The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: Around MHS

Symbiosis at the Society: Fellows and Librarians Learn Together

A few weeks ago the Beehive featured an item about the 2014-2015 Fellowship recipients and their research projects for the coming year. This great opportunity for scholars to come and do funded research also is an opportunity for the MHS librarians to expose ourselves to subjects and collections that we otherwise do not interact with.

Each year, the reference librarians here look at the projects to be undertaken by the incoming research fellows and divide them up so that we can serve as individual liaisons for the various fellows. We choose which fellows to liaise with based on our own interest and background knowledge of the projects. This benefits the fellows by providing a specific person to contact if they have trouble navigating our collections or just need someone to bounce ideas off.  

Over the next year, I will be liaising with at least eleven different fellows to help them utilize the resources here at the MHS. The projects cover a wide range of subjects, including alcohol production, throat epidemics, Revolutionary War campaigns, antislavery texts, and religious reform. They also cover a long span of time, from the earliest days of the English colonies to the dawn of the Civil War.

This presents two challenges for me: to help fellows access materials they already identified using our catalog and to help them discover additional material in our collection that they missed. Perhaps I am familiar with a collection that they did not find in their search; maybe I can show them resources that are not available via our online catalog; in some cases, I can suggest another institution whose collections complement the Society’s.

Again, this exchange benefits both the fellows and the MHS staff. I know already from reading through some project descriptions that I will be exposed to topics that are completely new to me or that the fellow is looking at in a new way. And with some relevant materials already identified by the research fellow, I will learn more about the collections we have here. As I scour our catalog to find more resources for the fellow, I learn more about our holdings and about strategically searching our collections, information that will certainly come in useful down the road.

Back in January I wrote a piece for the Beehive about using the Researcher as Resource. Working with our research fellows each year is another way for our librarians to expand their knowledge and to learn even more about the collections here at the MHS. 


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 16 May, 2014, 3:00 PM

2014-2015 Fellowship Recipients Announced

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):

John Stauffer, Harvard University, “Charles Sumner's America: A Cultural Biography”

Erin Kappeler, University of Maine Farmington, “Everyday Laureates: Poetic Communities in New England, 1865-1900”

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

Sarah Beetham, University of Delaware, “Sculpting the Citizen Soldier: Reproduction and National Memory, 1865-1917”

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) Awards (with 20 other institutions; the * indicates that part of fellowship will be completed at the MHS):

*Nicholas Bonneau, University of Notre Dame, “Unspeakable Loss: New England’s Invisible Throat Distemper Epidemic of 1735 – 1740”                             

*Frank Cirillo, University of Virginia, “‘The Time of Sainthood Has Passed’: American Abolitionists and the Civil War, 1861-1865”                               

Sascha Cohen, Brandeis University, “The Comedy of the Culture Wars: American Humor, Feminism, and Gay Liberation, 1969-1989”

Dan Du, University of Georgia, “This World in a Teacup: Sino-American Tea Trade in the Nineteenth Century”

*Amy  Ellison, Boston University, “‘To Bring Liberty to the North’: The Invasion of Canada and the Coming of American Independence, 1774-1776.”  Colonial Society of Massachusetts Fellow 

Mary Fuhrer, Independent Scholar, “The Experience and Meaning of Tuberculosis in Rural New England, 1800-1850”

*Brendan Gillis, Indiana University, “Cosmopolitan Parochialism: Colonial Magistracy and Imperial Revolution, 1760-1800”

Christina Groeger, Harvard University, “Paths to Work: The Rise of Credentials in American Society, 1870-1940”

*Brenton Grom, Case Western Reserve University, “The Death and Transfiguration of New England Psalmody, ca. 1790–1860”

Samira Mehta, Fairfield University, “God Bless the Pill? Contraception, Sexuality, and American Religion from Margaret Sanger to Sandra Fluke”

*Sean Moore, University of New Hampshire, “Slavery and the Making of the Early American Library: British Literature, Political Thought, and the Transatlantic Book Trade”                 

*Jacqueline, Reynoso, Cornell University, “(Dis)Placing the American Revolution: The British Province of Quebec in the Greater Colonial Struggle”

*Gregory Rosenthal, SUNY Stonybrook, Hawaiians who left Hawaiʻi: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876”

Kate Silbert, University of Michigan, “‘Committed to Memory’: Gender, Literary Engagement, and Commemorative Practice, 1780-1830”

Jordan Smith,  Georgetown University, “The Invention of Rum”

*Rachel Trocchio, University of California Berkeley, “The Puritan Sublime”

*Jordan Watkins, University of Nevada Las Vegas,  “‘Let Every Writer Be Placed in His Own Age’: Slavery, Sacred Texts and the Antebellum Confrontation with History”                              

MHS Short-Term Research Fellowships:

African American Studies Fellow

Westenley Alcenat, Columbia University, “Escape to Zion: Black Emigration and the Elusive Quest for Citizenship, 1816-1868”

Alumni Fellows

Mary Draper, University of Virginia, “The Urban World of the Early Modern British Caribbean”

