Looking In and Reaching Out

By the MHS Welcome Team

The MHS is the first historical society in America. Our current building (1154 Boylston Street) was dedicated in 1899 and was built to be a temple to history. Designed by renowned Boston architect Edmund March Wheelwright, the building has grand rooms, some with dark wood paneling and others with monumental portraits hanging above white marble mosaic floors. It is the epitome of what you might imagine for the spaces of Boston’s 19th-century Brahmin elite.

1154 Boylston Street entry
Front door of the MHS

This palace of history is available to anyone who wants to do research in our library, attend a program, or visit an exhibition. While the MHS is free and open to the public, we are now in the process of thinking about how accessible we really are. There is certainly beauty in Wheelwright’s design and the monumental portraits on display are of historically important people.  However, from the experiences and reactions of visitors, we know that our building may not be welcoming to all.  After a quick review last year, we found that while there were images of people of color in our temporary exhibitions, there were no such images in other rooms that are open to the public. Since realizing that, we have made some adjustments to our permanent displays.

Now is the time to take a step back, look critically at how the MHS presents itself, and ask ourselves if our institution is truly welcome to anyone who has an interest in history. Following a series of internal discussions, we decided to form a taskforce—internally referred to as the Welcome Committee—to explore these questions.

This group is working to evaluate our spaces and art as they are now and find ways to broaden the depth and diversity of our collections. We are aware that we need different perspectives and critical distance from the institution to have a robust evaluation.  Therefore, as part of this effort, we plan to invite people from other museums, professions, and backgrounds to walk through our spaces and let us know what they see. Listening to their comments and working together, we hope to develop a plan that will respect Wheelwright’s design while also making the space feel comfortable and welcoming to the diverse, complex, and beautiful population that represents the nation today. If you have thoughts or suggestions on this process, we welcome them. Please feel free to reach out to Gavin Kleespies or Carol Knauff with your messages.

Documenting the Revolution: Boston & the War for Independence

by Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education

The MHS was pleased to partner again this year with the Teachers as Scholars program to offer a two-day workshop this fall entitled, “Documenting the Revolution: Boston and the War for Independence.”

Teachers as Scholars (TAS) offers professional development opportunities for teachers that connect them directly with University faculty and other content experts—like the staff at the MHS! TAS offers 70 programs each year hosted by many of our neighboring institutions, including Harvard, Boston University, MIT, Brandeis, Simmons College, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts (Boston), Berklee School of Music, Boston College, and Wheelock College.

At this year’s workshop, we explored the varied ways that Bostonians experienced the War for Independence, going beyond the typically broad strokes that teachers use to present this important period. Through newspapers, broadsides, and pamphlets, we examined the role of propaganda in recruiting volunteers, encouraging boycotts and rebellion, and forming a new American identity.

Jonathan Lane, Revolution 250 Coordinator, spoke to teachers about the major players in Massachusetts during the period of the Revolution, as well as the growing tensions in the colonies that erupted into protest, and ultimately, war.

Title page and frontispiece of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley
Title page and frontispiece of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Written by Phillis Wheatley. First published in London on September 1, 1773.

Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education, explored accounts written by or about women like Phillis Wheatley, the brilliant writer who published a book of poetry while enslaved by the Wheatley family; Mercy Otis Warren, who wrote a history of the American Revolution; and Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to join the Continental Army.

Deborah Sampson, Frontispiece of The Female Review
The Female Review: or, Memoirs of an American Young Lady. Herman Mann. Dedham, [MA]: printed by Nathaniel and Benjamin Heaton, 1797. Frontispiece consists of an engraved portrait of Deborah Sampson, later Deborah Sampson Gannett. Engraving, circa 1797.
Gwen Fries, Assistant Production Editor at the Adams Papers, led teachers through an activity that parsed four excerpts of a letter written by Abigail Adams—the celebrated “Remember the Ladies” letter of March 1776.

Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education, spoke about the experiences of Loyalists like the Robie family, as well as critical court cases like that of Quock Walker and Elizabeth Freeman, who successfully sued for freedom from slavery, which led to the abolishment of slavery in Massachusetts.

Teachers also had the opportunity to explore our newest exhibition, Fire! Voices from the Boston Massacre. The MHS Education team looks forward to continuing our partnership with Teachers as Scholars, as well as exploring new partnerships that will connect us with even more educators across the Commonwealth.

October is American Archives Month

by Rakashi Chand, Senior Library Assistant

Every day the very talented and skilled archivists of the MHS work behind the scenes to ensure that the Society’s collections are well preserved, well organized, and easily accessible for researchers today and tomorrow. To celebrate archives month, we asked a few of our archivists a few fun questions so you could get better acquainted.

Why did you decide to be an archivist?

Alexandra Bush, Digital Productions Assistant (AB): I went into the archives field because I’ve always loved history and wanted to find a way to celebrate that without the need for social skills.

