This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

October arrives this week and with it comes a slew of public programs at the Society. Here is what is on tap this week: 

First, on Wednesday, 1 October, there is a Brown Bag talk starting at 12:00PM. Come by to hear Sean Moore of the University of New Hampshire present “Reading Locke on the Plantation.” This examines the well-known paradox of early Americans asserting their desire for freedom while, at the same time, enslaving others. The project examines how the African diaspora underwrote the dissemination of British books of literature and philosophy while considering the political theory of Locke. This talk is free and open to the public. 

Also on Wednesday is “The Trials of Old New England Towns in a New Nation,” an author talk featuring independent scholar Mary Babson Fuhrer. In this talk, Fuhrer will discuss the remarkable stories of conflict and transformation that reshaped local communities in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Her research with various diaries, letters, and account books form the basis of her recent book, Crisis of Community: Trials and Transformation of a New England Town, 1815-1848. This talk is open to the public with a $10 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617- 646-0560 or click here to register. There is a pre-talk reception at 5:30PM and the program begins at 6:00PM.

On Thursday, 2 October, is this season’s first edition of the History of Women and Gender seminar series: “Enslaved Women and the Politics of Self-Liberation in Revolutionary North America.” This paper, presented by Barbara Krauthamer of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, examines enslaved women’s strategies for gaining freedom through escape, focusing on their escape from bondage and their concomitant movements to various sites in the Americas. Comment is provided by Kate Masur, Northwestern University. This talk takes places at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, begins at 5:30PM, and is free and open to the public, RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

And on Saturday, 4 October, join us for a free tour through the public space in the Society’s building at 1154 Boylston Street. The tour is free and open to the public and begins at 10:00AM. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or






This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

Hard to believe that we are already in the last week of September, but so it is. With the closing of the month comes the dawn of seminar season here at the MHS, and while there are only a couple of programs this week, it signals the coming of a much busier October. Here is what’s on tap:

On Tuesday, 23 September, come by for this year’s first installment of the Immigration and Urban History seminar series, “The Importance of Place and Place-makers in the Life of a Los Angeles Community: What Gentrification Erases from Echo Park, 1950s-Present.” In this talk, Natalia Molina of the University of California – San Diego, examines and discusses the history of the Los Angeles neighborhood, Echo Park, shaped by its Leftist, Communist, and gay residents. Ms. Molina’s project asks what the role of history is in the neighborhood’s evolving identity. Comment provided by Judith Smith, University of Massachusetts – Boston. The talk begins at 5:15PM and is free and open to the public, though RSVP is required. You can also Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. 

Also on this week is the final event in a series of teacher workshops called “Old Towns/New Country: The First Years of a New Nation.” This edition of the workshop takes place at the Framingham History Center on Friday and Saturday, 26 and 27 September. Please complete this registration form and send it with your payment to: Kathleen Barker, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215. There is a $25 charge to cover lunches both days; program and material costs have been generously funded by the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation. 

And on Saturday, 27 September, is another free tour at the Society, “The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.” This 90-minute docent-led tour is free and open to the public and begins at 10:00AM. There is no need to make reservations for individuals or small groups, but 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 While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition, “Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I.” This exhibit is open Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM, free of charge. 

As always, be sure to keep an eye on our online events calendar to see what other programs are coming up at the Society. We hope to see you here soon!

The Mysteries of the Elisha W. Smith, Jr. Logbook, 1853-1857: Part II

By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services

In a prior blog post I discussed a note on the inside cover of the logbook of the schooners Flying Dragon (1853) and William Freeman (1857), which identified the log keeper as Elisha W. Smith. This particular logbook contains a mystifying collection of logs, sketches, poems, engravings, and literary clippings. The engravings caught my attention with the bright crayon colors. A scrapbooker clipped, hand-colored, and pasted images into this logbook. Intrigued by the scrapbook curation, I hoped that identifying the engravings would tell me when the creator fashioned this curious assemblage.  

After coming up empty searching Google Books and Internet Archive for the poems and literary clippings within the volume, I examined the engravings in closer detail. The informative images depict locations such as the White Mountains and Lapland and highlight the creator’s clear interest in travel. Other selections within include maps, images of sailing ships, more distant locations and depictions of native peoples.


Then I spotted a timeworn masthead of a literary magazine pasted under the engraving of travelling Laplanders. Through the wear and tear I could clearly read the words “Gleason” and “Companion.” The Gleason’s Literary Companion masthead appeared several times in the scrapbook. The inclusion of an official “citation” made my day. I researched the Literary Companion and found that Frederick Gleason published this literary magazine from his Boston home near Franklin Park from 1860 to 1870. He also published several other pictorial magazines during his career. The MHS does not hold Gleason’s Literary Company but does hold Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-room Companion (1851) and several of Gleason’s engravings.

