This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the new year looms on the horizon. But if we focus on the present, we can learn a lot about the past. Here are the public programs on offer in the week to come:

– Tuesday, 29 November, 5:15PM : Join Patrick Lacroix of the University of New Hampshire, with commentor Edward O’Donnell of the College of the Holy Cross, as they discuss “French Canadians and the Transnational Church: The Landscape of North American Catholicism, 1837-1901.” This Modern American Society and Culture seminar explores the influence of immigration on larger demates over North American Catholicism and examines the response of the New England episcopacy, whose Americanism helped to preserve the structure and ideas of the Irish-American religious establishment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

– Wednesday, 30 November, 12:00PM : Stop by at noon for a Brown Bag talk with Louis Gerdelan of Harvard University as he presents “Calamities and the Conscience: Religion, Suffering, and Intellectual Change in the Face of Disasters in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries.” This talk is free and open to the public. [N.B.: The date of this event has changed from December 14.] 

– Thursday, 1 December, 6:00PM : In a public author talk, John Kaag of the UMass-Lowell discusses his recent book American Philosophy: A Love Story. After stumbling upon the personal library of past Harvard philosopher William Ernest Hocking, Kaag undertakes the cataloging of the collection, which includes notes from Whitman, inscriptions from Frost, and first editions of Hobbes, Descartes, and Kant. In so doing, Kaag rediscovers the very tenets of American philosophy – self-reliance, pragmatism, the transcendent – and sees them in  a twenty-first century context. This talk is open to the public for a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows or Members) and registration is required. A reception precedes the talk at 5:30PM and the program begins at 6:00PM.

– Saturday, 3 December, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Turning Points in American History.

– Saturday, 3 December, 1:00PM : “A Plentiful Country – Letters from Maine’s Thomas Gorges” is the next installment of the Begin at the Beginning series of public conversations. Join Abby Chandler in exploring rare first-hand accounts contained in Gorges’ forthright, vivid, and dynamic letters that provide a unique window onto colonial New England at a time when England was moving toward civil war. This talk is open to the public, registration is required at no cost. 

 

1815: the Year Without a Summer

By Alex Bush, Reader Services

As November wears on and the weather grows colder, many Bostonians are digging their coats and sweaters out of storage in anticipation of the long winter ahead. As if winter isn’t long enough already, imagine for a moment that temperatures started to drop in May instead of November. In April of 1815, the eruption of the volcano Mount Tambora rocked modern-day Indonesia. The blast, nearly 100 times as large as that of Mount St. Helens in 1980, sent a massive cloud of miniscule particles into the atmosphere. As the particle cloud blew its way around the globe it reflected sunlight, causing a meteorological phenomenon to which we now refer as the “year without a summer.”

From May to August of 1816, weather across the globe was unseasonably cold. It regularly snowed in New England and London was pelted with hail. It was during this freezing volcanic winter that Mary Shelley drafted the dark tale Frankenstein while on holiday in Switzerland. In his daily diary entry from July 4th of 1816, John Quincy Adams complained that he was confined to his house in London all day due to freezing rain showers and thunder. Many of his subsequent entries that summer contain similar lamentations.

There was Thunder at intervals, and Showers of rain almost incessant through the whole day… I attempted a walk; but was twice overtaken with Showers ingoing to Ealing Church and returning.

 

While scientists are now nearly positive that the “year without a summer” and Mount Tambora’s eruption are connected, it took until the 1970s to piece together the clues. Many people at the time blamed the volatile weather on sunspots, having seen more than usual leading up to the cold snap. By looking back at patterns in sunspots, scientists now hypothesize that while Mount Tambora’s eruption happened to coincide with the appearance of several large sunspots, the two phenomena were not connected. It is also possible that the eruption’s resulting haze allowed for easier viewing of the sun without the aid of eye protection, which led more people to notice the spots and connect them to the odd weather.

Hannah Dawes Newcomb, who endured the freezing summer weather with her family in Keene, New Hampshire, kept a diary with short daily reports on her everyday life. Starting in around May, her daily comments on the weather start to reflect the strange weather patterns of 1816.

