Holiday Hours

By Jeremy Dibbell

The MHS library will be open for regular hours on Saturday, 3 July (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) but will be closed on Monday, 5 July in observance of Independence Day.

For a few Fourth of July highlights from the MHS collections, see this post, or check out our Independence Day site.

Fort Marion Artwork

By Nancy Heywood

We’re happy to announce a new online guide to the Massachusetts Historical Society’s only volume of Indian ledger art: Book of Sketches Made at Fort Marion. This book of hand-colored sketches made by Making Medicine and other Cheyenne Indian prisoners at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, dates from circa 1875-1878, belonged to the historian Francis Parkman. It was donated to the MHS in 1956. The online collection guide lists each drawing and includes links to online presentations of each colorful image.

The artists (Making Medicine and other Indian prisoners) were warriors imprisoned after a series of battles between the U.S. Army and several Native American tribes of the southern Great Plains. While held at Fort Marion, members of this group of warriors created striking drawings of aspects of Indian life as well as depictions of conflicts with the U. S. Army. The drawings were assembled in booklets and sketchbooks and given to visiting officers or sold to tourists. For additional information about Indian ledger art please see the list of references within the finding aid.

This Week @ MHS

By Elaine Grublin

Here’s what’s on the calendar for this week:

On Wednesday, 23 June, there will be a brown-bag lunch with Derek Attig from the University of Illinois. Derek will be sharing his work on “Race and Region in Twentieth-Century Bookmobility.” The event will begin at 12 noon. This event is free and open to the public. More information is available here.

Poetry with a Purpose: A Workshop for History and English Language Arts Teachers

By Kathleen Barker

What can poems tell us about Bostonians and their ideas about liberty, responsibility, and rebellion, prior to the American Revolution? How was the American Revolution invoked in poems to critique the Civil War? Join us on August 10 and 11, 2010, as we explore these (and many other) fascinating questions related to the persuasive power of poetry! This workshop, designed for 5th-8th grade teachers, will examine the work of local eighteenth- and nineteenth-century poets while offering tools for using poems in the classroom.

Workshop sessions will take place across Boston and Cambridge at the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Paul Revere House, Old North Church, Old South Meeting House, and Longfellow National Historic Site. Registration for this two-day workshop is $60, which includes course readings and lunches (both days). Participants can earn 12 professional development points by attending the course and creating a singe lesson plan. One graduate credit is available for an additional fee. Registration forms are due by June 30, 2010.

For more information, including a schedule of the workshop events, or to download the registration form, please visit our online calendar:

Revisiting Bunker Hill

By Elaine Grublin

Fifty years ago Thomas Fleming published Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill. As the anniversary of that pivotal Revolutionary War event approaches, and more importantly in celebration of the fifty years since the book was first published, Fleming has issued an anniversary edition of the title hoping to reach a new generation of Americans with the inspiring and complex tale of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

On Tuesday, June 15, Thomas Fleming gave a lunch-hour talk at the MHS taking the audience through his experience of writing the book. It seems the project began while he was on a trip to Boston to research an article. Fleming was traveling with his family and his son looked at a portrait of Joseph Warren and asked Fleming who he was. In searching for the answer to that question, Fleming discovered his next book. And in the process of writing it came to understand that Bunker Hill was not just any other battle. It was not a simple matter of the good guys vs the bad guys, or the amateur (American) vs the professional (British) soldiers. On that battlefield men who had fought together during the French and Indian War now Joseph Warrenstood on opposite lines; men that had lived and worked side by side, that had called each other friend, were now facing each other in battle.

Over the course of his talk Fleming highlighted the roll of the American heroes of the day, including Joseph Warren, Israel Putnam, John Stark, William Prescott, Andrew McClary, and Peter Salem (one of the free blacks fighting in Prescott’s regiment). Using passages from participants own letters and diaries Fleming brought the battle and the people involved in it back to life for those sitting in audience.


For information about upcoming events at the MHS be sure to check our events calendar.

Local Teachers Meet Edith Holliday, WWI Volunteer

By Elaine Grublin

On Monday, June 7, nine teachers from Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School in Bridgewater, MA visited the MHS to attended a fullday workshop entitled “American Women in Europe: Red Cross Canteen Service in WWI.” The workshop, which aimed to give teachers primary source material to work into their lesson plans, focused on Edith Holliday, a Boston area native that volunteered for service in the American National Red Cross in 1918.

