Holding Those in the Path of Hurricane Irma in Our Thoughts
By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
As I write this post on Friday, September 8th, Hurricane Irma is working its destructive way through the Caribbean toward the southeast United States. While this blog post was scheduled to be the September 1917 diary entries of Gertrude Codman Carter it felt strange not to recognize the lives that are being turned upside down in the very islands that Lady Carter called home for much of her adult life. Carter’s diaries, chronicling her journey from Boston to Barbados in the early twentieth century, are far from the only or the earliest connections between Massachusetts and the Caribbean to be found in the MHS collections.
Today, I want to share some images from our copy of Thomas Jeffrey’s The West-India Atlas: or, A compendious description of the West-Indies: illustrated with forty correct charts and maps, taken from actual surveys. Together with an historical account of the several countries and islands which compose that part of the world (London: R. Sayer and J. Bennett, 1775). The MHS copy of this 18th century atlas was owned by Robert Haswell, whose Voyage round the world onboard the ship Columbia-Rediviva and sloop Washington, 1787-1789 also resides in our collections. A pastel portrait of Haswell by the English painter James Sharples may be viewed here.
The details in this atlas are both informational and whimsical. In addition to the flocks of birds pictured above, almost every chart includes tiny parades of detailed ships making their way safely past such landmarks as the Colorados Reef, sunken rocks, and false headlands.
The atlas also provides voyagers with information about fresh water, as in this detail of the tip of Cuba, an “old ruined castle.”
Earlier this week, Hurricane Irma devastated the islands of Barbuda and Antigua, pictured here. I encourage you, if you have the ability, to donate to a charity of your choosing that will support those who need to rebuild their lives.
Look for a return to Lady Gertrude’s diary at the end of September.
| Published: Friday, 8 September, 2017, 12:00 AM
Origins of Memorial Day, In Brief
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
The Massachusetts Historical Society will be closed on Saturday and Monday this weekend in observance of Memorial Day. The origins of Memorial Day are rooted in the Civil War, and the rituals of commemoration that sprung up extemporaneously and then in a more collective, organized fashion in the postwar period and during Reconstruction. Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, celebrations honored the dead, celebrated emancipation, and in the white South kept the memory of the Confederacy alive. It was not until the First World War, in the early twentieth century, that Memorial Day became a national day to remember those who had fallen in all violent conflicts in which the United States had been militarily involved.
The ribbon above [http://balthazaar.masshist.org/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&BBID=201361], from 1908, was worn by a participant in the Grand Army of the Republic ceremonies in Washington, D.C. It is one of two ribbons from the day's celebrations held in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
We at the MHS wish you the best on this holiday weekend, and look forward to reopening the library on Tuesday for our summer research season.
| Published: Friday, 26 May, 2017, 12:00 AM
Gertrude Codman Carter’s Diary, January 1917
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
In late December, I introduced readers to Lady Gertrude Codman Carter, whose diary we will be exploring month-by-month through 2017. While a fairly regular diarist, Gertrude Carter’s journal skips from the end of December 1916 to February 8, 1917 without clear explanation. Thus, our January installment of this series will be slightly atypical as I introduce you to Carter’s diary through the look, feel, and format of the volume itself.
Unlike last year’s diary, which contained line-a-day entries with little or no elaboration, the Carter diary is a wealth of variation. While physically designed in a pre-printed format much like the line-a-day-diaries of Margaret Russell, Carter’s diary is a large format of 11.5 x 7 inches, three days per page. As you can see, Codman uses the design of the pages as only a loose guide; to begin with, she has repurposed a pre-printed volume meant for 1915 for her record of two years later. This thrift, perhaps caused by wartime shortages, requires her to correct the numerical date for each entry as well as the year printed next to the month on each page.
The page above, with which the diary opens, is preceded by the rough edge of several torn pages. Were the pages removed because they were unused, or was their information within them the diarist or descendent did not wish to be seen by future eyes? Impossible to tell from the volume itself.
It is also clear from Carter’s entries that, in some cases at least, the details were added in retrospect. “Another engagement,” she writes under February 10, a Saturday, “(doesn’t say what - so I imagine it was a life…)” … any suggestions for what that final word may be? To what other record is she referring, the record in which she failed to record her engagements? Another mystery.
An artist, Carter’s record incorporates the visual. The photo affixed to the February page above is pasted on the date without remark, appearing to be an image of a construction site of some kind -- perhaps work being done on Ilaro, the residence Carter was designing for her family. On other pages, we will encounter fanciful sketches and brilliant paintings, such as this tiny island sketched in an otherwise dense page of writing and the “Study of Captain Silver’’s Parrot,” both found in the volume for 1916.
In February, we will delve into the stories shared in the diary itself, including a long narrative recording about a what Carter deems a “real case of telepathy,” and the long, deathly shadow of the ongoing war.
