The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From Our Collections

When the Harlem Renaissance Meets Jim Crow

Your reference to the southerners regard, or rather, disregard of the Negro [--] I experienced a rather amusing incident a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

This passage comes from a letter written by African-American artist Meta Warrick Fuller on 5 January 1928 and recently acquired by the MHS. Fuller’s correspondent was Marion Colvin Deane, a white Canadian woman who worked at Virginia’s historically black Hampton Institute. Deane was an avid collector of autographs, particularly those of famous black writers, artists, educators, intellectuals, and activists. She wrote to Fuller, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Walter F. White, and many others soliciting autographs for her collection.

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968) was an accomplished and acclaimed black sculptor associated with the Harlem Renaissance, though her work spanned the decades both before and after that era. Born in Philadelphia, her early artistic promise was nurtured by her family, and she studied art in Philadelphia before traveling to France in 1899 to attend the Académie Colarossi and the École des Beaux-Arts. In France, she met and was mentored by Auguste Rodin. Her work was exhibited alongside older and more established contemporaries like John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt, and she would go to win many commissions and awards over her lifetime.

In 1928, when Marion C. Deane wrote to her, Fuller was living in Framingham, Mass. with her husband Solomon Carter Fuller and their three sons. She worked in her own private studio behind the house.

Fuller began her reply to Deane by apologizing for her handwriting and thanking Deane for “the kind interest and regard – may I be worthy of them.” Then, in response to a comment by Deane on Southern racial animosity, she described a recent “amusing incident” on a Framingham bus. Returning from a shopping trip and finding the bus crowded, Fuller opted to sit in the back, although for her this was “contrary to custom.” From there, she overheard “a youngish sort of woman”—a white woman presumably visiting from the South—talking to a friend.

I could still hear the conversation – she spoke of how strange it seemed to see colored people mingling with white people – in schools – restaurants and the like – she would go out if one sat down at a table with her – it didn’t seem right.

 

And what was Fuller’s reaction? Maybe not what you’d expect.

It all impressed me as very funny – and mischief got the better of me – I wrote on a slip of paper ‘God made man of one flesh[.]’ I rolled it up, and as I passed on my way out dropped it in her lap. I was convulsed at the expression of surprise when she saw what I had done, but I left the car before she had time to read it. I have not since seen the woman with whom she was talking but I am curious to know what she did after reading it.

 

The MHS currently holds no other papers of Meta Warrick Fuller, so this letter is a very welcome addition to our collection. It’s also a fascinating record of racial attitudes in the years between the Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision and the height of the civil rights movement in America.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 16 February, 2018, 9:48 AM

Fetched from the Stacks : "Every breed of dog known"

Well, maybe that title is a little bit ambitious. But, in recognition of the 142nd annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show – taking place this weekend – today we are looking at collections items featuring canines, particularly images of dogs that are in the stacks here at the MHS (the images, not the dogs). 

In 1845, Sir John Franklin, English rear admiral and explorer, led an expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. However, his journey met with disaster and, three years later, the remains of he and his crew were found in the Canadian Arctic.1 Of the several search and rescue missions put together to find Franklin and his men, one was carried out by the H.M.S. Enterprise and included some four-legged crew members.

"Daddy," the Esquimaux dog of H. M. S. "Enterprise," sent in search of Sir John Franklin.

According to a bit of text that is alongside the above image

The intelligence of the Esquimaux dogs, and their utility, is well known. The portrait of "Daddy" represents a faithful companion of Captain Collinson, who accompanied him 2000 miles, and of whom many anecdotes might be narrated; but one of the most interesting attaches to a dog of Capt. Penny, "Sultan," who saved the life of one of Sir John Ross' men who had indulged too freely on a visit to the Felix, when in winter quarters. The man alluded to was found by Sultan floundering in the snow at midnight, and, by his repeated intimations of something having occurred, induced some of the men to leave the ship and follow him to the spot. A few minutes more and life would have been extinct.

 

The following images have much less information to go along with them, but you can click on the links to see what we know.

Boxser. [graphic]

 

High life : from the picture in the Vernon Gallery [graphic] / E. Landseer, R. A. painter ; H. Beckwith engraver

 

Dog [graphic]

 

Fox-hunting, p. 1 / [graphic] Howitt in et f.

 

First aid / [graphic] Diana Thorne

 

Finally, we can connect all of this to another recent post published here on the Beehive. A few weeks ago we learned a bit about the famed showman P. T. Barnum, his lavish estate called Iranistan, and how he managed to attract the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind, to perform in America. [See: “No Mere Adventurer…”]

Today, we probably associate Barnum most closely with the rise of the traveling circus, but did you know he also dabbled in dog shows? 

 

Small broadside advertising "A Great National Dog Show."