Katherine H Griffin, Nora Saltonstall Preservation Librarian (KG): I decided to be an Archivist when I was studying in graduate school in a public history program. I was originally interested in working in a museum, but I quickly found that I had an affinity for working with historical manuscripts.

Brenda Lawson, Vice President for Collections (BL): I became interested in archives while I was working in the Williams College Archives as an undergraduate.  Instead of pursuing graduate work in psychology (my major), I found myself looking at job announcements and graduate programs in archives.  I chose to go directly to Simmons College to pursue my library science degree with a concentration in archives management.  I later added an M.A. in history when the college began offering the dual degree program.

Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reference Librarian (AC): At the age of 12 I got my public history start as a volunteer docent at a house museum in our town; after earning my B.A. in history I decided to pursue graduate degrees in history and library science so that I could hone my research skills and help make sources for historical storytelling accessible to all.

What is your Archive-story?

AB:  It’s not a very interesting archive story, but I’ll always remember the end of my first internship here. I worked for Collections Services processing a collection of 14 cartons, the Thornton W. Burgess papers. The collection took months of work to process and was one of my first large projects. Maybe a month after my internship ended, I got an email from Laura Lowell, one of our processing archivists, letting me know that a researcher had requested to work with the collection. There’s no better feeling than that!

KG: The Librarian who was here when I started–Mr. John D. Cushing–was an exacting critic and somewhat difficult to please.  He made some very useful suggestions about my writing style that I have never forgotten–for instance, how to use the verb “to comprise,” and how to avoid using the intransitive in writing.  I will always be grateful that I had the benefit of his tutelage, early in my career.

AC: When I first moved to Boston in 2007 one of the first archives I visited was the Schlesinger Library which holds the records of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, creators of groundbreaking 1970s women’s health text Our Bodies, Ourselves. I got to read correspondence and other documents relating to the early editions of the book–and then several years later I was invited to participate in producing new material for the 40th anniversary edition! Once a researcher who accessed the OBOS archive, I then became a project participant whose contributions would in turn become a part of their historical records for future generations of researchers.

What is a fun fact about you?

AB:  As a young child I met one of the members of Metallica. He was close with my friend’s parents so we visited his house and used his Jacuzzi. I didn’t know who he was back then and still can’t remember which band member it was.

KG:  Hmmm. I love interacting with the public even though I’m often buried in the basement. I also love solving manuscript mysteries:  dating undated items, and deciphering difficult handwriting.

BL:  I can polka backwards.

AC:  I got my first tattoo, an illustration from the children’s book Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, as a reward for finishing library school.

What is your favorite collection/item?

AB:  It’s hard to pick one favorite item from the collection, but I do love the Sarah Gooll Putnam diaries. SGP, who eventually became a portrait painter, filled her 27 volume diary with sketches in addition to writing and photographs. Over the years–she began the diary at age 9 and stopped at age 61–her art evolves and becomes more sophisticated.

KG: My favorite item/s in the collection are ships’ logs.  I’m continually amazed at the life of the seamen, the hardships, and their endurance.

AC: This summer I was introduced to I am an American: First Lessons in Citizenship by Sarah Cone Bryant (1920), an example of the nationalist narratives produced to educate U.S. schoolchildren during a period of strong anti-immigration sentiment. The text helps me see how ideologies from the early twentieth century continue to influence our political and cultural crosscurrents today.

Dan Hinchen, Reference Librarian: I think my favorite item is the Porcineograph created for William Emerson Baker, owner of Ridge Hill Farm. It’s a striking image with a lot of fun details to take in if you look closely.

Nancy Heywood, Senior Archivist for Digital Initiatives: One of my favorite items in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society is a 4-page manuscript draft of a letter from Roger Sherman to Françios Marbois written in November of 1782 describing many aspects of Connecticut (the history, geography, natural resources, social customs). In the letter, Sherman replied to questions posed by François Marbois, the secretary to the minister from France, Anne-César, Chevalier de La Luzerne.  In 1780 Marbois, acting on behalf of the French government, sent requests to representatives in presumably all of the thirteen colonies. Although the replies about Virginia are the best known (because Thomas Jefferson was the author of those responses and he published a lengthy book conveying all the research he did), Sherman’s responses about Connecticut are clear and informative.

I like Sherman’s letter because it is an example of an unexpected document a researcher finds during the course of research in an archival collection and also because the it is a draft.  I came across the letter when I was part of a team working on the Society’s digital presentation of Jefferson’s complicated manuscript copy of Notes on the State of Virginia (his lengthy work included numerous additions and changes to his manuscript text). Sherman’s draft letter is a wonderful way to make the reality of Marbois’s questionnaire more apparent.  It is evidence that there were many men in many colonies writing, thinking, and revising their answers to questions from a French official.

Now that you have had the chance to get to know a few of our fabulous staff members, visit the MHS to meet the rest of us! We are here to answer your questions, introduce you to the archive, talk about our favorite collections, and guide you in your research.

Happy American Archives Month!

