The First Publication of Phillis Wheatley

By Daniel T Hinchen, Reader Services

Recently, the MHS hosted a program called “No more, America,”* which featured a conversation with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Peter Galison, both of Harvard University. In it, the two men reimagined a 1773 debate between graduating Harvard seniors Theodore Parsons and Eliphalet Pearson who deliberated on the compatibility of slavery and “natural law.” In the program, Gates and Galison added a third contemporary voice to the argument, that of the then-enslaved Phillis Wheatley, the acclaimed poet who lived just over the Charles River from the two Harvard students.

Now, just over a week later, we recognize the anniversary of the first publication of one of Wheatley’s poems. “On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin” appeared on December 21, 1767, in the Newport Mercury, a Rhode Island weekly newspaper. According to Vincent Carretta in his 2011 biography of Wheatley, this poem was not published again during Wheatley’s lifetime.

When Wheatley submitted her poem to the Newport Mercury, she addressed a note to the printer which was to precede the poem.

Please to insert the following Lines, composed by a Negro Girl (belonging to one Mr. Wheatley of Boston) on the following Occasion, viz. Messrs Hussey and Coffin, as undermentioned, belonging to Nantucket, being bound from thence to Boston, narrowly escaped being cast away on Cape-Cod, in one of the late Storms; upon their Arrival, being at Mr. Wheatley’s, and, while at Dinner, told of their narrow Escape, this Negro Girl at the same Time ‘tending Table, heard the Relation, from which she composed the following verses.

On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin

Did Fear and Danger so perplex your Mind,

As made you fearful of the Whistling Wind?

Was it not Boreas knit his angry Brow

Against ? or did Consideration bow?

To lend you Aid, did not his Winds combine?

To stop your passage with a churlish Line,

Did haughty Eolus with Contempt look down

With Aspect windy, and a study’d Frown?

Regard them not; — the Great Supreme, the Wise,

Intends for something hidden from our Eyes.

Suppose the groundless Gulph had snatch’d away

Hussey and Coffin to the raging Sea;

Where wou’d they go? Where wou’d be their Abode?

With the Supreme and independent God,

Or made their Beds down in the Shades below,

Where neither Pleasure nor Conten can flow.

To Heaven their Souls with eager Raptures soar,

Enjoy the Bliss of him they wou’d adore.

Had the soft gliding Streams of Grace been near,

Some favourite Hope their fainting hearts to cheer,

Doubtless the Fear of Danger far had fled:

No more repeated Victory crown their Heads.

To see what materials the MHS holds related to Phillis Wheatley’s life and work, you can search our online catalog, ABIGAIL, then consider Visiting the Library, but be sure to consult our online calendar for upcoming holiday closures.

*Watch a recording of the event that took place at the MHS on 12 December 2018.


References

Carretta, Vincent, Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage, University of Georgia Press, 2011.

Meet Some of Our Amazing Archivists

By Rakashi Chand, Reader Services

As a part of American Archives Month, we would like to introduce you to some of our amazing archivists! These are the very talented people that make our collections accessible and make our library work so seamlessly from behind the scenes. We are fortunate to have such an incredible, knowledgeable and dedicated staff, and would like the opportunity to acknowledge the contributions they make every day. 

We asked a handful of our archivists to identify their favorite collection/item at the MHS, indicate their area of expertise or interest, and share fun facts about themselves. 

Anna Clutterbuck-Cook
Reference Librarian


What is your favorite collection or item at the MHS? 

 One of my favorite items in the collection is a letter written from Rev. T. M. C. Birmingham to Margaret C. Robinson on 17 May 1923. In this letter, conservative preacher Thomas M. C. Birmingham of Milford, Nebraska, writes to Margaret C. Robinson, the head of the Massachusetts Public Interests League, seeking an ally in the fight against the “radical propaganda” being disseminated through women’s colleges such as Bryn Mawr, Smith, and Wellesley — propaganda turning “wholesome American girl[s]” away from patriotism and the Constitution, preaching “Communist sex standards,” calling the literal truth of the Bible into question, and exposing young women to the theories of Freud and Marx.  The MHS featured this document as one of our Objects of the Month in February 2011. 

Please describe your area of historical interest.

My research as a historian focuses on 20th century American religious and cultural history, particularly the ways in which American Protestants engaged with (and helped to create) new ways of thinking about gender, sex, and sexuality. I am interested in mainline and left-leaning Protestant participation in the feminist and gay liberation movements during the 1970s. I have also become interested in the (not at all unrelated) ways that American reproductive politics have been shaped by conservative Christian and white supremacist ideas about white womanhood and white women’s sexuality, reproductive decisions, and actions. 

