This Week @MHS

Looking for something to do this week? Stop by to see our current exhibition Fashioning the New England Family before it closes on 6 April. We also have a seminar, a panel discussion, and a tour planned.

On Tuesday, 26 March, at 5:15 PM: Carceral Culture with Melanie D. Newport, University of Connecticut—Hartford, and Morgan Jane Shahan, Johns Hopkins University, and comment by Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University. This panel examines carceral culture in the twentieth century. Morgan Jane Shahan’s paper, “‘Making Good’: On Parole in Early 20th Century Illinois,” traces the experience of ex-prisoners, and exposes the negotiations between employers, voluntary organizations, prisons, and parolees. Melanie Newport’s chapter, “‘I’m Afraid of Cook County Jail’: Making Space for Women in Chicago’s Jails,” addresses how women both inside and outside Cook County jail contested the plan to double the jail’s capacity in the 1970s. This is part of the Boston Seminar on Modern American Society and Culture series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 27 March, at 6:00 PM: Reuse, Recycling, & Refashioning: Past, Present, & Future in Fashion with Linzy Brekke-Aloise, Stonehill College; Jay Calderin, Boston Fashion Week; Michelle Finamore, Museum of Fine Arts; and Pete Lankford, Timberland; and moderator Kimberly Alexander. Throughout history, garments have been handed down to be worn in different contexts or to be used as material to create something new. Our panel will talk about the history of reuse and refashioning as well as how designers today are using secondhand clothing or previously disposed of material in new ways. This panel will be the first in an annual lecture series in honor of President Emeritus Dennis Fiori in recognition of his leadership. The lecture series is made possible by gifts from friends of the Society. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Saturday, 30 March, 10:00 AMThe History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. 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.

Fashioning the New England Family is open Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM through 6 April. The exhibition explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces. Many of the items that will be featured have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The exhibition is organized as part of Mass Fashion, a consortium of cultural institutions set up to explore and celebrate the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts.

Take a look at our calendar page for information about upcoming programs.

An Archival Mys-Tree

by Hannah Elder, Library Assistant

Happy spring, everyone! In honor of this new season, I’d like to share a bit of an arboreal mystery that I recently uncovered. While thumbing through Volume VII of the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, I discovered a series of letters exchanged between the MHS and Mr. D. McConaughy, in Pennsylvania, following the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The letters, transcribed in full in the Proceedings, were related to the transportation of the trunk of a white oak tree, riddled with bullets, from the forest of a hill on the battle site. I was immediately intrigued.

The first letter, addressed to Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew, reads:

Gettysburg, Penn., August 7, 1863

Hon. John A. Andrew, Governor of Massachusetts.

Governor – I have selected from the forest upon Wolf Hill, at our breastworks, a trunk of a white-oak tree, fearfully riddled with bullets, so as to exhibit the effects of the withering musketry fire in the action of the 2d and 3d of July ult., when the enemy were so terribly repulsed on our right. In that wonderful strife, the Second Massachusetts Regiment bore a conspicuous and honorable part, as the thick graves of its noble dead eloquently attest. This scarred memento I desire to present to the Massachusetts Historical society; and have it now at the depot of our railroad, ready for shipment. Will you make the necessary arrangements for its transportation to Boston, and advise me of your readiness to receive it? For the life of your brave sons, poured out freely upon our soil, Pennsylvania sends this outgrowth of the life of her soil, eloquent of the dauntless strife and the glorious triumph here achieved.

With sentiments of high regard and esteem, yours truly,

D. McConaughy

Later that month, the Society replied:

Historical Rooms, Boston, Aug. 27, 1863

Dear Sir – Your eloquent and acceptable letter addressed to Governor Andrew has by him been forwarded to the Massachusetts Historical Society; in whose behalf I have the honor to communicate the wish, that you would add to the sense of obligation already conferred upon them, by transmitting by express, if no other means offers, the memorial of Gettysburg and its historic days which you have been kind enough to offer for their acceptance.

If directed to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Tremont Street, Boston I have no doubt it will duly reach its destination.