Legacies of 1619: Recognition & Resilience

By David Krugler, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin–Platteville

MHS images
Legacies of 1619 series

As a historian, I have mixed feelings about historic anniversaries. I welcome the surge of public and press interest in the past that comes with, say, a centennial, but too often, that attention gets compressed into an On this Day in History factoid. Without context and exploration, the meaning and relevance of a historical event can easily be neglected. Another challenge: What if the event being noted isn’t a cause for celebration?

Consider our current year, 2019, which is the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans in the fledgling colony of Virginia. How should we best commemorate 1619, essentially the birthdate of slavery in English North America? How can 1619, as well as other “nineteens”—1719, 1819, and 1919—be used as lenses to view the history not just of slavery but also that of Africans and African Americans? Last month, I was honored to take part in a four-person panel organized by the Massachusetts Historical Society that explored the legacies of 1619. Appropriately, we convened on Beacon Hill in the chancel of the African Meeting House, the oldest standing African American church in the country. Frederick Douglass once delivered an address from the very spot where we sat, as did abolitionists Sarah Grimke and William Lloyd Garrison. No pressure, right?

We framed our presentations and discussion around the themes of recognition and resilience. To an engaged audience packing the pews of the nave, Peter Wirzbicki, of Princeton University, spoke about the growing awareness in the North by the 1830s of just how much slavery was thriving. Abolitionists in Boston increasingly recognized that slavery wasn’t merely a Southern institution—Massachusetts’s textile industry depended on the price of cotton, which slave labor helped determine. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act legally bound all citizens to slavery by requiring them, under the penalty of law, to help capture or return runaways (better term: self-emancipators). As Peter put it, “The Civil War had to free the North as well as the South.” That recognition was slow to develop, with even Abraham Lincoln forswearing any intention to abolish slavery when he took the oath of the president.

Kerri Greenidge, of Tufts University, profiled Boston’s own William Monroe Trotter, whose father, born a slave, fought for the Union. Trotter, an indefatigable activist, showed resilience through his radicalism. Trotter recognized that business as usual, so to speak, wouldn’t dismantle the ideology and structure of white supremacy. In 1902, he mobilized black Bostonians to protest North Carolina’s attempt to extradite Monroe Rogers, a black man who had fled to Boston out of fear of being lynched after being arrested on trumped-up charges. Rogers had to be protected from a corrupt justice system—and then that system had to be reformed. The nation needed a reconfiguration of its laws, argued Trotter, who also called upon African Americans to defend themselves. As Kerri explained, Trotter exemplified a black radical tradition that took root in 1619. For if slavery was normal, then resisting it was, by definition, radical; and if the laws in 1902 didn’t stop lynching, then resisting those unjust laws was also radical.

For my presentation, I spoke about the New Negro movement of the early twentieth century, of which Trotter was a prominent part. (The New Negroes contrasted themselves with the “old guard” represented by the accommodationist approach of Booker T. Washington.) World War I had a profound effect on New Negroes, who recognized that the reason President Woodrow Wilson gave for U.S. entry into that war should be appropriated. If African Americans were going to France to make the world safe for democracy, shouldn’t America be made safe for the rights and equality of African Americans? In 1919, when white mobs formed in city after city to attack African Americans in the cause of protecting white supremacy, black veterans fought back and provided protection that law enforcement failed to offer. A year of racial violence, the worst in the nation’s history, 1919 was also a year of resilience through armed self-defense against lawless mob attacks.

A discussion moderated by Robert Bellinger, of Suffolk University, gave Peter, Kerri, and myself an opportunity to further explore the connections between our respective topics, thus providing the context and analysis that historic commemorations need. So, too, did the audience’s insightful questions, which further enhanced our consideration of recognition and resilience in African American history.

The best part is that the discussion didn’t end with us. On 19 October, the second panel in the series considered the legacies of 1619, this time through the theme of Afro-Native connections. My disappointment at not being able to attend is tempered by knowing that the MHS will soon post a recording of the panel. I look forward to seeing it!

Learn more about the Legacies of 1619 series and watch the first panel discussion Legacies of 1619: Recognition & Resilience.

Announcing 2020-2021 MHS Research Fellowships!

By Katy Morris, Research Coordinator and Book Review Editor

Have you ever wondered about conducting research at the MHS? If you are a local scholar, you can hop on the T, make your way to 1154 Boylston Street, and browse our unparalleled collections. You might even stay for a Brown-bag Lunch program or seminar session and network with other scholars. The robust MHS community is right in your backyard.

But if you aren’t local, you may know that traveling to an archive can be a financial burden. Research trips often translate to short stints, crammed in between a teaching load, writing, and endless commitments. Does this sound familiar?  This is where research fellowships can be a valuable resource. The precious funds fellowships provide can help you carve a few weeks out of your schedule to focus on research. As a grad student or early-career academic, you likely know the difference it makes to secure funding for these trips. As a scholar at any level, you know how generative that immersive research can be.

