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 for more information.

This Week @MHS

We have a Brown-bag lunch program and an evening talk scheduled at the MHS this week. We hope you can join us!

On Wednesday, 22 May, at 12:00 PM: Samuel Hooper, Merchant & Politician with Ann Daly, Brown University. Samuel Hooper is best known as a politician and architect of Civil War era financial reforms like the greenback, but before arriving in Congress, Hooper made a fortune in the China trade. Using Hooper’s papers and published writings, this talk examines how Hooper’s work as a China trader shaped his understanding of the relationship between banking, trade, and democracy; and argues that his time as a merchant directly influenced his later work regulating of banking and currency markets. This is part of our brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 22 May, at 6:00 PM: American States of Nature: The Origins of Independence, 1761-1775 with Mark Somos. In the British colonies, the phrase “state of nature,” or the condition of human beings before or without political association, appeared thousands of times in juridical, theological, medical, political, economic, and other texts from 1630 to 1810. But by the 1760s, a distinctively American state-of-nature discourse started to emerge. In laws, resolutions, petitions, sermons, broadsides, pamphlets, letters, and diaries, the American states of nature came to justify independence at least as much as colonial formulations of liberty, property, and individual rights did. The founding generation transformed this flexible concept into a powerful theme that shapes their legacy to this day. No constitutional history of the Revolution can be written without it. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

Please note that the MHS will be closed on Saturday, 25 May and Monday, 27 May. Take a look at our calendar page for information about upcoming programs.

The World of Constance Coolidge & Her Infamous Charms

By Rakashi Chand, Reader Services

I have recently embarked on a journey . . . a journey through the papers of Constance Coolidge* (1892-1973). The MHS houses many incredible and fascinating collections yet I am rarely swept up the way that I am with this one. Turning each page of the collection carefully, I am full of eager anticipation to learn what will happen next and have been literally on the edge of my seat!

Constance Crowninshield Coolidge was as Bostonian as one could be. She was a descendant of the Adams, Amory, Coolidge, Copley, Crowninshield, and Peabody families. She even received regular relationship advice from her financial guardian, Uncle Charles Francis Adams (1866-1954), written on his ‘Secretary of the US Navy’ stationary.  I am only just beginning to learn about Constance and her world. Like a fascinated spectator, I am enthralled by her life and her lifestyle, and am falling for her infamous charms—as did all who knew her. Constance was loved by many men and admired by many more. Better than a scene from the Great Gatsby, each letter, item, and photograph in the collection is striking, provocative, sometimes sad, at other times delightful, or simply shocking.

Here is a sampling of some of the letters and photographs along with a postcard and telegraph found in the collection.

On Thursday, 22 November 1923, Felix concludes a letter to Constance with:

“I Love you, sweet Constance, and I can hardly wait to hold you in my arms again. Don’t be angry with me, I really don’t deserve it. Can’t we dine together Saturday night?



Letter to Constance from Felix
Letter from Felix written 22 November 1923

Just a few days later, on Saturday, 24 November 1923, Constance receives a letter from Eric (roughly transcribed):

“I don’t want to hurt you, but I believe more that it won’t affect you much, You haven’t even taken the time to answer my last cable, and I’m beginning to think you are incapable of feeling anything serious, or of realizing how much you hurt others. Perhaps, however, you don’t read my letters or cables any longer. I have your telegraph and also a most pitiful letter from mother. How she came to know is a mystery – I never told her anything.

For her sake I suppose I suppose I must try [—-] myself and find a job that will keep her alive. If it were not for her I should have no hesitation in killing myself.

It seems impossible to make you feel anything but in case it may make you think twice before treating some other unhappy man in the same way, I [—] you that you have broken my heart and any belief  I ever had in human nature.

Remembering what we have been to each other and the hours we have spent together, it is impossible to imagine how you could have brought yourself to do this & in this way.

Your letters are too numerous to return, so I am destroying them. Your [aunts] charm and the watch you gave me I shall send to you.

I should try to forget you altogether, but it would be useless because I still love you. In a new life without friends, beliefs or hopes of any kind, my memories of the racecourse and of will be all that
I have left.

In spite of everything I love you – you may not believe, but I do.

I love you Constance


Letter from Eric to Constance
Letter from Eric written 24 November 1923

And those are just two letters, from two lovers, who not only had affairs with Constance, but were completely and wholeheartedly in love with her. She had begun affairs with both of these young men while in still in China as the wife of diplomat Ray Atherton. However, they were not her first. Love letter after love letter can be found in the folders of this collection. Love is also found in the letters of friends and relatives, proof that there was something very special about Constance. Frequently in the limelight and sometimes in the news-paper, as is often the way in high Society, Constance was criticized for her un-lady like ways. She enjoyed things that were typically reserved for men such as horse racing and gambling. Yet, she could care less about what people would say about her and went on living her own independent life.

Biographers often seek this collection, and once you begin to read the letters, the reason quickly becomes apparent. Constance was more than a Boston Brahmin, a Femme Fatale, and  world-travelling heiress that lived a life reserved for fiction. She was charm encapsulated in a female figure. She was simply irresistible and she rarely resisted. This, of course had its consequences. A letter dated 8 July 1921 from the wife of Frank Fearon clearly demonstrates:

“ Before your questions could you define friendship for me, not the kind mentioned on paper, but the real thing?