 

As manager of Boston's Aquarial Gardens, Barnum arranged for a six-day show, "including every breed of dog known," with prize money going to the top two or three finishers in each category. Those who did not finish in the top tier were given "elegantly engraved Diplomas" as evidence of the quality of their canines. Among the various breeds and classes to be judged at this event were Newfoundlands, Pointers, Coach Dogs, and Esquimaux Dogs (just like "Daddy"). Below is an example of a prize diploma. 

An elegantly engraved Diploma, "Awarded by the judges to S. Hammond Esq. for his Blenheim Spaniel."

 

Based on the information provided in the advertisement above, Mr. Hammond stood to win $10 for his best-specimen spaniel. However, the last page of the three-page ad also lays out some stipulations from Mr. Barnum. To wit: 

Should the Manager desire to retain the Cash Premium Dogs on exhibition from and including June 23rd until and including Saturday June 28th, he shall have the right to do so, he continuing to provide the proper care, food and water for the Dogs FREE, and continuing to admit exhibitors of said dogs free during the time above specified.

Ever the entrepreneur and showman, it makes sense that Barnum would retain the right to attract more viewers for these prize-winning dogs. Cash paid is cash earned, I suppose. 

 

These are just a few examples of animal illustrations available here at the MHS. Try searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL, to see what else you can find, then consider Visiting the Library to work with material in our reading room!

*****

1. "Sir John Franklin," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Accessed 2018-02-10 at https://www/britannica.com/biography/John-Franklin

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 10 February, 2018, 4:15 PM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, January 1918

A new year means a new serialized diary here at The Beehive, where for the past three years we have showcased a diary from the collections written one hundred years ago (you can read the 2015, 2016, and 2017 series in our archives!). This year’s diary was transcribed by intern Lindsay Bina.

 

The diary for 2018 is a tiny line-a-day diary kept by teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. Smith was born on 16 July 1903 and was fourteen in January of 1918 when she began keeping her diary. Before she began to record her daily activities, Barbara carefully completed the “Identification” page in the front of the diary, noting that her weight was 126, her height 5 feet, 6 ½ inches, her shoe size a 7, her hosiery 10 ½, and her gloves 6 ¼. Her telephone number was Newton West 193-M and her physician was an H.W. Godfrey. She was a student at Newton High School.

Image from The Newtonian (1920) yearbook. Barbara was captain of her basketball team senior year and is depicted in the center holding a basketball.

 

Without further ado, we bring you January 1918 through the eyes of a Newton teenager.

* * *

TUES. 1                      JAN., 1918 NEW YEAR’S DAY

Muriel’s. Skating at Bulloughs. Women Club Play

 

WED. 2

Went over to Aunt Mabels.

 

THUR. 3      

Mother went to New York. Aunt Mabels.

 

FRI. 4

Aunt Mabels

 

SAT. 5

Aunt Mabels

 

SUN. 6

Came home

 

MON. 7

School. Took care of the baby.

 

TUES. 8

School. Basket Ball.

 

WED. 9

Sick with cold. Peg hurt her back

 

THUR. 10

Sick with cold. Had Dr. Godfrey.

 

FRI. 11

Cold Better. Mother came home

 

SAT. 12

In the house. Down street.

 

SUN. 13

Church. Sunday School. Service flag unfurled. Skating in back yard. Sick

 

MON. 14

School. Stayed for algebra. Pegs skating

 

TUES. 15

School. Stayed for geometry. Pegs.

 

WED. 16

School. Stayed for French. Skating in front yard.

 

THUR. 17

School. Skating at Pegs. Concert at the Seminary

 

FRI. 18

School. Down to Rosa’s. Watched swimming class.

 

SAT. 19

Shampoo at Miss Mitchells. Sewed on my dress. Down town

 

SUN. 20

Sunday School. Hung around

 

MON. 21

School. Took care of the baby.

 

TUES. 22

School. Basketball. up to Mrs. Reed’s

 

WED. 23

School. Took care of baby.

 

THUR. 24

School. Basketball

 

FRI. 25

School. Camp Fire. Swimming.

 

SAT. 26

Skating with Mrs. Moody. Pegs. Mother Carey’s Chickens.

 

SUN. 27

Church. S.S. Skating at Pegs. [Havene] here. Fell down and hurt my back

 

MON. 28

Home with my back. Felt kind of weak

 

TUES. 29

Home with my back. Took care of sonny. Father died.

 

WED. 30

School. Took care of sonny.

 

THUR. 31

School. Basket Ball. Symphony and Mischa Elman.

 

* * *

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, 31 January, 2018, 12:00 AM

Charles Cornish Pearson and the Great War, Part III

This is the third post in a series about the wartime experience of Charles Cornish Pearson. Go back and read Part I and Part II for the full story.

