The White Mountains in Summer: Maria G. Webber’s Travel Diary, 1837

By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services

“Left Boston at ½ past two in the afternoon in a carry all with Mr. Webber and little Maria, went through Cambridge, Lexington, Concord to Acton, where we arrived about 8 oclock, it rained quite fast most of the way but we wrapt up well and were very comfortable,” wrote Maria G. Webber in her travel journal on 27 June 1837. Accompanied by husband Aaron Webber and their infant daughter, Maria Webber embarked on a journey from Boston, Massachusetts to the White Mountain range in New Hampshire in 1837 via a horse-drawn carriage known as a “carryall”. The White Mountain range begins approximately 140 miles northwest of Boston, by way of modern highways. In 1837, however, the journey was not so direct! Maria Webber recounts many of her stops with her family in the villages and towns along the way from Boston to Crawford Notch near Bartlett, New Hampshire. Over the 16-day trip, the Webbers stopped in 41 different towns and villages and made note of seeing several mountains.

The Webbers crossed the state line — from their last noted location in Pepperell, Massachusetts into New Ipswich, New Hampshire — with little fanfare on 28 June 1837. Along the way, Mr. Webber gathered some wild strawberries. In Jaffrey, NH the couple and child stopped due to the bad road conditions and requested accommodation at the house of Mr. Prescott. They were refused! But Mr. Prescott’s father and brother in the next house down the road took the travelers in for the night. By the next evening, the family entered Bellows Falls, where they shared their strawberries with their host and hotelier, Mr. Hyde.

As the family crosses the state line, Webber notes that “the horses did not prove as good as recommended.” On 1 July 1837 outside Orford, New Hampshire, the horses give out, much to Webber’s dismay. Twice the family had to ask the assistance of locals to let their horses rest. Finally, Aaron Webber left the carryall and horses with local family and borrowed a wagon. The Webbers only traveled four miles in four hours that day. The group did not reach Mr. Morse’s Tavern, their hotel for the evening, until 9 PM. Maria Webber commented that Mr. Morse’s Tavern was about four miles from “home,” as her mother and sister lived in the area. Maria Webber certainly had a superb grasp on the geography of her native state and diligently recorded the locations within her diary.

One of the most remarkable mentions of a landmark in the diary is Webber’s description of the Old Man in the Mountain.On 5 July 1837 she wrote:

Arose quite refreshed, took breakfast, and went down to see the profile of the Old man in the mountain, it was very foggy, and we were obliged to wait a quarter of an hour before we could see it, we were pleased with it and Mr. Webber drew a sketch of it…

Her comments about the Old Man of the Mountain are full of both pleasure and impatience. To the modern reader it is remarkable to think that although Maria Webber’s diary has been preserved for the past 176 years, the Old Man of the Mountain has not. On 3 May 2003, the precariously perched profile of the Old Man collapsed. While it is still a recognizable symbol of the Granite State, one can no longer stand where Webber stood all those years ago to view.

Much like the profile of the Old Man of the Mountain, Maria Webber’s opinion of the horses continued to deteriorate throughout the journey. Not only were the horses exhausted by the road conditions but the carriage fell apart on 11 July 1837. Perhaps best summarizing her thoughts on the journey, the last line in the diary reads, “Had a pleasant journey but should have enjoyed it better if our horses were not such miserable ones, they were so unacquainted with the roads.”

Care to find out the other towns the Webbers visited? You can visit the library and find out more about their visit to the White Mountains in Maria Webber’s travel diary in the Webber Family Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Adams Family Advice upon Commencement

By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers

When 20-year-old John Quincy Adams graduated from Harvard in 1787, both John and Abigail Adams, like all parents, had plenty of advice for the young man about to embark on legal studies and adulthood. Writing from London, where he was serving as the first American Minister to Great Britain, John Adams advised his son on practical and specific habits to improve in his chosen profession. “When you Attend the Superiour Court,” the father and lawyer counseled, “carry always your Pen and Ink & Paper and take Notes of every Dictum, every Point and every Authority. But remember to show the same respect to the Judges and Lawyers who are established in Practice before you, as you resolved to show the President Tutors Professors, and Masters and Batchelors at Colledge.”