As I cannot speak authoritatively in the name of the Society, there have been no opportunity for them to act upon the matter, I shall not attempt to express, in such terms as I know they would desire, cordial response with which they would reciprocate the generous and patriotic sentiments with which you proffer this memorial of the great battle in this new war of independence. I hope a more formal recognition of these will be forthcoming when this shall have been added to the valued historic memorial which it is the purpose of this Society to collect and preserve.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

Emory Washburn,

Chairman of Committee, &c.

The letters then tell the story of the tree’s journey from Pennsylvania to Boston over the course of September 1863. From Gettysburg, the tree traveled in an open-topped railcar to Philadelphia, where it was temporarily under the care of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which received a similar tree from Mr. McConaughy. While it was stopped in Philadelphia, it was under the guard of a police officer and a travel case was created for it. Next, the tree was placed on a steamship and it sailed to Boston, where it was received with excitement by the Society. After receiving the tree, the Society unanimously resolved to thank D. McConaughy for his donation of the tree, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania for caring for the tree, and the Northern Central Railway and the Pennsylvania Railway, along with the steamship Saxon, for transporting it free of charge.

After reading this, I had so many questions – was the tree still in the collection? What exactly did “trunk of a tree” mean? How had we stored and preserved it? So I took a look through our catalog, ABIGAIL, and asked a few members of the MHS staff, but was unable to locate the tree. It seems that it left the collection at some point, but no one is sure when. It was time for some digging through the institutional archives! I looked through the library records; the “Library Letters,” correspondence detailing gifts to the library; the Cabinet Book, which recorded the donations of artifacts to the collection; and curatorial records, but had no luck.

Page of Cabinet Book
Page of the Cabinet Book where I hoped to find record of the tree

Next, I tried the various catalogs of the collection created in the mid- to late-nineteenth century. And I found it! In the 1885 Catalogue of the paintings, engravings, busts, & miscellaneous articles belonging to the cabinet of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the tree is listed as Entry 119. The catalog record quotes directly from the initial letter from Mr. McConaughy and notes its presence in the Proceedings. I was excited to find the tree in the 1893 version of the catalog as well, but that catalog was just an annotated version of the 1885 catalog. The entry for the tree was unchanged.

1885 Catalog of the Cabinet
The tree in the 1885 catalog of the Cabinet

That’s where the tree’s documented journey ends, at least for now. I’ll keep searching, and I’ll be sure to post an update if I find evidence of the tree somewhere else in the collection.

In the meantime, in ABIGAIL I found records of other tree-related artifacts you may want to check out:

Fragments taken from the roots of the Liberty Tree

Nail and tree bark

Triangular piece cut from Shakespeare’s mulberry tree

Wood from the mulberry tree in the manor garden, Scrooby, England

Painted bark doll

Piece of wood from a tree reportedly used to hang witches

Oak leaves

If you want to view these artifacts or any of our other collections, please consider visiting the library!

This Week @MHS

Here is a look at what is going on this week:

On Wednesday, 20 March,  6:00 PM: Ike’s Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler with Peter Shinkle. This Cold War narrative brings a new dimension to our understanding of the inner-workings of the Eisenhower White House. It also shines a bright light on the indispensable contributions and sacrifices made by patriotic gay Americans in an era when Executive Order 10450 banned anyone suspected of “sexual perversion”, i.e. homosexuality, from any government job, and gays in the government were persecuted by the likes of Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn in the Senate, and J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson at the FBI. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Thursday, 21 March, 5:30 PM: Reckless Youth: Three Writers on their Youthful (Biographical) Passions with John Kaag, University of Massachusetts Lowell; Abigail Santamaria; Holly Van Leuven, and moderator Megan Marshall, Emerson College. Who are the new biographers shaping the future of the genre? What drove them to take up life writing at a young age? And what does a “youthful passion” for a biographical subject mean to a writer in retrospect? We’ve borrowed the title of Nigel Hamilton’s vivid narrative of JFK’s early years for this panel which features Holly Van Leuven, Ray Bolger: More than a Scarecrow; Abigail Santamaria, Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis; and John Kaag, Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are, three writers who started in on their respective books in college or soon after—with the exception of Kaag, who looks back on his student infatuation from the perspective of a thirty-something father. Megan Marshall, whose Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast tells the life of her poetry professor, moderates. This is part of the New England Biography Seminar series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Saturday, 23 March, 10:00 AMThe History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. 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.

