Postcards from Japan, 1916
During a peace mission in Japan in 1916, American physician Morton Prince sent many postcards to his wife who remained at their home on Beacon Street in Boston. While exploring the cities of Yokohama and Tokyo, the doctor wrote short explanatory notes about the scenes on the postcards. Here are two of the many cards in the Morton Prince papers which illustrate the natural beauty of Japan's landscape in stark contrast to the urban development of the Kanto metropolitan area in the early 20th century.
On 21 May 1916, an unidentified member of the peace mission entourage wrote to Mrs. Morton Prince with an update about her husband.
Dr. is very
The front image is a beautiful view of Mount Fuji, or as the Japanese call the mountain, Fuji-san, 富士山. Mount Fuji is located approximately 60 miles south-west of Tokyo and 75 miles west of Yokohama. Interestingly, this postcard bears the postal stamp of Yokohama rather than any of the surrounding towns near Mount Fuji.
The delegation continued north-east toward Tokyo. This postcard bears the postal stamp of "Tokio" despite the scenery of Yokohama on the front. Recognized as Tokyo today, "Tokio" was the romanization of the Japanese city at the time.
On 24 May 1916, Morton Prince wrote to his wife about the view of Yokohama, 横浜市:
This is the way
the homes are
The outside of the
natives' homes are
rather squalid or
down at the heel
but inside clean
The peace mission was successful in engendering diplomacy and friendship. In 1918, Dr. Morton Prince received the Order of the Rising Sun medal for his efforts in Japanese-United States relations. The Order of the Rising Sun was a Japanese Imperial decoration bestowed upon individuals who had rendered distinguished service to the nation and people of Japan. While the MHS does not have Morton Prince's medal in its collections, it does have the medal awarded to William Sturgis Bigelow in 1928.
| Published: Friday, 28 February, 2014, 11:54 AM
Censorship During Wartime
The MHS recently acquired a small collection of Norma A. Krtil papers that includes nine World War II letters from Krtil’s boyfriend, 23-year-old Donald K. Kibbe of Westfield, Mass. Sgt. Kibbe was an American volunteer with the Royal Canadian Air Force serving in England. Unfortunately, some of his letters arrived in Westfield looking like this:
Now, I've seen a number of wartime letters with censorship marks or redacted passages, but this is definitely the most zealous censorship I've come across. Obviously these particular passages were (literally!) excised because they revealed Kibbe's location and information about specific equipment and missions. In fact, the R.A.F. censor enclosed this helpful note in one of the envelopes:
The content of Kibbe's correspondence—what's left of it—is also interesting. For example, in his first letter after shipping out, he wrote to his girlfriend with disappointment:
Norma, I lost your pin. I ransacked the house for it the morning before leaving but it was such a small thing & the house is so big. They're going to send it to me if they find it. I feel terribly bad about it. I wanted something you wore and held in your hands and gave to me with your hands and I had it & then I lost it. But if I've lost the pin I’ll never lose the memory of you nor the memory of the words you said the night you gave it to me. Norma, just love me half as much as I love you.
Happily this wonderful passage remains intact. (By the way, Kibbe later found the pin and wore it "inside [his] pocket beneath the wings.") But Kibbe's story, like so many others, ended tragically. He was killed on 30 Sep. 1941 in a plane crash on the Yorkshire moors. He had been serving as second pilot on a bombing raid to Stettin, and the plane went down on its return flight. It was his first mission.
Of course, censorship of wartime letters was nothing new. Letters written by soldiers during World War I also had to be approved by censors, and it's not uncommon to see marks or stamps on them, like these on the letters of Alton A. Lawrence and William F. Wolohan, both from 1918:
But young men, far away from home, placed in frightening situations, and desperate to reach out to their families and friends, often balked at the restrictions. When he arrived in Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces, Wolohan complained:
All the fellows are asking each other what to write as this is about the first time their mail has been censored, and they are having a great time trying to send a decent letter. They have so much to say or would like to say and yet dont know just what they are allowed to write.
