This Week @ MHS
Hello, and welcome once again to our weekly forecast of programs here at the Society. This week, the first and only full week in November for us at the MHS, we have four public programs for you to come in and experience. In addition, don't forget about our current public exhibition: "The Cabinetmaker & the Carver: Massachusetts Furniture from Private Collections." This installation provides a rare public glimpse of privately held treasures from across the commonwealth and is part of the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture collaboration taking place at institutions all over the state. Visit fourcenturies.org for more information. Our exhibit is open to the public six days per week, Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM, and will be available until 17 January 2014.
On Tuesday, 19 November, join us at 12:00PM for an hour-long lunchtime public program. Murray Forbes discusses his work on the fascinating lives of Governor James and General John Sullivan in "The Sullivan Brothers." The two brothers forged remarkable and versatile careers during the American Revolution and early republic, were honored in their own time and remained remembered and respected through the 19th century. How should we remember them today? This event is free and open to the public.
On Wednesday, 20 November, the Society hosts a double-header. First up, at 12:00PM, is a Brown Bag lunch talk featuring John Lauritz Larson of Purdue University. "On a Bender with Uncle Sam: Freedom, Resources, and the Lure of Progress in the Early Republic" asks how the American Revolution changed the colonial American economic culture patterns of natural resource exploitation. How did the "release of energy" produced by the new political order contribute to new definitions of public and private acquisitiveness, wealth, and progress. Brown Bag lunch talks are free and open to the public.
Then, also on Wednesday, is a public program associated with our current exhibition. Join us at 6:00PM for "Boston & Its Craft Community, 1650-1850." J. Ritchie Garrison, Director of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, will explore Boston's craft community with a focus on three themes: production as part of a regional network, inequalities that drove artisans' decisions, and the city's furniture-makers' adaptations to a number of factors. To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking here. Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM.
And lastly, on Saturday, 23 November, the Society will host yet another public tour. Join us at 10:00AM for "The History and Collections of the MHS," 90-minute docent-led tour which explores the public space in the Society's home at 1154 Boylston Street, touching on the history, collections, art, and architecture of the MHS. The tour is free and open to the public. No reservation is 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 email@example.com.
Please note that the MHS will be closed 28 November - 30 November for the Thanksgiving holiday. Normal hours resume on Monday, 2 December.
| Published: Sunday, 17 November, 2013, 12:00 PM
James Mease and American Sericulture
By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services
“We are striving to promote the Culture of Silk,” wrote Dr. James Mease of Philadelphia to Colonel Timothy Pickering of Salem on 13 November 1826. The wealthy physician dabbled in various interests outside of medicine including geology, agriculture, local history, and something called sericulture.
Sericulture, or silk farming, is the breeding of silkworms for the production of silk. In short, silkworms require white mulberry leaves or osage orange leaves to create liquid silk. These caterpillars then spin the liquid silk into cocoons, using the sticky protein sericin to glue each strand together. The cocoons are collected and boiled before the pupas develop and emerge as silk moths. The silk threads of the emptied cocoons disband as the sericin dissolves in hot water. This “raw silk” is then reeled and woven into the cloth. Sounds easy, right?
Silkworm breeding is exhaustively needy at best and disease-ridden at worst. An adult silk moth cannot eat, drink, or fly. The sole purpose of its existence is to mate (which it relies entirely on human intervention to achieve) and produce the next generation. At odds with the laborious milieu of sericulture, Dr. James Mease remarked in the 13 November 1826 letter:
[We] find that the there is no difficulty in breeding the worms – we have abundance of red or native mulberry trees and also the white sort. I imported an ounce of eggs from Genoa last spring and gave them to three persons, who had very great success with them. The Cocoons were twice the size of those produced from Egg previously here.
With mulberry trees aplenty, Dr. James Mease’s associates and other American silk farmers eagerly produced raw silk throughout the early 19th century.
| Published: Friday, 15 November, 2013, 1:00 AM
Adams, King, and Jack McCoy
By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers
In the forthcoming Papers of John Adams, Volume 17, Massachusetts representative to the Continental Congress and future minister to Great Britain, Rufus King, pens his first letter to the sitting minister to Great Britain, John Adams, in November 1785, describing himself as a “stranger.” While it was true that the two had not met, Adams had represented King’s father, the Tory-learning Richard King, a dozen years earlier.
In March 1766, a mob of self-described “Suns of liburty” broke into King’s home and store, terrifying his family, breaking windows and burning papers in his desk. Although threatening retaliation for legal action, King pursued a civil action against the group. When he did not find the awarded damages satisfactory, he appealed, and it was at this point that Adams joined as counsel.
This trial, Richard King v. John Stewart et al., is a poignant reminder that before Adams was a Founding Father, he was a talented attorney. This case, perhaps even more than the Boston Massacre trials, reveals that Adams neither allowed his personal political sympathies to cloud his legal judgment nor to determine which cases he would undertake. Moreover, Adams did not simply recite dry legal precedents, but tied the law to strong emotionally driven images to encourage the jury to connect with his client, as this Jack McCoy styled closing argument demonstrates:
Be pleased then to imagine yourselves each one for himself—in bed with his pregnant Wife, in the dead of Midnight, five Children also asleep, and all the servants. . . . The Doors and Windows all barrd, bolted and locked—all asleep, suspecting nothing, harbouring no Malice, Envy or Revenge in your own Bosoms nor dreaming of any in your Neighbours. . . .
