The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Announcing 2015-2016 Research Fellowships

Each year the MHS grants a number of research fellowships to scholars from around the country.  For more information about the different fellowship types, click the headings below. 

Our various fellowship programs bring a wide variety of researchers working on a full range of topics into the MHS library. If any of the research topics are particularly interesting to you, keep an eye on our events calendar over the course of the upcoming year, as all research fellows present their research at brown-bag lunch programs as part of their commitment to the MHS. 

A hearty congratulations to all of the fellowship recipients.  We look forward to seeing you all in the MHS library in the upcoming year. 


MHS-NEH Long-term Research Fellowships (thanks to the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent agency of the U.S. government):

Christine Desan
Harvard Law School
“Designing Money in Early America: Experiments in Political Economy (1680-1775)”

Wendy Roberts
SUNY Albany
“Redeeming Verse: The Poetics of Revivalism”

Suzanne and Caleb Loring Research Fellowship On the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences (with the Boston Athenaeum):

Robert Mann
“The Contact of Human Souls”

 Kevin Waite
University of Pennsylvania
“The Slave South in the Far West: California, the Pacific, and Proslavery Visions of Empire”

MHS Short-Term Research Fellowships:

African-American Studies Fellow

Ben Davidson
New York University
“Freedom's Generation: Coming of Age in the Era of Emancipation”

Andrew Oliver Fellow

Joseph Lasala
Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies
“Fiske Kimball's Thomas Jefferson Architect”

Andrew W. Mellon Fellows

Rebecca Brannon
James Madison University
“Did the Founding Fathers Live Too Long?”

Christina Carrick
Boston University
“Among Strangers in a Distant Climate: Loyalist Exiles Define Empire and Nation, 1775-1815”

Travis Jaquess
University of Mississippi
“Founding Daddies: Republican Fatherhood and the American Revolution and Early Republic, 1763-1814”

Benjamin Kochan
Boston University
“Looking East and Thinking Below the Surface: Ecology and Geopolitics in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, 1945-2006”

Gregory Michna
West Virginia University
“Facing Outward and Inward: Native American Missionary Communities in New England, 1630-1763”

Scott Shubitz
Florida State University
“Emancipating the American Spirit: Reconstruction and Renaissance in New England, 1863-1877”

Sueanna Smith
University of South Carolina
“African Americans and the Cultural Work of Freemasonry: From Revolution through Reconstruction”

Jordan Taylor
Indiana University-Bloomington
“English Channels: Globalization and Revolution in the Anglophone Atlantic, 1789-1804”

Peter Walker
Columbia University
“The Church Militant: The American Émigré Clergy and the Making of the British Counterrevolution, 1763-92”

Benjamin F. Stevens Fellow

Sarah Templier
Johns Hopkins University
“Between Merchants, Shopkeepers, Tailors, and Thieves: Circulating and Consuming Clothes, Textiles, and Fashion in French and British North America, 1730-1774”

Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellows

Daina Ramey Berry
University of Texas at Austin
“Ghost Values of the Domestic Cadaver Slave Trade”

Amy Hughes
Brooklyn College – CUNY
“An Actor's Tale: Theater, Culture, and Everyday Life in Nineteenth-Century America”

Margaret Newell
Ohio State University
“Miles to Freedom: William and Ellen Craft and the Struggle for Black Rights in Nineteenth-Century America and England”

Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellow

Karen Weyler
University of North Carolina – Greensboro
“Urban Printscapes: One Hundred Years of Print in the City”

Marc Friedlaender Fellow

Mary Hale
University of Illinois – Chicago
“Fictions of Mugwumpery: The Problem of Representation in the Gilded Age”

Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellow

Katlyn Carter
Princeton University
“Practicing Representative Politics in the Revolutionary Atlantic World: Secrecy, Accountability, and the Making of Modern Democracy”

Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellows 

Alisa Wade Harrison
CUNY Graduate Center
“An Alliance of Ladies: Power, Public Affairs, and Gendered Constructions of the Upper Class in Early National New York City”

Julia James
Syracuse University
“Women in the Woods: War, Gender, and Community in the Native Northeast”

W. B. H. Dowse Fellows

Katie Moore
Boston University
“‘a just and honest valuation’: Money and Value in Colonial America, 1690-1750”

