The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Fetched from the Stacks : "Every breed of dog known"

Well, maybe that title is a little bit ambitious. But, in recognition of the 142nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – taking place this weekend – today we are looking at collections items featuring canines, particularly images of dogs that are in the stacks here at the MHS (the images, not the dogs). 

In 1845, Sir John Franklin, English rear admiral and explorer, led an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. However, his journey met with disaster and, three years later, the remains of he and his crew were found in the Canadian Arctic.1 Of the several search and rescue missions put together to find Franklin and his men, one was carried out by the H.M.S. Enterprise and included some four-legged crew members.

"Daddy," the Esquimaux dog of H. M. S. "Enterprise," sent in search of Sir John Franklin.

According to a bit of text that is alongside the above image

The intelligence of the Esquimaux dogs, and their utility, is well known. The portrait of "Daddy" represents a faithful companion of Captain Collinson, who accompanied him 2000 miles, and of whom many anecdotes might be narrated; but one of the most interesting attaches to a dog of Capt. Penny, "Sultan," who saved the life of one of Sir John Ross' men who had indulged too freely on a visit to the Felix, when in winter quarters. The man alluded to was found by Sultan floundering in the snow at midnight, and, by his repeated intimations of something having occurred, induced some of the men to leave the ship and follow him to the spot. A few minutes more and life would have been extinct.


The following images have much less information to go along with them, but you can click on the links to see what we know.

Boxser. [graphic]


High life : from the picture in the Vernon Gallery [graphic] / E. Landseer, R. A. painter ; H. Beckwith engraver


Dog [graphic]


Fox-hunting, p. 1 / [graphic] Howitt in et f.


First aid / [graphic] Diana Thorne


Finally, we can connect all of this to another recent post published here on the Beehive. A few weeks ago we learned a bit about the famed showman P. T. Barnum, his lavish estate called Iranistan, and how he managed to attract the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind, to perform in America. [See: “No Mere Adventurer…”]

Today, we probably associate Barnum most closely with the rise of the traveling circus, but did you know he also dabbled in dog shows? 


Small broadside advertising "A Great National Dog Show."


As manager of Boston's Aquarial Gardens, Barnum arranged for a six-day show, "including every breed of dog known," with prize money going to the top two or three finishers in each category. Those who did not finish in the top tier were given "elegantly engraved Diplomas" as evidence of the quality of their canines. Among the various breeds and classes to be judged at this event were Newfoundlands, Pointers, Coach Dogs, and Esquimaux Dogs (just like "Daddy"). Below is an example of a prize diploma. 

An elegantly engraved Diploma, "Awarded by the judges to S. Hammond Esq. for his Blenheim Spaniel."


Based on the information provided in the advertisement above, Mr. Hammond stood to win $10 for his best-specimen spaniel. However, the last page of the three-page ad also lays out some stipulations from Mr. Barnum. To wit: 

Should the Manager desire to retain the Cash Premium Dogs on exhibition from and including June 23rd until and including Saturday June 28th, he shall have the right to do so, he continuing to provide the proper care, food and water for the Dogs FREE, and continuing to admit exhibitors of said dogs free during the time above specified.

Ever the entrepreneur and showman, it makes sense that Barnum would retain the right to attract more viewers for these prize-winning dogs. Cash paid is cash earned, I suppose. 


These are just a few examples of animal illustrations available here at the MHS. Try searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL, to see what else you can find, then consider Visiting the Library to work with material in our reading room!


1. "Sir John Franklin," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Accessed 2018-02-10 at https://www/


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 10 February, 2018, 4:15 PM

MHS Programs Explore Aspects of African American History

This past November, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar spoke at the MHS about their new book The Annotated African American Folktales. This publication presents nearly 150 African American stories, among them familiar Brer Rabbit classics, but also stories like “The Talking Skull” and “Witches Who Ride,” as well as out-of-print tales from the 1890s’ Southern Workman. Professor Gates’ reflections on how folktales weaved into his own personal history made the power of these stories very real, while professor Tatar helped place these stories in historical context and as a part of the American literary tradition.