Fashioning the New England Family is open Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The exhibition explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces. Many of the items that will be featured have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The exhibition is organized as part of Mass Fashion, a consortium of cultural institutions set up to explore and celebrate the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts.

Take a look at our calendar page for information about upcoming programs.

George Hyland’s Diary, March 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

If this is your first time encountering our George Hyland diary series, catch up by reading the January 1919 and February 1919 installments first!

Today, we follow George through a March that brought signs of spring. George moves from cutting firewood to trimming fruit trees (carefully noting how many hours he spends on each job and how much he is owed, striking out the amount when he is paid). The temperatures he faithfully records grow warmer, on average — though snow and rain fall regularly — and he notes that robins and bluebirds have returned. So, too, the frogs begin peeping. Illness has taken its toll on George’s social network — winter colds, bronchitis, and rheumatism bring lingering pain and fatigue. In the midst of seasonal chores and local networks of sociality, George also takes time to occasionally take note of world political events. On March 5th he notes that President Wilson has returned to Europe for the Peace Conference in Paris. A few days later, between recording his purchase of milk and a note about spring peepers he writes, “Women go to the polls and vote now. Mrs. Mable [sic] Newcomb voted at same time I did — in next booth.” Thus winter gives way to spring.

Without further ado, join George on his daily rounds during March 1919.

* * *

PAGE

PAGE 324 (cont’d)

March 1. rain until about 2 P.M. W.S. to S.W. steady rain. Windy. Clear late in aft. tem. to-day about 42-55. Early in eve. went to N. Scituate. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store — also some choc. candy for Elizabeth. Walked down and nearly back — rode 1/4 mile with Robert J. Litchfield in his automobile. Met Marion Hammond and Norma Morris — near N. Scituate. Eve. clear; W.N.W., colder.

2d. Fine weather, clear; tem. About 27-40. Wind, variable N.W., S.E. Eve. clear. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve. Called at Uncle Samuel’s. Elizabeth gave me 3 nice apples.

3d. Par. clou. In forenoon, aft. And eve. Clear. Tem. 30-46; W.N.E. Late in forenoon — 11:05 A.M. started for Hingham. Walked to Hin. Cen. via Mt. Blue St. arr. At Henrietta’s at 1 P.M. Streets very wet and muddy. Had dinner at Henrietta’s. Spent aft. There. Ret. walked to H. Sta. tr. to N. Scituate, then walked home. Bought some bread in H. — H […] Supply Co. — also bought some choc. candy for Elizabeth — 3cts. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Stopped there on my way from N.S. Henrietta is learning to play on the violin. Walked 8 1/2 miles.

4th. Went to Henrietta’s. Walked through Hingham woods (Mt. Blue St.) roads very muddy. Had dinner there and Spent aft. there. ret. — walked to Hingham Sta. tr. to N.S. then walked nearly home — rode 1/2 mile with Charles Fish in auto. Walked 8 miles. Bought some cho. candy for Elizabeth – 3cts. Gave it to [her] when I stopped there — on way home — she and Ellen and Uncle Samuel have a cold. Fine weather. W.S.S.W. tem. 32-55. Clear. Eve. clear.

5th. Clear to par. Clou. W.S.W. and S. tem. about 48-60. In aft. trimmed apple trees and other fruit trees 3 hours Hyman Coyne — He lives on the place that my Great-Grandfather owned and occupied — Cornelius Bates — was a soldier in the Continental (Regular) Army in the Rev. War. –1775-1782. Mar. a French girl — in Vermont or Can. So I am partly of Fr. origin. […]

PAGE 325

 Nationality.      The place is only 1/2 mile N. of here. Mr. Coyne is a Russian. Pres. Wilson sailed for France about 8:18 this A.M. on the Stm. “George Washington,” from N.Y. Hoboken Pier, N.J. returned to Fr. to take (continue) part in the Peace Conference in Paris. He has been in U.S. only 8 or 9 days — he arr. In Boston, Mon. A.M., Feb. 24, made a speech in Mechanic’s Hall in aft. and in eve. Left Boston for Washington, D.C. He came back from Fr. to attend to important business, then started back to-day. I heard the guns of the battleship “North Carolina” firing Pres. salute of 21 guns, when the Pres. arr. in Boston […] Pres. Wilson arr. in France (2d time) Mar.