Joanne Jahnke Wegner
University of Minnesota
“Captive Economies: Commodified Bodies in Colonial New England, 1630-1763”

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) Awards (with 21 other institutions; the * indicates that part of fellowship will be completed at the MHS):

Jenny Barker-Devine
Illinois College  
“American Athena: Constructing Victorian Womanhood on the Midwestern Frontier”

*Cynthia Bouton
Texas A&M
“Subsistence, Society, Commerce, and Culture in the Atlantic World in the Age of Revolution (1770s-1820s)”

*Jennifer Chuong
Harvard University
The Chargeable Surface: Investment, Interval, and Yield in Early America

Bradley Dixon
University of Texas at Austin
“Republic of Indians: Indigenous Vassals, Subjects, and Citizens in Early America”

*Mehmet Dogan
Istanbul Teknik Universitesi
“From New England into New Lands: The Journey of American Missionaries to the Middle East”

*Andrew Edwards
Princeton University
“Money and the American Revolution”

Michele Fazio    
UNC at Pembroke          
“The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Italian American Family: Immigrant Women's Roles Redefined”

Mary Freeman 
Columbia University      
“Letter Writing and Politics in the Campaign Against Slavery in the United States, 1830-1870“

Jeffrey  Gonda 
Syracuse University       
“No Crystal Stair: Black Women and Civil Rights Law in Postwar America”

Cynthia Greenlee            
Duke University
“The Fruits of Our Race: African-Americans and the Politics of Abortion, 1860-1975”

Amy Hughes     
Brooklyn College - CUNY              
“An Actor's Tale: Theater, Culture, and Everyday Life in Nineteenth-Century America”

*Kathryn Lasdow
Columbia College
“Spirit of Improvement: Construction, Conflict, and Community in Early National Port Cities”

Rebecca Rosen
Princeton University      
“Making the Body Speak: Anatomy, Autopsy, and Testimony in Early America, 1639-1790”

Elizabeth Sharrow           
University of Massachusetts      
“Forty Years ‘On the Basis of Sex’: Title IX, the ‘Female Athlete,’ and the Political Construction of Sex and Gender

Amy Sopcak-Joseph      |
University of Connecticut             
“The Lives and Times of Godey's Lady's Book, 1830-1877”

David Thomas   
“Temple University        
The Anxious Atlantic: Revolution, Murder, and a "Monster of a Man" in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic World.”

*Emily Torbert
University of Delaware
“Going Places: The Material and Imagined Geographies of Prints in the Atlantic World, 1770-1840”

*Michael Zakim
Tel Aviv University
“Inventing Industrial America at the Crystal Palace”




comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 6 June, 2015, 1:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

June is arrived, and with it come brown bags and conversations at the MHS. 

On Monday, 1 June, stop by at noon for a Brown Bag lunch talk given by Kristina Garvin of Ohio State University. "The Cultural Work of the Serial in U.S. Literature, 1786-1815" gives an overview of serial ficiton in the early republic and explores its particular uses and features. This program is free and open to the public. 

Wednesday, 3 June, sees another Brown Bag starting at noon, this time given by Jordan Smith of Georgetown University. His project, "The Invention of Rum," investigates the history of rum in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. 

On Wednesday evening, there is a special author talk and conversation facilitated by independent author and activisit Jim Vrabel. "How Community Activism Made the New Boston Better" will focus on the rise in community activism in the 1960s and 1970s as well as the state of activism today. Joining Vrabel are Tom Corrigan, Moe Gillen, Renee Loth, and M. Daniel Richardson, Jr. This event is open to the public with a fee of $10 (no charge for Fellows and Members), and registration is required so please RSVP. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM with the event starting at 6:00PM. 

And on Saturday, 6 June, stop by at 10:00AM for the History and Collections of the MHS. Docent-led and lasting about 90 minutes, this free tour explores the public rooms in our historic building and touches on the art, history, architecture and collections at the Society. Tours are open to the public, free of charge, with no reservation needed for individuals or small groups. Parties of 8 or more should contact the Curator of Art, Anne Bentley, in advance at 617-646-0508 or

Also on Saturday, beginning at 1:00PM, is the third installment of "Begin at the Beginning: Boston's Founding Documents." Led by historian Abby Chandler and the Partnership of Historic Bostons will look at the Massachusetts 1641 Body of Liberties, the first legal code in the English colonies. The talk is free and open to the public, RSVP required. No expertise necessary, just an interest in the history of where we live. 