*****

Today we return to the letters of Charles Cornish Pearson, a young man who served during World War I with the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division, American Expeditionary Forces. If you want to catch up on the story, see Part I and Part II.

When we left him, Charles had been a soldier for about nine months and had seen his first direct fighting in the trenches of France’s Chemin des Dames sector. On 18 March 1918, his battalion pulled up stakes and began the two-week journey via train and automobile southeast to the Toul sector. The weather was beautiful, the country picturesque, and the troops enjoyed the welcome respite. This part of France was mostly untouched by the war. Charles wrote to his mother en route and described a typical French village.

It is all very peaceful and so different from what we have experienced lately. Here War seems to have affected the village in the lack of men, hardly any being about except those past the age limit, and of course there are a few deserted houses and the others not kept up quite as well as in peace times I imagine. Picture on the other hand a village without any civilian population not a habitable house & even the church in ruins, with the military forces quartered in dugouts or cellars of the ruins of the old houses. It is an awful contrast I can tell you, still you quickly get hardened to it all, and take it all as part of the days work.

 

 

The 101st arrived at their destination on 1 April 1918, and Charles’ platoon was stationed at Mandres-aux-Quatre-Tours. He was promoted from corporal to sergeant that same day. The following day, coincidentally, was his 28th birthday.

Charles’ letters, originally chatty and carefree, had become a little more subdued as he experienced the realities of war first-hand. He described bursts of chaotic activity followed by periods of anxious waiting and uncertainty. The battalion never knew when it might be called into action at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, regular gas alarms and barrages of shells frayed everyone’s nerves. (“They usually tune up about night fall,” Charles wrote to his sister, “so as to disturb our sleep I guess. These Boche certainly have a mean disposition that way, but suppose our gunners treat them the same way.”) Charles also told harrowing stories—for example, the day his detail dragged two dead mules and a wagon out of an exposed road, narrowly avoiding the German bombs dropped on the spot immediately after. All this kept him keyed up most of the time, he admitted.

Philip S. Wainwright, in his History of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, confirms that Charles’ platoon at Mandres “had its share of shelling every night.” (p. 33) Of course, Charles described things to his parents is his usual wry, understated way.

Up to the present time cann’t [sic] say that it has been especially tranquil. However we have gotten over the newness of it now and can listen to a big gun without shaking too much. […] Even at the present writing the Boche are sending a few shells over, but way over so don’t have to worry much. Funny how you can get to tell pretty well if they are coming near you by their whistle. At times that whistle gets on ones nerves but you can usually figure they are trying to locate a battery and not worrying about small fry such as yours truly.

 

April 19 was his parents’ anniversary, and he sent a telegram to mark the occasion. The following day, in the early morning hours, the Germans launched a surprise attack, and Charles found himself right in the middle of the Battle of Seicheprey. It was the largest American battle up to that point and certainly the worst fighting Charles had seen, but the Americans (mostly Connecticut men) held their own against the larger and more experienced German army and forced “the Hun” back.

 

According to Wainwright, “During the intense bombardment of high explosive and gas which preceded the attack,” Charles’ platoon “suffered the first real casualties that occurred in the Battalion.” (p. 34) The first man of the 101st to be killed was Private Giuseppe “Joe” Molinari. Charles wrote to his parents in the aftermath of the battle and, without going into detail, called the past hours “H–l rippers” and “heartbreakers.” After his platoon was relieved, he reflected on his recent experiences in a letter to his brother.

We are supposed to be trained soldiers now so we get our full share of excitement that is going on. It sure is a plenty I can tell you. No use describing things over here as it [is] beyond my power any way. You have a nice explosive gas shell land in the story over your head during a general bombardment in the night and you have to get up half asleep & put on a gas mask and then wonder what your chances are of making a dugout. Take a hike up a road that is called Dead Mans Curve and pull a couple of dead mules off the road and with your detail grab hold of the wagon & pull it back for about ½ mile so it wont impede traffic, wondering all the time when they will harass the road again. You can write these things down but the reader doesn’t get any idea of what one is thinking of when said things are happening.

 

To his parents that same day, he wrote a letter just two pages long, closing with: “Don’t feel much in the mood for letter writing today, will try to do better next time.”

Hope you’ll join me for the next installment of Charles’ story.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 26 January, 2018, 1:40 PM

Reference Collection Book Review: Boston’s South End

In Boston’s South End: The Clash of Ideas in a Historic Neighborhood Shawmut Peninsula Press, 2015), Russ Lopez constructs an engaging historical account of the South End from before the start of its development as a neighborhood in the 1850s through the time of his writing (22). Lopez, who lives in the South End, teaches in the School of Public Health at Boston University and has written books and articles on topics relating to urban environments (285). This background is on display in his writing as he integrates a variety of social developments and changes in the neighborhood over time into a coherent, highly-readable work.

