The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: Collection Profiles

“Your Trew and Truly Husband”: The Letters of Civil War Sharpshooter Moses Hill, Part 1

The Frank Irving Howe, Jr. family papers here at the MHS include a wonderful series of Civil War letters by Howe's grandfather Moses Hill (1823-1862). Hill served in the 1st Company of Massachusetts Sharpshooters, or “Andrew Sharpshooters,” during some of the worst fighting in Maryland and Virginia in 1861 and 1862. He wrote most frequently to his wife Eliza, but also to their two children, Lucina and George, affectionately known as “Sis” and “Bub.”

Moses, a stone mason of Medway, Mass., was 38 years old when he enlisted in August 1861 and began his service at Camp Benton, Md. His health was good, and he wrote contentedly about life at camp and proudly of the men of the 1st Company:

I am well and we live very well. A beter company never went into the army, the Smartist & largest lot of men I never saw....I think the Governer is proud of the company. It is cald Andrews Sharp Shooters. He says we can have any thing we want....I think camp life will suit me firstrate.

The company was “composed of Lawyers school masters, schollars, clearks, Laboring men, black legs, machinests, and most every thing else.” They fought well at Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry, but Moses didn't expect the war to last long and hoped to be back in Medway by spring. In November, with Thanksgiving approaching, he urged his wife Eliza to enjoy the holiday without him. He tried to do the same, but with little success:

They have a kitten in the cooks house, and last night when I put my men on guard, I sat by the fire alone and she came and play'd with me and it made me think of home....I belieave I never was so long away from home before.

By December, Moses began to realize the war would last much longer than a few months. He missed his family terribly, but was determined to do his job the best he could. On Christmas eve, he wrote a letter to his 13-year-old daughter Lucina:

I wish I was at home to see you all and hug and kiss you and bub but I think it is better for me to be here to give you better suport and to serve my countery. I pray the National Troble will close soon. Then I hope I shal be with you as long as we live....Kiss bub for me and Mother to, and tak as meny for yorself as you are a mind to.

On 3 Jan. 1862, the Andrew Sharpshooters left Camp Benton via the C&O Canal. I'll be blogging more about Moses Hill right here at the Beehive, so stay tuned!



*Eliza Ann Arnold Hill and Lucina Maria Hill [photograph], [ca. 1855], Photo 1.570, Massachusetts Historical Society.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 8:00 AM

"Representing Me": The Scrapbook of Eleanor Shumway

Earlier this year, the MHS acquired the scrapbook of Eleanor Shumway, a teenager living in Newton, Massachusetts in the early 20th century. We see a lot of scrapbooks here, but this one is unique because Eleanor annotated each page, making the volume a kind of personal diary, as well.

Eleanor Shumway was born in 1895, the second daughter of salesman Harold H. Shumway and Amy Louise (Moors) Shumway. She had two sisters, Marjorie and Helen. One hundred years ago, when she kept this scrapbook, Eleanor was a student at Newton High School. She attended parties, dances, and concerts; participated in school sports; and gushed about her favorite actors and actresses. Pasted carefully to each page are ticket stubs, programs, invitations, party favors, dance cards, postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, etc., mostly dating from 1908-1915. The volume also contains some original pencil sketches, including “Works of Art. Representing me.” And next to each item is a handwritten note by Eleanor describing her activities in detail.

Eleanor wrote about popular party games, like Winkums, Drop the Handkerchief, Hearts, and something called Buzz. She and her friends also played cards, bean bag games, and guessing games; ducked for apples; strung pumpkin seeds; told ghost stories; made fudge and molasses candy; ate Jack Horner pie; went skating; and participated in “theatricals.” At one party, the guests performed in blackface, and Eleanor got a prize “for acting the craziest.”

The slang is priceless, and reading through the scrapbook, you can almost hear Eleanor's voice. She often had “piles of fun,” “great sport,” or “a peach of a time.” Plays she attended were “horrid,” “darling,” or “perfectly slick.” Her “chums” were a “corking bunch.”

But Eleanor's life was not without its drama. One letter, written by her friend Ruth W. after the two had fallen out, reads:

What was it about Alfred Pratt that Eugenie didn’t know. Please tell me what I said or did to make you & Eugenie not even look at me. I’m awfully sorry and I didn’t mean what ever you heard….Please tell me why you wont look or speak to me.

There was also the occasional mortification:

This note fell out of my History Book over at Charlestown and a gentleman very politely handed it to Marjorie. We nearly died!

This scrapbook is not just a personal account of one precocious American teenager's daily life, but a window into social history and a record of dramatic technological changes. Eleanor also described riding in a Parkhurst car, as well as eating a meal “made by electricity” at the House of Edison Light in Newton Centre.