Finally, don't forget to come in and view our current exhibition: "God Save the People! From the Stamp Act to Bunker Hill." This exhibit is open to the public free of charge, Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 31 May, 2015, 8:57 AM

Untangling North Atlantic Fishing, 1764-1910, Part 4: The Halifax Fisheries Commission, 1877

The United States abrogated the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 regarding free trade and inshore fishing on 17 March 1866, as discussed in a prior post. The fishery arrangements then reverted back to the Treaty of 1818 agreement that secured the 3-nautical mile coastal area for resident Canadian fishermen and prohibited further inshore fishing to Americans. Canadian inshore fishing regulation transformed into a licensing business applied to American vessels at per-tonnage fee from 1866 until 1870. When Canadian authorities discarded the licensing system and began seizing American vessels over a two-year period, the need for improved arrangement led in part to the Treaty of Washington in 1871.

Among other issues of Northwestern border disputes and damages caused by British-built warships in the Civil War, the Treaty of Washington also addressed the future state of fishing rights between the newly formed Dominion of Canadian and the United States. The commissioners settled the issue of rights of American fishermen in Canadian waters by proposing a mixed commission meet in Halifax, Nova Scotia to determine value for reciprocal privileges. The Halifax Fisheries Commission met in June 1877. The representatives included British-Canadian Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt, American Ensign H. Kellogg, and Belgian Minister to the United States, M. Maurice Delfosse. William Henry Trescot and Richard Henry Dana, Jr., represented the United States counsel against a 5-man British-Canadian contingent. 

Richard Henry Dana, Jr. of Boston, Mass. advocated that fishing in Canadian waters should remain free to Americans. “[The Reciprocity Treaty of 1854] made no attempt to exclude us from fishing anywhere within the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and it allowed no geographic limits,” he argued. “And from 1854 to 1866 we continued to enjoy and use the free fishery, as we had enjoyed and used it from 1620 to 1818.” He reasoned that the precedent for the free fishery had been established, that the fish do not adhere to ocean limits, and asked the purpose in establishing these limits:

“The right to fish in the sea is in its nature not real, as the common law has it, nor immovable, as termed by the civil law, but personal. It is a liberty. It is a franchise, or a faculty. It is not property, pertaining to or connected with the land. It is incorporeal. It is aboriginal. … These fish are not property. Nobody owns them … they belong, by right of nature, to those who take them, and every man may take them who can.”

The prose of Dana’s argument did not impress the Commission. In a split decision on 23 November 1877, the Commission determined that the United States was to pay $5,500,000 in gold to the British Government for fishing rights in Canadian waters. Despite Ensign H. Kellogg’s protest, the United States paid this sum to the British Government.



comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 29 May, 2015, 10:30 AM

The More Things Change....

Today’s media commentators like to decry political polarization and incivility in the United States. It’s become a well-worn cliché: Why can’t we all just get along? Some will even claim that this polarization is worse now than ever before. (Of course, we only have to go back 150 years to find Americans literally at war with other Americans, but let’s put that aside for the moment.) I’d like to present, as evidence for the defense, a letter written in 1813, when this nation was still in its infancy. The letter forms part of the Henry P. Binney family papers at the MHS.

In mid-1813, Benjamin Homans (1765-1823) worked as chief clerk of the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. His friend and colleague Amos Binney (1778-1833) was the Navy Agent at Boston. The United States was a year into the War of 1812, and Boston was a hotbed of dissent. New England Federalists and merchants vehemently opposed “Mr. Madison's War, largely because of their reliance on trade with England. Binney lived and worked in the belly of the beast as an agent for the federal government, and Homans sympathized. He wrote to Binney on 23 June 1813:

You may be very sure, that I am no stranger to the active operation of evil spirits in Boston, party spirit, selfish spirit, envious spirit, proud spirit, family spirit, mean dirty spirit, assassin spirit, infernal spirit, tory spirit, royal english spirit, pseudo patriot spirit, hypocritical sanctity spirit, professional spirit, Jew spirit & Turk spirit. […] I conceive that every good quality, every moral virtue, and every social principle to be rapidly depreciating in Boston, and that it is at this day the vilest and most profligate spot on Earth, and for myself, my heirs & successors, I would prefer a residence in Algiers, Siberia or Botany Bay, than to live within one hundred miles of the atmosphere tainted by the noxious breath of Ben Russell and the Junto and their satellites.