Is it friendship when a woman sneaks off with another woman’s husband for half of the night, without a word to the wife and leaving the latter to find her way home the best she can?

Is it friendship for a woman to who pretends to be another woman’s friend to continually write to the latter’s husband addressing the letter to his office, when he has a home?

Is it friendship where a woman knows she has hurt her so called friend, by carrying on with her husband, to continue hurting her by the same method? …”

Letter written to Constance from Mrs. Fearon
Letter from Mrs. Fearon written 07-08-1921

While Constance loved Felix, and trailed Eric along, she also had an affair and deep friendship with Harry Crosby. In fact, her photograph was in Harry’s wallet the day he committed murder-suicide with another one of his lovers. Constance was also friends with Caress, Harry’s wife. The affair between Harry and Constance was one of the only affairs that bothered Caress (they had a very open marriage).  Perhaps this was because of the emotional connection?

Constance’s social circles and influence brought her in contact with suitors from far and wide. When the famed author H. G. Wells met Constance, the beautiful Boston Belle, he too fell under her spell. The collection contains 46 letters from H. G. Wells to Constance. Some poke fun of her Boston accent as she would walk her “dorg” in the morning.

H. G. Wells letter to Constance
Letter from H. G. Wells written March 13, 1935

Constance’s true loves were her horses and horse racing. She took great pride in her award-winning stables and in her success in a field rarely entered by women. Below are some wonderful photographs that Constance sent to her grandmother in a letter that reflect her happiness and joy. As well, they feature her irresistible smile.

Three photos of Constance and her horses
Photos Constance sent to her grandmother

Here is a wonderful postcard Constance sent to her father of herself and Katherine Rogers on the beach in their bathing suits.

Constance and Katherine Rogers on the beach
Constance and Katherine Rogers on the beach

Constance and Katherine were mutual friends with another fascinating woman, Wallis Simpson, The Duchess of Windsor. Letter from the Duchess also appear in this collection.

Wallis Simpson note to Constance
Note from Wallis Simpson

And finally, I would like to share one of many telegraphs in the collection. This is perhaps the most entertaining telegraph I have ever come across.

Telegram sent to Constance
Telegram from Felix

My exploration of this collection and this incredible woman are only just beginning. Stay tuned for further findings and more wonderful pieces from the world of Constance!

*The papers of Constance Coolidge are part of the Crowninshield-Magnus Papers at the MHS.

“They Dont Stop for Meetinghouses Nor Anything Else”: The Civil War Letters of Dwight Emerson Armstrong, Part II

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

This is the second post in a series. Part I can be found here.

On 16 July 1861, after a month at the Hampden Park training camp in Springfield, Mass., the men of the 10th Massachusetts Infantry began their journey South. Among them was Private Dwight Emerson Armstrong, whose letters to his sister Mary were recently acquired by the MHS.

The regiment passed through Medford, Mass., where they camped on the banks of the Mystic River at what Dwight called Camp McClellan. (Regimental histories by Joseph K. Newell and Alfred S. Roe use the name Camp Adams; the land had once belonged to John Quincy Adams.) This location was practically idyllic compared to Hampden Park, but the respite was short-lived. Just five days later, the first major battle of the Civil War broke out.

Photo of destroyed stone bridge
Carte-de-visite photograph of stone bridge destroyed in First Battle of Bull Run (Photo. #3.806)

The First Battle of Bull Run, known to the Confederates as the First Battle of Manassas, was fought near Manassas, Va. on 21 July 1861. Dwight heard via telegraph that “the rebels were beaten and 1500 stand of arms taken and a 1000 prisioners.” But these initial reports were wrong—the battle was a terrible loss for the Union Army, and the 10th Regiment was ordered to move to Virginia sooner than anticipated. Dwight gamely told his sister Mary, “I hope we shall not have to stay a great while and I don’t beleive it is going to be a long war.”  On 23 July, he wrote his last letter before leaving Massachusetts, closing with “about 900 pounds” of love to his nieces Annie and Jennie.

By 28 July, Dwight and his regiment had reached the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard. He described to Mary the steamer journey up the Potomac River, between the Confederate state of Virginia and the border state of Maryland. He saw a few masked rebel batteries, Mount Vernon (“a most beautiful place”), and “two or three old dillapidated looking negroes,” but no enemy soldiers so far.

In fact, Dwight was preoccupied with and angry about the army’s provisions, which consisted entirely of hard bread and rotten ham…for the enlisted men. He blamed Quartermaster John W. Howland and the commander of the regiment, Colonel Henry S. Briggs. It wouldn’t be the last time he wrote in such defiant tones.

I know it is a serious offence to say anything about our officers but I don’t care when I get mad and I will say that we have got a Quarter-master that don’t know enough to go in when it rains and a Col. that so long as he can keep his own contemptible old stomach full of beef steak don’t care what his men have to eat.

The next letter in the collection is dated 12 September, more than six weeks later. By this time, the 10th Regiment had settled at Camp Brightwood (a.k.a. Fort Massachusetts, a.k.a. Fort Stevens) in northwest Washington, D.C., which would be its home for seven months. Brightwood was one of dozens of encampments constructed during the war to improve the capital’s defenses. In one interesting passage, Dwight described building fortifications, which necessitated the destruction of a local church.

