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January 2015

Hacking John Adams

John Adams portraitAt the end of 2014, the hack into Sony Pictures and the subsequent publication of the private communications of Sony employees drew massive public interest. John Adams faced a "hack" of his own in the summer of 1775 when private letters he had written to his wife, Abigail Adams, and to his friend James Warren were intercepted by the British and subsequently published in Boston and London. Adams, participating in the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, was growing increasingly frustrated at the reluctance of some of the members to take strong measures of resistance against Great Britain and took to his letters to vent his frustration, in particular against John Dickinson, a member from Pennsylvania who believed that even with hostilities ongoing, reconciliation with Great Britain was still possible and should be pursued. John Adams, fed up with this, vented to Warren: "In Confidence,—I am determined to write freely to you this Time. —A certain great Fortune and piddling Genius whose Fame has been trumpeted so loudly, has given a silly Cast to our whole Doings—We are between Hawk and Buzzard." Read more about John Adams's candid opinions about congressional members.

An Exciting Line-up of Programs at the MHS

MHS exteriorThe MHS offers many engaging programs and events each season from brown-bag lunches and seminars to author talks and special Members events. The winter-spring 2015 print calendar will be in mailboxes soon; in the meantime, please visit for our winter-spring line-up and note the following programs scheduled for January. On Wednesday, 21 January at 6:00 PM, the Boston Saxophone Quartet will present Here Comes America . . . WWI, a selection of songs taking the audience through the musical landscape of World War I. At the end of the month, we will kick off our Adams Family Series highlighting the Society's best-known manuscript collection. On 24 January and 31 January, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Kathleen Barker and the Abigail Adams Historical Society will present a two-day workshop John & Abigail: A Life in Letters. On 29 January, at 6:00 PM, Phyllis Lee Levin will speak about her recent publication The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams. On 5 February, at 6:00 PM, Charles Edel will talk about his book Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams & the Grand Strategy of the Republic. On 19 February, at 6:00 PM, Rosana Wan will discuss the culinary history of the Adams family and her book The Culinary Lives of John & Abigail Adams: A Cookbook.

Coming this April: American Revolution Conference and Keynote Address

2015 conference"So Sudden an Alteration": The Causes, Course, & Consequences of the American Revolution
9 to 11 April

This three-day conference aims to break out of the well-worn grooves of historical inquiry that have defined the study of the Revolution for the past 50 years and bring into focus key themes intended to inspire future scholarship.

In nine sessions, attendees will discuss pre-circulated scholarly papers, which will not be read at the program. The conference will feature a keynote address by Woody Holton, "Not Yet": The Originality Crisis in American Revolution Studies and a proposal by Boston University Professor of History Brendan McConville, "In the Year One: The Revolution Reconsidered." It will include a visit to the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and an introduction to the Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr, Jr., the Society's digital collection of the Revolutionary-era publications that Dorr, a Boston shopkeeper, assembled between the mid 1760s and the mid 1770s.

Sponsors include the David Library of the American Revolution, the MHS, Boston University, and Williams College. For more information and to register online, visit

Keynote Address by Woody Holton
9 April at 5:00 PM

The public is invited to attend the conference keynote address by Woody Holton, "Not Yet": The Originality Crisis in American Revolution Studies. A reception will follow. Holton is the McCausland Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and the author of Abigail Adams. There is no charge for the program, but an RSVP is required. Seating is limited. Phone 617-646-0568 or e-mail to attend.

Teacher and Student Fellowships Deadlines Approaching

Boston Book FairCalling all K-12 teachers and high school students! Apply for a fellowship and receive funding to research the Society's collections. The Swensrud Teacher Fellowship program encourages K-12 educators to create primary-source-based lesson plans using the unparalleled collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The fellowships carry a stipend of $4,000 for four weeks of on-site research at the MHS, and applicants can propose their own topic, or select from a suggested list of themes. Swensrud Fellowship applications must be postmarked no later than 28 February. The John Winthrop Student Fellowship encourages high school students to make use of the Society's collections in a research project of their choosing. Students are welcome to work at the MHS Reading Room in Boston, or complete their research online. Both the Winthrop Student Fellow and his/her teacher receive a $350 stipend. Winthrop Fellowship applications must be postmarked no later than 13 March. For more information, including deadlines and application instructions, visit:

Deadlines Imminent for Research Fellowships

MHS reading roomIf your scholarly research would benefit from a period of residence at the Society, don't miss these deadlines to apply for support: MHS-NEH Long-term Fellowships, 15 January; New England Regional Fellowships, 1 February; Suzanne and Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences, 15 February; MHS Short-term Fellowships, 1 March. Visit to apply online.

