MHS Press Releases
The Father of His Country Returns to Boston Opens at the Massachusetts Historical Society on October 24
Published: Friday, 24 October, 2014, 12:00 PM
An exhibition of paintings, accounts, and other memorabilia assembled to commemorate the 225th anniversary of George Washington’s visit to Boston
Two hundred twenty-five years ago, during his first year in office, Pres. George Washington embarked on a month-long tour of New England including a ten-day visit to Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Historical Society is commemorating this visit with the exhibition The Father of His Country Returns to Boston, October 24, 1789. The exhibition is open in the Treasures Gallery of the Society through December 31, 2014.
In Boston, the president was met by a great procession that paraded beneath a triumphal arch designed by Charles Bulfinch. Young John Quincy Adams observed the great excitement of people everywhere: “At the present moment they indulge themselves in sentiments of joy, arising/resulting . . . from the gratification of their affection in beholding personally among them, the friend, the benefactor, the father of his Country.” To set the scene, the exhibition includes a map of Boston, an engraving by Samuel Hill showing the triumphal arch, and a broadside describing the welcoming procession along with a painting of State Street in 1801 by James Brown Marston.
Featured in the exhibition is one of six portraits of Washington housed in the Society’s collections. The portrait is a life study by Christian Gullager painted during the New England tour. Gullager began his portrait of the president in October, 1789. Jeremy Belknap, the minister of Federal Street Church in Boston and founder of the MHS, noted Washington's visit and Gullager's effort to portray him in his diary: "While he was in the chapel, Gullager, the painter stole a likeness of him from a Pew behind the pulpit." Belknap added, "Gullager followed Gen W to Ports[mouth] where he sat for 2 – hours for him to take his portrait wh[ich] he did & obtained a very good likeness after wh[ich] he laid aside the sketch wh[ich] he took in the Chapel wh[ich] however was not a bad one."
Also on display are designs of copper buttons made to celebrate Washington’s inauguration, the Bowdoin Bishop Cup from which Washington is said to have drunk punch, a lock of hair that Washington gave to Alexander Hamilton, and a walking stick presented to George Washington by Gov. James Bowdoin. Martha Washington returned the cane to the Bowdoin family after her husband’s death in 1799.
Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country Opens at the Massachusetts Historical Society on June 12
Published: Friday, 6 June, 2014, 12:00 AM
An exhibition of letters, photographs, and other memorabilia assembled to commemorate the centenary of the first World War
To commemorate the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, the MHS has organized the exhibition Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in the First World War, focusing on two of the hundreds of women from the Commonwealth who went to France as members of the U.S. armed forces, the Red Cross, and other war relief organizations. From the Society’s extraordinary collection of women’s remembrances, this exhibition features photographs, letters, diaries, and memorabilia related to Margaret Hall and Eleanor (Nora) Saltonstall, Red Cross volunteers in France. Both women were keen observers of the climactic months of the war and depicted what they witnessed in vivid detail. The exhibition is open at the MHS June 12, 2014 through January 24, 2015.
Nora Saltonstall was 23 when she sailed for France in October 1917 to work in Paris with the Bureau of Refugees and Relief, a division of the American Red Cross, which provided lodging for refugees. In November, she transferred to an American Red Cross dispensary in Paris and, after the new year, to Mrs. Charles Daly's Auto-Chir No. 7, an American Red Cross hospital unit attached to the French army. The Auto-Chir was a mobile hospital which followed the troops, serving as the primary medical unit after the first aid station. Later, she was the chauffeur while the Auto-Chir served along the western front in France, the site of the German offensives in the spring of 1918. It was for this service that she earned the Croix de Guerre that is on display in the exhibition along with a selection of her letters home and a portrait of Nora by Frank Weston Benson.
In August 1918, a Massachusetts-born woman named Margaret Hall boarded a transport ship in New York City that would take her across the Atlantic to work with the American Red Cross in France. The year she spent abroad was eye opening. When she returned stateside, she compiled a typescript narrative from the letters and diary passages that she wrote while overseas and illustrated it with roughly 275 photographs and illustrative items. Her words offer a first-hand account of life on the Western Front in the last months of the war while her photographs depict the soldiers, canteens, and extensive destruction following the war. That narrative, "Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country, 1918-1919," is a manuscript in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) and will be on display. The exhibition will highlight a selection of Hall’s large-format photographs of the battlefront on loan from the Cohasset Historical Society.
About the publication
The MHS will publish Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: The World War I Memoir of Margaret Hall on July 14, 2014, as part of its commemoration of the beginning of World War I. Modern readers will be transported by this first-person account of a woman’s life in the Great War. The book augments Hall’s written story with several dozen of her striking and never-before-published photographs, selected from those she included in the archived typescript.
Margaret Higonnet, the volume’s editor, opens up the text for readers with a suite of supporting materials: an introduction, headnotes on key related topics, a biographical key identifying the people who appear in the text, a geographical key of significant locations, a timeline of relevant World War I events, and glossaries of period and French terms.
About the Massachusetts Historical Society
The Massachusetts Historical Society is one of the nation’s preeminent research libraries, with collections that provide an unparalleled record of the vibrant course of American history. Since its founding in 1791, the MHS has fostered research, scholarship, and education. With millions of pages of manuscript letters, diaries, and other documents, as well as early newspapers, broadsides, artifacts, works of art, maps, photographs, and prints, the MHS offers a wide-ranging perspective on the United States from the earliest beginnings of the nation to the present day. Exhibition galleries are open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
David McCullough to Receive John F. Kennedy Medal
Published: Monday, 14 April, 2014, 4:11 PM
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.
On 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.
Tell It with Pride Opens at the MHS 21 February
Published: Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 3:18 PM
Organized 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.
Governor Deval Patrick Names September 17th Massachusetts Furniture Day
Published: Tuesday, 17 September, 2013, 12:06 PM
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.