To see the Eleanor Shumway scrapbook, or any of our other scrapbooks, please visit the MHS library.

comments: 2 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 3 October, 2012, 8:00 AM

Guest Post: Research Fellow Finds More Than She is Looking for in Sarah Louisa Guild's Diary

I have come across several surprises in the reading room recently, as is entirely typical in manuscript research. One archival pleasure is finding what we hope is there, but another is encountering the unexpected.

I eagerly opened Sarah Louisa Guild’s diary for 1898 anticipating some insights on the Spanish-American War, as the MHS catalog promised. I was seeking a woman's personal view of that conflict and Guild did not disappoint me. Her observant, intelligent entries demonstrate how avidly she followed news on the war as well as on local politics. She decried the "wretched Mugwumps who cry 'down with imperialism'. . . .  Mugwumps seem to always pull down but never build up." Her partisan interests were likely influenced by her older brother Curtis; "Curty" had volunteered to fight and had political ambitions, supported by his family. But the passion with which she wrote about political candidates and issues suggests that "Lulu" would have been engaged by them anyway.

I feel fortunate to have Guild's careful, candid thoughts on what was happening around her. As is the case with most war correspondence, her "homefront" letters did not make it into the archive, even though her brother's letters from Army camp are preserved. Without her diary, we'd have no trace of what Sarah Louisa made of the war or of her relationship to it.

But her diary is much richer than just political commentary. Guild wrote about her love of music and included capsule reviews of the concerts she attended. Sometimes I'd turn a page and find a pressed flower, or a four-leaf clover. One tiny pansy came from a bouquet sent to comfort her upon the death of her mother. Guild always appreciated such tokens of affection; she especially noted how one gift of flowers came from a friend who hadn’t much money. (Guild later sent that friend a ticket to the Boston Symphony.) The diary is also a record of Guild's mourning and her declining health. She consulted doctors and tried bromides and tonics to no avail. She wrote the last entries from a sanatorium in Connecticut that specialized in treating nervous diseases.

On occasion, Guild trained her sights on others in her social set. One unusually acerbic entry remarked upon the death of Isabella Stewart Gardner's husband in 1898:

Mr. Jack Gardner was seized with apoplexy at noon at the Somerset. He was carried to his Beacon St home and died at 9 P.M. Good natured clumsy man! Wonder if his nervous & fashion loving wife will marry again. He was like a Newfoundland dog at her heels.

Guild's judgment reminds us that late nineteenth-century women continued to be the makers and breakers of reputation among the privileged classes. Such barbs could sting deeply, as any fan of Edith Wharton knows. Gardner no doubt could wield mighty social muscle in her own defense.

Pressed flowers and sharp-tongued gossip: it's just such unexpected interruptions that helpfully unsettle what we think we're researching.  I opened her diary searching for a "good source," but find the privilege of glimpsing Sarah Louisa Guild, a complete, complicated human being who is more than the sum of her words.


Laura Prieto is currently working at the MHS as a Ruth R & Alyson R. Miller Fellow.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 22 April, 2011, 10:00 AM

New @ the MHS: Winslow Family Memorial

The Massachusetts Historical Society recently acquired a very interesting manuscript collection called the Winslow Family Memorial (Ms. N-2322). Begun by Boston merchant Isaac Winslow (1774-1856) in about 1837 and continued after his death by his daughter Margaret Catharine Winslow, this unique manuscript tells the story of the Winslow family in England and America from approximately 1620 to 1839. The bulk of the Memorial deals with political matters in early America, including the life of Isaac’s father Isaac Winslow (1743-1793), a Loyalist in Boston during the Revolutionary War. A combination of memoir, genealogy, and political history, the manuscript incorporates first-hand accounts of important events (excerpted from correspondence and diaries of various family members), interspersed with personal reflections and reminiscences by both Isaac and Margaret.

Though the Memorial fills only two manuscript boxes, its catalog record and online collection guide are extensive. This is because of the vast scope of the material; the manuscript touches on most of the major historical events that occurred in America and Europe between 1620 and 1839. Not just the American Revolution, but the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 figure prominently. Other subjects include state and national politics, Federalism and Anti-Federalism, commerce and trade, slavery, smallpox, the development of the Sandemanian Church (of which the Winslows were members), and Isaac’s two trips to Europe and the Mediterranean in 1795 and 1796. The Memorial also contains philosophical digressions, depictions of family relationships, and a poignant description of the depression and suicide of Isaac’s father.

The collection consists of five volumes: three volumes of unbound pages (many with additional material attached) and two bound volumes. Isaac’s portion begins with a preface addressed to his daughter Margaret:

The present work whether viewed as autography Biography or even Family history is certainly digressive, and were I to rewrite it much would be lop’d of[f], especially if I supposed it was intended for publication—Such not being the case I leave the work as it is, assured that you my dear daughter will not suspect me of Ancestral Pride so vain yet so common to man. No New Englander ought to have this, and yet none are without it.