At the MHS we are proud to offer more than forty research fellowships for the academic year 2020-2021. These opportunities range from short-term funding (4-8 weeks) to long-term residency (4-12 months). We look for cutting-edge research that makes significant historiographical contributions and that effectively uses our unique collections. To learn more about our fellowship opportunities – including eligibility, application requirements, and past recipients – be sure to visit our website and review the FAQ.

Our new and improved submission portal is now open and accepting applications. We look forward to reviewing your proposals!

MHS Research Fellowships:

The Society will offer at least two MHS-NEH Long-term Fellowships made possible by an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The stipend, governed by an NEH formula, is $5,000 per month (plus an additional stipend for housing and professional expenses) for a minimum of four months and a maximum of twelve months continuous tenure. These fellowships are for scholars conducting research in the Society’s collections who have completed the terminal degree in their field (typically a Ph.D.) by the application deadline. DEADLINE: JANUARY 15, 2020 

MHS Short-term Fellowships carry a stipend of $2,000 to support four or more weeks of research in the Society’s collections. In addition to general awards, short term fellowships include thematic awards, such as those in African American studies, New England history, American religious history, environmental history, military history, women’s history, and the histories of graphic and printed materials. One application automatically puts you into consideration for any applicable short-term fellowships. Graduate students, faculty, and independent researchers are welcome to apply. We will offer more than twenty short-term fellowships in the coming year. DEADLINE: MARCH 1, 2020

For those studying the U.S. Civil War, its causes, or its memory, the Boston Athenaeum and the MHS will offer one Suzanne and Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences. Fellows spend at least four weeks at each institution. This fellowship carries a stipend of $4,000. DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 15, 2020

The Society also participates in the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium. Thirty cultural institutions will offer a minimum of twenty fellowships in 2020-2021. These grants provide a stipend of $5,000 for minimum of eight weeks of research conducted at three or more participating institutions. With an NERFC (or “nerf-c” as it is affectionately known) you will enter the incredible network of New England archives and cultural institutions that will help you make new discoveries. DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 1, 2020

Upcoming Programs at the MHS

by Gavin W. Kleespies, Director of Programs, Exhibitions and Community Partnerships

Though summer is coming to a close, we are looking forward to an exciting set of programs we have planned for the fall. The season includes two original series as well as a number of great talks. Here is an overview of the series as well as a look at a couple of September programs.

Legacies of 1619 Series – Launches on 7 September
In 1619, the first enslaved Africans arrived in English North America. To mark the 400th anniversary of this event, the MHS offers four public programs to discuss the history of Africans and African Americans in the American past. Each program features leading scholars who will elaborate on a theme from the perspective of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The series is cosponsored by the Museum of African American History and Roxbury Community College. Each program begins with a reception at 3:30 PM and is followed by the panel discussion at 4:00 PM.

  • Saturday, 7 September: Recognition & Resilience with Kerri Greenidge, Tufts University; David Krugler, University of Wisconsin—Platteville; Peter Wirzbicki, Princeton University; and moderator Robert Bellinger, Suffolk University. This program will take place at the Museum of African American History, 46 Joy Street.
  • Saturday, 19 October: Afro-Native Connections with Christine DeLucia, Williams College; Kendra Field, Tufts University; and moderator Catherine Allgor, MHS. This program will take place at the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street.
  • Saturday, 16 November: Black Radicalism / Black Power with John Stauffer, Harvard University; Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar, University of Connecticut; Adriane D. Lentz-Smith, Duke University; and moderator Valerie Roberson, Roxbury Community College. This program will take place at Roxbury Community College, 1234 Columbus Avenue.
  • Saturday, 14 December: Citizenship & Belonging with Manisha Sinha, University of Connecticut; Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, University of Massachusetts—Lowell; Hasan Jeffries, Ohio State University; and moderator Valerie Roberson, Roxbury Community College. This program will take place at the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street.


Housing as History Series – Launches on 2 October

This four-part series will look at the history of six housing sites across the city and examine the conditions for affordable and public housing today, highlighting the challenges—and opportunities—that lie ahead for Boston. The series is cosponsored by Mass Humanities and the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.  Each program begins with a reception at 5:30 PM and is followed by the panel discussion at 6:00 PM.

  • Wednesday, 2 October: Columbia Point & Commonwealth with Lawrence Vale, MIT, and Jane Roessner. This program will take place at the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street.
  • Wednesday, 16 October: Villa Victoria & Fenway Community Development Corporation with Mario Luis Small, Harvard University; Mathew Thall, Fenway CDC; and Mayra I. Negrón-Roche, Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción. This program will take place at Blackstone Community Center, 50 W. Brookline Street.
  • Wednesday, 13 November: Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative & Orchard Gardens with Karilyn Crockett, MIT; Tony Hernandez, Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative; and Valerie Shelley, Orchard Gardens Resident Association . This program will take place at the DeWitt Center, 122 Dewitt Drive.
  • Wednesday, 20 November: New Directions for Boston’s Subsidized Housing: Learning from the Past with William McGonagle, Boston Housing Authority; Soni Gupta, The Boston Foundation; Lawrence J. Vale, MIT; Sandra Henriquez, Detroit Housing Authority; and moderator David Luberoff, Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University. This program will take place at the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street.