Do you have specific questions about Codman’s life or diaries? Leave a comment below! Throughout the year, I will be exploring Codman’s biography and context, and will be happy to take requests.
If you are interested in viewing the diary yourself, 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.
| Published: Friday, 20 January, 2017, 12:00 AM
Reference Collection Book Review: Bay Cities, Water Politics
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
During a year when much of Massachusetts is experiencing drought conditions and water use restrictions have become a reality in the lives of many in the Commonwealth, it is timely to consider what our regional history of water use and management has been. In the recently-acquired Bay Cities and Water Politics: The Battle for Resources in Boston & Oakland (University Press of Kansas, 1998), historian Sarah S. Elkind documents the political development of water use policies in two geographically and culturally divergent areas of the United States: eastern Massachusetts and the San Francisco bay area. Briefly surveying early water use policies in both the Boston area and the East Bay, Elkind focuses her historical narrative on the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when first-generation water systems began to strain under increasing demand and each region had to determine a way forward.
In Massachusetts, where clean water delivery and sewage disposal had long been framed as a public health concern, the political elite were able to build the case for a regional system that put water and sewage into the hands of state agencies. The voters supported the creation of “new institutions, controlled by engineers and bureaucrats...because they face pollution and water supply problems that their municipalities had repeatedly failed to solve” (114). On the East Bay, meanwhile, water resources became a struggle over private versus publicly-held water supplies as powerful commercial interests resisted attempts to establish publicly-controlled regional deep into the twentieth century.
In both regions, Elkind argues, “rural activities and economies were sacrificed for urban prosperity in spite of the continued nostalgia for America’s rural past” (155). While each region developed temporary solutions to both water supply and waste disposal, these systems remained vulnerable to increased demand for clean water and the growing environmental burden of pollution. Regionalism, Elkind argues, was a Progressive-era solution to challenge of water resource management. By creating infrastructure somewhat immune to the local politics of individual city or corporate interests, regional solutions created water systems that provided clean water to citizens and removed waste. However, regional technologies “ultimately impaired the ability of...natural systems to absorb the byproducts of modern industrial life” (171). By the late twentieth century, regional entities came under harsh criticism from citizen activists in both Massachusetts and California as water battles took center stage in regional politics once again.
For a book on water politics, Bay Cities and Water Politics is a fairly dry read. Elkind relies on government records, the personal papers of key figures, newspapers, pamphlets, and other print materials to construct her history. Readers unfamiliar with the individuals, municipal agencies, and corporations involved may get lost in the play-by-play accounting of regional politics at work. Nonetheless, the title will be an essential resource for anyone needing background on Progressive era water and sewage politics in Boston. It complements the work done by Carl Smith in City Water, City Life (University of Chicago Press, 2013) documenting water supply politics in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago before the Civil War.
Boston & Roxbury Mill Corporation records, 1794-1912.
Elizabeth S. Houghton papers, 1916-1999; bulk: 1955-1999.
Allen H. Morgan papers, 1923-1990.
Lemuel Shattuck papers,1676-1909; bulk: 1805-1867.
Quincy family papers (1665-1852) in the Quincy, Wendell, Holmes, and Upham Family Papers, microfilm edition.
| Published: Friday, 9 September, 2016, 12:00 AM
Reference Collection Development: Watch This Space for New Titles!
By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
During the past fiscal year, the MHS used income from hosting the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar to increase our reference collection development efforts. As a research library, it is crucial for the MHS to have up-to-date scholarly and reference works that support in-depth exploration and analysis of our manuscript, print, and art and artifact collections. In recent years we have depended primarily on the generosity of donors to add recent publications to our collection. We are excited that the Boston Summer Seminar income allowed us to be more proactive in strengthening our scholarly and reference holdings.
During the winter of 2016, our reader services team reviewed and updated the reference collection development policy, identified priority areas for acquisition, and surveyed trade publications for relevant titles. In June we were able to purchase over fifty titles in the following key areas: artifacts and material culture reference works, art and photography history and reference, Boston and local history, environmental history, immigration and emigration, New England in a global context, research fellows’ publications, World War I, research strategies and techniques, and twentieth century political and social history. Most of these titles are now cataloged and available upon request for review in the MHS library’s reference or reading rooms.
Beginning in September, reader services team members will highlight some of these newly-acquired works here on The Beehive, in the form of summary reviews paired with suggestions for which MHS collections might benefit from consultation with the work under review. We hope that these short reviews will encourage you to explore our scholarly and reference holdings for titles that support your work with our rare and unique collections material.
The MHS library also continues to welcome the donation of recent scholarly works that make use of or fit with our holdings, as well as being open to suggestions for titles that may be useful additions to our scholarly and reference collection. Offers of donation or suggestions for acquisition should be directed to the reference librarian Anna Clutterbuck-Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
| Published: Friday, 26 August, 2016, 12:00 AM