“A disposition to do my duty”: Three Generations of Ministers to Great Britain

By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers

Charles Francis Adams recorded Tuesday, April 30, 1861 as a “soft, springlike day” in Boston in his diary. Nevertheless, as serene as the weather may have been, the political world was far less so. Not yet had three full weeks gone by since the Battle at Fort Sumter—the opening salvos of what would be a long and painfully bloody Civil War. The turbulent present and still unknown future did not solely occupy his thoughts on this day however. Rather, it was to the past that he looked. He could not help but be acutely aware of the knowledge that he was following in the footsteps of both his father, John Quincy Adams in 1815, and grandfather, John Adams in 1785; as he prepared to embark as the third generation of his family to serve as the United States Minister to Great Britain.

As he was to depart Boston the next day, Charles went to take his leave from the Governor of Massachusetts, John Albion Andrew, who surprised him by making a speech before the state’s public officials. Charles recorded the meeting in his Diary:

Soon after ten o’clock Governor Andrew was announced but instead of coming as I supposed with only his immediate Aids and Secretary, there filed in all the heads of bureaus of the Commonwealth…. The Governor rose and made me an address, alluding to the peculiar position which I occupied, to the departure of John Adams eighty four years ago, to the responsibility of my present mission, and closing with the expression of the entire confidence of the State in whose name he spoke as well as his own in my capacity and fidelity in the performance of my duty. For such a speech I was entirely unprepared and yet I saw that a reply was demanded…. I expressed my thanks for this most distinguished honor, my regard for him as the head of the Commonwealth not less than as a man, alluded to the painful circumstance in which I should leave the Country, but took consolation from the fact that as my father and grandfather had both of them left in moments of the greatest national distress, so I might like them return to the hour of restoration of its prosperity.

Nearly 44 years before, a ten-year-old Charles had crossed the Atlantic travelling home with his parents and siblings at the conclusion of his father’s mission to England—now he would be returning to that country with his own wife and children and a very different mission. For his father and grandfather, the threat to the survival of the United States had come from across that ocean; now, the threat lay at home. But like the generations before him, he would ably perform his duty as his country’s minister and would return home in 1868 to a booming and prosperous but still deeply scarred nation.

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

It is a quiet week here at the MHS with only two public programs lined up. Of course, that just makes it easier to catch them all!

First, on Tuesday, 29 April, join us for a panel discussion that is part of the Immigration and Urban History seminar series. “American Catholics and U.S. Immigration Policy before the Immigration and Nationaly Act of 1965” features Danielle Battisti of the University of Nebraska and Gráinne McEvoy of Boston College, and Justin Poché of the College of the Holy Cross providing comment. McEvoy’s paper, “‘A Christian and Democratic Attitude’: The Catholic Campaign for Education and Enlightenment on U.S. Immigration Policy, 1952-1957,” examines the Catholic campaign for comprehensive immigration reform during and in the wake of the McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which removed discrimination on the basis of race from federal immigration policy but retained the national origins quota system. Battisti’s essay, “‘Whom Shall We Welcome?’ Italian Americans and Immigration Reform Campaigns, 1948-1965,” examines the efforts of the Italian Americans who both assisted Italian immigrants to the U.S. after World War II and who joined in a broader movement to abolish the national origins system and thereby reform the nation’s immigration policies in the 1950s and 1960s. Be sure to RSVP for this program by emailing seminars@masshist.org or phoning 617-646-0568.

On Wednesday, 30 April, join us for an author talk presented by John Ferling titled “Jefferson & Hamilton: The Rivalry that Forged a Nation.” Jefferson and Hamiltonis the story of the fierce struggle – both public and, ultimately, bitterly personal – between two titans. Join us as we explore their complicated rivlary. John Ferling, a leading authority on late 19th and early 19th century American history, is the author of many books, including Almost a Miracle: The American Vicotyrin the War for Independence, Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, Setting the World Ablaze: Washington, Adams, and Jefferson in the American Revolution, and the award-winning A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. The talk begins at 6:00PM with a pre-talk reception starting at 5:30PM. Registration is required for this event and there is a $10 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members). Click here to register online, or call the MHS reservations line at 617-646-0560.