Object of the Month

A Street Sweeper's New Year's Greetings

Charles Hardy's New Year's GreetingsOne of the Society's most recent acquisitions, this broadside, published in late 1824 for distribution on New Year's, is a greeting from Boston street sweeper Charles Hardy to his patrons. It is remarkable in several respects. First, it is written by a black Bostonian, and—more interestingly—features a portrait of him. Second, it is from a street sweeper—an unseen, yet essential worker doing a terribly dirty, physical job with little more than the rake, watering can, and broom illustrated below Hardy's picture. Third, it gives us a glimpse at the life of a person, torn by "villains . . . from his native shore," cast upon "the world to die" when "his strength was spent with want and toil." Despite his hardships and advanced age, Hardy asks nothing more than "a mite" for himself and his new fourth wife from those whose streets he kept clean. Read more about Charles Hardy.

Looking at the Civil War: Massachusetts Finds Her Voice

January 1865: "War is cruel in all its parts..."

Letter from Charles Francis Adams, Jr.Letter from Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to Abigail Brooks Adams, 8 January 1865

Writing across the Atlantic to his family stationed in Europe, Union soldier Charles Francis Adams, Jr., reports here on his new duties commanding an African-American regiment at the Confederate prisoner-of-war hospital in Point Lookout, Md. With his own health nearly broken by a recent bout with malaria, Adams struggles to professionalize his new corps. And, as the conflict winds to a bloody close, Adams reassures his mother that Southern prisoners are receiving adequate treatment from a federal government still capable of "Christian spirit & forbearance." Knowing that "war is cruel in all its parts," Charles was determined to confirm that years of bloodshed had been followed by measures of Northern mercy. Read more about Charles Francis Adams, Jr.

Closing 24 January

Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in the First World War

Margaret Hall photoTo commemorate the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, the MHS has organized this exhibition 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, the exhibition features photographs, letters, diaries, and memorabilia related to Margaret Hall and Eleanor (Nora) Saltonstall, Red Cross volunteers in France. The exhibition highlights Hall's large-format photographs of the battlefront on loan from the Cohasset Historical Society. Both women were keen observers of the climactic months of the war and depicted what they witnessed in vivid detail.

Visit, a companion website featuring 246 of Hall's photographs and 29 other illustrative items from the Society's typescript of her memoir.

The new edition of Hall's previously unpublished memoir of her World War I experiences is available for purchase:

The exhibitions are open to the public, Monday through Saturday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

MHS Events Calendar

The MHS will be closed on Monday, 19 January in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Tuesday, 13 January 5:15 PM

Environmental History Seminar
The Rise and Fall of the Texas Longhorn
Joshua Specht, Harvard University
Beth LaDow, author of The Medicine Line: Life and Death on a North American Borderland
Registration required: The Rise & Fall of the Texas Longhorn

Wednesday, 14 January 12:00 PM

The Emerson Sisters' Correspondence: A Record of Daily Life in the Emerson Home & 19th-Century Concord
Kate Culkin, Bronx Community College, CUNY

Thursday, 15 January 5:30 PM

Biography Seminar
Biography, the Visual Artist, and the Story behind Public Art
Belinda Rathbone, Jane Kamensky, and Ruth Butler
Moderator: Carol Bundy
Registration required: Biography, the Visual Artist, & the Story Behind Public Art

Saturday, 17 January 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History and Collections of the MHS

Wednesday, 21 January 6:00 PM

Here Comes America . . . WWI
The Boston Saxophone Quartet
Pre-performance reception at 5:30
There is a $10 fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members)
Registration required: Here Comes America

Saturday, 24 January and Saturday, 31 January 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

John & Abigail: A Life in Letters
There is a $50 fee
Registration required: John & Abigail

Saturday, 24 January 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History and Collections of the MHS

Tuesday, 27 January 5:15 PM

Immigration and Urban History Seminar
Interpreters in Ellis Island: A Tool for Americanization, 1892–1954
Maria Aguilar-Solano, University of Massachusetts&msadh;Boston
Comment: Emma Teng, MIT
Registration required: Interpreters in Ellis Island

Thursday, 29 January 6:00 PM

Author Talk
The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams
Phyllis Lee Levin, Independent Author
This program is part of the Adams Family series
Pre-talk reception at 5:30
There is a $10 fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members)
Registration required: The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams

Tuesday, 3 February 5:15 PM

Early American History Seminar
Panel Discussion: Slavery in Early Massachusetts
Barbara A. Mathews, Historic Deerfield, and Gloria McCahon Whiting, Harvard University
Comment: Comment: Maria A. Bollettino, Framingham State University
Registration required: Slavery in Early Massachusetts

Wednesday, 4 February 12:00 PM

Everyday Laureates: Community Poetry in New England, 1865-1900
Erin Kappeler, MHS-NEH Research Fellow

Thursday, 5 February 6:00 PM

Author Talk
Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams & the Grand Strategy of the Republic
Charles Edel, Assistant Professor—U.S. Naval War College
This program is part of the Adams Family series
Pre-talk reception at 5:30
There is a $10 fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members)
Registration required: Nation Builder

Saturday, 7 February 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History and Collections of the MHS

All events are free and open to the public and held at the MHS unless otherwise noted. Reservations are requested for most events. There is a charge to receive seminar papers in advance.

For complete event and RSVP information, visit the MHS online calendar:

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