5th continued. Clou. after 3 P.M. began to rain about 4:50 P.M. went to H. Brown’s store after I fin. work bought a daily paper. Also bought a large orange for Elizabeth – 7cts. Then went to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk — also got some for Ellen. Elizabeth has a bad cold — prob. Has bronchitis. Light rain all eve. Very windy to-day. 11:50 P.M. wind light.

6th. Trimmed a large apple tree for Hyman Coyne — 2 1/2 hours — 63. Late in aft. Trimmed a large apple tree for Aaron Bates — 1 1/2 hours — 40. Clear; W.N.W., N.E., S.E.; tem. 28-40. Early in eve. bought some bread at H. Litchfield’s then went to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Eve. clear.

7th. Split and housed 1 cord of heavy hardwood (maple, ash, w. birch, yellow birch, black birch, w. oak, black oak, Elm (2 kinds), and some pieces of pine) for E. Jane Litchfield — 6 3/4 hours — 175. Had dinner there. Cold; damp wind, N.E. to S.E.; tem. about 33-37. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve — also got some for Ellen. Little Elizabeth gave me 2 apples. She is a little better — has a bron. cough. She is only 4 yrs old.

8th. A.M. cold, par. clou. W.N.E. Sold 25 lbs of papers and mag. 10 to Hyman Coyne. In aft. went to Cohasset. Walked with Geo. and Mrs. Ellery out; walked 9 miles. Bought some groceries at the […] store — bought 2 cakes of maple sugar for Elizabeth – 5 cts. Bought (in eve.) some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s and some bread at H. Litchfield’s. Par. clou. W.S.E. cold. tem. to-day 32-38. Eve. par. clou. Cold. W.S.E. 11:55 P.M. clear. calm. pruning […] shears at McGrand’s Hardware Store (C)  paid 2.00 — for pruning fruit trees. Has long wood handles. Rain and very windy late in night. W.S.

9th (Sun.) rain all day, W.S. to S.W. tem. About 40-60. Eve. cloudy.

10th. Went to Town Meeting in the town hall, Scituate Cen. rode down and back with Aaron Bates in auto. Hired by Archie Mitchell […] for road surveyer [sic]. Clear. cold. wind blowing a heavy gale — 42m. W.N.W. tem. 34-48. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s early in eve. Eve. clear. wind light. Women go to the polls and vote now. Mrs. Mable [sic] Newcomb voted at same time I did — in next booth. I heard a frog peeping last eve.

11th.Clou. A.M. light rain 10 A.M. to 1:30 P.M. W.S.W. cold, chilly wind. Sawed split wood in the cellar in forenoon. In aft. trimmed young apple (17) trees 1 1/4 hours for Anthony E. Litchfield also 1 nut tree — in his field in Norwell — 30. Aft par. clou. to clou. 5 P.M. cloudy. W.N.E. Went to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk early in eve. Also bought some bread at H. Litchfield’s. 8 P.M. clear. Colder. Robins are around here now. Several in the orchard where I worked in aft.

12th. Clear. windy. Chilly. W.W.S.W. tem. 32-48. In aft. trimmed apple trees 3 hours for William F. Carter, N. Scituate. Down with […] Pratt in Mrs. Seavern’s grocery wagon, walked back. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Eve. clear.

13th. Forenoon fair to par. clou. Aft. par. clou. to clou. W. N.N. W. In aft. Trimmed fruit trees 2 3/4 hours for W.H. Carter. Walked down and back. Cold in aft. Windy. tem. To-day 50-32. Bought some milk —

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 Mar. 13

— at Mrs. Merritt’s early in eve. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store — also some choc. candy for Elizabeth – 3cts. Called at Charlie’s late in aft. He has had the rheumatism for 2 weeks — better now. Eve. cold. W.N.E. tem 25. 11:40 P.M. W.W. par. clou. Cold night.

14th. Cold weather — tem. 14-30. Wind N.W., N.E., S.E. did some work at home. Eve. cold — 26.