May, 1816

13 – Cold but pleasant.

14 – Cold weather.

15 – Very cold.

16 – The weather remains very cold.

17 – Very cold, have to keep a large fire in the parlor to keep comfortable.

18 – Very hard frost last night, very cold this morning.

19 – Very cold for the season.

 

By July, things only get worse for the family. Newcomb seems especially concerned with the constant need to keep a fire going in the hearth. Throughout June and July, she complains of crops freezing on the vine and farm animals dying from the cold. In late July, she mentions seeing sunspots after attending church with her family.

July 6 – “Weather continues very cold – all nature appears encircled in gloom – Grass very thin.  Corn so backward it does not appear probably there will be food sufficient for man or Beast.  Our only hope arises from the promise of seed time and Harvest.  We daily keep fire in the parlor.”

 

Elsewhere on the East Coast, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture held an October 1816 meeting following the destructively cold summer. The Society’s curators resolved to compile and distribute a newsletter that would aid farmers in selecting and cultivating crops that could best survive the cold, as well as provide instructions in the event of future “uncommon occurrences.”

In performing this useful service, [the Curators] will designate the Trees, Grasses, and other Plants, and especially those cultivated, on which the Season has had either beneficial or injurious influence, and the local situations in which it has operated more or less perniciously, with the view to ascertain, (among other beneficial results,) the hardy or tender Grains, Grasses, or Plants, more proper for situations exposed to droughts, wet, or frost.

 

Relevant MHS materials:

Hannah Dawes Newcomb’s diary

At a Special Meeting of the ”Philadelphia Society for promoting agriculture” October 30th, 1816

John Quincy Adams’ diaries

Other sources

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/science/mount-tambora-volcano-eruption-1815.html?_r=0

The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History, by William K. Klingaman and Nicholas P. Klingaman

 

 

 

Six Degrees of Paul Revere

By Susan Martin, Collections Services

While processing the Fay-Mixter family photographs, I came across this small tintype.

 

 

A note on the back of the photograph, probably written by a relative, identifies the subject as “Joseph W. Revere / about 18 yrs old.” I wondered if he was one of the Reveres, so I did a little genealogical research.

The Fay-Mixter photograph collection contains 277 photographs depicting members of several interrelated families, including Fays, Mixters, Spooners, Galloupes, Torreys, and others. (The MHS also holds a collection of Fay-Mixter family papers.) After building multiple family trees and tracing the intersections, I finally hit on a Revere.

There have been several Joseph W. Reveres, but this particular one is Joseph Warren Revere (1848-1932) of Boston and Canton, Mass. He was connected to the Fays, etc. through his mother, Susan Tilden (Torrey) Revere, who was the first cousin of Elizabeth Elliot (Torrey) Spooner. Elizabeth’s daughter married Henry Howard Fay.

And yes, Joseph was a direct descendant—a great-grandson—of the legendary Paul Revere. The MHS holds a portrait of Paul Revere, painted ca. 1823 by Chester Harding after a Gilbert Stuart original.

 

What I find remarkable is not the connection itself (eleven of Paul Revere’s sixteen children survived to adulthood, so he’s bound to have descendants far and wide), but that the connection is so recent. Joseph was the grandson and namesake of Paul’s eleventh child, Joseph Warren Revere (1777-1868). Two centuries but only four generations separate Paul’s birth in 1735 and Joseph’s death in 1932. Paul was born 20 years before the French and Indian War, and his great-grandson died in the midst of the Great Depression.

Tintype photographs were first introduced in the 1850s, soon after daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, and reached the height of their popularity in the 1860s-70s. If Joseph Warren Revere was 18 years old when he sat for this portrait, it was taken around 1866. The tintype measures 9 cm x 6 cm, although the image above is cropped. If you look closely, you’ll see that some color has been added to his cheeks.

Joseph became a mining engineer and worked with the Dominion Coal Company in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. He married Anna Peterson in 1893, and the couple had four children, the last of whom died in 1988 at the age of 92.

