Giving a Photograph a Name: Identifying Mary Swift Lamson in the MHS Photo Archive
By Sabina Beauchard, Reader Services
The photograph collections in the MHS library never fail to excite me. Dabbling in photography as a hobby has allowed me to better appreciate the laborious processes of early photography, and how beautiful the resulting images turn out.
Recently, two unidentified photographs caught my interest while searching for images on behalf of a remote researcher. The initial search for images of Mary Swift Lamson in our online catalog ABIGAIL only turned up one result; a companion portrait of Mary accompanying portraits of her husband Edwin and her young son Gardner drawn by Matthew Wilson in the 1850s. However, I knew our library holds the Lamson family papers, and with them the Lamson family photographs. This collection is comprised of three carte de visite albums, one box of loose portraits, and ambrotypes and daguerreotypes stored separately.
Many of the ambrotypes and daguerreotypes from the Lamson family are unidentified, primarily of children, taken in the mid-19th century. I looked through several of these unidentified photographs in my search for Mary. Two of these photographs were reminiscent of the 3 companion portraits; photographs of a young couple and a mother with her child. With the help of our Senior Cataloger Mary Yacovone, these two photographs have now been identified and cataloged with additional information in our online catalog ABIGAIL.
Mary Swift Lamson, son Gardner Swift Lamson, and husband Edwin Lamson. Each by Matthew Wilson ca. 1855-1858. Currently on loan to the Parkman House, Boston. Images taken from the catalog Portraits in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Oliver, Hanson, and Huff, eds. (Boston: MHS, 1988.)
The portrait of the young couple was the most striking to me. The young woman’s direct gaze and the hint of a smile playing at her lips stands out from the many portraits with eyes averted. Mary’s pursed lips and Edwin’s pronounced brow crease stood out to me immediately as part of their defining features in their painted portraits. With this photograph identified, it was easy to notice the young mother in the other photograph was Mary. While infants are more difficult to pin down, the child has a similar appearance to Gardner in his painted portrait (although perhaps Matthew Wilson took liberties with painting him in a more flattering light, his hair is perfectly groomed).
The photographs, previously labeled as “Unidentified man and woman” and “Unidentified woman with child” can now be found in our library catalog as Mr. and Mrs. Edwin and Mary Swift Lamson, ca 1846 and Mary Swift Lamson with child, ca. 1855-1856. The child is tenuously identified as Gardner in the catalog description. Now that the photographs are better described and thus more easily accessible, I hope this will aid researchers in their research into this winsome family.
| Published: Tuesday, 24 February, 2015, 1:00 AM
From Russia with Love: LCA’s Journey from Russia to France
By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers
This month marks the 200th Anniversary of Louisa Catherine Adams’s six-week and nearly 2,000-mile trip from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Paris, France. Travelling by carriage across a war-torn Europe and in the midst of Napoleon’s Hundred Days after his escape from his exile on Elba, trying to reach her husband, John Quincy, who, negotiating an end to the War of 1812 in Ghent, she had not seen for a year, Louisa’s story is an amazing one.
Louisa’s journey began on Sunday, February 12, 1815—her fortieth birthday—setting out with her seven-year-old son, Charles Francis, and a few servants she didn’t know if she could entirely trust. Despite what she knew would be an arduous and dangerous journey, Louisa started out in hope and expectation as she wrote to her husband:
I am this instant setting off and have only time to say that nothing can equal my impatience to see you some of my business is necessarily left undone but I hope that you will forgive all that is not exactly correspondant to your wishes and recieve me with as much affection as fills my heart at this moment for you. I could not celebrate my birthday in a manner more delightful than in making the first step towards that meeting for which my Soul pants and for which I have hitherto hardly dared to express my desire but in the full conviction that the sentiment is mutual.
During her trip, Louisa faced poor lodgings, broken down and lost carriages, and news of murders on the roads she was travelling. Still she recalled the scenes she passed in her retrospective Narrative of a Journey from Russia to France: “The Season of the year at which I travelled; when Earth was chained in her dazzling, brittle but solid fetters of Ice, did not admit of flourishing description, of verdant fields, or paths through flowery glebes; but the ways were rendered deeply interesting by the fearful remnants of mens fierry and vindictive passions; passively witnessing to tales of blood, and woes.” Finally, as she approached Paris, a unit of soldiers loyal to Napoleon, seeing that her carriage was of Russian origin, threatened to seize and kill them. Louisa, fluent in French, was able to show them her passport and explain that she was an American and diplomatically shouted, “Vive Napoleon!” to appease the troops and guarantee her safe passage. At last, late in the evening of March 23, a “delighted” John Quincy reunited with his wife and child.
