Newly Digitized Photograph Collection
By Peter K. Steinberg, Collection Services
Collection Services at the Massachusetts Historical Society has recently created a collection guide for, and fully digitized, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment carte de visite album, ca. 1864-1865 (Photograph Collection 228).
The 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment was a "colored volunteer" regiment active from 9 January 1864-31 October 1965. Formed at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, was commanded by some notable sons of Massachusetts including Charles Francis Adams Jr., Henry S. Russell, Charles Pickering Bowditch, and Henry Pickering Bowditch. The regiment saw some action in the war, notably in a battles which took place at Baylor's Farm and the Siege of Petersburg in Virginia.
This collection consists of a photograph album containing 46 carte de visite photographs of officers from the regiment. In addition to those named above, the regiment included Edward Jarvis Bartlett, Daniel Henry Chamberlain, Patrick Tracy Jackson, and others. The album includes a two-page handwritten index which identifies all but one of the photographs. Each image appears on a page beautifully bordered, as can be seen in the examples presented here.
The cover of the album, also stunning, is embossed: "Col. H. S. Russell. 5th Mass Cavalry" and features the original, still-functioning brass clasps to keep the album closed. Henry S. Russell (1838-1905), an 1860 graduate of Harvard University, served several ranked positions in the Union Army reaching Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry and Brigadier-General of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. In 1864, Russell married Mary Hathaway Forbes, the daughter of the influential Boston businesman, railroad magnate, and abolitionist John Murray Forbes, and was a cousin of Robert Gould Shaw, Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Another family connection, but this time within the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, were the brothers Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840-1911) and his younger brother Charles Pickering Bowditch (1842-1921). Both were Harvard educated; Henry being a physician and physiologist as well as dean of Harvard Medical School, and Charles becoming a financier, archaeologist and linguistics scholar.
This is the seventh fully digitized Civil War photograph album at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The MHS has additional fully digitized Civil War materials available, as well. Further Reading: Morse, John T., Jr. "Henry Sturgis Russell." In Sons of the Puritans: A Group of Brief Biographies. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1908:153-162.
| Published: Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 8:00 AM
Civil War Photograph Collections Online
By Peter K. Steinberg, Collection Services
On 2 October 2014, my colleague Nancy Heywood announced on the blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS): "Just Launched! Nine Fully Digitized Civil War Collections." In addition to these manuscript collections, the MHS holds several photograph collections dating from the Civil War period as well. Six of these have been digitized and are available both on our Civil War commemoration home page, and in our larger list of guides to photograph collections.
The albums contain images of dozens of Massachusetts' sons –some of whom feature in our digitized manuscripts collections, such as Richard Cary and Norwood Penrose Hallowell– as well as battleground areas and significant and anonymous role players in the Civil War. Seeing them adds another layer of context to the letters, newspaper articles, and other memorabilia of lives long ended. Don't forget! Back in 2012, the MHS produced an in-house exhibit "Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862" and also made a companion website which featured many documents from the show. Since we deal with a lot of death here at the MHS – and really in most archives – I would be remiss without highlighting the second most emotional letter I have ever read, Wilder Dwight's last letter to his mother Elizabeth from the battlefield at Antietam where he was mortally wounded.
| Published: Thursday, 18 December, 2014, 10:43 AM
New Web Presentation of Documents & Engravings about the Boston Massacre
By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services
What do you remember learning about the Boston Massacre? Did you learn the event took place outside the Old State House (at that time called the Town House) in Boston? Was it presented to you as a key event leading up to the American Revolution? Do you remember learning that five people (including Crispus Attucks) lost their lives? If you think of a visual image, do you think of the engraving by Paul Revere depicting townspeople being fired upon by an orderly row of British soldiers? Are you curious to explore how various primary sources describe the chaotic confrontation that took place on 5 March 1770?
It is interesting to read the words of people who were either at the scene or were able to comment on the overall atmosphere of the town after the event. Thanks to funding from the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati, the MHS has created a new web presentation, Perspectives on the Boston Massacre, featuring letters, pamphlets, diary entries, legal notes, and engravings relating to the Boston Massacre.