 

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

It is a very short holiday week for us here at the Society. On Monday, 21 November, there is a public conversation with Jonathan Holloway of Yale and Adriane Lentz-Smith of Duke: “A Most Peculiar Institution: Slavery, Jim Crow, and the American University Today.” This talk looks at the the complicated legacies of American universities founded ante bellum and their relationship to slavery, and how they served as intellectual homes of defenders of slavery and advocates of the inferiority of non-white peoples while also promoting the development of important arguments about the blessings of democracy. This talk is open to the public, registration required at a fee of $20 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the program at 6:00PM. 

The Society is CLOSED on Thursday, 24 November, for Thanksgiving. The library remains closed on Friday and Saturday, though the exhibition galleries are open those two days, 10:00AM-3:00PM.

Margaret Russell’s Diary, November 1916

By Anna J. Clutterbuck Cook, Reader Services

Today, we return to the line-a-day diary of Margaret Russell. You can read previous installments here:

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October

As winter approaches, Margaret Russell’s activities shift from the north shore back to Boston, where she attends lectures and concerts on a regular basis as well as noting a regular round of visits to family and friends.

On November 8th she notes that she spent time packing in the morning and then left for New York City on the five o’clock train. Her destination was ultimately Hot Springs, North Carolina where she found “pleasant rooms” waiting for her, “lovely weather,” and “very pleasant people.” She stayed for almost two weeks enjoying the balmy weather and sunshine before returning to the “bitter cold” of Boston via New York. On the 29th she attended the theatre, seeing the romantic comedy The Great Lover which had had its run on Broadway from November 1915 to June 2016. “Very amusing” our diarist notes.

As we round out this year in the life of Margaret Russell, I have begun exploring my options for a 1917 diary to transcribe; stay tuned for a December blog post introducing our 2017 diarist and diary before we see what the year 1917 brings for our chosen Bostonian.

In the meantime, without further ado, here’s Margaret in her own words.

 * * *

November 1916*

1 Nov. Wednesday – All Saint’s Service. Mrs. Ward’s opening talk. First Holman meeting at Mrs. Allen’s. Ward reception for Perkins girl.

2 Nov. Thursday – Shopping. Went to Swampscott. Dined at Mrs. Bell’s.

3 Nov. Friday – Went to Milton & called at Sarah Hughes & Hester Cunningham. Dined at S. Bradley with Mr & Mrs Locke.

4 Nov. Saturday – Errands. To see Aunt Emma, Stephen Wild’s [sic] & Mrs. Walcott. Country still very beautiful.

5 Nov. Sunday – Church – Lunched at H.G.C’s.

6 Nov. Monday – Mary. Lunched with Marian.

7 Nov. Tuesday.

8 Nov. Wednesday – Packing. Went H. Cushing’s memorial exhibition. Left for N.Y. on five o’ck. Went to Colony Club.

9 Nov. Shopping – Lunched at Mary Amory’s. Met Mrs. [illegible] on five oc to Hot Springs.

10 Nov. Arrived 9.30 (hour late) Pleasant rooms. Have cold so kept quiet. Mrs. S. busy with baths – Movies in the evening.

11 Nov. Saturday – Lovely weather keep out as much as possible. Very pleasant people.

12 Nov. Rainy – Went to church. Most of P.M. in my room.

13 Nov. Monday – Walked up Delafield Path. Warm & lovely. Took beautiful drive round mountain.

14 Nov. Tuesday- Cloudy & cold. Wrote letters & rested. Walked with Mr. Chapin to dairy.

15 Nov. Wednesday – We walked to Boone Cabin & lunched […] sun on ground. Feeling better.

16 Nov. Thursday. Still very cold. Took long walk. We drove to Flag Rock in P.M. but it was too hazy to see far.

17 Nov. Friday – Warmer. Took walk in the morning. Drove to Dunn’s Gap.

18 Nov. Saturday. Drove to Healing Springs & walked through Cascades, home to lunch. Sat out in the sun.

19 Nov. Sunday – Church & then walked to Tall Gate. Took the jungle drive. Concert in the evening.

20 Nov. Monday – Walked up Sunset Hill. Sat in piazza in the sun with pleasant people.

21 Nov. Tuesday – Drove to [illegible] for lunch, took Miss Newell.

22 Nov. Wednesday – Took a long walk in morn. After lunch sat in sun. Movies in the evening. Like early autumn.

23 Nov. Packing. Heavy showers so did not go out. Tea at five with Mrs. Berwind & all our friends. Left at 6.30 for N. Y.

