The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

It is a quiet week ahead here at the Society, as far as programs are concerned:

- Tuesday, 9 August - Thursday, 11 August : SOLD OUT "The Maritime History of Massachusetts' North Shore" explores Massachusetts' connections to the sea through documents, artifacts, landscapes, and historic structures in Beverly, Gloucester, and Marblehead, including a tour of Gloucester's working waterfront. This program is open to educators and history enthusiasts but is sold out. If you would like to be placed on a waiting list, please call 617-646-0557.

- Saturday. 13 August, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour through the public spaces in the Society's historic building at 1154 Boylston St. The tour is free and open to the public with no need for reservations from individuals or small groups. Larger parties (8 or more) should contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley in advance at 617-646-0508 or

Remember that our exhibition galleries are open Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM, free of charge. So come on in and check out our current exhibition, Turning Points in American History!

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 7 August, 2016, 12:00 AM

Anarchists and Assassinations in the Early 20th-Century United States

The Walter Channing Papers, 1810-1921 contain various materials relating to anarchism and perceptions of anarchists in the early 20th-century United States. I decided to explore this collection after locating a record in our catalog, ABIGAIL, for an 18 October 1902 letter written by anarchist Emma Goldman to Dr. Walter Channing, a Boston psychiatrist. In the letter, Goldman writes about Leon Czolgosz, the person who assassinated President William McKinley, specifically his connections to her and to anarchism.

In Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt’s America (Hill and Wang, 2003), Eric Rauchway clarifies the connection between Czolgosz, a Midwesterner who killed McKinley in Buffalo, New York, and the Massachusetts-based Channing. Dissatisfied with the “official” investigation of Czolgosz that was conducted before his execution, Channing had his associate, Dr. Lloyd Vernon Briggs, “conduct a fuller investigation of Czolgosz’s background” (Rauchway 55-56). Channing eventually published an article, “The Mental Status of Czolgosz: The Assasin [sic] of President McKinley,” which was well-received by his colleagues.


I viewed three letters written by anarchists in this collection: two by A. Isaak, and one by Goldman. Rauchway provides close analysis of this correspondence, along with other pieces, in Murdering McKinley (100-105). For the purposes of this post, I’ll provide a briefer overview of these letters while considering Rauchway’s analysis. I did not see letters from Channing to Isaak and Goldman; however, it seems that the correspondence is an attempt to learn more about Czolgosz’s connections to anarchism and anarchists. Isaak’s letters, dated 29[?] August 1902 and 6 September 1902, address an encounter with Czolgosz, during which he feared Czolgosz was a spy due to his seeming lack of knowledge of, yet great enthusiasm for, anarchism. In fact, he attaches to his first letter a transcript of a “warning” included in the September 1 issue of Free Society to alert readers of Czolgosz’s presence in Chicago and Cleveland. He does write in this letter, however, that the warning was eventually “retracted.”



In her letter to Channing, Goldman comes to the defense of Czolgosz, writing that she cannot credibly comment on his status as an anarchist. She did not know Czolgosz very well, but thought that his actions could be reconciled with anarchist thought. Czolgosz, as a worker, could defend himself against his oppressors:

You may question[?] this, since Czolgosz was not personally attact [sic] by McKinley, quite true, but Czolgosz belonged to the oppressed, to the Exploited and Disinherited millions, who lead a life of darkness and despair owing to those, of whom McKinley was one, therefore he was personally attacked by the President, or rather he was one of the victims of the McKinley regime and those McKinley catered to.

Rauchway notes that McKinley as a target did not make much sense to Goldman; targets such as Henry Clay Frick, who her friend and fellow anarchist Alexander Berkman had attempted to kill, were more reasonable to her due to their roles as exploiters from the business world (103-105). Goldman even writes in this letter that “[t]he act of Czolgosz may have been inappropriate and inopportune, I will not argue this part now.” However, she is firm in her unwillingness to shun Czolgosz.