You can read more of Louisa’s recollections in A Traveled First Lady: Writings of Louisa Catherine Adams.
Images: LCA to JQA, 12 Feb. 1815; LCA’s French Passport issued 10 March 1815; and the first page of LCA’s Narrative of a Journey
| Published: Wednesday, 18 February, 2015, 9:58 AM
An American Woman in Egypt, 1914-1915: Cairo to Aysut
By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services
As Boston digs out from yet another heavy snowfall this week, it warms my imagination to return to our anonymous journey up the Nile by steamship -- a pleasure cruise documented in the diaries of an anonymous American traveler during the winter of 1914-1915. Our diarist’s narrative begins shortly before Thanksgiving, as she and her travel companions board the steamer Egypt, likely in Cairo.
* * *
Nov. 25. Steamer Egypt, sailed at 10 a.m. & we went on board earlier with Mrs Phelps & daughter also from our hotel. Had lunch early at 11.30 & right after started out on donkeys - first to site of ancient Memphis saw two statues of Ramses II lying down & a new sphinx discovered in the summer by Prof. Petrie. Then rode to steps pyramid of Sakkara on by Mariette’s house to tomb of Thi then the Serapheum with 24 sarcophagis. Got back to ship at 5:30 & had tea on deck.
Nov. 26. Saw beautiful sunrise from my window. Made no stops today, but several times stuck in the sand. Nothing of especial interest but very beautiful sunset with color on the water.
Nov. 27. Thanksgiving. Went on shore - soon after breakfast at Benihasan. Rode donkeys to rock temple of Speos Artemidos, temple of Goddess Pekhet, then on further & climbed hill to tombs of Benihasan hewn in the rock. [...illegible phrase…] back just for lunch. On boat in p.m.
Nov. 28. Boat got stuck in forenoon & it took over two hours to get it started so made us later at Assuit. Had [...illegible phrase…] trek to get there & arrived about 4 p.m. Took donkeys & rode out through the town to a large rock tomb of a Prince Hapzefai. Then on a hill & a fine view from there over Assuit then rode back through the bazars to ship in time for tea. Very dusty ride. Met “Arabia” at Assuit.
Nov. 29. Beautiful sunrise. Spent morning sewing in my room. Sailing all day.
Nov. 30. Boat got stuck on sand before ten & would not move for fully five hours. Dr. Hodson conducted services [...illegible phrase…] at 10:30. Did not land.
* * *
This initial week of entries sets the tone for our diarist’s record: We are appraised of distances covered and modes of transportation, the time and place of meals, details of the weather, and provided with a list of archeological sites visited. One of the most basic observations to make about our traveler’s account is that her encounter with Egypt is a highly curated on. In its record of ancient sites, her amateur travel narrative hews closely to a number of commercial guidebooks. The table of contents to Cook’s guidebook The Nile(1901) provides entries for most of the sites, and its description of the country isalmost entirely mediated by archeology and ancient history.
I find myself wondering, though, how our diarist’s narrative compares to published travel narratives, of which there were many, covering the same ground. In six weeks’ time we will take a comparative look at several such narratives, alongside the next seven daily entries from our own narrator.
Note: My rough-and-ready transcriptions of the diary entries are not authoritative; if you seek to use this source in your own work, I recommend contacting the MHS for reproductions of the original. Some English-language spellings of Arabic place-names have changed since 1914. I have retained the diarist’s spellings throughout.
| Published: Wednesday, 4 February, 2015, 12:00 AM
Two things that make creating these posts for the Beehive a little bit easier are visual images and convenient coincidence. I lucked out this time around in having both. The images below (except the photo-portraits) were created by two men who seem to have very little to do with one another. One was a Civil War captain and later a librarian, while the other made a career for himself as one of the most prominent American artists of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. The first was an amateur who mainly did pencil drawings in his scrapbooks and journals, the second designed posters, catalogs, and held public exhibitions in major cities.
