MHS News

MHS Press Releases

David McCullough to Receive John F. Kennedy Medal

The MHS is pleased to present its highest award to award-winning author and historian David McCullough at a celebratory event at the Society on 7 May, 2014.

Kennedy MedalOn 7 May, the Society will present the John F. Kennedy Medal to MHS Fellow, Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning historian David McCullough. Awarded to persons who have rendered distinguished service to the cause of history, it is the highest award given by the Society. Shortly after President Kennedy’s death, the MHS received several gifts designated to perpetuate his memory as an active member of the Society and a great friend of historical scholarship. A medal was created in his name, and eminent artist and MHS Fellow Rudolph Ruzicka was commissioned to design it. The following historians have received the Kennedy Medal: Samuel Eliot Morison (1967), Dumas Malone (1972), Thomas Boylston Adams (1976), Oscar Handlin (1991), Edmund S. Morgan (2002), Alfred DuPont Chandler, Jr. (2003), Bernard Bailyn (2004), John Hope Franklin (2005), Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (2006), Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (2009), and Gordon S. Wood (2012).

MHS President Dennis Fiori remarked, "the Kennedy Medal was created to honor those who have rendered distinguished service to the cause of history. As an award-winning historian, popular author, and a great champion of history education, David McCullough has dedicated his career to the cause of history. It gives us great pleasure to bestow this award upon such a great friend to the Society and to add his name to the list of prominent recipients."

David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a "master of the art of narrative history," "a matchless writer." He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize and twice winner of the National Book Award, and, he has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. 

Mr. McCullough’s most recent book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, the number one New York Times best seller, has been called "dazzling," "an epic of ideas . . . history to be savored." His previous work, 1776, has been deemed "a classic," while John Adams remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies of all time. Mr. McCullough’s other books include The Johnstown Flood, The Great Bridge, The Path between the Seas, Mornings on Horseback, Brave Companions, and Truman. His work has been translated and published in 15 countries around the world, and, in all, more than 10,000,000 copies are in print. 

A gifted speaker, Mr. McCullough has lectured in all parts of the country and abroad, including at the White House. He is also one of the few private citizens to speak before a joint session of Congress. He is presently working on a biography of the Wright brothers.

comments: 0 | permalink

Tell It with Pride Opens at the MHS 21 February

Tell It with PrideOrganized by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C. and in cooperation with the MHS, Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial will open at the Society 21 February and be on exhibit through 23 May. The exhibition celebrates Augustus Saint-Gaudens's magisterial Shaw Memorial (1883–1900). The monument commemorates the 18 July 1863 storming of Fort Wagner. The Civil War battle was waged by Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, one of the first African American military units raised in the North. Although the 54th was defeated at Fort Wagner and almost a third of the regiment was killed or wounded, the battle was seen as a turning point in the war: it proved that African Americans’ bravery and dedication to country equaled that of the nation’s most celebrated heroes.

When Saint-Gaudens created the monument, he based his likeness of Shaw on photographs of the colonel, but for his depiction of the other soldiers, he hired African American men to pose in his studio. This exhibition seeks to make real the soldiers of the 54th represented anonymously in the memorial. It brings together vintage photographic portraits of members of the regiment and of the men and women who recruited, nursed, taught, and guided them. To represent the variety of soldiers in the 54th, Saint-Gaudens searched for models in New York and Boston. In all, he sculpted some 40 heads over the course of several years, 23 of which he incorporated into the final relief. The exhibition showcases 5 heads on loan from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, N.H., cast from the artist's clay sketches, which illustrate Saint-Gaudens' great sensitivity as a portraitist.

The Society is pleased to have contributed to the national exhibition by providing a number of photographs, a recruiting poster, and a letter that Gov. John A. Andrew wrote to Francis Shaw offering command of the 54th to Shaw's son, Robert. 

Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs at the NGA, and Nancy Anderson, curator and head of American and British paintings at the NGA, are the curators of the exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog and a printed brochure.

Throughout the run of the exhibition, special programs are planned in cooperation with the Museum of African American History, Boston African American National Historic Site, and the Friends of the Public Garden.

comments: 0 | permalink

Governor Deval Patrick Names September 17th Massachusetts Furniture Day

Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture is a collaborative venture highlighting Massachusetts furniture-making through the centuries.