Satisfied that I had discovered the origin of the engravings, I remained curious about the scrapbook’s creator. Who put the care into selecting, coloring, and pasting these images into the logbook? In my final post, I will delve into discovering the scrapbooker’s identity.

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch, Post 36

By Elaine Grublin

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

Friday, Sept. 8th

The convention, spoken of above, finished its work with the contradiction of nominating a war candidate, Gen. McClellan, with a peace platform. Meanwhile, continued successes near Mobile, & the taking of Atlanta, Georgia, indicate the probability that we may have peace without buying it by the surrender of union or of the national honor pledged to the blacks.

Friday, Sept. 30th 1864

Success has continued to attend the national arms, in the victory of Sheridan over Early in the Shenandoah Valley. The political campaign is waged too with much ardor. Night before last, a great ‘Union & Lincoln’ meeting in Boston was assailed by rowdy violence. The side-candidate, Fremont having withdrawn, the contest is now between Lincoln, representing those who seek peace through war, & McClellan, with those who seek peace through compromise. As I see neither honorable ground for compromise, nor hope of its success, I am for Lincoln.

The Art of Ludvig Sandöe Ipsen

By Susan Martin, Collection Services



On 27 January 1880, the Apollo Club of Boston, an all-male chorus, performed Mendelssohn’s Oedipus at Colonus at the Boston Music Hall. The program for that concert featured this beautiful design by Danish illustrator Ludvig Sandöe Ipsen (1840-1920). It is one of the 51 black-and-white ink illustrations that make up part of the Apollo Club records, on deposit here at the MHS since 2012.

The Apollo Club was founded in 1871, incorporated in 1873, and is still going strong. In fact, it is Boston’s oldest active male chorus and the second oldest continuously active male singing group in the country. Throughout its long history, the club has performed at many notable occasions, including the funeral of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in 1874, the centennial celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1875, and the memorial service for President William McKinley in 1901.

Arthur Reed, the club’s first secretary, commissioned Ludvig S. Ipsen to design covers and page details for concert programs and publications. Ipsen was quite a “get” for the Apollo Club. After training as an architect in Copenhagen (not to mention serving in the Danish Army engineer corps during the Second Schleswig-Holstein War), he had immigrated to the United States in 1867 and soon made a name for himself in Boston as a designer of book covers, book plates, posters, etc. His illustrations appeared in volumes by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Sir Walter Scott, Mark Twain, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but arguably his most important and best-known work was the illustrated edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese published in 1886.

Ipsen designed 130 program covers for the Apollo Club over 23 years. His illustrations include historical and mythological figures, as well as musical instruments and notes, trees and flowers, cherubs, birds, ribbons, seascapes, etc., all carefully composed and depicted in amazing detail.


Ipsen also designed the Apollo Club seal, still used by the organization today.

Many memorials of Ipsen and reviews of his illustrations note that he worked at a time when advances in printing technology made the reproduction of images faster and cheaper, and original hand-drawn artwork for mass-produced books was in decline. But Ipsen found a receptive audience in the Apollo Club, and the result is a beautiful and skillful synthesis of music and art.

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

Calling all graduate students! 

Are you studying American history or some other related subject? Are you interested in meeting fellow students and faculty members who work in your field? Then consider attending a special Graduate Student Reception at the Massachusetts Historical Society this week. Beginning at 6:00PM on Thursday, 18 September, this event is a great way to network with your peers in the area, tour our historic building at 1154 Boylston Street, and to learn about the range of resources available to support your work, including MHS fellowship programs. This event is free for graduate students and faculty members, though RSVP required by September 17. Email or phone 617-646-0568 with your name and affiliation. Indicate whether you are a graduate student or faculty member. We hope to see you there!

Also at the Society this week, we continue our exhibition of World War I photographs, letters and memorabilia with “Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I.” As always, the exhibit is open Monday – Saturday, 10:00AM – 4:00PM, free of charge. And on Saturday, 20 September, stop by at 10:00AM for “The History and Collections of the MHS,” a free 90-minute tour of the Society’s building. 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


The Western Front Recedes: The St Mihiel Operation

By Dan Hinchen

In the autumn of 1918, the Great War in Europe was nearing its termination after four years of fighting. Beginning in August of that year, the Allies launched what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, a series of attacks against the Central Powers which pushed the Western Front and the German lines out of France and, ultimately, resulted in an armistice. One such two-day offensive occurred near the French town of St. Mihiel on 12-13 September. The action was carried out by the 26th Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Edwards.



The 26th was formed by Edwards in the summer of 1917 and the first units of the Yankee Division sailed in September, “the first fully formed American division in France.” Over the next several months the division undertook training in France with their English and French counterparts so that they could acclimate to life in trenches and amidst hostile fire.