Eben W. Fiske (1823-1900) served during the Civil War as a Captain in the 13th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in Virginia. As part of the Fiske family papers here at the MHS, we hold several of his small notebooks which contain clippings from newspapers and a variety of pencil drawings. For ease of description, I split his drawings into two very broad categories: Civil War drawings and Other.
Fiske’s war artwork illustrates sketches of specific subjects such as the people and animals he encountered. I first saw his illustration pictured above in one of the Society's past exhibitions. The image of this infantryman inspired me to further investigate Fiske's artwork for this blog post.
The set of drawings I describe loosely as Other, consists of illustrations that Fiske created to go along with verses from poems and other writings. This set of drawings reminds me somewhat of those done by Christopher Pearse Cranch, subject of a previous post here. One such drawing illustrates a single verse from the poem “On Lending a Punch Bowl,” by Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“But changing hands, it reached at length a Puritan divine/Who used to follow Timothy and take a little wine/But hated punch and prelacy; and so it was, perhaps/He went to Leyden, where he found conventicles and schnaps.”
The second artist, Boston native Will H. Bradley (1868-1962), is best remembered as the "Dean of American Design." Bradley's Art Nouveau style widely graced the pages of commercial trade catalogs, posters, and public exhibitions through the late-19th and early-20th centuries. His career as a visual artist brought him international acclaim. He reigned in his time as the most highly-paid American artist. Recently, the MHS digtized a sample of his work for view on our website. Bradley designed and illustrated the Overland Wheel Co./Victor Bicycle catalog in 1899. Check it out here to learn more about his life and work.
In addition to the bicycle catalog available on the website, take a look at a few other pieces in the MHS collections that show Bradley's work.
So, why is it that I am connecting these two men in this post? A clue lies in the image just above of the train. Fiske served as the librarian in Ishpeming, MI, a small town on the Upper Peninsula. Bradley, after the death of his father, moved with his mother to the town of Ishpeming, MI, to be closer to their relatives. It was here that he became a printer's apprentice, his first job in the field he would come to dominate in his lifetime. It was a happy accident that led me connect these two men for this post. Unfortunately, I could not find information about the timing of Fiske's tenure as librarian in Ishpeming. Perhaps a young Mr. Bradley crossed paths with the older librarian at some point in Ishpeming. Convenient coincidence that they should both end up represented at the MHS.
To find out more about the collections that the Society holds relating to these two Ishpeming-ites, try searching in our online catalog, ABIGAIL.
| Published: Friday, 30 January, 2015, 12:00 AM
Pirates in Boston: The Trial and Execution of John Quelch
By Wesley Fiorentino, Reader Services
On June 30, 1704, six men were hanged in Boston in what was the first trial for piracy by the British Admiralty Court outside of England. The Arraignment, Tryal, and Condemnation of John Quelch provides a transcript of what is perhaps Boston’s earliest trial for piracy. The court proceedings provide a detailed account of the events leading up to Quelch’s capture, as well as of the crimes committed Quelch and his crew.
In July of 1703, Governor Joseph Dudley granted a privateering license to Captain Daniel Plowman of the Charles and sent the ship to attack French and Spanish vessels near Newfoundland and Arcadia. However, while the ship was still in Massachusetts, Captain Plowman became extremely ill and was confined to his quarters by the rebellious crew. Plowman’s lieutenant, John Quelch, was chosen to be the new captain by the crew and the ship’s course was changed. Plowman was thrown overboard, whether dead or alive seems uncertain, and Quelch led the crew of the Charles on what would be nearly a year-long piracy spree against Portuguese ships in the Caribbean and off the coast of South America.
Between August of 1703 and February of 1704, Quelch and the crew of the Charles attacked and captured no fewer than nine Portuguese vessels off the coast of Brazil, stealing a wide variety of goods and valuables and committing a number of other crimes including murder. Precise dates are given for each of the nine attacks, as well as detailed descriptions of the crimes committed and the goods stolen. The various commodities stolen from the different ships include gold dust, sugar, molasses, rum, rice, textiles, pottery, and a large quantity of coined Portuguese money. Quantities are listed for the goods taken, and values also provided, offering insight into the monetary value of these goods around the turn of the eighteenth century. A value of thirty pounds is given for one of the ships, which had apparently been sunk by Quelch and his crew.