Jonathan Koefoed, Indiana University - Purdue University Columbus, “Cautious Romantics: Trinitarian Transcendentalists and the Emergence of a Conservative Religious Tradition in America”

Andrew Oliver Fellow

Mark Thompson, University of Groningen,    “Land, Liberty, and Property: Surveyors and the Production of Empire in British North America”

Andrew W. Mellon Fellows

Laurie Dickmeyer, University of California Irvine, “Americans in Chinese Treaty Ports: The Interplay of Trade and Diplomacy in the Nineteenth-Century China and United States”

Mark Dragoni, Syracuse University, “Operating Outside of Empire: Trade and Citizenship in the Atlantic World, 1756-1812”

Jeffrey Egan, University of Connecticut, “Watershed Decisions: The Social and Environmental History of the Quabbin Reservoir, 1860-1941”

David Faflik,   University of Rhode Island, “Passing Transcendental: Harvard, Heresy, and the Modern American Origins of Unbelief”

Alex Jablonski, SUNY Binghamton, “Subjects into Citizens: The Imperial Origins of American Citizenship”

Nathan Jeremie-Brink, Loyola University Chicago, “Gratuitous Distribution: Distributing African-American Antislavery Texts, 1773-1845”

Jordan Smith, Georgetown University, “The Invention of Rum”

Robin Smith, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, “The Labor of Poetry and the Poetry of Labor: Industrialization and the Place of Poetry in Antebellum America”

Meghan Wadle, Southern Methodist University, “Stray Threads: Industrial Women's Writings and American Literature, 1826-1920”

Benjamin Franklin Stevens Fellow

Serena Zabin, Carleton College, “Occupying Boston: An Intimate History of the Boston Massacre”

Cushing Environmental Fellow (through the generosity of Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, Massachusetts)

Sean Munger, University of Oregon, “Ten Years of Winter: The Cold Decade and Environmental Consciousness in the Early 19th Century”

Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellow

Kristina Garvin, Ohio State University, “Past and Future States: The Cultural Work of the Serial in U.S. Literature, 1786-1814”

Marc Friedlaender Fellow

Kristen Burton, University of Texas Austin, “John Barleycorn vs. Sir Richard Rum: Alcohol, the Atlantic, and the Distilling of Colonial Identity, 1650-1800”

Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellow (through the generosity of Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati)

Daniel Soucier, University of Maine, “Navigating Wilderness and Borderland: The Invasion of Canada, 1775-1776”

Ruth R. and Alyson R. Miller Fellows

Kate Culkin, Bronx Community College, “‘For the Love of Your Sister’: Ellen Tucker Emerson, Edith Emerson Forbes, and the Emerson Legacy”

Rachel Walker, University of Maryland, “A Beautiful Mind: Physiognomy and Female Intellect, 1750-1850”

W.B.H. Dowse Fellows

Melissa Johnson, University of Michigan, “Regulating the Word: Religious Reform and the Politics of Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Anglo-Atlantic”

Adrian Weimer, Providence College, “Rumors and the Restoration in Boston”

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 25 April, 2014, 8:00 AM

“Long Sleeps Last Night for Both Sophias”: A New Mother’s Diary from 1910

As one of our staff prepared to depart on maternity leave this fall, I took the opportunity to delve into the print and manuscript materials in our collection related to pregnancy and childbirth, parenting and childhood. The MHS has a wide variety of print, manuscript, art and artifact materials related to the history of parents and children, from Cotton Mather’s Help for Distressed Parents, Or, Counsels & Comforts for Godly Parents Afflicted with Ungodly Children (1695) to the children’s health diaries of Helen C. Morgan (in the Allen H. Morgan Papers), who kept tidy notes on her children’s growth, eating habits, childhood illnesses, and medical treatments from their infancy through their college years (1923-1951).

One of my favorite discoveries was the diary kept by Sophie French Valentine during the first months of her daughter’s life. Perhaps in anticipation of her daughter’s birth, Sophie purchased a page-a-day Standard Diary for 1910. In the days before Internet-based social media was our platform of choice for documenting the everyday, Standard Diaries offered a way for many Americans to keep account of their own comings and goings with “status updates” that continue to resonate with intimate immediacy for future generations.

Sophie Valentine’s 1910 diary remained blank until the page for Saturday, July 23, on which she wrote simply, “She came. 8 pounds 7 ounces, 21 inches. Thoroughly healthy. abt 11.42 a.m.”

While her infant daughter was healthy, Sophie was not. On August 2nd she had to undergo an operation (unspecified), that necessitated separation from her daughter and several days’ sedation with “narcotics.” Sophie wrote on the page for August 2nd, “I nursed the baby every three hours up to this time - but just before the operation it was decided best to take her from me!”