He continues:

The love of family is in fact but the love of country on a smaller scale. Both perhaps are a sort of instinctive feeling, but not the less agreeable for being natural—Both look with the eyes of affection and interest not only on the present, but on the past. The history of what has been, has always been interesting to man, especially of his own country—how much more so is the history of that part of his country, in which he is more immediately concerned, his own family. He feels as if he was a party in the events and circumstances in which his predecessors were actors, or sufferers. He exults in their success, sympathizes with their misfortunes, rejoices in their happiness, and feels grieved at their afflictions.

The Winslow Family Memorial was transcribed in 2009-2010 by the donor of the collection, Dr. Robert W. Newsom of the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Newsom’s transcriptions, which also contain chapter abstracts and extensive footnotes, are a great resource for researchers, so the MHS has incorporated his work into our collection guide. The guide for the Memorial, broken down by volume and chapter, includes links to Dr. Newsom’s transcriptions and detailed descriptions of each volume in PDF format.

This manuscript is a valuable addition to the many other collections at the MHS related to the Winslows. It also offers unique insight into a prominent New England family who lived through some of the greatest upheavals in early American history.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 15 April, 2011, 10:00 AM

Spotlight on Collections: Henry Cabot Lodge, Part VI

Over the last several weeks in Spotlight on Collections I discussed the life and influence of the Cabot family, the Lodge family, Henry Cabot Lodge (HCL), and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (HCL II).  Sadly, this week will be my final installment on the Lodges.  To close up the series I will look to HCL II, to his connection with the Society, and to the many collections of his papers available at the Society. 

Like his grandfather, HCL II became a member of the Society early in his career.  In 1947 the nominating committee and MHS council elected HCL II a resident member of the Society.  As the beginning of his membership corresponded with his first term as U.S. senator, HCL II was not available much of the time to take part in many of the member meetings and events.  Although his work in the Senate and then as an ambassador took him away from the normal duties of a Society member, HCL II contributed to the Society by donating important Lodge family papers.  These papers included the previously mentioned two collections of Henry Cabot Lodge papers, the Lodge-Roosevelt correspondence, the John Ellerton Lodge papers, and the papers of his father George Cabot Lodge.  HCL II also donated many other family papers such as correspondence between Henry Adams and Matilda Elizabeth Frelinghuysen Davis in the Adams-Lodge correspondence, the John Davis scrapbook (HCL II’s maternal grandfather), and the George Cabot Lodge collection.

By 1975, as HCL II’s political and diplomatic career was winding down, HCL II retired as a member of the Society.   Although his membership ended, HCL II continued a relationship with the Society by donating a very large collection of his own papers in 1978.  HCL II’s papers, the Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. papers, is made up of over 66 cartons of material, most of which are stored offsite.  This collection contains letters, speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, audio tapes, newsreels, and memorabilia concerning Lodge's career as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, Massachusetts state representative, United States senator, and representative to the United Nations. Although the Society microfilmed a small portion of this collection (Cartons 30-35 and 37), the majority of the collection is stored offsite and is available for researchers to view with advance notice. 

Upon his death in 1985, HCL II bequeathed a slightly smaller set of his papers, the Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. papers II  which included papers concerning his service in World War II, his diplomatic career in Vietnam and the United Nations, and his 1952 Senate race against John F. Kennedy.  The entirety of this collection, consisting of fourteen cartons, four document boxes, and one oversize box, has been microfilmed.  The original papers are stored off-site, but researchers can make use of the microfilm edition, which is stored onsite for researcher access.

Along with each collection of his personal papers, HCL II also donated a number of photographs.  For preservation purposes, thirteen boxes, two oversize boxes, and thirty-nine volumes of photographs were removed from the Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. papers and renamed the Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. photographs.  This collection includes loose photographs, scrapbooks, and photograph albums that depict his political career and family life.  The 591 photographs removed from the Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. papers II were renamed the Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. photographs II .  This collection contains photographs of HCL II, portraits of Lodge family members and political figures, photographs of Emily Sears Lodge's charity work in Vietnam, and photos of manuscripts.  Both of these collections are available for researcher use in the library.

Although in different ways, both HCL and HCL II contributed to the Society.  They helped shape its history, its collection, and its reputation.  In their support for the Society both men demonstrated their belief in the importance of preserving history, whether it be books, manuscripts, artifacts, or photographs.  I would like to think that their understanding of the importance of history was a key factor in making them so successful in politics and diplomacy, but I will have to leave the verification of that to the historians.  

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 13 April, 2011, 10:00 AM

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