The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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.


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


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

WED. 8

School. Took care of sonny. Cousin Bert here


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

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

The Bygone Celebrations of May Day in Boston

Today is the 1st of May, a day once celebrated with merriment, song, dance and baskets. The celebration of May Day originated in pre-Christian Europe as a festival to celebrate the coming of Spring and the first planting. The boisterous celebrations of May Day suffered a bit with the onset of Christianity, but what emerged was a more innocent and beautiful festival. It was this festival, brought over from Europe, which reached its peak in nineteenth century America. Bostonians celebrated May Day with concerts, dances, and by making May Day Baskets.

May Day exhibition of the Sabbath School connected with the Universalist Society of Methuen, Mass...


The May Day holiday was perhaps the loveliest of all celebrations. Adorned in flowers and beautiful colors, this was a day to truly celebrate beauty, friendship and happiness, as well as the coming of spring and all the wonderful sights, smells, tastes and feelings that accompany the warmer months. The holiday was as sweet and as beautiful as the season it heralded. May Day baskets were often homemade baskets that would be filled with freshly picked flowers, sweets, and sometimes even small gifts, to be left on the doors of friends, neighbors and possibly even a romantic interest. The May baskets were secretly hung on the door of friends and loved ones on May 1st.

In 1850, a Massachusetts man named Thomas Power composed an ode (below) to an unknown woman who presented him with a May Day basket.

To the Unknown Lady: who sent to the Writer, on May morning, a bouquet, exceedingly beautiful, and very fragrant

…Lady, so beautiful the gift you send,

It might to others beauteous objects lend

A wealth of loveliness, and still be seen

The favorite talisman of May’s fair queen;

Blended so gracefully, its tints compare

With show of Iris painted on the air.


What welcome perfume! –Ever shall it be

Thus fresh is grateful memory to me:

Each coming May-day shall new fragrance bring,

And Time decree one bright, unending Spring.


150 years ago the city was rife with concerts and dances to celebrate May Day. Children jubilantly danced around May Poles as their rite of Spring, and schools held assemblies and choral concerts. Adults and children alike enjoyed the festivities, songs, and dances that accompanied the festivals.

One such event was sponsored by the Warren Street Chapel in 1860. The festivities that took place at the Boston Music Hall included poems, songs like Dr. Parson's "A Song for the Children. May Day," and the very fashionable tableaux, "The Living Pictures," which had swept over Europe and then became vogue in America. The entire thing wrapped up with a "Social Assembly, Fourteen Dances, at Eight O'Clock, P.M."

May Day, 1860: Boston Music Hall


Another celebration held in 1858 featured songs specially arranged for the day and to be sung at specific times; "Fancy Dances" held at set times throughout the day; "Games, Graces, &c." to occupy revelers during lulls in the music and dancing; and in the evening, a "Grand Promenade Concert" performed by the Germania Reed, Brass, Militrary Band and Full Orchestra." In addition, visitors could purchase bouquets and potted flowers to take home (with delivery to any part of the city an option).

Programme for May-Day...


So, consider rekindling some of these bygone May Day traditions and festivities. Prepare a basket, sing a song, and dance a dance, and celebrate the season with these words:

Oh! Mild be the wind! And clear be the sky!

                As we wake another May-morning.

Before the sun rises, abroad we fly,

                Dull sleep and our drowsy beds scorning,

To dance! Then, my dear ones, and away!

                Bright splendor the hills are adorning.

The face of all nature looks gay,

                ‘Tis a beautiful, joy-breathing morning!

Hark! hark! forward! tantara! tantara!


Have a lovely May Day!




- Encyclopaedia Britannica online, "May Day: European seasonal holiday." Accessed 30 April 2018 at

- Weeks, Linton, "A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day." NPR History Department, 30 April 2015. Accessed 30 April 2018 at

- "The May-Day Festival: Symposium," Francis W. Parker School Year Book, Vol. 2, The Morning Exercise As A Socializing Influence (June 1913), p. 150-157. Accessed 30 April 2018 at





comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 1 May, 2018, 11:48 AM

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