The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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

MHS and Massachusetts History Day

As the State Affiliates for Massachusetts History Day, Mass Historical and the Center for the Teaching of History are excited to celebrate the incredible work of young historians across the state.  From over 5,000 students competing at the school level to the 63 students advancing to the 2018 National History Day Competition outside Washington D.C. this June, a fabulous group of young people across the state have actively engaged in the research and re-telling of a broad range of historical topics.  

National History Day is a year-long, primary source-based research project for students in grades 6-12 that encourages exploration of local, state, national, and world history.  The competition takes place in two divisions (Junior (Grades 6-8) and Senior (Grades 9-12). The students present their research within the format of five different categories: Research Paper, Exhibit, Performance, Documentary, or Website, and can choose to participate individually or as part of a group.  This year’s theme is “Conflict and Compromise”, and students worked with educators, archivists, librarians, and historians all over the state to research their chosen subjects in this theme.  The diverse array of student topics this year included:

  • - “Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Vilifying Women During the Conflict in Salem”
  • - “The Flapper Story: A History of Lesbian Development, Modern Feminism and Gender Roles in the 1920s”
  • - “A Cloying Compromise: The Story of the Hawaiian Annexation”
  • - “Murky Past, Clean Future: The Clean Air Act of 1970”

 

Mass History Day will also be celebrating student work in a celebration of the life of Frederick Douglass next month! In honor of the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial, MHS and Mass History Day teamed up with Mass Humanities, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Primary Source to offer special student awards, school scholarships, and teacher stipends for works that illuminate the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. Students will present their projects and have the chance to speak with noted Douglass scholars David Blight of Yale University, Lois Brown of Wesleyan University, and John Stauffer of Harvard University at the Mass History Day Frederick Douglass Bicentennial on 2 June. For more information on the program and how to attend, visit the Mass Humanities website.

Massachusetts History Day is one of the rare programs that helps students refine critical thinking and research skills used in all subject areas. This competition gives students an opportunity to dive deep and truly engage with primary resources, an experience that not only helps to build their appreciation for history and the importance of research societies and libraries, but gives them valuable practice in higher education-type research. The format of the projects and the flexibility in research topics also allows students to play to their own strengths and interests. These types of activities also help students bring their education outside the classroom and engage with students, historians, and enthusiasts from all over the nation. Mass Historical and Mass History Day are proud of our 2018 participants and excited to watch the next generation of historians in action!

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 4 May, 2018, 5:14 PM

A Choise Garden of Rarest Flowers: John Parkinson’s "Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris"

Somewhere amid April snow showers, I took my desire to see long-awaited signs of spring into my own hands and dug into a number of volumes here at the MHS regarding all things flora. I spent some time in A Little Book of Perennials (1927) by Alfred C. Hottes, consulted the floral clock in the appendix of Christopher Dresser’s Art of Decorative Design (1862) in anticipation of near-future blooms, and found the not-so-secret language of flowers outlined in a miniature Burnett's Floral Handbook and Ladies' Calendar for 1866 intriguing and rather amusing (if someone sends you laurestinus flowers, they may be trying to convey the sentiment “I die if neglected”; lettuce expresses cold-heartedness, a yellow carnation disdain).

I slowed down when I started paging through John Parkinson’s 1656 volume on horticulture, descriptively titled Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris, or, A choise Garden of all sorts of Rarest Flowers, with their Nature, place of Birth, time of flowring, Names, and Vertues to each Plant, useful in Physick, or admired for Beauty. To which is annext a Kitchin-Garden furnished with all manner of Herbs, Roots, and Fruits, for Meat or Sawce used with us. With the Art of planting an Orchard of all sorts of fruit-bearing Trees and Shrubs, shewing the nature of Grafting, Inoculating, and pruning of them. Together with the right ordering, planting, and preserving of them, with their select vertues : All unmentioned in former Herbals. Parkinson, who held the distinctions of Apothecary of London and the King’s Herbalist, preludes this work with a dedication to the queen. Our 1659 copy of Paradisi in Sole is a later edition of the original, first printed in 1629, making this a dedication to Henrietta Maria of France, wife of Charles I of England. Parkinson writes, “Accept, I beseech your Majesty, this Speaking Garden, that may inform you in all the particulars of your store, as well as wants, when you cannot see any of them fresh upon the ground.” As I had yet to see any signs of spring fresh upon the ground and was indeed in want of them, I decided to give this Speaking Garden a try. 

I wasn’t disappointed – Parkinson’s collection of horticultural advice, wisdom, and instruction includes a number of beautiful woodcut illustrations. An early section, “The ordering of the Garden of pleasure,” includes intricate designs as suggestions for attractive garden layouts.

 

"The ordering of the Garden of pleasure."

 


 "The Garden of pleasant Flowers," showing various specimen of Peony.

 

Some illustrations near the beginning of the book bear signs of a previous owner, having been partially colored. Other sections of the text have been underlined or annotated. Evidently one reader wanted to remember when planting Tulipas, “if you set them deep, they will be the safer from frosts if your ground be cold, which will also cause them to be a little later before they be in flower …” as it has been called out with a manicule.

 

 

In addition to the main text with its beautiful illustrations, Paradisi in Sole includes helpful appendices to help navigate a volume brimming with knowledge, insight, and sometimes seemingly strange advice. My favorite was “A Table of the Virtues and Properties of the HEARBS contained in this BOOK,” which provides a concise guide to locating remedies for standard ailments and even one’s most obscure complaint.

 

 

How could I not turn to pages 364, 436, 502, 506, 513, or 533 to see what I should do “For cold and moyst Brains”? Apparently Tabacco [sic], the Tree of life, Garden Mustard, Cabbages and Coleworts, Leeks, or Licorice would do the trick and clear the lungs of phlegm. What are Parkinson’s nineteen suggestions for a “Cordiall to comfort the heart”? Among them he includes Saffron, Monkeshood, Marigolds, Roses, and Strawberries. Plenty more “virtues” had me flipping back and forth, from index to referenced page, out of sheer curiosity and bewilderment. If you would like to do the same, visit the library to work with this volume and others that pique your interest.

As I finish this blog post and prepare to reshelve Paradisi in Sole, I see a bed of daffodils and tulips through a window in the reading room. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 2 May, 2018, 12:00 AM

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