24 Nov. Friday – Arrived in N. Y. 9.30. Mrs. Sibley drove me to Colony Club but had no room. Took walk & left on 1 oc for home.

25 Nov. Saturday – Shopping & doing errands. Drove to Swampscott, bitter cold. Lovely concert in the evening.

26 Nov. Sunday – Church. Lunched at HGC. Short walk still cold. Family to dine.

27 Nov. Monday – Mary, lunch with Marian. Went out to see Aunt Emma & leave flowers for Mrs. J. M. Cadman.

28 Nov. Tuesday – Errands on foot & meeting at E&E. Took long drive & dined at C’s. Meeting of new opera co.

29 Nov. Wednesday – Went to see the Great Lover with the Parkmans. Very amusing.

30 Nov. Thursday. Church then to dine at Sallie A’s. Raining so drove back with Marian. Dined at HGC’s. Four Neilsons came.

 

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

 

*Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original.

 

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

The events schedule is full this week. Without further ado, here’s a look at what’s coming up.

– Monday, 14 November, 6:00PM : Kicking off the week is an author talk featuring Wendy Warren of Princeton University. She will be speaking about her recent book, New England Bound : Slavery and Colonization in Early America, a work that reclaims the lives of long-forgotten enslaved Africans and Native Americans in the seventeenth century. This talk is open to the public with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows), RSVP required. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the program at 6:00PM.

– Tuesday, 15 November, 5:15PM : This week’s Environmental History seminar takes the form of a panel discussion. “Native Peoples, Livestock, and the Environment” features Katrina Lacher of Unversity of Central Oklahoma and Strother Roberts of Bowdoin College, with Nancy Shoemaker of UConn providing comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

– Wednesday, 16 November, 6:00PM : In the second author talk of the week, Riachard Alan Ryerson discusses his book John Adams’s Republic: The One, the Few, and the ManyThis talk is open to the public with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows), RSVP required. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the program at 6:00PM.

Please note that the library is closed on Thursday, 17 November.

– Thursday, 17 November, 6:00PM : Join us for Revolutionary Portraits from the Collections of the MHS, a fun and festive evening that spotlights portraits of Revolutionary-era figures from the Society’s collection. Enjoy a reception, view terrific works of art, and learn about the artists and the people they portrayed. Erica Hirshler, MFA, Boston, will present Copley’s John Hancock and David Dearinger, Boston Athenæum, will present Lafayette: Before & After

Reservations are required; please call the Development Office at 617-646-0543 to register for this event.

– Friday, 18 November, 2:00PM : Stop by on Friday for an afternoon gallery talk with past MHS Director, WIlliam Fowler, Jr., of Northeastern University. In this talk, Mr. Fowler will discuss George Washington’s Newburgh Address as a turning point in American History, ensuring civilian control of the government. This even is free and open to the public. 

– Saturday, 19 November, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Tour is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Turning Points in American History.

Clearing the Seas with Fire and Steam

By Rhonda Barlow, Adams Papers

In the spring of 1787, two men wrote to America’s representative in London recommending naval inventions that they thought would help the United States fight the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. One of those writers was Andrew Quin, a gunner aboard the Dutch warship, Batavier; the other was Patrick Miller, a Scottish banker and inventor who experimented with cannons, water wheels, and steam power. The American representative just happened to be John Adams, then serving as American minister to Britain.

In his 30 May letter, Andrew Quin recommended that American warships use “burning shot” as effective ammunition against the Barbary pirates, and offered his assistance:

“Sir I am of oppinion if any force was sent out to protect the trade I could be of great service to them. by making a burning shot That whould disstroy them or put them to the flight.”

“Burning shot,” more commonly known as “red-hot shot,” or simply “hot shot,” refers to cannonballs that were heated in a furnace before being loaded into the cannons and fired. These cannonballs not only damaged a ship, but threatened to set it on fire.