As the summer waned, Sophie recovered from her surgery and chronicled the comings and goings of her household, as well as the growth of her daughter (also christened Sophia). Several weeks after the birth, the family doctor paid a visit and pronounced “the little one…sound and vigorous.” Three days later, infant Sophie “went out in the bassinette in front of the house” for the first of what would be many afternoons in the fresh air with her mother. Sophie’s husband, a diplomat, appears to have been away during much of his wife’s convalescence, but a steady stream of female friends and relatives populate the pages of Sophie’s diary. On August 14th, for example, the day “the little one” was baptized Sophia French Valentine, she “had pictures taken with Harriet, Charles, Aunt Martha, Auntie May; and Elizabeth and Lucy,” as well as with her mother and Aunt Caroline (“who held her and talked to her lots”). Later she was visited by “Theodore, Mrs. Graves, and Auntie Beth.”

By Thursday of that week the social whirl may have worn thin for both mother and daughter: the entry for August 18th reads simply, “Long sleeps last night for both Sophias.” A heartfelt status update that will no doubt resonate with many new parents generations hence.

The Sophie French Valentine Papers are part of the Robert G. Valentine Family Papers and available for use by researchers in the reading room of the MHS library.





comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 11 December, 2013, 1:00 AM

Coming Soon: Massachusetts Historical Review, Volume 15

Fractious centennial commemorations reveal ethnic and socioeconomic tensions in Boston!

Daguerreotype of “white slave girl” rocks the North, stirs antislavery fervor!

Radical agrarian thumbs nose at Knox, describes self as “Plaintive worm”!

Real cause of Cape Cod salt industry decline EXPOSED!

So we begin in media res with my unofficial headlines for the four research articles that make up the meat of volume 15 of the Massachusetts Historical Review, a rich and satisfying historical meal with all the trimmings followed by a dessert of three book review articles. But first, readers will enjoy an invigorating apéritif in the form of distinguished professor and writer Gordon S. Wood’s “Remarks on Receiving the John F. Kennedy Medal,” which makes plain his views on the current divide between academic and popular history writing.

“Claiming the Centennial: The American Revolution’s Blood and Spirit in Boston, 1870–1876,” by Craig Bruce Smith

The 1870s—the decade in which Boston held celebrations to commemorate key events of the American Revolution—was fraught with conflict. Classes, lineages, races, and sexes raged in the press, in the streets, and in the meeting venues of Boston for the assumed right to “claim the centennial.”


“The Real Ida May: A Fugitive Tale in the Archives,” by Mary Niall Mitchell

In the mid 1850s, a daguerreotype of a young girl named Mary Botts—a freed slave so light-skinned she “passed” for white—caused a sensation. The image shocked its audience into a kind of empathy for slaves (and generally for African Americans and Africans under the Fugitive Slave Law) that many might not have felt otherwise. Botts’s story and others related in this essay illustrate the power of the early photographic image to speak to hearts and to change minds.


“‘Persecuted in the Bowels of a Free Republic’: Samuel Ely and the Agrarian Theology of Justice, 1768–1797,” by Shelby M. Balik

Follow the adventures of Samuel Ely, a New England minister and agrarian radical who never missed an opportunity to stir up trouble in the name of divine justice. The outspoken Ely railed against what he saw as the unfair distribution of land patents. Eden, he argued, “was a garden containing six acres only, . . . not a Patent, thirty miles square, nor seventy miles long.”


“The Making and Unmaking of a Natural Resource: The Salt Industry of Coastal Southeastern Massachusetts,” by William B. Meyer

The Cape might be coveted real estate today, but before the 20th century, it held very few economic opportunities. One of them was the production of salt by the solar evaporation of seawater. Domestic saltmaking was viable because of heavy tariffs on imported salt—for a time, the duty was the federal government’s main source of revenue. This essay tells the fascinating story of the industry’s rise and decline and offers keen analysis that will make you think twice before using the term “natural resource.”


The MHR is a benefit of MHS membership. Those who are not yet members can learn about subscription to the MHR or order individual copies here.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 1 November, 2013, 1:00 AM

MHS Hosts Wiki-edit-a-thon

On Tuesday, 22 October, the MHS held a Wikipedia edit-a-thon as part of the Open Access Week 2013. The goal of the MHS edit-a-thon was to create and/or improve Wikipedia articles related to philanthropy and philanthropists in Massachusetts in the 19th century. The MHS's first foray into the edit-a-thon world attracted a small but very enthusiastic crowd of aspiring Wikipedia editors.  

Adam Hyland, a developer with Bocoup in Boston, presented an introduction to Wikipedia. He explained the Five Pillars of Wikipedia to the newest Wikipedians, emphasizing that anyone can edit Wikipedia! He also encouraged the group to start with small edits to familiarize themselves with the Wiki markup language. Adam’s passion, wit, and knowledge clearly energized the session and gave the new editors confidence. 


During the MHS session, the Wikipedians made minor text edits and added links to several articles, including Timeline of Boston history, Forbes family, Massachusetts Humane Society, and Charitable Irish Society of Boston. A new page was created for the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. You can view the results from our event page. By the end of the session, the group had successfully edited several pages pertaining to Massachusetts philanthropic history during the 19th century and the MHS staff and volunteer editors had an excellent adventure in Wikipedia editing. 

Interested?  The MHS hopes to hold future Wikipedia events to encourage the use of our collections and the sharing of information! Stay tuned for more information.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 25 October, 2013, 8:00 AM

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