Can They Do It? Divisions of the Road to the 19th Amendment on 21 September
Our current exhibition will close with a panel discussion exploring divisions on the road to the 19th Amendment. On Saturday, 21 September, at 3:00 PM, the MHS and The Greater Boston Women’s Vote Centennial will present Can They Do It? Divisions on the Road to the 19th Amendment featuring Allison K. Lange, Corrine T. Field, Manisha Sinha, and Barbara F. Berenson. The women’s suffrage movement was not always a cohesive or inclusive space for everyone who fought for the vote, nor did the 19th Amendment bring about political enfranchisement for all women. Conflicts around political philosophy, campaign tactics, and most notably, issues of race led to a movement that was deeply fractured. Our panel will further examine the divisions inherent in the movement and will look at how other social reform activists have historically struggled with coalition building and intersectionality. The event will take place at the Massachusetts Historic Society.

The Arts & Crafts Houses of Massachusetts on 25 September
On Wednesday, 25 September, at 6:00 PM, author Heli Meltsner will present The Arts & Crafts Houses of Massachusetts: A Style Rediscovered. Ms. Meltsner will look at how, at the opening of the 20th century, Massachusetts architects struggled to create an authentic new look that would reflect their clients’ increasingly informal way of life. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, the result was a charming style that proved especially appropriate for the rapidly expanding suburbs and vacation houses in the state.

Visit www.masshist.org/events for more information and to register.

New series at the MHS will explore the history of public and affordable housing in Boston

by Gavin W. Kleespies, Director of Programs, Exhibitions and Community Partnerships, and Sarah Bertulli, Public Programs Coordinator

This fall, the MHS will offer a series of programs that explore the complex history of public and affordable housing in Boston. These programs will bring together scholars, tenants, and administrators to examine Boston’s housing story and connect the public with lesser known histories of grassroots neighborhood renewal; community stewardship; and cooperation between residents, government, and private entities.

The planning process for this new series has been educational. We have been working with a project scholar, Lawrence Vale from MIT, and an advisory group that includes representatives from The Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative, the National Public Housing Museum, Fenway CDC, and Everyday Boston, among others, to develop the programs.

Boston has been home to a series of innovative approaches to public and affordable housing, even while dealing with a range of challenges such as segregation, white flight, urban renewal, and gentrification. Perhaps the lowest point in Boston’s housing history was in 1979. This is when the Boston Housing Authority’s 62 public housing sites were placed in receivership after the agency was sued by tenants who described inhumane conditions and racial discrimination. Beyond being a painful moment in Boston’s history, it is also the story that highlighted housing inadequacies in the city and spurred innovations to give communities’ control. New community organizations and a reorganized Boston Housing Authority have been important in metro Boston’s recovery from the challenges it faced in the 1970s and 1980s. The series will revisit the history along with the stories of community empowerment and successful government intervention that are often left out of the narrative.

The first three programs will focus on six housing developments that have varied and rich histories: Columbia Point and Commonwealth housing projects, Villa Victoria and Fenway CDC, Dudley Square Neighborhood Initiative and Orchard Park housing project. These particular projects were chosen with the help of our advisory group. Residents will be invited to participate as panelists. As well, we plan to conduct a series of interviews to start off each program with voices from the neighborhood. In addition to populating the panels, we are working with partner organizations to identify branch libraries or community centers that may be appropriate sites for these discussions.

The final panel in the series will explore the outlook for Boston housing and impart takeaways from the city’s past successes and missteps. It will synthesize what we have learned and bring the discussion to the present state of housing in the area. While greater Boston is facing soaring real estate prices today, it is important to understand the times when this would have seemed impossible. We will explore how an area with a rapidly declining population and a scourge of vacant property has changed to one that is now challenged by the social disruption of gentrification.

Mark your calendar for the Housing as History: The Story of Public and Affordable Housing in Boston series! Programs will take place on 2 October.  16 October, 13 November, and 20 November. Registration will open in mid-August.

Creative & Original Programming at the MHS

By Gavin Kleespies, Director of Programs, Exhibitions and Community Partnerships

The MHS offers a variety of creative and original programs throughout the year. Here is a look back at some of the original programs we hosted in the winter and spring as well as an overview of a few programs that are coming up this summer. Stay tuned for more information about a series we are planning for fall 2019 that explores the history of subsidized housing in Boston.