15th. Clear. Cold. W.N.E., S.E., tem. 16-34. In aft. dug around trees 2 hours for A.E. Litchfield in Norwell — 50. Early in eve. Went to H. Brown’s store also H. F. L’s to buy some bread then to Mrs. Merritt’s to buy some milk. Eve. par. clou. Cold — tem. 27; W.S.E.

16th. Cold, stormy. W.S.E. Light rain and snow all day and eve. tem. 36-34.

17th. Light rain, W.S.E. Very wet in streets — snow, water, mud. Tem. 34-36. Eve. clou. Very foggy.

18th. Light rain all day and eve. W.S. tem. About 54. Called at Uncle Samuels’ in early eve. Did a few chores — Uncle S. has a bad cold — has had it 3 or 4 weeks.

19th. Rain all day and eve, W.N.E., tem. About 38. Called at Uncle Samuel’s late in aft. Elizabeth gave me a piece of candy (Ellen made it) and an apple. 11 P.M. Cloudy. W.E.

20th. Cloudy. W.N.E. tem. About 42. Late in aft. Went to N. Scituate walked down and back. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store. Also some choc. candy for Elizabeth – 2 cts. Eve. clou. windy. — N.E. 11 P.M., par. Cloudy.

21st. Cloudy. W.N.E. tem. About 36-48. Called at Uncle Samuel’s late in forenoon — did some chores there. Hard dinner there. Called again early in eve. did a few chores. Elizabeth gave me an apple. Frogs are peeping. Spring birds are around here. Robins and Bluebirds. Misty rain for 1/2 hour to-day — in forenoon. Eve. cloudy.

22nd. Clou. W.N.E. cold. tem. About 34-38. Sarah came to Uncle Samuel’s last night and late in aft. (to-day) went back to Campello on 4:16 tr. (P.M.) from N. Scituate. I walked to N.S. and waited until Sarah and Elizabeth got aboard the tr., then went to Charlie’s — staid [sic] there about 2 hours, had supper there and walked home in eve. Daisy Graves still boards at Charlie’s. Charles has the rheumatism — in face, neck, and back of head. Has had it 3 or 4 weeks. A little better now. Bought some groceries at Mrs. Seavern’s store. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s. Eve. clou., very windy — N.E.

23rd. (Sun.) Rain all day (light rain) and eve. W.N.E. cold storm. tem. About 34-38. Called at Uncles Samuel’s late in aft. Did a few chores.

24th. Clear; W.N.E.; tem. About 36-42. Called at Uncle Samuel’s late in forenoon — did some chores there. Had dinner there (ate part of the food I intended to carry to N. Scituate for my dinner there — also some that Ellen had cooked). In aft. went to N. Scituate and trimmed fruit trees for 3 1/4 hours for Wm. Carter. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s in eve.

25th. Clear; W.N.W; tem. about 34-55. In aft. trimmed fruit trees  3 1/2 hours for Wm. Carter — 12 1/2 hours in all — 3.17.  Carried my dinner to-day. Walked down and back. Called at Uncle Samuel’s. Did some chores. Bought some milk at Mrs. Merritt’s.

26th. Fine weather, W.S.W. to S.; tem. 46-66. Clear. In aft. (late) trimmed a large apple tree for Mrs. Ethel Torrey (nee Speare), N. Scituate — 2 1/4 hours — 60. Stopped at Uncle Samuel’s and did some chores. Met Ella Vinal late in aft. — first time for 4 1/2 years. One of my pupils on the guitar — passed by when I was up in the big apple tree. Nearly dark then. Later met near the R.R. Sta.

27th. Called at Uncle Samuel’s late in forenoon. Did some chores there had dinner there. Late in aft.trimmed fruit trees (two tall, old apple trees, and 5 or 6 small apples and pear trees) 2 hours — 50. Par. clou.; W.S. to S.S.W. tem. about 46-54. Eve. clou.; W.S.E. rain late in night. W.S.E. to S. Very windy — 35m. […]

28th. Rain all forenoon. W.S. tem. 45. Snow (light) in aft. for 1/2 hour. W.S.W. cold. Called at Uncle Samuel’s late in forenoon. Had dinner there. Did some chores early in the eve. Went to Mrs. Merritt’s and bought some milk. Stopped at Uncle Samuel’s and did some chores. Eve. cold. Cloudy. W.W. Windy — tem. 26. 11 P.M. Snow storm. Light snow S. all night.

