The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From the Reference Librarian 

Spring Flowers

The month of May brought a sudden profusion of new growth to Boston’s green spaces this year: front yards, city parks, community gardens, and wild untamed lots all burst forth into a riot of green foliage and bright flowers.

To celebrate the season on this final day of May, I bring you the botanical watercolors of Louise Wheelwright Damon (1889-1973), who painted these vibrant pictures in 1956. I love the examples of amateur art in our collections; that the trained eye and hand of artists such as Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick or John Singleton Copley exist in our collections alongside these lesser known -- sometimes even unknown, unremarked upon -- works that brought their creator pleasure, were saved by a family member, and ultimately donated to our institution where researchers of the future could discover and enjoy them.

“Spruce”

Westwood Lodge, 45 Clapboardtree Street, Westwood, Mass., 14 May 1956.

Graphics. Damon 004.

 

 

“Wild Crab Apple”

Westwood Lodge, 45 Clapboardtree Street, Westwood, Mass., 23 May 1956.

Graphics. Damon 009.

 

Untitled irises

Westwood Lodge, 45 Clapboardtree Street, Westwood, Mass., 8 June 1956.

Graphics. Damon 017.

 

Untitled queen anne’s lace

Westwood Lodge, 45 Clapboardtree Street, Westwood, Mass., 23 May 1956.

Graphics. Damon 030.

 

The Louse Wheelwright Damon botanical drawings are available to access in the MHS reading room or at a distance through the purchase of PDF or TIFF reproductions. Please check out Visiting the Library and Reproduction Services page for more detail.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 12:51 PM

Odd Accounts : Ship Sketches and More in the Smith Family Papers

As many of my colleagues have pointed out in the past here on the Beehive, one of the joys of working with the manuscript collections at the MHS is finding something unexcpected when going through a box of material.

Recently, I tried to answer a reference question from a remote researcher that deal with a ship captain from the early 19th century. As it turned out, I made a bit of a mistake and provided information on the wrong person. However, it turned out to be a happy accident because of what I ended up finding, and which may have otherwise escaped my notice.

The Smith family papers are a single-box collection of manuscripts that contains several volumes of Capt. William Smith of Boston. Each of these volumes is tucked inside its own folder with a brief title that indicates what the volume contains: "Account book," "Letterbook," "Log of Mary." However, within these volumes there are some surprises. For example, in a letterbook dated 1812, not only are there manuscript copies of several pieces of correspondence, but also several pages of accounts and ship inventories, and even a couple of poems.

Still, it is not so unusual to find something like poetry in a letterbook maintained by a man who would have been at sea for weeks or months at a time.

A standard account book page detailing a ship's inventory.


To me, the real treasure is inside a thin volume simply labeled "Accounts, 1812-17." While there are many pages of ship inventories, accounts, and invoices, as the title so faithfully indicates, much less expected are the myriad hand-drawn images of various ships done with wonderful detail.

"The Spanish Letter of Marque la Catalina, of 10 guns, Lorenze Joze Gonzales. Formerly the Brig Erin of Norfolk Virg. William Smith Master."

 

Elsewhere in the account book is another picture of the above ship where it is simply identified as the Brig Erin of Norfolk, mastered by William Smith.

Another drawing shows the Brig Mary, the log of which is also housed in the Smith family papers.

"Mary of Boston."

 

"Independence, 74 Guns [Commodore] William Bainbridge."


In addition to these standalone images there is a series of three drawings that detail the encounter between the United States Frigate Constitution and H. M. S. Guerriere on 19 August 1812.

"The United States Frigate Constitution, Isaac Hull, Esq, Commander, bearing down upon and preparing to engage the British Frigate Le Gurriere, Capt. Dacres, August 19, 1812."


The story of this naval battle early in the War of 1812 is well-known and well-documented with many tributes in text and in image available, so I will not attempt to rehash that here, except to say that this battle is where the U. S. ship received its nickname, "Old Ironsides." [See below for some websites that recount the battle.]

But the drawings themselves are worth a look.

"In 15 minutes the Constitution cuts away the Gurriere's mizen mast."


"In 43 minutes the Gurriere totally dismasted, when she fires her Lee gun and surrenders."

 

Finally, the account-keeper even included a couple of rebuses in this volume. Longtime visitors to the Beehive may remember a post here a few years ago about rebuses, written by MHS alum Kittle Evenson. ["Cryptic Communique..."] After you re-read Kittle's entry, you can come back here and see if you can figure out one of the word puzzles. As of publication, I have yet to crack it!

 

As always, if you see something here of interest and want to view it in person, consider Visiting the Library!


Further Reading

- "USS Constitution in the War of 1812." Naval History and Heritage Command. Accessed 22 May 2018 at https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/ships/uss-constitution-americas-ship-of-state/history.html.

- USS Constitution Museum, "Sea Dog: Guerriere the Terrier," USS Constitution Museum website. Accessed 23 May 2018 at https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/2012/08/01/sea-dog-guerriere-terrier/

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 23 May, 2018, 4:36 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

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 January, February, and March 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 April, day by day.

 

* * *

MON. 1                       APRIL

School. Mrs. Reeds. Muriel’s. Mrs. Reeds.

TUES. 2

Mother went to New York. Muriel’s. Mrs. Reed.

WED. 3

Mrs. Reed’s. Dance at Spud’s. Night at Pegs.

