MHS News

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March 2014

David McCullough to Receive Kennedy Medal

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. Since 1964, it has been awarded to the following historians: 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). Read more about the Kennedy Medal and David McCullough.

Perry-Clarke Collection Guide Online

MHS sealThe guide to the Perry-Clarke collection is now online. Originally acquired by the MHS in 1968, this collection has been available for research since then, but the old unwieldy paper guide needed a major overhaul. The streamlined, fully searchable online guide will bring even more researchers to these wide-ranging and important materials. Primarily the papers of Unitarian minister, transcendentalist, author, and reformer James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888) and his family, the collection consists of 64 boxes of correspondence, sermons, lectures, journals, notebooks, and other papers and volumes. Included are papers of Clarke's wife Anna (Huidekoper) Clarke and members of the Huidekoper family, who were involved in the establishment of Meadville Theological School in Meadville, Penn., as well as papers of James and Anna's children, Lilian, Eliot, and Cora. Much of the collection documents the family's interest in social reform movements. Read more about the Perry-Clarke Collection.

From the Stacks: Chinese Hanzi Characters in 1801

Chinese Hanzi charactersOn 30 July 1801 the Pacific Trader bound for Canton floundered in the Pacific Ocean when the vessel took on water in the midst of a violent two-day gale. The winds tore the sails and mangled the rigging so terribly that the ship and its small crew limped into safe harbor at Macao on 23 August. Proprietors William and Sullivan Dorr in Canton received more than 10 letters from Capt. Samuel Edes in the subsequent month while the ship was repaired in Macao. These letters are contained in the Samuel Barrett Edes papers held at the MHS. On 27 September 1801 Captain Edes writes to inform the Dorrs of the progress of ship repairs and the condition of the cargo. The verso page of the letter contains Chinese Hanzi characters. Wondering about the meaning of the Chinese characters, one MHS staff member was pleasantly surprised to receive answers from two different sources. Professional Chinese translator Ye Aiyun confirms that the script gives directions for delivery of the letter to Sullivan Dorr. Prof. Paul A. Van Dyke provides further context about the delivery address. Read more about Capt. Samuel Edes and the Pacific Trader bound for Canton and the meaning of the Chinese Hanzi characters.

Society Announces 2014-2015 MHS-NEH Research Fellows

MHS Reading RoomThanks to the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, two new long-term fellows will be in residence during the coming academic year. John Stauffer of Harvard University is writing a cultural biography of Charles Sumner, and Erin Kappeler of the University of Maine at Farmington is studying ordinary Americans' engagement with poetry and their "poetic communities" in the postbellum period. Both are professors of English, a fact that highlights the wide significance of the MHS collections. We are also pleased to welcome our final 2013-2014 MHS-NEH fellow, Jon Grinspan, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and is studying the political activities of young Americans in antebellum Massachusetts.

Call for Papers – Abigail & John: 250 Years Together

John and Abigail AdamsThe Abigail Adams Historical Society and the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society are pleased to invite proposals for individual papers and complete panels for a one-day conference, Abigail & John: 250 Years Together. The conference, to be held Saturday, 25 October, at or near the Abigail Adams Birthplace in Weymouth, Mass., will mark the 250th wedding anniversary of John and Abigail Adams. The program committee seeks submissions for sessions on all aspects of the life and union of these two extraordinary individuals and their world. Please key proposals to one of these general topics: Adams Family Lives, Courtship and Commitments in Colonial Massachusetts, or Home and Hearth in Colonial Massachusetts. We welcome proposals for complete panels and individual papers that will be featured as part of roundtable discussions. Papers will be pre-circulated. Please e-mail abstract (300–500 words) for papers and sessions to Michelle Marchetti Coughlin at by 16 May. Presenters will be notified in June 2014.

Help Us Reach Our Goal

Pine Tree PennyYour donation to the MHS Fund can make the difference. Gifts to the MHS Fund provide the general operating budget with unrestricted money that is used each year to support the Society's highest priorities. If you have already made a contribution to the MHS Fund—thank you. Because of you, this year the Society is able to offer more than 50 engaging programs and special events (including upcoming talks by John Ferling, Nigel Hamilton, and Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall), 40 scholarly programs, and 20 teacher workshops that use our unique resources to improve and support the teaching of American history. Stunning exhibitions—including last fall's The Cabinetmaker & the Carver: Boston Furniture from Private Collections and the current Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial—are made possible, in part, by the generous support of people like you. Your investment also helps us preserve the Society's collections and make them accessible to thousands of people who utilize the library each year. All of this activity goes on every day. In order to continue to provide thought-provoking programs, display nationally important exhibitions, publish books, run workshops that impact thousands of school-aged children, and share our collections with a worldwide audience, we rely on your continued support. If you have not yet made a donation, it is not too late. Give to the MHS Fund today!