Some examples of the manuscripts that are available for browsing and reading include diary entries written by merchant John Rowe who observed, "the Inhabitants are greatly enraged and not without Reason" and a letter dated 6 March 1770 by Loyalist Andrew Oliver, Jr. who wrote, "Terrible as well as strange things have happen'd in this Town." The website also includes printed materials; some convey the Patriot perspective of the event (A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston and On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers) and some the Loyalist view (A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston).
One section of the new web presentation focuses on visual representations of the Boston Massacre. Seven prints of the event, as well as one painting showing the same location in Boston in 1801, are available for close examination. Website visitors can use a comparison tool to view any two of the featured images side by side.
The website also features some selected documents relating to the two legal cases (the trial of Captain Thomas Preston and trial of the eight soldiers). John Adams served as one of the defense attorneys and the website includes page images of some of John Adams's handwritten legal notes as well as links to the digital edition of The Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 3, edited by L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, part of the Adams Papers Editorial Project.
The Boston Massacre was recognized as a pivotal event and supporters of the Revolutionary cause organized anniversary commemorations. The website includes published versions of orations given between 1771 and 1775 by noted figures including James Warren and John Hancock as well as a manuscript copy of an oration given by someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum who ridiculed many Patriot leaders.
Please visit www.masshist.org/features/massacre.
| Published: Tuesday, 9 December, 2014, 1:00 AM
Trick AND Treat: The Digitized Norwood Penrose Hallowell Papers
By Peter K. Steinberg, Collection Services
The recently launched fully digitized manuscript collections of Civil War papers at Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) is a significant step forward in making our collections accessible remotely. Motivated by the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, the presentation of full-color surrogates of complete collections will be a model for further digital projects at the MHS. Just as the MHS was inspired by the fully digitized collections available on other websites, we hope our approach can be useful as other organizations undertake similar projects.
Many of the collections were straightforward to digitize. Crudely and in short: remove a folder from the box>remove a piece of paper from the folder>scan>repeat. Of course, much more goes into the process than that: determining permanent and secure storage for 9,000+ images, repairing documents in need of some T.L.C. (Tender Loving Conservation), potentially informing researchers they cannot work with the materials for a while, capturing metadata, tracking all the moving pieces, and so much more. Some collections contained material separated for specific reasons. Photographs and oversize materials, for example, are stored in different locations as these items have their own preservation requirements.
The Norwood Penrose Hallowell papers proved to be particularly challenging to digitize for a variety of reasons. There are loose papers; three disbound scrapbooks; an oversize, intact scrapbook; an oversize scrapbook volume; and some of those aforementioned separated oversize materials. Funding for the digitization of the nine Civil War manuscript collections that enabled both the creation of preservation microfilm and the online version of the collections was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. Part of the budget of the grant enabled us to send large (oversize) materials to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover for imaging. As part of the preparation to send the collection out, we needed to record how many pages there were in total and how many digital images we expected. Then, once we got the collection back, we needed to reconcile that the collection was returned complete and that all of the anticipated digital images were made.
The oversize scrapbook, a.k.a. Scrapbook Vol. 3 was the most difficult part of this collection to represent online. It contains pasted-down newspaper articles, photographs, tipped-in items, photocopies, letters, pamphlets, and other relevant memorabilia. By browsing the digital images, you will see a number beneath each thumbnail image in the sidebar on the left. This is the sequence number that we used to order images so that they will accurately reflect the order of the original item. On occasion, the thumbnail images will appear to be the same. But, please do not be fooled or think us careless. What is actually happening is that a more complicated scrapbook page—one containing something with print on both side of the leaf, or a multi-page document—is being imaged page-by-page, with items flipped up, down, or over, or with loosely tipped-in pieces being photographed and removed one by one.
