The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: Around MHS

Travel Without Moving : Adam Matthew Digital and the History of Tourism

As summer draws to its inevitable end, I am somewhat grateful (In case you haven’t noticed, it has been a hot one!) and somewhat wistful. Although I’ve been privileged to take several trips this season, I am someone always thinking of the next place left to explore, even if that place is as close as downtown Boston or a small piece of New England I haven’t yet seen in my lifetime of living here. Luckily, as a library assistant here at MHS and an aspiring archivist, I do always have an option to turn to when needing to be transported to a new place: the archives.

Quite the useful tool in my vicarious travels has been the Adam Matthew Digital online database Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture: The History of Tourism. This digital collection - available by subscription - highlights materials from several contributing institutions around the world, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, revolving around the birth and growth of travel and mass tourism between 1850 and 1980. The collection is made up of all sorts of ephemera from photographs, travel brochures, and ads to promotional tourism films. One can explore the collection by curated themes, country or region, contributing institution, or even within a set chronological timeline. It can be accessed online here at the MHS, or within any contributing or subscribing library.

Below I’ve highlighted a few items from our collections available on this database, and how they contribute to our understanding of how Americans traveled and toured New England in the past two centuries.

Many of the more eye-catching items are those tourism guides and brochures by transportation and tourism companies trying to entice consumers to be whisked away on a seasonal adventure of a lifetime. A prime example is this guide, Outdoors in New England, published in 1909 by the Boston & Maine Railroad General Passenger Department.

 

Inside this colorful volume, are nearly 50 pages of enthusiastic prose on the many leisure activities in the different states of New England, “the ideal, the perfect resting-up section of America.” Accompanied by both photographs and tri-colored illustrations of serene activities like boating and fishing, it captures the ever increasing narrative of the commodity of vacation as a respite from the tedium and stress of work and everyday life that was becoming available to the average American as railroads commercialized.

 

As the next decade approaches, more of these brochures became geared toward automobile travel, such as Real Tour to the Berkshires, published by the Real Tour Association of Lenox, MA. Including a fold-out map of the routes, the guide provides a detailed description of a scenic drive from New York through Connecticut and into the Berkshire area of western Massachusetts, with suggestions of accommodations and activities along the ride.

 

 

 

Aside from brochures and advertisements, a large part of our travel related collections on this database, and in general, are travel diaries. The diaries of Eva E. Blackwelder record her travels through Boston and surrounding towns, from winter 1938 to spring 1939. Eva’s entries are quite thorough, noting the weather, the sights seen, town histories learned on her tours and the quality, or lack thereof, of food at each of their accommodations. Not unlike myself, Eva seems to have kept most of the brochures, maps, photos and newspaper clippings collected along her journey to remember these places by. A notable realization as one leafs through these pages is how most of the sites she visited nearly a hundred years ago - the many stops of the Freedom Trail, Plymouth village, the House of Seven Gables in Salem - remain the draw for many tourists to this area today due to eastern Massachusetts’ historic past.

Eva E. Blackwelder Travel Journal [2], 4 Jan - 1 Feb 1939

 

Eva E. Blackwelder Travel Journal [4], 28 Feb - 21 Mar 1939.


Here’s a final nostalgic image from Eva’s journal - soon to be just a faint memory for Massachusetts travelers - physical turnpike tolls. On her way back into Boston at one point she writes: "The toll houses were constructed with large gates which swing across the way as reminders to the traveler that he must help pay for the road."

The toll rates for passing over the turnpike were 25 cents for one person with a carriage of 4 wheels drawn by four horses. Carts and wagons with 2 horses paid half this amount… horse chaise, 10 cents. A man on horseback 5 cents. Cattle one cent and sheep and swine 3 cents a dozen. According to the general turnpike laws no toll could be collected from a passenger on foot; nor could toll be collected from those going to or from public worship within the limits of any town.

It’s hard to decide which is more surreal - a 25 cent toll or dozens of sheep on I-90! Either way, I hope this post inspires you to venture out on one last day trip before it’s too late.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 3:31 PM

The Nathaniel T. Allen Papers and Photographs

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about two terrific collections available for research at the MHS, the papers and photographs of Nathaniel T. Allen of West Newton, Mass. The Allens were a truly remarkable family. Nathaniel, his wife Carrie, and their three daughters (as well as many other relatives) were educators and reformers of the 19th and 20th century, and these fascinating collections are a very welcome addition to our library. I processed the photographs, and my colleague Laura Lowell processed the papers.