The Walter Channing Papers contain other materials relating to the Czolgosz case, including correspondence with Briggs and other physicians, photographs of Czolgosz and members of his family, and notes relating to the investigation. They might be of interest to scholars of anarchism, psychiatry, or crime in the early 20th-century United States. If any of these materials sounds exciting to you, feel free to come view them yourself here in the MHS library.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 5 August, 2016, 8:00 AM

Margaret Russell’s Diary, July 1916

Today, we return to the line-a-day diary of Margaret Russell. You can read previous installments here:

January | February | March | April | May | June | July

During August, the Russell family continued daily life on the North Shore with numerous outings by train, motor, and sail. It appears, based on locations mentioned, that Russell spent at least part of her month on the coast of Maine, motoring and sailing in the area near Mt. Desert island (where Acadia National Park is now located). Her days are a mix of outdoor activities and socializing.

One social event Russell notes in passing is a performance of “Miss Draper’s monologues,” although she fails to comment on substance or quality. The following spring (April 1917) critique Agnes Repplier, quoted in the Cambridge (Mass.) Sentinel, had this to say about Ruth Draper’s work:

Miss Ruth Draper has proved to us once and for all the marvellous possibilities of monologue as a mimetic art. Her tiny dramas, differ materially from the earlier French models, which are always in the nature of a soliloquy, illustrating with light, deft touches a single situation and a single speaker. Miss Draper’s impersonations people the stage with characters unseen but distinctly vitalized. She converses with them, having no need of answers. They are invisible allies who throng at her beck and call. While most of Miss Draper’s monologues are humorous or satiric, they grow at times tense with emotion, betraying an exquisite and poignant pathos which proves her to be a pastmistress of her art. While most of them are simple in construction, there are others which may be said to condense a three-act play into ten breathless moments.

Politics, too, intrude upon the privileged and insulated idyll that was a Boston Brahmin summer. On the last Sunday in August, as is Russell’s usual routine, she walks to and from church in the morning, then hosts a family meal at which “C. thinks I better give up plans to go West on account of the strike.” A few days later she notes, “Strike looks so bad that I have given up my plans.” The threatened railroad workers’ strike Margaret Russell alludes to in fact never came to pass -- but the threat of collective action did result in the Adamson Act (1916), a piece of federal legislation signed by president Woodrow Wilson, that established the eight-hour workday and overtime pay for railway employees. As the strike was called off by 3 September 1916, stay tuned next month to see if Margaret Russell’s travel plans are back on track!

* * *

August 1916*

1 August. Left on 8 o’k train & arrived at [illegible; likely a point in Maine given subsequent locations] at 4. Perfectly cool & comfortable journey & smooth on the water.

2 August. Wednesday - Drove to Jordan’s Pond to hear Miss Draper’s monologues. Saw lots of people. In the P.M. to see Mrs. Durham.

3 August. Thursday - Driving. Went to see Helen Cabot -- Mrs. Lovett, Mrs. R[illegible] & Mrs. Gayley to tea.

4 August. Friday. Went in motor to Savin Hill - Hills Cove where we had tea. Bar Harbor [illegible] drive & home.

5 August. Saturday - Harry & Mrs. C. Parker arrived. Mr. & Mrs. Thompson & Miss Putterham came to tea.

6 August. Sunday - Bishop Brent preached a fine sermon. Went to see Miss Schulyer. In the P.M. drove to Jordan’s Pond for tea. Lovely clear day.

7 August. Monday - Foggy. Paid a call on Wheelwrights & Mrs. C. Parker. Stayed at home in P.M. & then went to see Vaughans.

8 August. Left at 9.30 in motor Ellsworth - Blue Hill - Penobscot - Castine. 3 ¼ hours. Sallie & I took a walk to the Point but it began to rain. Nice to be here.

9 August. Raining in [illegible]. Went to village for errands with Sallie. Lovely drive in P.M. with Rob & Dick & S-- [crossed out] [illegible].

10 August. Breakfast at 6.15 & left Castine at 7.10 & train from Rockland at 10. Cool & Comfortable. The John Lawrences were on board. Miss. A-- met me at Lynn 4.15.

11 August. Friday - Stayed at home to clear up my desk. Drove in the P.M. & stopped for tea at Salem.

12 August. Saturday. Miss A-- & I to Rockport for lunch stopped at E. Gloucester & at Magnolia for errands. Bought [illegible] set. Dined at Beverly.

13 August. Sunday - Walked to church & back. Family to dine.

14 August. Monday - Town all day & to see Aunt Emma. Cool & lovely.

15 August. Tuesday - Errands & walked from [inkblot] woods. Mrs. Ward’s class - Miss A-- came & we went for tea at Marblehead.