29th. Snowstorm all day and eve. W.N.W.; tem. 26-32. Went down

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to Uncle Samuel’s late in forenoon did some chores — had dinner there, also did some chores late in aft. Had supper there cold and very windy late in aft. Snowstorm. Snow drifting. 12 (mid!) still snowing.

30th. (Sun.) Snowstorm at times all day and eve. W.N.W. tem. about 28-38; did some chores at Uncle Samuel’s to-day in aft. Also early in eve. Had stopped there. Light S.S. all eve. All the clocks in U.S. set 1 hour ahead to-day same as last year.

31st. Cloudy. damp. W.N.W.; tem. About 30-47. Late in forenoon went to Uncle Samuel’s — did some chores. Had dinner there. Late in aft. went went [sic] down to Charlie’s. He is much better. Called at Mrs. Seavern’s store. Bought some tea and other things. Bought 2 oranges for Uncle Samuel. Did some chores and had supper there. Eve. cloudy.

* * *

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. The catalog record for the George Hyland’s diary may be found here. Hyland’s diary came to us as part of a collection of records related to Hingham, Massachusetts, the catalog record for this larger collection may be found here.

A Resolute & Brave Woman: The Education of Sarah White Shattuck

by Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

The Shattuck family of Boston, Mass. consisted of father Lemuel, mother Clarissa (née Baxter), and five daughters: Sarah, Rebecca, Clarissa, Miriam, and Frances. The MHS recently acquired some papers of eldest daughter Sarah White Shattuck, primarily letters to and from family members while she was a student at Bradford Academy in Haverhill, Mass. The collection gives us not only a detailed picture of a young woman’s education in 19th-century New England, but also an intimate look at some interesting family dynamics.

Bradford Academy
Bradford Academy as it looked when Sarah attended (from A Memorial of Bradford Academy, 1870)

Bradford Academy, founded in 1803, was one of the premier schools for girls when Sarah began her studies there in April 1841 at the tender age of 13. Sarah’s letters include a lot of terrific detail about the school and its curriculum. Sarah learned philosophy, history, geography, algebra, chemistry, geometry (she was a big fan of Euclid), physiology, astronomy, French, and grammar and spelling (“these two studies they are the most particular with,” she said). There were prayers and Bible readings every morning.

This was a formative time for Sarah, both academically and socially. She seems to have flourished under the tutelage of several female role models, including the school’s teachers and especially its principal, Abigail C. Hasseltine. Sarah also took piano and singing lessons with Mary Noyes, the daughter of Deacon Daniel Noyes.

Sarah’s correspondents were her parents, her sisters, her uncle Daniel Baxter, and her aunt Sarah Baxter. The bulk of the letters, however, came from her father. Lemuel had little formal education himself, but had worked as a teacher, merchant, bookseller, publisher, and historian. He served on the Boston City Council and in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was one of the founders of the MHS’s sister organization, the New England Historic Genealogical Society. (He was also a member of the MHS.) Unsurprisingly, Lemuel had high standards for his daughter’s education and high hopes for her success.

Lemuel advised Sarah on almost everything, particularly her courses and reading. Of botany, for example, he said, “there is no branch of knowledge—scientific knowledge I mean—better calculated to display the wonders of creation.” He also corrected her manners, at one point disapproving of certain “impudent expressions” and “unjust remarks” she’d made about other people. He critiqued her letters. He even had an opinion about the temperature of her room.

At times you feel sympathetic to Sarah for these well-meaning but incessant correctives from the paterfamilias. She couldn’t seem to catch a break. In one letter Lemuel would insist she work hard, and in the next warn her that working too hard may damage her health. However, Sarah was grateful for the opportunity to attend Bradford and never forgot the expense and trouble her parents were going to for her benefit.

When she complained of homesickness, Lemuel usually told her not to indulge it. But he wrote with great compassion on one particular occasion: Thanksgiving 1841. Sarah was staying at school for the holiday, and the few remaining students who occupied the mostly empty boarding house were girls she didn’t know well. She felt lonely and homesick to the point of tears. Lemuel wrote on Thanksgiving day to tell her how much the family missed her, too. Then he suggested she reach out to the other students, and his advice was kind and uncritical.