The court record also provides historical information on Africans enslaved both in British and Portuguese colonies during this period. A number of slaves of African descent are referred to in the records both as the property of the crew and as plunder from piratical raids. At least three slaves are referred to in a letter of John Colman, provided in the appendix to the court proceedings, to colonial authorities in the West Indies. Two of them, named Charles and Caesar, are mentioned by Colman as the property of a Colonel Hobbey. The third, named Mingo, is listed as belonging to Captain Plowman himself. Colman mentions the three men in a plea to the colonies of the West Indies to secure the goods on board the Charles and prevent them from being stolen by the mutinous crew. Colman asks for the return of the men “and their shares,” and it is unclear whether this means that Charles, Caesar, and Mingo had any actual share in the goods on the ship, or whether it means the shares of their respective owners.
At least two more enslaved men were captured by Quelch and his crew during several of their attacks on Portuguese ships. Joachim, a slave aboard a Portuguese brigantine taken by the Charles, was valued at twenty pounds. Joachim is described as baptized, possibly as a Catholic given his ownership by a Portuguese master, though this is not expressly stated. He is the only slave in the record described as baptized. Emmanuel, a slave valued by the court record at forty pounds, was the property of a Portuguese commander named Bastian whose ship was captured by Quelch and his crew near the River Plate (Rio de la Plata) in South America. Bastian was shot and killed during the attack, apparently by Christopher Scudamore the ship’s cooper, according to the testimony of Emmanuel. For a time Joachim and Emmanuel served the crew, but were both sold to crew members at some point during the voyage. Joachim was purchased by one George Norton, and Emmanuel was purchased by Benjamin Perkins, both for undisclosed amounts.
During the trial itself, three members of the crew, Matthew Pymer, John Clifford, and James Parrot, testified against Quelch in court and so avoided prosecution. The transcript also repeatedly states that the English and Portuguese crowns had recently become allies at the time of Quelch’s crimes, further exasperating the case against him. Among those presiding over the trial were Governor Joseph Dudley and Samuel Sewall, First Judge of the Massachusetts-Bay Province. John Quelch, John Lambert, Christopher Scudamore, John Miller, Erasmus Peterson, and Peter Roach were sentenced to hang. The execution was carried out “in Charles River; between Broughton’s Ware-house, and the Point.”
Joachim and Emmanuel were both called upon to testify against Quelch and certain members of his crew. Emmanuel specifically identified Christopher Scudamore as the murderer of his master Bastian, while both men testified that Quelch and his crew ordered them to claim that they had been Spanish slaves rather than Portuguese upon returning to Boston in order to cover up the crimes against Portuguese ships. Charles, Caesar, and Mingo were all charged with piracy along with the crew, though they were found not guilty. Charles and Caesar were presumably returned to their master, Colonel Hobbey, while the fate of Mingo is not recorded. The fates of Joachim and Emmanuel following the trial are not recorded either. It is interesting to note that though they were considered property, slaves were still called upon to testify in an important trial like free men.
Several important documents and letters are provided in the appendix, including Captain Plowman’s commission from Massachusetts Governor Joseph Dudley as well as his instructions. In the commission, Dudley explains to Plowman that he is “Hereby Authorizing you in and with the said Briganteen and Company to her belonging, to War, Fight, Take, Kill, Suppress and Destroy, any Pirates, Privateers, or other the Subjects and Vassals of France, or Spain, the Declared Enemies of the Crown of England, in what Place soever you shall happen to meet them.” Plowman is warned that “Swearing, Drunkenness and Prophaneness be avoided,” and that no one, even enemies of the British crown, “be in cold Blood killed, maimed, or by Torture or Cruelty inhumanly treated contrary to the Common Usage or Just Permission of War.” Also included are correspondence between Plowman and the Charles’ owners John Colman and William Clarke regarding Plowman’s illness and his growing mistrust of the crew.
Taking place during Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), the crimes of John Quelch and the crew of the Charles should be viewed in the context of the affairs between the European colonial empires in the New World at the dawn of the eighteenth century. Licensed by Governor Dudley as a “private man-of-war,” the Charles was expressly instructed to attack the ships of “Her Majesty’s enemies,” namely France and Spain. Instead, the crew mutinied against their licensed captain and, to the chagrin of Governor Dudley and British colonial authorities, they attacked the ships of Britain’s ally Portugal. It is clear from the text that these crimes are taken very seriously not only as acts of piracy, but as an embarrassment to the crown.
| Published: Wednesday, 28 January, 2015, 1:00 AM