What is a fun fact about you?

My first job in public history was volunteering as a tour guide at the Cappon House (Holland, Mich.) a historic home built in 1874 to house my hometown’s first mayor, his second wife, and some of his eleven children! The photograph above is me on my first day as a volunteer in the autumn of 1993, when I was twelve years old. 

 

Katherine H. Griffin
Nora Saltonstall Preservation Librarian


What is your favorite collection or item at the MHS?  

 Forbes family papers and other China trade collections, plus any ships’ logs.

What is a fun fact about you?

When I started working here, women staff members were expected to wear dresses or skirts always (no pants allowed).

 

Hannah Elder
Library Assistant


What is your favorite collection or item at the MHS? 

At the moment, my favorite collection is the Massachusetts Audubon Society Records. Mass Audubon was founded in the 1890s by two women, Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall, who used their social influence to protect birds by encouraging women to stop wearing feathered hats. Their work led to many protections for birds and Mass Audubon is still around today! 

Please describe your area of historical interest.

My historical passion is the Medieval period, but I’m very interested in the American colonial period as well. I also love the study of material culture and the way it can inform our understanding of history. 

What is a fun fact about you?

I spent a semester at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, where I learned Scottish Country Dancing! 

 

Ashley Williams
Library Assistant


What is your favorite collection or item at the MHS? 

My favorite item at the MHS is probably The Identity of Napoleon and Antichrist completely demonstrated… which is an essay we have on microfilm that I wrote a blog about last year. The unknown author sets out to prove Napoleon Bonaparte is the Antichrist by comparing excerpts from Revelations to significant aspects of his reign. 

Please describe your area of historical interest.

My historical interests include French History from the reign of the Bourbons through the reign of Napoleon, WWII history, and Jewish History.

What is a fun fact about you?

I was once in a college production of Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

 

Brendan Kieran
Library Assistant


What is your favorite collection or item at the MHS? 

I really like Lilian Freeman Clarke’s 1864 diary, particularly her candid entries about and addressed to Emily Russell.

Please describe your area of historical interest.

My interests include late 19th- and early 20th-century U.S. history and the history of gender and sexuality.

What is a fun fact about you?

I contribute 90s music knowledge on my trivia team.

 

Do you have a question for one of our staff members? Please contact us at library@masshist.org

Every month is American Archives month at the MHS! Continue to celebrate with us throughout the year and join us in thanking our amazing archivists for what they do every day!


Triumph and Tragedy in History

By Kate Melchior, Education

School has started, which means that it is time to start brainstorming for this year’s National History Day  projects!  Each year National History Day selects a theme that is intentionally broad enough so that students can select topics from anywhere and any time in history.  The theme gives students a lens through which they will gain a deeper understanding of history beyond facts and dates, and pushes them to think about perspective, context, and broader impact of historical events.

 

The 2019 theme has been announced as “Triumph and Tragedy in History.”  While this theme sounds straightforward at first, it challenges students and teachers alike to think about the true meaning of both words in a historical context.  National History Day advises students to begin with the definition of both words: according to Merriam Webster, the definition of triumph is “a victory or conquest by or as if by military force, or a notable success,” while tragedy is defined a “disastrous event.”  While students do not need to necessarily include both triumph and tragedy in their work, many topics will end up including both:  a military triumph, for example, might be defined as a tragedy by the losing side.  NHD then poses the following questions for students starting to select their topics:

“Can one person’s triumph be another’s tragedy? Can the same person or group suffer from tragedy and triumph at the same time? How does one ultimately triumph after tragedy? Can triumph lead to tragedy?”

 

The Massachusetts History Day affiliate recently held an Intro to Mass History Day teacher workshop for educators from BPS, Lynn, and other schools in the Boston area.  To put themselves in their students’ shoes, teachers built upon NHD’s questions about the meaning of “Triumph and Tragedy” and brainstormed their own questions (see image).  Some of their questions included:

  • Can war ever be a triumph?  Is it always a tragedy?
  • How long does triumph last in history?
  • Does triumph always equal tragedy for someone else?
  • Do people learn from tragedy?  Can that lesson be a triumph?
  • Can reform be both triumph and tragedy?
  • Can whether something is thought of as a triumph or tragedy change through history?  Does it depend on who remembers it?

Portrait of Elizabeth Freeman, 1811.


Along with many heritage organizations around the country, the MHS Center for the Teaching of History thought about how the NHD theme connects to our own collections at MHS.  We set up a CTH Theme Page with ideas about topics, links to collections, and intriguing objects from our archives that might serve as a launching point for student research into triumph and tragedy.  Suggested topics include early Boston smallpox inoculations, Massachusetts women in WWI, Boston marriages and LGBTQ+ history, Wampanoag and English settler interactions, and Elizabeth Freeman’s suit for freedom from slavery.