Cull all the sweets and beauties from all the flowers that dwell under your roof, and let the fragrance of your own character be manifest to all others. After all, dear Sarah, this incident in your life may have its uses to you. Think of it rightly – your dear father meant to do right – there you are – lonely to be sure for a few days, but a few days soon pass away. Think how important it is that our minds should be di[s]ciplined to some little trials – try and surmount all you now experience – Resolve that you will make the best of your situation – […] use all the power you may be able to command over your feelings to govern them – be a woman – behave like a resolute, a brave one.

Letter from Lemuel Shattuck to Sarah Shattuck, 25 Novmeber 1841
Excerpt of a letter from Lemuel Shattuck to Sarah White Shattuck, 25 November 1841

Sarah was only 14 years old, but this letter and others in the collection tell us a lot about their relationship. Lemuel may have scolded, but he was also very proud. He sometimes wrote to her about his own work and even asked her advice on the best school for her younger sister Rebecca. When Sarah worried about her exams, he encouraged her to be confident and to “overcome all diffidence […] there is no occasion for it in you.”

Unfortunately, the Shattuck family had its tragedies, as well, just like all of these old families. Two of the sisters died of consumption just a few months apart: the youngest sister Frances in 1850, at the age of 15, followed by 21-year-old Rebecca. Sarah wrote lengthy and moving tributes to both of them in her diary. (The collection also includes several letters by Rebecca.) Clarissa, the middle sister, died in 1858, 15 days after the birth of her third child. Lemuel died in 1859, and mother Clarissa in 1871.

Sarah married her first cousin, John Henry Shattuck, in 1849. The couple had at least one child, Lucy, before Sarah died on 4 February 1863 at the age of 35. Miriam lived until 1909, decades longer than the rest of her family.

I’ll let Lemuel have the last word. Here’s how he concluded one of his letters:

And now dear Sarah what shall I say further? If I say what I have so often said – love – love – love of all of us, sincere and ardent, is ever yours, it is but a repetition of the old story, but it is nevertheless as fresh and blooming as if it never had been told, and appears as a flame that never grows dim. O Sarah may you be returned to us in safety and in happiness and may you be prepared to enjoy or endure any event that may happen in all your future life.

Select references:

Barrows, Elizabeth A. A Memorial of Bradford Academy. Boston: Congregational S.S. and Publishing Society, 1870.

“Lemuel Shattuck.” Memorial Biographies of the New England Historic Genealogical Society: Towne Memorial Fund. Vol. III. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1883. pp. 290-321.

Lemuel Shattuck papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Shattuck, Lemuel. Memorials of the Descendants of William Shattuck, the Progenitor of the Families in America That Have Borne His Name. Boston: Printed by Dutton and Wentworth for the family, 1855.

The MHS holds other material related to Bradford Academy, including printed items, papers of teacher and principal Rebecca Gilman, and papers of student Martha Dalton Gregg, a contemporary of Sarah’s.

This Week @MHS

Here is a look at what is going on this week:

On Tuesday, 12 March, at 5:15 PM: Biological Exchange in the Pacific World in the Age of Industrial Sugarcane Plantations with Lawrence Kessler, Consortium for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, and comment by Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut. This paper traces how sugarcane planters directed circulations of plant and animal species in the Pacific World. This new biological exchange served the political and economic interests of the plantation owners and their allies. Planters, however, were unable to control the biological exchange processes they created. This paper thus argues that through the creation of new patterns of biological exchange, sugarcane plantations induced ecological changes throughout the Pacific World. This is part of the Boston Seminar on Environmental History series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Thursday, 14 March,  6:00 PM: The Great Molasses Flood Revisited: Immigrants in an Industrial Accident, with Stephen Puleo; Marilynn Johnson, Boston College; Jim Vrabel; and moderator Peter Drummey, MHS. Nearly 60 percent of Italian immigrants living in the North End in the early 20th century lacked legal citizenship, diminishing their political voice when the Purity Distilling Company erected a shoddily built molasses tank in their densely populated neighborhood. The tragedy that followed is a central event in Boston’s urban and immigrant history and still elicits questions as to the rights of non-citizen residents and the responsibilities of city governments to protect vulnerable communities. The final panel in our Molasses Flood Series will explore the social and political dimensions of immigration in Boston’s past, present and future. This program is a collaboration between the MHS and Old South Meeting House. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. 