Abigail Adams, on the other hand, offered more general words of motherly wisdom to guide him on his life’s journey and finding that essential balance:

I congratulate you upon your Success at Commencment, and as you have acquired a reputation upon entering the stage of the World, you will be no less solicitious to preserve and increase it, through the whole drama. . . . it is natural to the humane Heart to swell with presumption when conscious of superiour power, yet all humane excellence is comparative, and he who thinks he knows much to day, will find much more still unatained, provided he is still eager in persuit of knowledge. Your Friends are not anxious that you will be in any danger through want of significant application, but that a too ardent persuit of your studies will impair your Health, & injure those bodily powers and faculties upon which the vigor of the mind depends. Moderation in all things is condusive to human happiness, tho this is a maxim little heeded by Youth, whether their persuits are of a sensual, or a more refined and elevated kind.

In this commencement season, parents everywhere are giving important advice to their freshly launched adult children, but the advice serves a dual purpose, for, in helping their children achieve all they can, as Abigail noted upon hearing of the success of her son at Harvard, “there is no musick sweeter in the Ears of parents, than the well earned praises of their children.”


This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

Attention Researchers: The library of the MHS will be closing at 4:00pm on Wednesday, 29 May, and at 3:00pm on Thursday, 30 May. Please excuse any inconvenience.

As summer unofficially begins this week, exhibitions officially close here at the Society. Thank you to all who visited 1154 Boylston to learn about abolitionism, slavery, and Emancipation over the past couple of months. Stay tuned for more information about upcoming exhibitions.

Now, with the beautiful week on tap outside, why not consider taking a walk to the MHS for a public program this week? On Wednesday, 28 May 2013, pack yourself a lunch and come by for a brown bag lunch talk. Beginning at noon, Heather Cooper of the University of Iowa presents “Confiscated Voices: representing the slave experience during the American Civil War.” In this talk, Ms. Cooper will explore the ways in which contraband men and women – runaway slaves who fled to the Union during the Civil War – enacted their own representation of their changing status and slave experience and through everyday performance in the contraband camps, challenging competing representations of race, gender, and slavery in the process. This view is contrasted with the pervasive references to “contraband” in the press, on stage, and in political cartoons which suggested that “contraband” became the primary representation of slavery and slaves during the Civil War. Brown Bag lunch talks are free and open to the public.

Then, on Wednesday evening beginning at 6:00pm, the MHS will host a special musical performance by the Boston Saxophone Quartet. “Sounds of the Civil War” will feature familiar tunes from the 1860s that were sung around the parlor piano, as well as songs written specifically for the newest instrument in the era: the saxophone. Included will be musical performances and historical commentary on the selected pieces. Members of the Boston Saxophone Quartet have performed with the Boston Pops, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and leading Broadway theaters throughout New England. Conductor and instrumentalist Peter Cokkinias, Professor at neighboring Berklee College of Music, has served for over 30 seasons as Music Director/Conductor of the Metrowest Symphony Orchestra; has conducted the Boston Ballet and Boston Pops; and has performed with the Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Ballet, and Cincinnati, Hartford, Pittsburgh, and Boston Symphony Orchestras. Registration is required with a fee for this event. Free for MHS Fund Giving Circle members. Please contact the education department for more information at 617-646-0557/

Finally, on Saturday, 1 June, stop by the MHS for a free tour. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour that explores the public rooms of the Society’s home on Boylston St. and touches on the history and collections of the MHS. The tour is free and open to the public and begins at 10:00am. No reservation is required for individuals or small groups but parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending the tour. For more information please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley, at 617-646-0508 or


Lodge, Kennedy, and the 1952 Massachusetts Senate Election

By Emilie Haertsch, Publications

Massachusetts will hold a special election on June 25 to fill the United States senate seat left vacant by John Kerry, whom President Obama appointed to Secretary of State in February. The recent primary determined that the contest will be between Republican former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez and Democratic Congressman Ed Markey. Having just survived an extremely contentious senate race in the fall, in which Senator Elizabeth Warren emerged the victor, many Massachusetts residents now suffer from election fatigue. But this is not the first time that the state has faced hard-fought battles for these senate seats. Over 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy, then a Democratic congressman, contested incumbent Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. for his senate seat. What many believed would be an easy win for the popular Lodge turned into a tight race, and eventually an upset.

Lodge was a moderate and he was concerned about the conservative movement he saw developing in his party. The Republican frontrunner for the 1952 presidential election was Sen. Robert Taft, a conservative and isolationist who opposed NATO. Concerned about the possibility of Taft winning election, Lodge and a number of other Republicans convinced Dwight D. Eisenhower, a popular war hero, to run against him in the Republican primary. At a heated Republican National Convention, complete with accusations of “stolen delegates” on both sides, Eisenhower won the nomination and went on to a national campaign against Democratic governor Adlai Stevenson. Lodge became the manager for the “Eisenhower-for-President” campaign, a major impediment to his own reelection campaign at home in Massachusetts.