Quin also told Adams about his two sons, his financial troubles, and the challenge of emigrating to America. He wrote with a legible hand, and although the words do not rhyme and the sentences flow across the page, he imitated the poetic convention of capitalizing the first letter in each line.

 

Adams was familiar with the Batavier and with her former captain, Wolter Bentick, who died from the wounds he sustained during the 1781 Battle of the Dogger Bank between the Dutch and British navies. But he had probably never heard of Quin, and this letter appears to be the only letter Quin wrote to John Adams. We have no reply from Adams, and found no evidence that Adams took any action beyond retaining the letter.

In contrast, there are two letters to John Adams from Patrick Miller, who was experimenting with steam propulsion for navigation. With his 14 April 1787 letter, Miller included an essay on naval architecture: Elevation, Section, Plan, and Views of a Triple Vessel (Edinburgh, 1787); and on 30 April, Adams wrote a short note to him:

“I have received the elegant volume you did me the honor to address to me, and shall take the first favorable opportunity to transmit it to Congress at New York, in conformity to your desire.”

Adams took action, forwarding the essay to Congress. On 19 Nov. 1787 Miller wrote to Adams again, and included a report describing his experiment in the Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh, Scotland, on 2 June, when a ship reached speeds of over four miles per hour as five men operated a winch connected to his water wheel. In further experiments, Miller employed a steam engine and achieved speeds of 8 miles per hour.

Miller had already made improvements to a light and effective cannon, the carronade, and wrote that ships outfitted with paddle wheels, and thus capable of propulsion regardless of the lack of wind, were America’s answer to the Barbary pirates:

“Five or six such Ships would clear the Seas of all the African Cruizers.— In Calms or light Winds, very frequent in the Mediterranean Sea during the Summer Months, they would be superiour to any number of Ships of the present Construction of whatever force—”

Adams forwarded Miller’s report to Congress too. Based on Adams’ interactions, Miller’s letters will appear in the Papers of John Adams, volume 19 (Belknap Press, HUP, 2018), and Andrew Quin’s will not. But omitting the letter does not mean that we discard it. Andrew Quin’s original letter remains in the Adams Family Papers archive. You can view the manuscript on the Adams Papers microfilm, reel 370. A rough transcription is freely available on Founders Online.

A Brief Look at 19th-Century Children’s Stories at the MHS

By Brendan Kieran, Reader Services

I initially came across The Carrier Pigeon and Other Tales: Illustrating the Rewards of Virtue and the Punishment of Vice, selected by Mrs. Pamela Chandler Colman (Worcester, 1849), in an effort to find materials relating to pigeons at the MHS. However, I ended up utilizing this collection of children’s stories as a jumping point into a look at children’s literature and children in the 19th-century United States. Through my reading, I began to gain some insight into the roles of children and themes represented in literature during this period.

The titular story of this book is set in the German countryside, seemingly in the medieval or early-modern period. A girl named Agnes comes into contact with a dove, which she decides to take in. Through the advisement of her mother, Othilia, Agnes turns the actions of the dove into lessons for her behavior, becoming a more obedient, hygienic, and organized girl in the process.

One day, a woman named Rosalind and her daughter, Emma, show up at the castle of Sir Theobald (Agnes’s father) looking for help; using her care for the dove as an example, Agnes encourages Theobald to take in the visitors. Later, once Rosalind and Emma have returned to their castle, two men show up at their house; unbeknownst to them, but later discovered by a servant named Leonardo, the men are robbers looking to steal from and murder Theobald and his family. Emma comes up with the idea of flying the dove with a note attached to it to warn Theobald and the family of the motivations of the robbers. Ultimately, it is successful, and the plan is thwarted.

The second story, “Ingratitude,” is about a young girl named Helen and Mrs. Everhold, a woman who takes care of Helen. When Helen’s mother dies, Mrs. Everhold is given responsibility for raising Helen. Everhold tries to teach her skills and a strong work ethic, but Helen decides to act out, eventually turning to working for a baroness and not being there for Everhold when she becomes ill and unable to work. Helen eventually marries a violent and abusive man, and when he dies in an accident, she goes to Mrs. Everhold for help. Helen apologizes for her past actions; going forward, she is good to Mrs. Everhold, who ends up living a long life.