On Saturday, 16 March, 10:00 AMThe History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. 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.

On Saturday, 16 March, 10:00 AMPrimary Sources for Fashion & Costume History Research with Kimberly Alexander, University of New Hampshire, and Sara Georgini, MHS. Antique textiles, images of historical figures, and material culture hold a wealth of information that can enrich personal stories, explain relationships, and contextualize the world that people occupied. However, these sources can seem daunting to explore. Two experts on fashion and material culture will guide you through unraveling the stories woven into history’s fabric. Please note that registration for this program is now closed.

Fashioning the New England Family is open Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The exhibition explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces. Many of the items that will be featured have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The exhibition is organized as part of Mass Fashion, a consortium of cultural institutions set up to explore and celebrate the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts.

Take a look at our calendar page for information about upcoming programs.

This Week @MHS

Join us for a program this week. Here is a look at what is planned:

  • Tuesday, 5 March, 5:15 PM: Washington, Lincoln, & Weems: Recovering the Parson’s Life of George Washington with Steven C. Bullock, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and comment by Elizabeth Maddock-Dillon, Northeastern University. This paper argues that Mason Locke Weems’s biography of George Washington built a bridge between Washington and the world of Abraham Lincoln and Ellen Montgomery. Weems’s stories were not just expressing early-19th century cultural commonplaces, but helping to create them. The paper connects these transformations with Weems’s work to recover Weems’s importance within his own time. This is part of the Boston Area Seminar on Early American History series. Seminars are free and open to the public.
  • Wednesday, 6 March, 12:00 PM: A Meaningful Subjection: Coercive Inequality & Indigenous Political Economy in the Colonial Northeast with Peter Olsen-Harbich, College of William and Mary. This talk presents archaeological and documentary evidence of indigenous authority structures and law enforcement in northeastern North America in the period immediately prior to European settlement. It then evaluates European comprehension of indigenous mechanisms of rule enforcement, and the degree to which awareness of them factored into designs for colonization. This is part of the Brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.
  • Wednesday, 6 March, 6:00 PM: Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams Family with Sara Georgini, MHS. Reflecting on his past, President John Adams mused that it was religion that had shaped his family’s fortunes and young America’s future. Globetrotters who chronicled their religious journeys extensively, the Adamses ultimately developed a cosmopolitan Christianity that blended discovery and criticism, faith and doubt. Sara Georgini demonstrates how pivotal Christianity—as the different generations understood it—was in shaping the family’s decisions, great and small. This event is part of our Remember Abigail programming. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).
  • Thursday, 7 March, 5:15 PM: Mourning in America: Black Men in a White House with Leah Wright Rigueur, Harvard Kennedy School, and comment by Elizabeth Hinton, Harvard University. This paper focuses on the 1980s HUD Scandal, wherein contractors, developers, lobbyists, HUD officials, and others misappropriated billions in federal monies set aside for low-income housing. Of particular interest are the intertwined stories of two African Americans: Samuel R. Pierce, Ronald Reagan’s HUD Secretary, and Kimi Gray, a Washington, D.C. public housing activist. In exploring these narratives, this paper aims to complicate our understanding of the “Black 1980s,” the Ronald Reagan-led White House, and democracy in post-civil rights America. This is part of the Boston Seminar on African American History series. Seminars are free and open to the public. (Rescheduled from Feb. 21)
  • Saturday, 9 March, 10:00 AMThe History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. 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.

Fashioning the New England Family is open Monday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The exhibition explores the ways in which the multiple meanings of fashion and fashionable goods are reflected in patterns of consumption and refashioning, recycling, and retaining favorite family pieces. Many of the items that will be featured have been out of sight, having never been exhibited for the public or seen in living memory. The exhibition is organized as part of Mass Fashion, a consortium of cultural institutions set up to explore and celebrate the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts.

Please note that the reading room will open at 12:00 PM on Wednesday, 6 March. Take a look at our calendar page for information about upcoming programs.