“HEADQUARTERS, 20 Union Park,” from South End House: Longer and Shorter Retrospects 1891-1911 by the South End House ([Boston, 1912]).

 

Lopez challenges a widely-held narrative of glorious early years, decades of decline and squalor, and later resurgence in the South End, and sheds light on “a much more nuanced history” (xi). He does so utilizing “public records, newspaper articles, older books, published reports, and the personal papers of past and current residents” (ix). Beginning in the Ice Age, Lopez discusses the Indigenous populations of the area, the early settlement of Boston by Europeans, and the development of the neighborhood in the 19th century. He then looks at the various populations that have inhabited and worked in the South End over the years, including Irish and Jewish immigrants; Black, Latino, and gay and lesbian communities; and, more recently, the wealthy white people who have come to dominate the neighborhood.* He also documents the churches, housing, social and cultural organizations, forms of work, customs, and other aspects of life that these residents have created, participated in, and used to shape the neighborhood.

The second half of Lopez’s book largely covers the urban renewal period of the 1950s to 1970s and the developments in the decades that have followed. He explores the actions of city agencies and officials, as well as the drastic displacement and demographic changes that occurred beginning in the mid-20th century. The urban renewal period was very a challenging one in the South End, marked by tensions between the city and residents as well as turmoil along racial lines among residents. Lopez frames the second half of the 20th century to the present as a time of social and economic pressure for low-income people in the neighborhood, with gentrification and rising prices being a near-constant feature of South End life. However, he chronicles the community resistance of these decades, including various organizations that pushed back against economic violence and pursued their own plans, earning some successes such as the creation of the Villa Victoria housing development (168-170).

 

“WOMEN’S RESIDENCE, 43-47 East Canton Street,” South End House, from South End House: Longer and Shorter Retrospects 1891-1911 by the South End House ([Boston, 1912]).

 

Lopez in many ways provides an engaging social history of the neighborhood and its connections to the city of Boston as a whole. He successfully charts the developments and changes within the South End’s religious communities, documents the importance of the South End for decades as a center of Boston’s Black community (91-92), and chronicles the many implications of urban renewal on the neighborhood. Lopez not only challenges the established narrative, he redefines it. His emphasis on forms of housing, employment, recreation, and other aspects of life allows him to really explore the social and cultural fabric of the neighborhood over time. Furthermore, by noting the differences in housing types, income levels, and other demographic differences within various sections of the neighborhood, he is able to create an intricate view of the South End over time. His prose is complemented by a variety of photographs throughout the book.

While the depth of Lopez’s research and his emphasis on the geography of the neighborhood are impressive, he occasionally leaves a desire for a closer look at certain social and cultural developments and groups in the city, such as the briefly-mentioned Syrian population in the mid-20th century (69, 144). Additionally, some editorial decisions leave room for potential challenges. For example, while the book includes some maps, more of them could have been helpful for making sense of the close, detailed descriptions of the neighborhood offered by Lopez. In addition, Lopez cites some letters without providing collection or publication information, which could present difficulties for researchers who would like to track down those sources (40-41). Ultimately, these issues do not prevent Lopez from accomplishing his goal of writing a complex and illuminating story of the South End’s existence over time.

 

 Boston City Hospital, 1880s. Taken by Allen & Rowell. In Photographic Views of Boston, Mass., Box 3, #12.175.

 

This book may be of interest to historians of Boston’s neighborhoods; urban historians in general; historians of urban geography and the built environment; scholars of urban renewal; historians of race in Boston; and historians of Boston’s Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ communities. There is much in this book for academic researchers and community historians alike; it is also a worthwhile and accessible text for a casual reader who is interested in learning a bit more about Boston’s history.

 

*In recent years, “Latinx” has gained popularity as a gender-neutral term. I use “Latino” in this paragraph to reflect the language used by the author in the book.

 

Related Materials

Manuscript Collections

Sarah Pananty Writings and Bibliographies, [193-]-1940.

South Congregational Church Records, 1828-1929.

Robert Treat Paine Papers II, 1733-1965; bulk: 1880-1949.

Henry Lee Shattuck Papers, 1870-1971.

Walter Muir Whitehill Papers, ca. 1941-1978.

 

Print Materials

Neighbors All: A Settlement Notebook by Esther G. Barrows (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1929). 

Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development by Mel King (Boston: South End Press, 1981).

Report to the Massachusetts Legislature, by the Committee on Education : in favor of an appropriation of $5,000, to the Female Medical Education Society, together with the constitution, names of officers and members, and other information respecting the Society, and the Boston Female Medical School” by the Massachusetts General Court Joint Committee on Education (Boston: Female Medical Education Society, 1851).

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 2:34 PM

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