With Lodge often away and focused on Eisenhower’s election, Kennedy took advantage of the opportunity for an intensive ground campaign in Massachusetts. He used his candidacy announcement on April 7, 1952 to attack Lodge, saying, “Other states have vigorous leaders in the United States Senate to defend the interests of their citizens – men who have definite goals based on constructive principles and who move towards these goals unswerving. Massachusetts has need of such leadership.” Kennedy also accused Lodge of being too often absent from Massachusetts while working for Eisenhower.

In response, Lodge criticized Kennedy’s roll call record in Congress, with the slogan: “Would you hire a man who came to work one third of the time? Reelect Lodge! Lodge is on the job!” Lodge also called Kennedy a “rubber stamp…for the White House” in an October 17, 1952 speech on WBZ-TV. Lodge emphasized his moderate beliefs, saying he has “struggled hard and publicly against reactionary elements in both parties.” He even employed jingles as a way of drumming up support, including one to the tune of “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” from Annie Get Your Gun:

He fills the bill on Capitol Hill
In Washington down yonder
He serves with skill and dignity
Doin’ what comes naturally!
Doin’ what comes naturally!

Despite Lodge’s efforts, Kennedy ran a stronger campaign at home by making many appearances across Massachusetts. He also mobilized the large Irish immigrant population in the state, and his strong ties in Boston also caused Lodge to lose ground there. On Election Day in November 1952, Lodge lost by a narrow margin.

In his concession speech, Lodge thanked the people of Massachusetts for electing him three times to the senate seat, and congratulated Kennedy and wished him well. Privately, however, the loss was a great blow. In an angry letter on Dec. 7, 1952, Quincy resident Willie James summed up his feelings about Lodge and what might have led to his loss: “There are thousands like myself in Massachusetts, always voted for you and your family but now good and sick of your actions…You have work to do in your own backyard.”

With Lodge’s great loss, however, came a great victory. Eisenhower was elected president. Lodge received many consolation letters on his senate defeat, and one theme was strong throughout. Philip Schlossberg wrote on November 5, 1952, “We feel that in [getting Eisenhower elected] you neglected your own chances for reelection with the U.S. Senate.” Many also believed that Lodge would earn an appointment from Eisenhower for his part in the presidential campaign. John Mason Brown wrote in a Western Union telegram, “You have fought your share in the general’s victory and the services you have rendered the country. Here’s to more of those services when you will be the best secretary of state or defense American has had.” This notion was correct, and when Eisenhower entered office he named Lodge U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Kennedy’s senate election led to a great family political dynasty in the state of Massachusetts, one which still continues today, while it contributed to the decline of the Lodge family’s influence in Massachusetts politics. How the current upcoming special election for the Massachusetts senate seat will change the course of state history is yet to be determined. To learn more about the 1952 Massachusetts senate race, view the guide for the Henry Cabot Lodge Papers in the Society’s collections.

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

As we approach the long Memorial Day weekend, there is a lull in the activity here at the MHS. There are no public programs scheduled this week. However, this is your last chance to view our three current exhibitions concerning slavery, abolition, and Emancipation in Massachusetts. The exhibits will be available every day this week, Monday-Friday, 10:00am-4:00pm, and are free to the public. The final day of the exhibits is Friday, 24 May. After that, we will make way for our next installment: “The Object of History: 18th-century treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society.” Stay tuned for more information or visit our online calendar of events.

And please take note that the Society will be closed this Saturday, 25 May, and Monday, 27 May, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Normal hours will resume on Tuesday, 28 May. Enjoy the long weekend!

Last Chance to Visit Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land

By Jim Connolly, Publications

Boston enjoys a reputation for its role in the founding of the United States. That reputation is well deserved, but the American Revolution was hardly the last time Boston figured significantly in a radical and righteous cause.