Object of the Month

"The question is whether the historico-literary line is practically worth following"

Adams letter to LodgeIn a letter written on 2 June 1872, Henry Adams reviews the state of historical scholarship in the United States and advises Henry Cabot Lodge, one of his former students at Harvard University, on the possibility of a career writing American history. Adams writes with self-assurance and the kindly contempt of the young for the old about "the most respectable and respected products of our town of Boston," the so-called Boston Historians. He lists William Hickling Prescott, John Lothrop Motley, Francis "Frank" Parkman, and George Bancroft as members of an elite group of gentlemen scholars, almost all residents of Boston, who then dominated the field of American history, the local literary scene, and the rooms of the MHS. They were not only men who, in spite of Adams's reservations about their abilities, had been able to make notable careers as writers, but also familiar figures—older friends from a previous generation—to both Adams and Lodge. Read more about Henry Adams and Henry Cabot Lodge.

Looking at the Civil War: Massachusetts Finds Her Voice

April 1864: "Here is Grant with his utterly immovable face. . . "

Letter from Theodore LymanLetter from Theodore Lyman to Elizabeth Lyman, 18 April 1864
In this letter of 18 April 1864, Lyman describes watching newly appointed general-in-chief of the Union Army, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant review the 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. According to Lyman, Grant "was neatly dressed in the regulation uniform, with a handsome sash and sword & the three stars of a Lieutenant General on his shoulder. He is a man of a natural, severe, simplicity, in all things." Lyman further comments that Grant, who had a reputation among his fellow soldiers as being fiercely determined to succeed in all military conflicts, sits "firmly in the saddle & looks straight ahead as if intent on getting to some particular point." Read more about Theodore Lyman.

On View

Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial

Shaw MemorialOrganized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Tell It with Pride celebrates the sculptor's magisterial Shaw Memorial (1883–1900). 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. Tell It with Pride is open at the Society through 23 May.

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

MHS Events Calendar

The MHS will be closed on Monday, 21 April for Patriot's Day.

Tuesday, 15 April 5:30 PM

History of Women and Gender Seminar
"How can the wife submit?" African Families Negotiate Gender & Slavery in New England
Gloria Whiting, Harvard University
Comment: Barbara Krauthamer, University of Massachusetts–Amherst
Location: Schlesinger Library
Registration required

Friday, 18 April 2:00 PM

Gallery Talk
The Battles of the 54th: Northern Racism & the Unequal Pay Crisis
Samantha Anderson, Northeastern University

Tuesday, 22 April and Wednesday, 23 April 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Teacher Workshop
Tell It with Pride: A Workshop for Educators
Registration Fee: $55
Registration required

Wednesday, 23 April 12:00 PM

"Pious Females" & "Good Schools": Transnational Networks of Education in 19th-Century Liberia
Marie Stango, University of Michigan

Wednesday, 23 April 6:00 PM

Dr. Zabdiel Boylston Adams: Surgeon & Soldier for the Union
Mitchell L. Adams
There is a pre-talk reception at 5:30
Registration required

Saturday, 26 April 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History and Collections of the MHS

Tuesday, 29 April 5:15 PM

Immigration and Urban History Seminar
Panel Discussion: American Catholics & U.S. Immigration Policy before the Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965
Danielle Battisti, University of Nebraska, and Gráinne McEvoy, Boston College
Comment: Justin Poché, College of the Holy Cross
Registration required

Wednesday, 30 April 6:00 PM

Annual Jefferson Lecture
Jefferson & Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation
John Ferling
There is a pre-talk reception at 5:30
Registration required; there is a $10 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members)

Tuesday, 6 May 5:15 PM

Early American History Seminar
Through Novanglus's Eyes: Forms of Empire in India
Hari Vishwanadha, Santa Monica College
Comment: Eliga H. Gould, University of New Hampshire
Registration required

Wednesday, 7 May 12:00 PM

The Poor Always with You: Poverty in an Age of Emancipation, 1833-1879
Chris Florio, Princeton University

Wednesday, 7 May 5:30 PM

Special Event
John F. Kennedy Medal Presentation
This event is open only to MHS Fellows and Members

Thursday, 8 May 6:00 PM

Public Program
The Adams Portraits & Other Treats: 18th-Century Artist Benjamin Blyth
Bettina A. Norton
There is a pre-talk reception at 5:30
Registration required

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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