This Week @ MHS

By Elaine Grublin

This week we offer a bit of something for everyone.  Choose to attend one of the four programs we are offering to kick of May, or challenge yourself to see how many you can attend.  As always you can find more information about individual program on our online calendar.

Tuesday at 5:15 PM, Joanne van der Woude, Harvard University, will close out the season for the Boston Early American Seminar Series with a presentation of her paper “The Classical Origins of the American Self: Puritans and Indians in New England Epics.” Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Northeastern University, will give the comment. The program is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. Subscribers receive an advance copy of the paper.

Wednesday at noon, join us in the Dowse Library for a brown-bag lunch program. Jordan Watkins, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will present on his research “Clio and America’s Civil War.”  Be prepared to participate in a lively discussion after Watkin’s completes his presentation. 

On Friday at 2:00 PM, MHS Curator of Art Anne Bentley will present a gallery talk in conjunction with our current exhibition Clover Adams a Gilded and Heartbreaking Life. This one-hour program will examine Clover’s use of the photographic medium to reflect her emotional connections to the arts and her subjects, and will provide attendees with time to explore the exhibition up close.

On Saturday our 90-minute building  tour The History and Collections of the MHS departs the front lobby promptly at 10:00 AM.


Please note that the Biography Seminar scheduled for Thursday, 3 May, has been postponed.  A new date will be announced when our fall schedule is published. 

Explore the World of Marian Hooper Adams

By Elaine Grublin

Marian Hooper Adams on HorsebackHave you had a chance to visit our current exhibition A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life: The Photographs of Clover Adams, 1883-1885? Hundreds of visitors have visited 1154 Boylston Street to view this stunning exhibition featuring the late-19th-century photographs of Marian Hooper Adams, whom family and friends called Clover. Read what some of them had to say about the exhibition:

“Clover Adams … you instantly fall in love with her”

“A very interesting and revealing installation”

“Very poignant”

“The written text made the exhibition come to life”

Not planning on visiting Boston in the near future? You do not have to miss out entirely. Clover’s photographs can be viewed by a wider audience via our web feature, Marian Hooper Adams: Selected Photographs and Letters. The website presents 48 photographs (one entire album) from the Marian Hooper Adams photograph collection, five selected letters from the Hooper-Adams papers, and two letters by Henry Adams in which he reflects on his wife’s death.

The website also provides information about Clover’s approach to photography by presenting a digital facsimile of a notebook Clover kept from May 1883 to January 1884 in which she listed many of her photographs and commented on exposures, lighting, and other technical details. The display of the notebook includes a transcription of the text provided by Natalie Dykstra, the guest curator for our current exhibition. 

The exhibition runs through 2 June 2012 and is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The web feature is available through our website 24 hours a day and will remain online after the exhibition closes.

If you want to learn even more about the life of Clover Adams, look for Natalie Dykstra’s new book Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), which offers a full-length biography of the woman behind the camera. 

This Week @ MHS

By Elaine Grublin

We have a couple of interesting events planned this week, as well as two exhibitions open to the public 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Saturday.  As always, check the online calendar for more details about individual events. 

Tonight, 23 April, at 6:00 PM Heather Nathans, University of Maryland, author of Early American Theatre from the Revolution to Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge University Press, 2003) will present “Democracies of Glee: Boston’s First Professional Theatres, 1794-98.” A pre-talk reception, offering an opportunity to explore our current exhibition The First Seasons of the Federal Street Theatre, beings at 5:30 P.M. This event is free and open to the public.  Registration is requested. To register please call 617-646-0560 or click here.

Tuesday, 24 April, at 5:15 PM the final installment of the Boston Immigration and Urban History Seminar brings Andrea Thabet, University of California, Santa Barbara, to the MHS to present her paper “A Successful Integrated Development for the Central City”: Constructing the Los Angeles Music Center, 1954-1967. Samuel Zipp, Brown University, will give the comment. This event is free and open to the public.  Advance copies of the seminar paper are available for a small subscription fee. RSVPs are requested and can be submitted via email.

Saturday, 28 April, all are welcome to attend our tour, The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  The 90-minute tour departs the front lobby at 10:00 AM.




Recently Published Research

By Anna J. Cook

Putting together a summer reading list?  Here are some recent publications that we are aware of, completed by researchers that made use of our collections or publications.