And be sure to come in and check out our current exhibition, Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial, which will only be on display  until 23 May. This is exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM.

2014-2015 Fellowship Recipients Announced

By Elaine Grublin

Each year the MHS grants a number of research fellowships to scholars from around the country.  For more information about the different fellowship types, click the headings below. 

Our various fellowship programs bring a wide variety of researchers working on a full range of topics into the MHS library. If any of the research topics are particularly interesting to you, keep an eye on our events calendar over the course of the upcoming year, as all research fellows present their research at brown-bag lunch programs as part of their commitment to the MHS. 

A hearty congratulations to all of the fellowship recipients.  We look forward to seeing you all in the MHS library in the upcoming year. 


MHS-NEH Long-term Research Fellowships (thanks to the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent agency of the U.S. government):

John Stauffer, Harvard University, “Charles Sumner’s America: A Cultural Biography”

Erin Kappeler, University of Maine Farmington, “Everyday Laureates: Poetic Communities in New England, 1865-1900”

Suzanne and Caleb Loring Research Fellowship On the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences (with the Boston Athenaeum):

Sarah Beetham, University of Delaware, “Sculpting the Citizen Soldier: Reproduction and National Memory, 1865-1917”

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC) Awards (with 20 other institutions; the * indicates that part of fellowship will be completed at the MHS):

*Nicholas Bonneau, University of Notre Dame, “Unspeakable Loss: New England’s Invisible Throat Distemper Epidemic of 1735 – 1740”                             

*Frank Cirillo, University of Virginia, “‘The Time of Sainthood Has Passed’: American Abolitionists and the Civil War, 1861-1865”                               

Sascha Cohen, Brandeis University, “The Comedy of the Culture Wars: American Humor, Feminism, and Gay Liberation, 1969-1989”

Dan Du, University of Georgia, “This World in a Teacup: Sino-American Tea Trade in the Nineteenth Century”

*Amy  Ellison, Boston University, “‘To Bring Liberty to the North’: The Invasion of Canada and the Coming of American Independence, 1774-1776.”  Colonial Society of Massachusetts Fellow 

Mary Fuhrer, Independent Scholar, “The Experience and Meaning of Tuberculosis in Rural New England, 1800-1850”

*Brendan Gillis, Indiana University, “Cosmopolitan Parochialism: Colonial Magistracy and Imperial Revolution, 1760-1800”

Christina Groeger, Harvard University, “Paths to Work: The Rise of Credentials in American Society, 1870-1940”

*Brenton Grom, Case Western Reserve University, “The Death and Transfiguration of New England Psalmody, ca. 1790–1860”

Samira Mehta, Fairfield University, “God Bless the Pill? Contraception, Sexuality, and American Religion from Margaret Sanger to Sandra Fluke”

*Sean Moore, University of New Hampshire, “Slavery and the Making of the Early American Library: British Literature, Political Thought, and the Transatlantic Book Trade”                 

*Jacqueline, Reynoso, Cornell University, “(Dis)Placing the American Revolution: The British Province of Quebec in the Greater Colonial Struggle”

*Gregory Rosenthal, SUNY Stonybrook, Hawaiians who left Hawaiʻi: Work, Body, and Environment in the Pacific World, 1786-1876”

Kate Silbert, University of Michigan, “‘Committed to Memory’: Gender, Literary Engagement, and Commemorative Practice, 1780-1830”

Jordan Smith,  Georgetown University, “The Invention of Rum”

*Rachel Trocchio, University of California Berkeley, “The Puritan Sublime”

*Jordan Watkins, University of Nevada Las Vegas,  “‘Let Every Writer Be Placed in His Own Age’: Slavery, Sacred Texts and the Antebellum Confrontation with History”                              

MHS Short-Term Research Fellowships:

African American Studies Fellow

Westenley Alcenat, Columbia University, “Escape to Zion: Black Emigration and the Elusive Quest for Citizenship, 1816-1868”

Alumni Fellows

Mary Draper, University of Virginia, “The Urban World of the Early Modern British Caribbean”