Wow! Homans certainly didn’t mince words. A little bit of context: Benjamin Russell (1761-1845) was the editor of Boston’s hugely popular and staunchly Federalist Columbian Centinel. He had editorialized against Thomas Jefferson and now regularly attacked his successor James Madison. The “Essex Junto” was a group of hardline New England Federalists, so-called because many of its original members hailed from Essex County, Mass.

It would be difficult to overstate the Junto’s opposition to the Madison administration and the Democratic-Republicans. Governors of Federalist states refused to send their militias to join the war effort. There was even talk of secession. Just before Homans wrote this letter, John Lowell (1769-1840), a prominent member of the movement, published a pamphlet entitled Thoughts in a Series of Letters, in Answer to a Question Respecting the Division of the States. In this pamphlet, Lowell argued that the Louisiana Purchase had been an unconstitutional overreach by Jefferson and a violation of the original compact of the thirteen colonies. In truth, the annexation of all that new territory meant a shift in the balance of power and a dilution of the political and economic influence of the North. Lowell thought the original colonies should expel the western territories from the Union. Russell at the Columbian Centinel agreed.

In his letter, Homans advised Binney to stay strong and ignore the haters:

There is but one course a man can take, and that is to fix the pole star in his mind and steer by his own Compass, without attraction deviation or variation; the privilege of finding fault gives employment to the idle and food to the envious and vicious, and Saint John or Angel Gabriel could not go from the Town House to the head of Long Wharf without having some fault found with them, and even some would be self-righteous enough to cast a stone; in my opinion, no event in the progress of human affairs will ever restore Boston, to a state of social happiness civil liberty & personal independence. Since the Essex Junto took possession of it, every unclean Beast has found an asylum there. 

Homans also referred to the capture of the U.S.S. Chesapeake just three weeks before and took one more swipe at Madison’s domestic adversaries: “We have a desperate, enraged and brutal Enemy to deal with. And their friends & advocates are ten times worse and deserve ten times greater damnation.” Though he didn’t use the word, there’s little doubt that he considered these men traitors. In fact, some people called them “Blue Light Federalists” because they were alleged to use blue signal lights to communicate with British ships from the harbor.

 For better or worse, bitter partisanship and vitriolic attacks have been a part of our political landscape from the beginning. When Homans’ letter was written, the United States was just 37 years old, and acrimonious debates were already raging about vital issues: territorial expansion, states’ rights, international alliances, and regional conflicts between the mercantile North and the agrarian South.

 With only superficial changes, Homans’ words might have been spoken by any number of today’s political commentators. And if Benjamin Russell’s Columbian Centinel were an online publication, it’s easy to imagine what the comments sections would look like!


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 27 May, 2015, 8:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It is a shortened week here at the Society with a couple of early closures and a long weekend. 

Please note that the Library closes early on Tuesday, 19 May, at 3:45PM, and on Wednesday, 20 May, at 3:30PM. 

On Tuesday, 19 May, there is an Early American History seminar taking place at 5:15PM. "Slavery in Massachusetts" is a panel discussion featuring Barbara A. Mathews of Historic Deerfield, Gloria McCahon Whiting of Harvard University, and Maria A. Bollettino of Framingham State University. The session considers two papers, Mathews' "'Is This Where Titus Lived?' Researching and Intepreting African-American Presence in 18th-Century Rural New England," and Whiting's "The Body of Liberties and Bodies in Bondage: Dorcas the Blackmore, Dorchester's First Church, and the Legalization of Slavery in the Anglo-Atlantic World." This event is free and open to the public. 

And on Wednesday, 20 May, is the second installment of the Utopian Settlement series. "Mr. Ripley's Utopia" consists of a lecture and walking tour at Brook Farm (670 Baker Street in West Roxbury). The event is guided by Peter Drummey, Stephen T. Riley Librarian (MHS) and Maggi Brown, Regional Interpretive Coordinator (DCR). The program begins at 5:30PM - Sold Out

The MHS is CLOSED on Saturday, 23 May - Monday, 25 May, in observance of Memorial Day. Normal hours resume on Tuesday, 26 May.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 16 May, 2015, 3:22 PM

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