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, Boston became a center of the national antislavery movement. In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison, a key figure in the movement, began the publication of The Liberator, the country’s leading abolitionist newspaper. On the first page of the first issue (1 January 1831), Garrison fired a bold volley against not only proslavery attitudes, but apathy and arguments for a cautious and gradual approach to abolition. “Urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch.—AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

William Lloyd Garrison and several other prominent Boston abolitionists are the subjects of the Society’s current exhibition, Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land”: Boston Abolitionists, 1831–1865. Manuscripts, portraits, broadsides, and artifacts from the MHS collections illustrate the role of Massachusetts in the national struggle over slavery. Among the most fantastic objects on display are John Brown’s Colt revolver, first editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, and the imposing table on which Garrison set the type for The Liberator, which has not been displayed at the Society in many years.

The exhibition closes Friday, 24 May 2013, so come down to 1154 Boylston Street as soon as you can. It’s free and open to the public from 10 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Saturday.

And for those who can’t make it to Boston, you can explore the exhibition’s companion web feature, Boston Abolitionists, 1831–1865.

Massachusetts History Day: Young Historians at Work

By Anna J. Cook, Reader Services

On Saturday, April 6 — one of the first truly spring-like days of the year — I left my apartment before dawn to make my coffee-clutching way, along with several Massachusetts Historical Society colleagues, to Stoneham High School. What were we doing at a high school so early on a Saturday morning? We were there to serve as volunteer judges for the state round of the annual Massachusetts History Day competition. We were there to celebrate young historians at work crafting history.

This was my second year volunteering as a judge for Massachusetts History Day (MHD). Beginning in 2012, the MHS has co-sponsored MHD alongside the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies. MHD is the state affiliate of National History Day, an annual competition that encourages middle and high school students to undertake extensive primary-source based research on a topic related to the annual theme and build a historical argument in one of five categories: research paper, exhibition, performance, documentary, and website. Beginning in the fall (or even over summer vacation), young people embark upon their research, either individually or in groups, narrow their topic, craft a thesis, and eventually design a final project. Some face an initial in-school round before moving on to the district level competition, in early March, where the top two entries in each category move on to state. State winners will travel to the national competition in June.

On the day of the district and state competitions, students come before a panel of volunteer judges to present and discuss their hard work, after which each group of judges is faced with the difficult task of selecting the two best projects to advance to the next round — as well as awarding honorable mentions and special prizes.

As a judge, my favorite part of each round is the chance, on the competition day, to meet with each student or student group to talk with them about their research. It is often in these conversations that the young person’s excitement about their topic and their depth of knowledge come to the fore. There is nothing that warms my historian’s heart quite so much as the opportunity to see a teenager’s eyes light up as she talks about the direction she’d like to take her work in the future, or when he describes the discovery of a key primary source.

This year we had projects ranging across time and space, all touching upon the annual theme of “turning points”: students tackled topics ranging from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 to the role of the Internet in the Arab Spring, from the fall of apartheid in South Africa to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

One of my favorite things about working as a reference librarian at the MHS is the opportunity to work with scholars at all stages of their research, from initial question to final footnote. Every year, young people visit our library to work on MHD topics; as a reference librarian I get to help them refine their research questions and locate primary source materials. As a History Day judge, I get to see the fruits of their hard work on competition day.

The 1st and 2nd place project winners from the Massachusetts History Day state competition will be traveling to the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, June 9-13 to participate in the national contest along with winners from across the country. We are proud to have our young scholars and their fine work represent Massachusetts and wish them the best of luck (and lots of fun!) while they are there.

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

Last week saw the close to the seminar season here at the Society and as summer approaches the calendar opens up a bit. Still, there are some great programs coming up this week to experience. Here is what is on tap at the MHS this week.

First, on Wednesday, 15 May 2013, come on in for a Brown Bag Lunch discussion as Reiner Smolinski of Georgia State University presents “Cotton Mather encounters the gods of Egypt: The Transatlantic Enlightenment and the Origin of Pagan Religions.” The presentation is based on Prof. Smolinski’s ongoing work for his forthcoming intellectual biography of Cotton Mather. Brown Bag lunches are free and open to the public and begin at noon.

The following day, Thursday, 16 May, the MHS hosts “The Tender Heart & Brave: The Politics and Friendship of Charles Sumner & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” This talk, co-sponsored by the Longfellow House-Washington National Historic Site and the Boston African American National Historic Site, examines how the fiery abolitionist Sumner and the genteel poet Longfellow became the closest of friends. Dramatic readings of actual historic documents such as letters, journals, poetry, and speeches will show the deep personal relationship shared between the two men. The reading, done by author Stephen Puleo and the Longefellow House’s Rob Velella, takes listeners from the earliest friendship to antislavery advocacy of these two men, from personal triumphs and tragedies to their final years, weaving through the events of the nation during their lifetimes, including the Emancipation. Mr. Puleo, author of “The Caning: the assault that drove America to Civil War” will provide commentary and sign copies of his book. Reservations are requested for this event at no cost. Please RSVP. Contact the education department for more information at 617-646-0560/ Program begins with a reception at 5:30pm, talk begins at 6:00pm. 