Jonathan Koefoed, Indiana University – Purdue University Columbus, “Cautious Romantics: Trinitarian Transcendentalists and the Emergence of a Conservative Religious Tradition in America”

Andrew Oliver Fellow

Mark Thompson, University of Groningen,    “Land, Liberty, and Property: Surveyors and the Production of Empire in British North America”

Andrew W. Mellon Fellows

Laurie Dickmeyer, University of California Irvine, “Americans in Chinese Treaty Ports: The Interplay of Trade and Diplomacy in the Nineteenth-Century China and United States”

Mark Dragoni, Syracuse University, “Operating Outside of Empire: Trade and Citizenship in the Atlantic World, 1756-1812”

Jeffrey Egan, University of Connecticut, “Watershed Decisions: The Social and Environmental History of the Quabbin Reservoir, 1860-1941”

David Faflik,   University of Rhode Island, “Passing Transcendental: Harvard, Heresy, and the Modern American Origins of Unbelief”

Alex Jablonski, SUNY Binghamton, “Subjects into Citizens: The Imperial Origins of American Citizenship”

Nathan Jeremie-Brink, Loyola University Chicago, “Gratuitous Distribution: Distributing African-American Antislavery Texts, 1773-1845”

Jordan Smith, Georgetown University, “The Invention of Rum”

Robin Smith, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, “The Labor of Poetry and the Poetry of Labor: Industrialization and the Place of Poetry in Antebellum America”

Meghan Wadle, Southern Methodist University, “Stray Threads: Industrial Women’s Writings and American Literature, 1826-1920”

Benjamin Franklin Stevens Fellow

Serena Zabin, Carleton College, “Occupying Boston: An Intimate History of the Boston Massacre”

Cushing Environmental Fellow (through the generosity of Cushing Academy, Ashburnham, Massachusetts)

Sean Munger, University of Oregon, “Ten Years of Winter: The Cold Decade and Environmental Consciousness in the Early 19th Century”

Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellow

Kristina Garvin, Ohio State University, “Past and Future States: The Cultural Work of the Serial in U.S. Literature, 1786-1814”

Marc Friedlaender Fellow

Kristen Burton, University of Texas Austin, “John Barleycorn vs. Sir Richard Rum: Alcohol, the Atlantic, and the Distilling of Colonial Identity, 1650-1800”

Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellow (through the generosity of Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati)

Daniel Soucier, University of Maine, “Navigating Wilderness and Borderland: The Invasion of Canada, 1775-1776”

Ruth R. and Alyson R. Miller Fellows

Kate Culkin, Bronx Community College, “‘For the Love of Your Sister’: Ellen Tucker Emerson, Edith Emerson Forbes, and the Emerson Legacy”

Rachel Walker, University of Maryland, “A Beautiful Mind: Physiognomy and Female Intellect, 1750-1850”

W.B.H. Dowse Fellows

Melissa Johnson, University of Michigan, “Regulating the Word: Religious Reform and the Politics of Knowledge in the Seventeenth-Century Anglo-Atlantic”

Adrian Weimer, Providence College, “Rumors and the Restoration in Boston”

Harry Adams Hersey’s Bike Ride: Creating a Digital Map from a Nineteenth-Century Travel Diary

By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

When spring arrives in Boston, bicycles return to the streets. No longer are two-wheelers limited to intrepid all-weather cyclists bundled up in scarves, hats, and gloves, navigating their way around ice, snow and potholes — now riders young and old can strap on a helmet, jump on a bike (perhaps borrowed from Hubway?) and set off across the city — or further! — in search of adventure.

As I have written previously here at the Beehive, we modern-day cyclists follow in the path of a trailblazing generation of “wheelmen” (and women) who popularized bicycle riding in America during the late nineteenth century. Many Bostonians were enthusiastic early adopters of the bicycle, including a young Dorchester piano tuner named Harry Adams Hersey (1870-1950). In July 1892, the twenty-two year old set off to ride from Dorchester, Massachusetts, to Boothbay, Maine. He was accompanied to York, Maine, by his cousin Fred Howard and two friends, Arthur Newhall and Fred Ducette. He chronicled the adventure in a diary that he later circulated to friends and family as a “descriptive letter” of his travels. He writes about the weather and the state of the roads, the tourist sights visited, and where the friends found food and shelter.