BOSTON, MA – In honor of the statewide celebration, Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture, Governor Deval Patrick has named September 17th, Massachusetts Furniture Day. A first-time collaboration among ten museums and cultural institutions throughout the state, Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture will highlight Massachusetts furniture-making, from the 1600s to the present day, through a series of exhibitions and public programs. Exhibitions and programs will begin in September and will run through December 2014. Participating institutions include the Colonial Society of Massachusetts; Concord Museum; Fuller Craft Museum; Historic Deerfield; Historic New England; Massachusetts Historical Society; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; North Bennet Street School; Old Sturbridge Village; and Peabody Essex Museum. Also playing a key role in the development of the project is Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library.

The Honorable Bryon Rushing will read the Governor’s proclamation at a special event held in Nurses Hall in the State House on September 17th at 2:00pm.  Legislators from throughout the state will join in the celebration and a special chair belonging to Governor John Endecott (1589-1665), the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, will also be on display. The chair is one of the earliest known upholstered chairs made in New England. 

Never before have so many renowned institutions in the Northeast joined forces to exhibit, study and promote a single topic in the field of American Decorative Art.  Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture is an unprecedented celebration of the Bay State’s remarkable furniture-making legacy. From the earliest products of newly arrived immigrants in the 1600s, to the outstanding work of present-day studio furniture-makers, Massachusetts holds one of the most prominent places in American furniture­-making history.

“We are honored that Governor Patrick has recognized the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture project with such a wonderful designation,” said Dennis Fiori, President of the Massachusetts Historical Society and one of the founders of the project. “By declaring September 17th as Massachusetts Furniture Day, Governor Patrick is recognizing the truly remarkable legacy in American furniture history that Massachusetts holds, not only as a traditional industry but also as an art form,” said Fiori. 

For more information on Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture go to: fourcenturies.org.

comments: 0 | permalink

"The Cabinetmaker and the Carver: Boston Furniture from Private Collections" Opens 4 October

An extraordinary opportunity to view nearly 50 examples of rarely seen furniture borrowed from private collections in the greater Boston area.

BOSTON, August 2013—Boston has been the home of an important furniture trade since the mid-17th century. As part of the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture collaboration, the Massachusetts Historical Society presents an exhibition covering several centuries of a rich and varied furniture-making tradition. From 4 October 2013 through 17 January 2014, visitors will have the opportunity to explore nearly 50 examples of rarely seen furniture borrowed from distinguished private collections in the greater Boston area. Ranging in date from the late-17th century to about 1900, these privately held treasures, generously lent by their owners, provide a look at the trajectory of cabinetmaking in the Hub. Supplemented with complementary materials from the Society’s collections the exhibition explores furniture as history and provides a look at Boston’s distinctive urban tradition.

Bostonians, and New Englanders at large, have long been responsible caretakers of the area’s history. The furniture in this show, gathered by passionate and knowledgeable collectors in the last few decades, complements the incomparable manuscript collections of the MHS, whose stewardship of the written record has been so significant since the late-18th century.  

The exhibition begins with a constellation of the earliest surviving furniture made in Boston.  Fashioned by joiners, turners, and chair makers from the 1680s to about 1730, these sturdy early objects in the Anglo-American tradition are evocative of “the world we have lost,” as phrased by the historian Peter Laslett. The display includes a rare high chest of drawers with “japanned” decoration, an interpretation of true Asian lacquer that was popular in Boston at this time.

The show continues with an extraordinary array of Boston’s finest colonial furniture in the late baroque, rococo, and early neoclassical styles. Bostonians’ taste—before the Revolution but after the war as well—remained firmly indebted to English modes.  Case furniture in the blockfront and bombé (or swelled) modes, both characteristic of Boston shops, along with several pieces attributed to John Welch, Boston’s most important specialist carver of the period, will be on display. Desks and desk and bookcases—the work stations of Boston’s 18th-century merchants and ministers, are featured prominently. A cluster of four card or gaming tables provides evidence of the more relaxed social mores of the Georgian era.