16 August. Wednesday - To Beverly & to see Marian. Went for [illegible] & she stayed for an hour. Then to Nahant for call.

17 August. Thursday - Heard of a burned out family & went to help. 8 boys in two families. Took drive & stopped for tea at Burnham House.

18 August. Friday - Went to Middlesex Fells at 10.30 & spent the day walking & [illegible] flowers. Lovely day but no results. Home by 4.30.

19 August. Saturday. Met the H.G.C’s at N. Andover. Miss Bramwell with them. Lovely day, long drive home.

20 August. Sunday. Walked to church & back. Nobody came to dine as most are away.

21 August. Monday. Town with Miss A--. Errands & went to see Aunt Emma. Very hot but did not feel it.

22 August. Tuesday. To Salem for errands. Miss Ward’s class & afterwards to tea at Marblehead.

23 August. Wednesday. Went up at 8.30 & met Clara & May T-- at Chilton brought them down & took them back at [illegible] to Bar Harbor - boat.

24 August. Thursday - Went to church. Lunched at Nahant with Mrs. Amory Lawrence. Took drive with Miss A--.

25 August. Friday - at Home all the morning. Lunched at Beverly with Evie Curtis. Afterwards to Magnolia for errands.

26 August. Saturday - Met the H.G.C.’s at Bald Pate at lunch. Tried to find Pauline F-- but failed.

27 August. Sunday - Walked to church & back. Family to dine. C. thinks I better give up plans to go West on account of the strike.

28 August. Monday - Rained hard. Town & then to see Aunt Emma. Went to see Dr. Smith.

29 August. Went to town to get Sevres groups from M.C. Cabot. Back to lunch. Mrs. Ward’s class & then to see F. Prince. 

30 August. Wednesday - Strike looks so bad that I have given up my plans. Walked back from Little Nahant. Baby came to see Mama.

31 August. Thursday. Lunched at Nahant at Mrs. F. Merriman’s. Went to Manchester to see Mrs. H[illegible] & Mrs. James H.

* * *

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.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 3 August, 2016, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It's August and it's high time that you dropped by the MHS to get out of the heat and enjoy some history. Here is what we have on tap in the week ahead:

- Monday, 1 August, 12:00PM : We start the month with a Brown Bag lunch talk presented by Cassandra Berman of Brandeis University. "Motherhood and the Court of Public Opinion: Transgressive Maternity in America, 1768-1868" examines the figure of the transgressive mother in the United States during a period in which an indealized version of motherhood began to be seen as integral to the moral development of the nation. Berman's research shifts the focus away from ideals and instead examines how the public judges those mother who either could not or would not conform. This talk is free and open to the public, so pack a lunch and come on in!

- Wedensday, 3 August, 12:00PM : Another Brown Bag! With "'Missionary Nation': Imagining America's Role in the Post-Civil War World," James Shinn of Yale  University examines how the struggle for the Union exercised a powervul and lasting--but deeply ambiguous--influence on the Republican foreign policy vision of the late 1860s and 1870s. This talk, also, is free and open to the public. 

- Thursday, 4 August - Friday, 5 August :  "Whaling in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts" is a teacher workshop taking place here at the Society and at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Using documents from the MHS and the Leventhal Map Center, the workshop explores the lives of sailors, whaling wives, and entrepreneurs, and traces the expanding geographical horizons afforded by the whaling industry. This program is open to educators and history enthusiasts. To register, or for more information, complete this registration form, or contact the education department or 617-646-0557. 

- Saturday, 6 August, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS 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: Turning Points in American History.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 31 July, 2016, 12:00 AM

Abigail’s Window

The First Lady was lost. Nine miles off the main road, Abigail Adams, 56, hacked her way through the thick woods bordering Baltimore and the “wilderness city” of Washington, D.C. Eager to join husband John in the new capital, Abigail had left Quincy in early November 1800 with two servants. By Saturday the 15th, they had fallen a few days off course. For two hours, a frustrated Abigail circled the same forest paths—a precious gulf of travel time gone, since they only rode in daylight, and local inns were scarce. Abigail (accurately) reckoned that 36 miles of rough and lonely land lay ahead. She forged on, “holding down & breaking bows of trees which we could not pass,” as she told sister Mary Smith Cranch, “untill we met a Solitary black fellow with a horse and cart. We inquired of him our way, and he kindly offered to conduct us.” Abigail hired him on the spot. Following his directions, by Sunday afternoon she reached her new home, “a Castle of a House…in a beautifull Situation” with a “romantic” view of the Potomac River.