Fast forward to September 1918. Edwards and his division were in the area of St. Mihiel as a result of several months of fighting on the move in the northeast of France. Despite the rain and mud that slowed down some units from reaching their start line the night before the offensive, “the attack came off without any major hitch, following a tremendous artillery barrage during the early morning hours of September 12, 1918.”

Here at the Society are the Clarence Ransom Edwards papers, within which are several reports providing details about the operations performed by the 26th Division. One intelligence report, dated September 11 to September 12th, 1918, 16 o’clock to 16 o’clock, states that

The enemy, surprised by our attack, and with all communication to the rear out by our artillery fire, offered what resistance he could during the day, chiefly with his machine guns. In the open country the resistance was very weak. In the woods his machine gun nests proved fairly effective. The first day’s objective was reached before 22 o’clock.

These intelligence summaries, along with correspondence, memoranda, and other materials in the Edwards papers provide detailed insight into some of the operations of the “war to end all wars” and also highlight some of the personal drama between Edwards and his military colleagues. If you would like to learn more, visit the MHS library and see them for yourself!


-Shay, Michael E., Revered Commander, Maligned General: The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2011.


This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

It seems that summer is trying to reassert itself here in September but it is quiet and cool at the MHS. There is but one public program on the calendar this week in the form of a Brown Bag lunch talk on Wednesday, 10 September. Come by at noon for “Sculpting the Citizen Soldier: Civil War Memory and the Life Cycle of Monuments,” presented by short-term research fellow Sarah Beetham, University of Delaware. In this talk, Dr. Beetham will explore how Civil War citizen soldier monuments have factored into community life in the century and a half since the war’s end. Soldier monuments have been interpreted and interpreted, vandalized and hit by cars, amended and moved to new locations. How do these interventions affect our understanding of post-Civil War memory? This talk is open to the public free of charge. 

There is also a free tour this week on Saturday, 13 September, starting at 10:00AM. “The History and Collections of the MHS” is a 90-minute, docent-led tour that allows visitors to see all of the public spaces at the Society while learning about the art, architecture, history, and collections in the building at 1154 Boylston. The tour is free and open to the public with no reservations required for individuals or small groups. However, groups of 8 or more should contact the MHS before attending the tour. For more information, please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or

And while this September is pretty quiet here at the MHS, seminar season is nearly upon us. Be sure to keep an eye on the online events calendar to see all of the public events on tap later this month and into October. 


“Signed, sealed and delivered”: The Treaty that Ended the Revolutionary War

By Amanda A. Mathews, Adams Papers


“On Wednesday the third day of this Month, the American Ministers met the British Minister at his Lodgings at the Hôtel de York, and signed, sealed and delivered the Definitive Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain.” John Adams reported this news to the President of Congress on September 5, 1783 and congratulated Congress on the “Completion of the work of Peace.”

It was eight o’clock in the morning when John Adams along with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, met the British peace negotiator, David Hartley, at his residence in Paris and months of negotiations, first the previous year leading to the preliminary peace treaty, and then in earnest from April until the end of August culminated in this definitive treaty.

While this was no doubt a significant moment—after all, eight long years of war were officially ending with complete American independence—the signing was more of an anticlimax for Adams. His immediate feelings, as he revealed to Abigail the following day, were that as the definitive treaty was no more than “a Simple Repetition of the provisional Treaty,” they had “negotiated here, these Six Months for nothing.” Nevertheless, Adams understood that given the political realities of their position relative to Great Britain, “We could do no better Situated as We were.”

The key provisions of the Treaty of Paris guaranteed both nations access to the Mississippi River, defined the boundaries of the United States, called for the British surrender of all posts within U.S. territory, required payment of all debts contracted before the war, and an end to all retaliatory measures against loyalists and their property. Throughout John Adams’s term as minister to Great Britain in the 1780s, he and the British foreign secretary, the Marquis of Carmarthen, regularly discussed the actions each side saw as breaches of and a failure to fulfill the treaty—a debate that went unresolved until the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1794.

When editors at the Adams Papers Editorial Project are asked to name our favorite document in the immense collection that is the Adams Family Papers, John Adams’s copy of the Treaty of Paris, is certainly a top choice. This duplicate original in the Adams Papers is the only original not in a government archive. One can easily imagine that the legal- and legacy-minded John Adams was keen to retain a copy of this founding document over which he had so long toiled so far from his home for his posterity. Of particular interest are the seals—as there was no official seal for the American commissioners to use, each used whatever was convenient to him. See here for a full discussion of the Boylston family coat of arms, which Adams used as his seal on both the preliminary and definitive treaty and for more on Adams’s thoughts at the conclusion see the newly launched digital edition of Papers of John Adams, volume 15.

Image: First and last pages of the Definitive Peace Treaty between the United States and Great Britain (Treaty of Paris), September 3, 1783, Adams Family Papers.