Baldwin, Peter. In the Watches of the Night: Life in the Nocturnal City, 1820-1930 (University of Chicago Press, 2012).

Dyer, Justin Buckley. American Soul: The Contested Legacy of the Declaration of Independence (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012).

Dykstra, Natalie. Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life (Houghton Mifflin, 2012).

Gamble, Richard. In Search of the City on a Hill: The Making and Unmaking of an American Myth (Continuum Press, 2012).

Johnson, Laura. “American Blues: Printed Pottery Celebrating a New Nation” Antiques and Fine Art (Winter 2012).

Lynch, Matthew. Before Obama: A Reappraisal of Black Reconstruction Era Politicians (Praeger Publishing, 2012).

Newton, Ross. “ ‘Persons of worthy Character’: Slaves, Servants, and Masters at Boston’s Old North Church” Journal of the North End Historical Society (March 2012).

Platt, Stephen. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).

Winship, Michael. Godly Republicanism: Puritans, Pilgrims, and the City on a Hill (Harvard University Press, 2012).

Happy Birthday, Fenway Park!

By Elaine Grublin


Today hordes of people — Red Sox fans and baseball stadium aficionados alike — will descend on Fenway Park to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that venerable stadium’s opening in 1912.

We at the MHS are lucky. Being just a short walk from the ball park allows us to watch as a sea of red and blue outfitted fans make their way down Boylston Street toward the park for each home game. This morning, I was struck by the fact that the MHS has stood at 1154 Boylston since 1898, more than a decade before the park opened.  It made me wonder if Charles Francis Adams, MHS president from 1895 to 1915, and other MHS members stood before one of the large first floor windows and watched folks make their way to Fenway Park 100 years ago today. If they did, I would imagine they did not worry so much if the end of the day game coincided with quitting time at the MHS — as the current staff, anticipating traffic woes, now does.

The two images here are postcards held in our collection. The cards, sent to members of the Pond family in Connecticut, were posted in January and March 1914. Although there is no evidence on the cards how much before that date they were printed, it is safe to assume they offer a fun glimpse of Fenway close to the time of its opening. 

One final thought on Fenway’s special day. Although the season is off to a bit of a rocky start, let’s hope the Sox bring home another one of these!  Click here to learn more about the 1912 World Series medal held by the MHS.




This Week @ MHS

By Elaine Grublin

Mark your calendar and plan to join us for an event this week.  More information about each event is available through our online calendar. 

Wednesday, 18 April at noon join us for a brown-bag lunch program and listen as Trenton Jones, The Johns Hopkins University, talks about his project “Prisoners of War and the Making of Revolutionary American Military Culture.”  After the presentation, be ready to join in the lively Q & A session. 

Friday, 20 April at noon, Fred Wallace, Framingham Town Historian, presents Framingham’s Civil War Hero, the Life of General George H. Gordon.

And on Saturday, 21 April, the 90-minute building tour, The History and Collections of the MHS, departs the front lobby promptly at 10:00 AM.


A Battle Among the Icebergs

By Emilie Haertsch

“Since last we met a great battle has been fought among the icebergs and under the star-filled skies of the North Atlantic.” These words began Rev. Edward Cummings sermon at Boston’s South Congregational Church just one week after the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. Over 1,500 people died on the Titanic – one of the worst peacetime death tolls from a sea wreck. Edward Everett Hale, the minister emeritus at South Congregational Church, admired this sermon, and the Society has his 20-page handwritten copy of it in its collection.

Often remembered today as the father of poet E. E. Cummings, Edward Cummings was famous in his own right in his day. His first career was as a professor of sociology at Harvard University, but his second, as a minister, began when Hale recruited Cummings to preach at South Congregational. Cummings became a prominent Unitarian minister and was active in many social causes, including the World Peace Foundation, the Russian Famine Relief Committee, Hale House Settlement, the Massachusetts Civic League, and the Massachusetts Prison Association.

The tragedy of the Titanic affected Cummings deeply. His language betrays a feeling that this, too, was a matter of social justice. In his sermon on April 21, 1912, he said of the passengers, “A little band of heroic men and women, betrayed into deadly peril by those in whom they placed implicit trust, found themselves battling empty-handed with the scythe-armed specter of inimitable death.”