This winter, we partnered with the Old South Meeting House to host a three part series on the history of the Great Molasses Flood. These discussions commemorated the 100th anniversary of the disaster and addressed the critical social themes raised and the aftermath. Many who know of the Flood perceive the events as almost tragi-comedy or as an anomalous catastrophe outside the bounds of historical contextualization. In fact, the Flood, and the trials that followed, bring up many questions as to how we frame or mythologize historical events, the responsibilities of businesses and government oversight, and the rights and status of immigrant communities. Our panelists included local scholars and activists along with  Stephen Puleo, the author of the seminal book on the Molasses Flood titled, Dark Tide as well as many other books on Boston area history. Hundreds of people attended these talks where they had the chance to engage in thoughtful dialogue, share their stories or insights, and pose questions to the panelists.

Great Molasses Flood program
The Great Molasses Flood Revisited

In February, we hosted a program with Prof. Julian E. Zelizer, Princeton University; Michael Tomasky, editor of Democracy; and radio personality Robin Young, WBUR and NPR, to discuss how political polarization has led our country to a state of almost complete dysfunction. The conversation was steered by Robin Young giving Zelizer and Tomasky the chance to reflect on past political strife as well as modern day gerrymandering and conflicts within parties which force both sides towards the extremes. The conversation that ensued was a great example of using history to explain current events.

In May, the panel discussion Boston Women Designers: Then and Now offered a creative and original look at how gender norms have been changing in the field of design in Boston. MHS President Catherine Allgor began the program with a historical note about women designers in Boston. The discussion that followed explored how the field has changed and what walls still need to come down. We partnered with the Fenway Alliance and the Boston Preservation Alliance to produce the show, which helped us reach new audiences and sparked a lively set of questions at the end.

Panelists - Boston Women Designers
Boston Women Designers, 14 May 2019

On Saturday, 1 June, the official historian of the Boston Red Sox, Gordon Edes, will join panelists Leigh Montville, Jane Leavy, and John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, in a discussion to mark 100 years since the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. For many, this infamous sale was the catalyst of a nearly century long losing streak and still stokes a rivalry between the New York and Boston teams. At the time, Red Sox owner, Henry Frazee, justified the move stating: “With this money the Boston club can now go into the market and buy other players and have a stronger and better team in all respects than we would have if Ruth had remained with us.”[1] In fact, it was widely speculated that the princely sum paid for Ruth ultimately financed Frazee’s ventures as a Broadway producer and was never used to replenish Red Sox talent. Regardless, the deal left Boston fans to look on with irony, superstition, or just plain frustration as the Red Sox failed to bring a World Series pennant home to Boston for another 86 years.

The Sale of the Century panel is just one of the exciting original public programs offered by the MHS this summer. In July, we will host a series of talks on the early China trade in Massachusetts, drawing on the expertise of local scholars and curators who will examine the ways in which the China trade helped shape the global profile of the Bay State. This series of programs is especially important to the MHS community because of its strong ties to our collection. In 1984, the China Trade Museum of Milton converted to the Forbes House Museum. In the process, it gave the bulk of its manuscript collection to the MHS. Art and objects headed to the Peabody Essex Museum. For the first panel talk in the series, Layla Bermeo, Assistant Curator of Paintings at the MFA; Karina Corrigan, Curator of Asian Export Art at PEM; and Peter Drummey, the Stephen T. Riley Librarian at the MHS, will take a closer look at the art inspired by the trading period along with intersections between these prominent collections.

Click on the links below for more information about these programs. And visit our online calendar for a look at everything we have planned in the coming months.

Sale of the Century: How the Red Sox Peddled Babe Ruth to the Yankees

The Legacy of the China Trade in Massachusetts: Art, Artifacts, & Manuscripts in Local Collections

The Legacy of the China Trade in Massachusetts: The Emergence of a Global Boston

The Legacy of the China Trade in Massachusetts: Families, Fortunes, & Foreign Luxuries

[1] O’Leary, James C. “Red Sox sell Babe Ruth for $100,000 cash.” Boston Globe. 6 January 1920: bostonglobe.com. Web. 29 May 2019

Announcing the 2019-2020 MHS Research Fellows

by Katy Morris, Research Coordinator & Book Review Editor

As an institution that has collected since 1791, the MHS offers spectacular opportunities to conduct cutting-edge research on the nation’s past. Our collections consist of manuscripts, portraits and artifacts, photographic images, newspapers, maps, and the personal papers of three presidents. These carefully preserved items lay nestled in their designated folders, boxes, and storage rooms awaiting the curious minds and discerning eyes of scholars who will ask questions that lead to new ways of telling the American story.

Every year, the Research Department at the MHS administers roughly a quarter million dollars in research support to help scholars from all career stages access our remarkable collections. These fellowships range from short-term funding (4-8 weeks) to long-term residency (4 to 12 months). Hundreds of graduate students, historians, literary scholars, art historians, and independent researchers submit their applications for consideration. Our selection committees review these diverse proposals and carefully select the very best for funding. We look for projects that make good use out of our collections, that thoughtfully present their ideas, and that make significant contributions to their particular field of study.