We have been at work for sometime past building batterries; and have not got through yet by considerable. It is a great deal of work to build them but there are a great many to do it. […] The first one we built has got a good brick meetinghouse inside of it. It stood on a hill right where they wanted the battery so the meetinghouse has got to be pulled down. […] It seems a pity to take it down for the heathen want it or at least need it as bad as they do any where but in war time they dont stop for meetinghouses nor anything else.

This church, the Emory United Episcopal Church, whose bricks were literally pulled down and used to build the fort, was later rebuilt and operates today as the Emory Fellowship. Fort Stevens is a national park, and some of its earthworks still exist.

Dwight was optimistic about the outcome of the war, felt safe at Camp Brightwood, and was adjusting fairly well to military service, despite the nits and cockroaches that were, in his words, “just like the Southerners never satisfied with what they have got but always want more territory.” The food had even improved since the “Quartermaster was very Providentially taken sick.”

He’d seen no combat yet, but every once in a while an alarm was raised, and the troops were “tumbled out of [their] tents” and held in readiness to march at a moment’s notice. None of these alarms had come to anything, and Dwight found the whole thing kind of amusing.

It is curious how anyone can get used to almost anything so as to not mind anything about it. […] They were having a battle only a few miles off and we could hear the cannons thundering away almost as plainly as if we had been there but we had got so used to disturbances of this sort that no one minded anything about it and all laid down with their guns beside them and went to sleep as quietly as though they were a thousand miles from any danger.

Please join me for the next installment of Dwight’s story!

Signature line of letter from Dwight Armstrong to Mary Armstrong
Detail of letter from Dwight Armstrong to Mary (Armstrong) Needham, 12 Sep. 1861

This Week @MHS

Here is a look at what is happening at the MHS this week:

On Tuesday, 14 May, at 6:00 PM: Boston Women Designers: Then & Now with Mikyoung Kim, Tamara Roy, Regan Shields Ives, Justine Orlando, and moderator Catherine Allgor. Join us for a conversation with women working in architecture, design, and planning. They will explore social and political landscapes for women designers in Boston today and when they got started, some challenges they overcame to get to where they are today, how Boston compares with other cities on the topic of gender equity, and if Boston is receptive to women in leadership roles. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Wednesday, 15 May, at 12:00 PM: Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: Black Children’s Cultural & Political Resistance with Crystal Webster, University of Texas at San Antonio. This talk examines the lives of African American children in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston during the late-18th to early-20th centuries by focusing on Black children’s labor, play, and schooling. It argues that northern Black children intersected shifting constructions of race and childhood, as a group upon which society experimented with treatments of the newly recognized social category of the child, and came to terms with the social and economic place of the nascent free Black community. This is part of our brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Thursday, 16 May, at 6:00 PM: Fenway Fans with Richard Flavin, Bill Nowlin, and Larry Ruttman. Red Sox poet laureate Dick Flavin, author Bill Nowlin, and chronicler of Red Sox history Larry Ruttman will gather to share stories and reminisce about some of the highs and lows in the thousands of Red Sox games they have attended. With the joy of winning the World Series fresh in our memory, these stalwart fans and prolific scribes will tell of behind-the-scenes moments not often heard. And, perhaps a mystery guest will be there! Bring your own story to tell. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Saturday, 18 May at 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

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

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

George Hyland’s Diary, May 1919

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Today, we return to the diary of George Hyland. If this is your first time encountering our 2019 diary series, catch up by reading the January, February, March, and April 1919 installments first!

As the growing season commences in earnest, George’s labor increases and diversifies beyond chopping and hauling wood. In May he spends time at multiple households mowing lawns, trimming walks, planting flowers, pruning trees, and weeding vegetables. In addition to being paid in cash, he also earns half a rhubarb pie, half a jar of pear preserves, and ten doughnuts. He is also often fed dinner and supper, and nearly always tea with milk. His routine is punctuated in May by a trip to Boston on the 6th, where he does some banking, eats lunch at a restaurant near Rowe’s Wharf, and catches an airshow above Boston harbor. “They turned over,” George reports,  “made summersaults (end over end) dove down straight, and went up straight in the air. Some of them dove down in spiral form. When they were very high in the air they looked like a flock of hawks.”

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

* * *

PAGE 329 (cont’d)

May 1. Par. clou. to cloudy. W.S., S.E. a few sprinkles in aft. Worked 5 1/2 hours for A.E. Litchfield improving […] 11 1/2 hours in all. 300.  Called at Uncle Samuel’s late in aft. had supper there. Grace Whiting (nee Lee) and little girl there. Stanley Dorr called there to take them home in auto. He has lately returned from California. Light rain in eve.

2d. Fine weather tem. 44-66; W.S.W. In aft. worked 2 1/4 hours for Mrs. Salome Litchfield — dug up garden. Late in aft. went to N. Scituate — called at Charlie’s. Had supper there. Walked down and back. Fine eve. N. Light’s in eve. Conj. of Venus and moon.

3d. Worked 5 hours or Mrs. Salome Litchfield — 7 1/4 hours in all — 1.75. Early in eve. went to N. Scituate. Got some eggs there for Uncle Samuel — He gave me 10 cts. Mrs. S. L. gave me 1/2 jar of pear preserves and 10 doughnuts.

4th. (Sun.) Warm weather; W.S.; tem. 54-76. Clear to par. clou. Eve. par. Clou. 11:30 P.M., Lightening N. of here. Cloudy.