Both Gates and Tatar are faculty members at Harvard University. Professor Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. She chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology, where she teaches courses in German Studies, Folklore, and Children’s Literature. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, a literary scholar, a journalist, a cultural critic, and an Overseer and long term friend to the MHS.

For the audience, it was a captivating opportunity to hear new tales and revisit some familiar stories. These folktales are so full of wisdom, humor, whimsy, and intelligence that anyone who reads or hears them must understand that they should hold a prominent place in the Western literary canon. However, the personal stories of when these tales were first heard or memories of them being shared made the evening truly special.

Kicking off African American History Month, we have made this program available to all on our website. Over the course of the month we are hosting several programs that explore aspects of African American history.


February 8 - 6:00 pm

Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America with Douglas Edgarton (Le Moyne College)

One of the most treasured objects belonging to the Society’s collection is the battle sword of Robert Gould Shaw, the leader of the courageous 54th Massachusetts infantry, the first black regiment in the north. The prominent Shaw family of Boston and New York had long been involved in reform, from antislavery to feminism, and their son, Robert, took up the mantle of his family’s progressive stances, though perhaps more reluctantly. In this lecture, historian Douglas R. Egerton focuses on the entire Shaw family during the war years and how preceding generations have dealt with their legacy.

$10 (free for MHS members)


February 20 - 6:00 pm

Growing Up with the Country with Kendra Field (Tufts University)

Following the lead of her own ancestors, Kendra Field’s epic family history chronicles the westward migration of freedom’s first generation in the fifty years after emancipation. Field traces their journey out of the South to Indian Territory, where they participated in the development of black towns and settlements. When statehood, oil speculation, and segregation imperiled their lives, some launched a back-to-Africa movement, while others moved on to Canada and Mexico. Interweaving black, white, and Indian histories, Field’s narrative explores how ideas about race and color powerfully shaped the pursuit of freedom.

$10 (free for MHS members)


February 26 - 6:00 pm

Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court with Paul Finkelman (Gratz College)

The three most important Supreme Court Justices before the Civil War—Chief Justices John Marshall and Roger B. Taney and Associate Justice Joseph Story—upheld the institution of slavery in ruling after ruling. These opinions cast a shadow over the Court and the legacies of these men, but historians have rarely delved deeply into the personal and political ideas and motivations they held. In Supreme Injustice Paul Finkelman establishes an authoritative account of each justice’s proslavery position, the reasoning behind his opposition to black freedom, and the incentives created by his private life.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 5 February, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

Welcome back to another events round-up! Here is what is happening at the Society in the week ahead:

- Tuesday, 6 February, 5:15PM : Join us for an Early American History seminar with current MHS-NEH Fellow Laurel Daen, and commenter Cornelia Dayton of the University of Connecticut. Between 1790 and 1840, Americans deemed to be cognitively disabled lost the right to vote, marry, immigrate, obtain residency, and live independently. "'We all agree to exclude...those of unsound mind': Disability, Doctors, and the Law in the Early Republic" charts these legal developments in Massachusetts as well as how disabled people used the courts to negotiate these contraints. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. To RSVP: email or call (617) 646-0579.

- Wednesday, 7 February, 12:00PM : This week's Brown Bag talk is titled "John Winthrop, Benjamin Martin, & Worlds of Scientific Work." Pierce Williams of Carnegie Mellon University relates how Benjamin Martin was regarded by natural philosophers of his age as a showman and peddler of pseudo-scientific trinkets. At the same time, John Winthrop was working to elevate the North American colonies in the topography of learned culture. This project attempts to understand Winthrop's puzzling choice of Martin to refurbish Harvard's scientific instrument collection after the college laboratory burned to the ground in 1764. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Wednesday, 7 February, 6:00 PM : In "Reconsidering King Philip's War," two historians reexamine the narrative of one of colonial America’s most devastating conflicts. Lisa Brooks, Amherst College, recovers a complex picture of war, captivity, and Native resistance during the “First Indian War." Christine DeLucia, Mount Holyoke College, offers a major reconsideration of the war, providing an alternative to Pilgrim-centric narratives that have dominated the histories of colonial New England. The program will include short presentations by both scholars followed by a conversation. This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows, and EBT cardholders). We have exceeded the seating in our main room. Audience members registering on or after February 1st will be seated in overflow seating.