After months of review, we are proud to announce the fellowship winners for the 2019-2020 year. This cohort of fellows explores a wide variety of topics, such as the histories of motherhood, race and citizenship, empire and colonialism, maritime cultures, twentieth-century politics, popular literature, education, domesticity, abolition, Jewish identity, animals and the environment, medicine, and sexuality. Over the next year, these research fellows will travel to the archive to comb through the documents and artifacts that shed light on the past. They will stumble upon new discoveries, labor patiently over seemingly impenetrable records, and spend long hours interpreting the past.

They will also join the humming research community at the MHS. In additional to administering fellowship awards, the Research Department offers a range of programming that bring together academics and the public to workshop research projects, talk shop, and enjoy history together. At brown bag lunch talks and seminar sessions, research fellows will have the opportunity to share their work and connect with other scholars. Keep an eye on our calendar and come join the conversation.

Congratulations to our incoming fellows – we can’t wait to learn more about your work!

MHS Research Fellows, 2019-2020

MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows

Lauren Duval
American University
The Home/Front: Gender, Domestic Space, & Military Occupation in the American Revolution

Sean Griffin
Lehman College
Labor, Land, and Freedom: Antebellum Labor Reform & the Rise of Antislavery Politics

Peter Wirzbicki
Princeton University
The Abolitionist Nation: An Intellectual History of Nation, Democracy, & Race During Reconstruction, 1863-1877

Kelly O’Donnell
Thomas Jefferson University
Hippocratic Vows: How the Doctor’s Wife Transformed American Medicine

Suzanne & Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences

Kevin Hooper
University of Oklahoma
Seizing Citizenship: African Americans, Native Americans, & the Pursuit of Citizenship in the Antebellum United States

MHS Short-Term Fellows 2019-2020

African American Studies Fellowship
Aston Gonzalez
Salisbury University
Brilliant Contests: Black Genius during the Long Nineteenth Century

Andrew Oliver Research Fellowship
Chip Badley
University of California, Santa Barbara
The Practiced Eye: Painting & Queer Personhood in Nineteenth-Century America

Benjamin F. Stevens Fellowship
David J. Gerleman
George Mason University
History on the Hoof: New England’s Horse and Cattle Industry During the American Civil War

Conrad & Elizabeth H. Wright Fellowships
Kristen Beales
The College of William & Mary
Thy Will Be Done: Merchants and Religion in Early America, 1720-1815”

Malcolm & Mildred Freiberg Fellowship
Lance Boos
Stony Brook University
Print & Performance: The Development of a British Atlantic Musical Marketplace in the Eighteenth Century

Marc Friedlaender Fellowship
Miriam Liebman
City University of New York
A Tale of Two Cities: American Women in Paris and London, 1780-1800

Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship
Catherine Treesh
Yale University
Creating a Continental Community: Committees of Correspondence & the American Revolution

Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Fellowship
Thomas Rider
University of Wisconsin – Madison
War by Detachment: the Continental Army & Petite Guerre

Ruth R. Miller Fellowships
Abena Boakyewa-Ansah
Vanderbilt University
The Currency of Freedom: Black Women & the Making of Freedom During the American Civil War

Erica Schumann
Binghamton University
A Republic of Numbers: Enumeration and Ideology in the Early American Household

B. H. Dowse Fellowships
Nicholas Garcia
University of California, Davis
The New England Company & the Rise of English Colonialism

James Farwig
Ohio State University
‘Any Indyan which they shall attain to’: Slavery & Early Intercultural Contact in North America and the Caribbean

Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships
Yuri Amano
Johns Hopkins University
Bodies in Pain: The Medical Culture of Sympathy in the United States (1830-1865)

Elizabeth Herbin-Triant
University of Massachusetts Lowell
The Lords of the Lash & Loom: Abolitionists, Anti-Abolitionists, & the Business of Manufacturing Slave-Grown Cotton

Samantha Payne
Harvard University
The Last Atlantic Revolution: Race & Reconstruction in Cuba, Brazil, & the United States, 1865-1912

Patrick Browne
Boston University
The Ordeal of Homecoming: Northern Civilians & the Social Response to the Returning Union Veteran

Matthew Gallman
University of Florida
Loyal Dissenters, Angry Copperheads, & Violent Resisters: The Northern Democratic Party & the American Civil War

Michael D’Alessandro
Duke University
Staged Readings: Contesting Class in Popular American Literature & Theatre, 1830-1875

Todd Whelan
Graduate Theological Union
Calling the Unconverted: Jews, Indians, & Missionary Publishing in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1649-1830

Madeline Zehnder
University of Virginia
Pocket-Sized Nation: Cultures of Portability in America, 1790-1840

Lila Teeters
University of New Hampshire
Native Citizens: The Fight Over Native American Citizenship in the United States, 1866-1924

Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship
Hannah Smith
University of Minnesota
The ‘Midwifery Debates’ in Britain & Early America

Yoav Hamdani
Columbia University
Uncle Sam’s Slaves: Slavery in the United States Regular Army, 1797-1865