5th. Worked 7 1/4 hours for Walter and Mrs. Emma H. Sargent (nee E.H. Bailey) — 210.  Helped Mrs. S. make a garden — round garden — about 11 ft. in circum. Then I mowed the lawn, trimmed the grass around the house, then worked on the driveway. Wheeled off 1 load of sod and about 10 loads of stones and coal cinders. Had dinner there. Walked down ret. — rode 1 3/4 miles with Lemuel Hardwick — in auto. Very warm weather, tem. 48-86; W.S.W. wind changed to N.W. about 6:40 P.M. Light rain, did not get very wet. Thunder tempest S. of here in eve. E.F.S. very […] 10:45 P.M. par. Clou. […]

6th. Went to Boston. bought a $50 U.S. Bond — (5th) Victory Liberty Loan. Paid $10 to-day — will pay the balance $40 as soon as I can. got my 4th L.B. to-day at the state St. […] Bank. Walked to N. Scituate then rode to Black Rock Sta. (Cohasset) with Harry Pratt, then tr. to Boston on tr. return went to Pemberton (Hull) on the Steamer “Betty Alden” (725 tons) then tr. to Nantasket. Staid there about 1 1/2 hours then walked to N. Cohasset then tr. to N. Scituate — rode 1 3/4 miles with Arthur E. Litchfield. Had supper at Uncle Samuel’s. While at Nantasket I visited Paragon Park. Had lunch at Plakia’s restaurant off Rowe’s Wharf. Clear. Very cool — tem. 47-54. W.N.E., S.E. Eve. clear. Very cool. 7 aeroplanes were in the air over Boston. They had a sham battle in the air — They turned over, made summersaults (end over end) dove down straight, and went up straight in the air. Some of them dove down in spiral form. When they were very high in the air they looked like a flock of hawks. Most of them were sea planes, and came there from the Sta. at Chatham, Mass. Saw the Met Line Stem. “North Land,” and Stem. “Gov. Dingley.”

7th. Weeded and hoed rhubarb plants 6 hours for W.O.Clapp. […] par. clou. to clou. W.S.W. began to rain about 3:30 P.M. Shower at times. tem. To-day about 40-62.

8th. Weeded and hoed rhubarb plants 7 hours for W.O.C. — had supper there. Cool. W.N.W.N.E. Saw a Star Shell in eve. Same as used in the late war to light […].

PAGE 330

May 9. Weeded and hoed rhubarb plants 6 1/2 hours for Will Clapp. Par. clou. to cloudy; W.N.E., S.E. Very damp eve. par. clou.

10th. Weeded and hoed rhubarb 5 1/2 hours for W.O. Clapp. Forenoon cou. very damp. cold. W.E. began to rain about 3 P.M. rain all eve W.E.

11th. Cold storm — rain all day and eve.; W.N.E.; tem. About 38. Early in eve. went to Fred Litchfield’s and bought 2 loaves of bread. Cold and windy day and eve.

12th. Cold storm, light rain all day and eve. W.N.E. tem. 48. Chopped wood (in woodhouse) 2 1/2 hours for Mrs. Salome Litchfield — 40. Had dinner there. 11:15 P.M. still raining. Windy.

13th. Weeded and hoed rhubarb plants and carried off the weeds and grass (dog grass) 3 1/4 hours for W.O. Clapp — 28 1/4 hours in all — 7.00. Late in aft. went to N. Scituate rode 1 mile with Archie Mitchell — ret. rode 1/3 mile with Liba Litchfield and 1 1/4 mile with a man in auto (a Russian). Fine weather, clear; W.N.E., S.E., tem. About 44-52. Fine eve.

14th. Worked 7 1/2 hours for Mrs. Ethel Torrey (nee Speare) on flower gardens and front walk. 2.25. Carried my dinner. Walked down — ret. rode to Comcasset Hall with Henry Newcomb — then rode 1/2 mile with Frank Bates. Warm weather, W.S.W.; tem. 55-80. Wind changed to N.E. late in night. Cold and windy. Mrs. Emma Sargent stopped where I was working and said she would like to have me work for her to-morrow. [half a line scratched out]

15th. Worked 6 hours for Mrs. Emma Sargent — mowing lawn, trimming walks and […] she worked with me — is a very nice gardener. X 180. Carried a lunch — she gave some tea, milk, and other things. Rode down with Mr. Samuel Benson — junk dealer. ret. rode 1 3/4 miles with Albert Litchfield. Cold and windy. tem. About 40-6. W.N.E. gave Mrs. Ethel Torrey 2 Canterbury Bell, and 2 foxglove plants — carried them there this A.M. and transplanted them for her. Bought a new watch yesterday at Mrs. Seavern’s store. 1.25. Belva C. Merritt wound and set it for me. Eve. cloudy. cold. W.E.

16th. Fair W.N.E., S.E., tem. clou. 48-58. In aft. Worked 4 hours for Mrs. Salome Litchfield — cleared up a very large grape vine (cut it all down) and trimmed a cherry tree. — 100. Eve. cloudy; W.S.E. very damp. Some fog.

17th. Worked 5 ½ hours for Mrs. Emma F. Sargent — 1.65. Had dinner there. Cloudy until about 9:30 A.M., W.S.E. Aft., fair; W.S.W. windy. tem. About 46-68. Walked down — ret. rode 1 1/4 miles with Galen Watson in auto. Had supper at Uncle Samuel’s. Began to rain about 6:30 P.M. Rain all eve. Thunder storm S. of here. Mrs. S. worked with me in garden.