 

This cabinet card photograph (Photo. #247.311), taken in 1882, is my favorite of the Allen family. Seated are Nathaniel Topliff Allen (1823-1903) and his wife Caroline Swift (Bassett) Allen (1830-1915). Standing behind them, from left to right in reverse age order, are their three children: Lucy Ellis Allen (1867-1943), Sarah Caroline Allen (1861-1897), and Fanny Bassett Allen (1857-1913). A son, Nathaniel, Jr., had died as a child. 

Nathaniel Allen was the founder and principal of the West Newton English and Classical School (familiarly known as “the Allen School”) from 1854 to 1900. The school was progressive, co-educational, and integrated, and its student body included African-American, Latino/a, and Asian boys and girls, as well as international students. It was also one of the first schools to incorporate physical education into the curriculum. Nathaniel’s wife Carrie worked with him to run the school and look after the students, many of whom boarded in various Allen family homes. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins also served as teachers and administrators.

 

This photograph (Photo. #247.874) of the Allen School at 35 Webster Street, West Newton, dates from 1886. Carrie is seated in the middle wearing a light-colored shawl, with Nathaniel immediately to her right. You can also see some exercise equipment in the yard.

After Nathaniel died in 1903, his oldest and youngest daughters, Fanny and Lucy, opened the Misses Allen School for Girls at the same location. Their middle sister Sarah, unfortunately, had died in childbirth in 1897 at the age of 36.

Laura and I processed the papers and photographs concurrently, and I think our work really benefited from the collaboration. We arranged the collections to mirror each other, for the most part, with separate series of family and school material. This division was trickier than it sounds, because many family members were also teachers and students. I frequently had to move photographs from one section to the other as I figured out who everyone was. (For more information about how we process photographs at the MHS, see my earlier Beehive post.)

The photograph collection contains 1,030 photographs, primarily individual and group portraits of Allen family members and students spanning almost 100 years. While Laura got to know the Allens from their letters, diaries, and other writings, I got to know them from their faces. The collection was completely disorganized when it came to us, but by the end I’d gotten pretty good at identifying people and could even distinguish baby pictures of the three sisters!

It was a lot of fun to share information and compare impressions with Laura as we worked. When she came across a particularly interesting person, she was curious to see what he or she looked like. I also went to her to learn more about the people who intrigued me. For example, I loved the way Lucy, the youngest Allen, usually smiled directly into the camera while other subjects looked stiff or coy with a slightly averted gaze.

The story of the Allens has so many fascinating threads to follow that we hope these collections will be of interest to a wide variety of researchers. For example, Edwin and Gustaf Nielsen were two brothers who, through the intervention of the poet Celia Thaxter, were taken as wards into the Allen home and became de facto members of the family. There’s also Fanny Allen’s decades-long friendship with Pauline Odescalchi, Princess of Hungary. Not to mention the fact that the Allens played an active part in the anti-slavery, suffrage, temperance, peace, and educational reform movements, rubbing elbows with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Horace Mann, and Lucy Stone.

Nathaniel and Carrie Allen had no surviving grandchildren. Fanny and Lucy never married, and Sarah’s only daughter died two days after she did in 1897. But this family of teachers clearly had a profound and far-reaching influence on the thousands of boys and girls who attended the Allen School and Misses Allen School. Among them were future writers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, activists, soldiers, at least one actor, and a Supreme Court justice. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about them.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Adams Papers Digital Edition Turns Ten!

On July 1, 2008, the Massachusetts Historical Society launched the Founding Families Digital Editions, the home of the Adams Papers Digital Edition. This resource converted 45 years’ worth of published material, comprising 32 volumes and three generations of Adamses, and made them more accessible than ever with keyword searching, a cumulative index, and hyperlinked cross references on a freely available website. This massive multi-department undertaking took three years, financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Harvard University Press, as well as technical support from Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press. Using a defined subset of the Text Encoding Initiative, an XML-based tagging language designed for the digital markup of various kinds of texts in the humanities, the website retains the editorial standards of the original letterpress volumes, while making the presentation more flexible for the digital environment. As originally conceived, this Founding Families project was to house both the Adams Papers and the seven volumes of the Winthrop Family Papers; however, over time, the projects were separated and the Founding Families page was renamed to simply the Adams Papers Digital Edition.

Over the last ten years, the website has only increased in its value to scholars and the public as thirteen more volumes have been made available, additional search and browse features were added, and displays were updated.