A good example of this is the sequence number range of 71-76. In sequence number 71, you can see the page in its static, flat form, as it would appear if the volume were in front of you: a letter (of six pages) and a drawing an animal (a doe? a deer? a horse? – I know metadata, not animal species). Sequence 72 shows the first page of the letter flipped up, so that you can read the second page, sequence 73 shows the third page of the letter, and so on. This sort of thing happens throughout the series (see also, for example, sequence numbers 140 -148; and 149 -157, which culminates fascinatingly with the story of death of "Jo-Jo" the "Dog-Faced Man"). We hope that this blog helps to explain the treats this collection has to offer. Happy Hallowell!
| Published: Friday, 31 October, 2014, 12:00 PM
Just Launched! Nine Fully Digitized Civil War Collections
By Nancy Heywood, Collection Services
Reading handwritten letters and documents by men who experienced Civil War battles and military life can be a riveting experience. Nine collections of Civil War manuscripts are available at the Massachusetts Historical Society's website as complete online collections. You are invited to examine digital facsimiles of over 9,000 pages including letters from a surgeon (Charles Briggs) serving in the 54th Regiment, letters from a 16-year-old drummer (Edward Peirce, who later served as a private) describing routine life within a military unit, and warm and informative letters from a Captain (Richard Cary) in the 2nd Regiment to his wife.
The following collections are available on our website:
Charles E. Briggs letters
This collection primarily contains letters by Dr. Charles E. Briggs, assistant surgeon with the 24th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 1862-1863, and surgeon with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, 1863-1865.
Richard Cary letters
Captain Richard Cary served in the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Unfortunately he was shot during the battle at Cedar Mountain in Virginia and died a short time later. This collection includes the letters he sent to his wife, as well as condolence letters she received after her husband’s death.
Norwood Penrose Hallowell papers
Hallowell began his service in the Civil War in the 20th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and then later served as lieutenant colonel of the 55th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the second Black regiment in the state. This collection contains letters and a large number of clippings assembled in scrapbooks. These materials relate to a wide variety of Hallowell’s activities—from his time as a student at Harvard College, through his years serving in the Civil War, to his activities as a Boston businessman.
Frederick Newman Knapp papers
Knapp was a clergyman and teacher from Plymouth, Massachusetts. He wasn’t a soldier, but he held the position of superintendent of the Special Relief Department, U.S. Sanitary Commission. The focus of this commission was to assist sick and wounded Union soldiers. This collection includes Knapp’s personal and professional letters as well as a manuscript of a history of the Sanitary Commission.
Francis William Loring papers
This collection contains letters Loring wrote to his mother and sister while he served in a variety of military units. Loring was a sergeant major in the 24th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; first lieutenant and adjutant in the 38th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; and aide-de-camp for Gen. William H. Emory of the 19th Corps.
Edmund Miles papers
Miles was a lieutenant in the 41st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, later renamed the 3rd Regiment of Cavalry Massachusetts Volunteers. This collection includes letters Miles sent to his family describing his activities in the Civil War, and letters he received from his family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Charles F. Morse papers
This collection contains letters (some with drawings) written by Lieutenant Colonel Morse of the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, who saw action at Cedar Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Resaca, and the Siege of Atlanta in 1864. The collection also includes some correspondence relating to his post-war activities in the railroad business.
Edward Burgess Peirce letters
Peirce was a drummer and a private in Company F. of the 2nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery, from July 1863 to September 1865. This collection includes letters he wrote to his parents in Lowell in which he described many aspects of day-to-day activities as an enlisted soldier including accounts of camp life and troop movements.
Stephen Minot Weld papers
This collection contains letters written by Weld who was promoted several times during the four years he served in the Union Army. Weld was a second lieutenant and then captain in the 18th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1863, and later was lieutenant colonel and then colonel in the 56th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1864-1865.
Please explore and read these collections from any location where you have a web browser and access to the Internet!
Funding for the digitization of the nine Civil War manuscript collections that enabled both the creation of preservation microfilm and the online version of the collections was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
| Published: Thursday, 2 October, 2014, 1:00 AM