All of a sudden, in an Instant, in a twinkling of an Eye, an armed Banditti of Felons, Thieves, Robbers, and Burglars, rush upon the House. Like Savages from the Wilderness, or like Legions from the Blackness of Darkness, they yell and Houl, they dash in all the Windows and enter. Enterd they Roar, they stamp, they Yell, they houl, they cutt break tear and burn all before them.
Do you see a tender and affectionate Husband, an amiable deserving Wife near her Time, 3 young Children, all in one Chamber, awakened all at once, ignorant what was the Cause, terrifyd, inquisitive to know it. The Husband attempting to run down stairs, his Wife, laying hold of his Arm, to stay him and sinking fainting dying away in his Arms. The Children crying and clinging round their Parents—father will they kill me—father save me! . . .
It’s of great Importance to the Community that sufficient that exemplary Damages should be given in such Cases. King might have kill’d em all. If a Man has Humanity enough, to refrain, he ought to be fully compensated.
One of the children home that night was then eleven-year-old Rufus King. Nearly two decades later, he had grown to reject his father’s loyalism, become a staunch patriot and later Federalist, and initiate a correspondence with John Adams that led to a friendship with two generations of the Adams family.
| Published: Wednesday, 13 November, 2013, 1:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
We return from a long weekend with several programs ready for public consumption this week. Starting the week off, on Tuesday, 12 November, is "Making Land in Earthquake Country: Urban Development and Disaster in San Francisco." In this Environmental History Seminar, Joanna Dyl of the University of South Florida looks at the earliest years of urban development in San Francisco during the late 1840s and early 1850s, characterized by an emphasis on filling in "water lots." Dyl's paper argues that ignorance does not fully explain San Franciscans' apparent tendency to downplay or ignore the danger posed by the combination of made land and earthquakes. Comment provided by Conevery Bolton Valencius, University of Massachusetts - Boston.Be sure to RSVP for this program by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 617-646-0568. Seminar begins at 5:15PM.
Friday, 15 November, is a busy day at the MHS with two public programs occurring on-site and one off. Taking place in Pittsfield, MA and beginning at 8:30AM is the first day of a two-day teacher workshop, continuing on Saturday, 16 November. "Old Towns/New Country: The First Years of a New Nation" explores how to use local resources to examine historical issues with a national focus, concentrating on the period just after the Revolution. The workshop is open to teachers, librarians, archivists, members of local historical societies, and all interested local history enthusiasts. Workshop faculty will include the MHS Department of Education and Public Programs, Gary Shattuck, author of Artful and Designing Men: The Trials of Job Shattuck and the Regulation of 1786-1787, MHS Teacher Fellow Dean Eastman, and the staff of the Berkshire Historical Society. The program will also include visits to the Berkshire Athenaeum and the Crane Museum of Papermaking. There is a $25 charge to cover lunches both days; program and material costs have been generously funded by the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation. Educators can earn 15 PDPs and 1 Graduate Credit (for an additional fee) from Framingham State University. To Register: Please complete this registration form and send it with your payment to: Kathleen Barker, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215. For Additional Information: Contact the Education Department: 617-646-0557 or email@example.com.
Also on Friday, beginning at 12:00PM, join us at the Society's building at 1154 Boylston St. for a Brown Bag lunch talk. With "The Urban Archival Regime in Trans-national Perspective: Roxbury, Africville, Hogan's Alley," Karen Bridget Murray of Kennesaw State University and York University discusses variations in archival regimes, their relationship to the writing of Black urban history, and their implications for efforts to secure redress for past urban spatial injustices, such as school bussing in Boston, and the razing of African-Canadian communities in Vancouver and Halifax. Brown bag lunch talks are free and open to the public.
And at 2:00PM is a public program focused on our current exhibition: "Early Boston Furniture: Style, Constructions, Materials, & Use." American furniture collectors John and Marie Vander Sande will discuss late 17th-century joined case pieces, early 18th-century cabinetwork, and pre-1730 chairs produced in Boston. The style, construction techniques, woods chosen, and motivation for the applied decoration, as well as the use of the pieces in the home, will be highlighted. This program is free and open to the public.
Last but certainly not least, on Saturday, 16 November, stop by at 10:00AM for The History and Collections of the MHS. This 90-minute, docent-led tour exposes visitors to all of the public space in the building at 1154 Boylston St., touching on the art, architecture, history, and collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The tour is free and open to the public. No reservation is 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.
| Published: Monday, 11 November, 2013, 8:48 PM
Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 27
The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.
Sunday, Nov. 8th
Of military affairs, the rumor is now, - said to be confirmed to-day, - of the taking of Fort Sumter by our forces. We hear of late sad accounts of the treatment of Union prisoners by the rebels, - their suffering from want of food, etc. Their own destitution may partly extenuate this wrong. God grant the end be soon, & the victory of Union & freedom!
Sunday, November 15th
The rumor mentioned in my last entry [the recapturing of Fort Sumter] was not corroborated; but successive advantages give good hope for the cause of Union and Freedom. We lament meanwhile, for the sufferings of our brave men, prisoners in Richmond, said to be almost starved. A plot has been revealed through the British authorities, formed by refugees in Canada, for attacks on our lake cities etc.
Monday Nov. 23d 1863
Last week occurred the Dedication of the Battle Cemetery at Gettysburg. An oration by Mr. Everett, & some noble words from President Lincoln.
Sunday Nov. 28th
Of public events, I must name with solemn gratitude the victory granted to the union arms near Chattanooga & Lookout Mountain. Hope is again encouraged that the end of this awful strife is near.
| Published: Friday, 8 November, 2013, 1:00 AM