18th. (Sun.) Fine weather, clear; tem. About 47-67; W.S.W., N.W.

19th. Worked 4 hours for Mrs. Salome Litchfield — 1.00. Fine weather, tem. About 50-69; W.N.W.; S.W.; clear. Made a trellis for grape vines and did other work. B.D.P.B.B. 2W. Fine eve. Mrs. S.L. gave me 1/2 rhubarb pie — gave me a plate of mashed potatoes.

20th. Worked 6 hours for Mrs. M.E. Seaverns chopping up boxes, barrels, etc., and mowing lawn, trimming grass in front of house and store — 1.80. Fine weather. W.N.W. in forenoon — S.E. in aft. tem. About 48-69. Carried a lunch — Mrs. S. gave me some tea and milk. Walked down — ret. rode 1 1/2 miles with Hubert Harriman. Fine eve. Paul spent eve. Here. 11 P.M., clou., W.S.E.

21st. Worked 6 hours for Mrs. Seaverns — mowing, chopping up old barrels and housing the wood, made a garden and transplanted 3 foxglove, 3 Canterbury bell, 3 Hollihock, and about 15 cornflower plants (from my garden) — for Mrs. S. — 1.80. Mrs. Emma Sargent and her mother Mrs. Bailey called to see if I will work for Mrs. B. Walked down. — ret. — rode 1 mile

PAGE 331

with Margaret and Mother Brown in auto. Cloudy, damp. W.S.E. Carried my dinner. Eve. clou., foggy; W.S.E. to E. rain in night.

22nd. Rainy nearly all day. W.S.E.

May 21. Sergt. Alvin C. York, Co. 328th Inf. (U.S.N.A.) […] in New York. While he as in the great war (about 6 month) he k. 25 Germans, captured 132, and destroyed (or cap.) 32 German machine guns. Was the 82nd U.S. Div. 2nd Corps. U.S. Army. 45 off. And 780 men of the 82nd Div. Arr. to-day — from Fr. 82nd Div. Com. by Maj. Gen. Geo. P. Duncan — he said it’s true about Sergt. York. York belongs in Pall Mall, Tenn. The 82nd Div. is composed of men from Tenn., Ala., and Ga.

23rd. Worked 6 hours for Mrs. M. E. Seaverns — 180. Walked down — ret. rode 1 mile with George Hardwick in auto. Fine weather, W.S.W. to W. Clear. Tem. about […] Have sold 3 hollihock [sic], 3 Can. bell, 3 foxglove, and about 15 cornflower plants [two half lines crossed out] and 1 Calio[…] plants to Mrs. Seaverns — 100. Gave Mrs. Emma F. Sargent 2 Can. bell and 1 foxglove plants — carried them to her this A.M. and transplanted them for her. Carried my dinner. Mrs. S. gave me some tea — with milk. Fine eve. Called at Uncle Samuel’s — had lunch there Mrs. Fernald there.

24th. Worked 7 hours for Mrs. M. G. Seaverns — mowing, raking, grass, trimming around currant bushes and etc. — 210. Very warm and muggy. par. clou. in aft. W.S.W. rode 2 miles with Harry Brown and his mother in auto. H. just arr. from [sic] home from France — has been in the Great War — was in the U.S. Army over a year — in the 306th Field Art. 77th (N.Y.) Div., 2nd Corps. One of the ^best [inserted] Divisions in the army. Carried my dinner to-day. Walked home. Eve. clou. Warm. Light rain at times.

25th. (Sun.) rain at times all day. Thunder tempest S.W. of here late in aft. Eve. clear. W.N.W.

26th Worked 6 1/2 hours for Mrs.Salome Litchfield — 162. Had dinner there. Warm. par. Clou. Very windy. N.W. Eve. par. Clou.

27th. Worked 5 hours for Mrs. Eudora Bailey (Mrs. Emma F. Sargent’s mother) — 100. Walked down ret. rode back with Albert Litchfield. Fair. Warm and damp. Carried my dinner — Mrs. Bailey gave me some tea and milk. Paul s pent eve. here.

28th Worked 5 hours for Mrs. Bailey. 100. Fine weather. Clear. W.S.E. rode 2 miles with Albert Litchfield — ret. rode 2 miles with Lemuel Hardwick — in auto. Stopped and worked 1/2 hour on father’s lot in Mt. Hope Cem. fine eve. Hired box no. 2, at N. Scituate P.O. paid $300 due to the So. Scituate Bank — paid $800 for rent of the James place for June 1919. Have hired the place. Did all these things this A.M. — before I went to work. Carried my dinner — Mrs. B. gave me some tea and milk. […] in eve.

29th. Worked 6 hours for Peter W. Sharpe — mowing in X field, helped him spray his orchard and set up 30 bean poles. Had dinner there, fine dinner. X 150. Very hot weather tem. About 69-92. W.N. to N. W. Walked down ret. road near home with Margaret E. Brown in auto. last part of the way. Eve. hazy. An aeroplane passed over the house about 7 P.M.