Consulting this diary in our reading room recently, I was struck by the number of geographic locations Hershey mentions in his brief account. Using the free online tool Mapbox, I created an interactive map sharing quotations from the diary, as transcribed by his daughter, Helen, in the 1990s, mapped onto the locations which the diary describes. Thus, readers can follow Hersey’s journey, geographically as well as narratively, as he moves northward from his Dorchester home to the wilds of coastal Maine.


Seven years after his cycling vacation, Harry Hersey became engaged to a schoolteacher named Lottie May Champlain, shortly after his ordination to the ministry. The couple married in 1906, and raised four children while Hersey served Universalist congregations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and Indiana.

According to his daughter Helen, Hersey rode over 100,000 miles over the course of his lifetime, “without a major accident,” riding his bicycle both for pleasure and parish business. Hersey died in 1950 in Somerville, Massachusetts, only three years after completing an ambitious bicycle trip on the coast of California. Helen Hersey Dick donated her father’s memoirs and accompanying photographs to the MHS in the 1990s, where they and her transcripts can be accessed in the Society’s reading room.

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

The Society is CLOSED on Monday, 21 April, in observance of Patriot’s Day. Enjoy the Marathon!

Please note that the Tell It With Pride teacher workshop, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, 22-23 April, is CANCELLED.

Despite a shortened week and a cancellation there are still plenty of reasons to stop by the MHS this week and indulge in some public programming!

On Wednesday, 23 April, beginning at noon is a Brown Bag lunch talk given by Marie Stango of the University of Michigan. “‘Pious Females’ and ‘Good Schools’: Transnational Networks of Education in Nineteenth-Century Liberia” examines the networks of men and women who helped support education efforts in the American settlements in Liberia, West Africa. These philanthropists, many of them based in Massachusetts, helped establish formal and informal schools in the former American colonies and planned for a college, which opened for classes as Liberia College (now the University of Liberia) in 1863. How did these American sponsors manage an institution over four thousand miles away? This talk is free and open to the public so pack a lunch and come on by!

And on Wednesday evening is a special public program beginning at 6:00PM in which Mitchell L. Adams will speak about his great-grandfather, “Dr. Zabdiel Boylston Adams: Surgeon & Soldier for the Union.” The Civil War was a watershed and a defining period in the life of Zabdiel Boylston Adams, an 1853 graduate of the Harvard Medical School. On 2 July 1863 the doctor set up a makeshift hospital close to the field of battle. Having noticed how many soldiers were dying during transport from combat to distant medical care, Adams pioneered on-site medical treatments. He labored so long in surgeries at Gettysburg that he was nearly blinded with exhaustion. At the Battle of the Wilderness Adams was severely wounded. Captured by Confederate forces, his shattered left leg useless and gangrenous, he treated himself by pouring pure nitric acid into his wounds, a treatment that must have been as excruciating as it was efficacious. Dr. Adams was a man at the nexus of two distinguished New England families at a particularly dramatic moment in history. Registration is required for this program at no cost. To Reserve: Click here to register online, or call the MHS reservations line at 617-646-0560. Pre-Talk reception begins at 5:30PM.

Then, on Friday, 25 April, there will be an afternoon Gallery Talk beginning at 2:00PM. Staff members from the Museum of African American History will be on hand to discuss items featured in the Society’s current exhibition Tell It with Pride. This event is free and open to the public.  

And on Saturday, 26 April, come by at 10:00AM for The History and Collections of the MHS, a 90-minute docent-led tour of the Society’s home at 1154 Boylston Street. This free tour explores the public spaces of the building and touches on the art, architecture, history, and collections of the MHS. 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 abentley@masshist.org.