- Thursday, 8 February, 6:00PM : The second author talk this weak features Douglas Egerton, Le Moyne College, and his recent work Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed AmericaOne of the most treasured objects belonging to the Society’s collection is the battle sword of Robert Gould Shaw, the leader of the courageous 54th Massachusetts infantry, the first black regiment in the North. The prominent Shaw family of Boston and New York had long been involved in reform, including antislavery and feminism, and their son, Robert, took up the mantle of his family’s progressive stances, though perhaps more reluctantly. In this lecture, historian Douglas R. Egerton focuses on the entire Shaw family during the war years and how following generations have dealt with their legacy. This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows, and EBT cardholders).

- Saturday, 10 February, 10:00AM : 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

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


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 4 February, 2018, 12:00 AM

History by the Numbers: A Gomes Prize Ceremony conversation between 2017 recipient Tamara Thornton and MHS President Catherine Allgor

In 2016, the MHS founded the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize, awarded annually for the best book on the history of Massachusetts. The prize honors the memory of the Reverend Professor Gomes, a Harvard scholar and a respected and beloved Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society for almost thirty-five years. Peter Gomes believed in the transformative power of engaging with the past, and held an especial fondness for the history of his native state. He extolled the role of the imagination in creating a better world.

About two centuries earlier, another Massachusetts native himself set out to create a better world. His name was Nathaniel Bowditch, and above all he believed in the power of numbers. Thus it’s only fitting that the 2017 Gomes Book Prize was awarded to historian Tamara Plakins Thornton for her biography, Nathaniel Bowditch and the Power of Numbers: How a Nineteenth-Century Man of Business, Science, and the Sea Changed American Life. Thornton brings to life the Atlantic-facing maritime world of Bowditch’s hometown, the bustling port of Salem. She also reveals Bowditch’s role in creating the numbered and sorted bureaucratic society familiar to us today, from creating navigational tables, to organizing the collections of Salem’s East India Marine Society—now the Peabody Essex Museum—and the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Company, to introducing a numerical grading system at Harvard. As Thornton demonstrates, Bowditch took his faith in numbers and transformed the world.

Thornton joined us at the Society on Thursday, Jan. 25, to receive the 2017 prize. Like any good historian, she came in early to spend the day in our reading room, diving into the research for her next project. (Not to mention using collections well numbered and sorted! Our library staff would make Bowditch proud.) Come evening, after Ellis Hall had been transformed for the award ceremony, she received her award check and a certificate beautifully framed and matted with century-old French endpaper. She then took to the stage to commence a conversation on what it means to be a historian and a biographer.

Who better to join Thornton in this conversation than our new president, Catherine Allgor, another historian cum biographer? Allgor’s biography of Dolley Madison followed her work Parlor Politics, on the founding women of the early republic, much as Thornton’s biography of Bowditch followed her monographs on handwriting and the making of country life by the nineteenth-century Boston elite.

Fortunately for those too far away—or too cold!—to attend the program, the conversation was filmed and is now available for you to watch online. Allgor and Thornton spoke about transitioning from writing monographs to writing biographies, and the advantages they had in having already written books that made them familiar with their subject’s world: in Dolley Madison’s case, it was Washington D.C. and all its politicking; for Nathanial Bowditch, it was the surprisingly cosmopolitan city of Salem. More specifically, Bowditch lived in a world of merchants and shipping, where—instead of the Latin and Greek needed for Harvard—young men bound for occupations as clerks and navigators learned math and penmanship. Of course, Thornton and Allgor continued, writing biography also means considering the role of inborn personality and temperament in relation to the influence of the subject’s era.

MHS President Catherine Allgor and Gomes Prize recipient Tamara Thornton, in conversation.