The visit began with a presentation of WWI materials held by the MHS. This presentation, including propaganda posters, maps, manuscript letters and diaries, scrapbooks, and artifacts, demonstrated the wide range of WWI era resources teachers can draw from in creating content for their classroom lessons. The presentation was followed by a demonstration of a sample lesson plan utilizing primary source material from the Edith Holliday Papers. The lesson focused on the service of American women in the Red Cross with special attention given to the canteen workers that worked to provide comfort, rest, and a good meal to soldiers on their way to and back from the front. The WWI letters of Edith Holliday were used to give students first hand insight into the work of the Red Cross workers and to illustrate why women would volunteer for such service at that time.

Writing to her husband in August 1918 Edith states, “That is the highest duty we of our generation have to do, to work with all our hearts for a world fit for our children to live in.” The proposed lesson asked students to contemplate the work Edith and her fellow volunteers did in France, examining the successes and shortcomings of the canteen program and considering how the role of women changed as the war went on — both at home and abroad.

At the age of 49, Edith Hovey Holliday set sail for France as a volunteer in the American National Red Cross. She left her husband and two teenage daughters behind in Boston. Her oldest child, her son Harold, had volunteered for service in the Yankee Division and would follow her to France a short time later. In the almost eleven months she spent in France Edith served in two Red Cross canteens, in Nevers and St. Germain des Fosses. With the end of hostilities in November 1918 she relocated to Perigueux in southwestern France, completing her service as a searcher — assembling information on wounded, missing, and killed-in-action soldiers. She departed France to return to Boston in March 1919.

The MHS holds a collection of Edith Holliday’s personal letter, written primarily to her brother Carl, her husband Guy, and her children Harold, Beatrice, and Beckie. This collection chronicles her efforts to become a volunteer and her journey to and through France. There is also a small collection of photographs, including images of Edith and her children.

If you are a teacher or school administrator interested in finding out more about teacher workshop and professional development opportunities at the MHS contact Kathleen Barker in our education department at


Ulrich on Preservation

By Jeremy Dibbell

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, professor of history at Harvard and the most recent recipient of the MHS’ John F. Kennedy Medal, mentioned the Historical Society in a recent lecture about the importance of preserving historical artifacts, delivered at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. You can read an account of Ulrich’s talk here, via the Deseret News.

One quote that I particularly like: “History is not what happened, it is an account of the past, based on surviving sources. If there are no sources, there is no history.”

This Week @ MHS

By Jeremy Dibbell

Here’s what’s on the calendar for this week:

Today, Monday, 14 June, there will be a brown-bag lunch with Lori Veilleux of Brown University. This event will begin at 12 noon. Lori will speak on “Providence and Prevention: Boston in the 1832 Cholera Epidemic.”

On Tuesday, 15 June, join us at 12 noon for a special lunchtime talk by historian Thomas Fleming to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his classic book Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill.

And on Friday, 18 June, we’ll host a brown-bag lunch at 12 noon with Matthew Hudock of the University of Delaware. Matthew will speak on “African Americans in the Creation of Liberia College.” More info here.

“Extraordinary Living Wonders!”

By Jeremy Dibbell

Our June Object of the Month is an 1862 advertising broadside for a return visit to Boston by the “Aztec Children,” Maximo and Bartola. The pair had made an initial appearance in Boston in 1850, and toured the world for at least four decades, sometimes under the management of P.T. Barnum. They were billed as “descendants and specimens of the Sacerdotal Caste (now nearly extinct) of the Ancient Aztec Founders of the Ruined Temples of that Country,” but were in reality microcephalic siblings from San Salvador whose mother thought she was sending them to America to be cured, not exhibited.

See the broadside, and read the whole story as told by our Senior Cataloger, Mary Fabiszewski, here.

Tea Party Traditions

By Jeremy Dibbell

MHS research fellow and frequent researcher Ben Carp (Associate Professor of History at Tufts University) recently made a guest appearance on the podcast “Backstory with the American History Guys,” to talk about historical “tea parties” in the context of the current political movement. Ben is the author of The Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (to be released this fall).

You can listen to the podcast, plus watch other related events and get some suggestions for further readings, all here.

Read more about our bottle of tea (pictured) from the original Boston Tea Party here.