This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

On Tuesday, 15 April, Gloria Whiting of Harvard University presents “‘How can the wife submit?’ African Families Negotiate Gender and Slavery in New England.” This seminar is part of the History of Women and Gender series and is rescheduled from 13 February 2014. Whiting’s paper discusses the various ways in which the everyday realities of slavery shaped gender relations in Afro-New England families. While the structure of slave families in the region was unusually matrifocal, these families nonetheless exhibited a number of patriarchal tendencies. Enslaved African families in New England therefore complicate the assumption of much scholarship that the structure of slave families defined their normative values. Barbara Krauthamer of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, will provide comment. Please note that this seminar takes place at the Schlesinger Library and begins at 5:30PM. Be sure to RSVP for this program by emailing seminars@masshist.org or phoning 617-646-0568.

And on Friday, 18 April, stop by the Society at 2:00PM for a free gallery talk as Samantha Anderson of Northeastern University presents “The Battles of the 54th: Norther Racism and the Unequal Pay Crisis.” When Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew proposed to raise the first military unit consisting of black soldiers during the Civil War, he was assured by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that the men would be paid, clothed, and treated in the same way as white troops. As the recruiting posters and newspaper advertisements stated, this included a state bounty and a monthly pay of $13. In July of 1863, an order was issued in Washington fixing the compensation of black soldiers at the laborers’ rate of $10 per month. This amount was offered on several occasions to the men of the 54th, but was continually refused. Governor Andrew and the Massachusetts legislature, feeling responsible for the $3 discrepancy in pay promised to the troops, passed an act in November of 1863 providing the difference from state funds. The men refused to accept this resolution, however, demanding that they receive full soldier pay from the federal government.

Learn more about this pay controversy, and how it was resolved, through items on display in our current exhibition Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial.

Finally, please note that the Society is closed on Monday, 21 April, in observance of Patriot’s Day. Normal hours will resume on Tuesday, 22 April.

Answers to Questions of Chinese Script, 1801

By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services

In a prior blog post, “Chinese Hanzi Characters in 1801,” I wondered what message the Chinese script on the verso of the 30 July 1801 letter from Captain Samuel Barrett Edes of the snow Pacific Trader to American merchant Sullivan Dorr expressed. Last month, to my great surprise, I received two separate e-mails regarding the script.

The first correspondent, professional Chinese translator Ye Aiyun, graciously gave me a direct translation of the Chinese characters:


[This letter] is to the Sixin Grocery Store at Stoning Street in Canton, and the store will send it to Dorr of the flower flag country (United States of America). If Dorr writes back, his letter will be sent to Canton in the same way. This letter should arrive at Macao on [September] 22nd and back to Canton on the 23rd.  If the foreigner [does not have a letter to send back in return], the store will just leave it [alone]. The postage is two dollars, and [the people in] Macao have paid one dollar.

Ye’s translation confirmed my first assumption about the script.  It definitely gives directions for delivery of the letter to Sullivan Dorr.

Paul A. Van Dyke, professor at Sun Yat-sen University in Canton, China, and former Benjamin F. Stevens fellow at the MHS, also wrote concerning the Chinese script. Van Dyke gave me further context for the letter:

“The address on this envelope is to Sullivan Dorr’s residence in Canton, which was in the Thirteen Factories area. It is clear from the Chinese inscription that this [letter] was sent to the Thirteen hong district 十三行。 The confusion comes in the name of the street Zao Shi Street (鑿石街) which does not exist on any maps [of which] I am aware. And the name of the building Si Xing Ban Guan (泗興办館) is also very strange and appears in [none of the] listings of the buildings in this district. In short, we know all of the Chinese names of the streets and buildings in this district at this time and these names do not appear.”

Yet another mystery arises from this letter! Van Dyke explained that perhaps this address is a small undocumented alley within the American Factory, a trading post that American Consul Samuel Shaw constructed and Sullivan Dorr, at one time, managed. Responding to my previous post, Van Dyke also addressed my final query concerning who might have written this note. He stated that Chinese compradors (provision purveyors), pilots, linguists, and merchants were generally literate, so any one of them could have written the instructions for delivery.

Thank you to my generous correspondents Ye Aiyun and Paul A. Van Dyke for their answers to my questions. Do you have any additional information to contribute to this conversation? Please leave a comment on the blog or feel free to e-mail me.