THUR. 4

Mrs. Reed’s all day. Red Cross Rally. Muriel Over Night. Hurt Knee

FRI. 5

Liberty Loan parade. In Town. Addressed cards for Dr. Godfrey

SAT. 6

Mother came home

SUN. 7

Sunday School. Studied.

MON. 8

School. Mrs. Reed’s

TUES. 9

School.

WED. 10

School. Rehearsed for Dancing.

THUR. 11

School. Knee hurt so came home at end of third. Mrs. Reeds

FRI. 12

School. Rehearsal for Camp Fire. Snow. Practice Kitchen for dinner

SAT. 13

Mrs. Reeds. Camp Reunion. “Pete” for week-end

SUN. 14

Church. Sunday School. Lasell Vespers

[Editor’s Note: Private college in Newton, est 1851, at this point would have been Lasell Seminary for Young Women]

MON. 15

School. In town. To lawyer. Awful Cold.

TUES. 16

Mrs. Reeds. Mrs. Bigelow here.

WED. 17

School. Rehearsal for dancing. Mrs. Reed’s

THUR. 18

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Surgical Dressings. Pegs over night

FRI. 19

Worked on Costume. Rehearsal for pageant. Missed Cousin Bert

SAT. 20

Mrs Redmond’s girls here. (Awful) ([fony]) Pageant Feast behind the scenes.

SUN. 21

Sick? Sunday School.

MON. 22

School. Rehearsed dance. Tennis.

TUES. 23

School. Took care of sonny.

WED. 24

School. Rehearsed for meet

THUR. 25

School. Took care of sonny.

FRI. 26

School. Gym. Meet. Tennis

SAT. 27

Washed my hair. Took care of sonny. Swimming

SUN. 28

Sunday School. Everyone Blue. Wendell showed me about the bugle

MON. 29

Headache? In town. Got material for skirt + dress

TUES. 30

School. Took care of the baby. Clark Reed wounded.

* * *

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: Monday, 23 April, 2018, 12:00 AM

“Across wide fields of melting snow / The winds of summer softly blow”: The Easter poems of Lucy Larcom

On March 20th we marked the spring equinox here in New England with the arrival of our fourth nor’easter of the month. After a warmer-than-average February we found ourselves bundling up for a colder-than-average March and spring has seemed further around the corner than it ought to be. In this week that marks both the Jewish Passover and Christian Easter holidays, I decided to share a poem for spring from New England poet Lucy Larcom. 

 

Many of you have likely encountered nineteenth-century writer Lucy Larcom through her autobiographical work A New England Girlhood (1889) which tells the story of her childhood in Beverly, Massachusetts and her experience working in the mills of Lowell before she traveled west to Illinois to become a teacher and later returned to Massachusetts to make her living as a writer and editor. In 1891, Larcom published a small collection of Easter poems, Easter Gleams with Riverside Press an imprint of Houghton, Mifflin & Company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Riverside had also published Larcom’s Girlhood three years before. Below are the poems “Ring! Happy Bells!” (5) poem “Sunrise” (13) from Easter Gleams.

 

Ring! Happy Bells!

Ring, happy bells of Easter time!

The world is glad to hear your chime;

Across wide field of melting snow

The winds of summer softly blow,

And birds and streams repeat the chime

Of Easter time.

 

Ring, happy bells of Easter time!

The world takes up your chant sublime,

The Lord has risen!” The night of fear

Has passed away, and heaven draws near:

We breathe the air of that blest clime,

At Easter time.

 

Ring, happy bells of Easter time!

Our happy hearts give back your chime!

The Lord has risen! We die no more:

He opens wide the heavenly door;

He meets us, while to Him we climb,

At Easter time.

 


Sunrise.

The Sunrise over the houses!

The beautiful rose of dawn

Reddening the eastern windows, --

The curtains of Night withdrawn!

 

More lovely than boughs in blossom

The spires and the roof-trees glow.

It is day; and, in God awaking,

Shall the spirit unfold and grow.

 

On the city, in chrismal splendor,

The blessing of morning falls: --

The Bride coming down out of heaven! --

The pearl-gates, the jasper walls!

 

The white light enters the casement

Like the wings of the Holy Dove;

And every house is a flower,

A blossom of peace and love.

 

The sunrise is fair on the gardens,

The groves and the forests afar;

But fairer the trees of manhood,

Of heavenly planting are.

 

And wide are the green savannahs

That under the dawn unroll;

But broader the landscape opens

In the sunrise of a soul!

 

The footsteps of morning hasten

Across yonder populous space,

And the dwellings of men are illumined

With the glory of God’s own face.

 

Who can guess the power of His coming?

He will banish doubt and despair;

The life of His Spirit will kindle

And stir the sleepers there.

 

Behold the Day Star ascending!

See the hour of His triumph begin!

The sunrise over the houses!

The Christ-light shining in!

 

In addition to holding a print copy of Easter Gleams and other published works by Larcom, the Massachusetts Historical Society holds Larcom’s diaries, correspondence, and other manuscript materials, principally in the Daniel Dulany Addison collection. We also hold issues of Our Young Folks (1865-1873) and the Lowell Offering (1840-1845), both of which Larcom was deeply involved in as a writer and editor. Researchers interested in accessing Larcom’s writings may visit the library or contact the reader services staff to learn about options for reproduction.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 10:24 AM

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