Henry A. Monroe, a young musician with the 54th Regiment.


Another example is the history of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first military unit consisting of black soldiers to be raised  in the North during the Civil War.  The 54th’s tragic losses at the Battle of Fort Wagner in 1863 are also remembered for triumphant bravery shown and for how the soldiers paved the way for numerous other black units in the Union Army for the remainder of the war.  The 54th also fought a lesser-known but just as critical battle against its own government: the fight for equal pay.  African American soldiers in the 54th and other Black units refused pay for 18 months until the government granted them the same pay to their white counterparts.  While the achievement of equal pay is regarded another triumph for civil rights, numerous tragedies shape this story: the hardship of the pay battle on Black soldiers and their families, the immense tragedy of the US Government’s racism and oppression, and the harsh punishments and even deaths of several soldiers for “mutiny” over the conflict.

How do you think that Triumph and Tragedy can act as perspectives for examining history?  What items in our collection do you think connect to the theme?


Sibley’s Harvard Graduates: Determination and Persistence

By Conrad Edick Wright, Research

One of the happy consequences of the Massachusetts Historical Society’s centuries-long institutional stability has been its ability to carry out extended projects. It is not that we actively try to transform small, modest undertakings into ones that never end, but that we see our commitments through to their conclusion. Determination and persistence are our watchwords. The time horizon of most businesses is usually a matter of a few weeks, months, or years. Even well-endowed educational and cultural institutions rarely project their plans decades into the future. One of the Massachusetts Historical Society’s signature projects, however, Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, a multi-volume collected biography of the college’s alumni, has a history more than a century and three-quarters long, including more than 130 years as a formal MHS activity.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, no one expected that work on Sibley’s Harvard Graduates would still be underway today. To say that Sibley has proceeded by fits and starts would be a triumph of tact. Whether one dates the series from 1842 (the year that Harvard assistant librarian John Langdon Sibley [1804-1885] began to collect source materials for the series), 1859 (when he wrote the first entries), or 1873 (when he published the first volume), the undisputable fact is that the project has been underway for a very long time.

It goes without saying that everyone involved would prefer a more rapid rate of publication. The series was an ancillary responsibility when Sibley began to work on it some 176 years ago, however, and an ancillary responsibility it has remained. One of his many duties as assistant librarian was to maintain an up-to-date record of Harvard’s alumni. The college began no later than 1674 to publish an annotated broadside list of its graduates, Catalogus eorum qui in Collegio Harvardino . . . alicujus gradus laurea donate sunt, so in 1841, when President Josiah Quincy asked (or really instructed) Sibley to add the preparation of the list to his library responsibilities its form and nature were well established. The broadside appeared once every three years. To the extent possible, it included the Latinized names of the known graduates of the college—thus William Ames, A.B. 1645, became Gulielmus Amesius. Graduates who had achieved such honors as elevation to a major public office or admission to a significant cultural institution qualified for appropriate abbreviated notes recognizing these distinctions. When a graduate died, he did not disappear from the list; instead, a star next to his name marked his passing.

As Sibley accumulated reams of biographical information on Harvard men, friends began to urge him to make more of this data than the restricted space of the triennial broadside allowed. There were already models of collected biography to draw on, notably Athenae Oxonienses: An Exact History of All the Writers and Bishops Who Have Had their Education in the University of Oxford from 1500 to 1690 by Anthony Wood (1632-1695), but, model or not, preparing volumes of Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, later known simply as Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, still proved to be a time consuming task. Shortly before Sibley’s death in 1885, he completed his third and final volume; he had taken his story from Harvard’s first graduating class in 1642 through the class of 1689. All told, he had written entries on 301 graduates. Some sketches, on subjects about whom little was known, were only a few paragraphs long. In contrast, the entry on the Puritan minister Cotton Mather, A.B. 1678, no doubt colonial America’s most prolific author, ran 153 pages, including a list 117 pages long of his 456 works.

John Langdon Sibley and his wife, Charlotte, lived with unusual frugality; at his death, after providing for Charlotte, he pledged to the Society about $150,000, to that point its largest bequest. Although the legacy could be used for a number of different purposes, the continuation of Sibley’s Harvard Graduates was the closest to his heart. Nearly half a century passed before another scholar, Clifford K. Shipton (1902-1973), resumed the series. Between 1930, when Shipton began the work, and the posthumous publication of volume 17 in 1975, he prepared fourteen volumes of sketches, a massive achievement that carried the project from the class of 1690 through the class of 1771. After a sixteen-year pause, work on the series resumed in 1989. Volume 18 appeared in 1999. Publication of volumes 19 and 20 is in progress, and research and writing for volume 21, which will take the series through the class of 1784, is far along.