Thornton and Allgor also discussed their efforts to find points of familiarity with their subjects while keeping in mind that the past remains a foreign country. Allgor enjoyed taking a fresh look at Washington politics in its infancy through Dolley Madison, and considering how the politics we know today are contingent on so many nineteenth-century choices that people such as Madison made. Thornton described the uncategorized society that Bowditch transformed, with numbers and forms, into the world we live in today.

And, of course, the two biographers discussed Bowditch’s love of numbers. He was inspired by the rules and regularity of the solar system, and sought to recreate that wherever he could. He saw the world, Thornton said, in “pluses and minuses.” He loved the certainty of numbers. If you were incorrect, inaccurate, immoral, wrong: all of these things were the same to him.

There is more to be heard on the video, about finding sources and excluding them, about Bowditch’s views on the places he sailed to around the world, and about strange and unexpected discoveries in the archives! But I will keep this entry short enough to fit on one of Bowditch’s blank forms, and merely suggest that you watch the video, then pick up Tamara Thornton’s award-winning book and take your own trip to Nathaniel Bowditch’s ordered world.

If you’ve published a book on Massachusetts history copyrighted in 2017, we invite you to submit your work for consideration to receive this year’s Gomes Prize, and we look forward to telling all of you what the 2018 competition brings!


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 2 February, 2018, 10:09 AM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, January 1918

A new year means a new serialized diary here at The Beehive, where for the past three years we have showcased a diary from the collections written one hundred years ago (you can read the 2015, 2016, and 2017 series in our archives!). This year’s diary was transcribed by intern Lindsay Bina.


The diary for 2018 is a tiny line-a-day diary kept by teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. Smith was born on 16 July 1903 and was fourteen in January of 1918 when she began keeping her diary. Before she began to record her daily activities, Barbara carefully completed the “Identification” page in the front of the diary, noting that her weight was 126, her height 5 feet, 6 ½ inches, her shoe size a 7, her hosiery 10 ½, and her gloves 6 ¼. Her telephone number was Newton West 193-M and her physician was an H.W. Godfrey. She was a student at Newton High School.

Image from The Newtonian (1920) yearbook. Barbara was captain of her basketball team senior year and is depicted in the center holding a basketball.


Without further ado, we bring you January 1918 through the eyes of a Newton teenager.

* * *

TUES. 1                      JAN., 1918 NEW YEAR’S DAY

Muriel’s. Skating at Bulloughs. Women Club Play


WED. 2

Went over to Aunt Mabels.


THUR. 3      

Mother went to New York. Aunt Mabels.


FRI. 4

Aunt Mabels


SAT. 5

Aunt Mabels


SUN. 6

Came home


MON. 7

School. Took care of the baby.



School. Basket Ball.


WED. 9

Sick with cold. Peg hurt her back


THUR. 10

Sick with cold. Had Dr. Godfrey.


FRI. 11

Cold Better. Mother came home


SAT. 12

In the house. Down street.


SUN. 13

Church. Sunday School. Service flag unfurled. Skating in back yard. Sick


MON. 14

School. Stayed for algebra. Pegs skating


TUES. 15

School. Stayed for geometry. Pegs.


WED. 16

School. Stayed for French. Skating in front yard.


THUR. 17

School. Skating at Pegs. Concert at the Seminary


FRI. 18

School. Down to Rosa’s. Watched swimming class.


SAT. 19

Shampoo at Miss Mitchells. Sewed on my dress. Down town


SUN. 20

Sunday School. Hung around


MON. 21

School. Took care of the baby.


TUES. 22

School. Basketball. up to Mrs. Reed’s


WED. 23

School. Took care of baby.


THUR. 24

School. Basketball


FRI. 25

School. Camp Fire. Swimming.


SAT. 26

Skating with Mrs. Moody. Pegs. Mother Carey’s Chickens.


SUN. 27

Church. S.S. Skating at Pegs. [Havene] here. Fell down and hurt my back


MON. 28

Home with my back. Felt kind of weak


TUES. 29

Home with my back. Took care of sonny. Father died.


WED. 30

School. Took care of sonny.


THUR. 31

School. Basket Ball. Symphony and Mischa Elman.


* * *

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, 31 January, 2018, 12:00 AM

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