The final story is “The Good Son,” attributed to Rev. E. Mangin. After the death of her husband, a woman and son go to live with another family. The son, after displaying artistic ability, begins to train with a nearby mason. Ultimately, he receives awards for his work, providing new financial stability for himself and his mother. After becoming successful and notable as a sculptor, he continues to be good to his mother, the man who discovered him, and the family with whom he had lived.

All three of these stories have similarities that live up to the subtitle of the book. In “The Carrier Pigeon,” the dove serves as a symbol of virtue, imbued with overt religious connotations; to be like the dove is to be pure and respectful of God. The dove even serves as the means by which Rosalind and Emma are able to save lives. In “Ingratitude,” while Helen is disrespectful for much of the book, she ultimately turns to “proper” behavior toward a woman who took care of her, with suggested positive results for Everhold’s longevity. In “The Good Son,” the boy demonstrates hard work, creativity, and respect for the people who fostered his success. All of the children serve as lessons, indeed, on “the rewards of virtue and the punishment of vice.”

However, the stories do have some notable differences that raise questions regarding the audience of the book and the roles of class, gender, and race in 19th-century children’s literature. For example, the families in “The Carrier Pigeon” seem to be quite wealthy and of the nobility; however, the subjects of the other stories struggle with financial insecurity. There also seems to be an implication that girls are especially in need of lessons regarding proper morality. While the girls in “The Carrier Pigeon” learn lessons through the dove, and Helen in “Ingratitude” only learns good behavior after misfortune hits her, the boy in “The Good Son” seems to be good and respectful all along. It is men (the robbers) who exhibit most of the immorality in “The Carrier Pigeon,” and Helen’s abusive husband in “Ingratitude” is not a model of good behavior, but the process of learning lessons and correcting behavior seems to be more apparent in the women and girls in this book than in the men and boys. Racialized language seems to be a factor in “The Carrier Pigeon,” with the whiteness of both Agnes’s dresses and the dove deployed to represent good morality and cleanliness. This analysis is brief and tentative, but it hopefully notes the potential significance of this resource to scholars of race, class, and gender in 19th-century United States children’s literature. 

I consulted our copy of Karen Sánchez-Eppler’s Dependent States: The Child’s Part in Nineteenth-Century American Culture (University of Chicago Press, 2005) in the hopes of learning a bit more about children’s literature in the 19th-century. Sánchez-Eppler offers some conclusions about children and literature of the period. The author notes the role “of teaching morals and forming character” in primers of the period, and notes the “variation on the basis of class, region, gender, and race” in conceptions of childhood in the 19th century, including the connection between leisure and a middle-class living. Sánchez-Eppler also notes the desirability of “submissiveness” for girls in 19th-century temperance literature of the period; the literature suggested – often using references to incest – that these qualities in girls would help their fathers overcome alcoholism and become better people. This literature has class connotations, as well, with children representing middle-class norms in some temperance works. Later, the author draws connections between race and the proper, domesticated behavior of children in 19th-century Sunday School works; these themes served as components of imperialist and colonialist projects. There is much more to Dependent States than what I’ve included here, and Sánchez-Eppler’s scope of analysis is broader than strictly children’s literature, but these ideas offer some insight into the complex roles constructed for children in literature of the period.

The MHS library is open for anyone who would like to view any of our available print materials. In addition, an 1851 copy of this book is available electronically through Internet Archive.

 

This Week @ MHS

By Dan Hinchen

It is a little bit quieter at the Society this week but we still have three public programs on offer. Here is what is happening:

– Monday, 7 November, 12:00PM : “The Church Militant: The American Loyalist Clergy and the Making of the British Counterrevolution, 1701-92” is a Brown Bag talk presented by Peter Walker of Columbia University. This project is a study of the loyalist Church of England clergy in the American Revolution, focusing on the New England and Mid-Atlantic colonies. Walker attempts to shine light on the relationship between church and empire, the role of religious pluralism and toleration in the American Revolution, and the dynamics of loyalist politics. This program is open to the public free of charge. Pack up a lunch and come on in!