From time to time, scholars and administrators at other American colleges have toyed with the possibility of undertaking their own counterpart to Sibley and two institutions have produced valuable reference tools. Between 1885 and 1912, Franklin Bowditch Dexter (1842-1920) brought out six volumes of entries on Yale alumni from the school’s founding in 1701 through the class of 1815. At Princeton, between 1976 and 1991, a team of scholars issued five volumes of sketches of that college’s graduates and non-graduates through the class of 1794. In 2005, the MHS and the New England Historic Genealogical Society brought out a CD-ROM, Colonial Collegians: Biographies of Those Who Attended American Colleges before the War for Independence, that collected all the Harvard, Yale, and Princeton entries through the class of 1774, together with parallel material on the graduates of William and Mary, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Dartmouth, Rutgers, the medical schools at Penn and Columbia, and William Tennant’s Log College, a Presbyterian seminary.

Recent Sibley volumes, both published and in the works, as well as Colonial Collegians testify to the Society’s belief that even after well over a century it has not quite satisfied its commitment to John Langdon Sibley and his Harvard graduates. In the coming years, look for more Sibley volumes in print, including those now in press. And look for Colonial Collegians, currently available in our reading room as a CD-ROM, to be accessible one day as a free reference source on the MHS’s website.

Travel Without Moving : Adam Matthew Digital and the History of Tourism

By Katie Loughrey, Reader Services

As summer draws to its inevitable end, I am somewhat grateful (In case you haven’t noticed, it has been a hot one!) and somewhat wistful. Although I’ve been privileged to take several trips this season, I am someone always thinking of the next place left to explore, even if that place is as close as downtown Boston or a small piece of New England I haven’t yet seen in my lifetime of living here. Luckily, as a library assistant here at MHS and an aspiring archivist, I do always have an option to turn to when needing to be transported to a new place: the archives.

Quite the useful tool in my vicarious travels has been the Adam Matthew Digital online database Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture: The History of Tourism. This digital collection – available by subscription – highlights materials from several contributing institutions around the world, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, revolving around the birth and growth of travel and mass tourism between 1850 and 1980. The collection is made up of all sorts of ephemera from photographs, travel brochures, and ads to promotional tourism films. One can explore the collection by curated themes, country or region, contributing institution, or even within a set chronological timeline. It can be accessed online here at the MHS, or within any contributing or subscribing library.

Below I’ve highlighted a few items from our collections available on this database, and how they contribute to our understanding of how Americans traveled and toured New England in the past two centuries.

Many of the more eye-catching items are those tourism guides and brochures by transportation and tourism companies trying to entice consumers to be whisked away on a seasonal adventure of a lifetime. A prime example is this guide, Outdoors in New England, published in 1909 by the Boston & Maine Railroad General Passenger Department.

 

Inside this colorful volume, are nearly 50 pages of enthusiastic prose on the many leisure activities in the different states of New England, “the ideal, the perfect resting-up section of America.” Accompanied by both photographs and tri-colored illustrations of serene activities like boating and fishing, it captures the ever increasing narrative of the commodity of vacation as a respite from the tedium and stress of work and everyday life that was becoming available to the average American as railroads commercialized.

 

As the next decade approaches, more of these brochures became geared toward automobile travel, such as Real Tour to the Berkshires, published by the Real Tour Association of Lenox, MA. Including a fold-out map of the routes, the guide provides a detailed description of a scenic drive from New York through Connecticut and into the Berkshire area of western Massachusetts, with suggestions of accommodations and activities along the ride.

 

 

Aside from brochures and advertisements, a large part of our travel related collections on this database, and in general, are travel diaries. The diaries of Eva E. Blackwelder record her travels through Boston and surrounding towns, from winter 1938 to spring 1939. Eva’s entries are quite thorough, noting the weather, the sights seen, town histories learned on her tours and the quality, or lack thereof, of food at each of their accommodations. Not unlike myself, Eva seems to have kept most of the brochures, maps, photos and newspaper clippings collected along her journey to remember these places by. A notable realization as one leafs through these pages is how most of the sites she visited nearly a hundred years ago – the many stops of the Freedom Trail, Plymouth village, the House of Seven Gables in Salem – remain the draw for many tourists to this area today due to eastern Massachusetts’ historic past.

Eva E. Blackwelder Scrapbook [8], c.1938-1957.