30th. (Decoration Day) Worked 2 hours for Mrs. M. G. Seaverns — 60. Also worked some on the James place — in garden. Walked down. Late in aft. Went to Hingham Cen. at Henrietta’s — had supper there. ret. to N. Scituate on 7:15 tr. walked home. Walked 12 miles to-day. Went to Mt. Hope Cem. in morning — put flowers on graves of father and mother, grandfather Hyland and grandmother Hyland — also  my […] grandmother H. (his 2nd wife), also on aunt Emeline’s grave. Little Esther and Marion’s graves (Emeline’s children), Charlie’s children — (Edward and Olive) and on my great-grandmother’s grave (nee Lois Ellines) —

PAGE 332

and her 2nd husband […] G.A.R. there with band and S. of V. Boy Scouts and Soldiers of the Great War. Fred Jackson, Scituate Cen. Very fine weather, W.N.E., clear. Fine eve. Charles, Lucy, and Daisy on some […].

31st. Worked 7 hours for Peter W. Sharpe. Hoeing garden, potatoe [sic], corn, and pea and tomatoe [sic] plants — 163. Had dinner and supper there. After supper Peter, Nellie, and I moved (poled) some hay and put it all in one large pile. Walked down, rode home with Peter; Ella (Mrs. S.), Margery and Nellie in their auto. Very fine weather, W.N.E. and S.E. clear eve. clear. damp.

* * *

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.

This Week @MHS

Here’s a look at what is planned at the MHS this week:

On Monday, 6 May, at 2:00 PM: Abigail Adams: Nature & Nurture. “The Earth is putting on a new Suit,” Abigail Adams wrote, savoring the arrival of spring amid the tumult of national politics in 1800. Tending her kitchen garden and nurturing the new republic with equal care, Abigail delighted in learning about the natural landscape and sharing that knowledge with her family and friends. Join an Adams Papers editor for an in-depth look at the pop-up display.

On Tuesday, 7 May, at 5:15 PM: The Struggle for Revolutionary Settlement with Eliga Gould, University of New Hampshire; Katherine Grandjean, Wellesley College; Stephen Marini, Wellesley College; Brendan McConville, Boston University, and moderator Alan Rogers, Boston College. In the ten years after the American victory at Yorktown in 1781, the nation faced myriad problems and challenges. This panel examines how the revolutionary generation confronted issues of diplomacy, governance and economic growth, and how the legacies of warfare and political convulsion shaped spiritual and social behaviors in those troubled years. This is part of the Boston Area Seminar on Early American History series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 8 May, at 12:00 PM: Odor & Power in the Americas: Olfactory Racism & the Atlantic World with Andrew Kettler, University of Toronto. This talk shows that capitalism incentivized discourses of African pungency applied by intellectuals throughout the Atlantic World to justify racial dominance. Born of English literature, and agitated during the late Enlightenment, the idea that African bodies smelled perpetuates into modernity as a discourse of embodied racism. This is part of the Brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Thursday, 9 May, at 6:00 PM: Massachusetts in World War I with Theodore Sedgwick. On February 24, 1919, Pres. Woodrow Wilson arrived in Boston after completing the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. He was met by a thunderous crowd; the Boston Evening Globe wrote “it seemed that every noise-making instrument in Boston had been set in motion.” The Yankee Division of the Massachusetts National Guard had been one of the first U.S. units deployed in the war. Bay State residents were some of the most active in the war, both on the front lines and in shipyards outfitting navy ships; however, somehow the Great War is often forgotten. This program will explore the history of Massachusetts in WWI as well as why the forgotten war should be remembered.  A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Saturday, 11 May, from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM: “Shall the Tail Wag the Dog?” The Fight For & Against Women’s Suffrage. Massachusetts citizens played a central role in the suffrage movement; Worcester hosted the first national woman’s rights convention in 1850 and Bostonians, led by Lucy Stone, headed a national suffrage organization and edited a long-running woman’s rights newspaper. In response to these influential reformers, activists formed the first anti-suffrage organizations in Massachusetts as well. Drawing on MHS collections and our new suffrage exhibition, we will explore letters, newspapers, political cartoons, visual propaganda, and other sources that illuminate the history and motivations of women on both sides of the campaign for the vote. This workshop is open to all K-12 educators. Teachers can earn 22.5 Professional Development Points or 1 graduate credit (for an additional fee). There is a $25 per person registration fee. For questions, please contact Kate Melchior at or 617-646-0588.

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

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

Passing the bar: America’s first African-American Attorney

by Daniel Hinchen, Reference Librarian

Macon B. Allen, Esq.
Macon Bolling Allen, image accessed from

On this date in 1845, Macon Bolling Allen became the first African American admitted to the bar in Massachusetts. In the May 9, 1845 issue of William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, made note of Allen’s new standing in the Massachusetts legal world:

Macon B. Allen, Esq. lately of the Portland Bar, is, we observe, engaged in the practice of the law in this city. Mr. Allen is now a member of the bar of Suffolk, admitted here on examination. . .

But, as this little blurb intimates, while Allen was the first African American to be admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, it was not the first place Allen was admitted to the bar.