Abigail Adams’ trove of letters, as national convention-watchers have recently reminded us, supply a unique view of slavery and of the African-American experience in the new republic. When First Lady Michelle Obama reiterated on Monday that slave labor built the White House, many viewers turned to founding-era papers, including those of the Adams family, for details. Enter Abigail. One of the second First Lady’s D.C. dispatches, back in popular circulation again this week, lists her candid observation of slaves at work outside the President’s House window. Here’s an extract of the 28 Nov. 1800 letter to Cotton Tufts that got Abigail Adams trending on Facebook and lighting up Twitter:

“The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employd with four small Horse carts to remove some dirt in front of the house. The four carts are all loaded at the Same time, and whilst four carry this rubish about half a mile, the remaining eight rest upon their Shovels, two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day, as the whole 12; but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of cloathing, or fit for May faire, to labour, whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast. Such is the case of many of the inhabitants of this place.”


Such a public display of slavery in the nation’s capital distressed Abigail Adams, although a New England upbringing had not shielded her from its misery. Her father William Smith, a Weymouth clergyman, owned several slaves who were freed upon his death in 1783.“I wish most sincerely there was not a Slave in the province,” Abigail wrote to her husband in 1774, as demands for American liberty grew. A staunch antislavery advocate, Abigail was furious when the Declaration of Independence’s “most Manly Sentiments,” denouncing the slave trade, were, after debate, heavily struck from the final draft. Plain-spoken about the need for African-American freedom on paper, Abigail’s actions also merit a quick review. She employed her father’s former slave, Phoebe Abdee, to run the family farm. She educated African-American servants in her Quincy parlor. When a neighbor balked at Abigail sending one of her staff, James, to school, she argued for him in a letter to John: “The Boy is a Freeman as much as any of the young Men, and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? Is this the Christian principle of doing to others, as we would have others do to us?” Then Abigail pivoted to quash James’ toughest critic: “Tell them Mr. Faxon that I hope we shall all go to Heaven together. Upon which Faxon laugh’d, and thus ended the conversation. I have not heard any more upon the subject.” The question of James’ education was settled in 1797. Three busy years later, Abigail set out for the President’s House.

Abigail, a hardy traveler, took advantage of every panorama and every person she met. Given a new window on the world, Abigail used it. Barely a month into her D.C. stay, Abigail accepted an invitation to visit Martha Washington, now the General’s widow, at Mount Vernon. The rooms she found “small and low,” and the “greatest Ornament” to the visitor’s eye, Abigail decided, was a long piazza that knit together the Potomac’s gauzy blue-grey with lush green lawn. Signs of decay, the New Englander wrote, now threatened parts of the plantation’s beauty. Abigail’s unique summit with her old friend and colleague is worth a ponder. What did the two First Ladies discuss? We know one topic for certain: Slaves. Specifically, Abigail wrote to her sister Mary Smith Cranch on 21 December 1800, the deepening anxiety that Martha, “with all her fortune finds it difficult to support her family, which consists of three Hundred souls.” With 150 Mount Vernon slaves on the brink of emancipation, Abigail wrote that Martha was “distrest” for the fate of “Men with wives & young children who have never Seen an acre, beyond the farm. are now about to quit it, and go adrift into the world without house Home or Friend.”


This rich letter, held in the Adams-Cranch Papers here at the Massachusetts Historical Society, contains Abigail’s description of plantation life and underlines her antislavery creed. “If any person wishes to see the banefull effects of slavery. as it creates a torpor and an indolence and a Spirit of domination,” Abigail wrote, “let them come and take a view of the cultivation of this part of the United States. I shall have reason to Say. that my Lot hath fallen to me in a pleasant place. and that verily I have a goodly Heritage.” Mount Vernon gave Abigail another President’s House window from which to see America’s slaves, and the thorny road ahead. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 11:47 AM

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