This summer we are pleased to announce that to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the Adams Papers Digital Edition has undergone a complete redesign. The all new web platform enhances not only its readability but also its usability, with more tailored search options, the ability to save your most recent search, and a better mobile experience. Last, but certainly not least, the relaunched website benefits from the addition of a new volume, Papers of John Adams, Volume 17. This volume includes a momentous occasion for both the Adamses and the nation—John Adams greeting King George III as the first minister from the newly independent United States. John’s detailed account of this dramatic meeting, written in code to the secretary of foreign affairs, John Jay, is just one highlight from a volume that also includes the first substantial correspondence between Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the beginnings of treaty negotiations with the Barbary States of North Africa.

 

While some of the Adams Papers volumes are also available on both the National Archives’ Founders Online and Rotunda’s Founding Era sites, only the Adams Papers Digital Edition website includes all of the historical documents and editorial content from all of the digitized volumes in one place; and the Adams Papers Editorial Project with the Massachusetts Historical Society is committed to continuing to expand its digital offerings. Visit our new site at www.masshist.org/publications/adams-papers.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 29 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

 - Monday, 25 June, 12:00PM : Jean Franzino of Beloit College presents this week's first Brown Bag talk, titled "Dis-Union: Disability in the U. S. Civil War." Franzino's project examines the emerging legal category of "disabled" American at the end of the nineteenth century in relation to the construction of disability in Civil War literature, broadly conceived. In texts ranging from hospital newsppaer poetry to mendicant narratives sold for veterans' financial support, representations of Civil War injury engaged shifting understandings of disability: from individual condition to evolving social class.

This talk is free and open to the public. Pack a lunch and come on in!

- Tuesday, 26 June, 6:00PM : Stephen Bush of Brown University is on-hand to discuss his new book, William James on Democratic individuality. William James advocated a philosophy of democracy and pluralism that emphasizes individual and collective responsibility for our social arrangements, our morality, and our religion. In James’s view, democracy resides first and foremost not in governmental institutions but rather in the characteristics of individuals and in qualities of mind and conduct. It is a philosophy for social change, counseling action and hope despite the manifold challenges facing democratic politics, and these issues still resonate strongly today. Stephen Bush explores how these themes connect to James’s philosophy of religion, his moral thought, his epistemology, his psychology, and his metaphysics.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

- Wednesday, 27 June, 12:00PM : Judith Harford of University College Dublin leads the second Brown Bag talk of the week, and it is called "The Gendering of Diaspora: Irish American Women Teachers and the Rise of the Irish American Elites, 1880-1920." This talk examines the education, professional training and wider public activism of first-generation Irish American women teachers during the peak of Irish emigration to the United States. 

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Friday, 29 June, 2:00PM : Guest curator and American furniture specialist Clark Pearce leads visitors through the current exhibition with this Gallery Talk: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End, identifying highlights while giving deeper context to the life and work of two extraordinary Massachusetts craftsmen, Isaac Vose and Thomas Seymour.

This event is free and open to the public.

- Saturday, 30 June, 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 abentley@masshist.org.

While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825.

- Saturday, 30 June, 3:00PM : As a doctoral student at Boston University’s School of Theology, Martin Luther King, Jr., spent some of his formative years walking the streets of Boston and living in the South End. His life in Boston was King’s first immersive experience outside of the segregated South and while he experienced the de facto racism of the North he also enjoyed the acceptance of the BU and Boston area communities. The Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston Walking Tour will guide visitors through areas of Boston where King lived and socialized, where he met and courted Coretta Scott, and where he returned later at the height of the Civil Rights Movement to deliver powerful speeches on the struggle for racial and economic equality.

This event is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10  (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows or EBT cardholders).

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

A Little Free Library @ MHS!

The next time you are in the neighborhood, we invite you to stop to check out the Little Free Library we have installed to the left of our front steps. One of many such book exchanges in Boston, the Little Free Library maintained by Massachusetts Historical Society staff will be filled with books that are free for the taking! If you take a book, also consider leaving a book in its stead so that another reader may have a chance to enjoy it. 

While you’re pausing to browse the current selection of free books, be sure to check out our upcoming events on the calendar to your left -- many of our events are free and open to the public.


Of course, the Massachusetts Historical Society is, itself, a big free library -- we welcome researchers into our reading room Monday through Saturday to work with our non-circulating collections of manuscripts, rare print materials, art, artifacts, and photograph collections. More information about planning a visit to work with our collections may be found on our website.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 11 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

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