Letter from Samuel Fessenden
Samuel Fessenden to Samuel E. Sewall, 5 July 1844
(Massachusetts Historical Society)

Nearly a year earlier in July of 1844 Allen was admitted to the bar in the state of Maine. Prior to his  examination in Maine, Allen studied law in the offices of two white abolitionist lawyers, Samuel E. Sewall and Samuel Fessenden. On July 5, Fessenden wrote to his law partner proclaiming the news of Allen’s successful examination. His success, though, was not without opposition, and Fessenden recognizes that Portland may not be the best place for Allen to ply his new trade.  The letter in-full reads:

Portland July 5th 1844

My Dear Sir

I have the pleasure to inform you that our friend & protege, Mr. Macon B Allen was admitted to practice Law at the Bar of our Distric Court for this County, which admission, by Statute of this state, gives him the right to practice in all the state courts of Maine, as well the Supreme Judicial Court as those of inferior Jurisdictions. It is more honorable to Mr. Allen that this was done, after having submitted to a careful, and protracted examination by the Committee of the Bar, appointed by the SJC for an examining committee. My Partner Mr. Deblois and Brother Howard, two of our most distinguished counsellors were the Committee, and they certified that his legal and scientific attainments were such as to well entitle him to be admitted to practice at the Bar of our Courts

Mr Allen has improved the time he has spent here. He was not admitted however without strenuous opposition from John Rand Esq, one of the Committee, who refused to attend to his examination, and Augustine Haines Esq County Attorney, One a Whig, and the other a Democrat. Of course I warmly advocated his admission. Judge Goodenow who held the Court, though not an antislavery man, acted nobly, and said he could not, sitting on that Bench of Justice, have respect to the colour of the skin.

It was contended that to admit Mr. Allen woudl disgrace the Bar, no doubt because he was a coloured man, though that was not in terms avowed. His qualifications were not denied. I think Mr. Allen had the sympathy of a large protion of the people in the court, and some & I think quite a number of the jurors wept while I addressed the Court which I did much at large, on the rights of the coloured man, and the wickedness of that prejudice which was crushing him. I think the event will do great good. Rand & Haines are active politicians, & only agree in an inveterate hostility to the antislavery cause.

I regret that Mr Allen has to struggle with poverty, as I have been compelled to advance him the $20 duty or tax which our statute imposes, an admission to practice at the Bar, and some small sums beside to enable him to live. I hope he will be aided to repay me as I shall also be compelled to stand [security]for his bond while here. This regret I should not feel were I not myself a poor man –

I hope however the cause of truth will be advanced, by the victory which we have obtained. Deblois & Howard did their duty though I could perceive, they dd not wish him to be admitted. But they had too much honor and too high a sense of justice to refuse a certificate, fairly claimed by merit.

The cause of emancipation is [onward] in Maine. I have recently been in some of our Eastern Counties, and fully believe the genius of liberty is arousing from her slumbers. I made several antislavery addresses on my route. I feel to thank GOD & take courage.

I incline to think Portland is not exactly the place for our friend. Our coloured people here are few and poor; and Portland, altogether, is an inveterate proslavery place.

with regards

your friend and obt servant

Samuel E. Sewall Esq                                                                      Samuel Fessenden.

Despite – or maybe because of – his position as a trailblazer, Allen found difficulty obtaining clients. According to American National Biography, late in 1845 Allen complained in a letter to John Jay Jr. of New York, that New Englanders preferred famous or well-established lawyers. But, things got better quickly for him. In 1847, Allen was appointed a justice of the peace by the governor of Massachusetts, a Whig, which made him the first African-American appointed a judicial official in the United States.

Following the Civil War, Allen and several other African-American lawyers and activists migrated South. In 1868, he joined Robert Brown Elliot and William J Whipper in Charleston, South Carolina, in establishing the first known African-American law firm in the country, though they represented clients of both races.

Though he never attained high political office, in 1873 Allen was elected a judge of the Inferior Court by the South Carolina legislature, and in 1876 was elected to probate court and served through 1878. Following that stint he returned to his legal practice in Charleston.

Macon Bolling Allen died in 15 October 1894, leaving behind an unnamed widow and a son, Arthur W. Macon.


Fessenden, Samuel to Samuel E. Sewall, 5 July 1844, Robie-Sewall family papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Smith, Johnie D., “Allen, Macon Bolling (1816-15 Oct. 1894).” In American National Biography, edited by John A Garraty and Mark C Carnes. Oxford University Press, 1999.

This Week @MHS

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is now open at the MHS and we are starting off the week with a talk by the show’s guest curator Allison Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology. A brown-bag lunch program on Wednesday followed by a tour, a workshop, and a talk on Saturday round out the week. Here’s a look at what is planned:

On Monday, 29 April at 6:00 PM: Visual Culture of Suffrage with Allison Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology. As we have seen from the portraits of women selected to appear on the new ten-dollar bill to the posters featuring suffragists carried at the 2017 Women’s March, the visual culture of the suffrage movement still makes news today. Allison Lange will speak about the ways that women’s rights activists and their opponents used images to define gender and power throughout the suffrage movement. This program is a part of ArtWeek. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. 

On Wednesday, 1 May at 12:00 PM: Shinbone & Beefsteak: Meat, Science, & the Labor Question with Molly S. Laas, University of Göttingen Medical School. Could better nutrition help shore up U.S. democracy in an era of mass inequality? This talk explores the early years of nutrition science in the late nineteenth century by examining the science’s use as a tool for cultural and political change. By looking at how scientists understood the relationship between wages, the cost of living, and better nutrition, this paper will shed light on the political life of scientific ideas. This is part of the Brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Saturday, 4 May at 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

On Saturday, 4 May from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM: Preserving Family Papers with MHS staff. Do you have boxes full of family papers and photographs sitting in your closet, basement, or attic? Are you wondering how to best preserve those precious memories for generations to come? Let the experts at the MHS teach you simple steps you can take to preserve your paper-based materials. This workshop concludes with a behind-the-scenes tour including our conservation lab and library stacks. Please note that registration for this workshop is now full.