Pfc. Brooks Wright, a World War II cryptographer from Cambridge, Mass. serving in India in August 1943, told his family the story of a fellow serviceman's frustration with the censorship.
You will be amused to hear of a letter which Calahan sent home. In it he complained of censorship in no complimentary terms. Between the lines was written "He’s not far from wrong –Censor."
Wright himself didn't suffer much at the hands of the censors, though he did have the occasional phrase or passage cut from his letters à la Kibbe, usually when he was describing something specific about his location. Even a printed program for a concert he attended, enclosed with a letter, was redacted: "The […] Symphony Orchestra."
But Wright was fond of drawing and illustrated many of his letters with scenes from his environment, local architecture, etc. And while he was a careful letter-writer, his sketches revealed more. His botanical sketches were so detailed, in fact, that when his mother took them to Harvard's Gray Herbarium, the experts there were able to identify the species and pinpoint precisely where her son had been posted.
| Published: Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 10:05 AM
Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 30
The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.
Feb. 2d, 1864
The President has just ordered out 500,000 men.
| Published: Friday, 14 February, 2014, 8:00 AM
The McKay Stitcher: The Machine That Revolutionized Footwear Production
On 7 February 1870, Henry H. Warden, of the Russell & Company trade firm in Shanghai, wrote to colleague John Cunningham. Cunningham served as an agent in Boston for the Walsh, Hall & Company of Nagasaki in the tea trade. In this particular letter, Warden replied to an inquiry Cunningham had made concerning a potential shoe business in China.
"Thanks for yours of Nov 30 -
As to the McKay Machine. If it
is capable of turning out 4 @ 5000
shoes a day (those are your figures)
I should say it might be run
here to advantage for a week,
the Leather coming with it, and
supply China and the regions
round about for a year, I
fancy it is only adapted to making
foreign shoes. E. C. will be able
to give you a better opinion
than I can - He will be able
also to say whether you are
likely to find anything here
worth your while. I did not
forget to speak to him about
What is the McKay machine that Henry Warden references in this letter from John Cunningham papers?
The McKay stitcher was a sewing machine created by inventor Lyman Reed Blake and improved by businessman and self-educated engineer Gordon McKay. Prior to the introduction of this stitcher, shoes were hand stitched in a time-consuming and piecemeal manner. The machine revolutionized the speed of footwear production by machine sewing the uppers to the soles.
In 1858, Lyman Reed Blake initially invented an interesting, but not entirely functional, sewing machine. Foreseeing a future in shoe machinery, Gordon McKay bought the patent from Lyman Reed Blake in 1858 for an immediate $8,000. An agreement was reached that Lyman Reed Blake would receive a $72,000 share of future profits. The entrepreneurial engineer for whom the machine is named then improved upon the design until submitting an enhanced patent in 1862. The McKay machine produced finished shoes far faster than hand stitching; it is often credited with giving the North a material edge during the Civil War while the Confederates went without proper footwear.
After the war, having found his market in shoe machinery, Gordon McKay made all moves to retain his profits. In 1866, he designed a leasing system for the McKay machinery which demanded royalties for each pair of shoes made. The low cost of leasing the machines allowed manufacturers to engage in the production of shoes. This production in turn furthered Gordon McKay's business as he secured a profit for each pair made by his machines.
In his letter, Warden refers Cunningham to the expertise of his brother, Edward Cunningham (“E. C.”), a senior partner of the Russell & Company trade firm in Hong Kong. The John Cunningham papers at the Society do not contain information about further footwear business plans in China or correspondence between the brothers about the McKay stitcher. However, it is still a true mark of global prowess that Henry H. Warden and John Cunningham discussed the introduction of the McKay machine to Asian markets less than a decade after its invention.
| Published: Friday, 7 February, 2014, 1:22 PM
A Long Winter Walk: The Banishment of Roger Williams
Over the last couple of weeks, we in Massachusetts were reminded of the unpredictability and harshness of the winter in New England. Of course, we are not alone and a significant portion of the rest of the country received an even greater shock. Still, the driving snow, sub-zero temperatures, and bitter winds force us to remember what a coastal winter can be. But if you think your commute was bad, the experience of Roger Williams might make you turn up the heat and clutch your hot chocolate a bit more tightly.