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

The Red Sox are back in town, increasing foot traffic around the Society. This week, though, is a quiet one at the MHS, with only two events on the schedule.

If you are headed to Fenway Park on Tuesday, 8 April, why not stop by the MHS on the way for a free seminar? Starting at 5:15PM, Jonathan Anzalone of Stony Brook University presents “A Mountain in Winter: Wilderness Politics, Economic Development, and the Transformation of Whiteface Mountain into a Modern Ski Center, 1932-1980.” Comment provided by Jim O’Connell, National Park Service. This seminar – part of the Environmental History series – examines the development of Whiteface Mountian as a skiing spot with the broader context of the Adirondack Park’s transformation into a playground for the masses. Wilderness politics, class divisions, and the vicissitudes of nature combined to frustrate administrators and strain their relationship with business leaders, winter sports enthusiasts, and wilderness advocates. The debate sheds brighter light on disparate interpretations of modern recreation and economic development. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

On Saturday, 12 April, there will be a free tour that is open to the public. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour of the Society’s home at 1154 Boylston Street. The tour explores all of the public space in the building, touching on the history, art, architecture, and collections of the Society. No reservation 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 abentley@masshist.org.

Finally, remember to visit the MHS soon to see the current exhibition, “Tell It With Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus-Saint Gaudens’ Shaw Memorial.” This exhibit, organized by the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, D.C., is open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM, through 23 May.




From Medicine to Music: #8 The Fenway

By Dan Hinchen

Around the Neighborhood – #8 the Fenway

These days, the Historical Society is hemmed in by institutions devoted to the study of music. Our neighbor to the east on Boylston Street is the Berklee College of Music. Around the corner to our southwest the New England Conservatory occupies several buildings. But, in looking through some old photos recently, I found that a very different group once rubbed shoulders with the MHS on the Fenway.

The second iteration of the Boston Medical Library was founded in 1875, thanks mainly to the efforts of the then 30-year-old Dr. James Read Chadwick with tremendous support from the older Dr. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch. Beginning in December 1874, these two men and many other prominent Boston doctors held several meetings and published circular letters to gain support for the founding of a new medical library in the city. Once there was enough support, Chadwick drew up a constitution and by-laws for the new library and, in October of 1875, the Boston Medical Library opened in two rooms at No.5 Hamilton Place in downtown Boston. It would take only three years for the rooms to become inadequate for the Library’s needs.

In February, 1878, the Boston Medical Library Association began making appeals for help in acquiring a new space. The property they purchased was located at 19 Boylston Place, previously both the home of Dr. Samuel G. Howe and a boardinghouse. This spot served as the Library headquarters for the next 23 years until the space was outgrown once again. In his History of the Boston Medical Library¸ Dr. John Farlow noted that “There was no doubt that No.5 Hamilton Place was outgrown in 1878, and No. 19 Boylston Place was outgrown in a still greater degree in 1900. How the library ever continued to exist and serve its members in the overcrowded quarters, seems more or less of a wonder, as we look back on it.”[i]

In May 1899 members of the Library were asked to decide between two parcels of land on which to construct a new building. At the meeting, a committee presented brief statements advocating for either a lot at St. Botolph and Garrison Streets or a lot on the Fenway. Regarding the lot on the Fenway, the committee stated:

On the Fenway we can buy two (or three) lots facing west by south, and next the Historical building. The western light will be very strong on the front. We can build fifty feet front by one hundred deep. The rear is tolerable, but not attractive. The front view is unsurpassed. It will be quiet, clean, bleak. It will appreciate in value of land. We cannot build a symmetrical building, without wells and irregularities. We are limited to seventy feet in height on the front. We may be allowed to carry the rear higher for a book-stack. We must buy a third lot, and keep it wholly or partially unoccupied for side windows and for future growth. We shall have a building twice as long as it is wide, and with a dark centre, unless we have plenty of side windows.[ii]

With a vote of 53 for and 19 against, the Association decided in favor of the Fenway lots. A building committee composed of Drs. John Collins Warren, James Read Chadwick, and Farrar Cobb selected Shaw and Hunnewell as architects. In November 1899, the committee awarded the $86,000 contract for erecting the building to the McNeil Brothers. They also gave contracts for heating, bookstacks, wiring, and an elevator well with room for the machinery. By 12 January 1901, the Library opened to the public with a dedication occurring that evening, just two years after the completion of the MHS’ home at 1154 Boylston Street.

