The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Shedding Light on Boston's Baseball Past

Baseball season is in full swing and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1918 World Series, a series that became a part of city lore ever since the "Curse of the Bambino" was cast on Boston. Baseball has a long history in Boston which precedes the Red Sox, the Curse of the Bambino, and even Fenway Park.

Bostonians have enjoyed playing baseball since the 1850s and in 1871 Boston acquired a team in the newly formed National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. Boston manager William Henry (Harry) Wright helped organize the National Association and went on to lead the Boston Red Stockings to four consecutive pennants. In 1874, Wright even took his unstoppable Red Stockings to England in hopes of popularizing baseball worldwide. By 1876 the National Association was replaced by the National League, a change which provided players more stability as they were bound to specific clubs.

                                            

Boston Braves Baseball Cards, circa 1949

(from the Boston Braves baseball collection, compiled by Richard O. Jones. Massachusetts Historical Society)

 

By the turn of the 20th century Boston had not one but two teams: the National League had the Boston Braves (formerly the Red Stockings, Red Caps, and Beaneaters), and the upstart American League had the Boston Americans. Each team had their own playing field in the city. The Braves played on the South End Grounds, moving in 1915 to Braves Field on Commonwealth Avenue (current site of Boston University's Nickerson Field). After 82 years in Boston, 1871-1952, the Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and then to Atlanta in 1966. The Boston Americans played at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds - located just over the railroad tracks from the South End Grounds - from 1901 to 1911, and was the site of the first modern World Series in 1903 when the Boston Americans played the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1908, the moniker for Boston's American League team was officially changed to the Red Sox, and in 1912 the team relocated to the newly-built Fenway Park.

Cy Young and other baseball players at the Huntington Avenue Grounds

(from the Sweet family glass plate negatives, 1897-1911. Massachusetts Historical Society)

The above image of the Huntington Avenue Grounds was also featured on the MHS website as the July 2017 Object of the Month. Click on the link to see more information about the grounds, as well as suggestions for further reading about Boston's baseball past.

*****

More interesting than the Boston Americans or the Boston Braves, though, is another local team that most have never heard of...The Boston Bloomers!

Women's baseball teams, called Bloomer Teams due to the preferred "bloomer" style of dress which allowed for easier play, were popular all across the country between 1890 and 1930. These women traveled the country, wore pants, and received pay as professional players, providing a level of independence that was uncommon in a time when such "priveleges" were often not extended to women.

The Boston Bloomers, [photograph] [ca.1890s-1910s].


Bloomer teams began in colleges in New England and New York, then spread across the country as hundred of women started playing baseball. The teams often consisted of seven women and two men who barnstormed the country playing local amateur, semi-pro, and minor league men's teams. Sadly, the Bloomer Teams lost popularity with the onset of World War I and the pioneering women of baseball were soon forgotten. Women such as Boston Bloomer Maud Nelson - a famous pitcher who went on to form and manage her own team in 1911, the Western Bloomer Girls - are only now gaining recognition for their contributions to the game.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of women in America's Pastime, consider joining us next month for The All-American Girls: Women in Professional Baseball, a panel discussion led by Gordon Edes, offical historian of the Boston Red Sox. Click the link to find out more the event and how to register.

When men across the country entered the draft for World War II, Philip Wrigley foudned the All-American Girls Professional Basebeall League in hopes of keeping baseball alive. The league started in 1943 and lasted until 1954. In 1992, the league was made famous by the feature film "A League of Their Own," and lead many to believe that this was the first time women took the field professionally. In truth, they were following int he footsteps of their talented foremothers, the Bloomer Girls.

To find out what else the MHS holds relating the nation's game, you can search our online catalog ABIGAIL, and when you find something interesting, consider Visiting the Library to see it in the reading room!

 


 

Sources

-  Allen, Erin, "A League of Their Own," Library of Congress Blog. Access 16 May 2018 at https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2013/04/a-league-of-their-own/.

- Gregorich, Barbara, "My Darling Clementine," Originally published in the May 2, 1996 issue of New City, accessed 16 May 2018 at http://www.barbaragregorich.com/index.php?subsub=%204.

- Official Website of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players Association, accessed 16 May 2018 at http://www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/pages/league/12/league-history.

- Library of Congress, "Topics in Chronicling America - Bloomer Girls: All-girls novelty act sweeps country playing baseball," accessed 16 May 2018 at https://www.loc.gov/rr/news/topics/bloomergirls.html

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 3:44 PM

This Week @ MHS

The week ahead is a little bit lite on the number of public programs available. However, the MHS is pleased to announce that the newest exhibition is now open for viewing! The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825 is open to the public free of charge Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM - 4:00PM. 