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium

Asaf Almog
University of Virginia
Looking Backward in a New Republic: Conservative New Englanders & American Nationalism, 1793-1854

Kathryn Angelica
University of Connecticut
Career Activists: Women’s Organization & Social Reform in New England, 1830-1890

Catherine Sasanov
Independent scholar
The Last & Living Words of Mark: Following the Clues to the Enslaved Man’s Life, Afterlife, & to His Community in Boston, Charlestown, & South Shore Massachusetts

Lilian Barger
Independent scholar
A Cultural History of Feminist Thought & the Gender Revolution, 1750-2000

Lucian Bessmer
Harvard University
What Should We Teach Our Teachers? The Changing Educational Priorities in New England, 1950-1990

Nicole Breault
University of Connecticut
The Night Watch of Early Boston

Lily Brewer
University of Pittsburgh
Contemporary Landscape: Photography & the Post-9/11 United States Frontier

Robert S. Bridges
University of Georgia
‘Dragged up hither from the sea’: The New Bedford Whaling Industry & Linkages to Capitalist Development

Emily Clark
Johns Hopkins University
Renouncing Motherhood: Women’s Sexualities & Labors in Eighteenth-Century New England

Christopher Costello
University of California San Diego
A Vast Consolidation: Everyday Agents of Empire, the United States Navy, & the Processes of Pacific Expansion, 1784-1861

Mary Eyring
Brigham Young University
Saltwater: Globalizing Early American Grief

Andrew Fogel
Purdue University
Comics & the Politics of Jewish Identity in America, 1938-1955

Elizabeth Groeneveld
Old Dominion University
Embodying Lesbianism: How 1980s Lesbian-Made Pornography Reimagined Sex & Power

Cory Haala
Marquette University
The Progressive Center: Midwestern Liberalism in the Age of Reagan, 1978-1992

Amber Hodge
University of Mississippi
The Meat of the Gothic: Animality & Social Justice in United States Fiction & Film of the Twenty-First Century

Chad Holmes
West Virginia University
Sheriffs, Capitalism, & Civil Society in Early Republic New England

Kevin Hooper
University of Oklahoma
Seizing Citizenship: African Americans, Native Americans, & the Pursuit of Citizenship in the Antebellum United States

Jared Lucky
Yale University
Cattle, Empire, & ‘Cowboys’ in Colonial New England

Matthew Marsh
University of North Dakota
Byzantium in the Long Late Antiquity

John Morton
Boston College
To Settle the Frontier on Sober Principles: Power, Faith, & Nationality in the New England-Maritime Borderlands

Kevin Murphy
State University of New York at Stony Brook
Coercion & Sworn Bond in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic

Minami Nishioka
University of Tennessee Knoxville
Civilizing Okinawa: Intimacies Between the American & Japanese Empires, 1846-1919

Leslie-William Robinson
Brown University
Morale & the Management of Men: The Control, Resistance, & Rebellion of Soldier-Workers in Early Twentieth-Century America

Peter Wirzbicki
Princeton University
The Abolitionist Nation: An Intellectual History of Nation, Democracy, & Race During Reconstruction, 1863-1877

Dylan Yeats
New York University
Shaping Northern Political Culture: Evangelical Networks & the Politics of State Building, 1790-1840

The 2019 Season of National History Day in Massachusetts

By Elyssa Tardif, Director of Education

The 2019 season of National History Day in Massachusetts is nearing its end, and we are so proud of the 5,900 students who participated across the state as well as their incredible teachers! This year’s theme was “Triumph and Tragedy,” which inspired students to tackle some of the more complex historical moments and figures in history. Projects ranged in topic and include an exhibit on the Harlem Hellfighters; a website on Comfort Women and the Creation of the Korean Council; a performance on the friendship between Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren; and a documentary on the Woburn Cancer Cluster.

This year, 791 students competed in the regional competitions in March, and 333 students competed at the state competition in April. There are 70 students who will compete at the national competition which will take place in College Park, Maryland, in June.

Students presenting at National History Day in Massachusetts
National History Day in Massachusetts student participants

We are very pleased to report that 64 schools participated in the NHD program this year. This is a 20% increase from last year! With generous funding from the Mass Cultural Council and Mass Humanities, we have been able to expand the program by offering introductory workshops to new schools and will continue this work next year to reach even more students and teachers.

We celebrated the National History Day program at the Massachusetts State House on 22 April, in commemoration of the beginning of public education in America that took place in 1635 with the founding of the Boston Latin School. The State House event was sponsored by Rep. Chynah Tyler, and we were joined by our partners at Mass Cultural Council as well as Sen. Jason Lewis, Rep. Alice Peisch, Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, and Rep. Peter Capano.

Photo of 22 April 2019 event at the State House
National History Day celebration at the Massachusetts State House, 22 April 2019

We welcome members of the public to learn more about the NHD program.  There is no better way than to serve as a judge at one of our competitions! Please contact us at education@masshist.org for more information.