History and Heritage Command. Accessed 22 May 2018 at

- USS Constitution Museum, "Sea Dog: Guerriere the Terrier," USS Constitution Museum website. Accessed 23 May 2018 at

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 4:36 PM

This Week @ MHS

It is a fairly quiet week at the Society as we head toward a long holiday weekend. Here is what is happening in the coming days:

- Monday, 21 May, 6:00PM : We start things off with an author talk featuring Alan Hoffman who will discuss Lafayette In America. In 1824 and 1825 General Lafayette made a farewell tour of the United States. The 67-year-old hero was welcomed in an adoring frenzy. The visit to Boston of the sole surviving major general of the Continental Army was one of the largest celebrations the city had ever seen. A “Committee of Arrangements” was organized to rent and furnish an appropriate home and all of the furniture was purchased from Isaac Vose & Son. Hoffman will recount the general’s visit and discuss his translation of Lafayette’s private secretary’s journal.

This talk is open to the public, free of charge, though registration is required. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.

- Wednesday, 23 May, 12:00PM : "Are We Descended from Puritans or Pagans?: New England's Critique of Manifest Destiny" is the title of a Brown Bag talk with current short-term research fellow Daniel Burge of the University of Alabama. This talk examines the religious critique of manifest destiny put forth by New Englanders from 1848-1871. Although manifest destiny is often portrayed as an ideology rooted in Puritan theology, this talk explores how opponents of expansion in New England used religion to castigate and separate themselves from this ideology.

Brown Bag talks are free and open to the public, so pack a lunch and stop on by!

Please note that the library is CLOSED on Saturday, 26 May, though the galleries remain OPEN, 10:00AM-4:00PM. Stop by and see our current exhibition The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815-1825.

The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 28 May, in observance of Memorial Day. Normal hours resume on Tuesday, 29 May.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 20 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

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