And on Saturday, 18 May, come to 1154 Boylston at 10:00am for a free building tour, The History and Collections of the MHS. This 90-minute, docent-led tour takes guests through all of the Society’s public rooms while providing information about the history and collections of the institution. The tour is free and open to the public. No reservation is required for individuals or small groups. Parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending a tour. For more information please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or

Finally, there are only two weeks left to view three current exhibitions, all focusing on varying aspects of the path to Emancipation in the mid-19th century. Exhibits are open to the public six days a week, Mon-Sat, 10:00am – 4:00pm. The present displays are on view until Friday, 24 May, so do not miss them!



Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch Diary, Post 21

By Elaine Grublin

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

Monday, May 11th 1863

I must leave to history the public events of this agitating time; but I have sadly to record that my dear pupil and friend, Frank A. Eliot, was killed in the recent battle at Chancellorsville, near Fredericksburg, Va. He was captain of the Phila [Braves?], – about 35 years of age, – brother of Dawes and William G. Eliot. We hope that an honorable end of this awful strife is near.

A Fair Trial for the Boston Massacre Soldiers

By Emilie Haertsch, Publications

In the aftermath of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, the question remains of how to handle the trial of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. There has been a public outcry for punishment, and it seems unlikely that the defense will be able to obtain an unbiased jury in a case as high profile as this. But this is not the first time that the desire for punishment has clashed with procedure in Boston’s legal history. On National Public Radio, Cokie Roberts rightly made the connection between this current case and the Boston Massacre trial of almost 250 years ago, when John Adams, in providing legal defense for the British soldiers involved in the Massacre, dealt with similar issues.

In 1768 the British Parliament stationed troops in Boston to protect customs commissioners, since they collected the unpopular taxes on imports and feared for their safety. Bostonians resented the presence of troops in their city and animosity grew between the locals and soldiers over the next year and a half. On March 5, 1770, tensions came to a head. A crowd gathered to harass the sentry posted outside the Custom House, and Capt. Thomas Preston and a small group of soldiers came to his aid. When the crowd refused to leave, the British soldiers fired on them. Three members of the crowd were killed instantly, and two later died from their wounds. The captain and his soldiers were placed in jail.

Following the Boston Massacre deaths, some Patriot leaders used propaganda to enflame feelings of rancor in Boston towards the British. Paul Revere created a famous engraving of the scene with uniformed British soldiers firing at close range into a crowd and a sign that read “Butcher’s Hall” hanging over the Custom House. Many Patriots hoped that the pressure of public opinion would lead to a murder conviction for the soldiers and aid the cause for independence.

The level of outrage in Boston made it very unlikely that the soldiers would get a fair trial. Government and judicial officials delayed the beginning of the trial in hopes that time would calm public opinion. Amidst this tumult, John Adams, Robert Auchmuty, Jr., and Josiah Quincy, Jr., were hired to defend the soldiers. The trial began on November 27, 1770.

The defense could not make the argument that the soldiers fired in self-defense without also hurting Boston’s reputation, so they tread carefully. In addition, since Capt. Preston was found to be not guilty, the soldiers could not claim they were following his orders when they fired. Adams opened his defense dramatically with a quotation from the Marquis Beccaria: “If I can but be the instrument of preserving one life, his blessing and tears of transport, shall be a sufficient consolation to me, for the contempt of all mankind.” He argued that because it was impossible to tell which soldiers fired the fatal shots, finding all of the soldiers guilty would inevitably lead to the wrongful conviction of some innocents.

On December 5, 1770, the jury delivered its verdict: six of the soldiers were found not guilty, and two were found guilty of manslaughter. None were convicted of murder. The soldiers who were convicted of manslaughter were branded on their right thumbs with the letter “M.”

The verdict quieted the mood in Boston and reflected well on the colonies internationally. Years later, Adams wrote in his diary that he believed a “Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently.”

The Society has in its collections several manuscripts related to the Boston Massacre; there is a good introduction to them here. Robert Treat Paine prosecuted the soldiers, and you can learn more about his papers here. You can also read more about Adams’s views on the Boston Massacre and trial in this previous post.