Here are the other events taking place this week:

- Tuesday, 15 May, 6:00PM : In 1805 and 1806, former vice president Aaron Burr traveled through the trans-Appalachian West gathering support for a mysterious enterprise, for which he was arrested and tried for treason in 1807. The Burr Conspiracy was a cause célèbre of the early republic-with Burr cast as the chief villain of the Founding Fathers—even as the evidence against him was vague and conflicting. James E. Lewis, Jr. of Kalamzaoo College will explore how Americans made sense of the reports of Burr’s intentions and examine what the crisis revealed about the new nation’s uncertain future.

This talk is open to the public and registration is 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.

- Thursday, 17 May, 6:30PM : We invite you to join us for a festive evening in support of the Center for the Teaching of History at the MHS featuring Harvard President Drew Faust in conversation with MHS President Catherine Allgor. The evening will begin with a cocktail reception. A seated dinner will follow. Feast, sip, and celebrate history at the eighth Cocktails with Clio

Tickets are $300 per person. Purchase tickets today!

- Saturday, 19 May, 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 abentley@masshist.org.

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, 13 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

Charles Cornish Pearson and the Great War, Part VI

This is the sixth post in a series about the wartime experience of Charles Cornish Pearson. Go back and read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V for the full story.

 

After the Battle of Château-Thierry on 18 July 1918, Sgt. Charles Cornish Pearson of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, American Expeditionary Forces, was granted a 48-hour leave, so he went to Paris to see the sights. (These two days, 6-8 August, would be his only leave during the war.) Of course, he enjoyed the respite very much, calling Notre-Dame Cathedral “the most wonderful building I ever saw, but I haven’t spent all my time admiring buildings.” He sent postcards to his family back home, including one to his little niece from “Uncle Buster.”

 

Just a few days after rejoining his battalion, Charles was on the road again. According to Philip S. Wainwright’s history, the 101st moved several times between mid-August and mid-September, first southeast to the town of Étrochey, then northeast again to the Rupt Sector. There the battalion took part in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, which Charles described in an eight-page letter to his sister Jean, dated 15 September 1918. He began with his arrival at the front and what he saw as he came over a hill.

What a scene. Those guns had knocked those trenches some I can tell you, and the trenches were pretty well destroyed. Pill boxes, concrete dugouts & everything had been knocked to pieces in fine shape.

 

Charles spared Jean the grisly details—every letter had to pass the watchful eyes of censors, and the Censorship Bureau had forbidden any mention of casualties. But he did tell her about the grueling hikes to various positions, the sight of villages burning in the distance, and the capture of hundreds of German soldiers “who offered no resistance & seemed only too glad to be thru with the war.” The war was taking its toll on Charles, too, who wrote his Aunt Florence that same day, “It is great to be in all these drives but I tell you they are heart breakers and at times you wonder how you are going to keep going but still you manage it someway.” He longed for civilian life, but was proud of his service and the bravery and comradeship of his fellow soldiers.

 

 

A lot of Charles’ correspondence deals with items shipped back and forth between France and the U.S. His family sent care packages, and he sometimes requested specific items. For example, there’s this great insight into the life of a soldier:

Mighty glad to learn from Dads letter that you are sending a couple of books over. Any late popular & light fiction appeals to one over here. Of course one reads a great deal about the boys desiring the serious heavy stuff but far from it. They get too much of that in their days work. Any thing that will bring a smile is worth a thousand dollars I can tell you.

 

Meanwhile, Charles sent gifts home when he could, including a German helmet and gas mask for his nephew Bobby. “Suppose they are rather gruesome articles,” he admitted. He’d retrieved them himself from enemy lines after the German troops were driven off, weaving his way through the French trenches, across No Man’s Land, over barbed wire, and around shell holes—“havoc,” he called it, left by four years of fighting. He was impressed by the German trenches, though, some of which were 40 or 50 feet deep.

 

The spoils most prized by Allied soldiers were German pistols, belts, and belt buckles carved with the famous motto “Gott mit uns.” I don’t know if Charles ever found those, but he did send a second helmet to his brother Bill.

Picked yours up near a dead Hun. Didn’t quite feel like taking the one he had on although someone ahead of me had evidently cut his belt off for a souvenir. I am not quite so keen after souvenirs as that. Dont mind the sight of the dead but not very keen for handling them.

 

As always, Charles was humble about his letters. He wrote to Bill on 6 October 1918:

Am afraid my letters prove rather uninteresting reading as a rule. I don’t write an awful lot about this war stuff practically impossible to describe it in the proper way. It is a good deal made up of sensations and some of them aren’t especially pleasant.