In October of 1635, after various hearings and disputes over intersecting matters of theology and secular power, Massachusetts Bay banished Roger Williams forcing him to leave the colony’s borders. But with winter coming on and Williams falling ill the court allowed him the courtesy of commuting the sentence until spring on the condition that Williams would not speak publicly in the interim. He consented to this term and agreed not to publicly proclaim his views.
This agreement did not prevent Williams from welcoming his friends and followers into his home and holding private discussions. However, the Massachusetts court viewed even this as a breach of his promise and, in January, 1636, sent armed soldiers led by Captain John Underhill to Williams’ home in Salem to arrest him and put him on a ship bound for England.
As a blizzard and accompanying gale blustered out of the northeast, the ailing Williams received a secret message from none other than Governor John Winthrop, alerting him to the approaching soldiers. By the time Underhill and his men arrived, Williams had been gone three days.
Williams escaped with his life, liberty, and little else. Leaving his wife and children behind until he could find a new home, he plunged into the winter woods by himself. "He entered the wilderness ill and alone…Winthrop described that winter as ‘a very bad season.’ The cold was intense, violent; it made all about him crisp and brittle…The cold froze even Narragansett Bay, an extraordinary event, for it is a large ocean bay riven by currents and tidal flows."i
"But the cold may also have saved his life: it made the snow a light powder . . . it lacked the killing weight of heavy moisture-laden snow. The snow also froze rivers and streams which he would otherwise have had to ford."ii A silver lining to the winter clouds is one that we benefited from during our last storm and surely made our shoveling much easier.
That Roger Williams endured his trek from Salem to Narragansett Bay is no doubt a testament to his personal relationships with the native peoples and their willingness to give him shelter. Yet, "There was no comfort in this shelter. For fourteen weeks he did 'not know what Bread or Bed did meane.'"iii
And yet Roger Williams survived this ordeal and soon thrived in his new home of Providence, itself a further attestation to the good relations that Williams shared with the indigenous tribes. While Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies both were formed by English settlers putting roots down in a spot without much thought for the original inhabitants, Williams was able to secure a piece of land with the blessing of the Narragansett sachem Canonicus and his nephew Miantonomi, two men who were otherwise ill-disposed toward the English.
"Canonicus and Miantonomi gave Williams permission to settle there after negotiating what seemed clear boundaries. Williams later declared that Canonicus 'was not I say to be stirred with money to sell his land to let in Foreigners. Tis true he recd presents and Gratuities many of me: but it was not thouhsands nor ten thouhsands of mony could have bought of him and English Entrance into this Bay.' He said the land was 'purchasd by Love.'"iv
Though we grumbled about the cold and snow that we experienced last week, chances are the memories are already fading. Williams' journey, though, had a lasting effect: "Thirty-five years later he would refer to that 'Winter snow wch I feele yet.'"
To find out more about the life of Roger Williams, try these biographies:
- - Barry, John M., Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Chuch, State, and the Birth of Liberty (New York: Viking Penguin, 2012).
- Gaustad, Edwin S., Roger Williams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
- Winslow, Ola Elizabeth, Master Roger Williams: a biography (New York: Macmillan, 1957).
Also, visit our online catalog, ABIGAIL, and search for Williams, Roger as an author to see what works the MHS holds written by Williams or where he appears in other manuscript collections.
iBarry, John M., Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, state, and the Birth of Liberty (New York: Viking Penguin, 2012) 213.
iiBarry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, 213.
iiiBarry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, 214.
ivBarry, Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul, 217.
| Published: Friday, 17 January, 2014, 11:43 AM