On Saturday, 4 May at 4:30 PM: The Problem of Democracy: The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality with Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein. John and John Quincy Adams were brilliant, prickly politicians and arguably the most independently minded among leaders of the founding generation. Distrustful of blind allegiance to a political party, they brought skepticism of a brand-new system of government to the country’s first 50 years. Join Isenberg and Burstein as they boldly recast the historical role of the Adamses and reflect on how father and son understood the inherent weaknesses in American democracy. A pre-talk reception begins at 4:00 PM; the speaking program begins at 4:30 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote is open Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, the exhibition illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

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

“Can She Do It?”: Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote Now Open

Commemorating 100 years since Massachusetts ratified the 19th Amendment, a new exhibition at the MHS explores the activism and debate around women’s suffrage in Massachusetts. Featuring dynamic imagery from the collection of the MHS, “Can She Do It?” Massachusetts Debates a Woman’s Right to Vote illustrates the passion on each side of the suffrage question. The exhibition is open through 21 September 2019, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

"Can She Do It?" exhibition
“Can She Do It?” on display in the exhibition galleries at the MHS

For over a century, Americans debated whether women should vote. The materials on display demonstrate the arguments made by suffragists and their opponents. While women at the polls may seem unremarkable today, these contentious campaigns formed the foundations for modern debates about gender and politics.

Display cases in the "Can She Do It?" exhibition
“Can She Do It?” display cases

Winning the right to vote required more than just passing legislation. Suffragists needed to convince the public to accept new gender roles for women. Anti-suffragists held firm that women should focus on family. They argued that politics would threaten their feminine virtues, damage the family, and ultimately destroy American society. Cartoons suggested that women would abandon their homes and families to cast ballots. In 1895, Massachusetts men and women founded the nation’s first anti-suffrage organization and led campaigns against the suffragists. Visitors are able to see examples of propaganda such as Home!

Home! Anti-suffrage cartoon
Home! Engraving, Boston: Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, [1915].
The engraving depicts a father returning home to find that his wife left children and domestic chores to him, counter to the era’s gender norms. Anti-suffragists printed pictures that of idealized American women who preferred fashion to politics. An anti-suffrage calendar from 1916 that shows a woman in pink with a floral muff and hat and holding a pink rose, a symbol of the anti-suffrage movement, is on display.

After a century of such criticisms, in the 1890s, suffragists argued that female voters would actually improve American life. They contended that women would clean up corrupt politics and favor initiatives to support families. Through their visual campaign materials, they demonstrated that woman could remain feminine, run households, and cast ballots. Not only would female voters continue to care for their families, they would do it better. One example on display is Double the Power of the Home, a broadside by local artist Blanche Ames that depicts a white middle-class mother at home with her children. According to the suffragists, this type of woman would cast a “good vote” in favor of her family.

The exhibition highlights racial divisions among the suffragists. After being excluded from prominent white organizations, Bostonian Josephine Ruffin organized the first national organization of black women, the National Association of Colored Women. Viewers will encounter portraits of black leaders as well as political cartoons that illustrate these tensions.

As the debate continued into the 20th century, British suffragists and labor activists inspired American suffragists to organize parades and pickets to attract attention. In 1915, about 15,000 suffragists marched in a “Victory Parade” in Boston. Suffrage supporters sported yellow roses or sashes while opponents displayed pink and red roses. A broadsheet with instructions for marchers participating in the 16 October 1915 parade is on display along with a scrapbook containing photos from the parade. Eleven states had granted women the ballot and suffragists hoped Massachusetts would be next. The referendum failed. Only 133,000 men voted for the measure, while almost 325,000 voted to defeat it.

Broadsheet with instructions for marchers for Suffrage Victory Parade
Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Victory Parade: Instructions for Marchers, Broadsheet, [Boston, 1915].
Firmly against parading in the streets, anti-suffrage propaganda caricatured suffragists as wild, masculine creatures who attacked dominant gender norms. Political cartoonist Nelson Harding exemplified this caricaturization in Ruthless Rhymes of Martial Militants. The cover of his booklet of humorous rhymes featuring a wide-eyed woman who has abandoned her axe in favor of a torch for the next demonstration is on display.

On June 25, 1919, Massachusetts ratified the Nineteenth Amendment which prohibited states from barring voters based on sex. The final state ratified the measure the following year and many women voted in the 1920 presidential election. Yet, not all women were guaranteed the right to vote. For example, literary tests, poll taxes, and violence prevented black men and women from voting. On August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting.

Debates over access to the polls continue today, and Americans continue to advocate for social justice. In 2017, the Women’s March, which developed a platform that included a range of women’s rights, became the largest protest in the nation’s history. Items from the Women’s March including posters and a pussy hat are on display. Social movements and public protests continue to evolve, but the ballot remains an essential expression of political power.

A series of videos highlighting materials from the collection of the MHS are available to view in an interactive display. The videos were created by students at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. Allison Lange, their professor and the exhibition curator, developed this project as part of her class curriculum. The assignment prompted students to craft a three- to four-minute video about the debate over women’s rights in Massachusetts.

Wentworth Institute of Technology Student Videos
Interactive display showcasing videos created by Wentworth Institute of Technology students