 

Stay tuned for the seventh and final chapter of Charles Cornish Pearson’s story.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 11 May, 2018, 1:56 PM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, April 1918

Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s previous entries, here:

 

January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December

 

As regular readers of the Beehive know, we are following Barbara throughout 1918 with monthly blog posts that present Barbara’s daily life -- going to school, seeing friends, playing basketball, and caring for family members -- in the words she wrote a century ago. Here is Barbara’s May, day by day.

 

* * *

WED. 1                       MAY

School. Took care of sonny.

THUR. 2

School. Took care of sonny

FRI. 3

School. Took care of sonny.

SAT. 4

Cleaned. Swimming. Pegs

SUN. 5

Church. Sunday School. Studied

MON. 6

School. Took care of sonny

TUES. 7

School. Took care of sonny. Swimming. Waited on table at church

WED. 8

School. Took care of sonny. Cousin Bert here

THUR. 9

School. Went to Arleen Pratt’s

FRI. 10

School. Took care of sony

SAT. 11

Swimming. Pegs.

SUN. 12

School. Sunday School. Studied

MON. 13

School. In Town. Sick?

TUES. 14

School. Baby’s. K.O.K.A. with Spud

WED. 15

School. Baby’s. Search Light Club Play

THUR. 16

School. Took care of Sonny

FRI. 17

School: Bill Wellman cheering practice. Went to get Wigwam and cut trees for float

SAT. 18

Dentist. Red Cross Parade. Mother starts for Portland

SUN. 19

Sunday School. Peg here. Service in evening

MON. 20

School. Mrs. Reeds. Kitten’s Came

TUES. 21

School. Mrs. Reed’s

WED. 22

School. Cheer Practice. Preliminary Baseball Game

THUR. 23

School. Mrs Hurt knee. Bob Hayes Up to the house

FRI. 24

School. Field Day. Red Cross Function at Seminary

SAT. 25

Mrs Reed’s. Dance at Nash’s

SUN. 26

Sunday School. Studied

MON. 27

School. Mrs. Reed’s

TUES. 28

School. Mrs. Reed’s

WED. 29

School. Mrs. Reed’s

THUR. 30                    MEMORIAL DAY

Swimming. Tennis

FRI. 31

Baby’s. In Town

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person 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.

 

 *Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The catalog record for the Barbara Hillard Smith collection may be found here.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 9 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

The program schedule this week culminates with the opening of our newest public exhibition! Before we get to that, though, here is the full list of programs in the week ahead:

- Monday, 7 May, 6:00PM : Starting the week is a conversation with Ann Hulbert of The Atlantic and Megan Marshall of Emerson University. They will discuss Hulbert's new book, Off the Charts: The Hidden Lives & Lessons of American Child Prodigies, which examines the lives of children whose rare accomplishments have raised hopes about untapped human potential and questions about how best to nurture it. The conversation will draw on a range of examples that span a century—from two precocious Harvard boys in 1909 to literary girls in the 1920s to music virtuosos today. Hulbert and Marshall will explore the changing role of parents and teachers, as well as of psychologists, a curious press and, above all, the feelings of the prodigies themselves, who push back against adults more as the decades proceed.

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

- Wednesday, 9 May, 12:00PM : Pack your lunch and come in for a Brown Bag talk with Lindsay Keiter of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. While historians have analized the rise of companionship and romance in marriage, they have overlooked a critical continuity: marriage continued to serve vital financial functions. Keiter's talk, "For Love and Money: Marriage in Early America," briefly sketches the economic importance of marriage and families' strategies for managing wealth across generations.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Thursday, 10 May, 6:00PM : MHS Fellows and Members are invited to attend the Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston's South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815-1825 Preview and Reception

Registration required at no cost.

- Friday, 11 May, 10:00AM : All are welcome to view our new exhibition, Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825. Virtually forgotten for 200 years, Isaac Vose and his brilliant furniture are revealed in a new exhibition and accompanying volume. Beginning with a modest pair of collection boxes he made for his local Boston church in 1788, Vose went on to build a substantial business empire and to make furniture for the most prominent Boston families. The exhibition and catalog restore Vose from relative obscurity to his rightful position as one of Boston’s most important craftsmen. Opening at the MHS on May 11, the exhibition will be on view through September 14.

The complementary book, Rather Elegant Than Showy (May 2018), by Robert Mussey and Clark Pearce, will be available for sale at the MHS.

- Saturday, 12 May, 10:00AM : With the opening of our new exhibition we also see the return of our free Saturday building tours. The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Tour 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 abentley@masshist.org.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 6 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

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