– Thursday, 10 November, 5:30PM : Join us for a Conversation with Fredrik Logevall, part of our Biography Seminar series. Caroly Bundy will moderate the discussion in which Logevall, Harvard University, talks about his current book project, a biography of John F. Kennedy. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

– Saturday, 12 November, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Tour is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Turning Points in American History.

N.B.: The MHS is CLOSED on Friday, 11 November, in observance of Veteran’s Day.

Bringing Willa Home: A Child Displaced by Civil War

By Susan Martin, Collection Services

I’ve written a few times here at the Beehive about manuscripts from the Fay-Mixter family papers, and I’d like to dive into that collection again this week. I was intrigued by four letters from December 1861, so I dug a little deeper and uncovered the story of a family separated by war and a Southern child taken in by Northern friends.

The four letters were written by Edwin Parsons to Joseph Story Fay. Fay, originally from Cambridge, Mass., moved to Savannah, Ga. in 1838 and became a prosperous cotton merchant. He was a slave-owner, but opposed secession, and before the Civil War broke out he returned to his home state of Massachusetts. When these letters were written he lived in Boston with his wife, their three children, and a child unrelated to them, the young daughter of a Mr. Sims.

 

This passage in Parsons’ first letter to Fay, dated 10 December 1861, was the first thing that caught my eye: “I will advise you in time so that you can send Mr Sims little daughter on.” Parsons continued:

It seems to me however to be a heartless piece of business on Sims part to send for her in such times. With her mother dead & father in Fort Pulaski where he may soon reap the folly of his disloyalty, it will be a sad day for the little girl to exchange the kind care of Mrs Fay, for such a home as awaits her in Georgia.

Fort Pulaski was the vital clue. Among the soldiers stationed at this Savannah garrison in December 1861 was one Capt. (later Col.) Frederick William Sims of the 1st Georgia Infantry. Other details of his biography lined up: his wife Catherine (Sullivan) Sims had died in 1858, followed by one of their two children in 1859, leaving Sims and his nine-year-old daughter Willa. Willa must have been taken in by the Fays in Boston while her father fought for the Confederacy—the disloyalty Parsons alluded to.

Sims wanted his daughter brought back to the South, presumably to live with extended family while he finished out his military service. But Parsons, who apparently acted as a kind of agent for Sims, thought it was a terrible idea. Savannah was like a ghost town after the Battle of Port Royal, and many felt the war would continue for some time. And the possibility of “some hard fighting” in Kentucky after its admission to the Confederacy would make travel difficult, if not impossible. However, on 26 December 1861, when Parsons wrote his fourth and last letter on the subject, the matter was still unresolved.

The last piece of the puzzle was a letter I’d originally passed over, not recognizing the signature. On 14 November 1861, Frederick W. Sims scrawled this short note to Joseph Story Fay on fragile onion-skin paper:

 

The bearer of this note Mr Briggs will bring Willa home with him. Will you add one more to the many favors already vouchsafed me by fitting her out for the journey. Mr B. has funds[?] to bring her out.

As this may be the last communication which will pass for some time between us I beg you to accept my heartfelt thanks for the Kindness of yourself and Mrs Fay and believe me when I wish you a long life and prosperity.

Fort Pulaski was captured by Union forces in April 1862, and Sims became a POW, later paroled. After the war, he worked as a merchant and insurance executive in Savannah and served as one of the city’s alderman from 1867-1869. He had at least six more children with his second wife, Sarah (Munroe) Sims, but most of them died young. According to newspapers, in 1875, suffering under severe financial difficulties, Sims committed suicide with a morphine overdose. The coroner’s report lists the belongings he left behind: $20.90 in coin, a gold watch and chain, clothing, and a revolver.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out what happened to Willa after 1861. No other papers in the Fay-Mixter collection refer to her. The obituary of Sarah (Munroe) Sims, who died in 1904, identifies only two surviving children, Emily and Elizabeth.