News of the Titanic’s end spread quickly and the resulting public shock and outrage created political fallout. Another prominent figure, the historian Henry Adams, wrote in a letter to Elizabeth Cameron on April 16, 1912, “In half an hour, just in a summer sea, were wrecked the Titanic; President Taft; the Republican party, Boyce Penrose, and I. We all foundered and disappeared. Old and sinful as I am, I turn green and sick when I think of it.” At the time, the laws regulating sea travel and concerning ship safety were lax – one of the reasons, perhaps, why there were only 20 lifeboats on board the Titanic. In the aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking, Sen. William Auden Smith from Michigan launched an investigation that led to the passage of a law creating tighter regulation of maritime travel.


Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 12

By Elaine Grublin

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

April 13th, 1862

A year today since the surrender of Fort Sumter. The crime then committed has in part received its punishment. Not that I think we at the North are entirely without blame. The John Brown raid was more approved than it should have been, & there has been selfishness, scorn and violence here as there. Still, their conduct has been criminal, – deeply so. The statement of atrocities committed by the rebels on the bodies of Union soldiers disgrace their cause, and our common country. I suppose the President this day signs the bill abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia.

Look to the Beehive in May for Bulfinch’s observations of Union victories and the pending Confiscation Act.

The MHS on a Television Near You . . .

By Elaine Grublin

The Sunday, 8 April 2012, episode of the PBS program Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has a strong “connection” to the MHS. Several items from our collection are featured in the program, which highlighted the genealogy of Hollywood couple Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon. Kyra Sedgwick is a descendant of Theodore Sedgwick, a man whose family is well represented in the MHS collections. Watch the episode to learn the story of Theodore Sedgwick and the important role he played in Massachusetts history.

While you are watching, keep your eyes peeled for MHS librarian Peter Drummey, along with documents and images from the MHS collection intergral to telling the story of Kyra Sedgwick’s family. Those familiar with our buiding at 1154 Boylson Street will also recognize the Dowse Library as the back-drop in many scenes. 

Minature portrait of Elizabeth FreemanIf you are interested in learning more about the end of slavery here in Massachusetts, visit our web feature African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts. You can learn more about the life of Elizabeth Freeman (“Mumbet”) reading a manuscript draft of the article “Slavery in New England,” published in Bentley’s Miscellany in 1853. The author, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, was the daughter of Theodore Sedgwick. And for those with the time and inclination to dive into a study of the Sedgwicks, the Sedgwick Family Papers, Catharine Maria Sedgwick Papers, and a number of other related collections are all available to researchers in the MHS library



This Week @ MHS

By Elaine Grublin

Looking for stimulting conversation? Plan to attend one of the two seminars offered this week. You will find additional details about each event, and our current exhibitions, on our online calendar.

Tuesday, 10 April at 5:15 PM the Environmental History Seminar continues with Brian J. Payne, Bridgewater State University, presenting “Controlling the Cost of Fish: Weir Fishermen and Price Control in the Sardine Herring Fishery, 1875-1903.” Josh Reid, University of Massachusetts, Boston, will provide the comment. 

Thursday, 12 April at 5:30 PM the History of Women and Gender Seminar concludes its spring series with Stephanie Jones-Rogers, Rutgers University, presenting her paper “‘She thought she could find a better market’: White Women and the Re-Gendering of the Antebellum Slave Market and Slave-Trading Community.” Walter Johnson, Harvard University, will give the comment.

For both seminars advance copies of the papers are available for a small subscription fee. Whether you are a subscriber, or simply plan on attending one of the events, we ask that you RSVP so that we know to expect you. 

On Saturday, 14 April at 10:00 AM our 90 minute tour, The History and Collections of the MHS, departs the front lobby.  All are welcome to attend.

Also, remember that our current exhibitions, A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life: The Photographs of Clover Adams, 1883-1885 and The First Seasons of the Federal Street Theatre, 1794-1798, are free and open to the public Monday through Saturday 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. 

Finally, make note that Friday, 13 April marks the opening of The Object of History: Colonial Treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society.  This exhibition, on display at the Concord Museum 13 April through 17 June, is open to the public Monday through Saturday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM.  Visit the Concord Museum’s website for directions and admission fee information.