The Boston Medical Library in 1919 at 8 Fenway. A portion of the MHS is seen on the left. What do you think happened to the planned side windows? (“Boston Medical Library” Unknown Photographer, 1919. From the Massachusetts Views collection. Massachusetts Historical Society.)

The Boston Medical Library remained at #8 Fenway for 64 years until the Library closed its doors on 14 June 1965. Over the next two all of its holdings were removed and merged with the collection of Harvard’s newly built Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. On 16 June, the Countway opened to readers.

On 15 January 1964, the Boston Medical Library trustees agreed to sell their building to the neighboring Boston Conservatory of Music for the price of $300,000. The actual sale did not occur until after the move to the Countway in July 1965, and the Library did not officially vacate the property until 2 September.[iii]

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of the Boston Medical Library you can search our online catalog, ABIGAIL, to see what materials we have relating to it. In addition to several printed volumes relating to the Library, the MHS holds significant collections of materials related to many early members of the Library, including Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John Collins Warren, and Charles Pickering Putnam.

[i] Farlow, John W., The History of the Boston Medical Library, Norwood, Mass.: The Plimpton Press, 1918.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Garland, Joseph E., The Centennial History of the Boston Medical Library, 1875-1975, Boston: Trustees of the Boston Medical Library, 1975.


Perry-Clarke Collection Guide Online

By Susan Martin

The guide to the Perry-Clarke collection is now online! Originally acquired by the MHS back in 1968, this collection has been available for research since then, but the old unwieldy paper guide needed a major overhaul. We hope this 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, Pennsylvania, 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.

The Perry-Clarke collection may be best known to our researchers as the home of the 1844 journal and commonplace-book of Margaret Fuller, a close friend of the family. But I found many other items equally interesting. For example, one small manuscript diary entitled “Notes of a Nile voyage by S. A. Clarke, 1873.” S. A. Clarke was James’s older sister Sarah Anne, better known, it turns out, by the name she adopted later, Sarah Freeman Clarke (1808-1896). She was an accomplished artist, teacher, and philanthropist, and her Nile diary is that of a well-educated, well-traveled, late-Victorian American woman in an unfamiliar country.

Here’s an excerpt from 22 Dec. 1873:

We left Alexandria at ten o’clock A.M. The way was of perpetual interest. The camels pleased us particularly, walking along the embankment. They walk with their long necks stretched out, and their heads well up. They are ugly, but most picturesque, and one never tires of watching their solemn stride. They carry wonderful burdens. Four or five large building stories bound together with ropes, on each side, and which must bruise them at every step, is a common burden. They are the most patient of laborers, and with their backs piled with burdens, and an Arab on the top of all they make a most sketchable mass.

And about two months later inside one of the temples at Karnak:

In the room next to that where is a portrait of Cleopatra, I unfold my easel to make a sketch of some Sphinx heads which lie there. The sun glares in at the door and the noise of the Arabs without is distracting. I close the door and the place is now lighted only from some holes in the roof. There is light enough for me, but if I move the dust rises in clouds. Is this the dust of the Ptolemaic or the Pharaonic dynasty? It is very choky. The flies are also tormenting. They are the direct descendants of the flies that Moses procured to plague Egypt. […] As I sit there working alone the spirit of the past comes over me with much power. I have never been so near the old Egyptians as at this moment. […] I get a Sepia sketch of this suggestive corner. There is no time for more. The door opens, the Arabs scream, my friends come to look me up and we must go on. But I have added something important to my gallery of memories, and also to my portfolio of sketches.


Sarah Freeman Clarke sailed the Nile in a dahabeah like this one (from the Perry-Clarke collection)

To learn more about James Freeman Clarke, Margaret Fuller, and the Clarke and Huidekoper families, see ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the MHS.