Next, visitors are presented with late neoclassical or Empire-style furniture, when stylish Bostonians looked to the designs of ancient Greece, Rome, and occasionally Egypt for inspiration. The objects on display are mainly by Isaac Vose and Son and Emmons & Archbald, two of Boston’s most important shops in the early Republic. A little cabinet, an unusual form attributed to the Vose firm, may have been used by a collector to store miniatures, coins, medals, jewelry, or other small precious items.

The exhibition continues with examples of the eclectic, imaginative styles of the mid- and late-19th century, including the Gothic and rococo revivals, and an example of innovative patent furniture. The adjacent Dowse Library serves as the show’s “period room.” New information, discovered in the course of preparing the exhibition, has identified Edward Hixon as the source of the room’s woodwork and furnishings in 1857. The show concludes with a few masterpieces from the arts and crafts movement of the late-19th century, a design reform impulse in which Boston took a leading role.

Furniture tells us much about the past—about social customs and human interaction, about the relationship between Americans and the world, about the changing nature of technology and the evolution of aesthetics, among many other topics. By providing a snapshot of Boston’s furniture tradition, this exhibition provides another lens through which to examine the city’s long and distinguished history.

A full-color, extensively illustrated catalogue written by guest curator Gerald W. R. Ward and published by the MHS will be available and can be purchased online or at the Society. 

About Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture
Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture is a collaborative project of the Massachusetts Historical Society and ten other institutions that features exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations and publications to celebrate the Bay State's legacy of furniture-making. Visit fourcenturies.org.  

comments: 0 | permalink

Recent Discovery of Early Writings and Drawings by E. E. Cummings on Display at the Massachusetts Historical Society

Early childhood writings and sketches of poet E. E. Cummings uncovered at the MHS while organizing Cummings-Clarke Collection

E.E. Cummings Rhinocerous drawingBOSTON, JUNE 2013—Long before Edward Estlin Cummings became known as E. E. Cummings, one of 20th-century America’s most popular poets, he experimented with words and sketches that reveal a delightful childhood imagination. The Massachusetts Historical Society is delighted to display a selection of these writings and drawings in "Estlin Cummings Wild West Show" from June 13 through August 30. The items on display, dating from 1900 to 1902, showcase the poet's early experiments with words and illustrations. Uncovered while organizing and describing a large collection of Cummings family papers with support from the Peck Stacpoole Foundation, these are likely some of the earliest works by Cummings.

In a sketch of a rhinoceros and soldier completed about 1900, Cummings writes, "THIS. RHINOCEROUS. IS. YOUNG. MARCHING BY. A. SOLDIER. He TELLS-TALES TO-HIM". This youthful work displays one of the poet’s earliest uses of capitalization and punctuation, which would later become one of his trademarks. Fanciful drawings and writings, from when Cummings was about seven years old, illustrate his early fascination with the circus, wild west shows, and animals of all varieties. Those on display include a self-portrait entitled "Edward E. Cummings, the animal emperor, famous importer, trainer, and exhibitor of wild animals" as well as ink blots, watercolors, and sketches in pen and pencil of cowboys and Indians, wild west shows, locomotives, zoos, circuses, lions, and elephants. Among the writings is a November 1902 letter to his mother about life on Joy Farm, his family’s retreat in New Hampshire and a letter to his father from written in January 1900. 

The papers of Edward Cummings, a Unitarian minister and champion of social justice in early 20th century Boston, and his family have now been fully organized and described in a collection guide that is available on the MHS website. The large collection consists not only of the papers of Edward Cummings including his sermons, writings, and correspondence with family and his mentor Edward Everett Hale but also his wife Rebecca (Clarke) Cummings, and their children, Edward and Elizabeth. The Society received the Cummings-Clarke collection as a gift from the estate of E.E. Cummings in October of 1969, and from the poet’s sister, Elizabeth Cummings Qualey, between 1969 and 1973.  Although the collection had previously been available for research, the project to describe the collection in more detail has highlighted the importance of these childhood poems and sketches. 

E.E. Cummings was born in Cambridge, Mass. in 1894. He attended the Cambridge Latin High School and received his B.A. from Harvard University in 1915, and his M.A. in 1916. Known for his poetry, Cummings was also an artist and author. He received a number of honors including two Guggenheim Fellowships, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation Grant.

 

Artwork and text: Artwork by E.E. Cummings. Used by permission of the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust.

comments: 0 | permalink

older posts