 

Eva E. Blackwelder Scrapbook [Brochures], 1935.

 


Eva E. Blackwelder Scrapbook [Brochures], c.1938-1957.


Here’s a final nostalgic image from Eva’s journal – soon to be just a faint memory for Massachusetts travelers – physical turnpike tolls. On her way back into Boston at one point she writes:  

The toll houses were constructed with large gates which swing across the way as reminders to the traveler that he must help pay for the road.

The toll rates for passing over the turnpike were 25 cents for one person with a carriage of 4 wheels drawn by four horses. Carts and wagons with 2 horses paid half this amount… horse chaise, 10 cents. A man on horseback 5 cents. Cattle one cent and sheep and swine 3 cents a dozen. According to the general turnpike laws no toll could be collected from a passenger on foot; nor could toll be collected from those going to or from public worship within the limits of any town.

It’s hard to decide which is more surreal – a 25 cent toll or dozens of sheep on I-90! Either way, I hope this post inspires you to venture out on one last day trip before it’s too late.

The Nathaniel T. Allen Papers and Photographs

By Susan Martin, Collections Services

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about two terrific collections available for research at the MHS, the papers and photographs of Nathaniel T. Allen of West Newton, Mass. The Allens were a truly remarkable family. Nathaniel, his wife Carrie, and their three daughters (as well as many other relatives) were educators and reformers of the 19th and 20th century, and these fascinating collections are a very welcome addition to our library. I processed the photographs, and my colleague Laura Lowell processed the papers.

 

This cabinet card photograph (Photo. #247.311), taken in 1882, is my favorite of the Allen family. Seated are Nathaniel Topliff Allen (1823-1903) and his wife Caroline Swift (Bassett) Allen (1830-1915). Standing behind them, from left to right in reverse age order, are their three children: Lucy Ellis Allen (1867-1943), Sarah Caroline Allen (1861-1897), and Fanny Bassett Allen (1857-1913). A son, Nathaniel, Jr., had died as a child. 

Nathaniel Allen was the founder and principal of the West Newton English and Classical School (familiarly known as “the Allen School”) from 1854 to 1900. The school was progressive, co-educational, and integrated, and its student body included African-American, Latino/a, and Asian boys and girls, as well as international students. It was also one of the first schools to incorporate physical education into the curriculum. Nathaniel’s wife Carrie worked with him to run the school and look after the students, many of whom boarded in various Allen family homes. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins also served as teachers and administrators.

 

This photograph (Photo. #247.874) of the Allen School at 35 Webster Street, West Newton, dates from 1886. Carrie is seated in the middle wearing a light-colored shawl, with Nathaniel immediately to her right. You can also see some exercise equipment in the yard.

After Nathaniel died in 1903, his oldest and youngest daughters, Fanny and Lucy, opened the Misses Allen School for Girls at the same location. Their middle sister Sarah, unfortunately, had died in childbirth in 1897 at the age of 36.

Laura and I processed the papers and photographs concurrently, and I think our work really benefited from the collaboration. We arranged the collections to mirror each other, for the most part, with separate series of family and school material. This division was trickier than it sounds, because many family members were also teachers and students. I frequently had to move photographs from one section to the other as I figured out who everyone was. (For more information about how we process photographs at the MHS, see my earlier Beehive post.)

The photograph collection contains 1,030 photographs, primarily individual and group portraits of Allen family members and students spanning almost 100 years. While Laura got to know the Allens from their letters, diaries, and other writings, I got to know them from their faces. The collection was completely disorganized when it came to us, but by the end I’d gotten pretty good at identifying people and could even distinguish baby pictures of the three sisters!

It was a lot of fun to share information and compare impressions with Laura as we worked. When she came across a particularly interesting person, she was curious to see what he or she looked like. I also went to her to learn more about the people who intrigued me. For example, I loved the way Lucy, the youngest Allen, usually smiled directly into the camera while other subjects looked stiff or coy with a slightly averted gaze.

The story of the Allens has so many fascinating threads to follow that we hope these collections will be of interest to a wide variety of researchers. For example, Edwin and Gustaf Nielsen were two brothers who, through the intervention of the poet Celia Thaxter, were taken as wards into the Allen home and became de facto members of the family. There’s also Fanny Allen’s decades-long friendship with Pauline Odescalchi, Princess of Hungary. Not to mention the fact that the Allens played an active part in the anti-slavery, suffrage, temperance, peace, and educational reform movements, rubbing elbows with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Horace Mann, and Lucy Stone.

Nathaniel and Carrie Allen had no surviving grandchildren. Fanny and Lucy never married, and Sarah’s only daughter died two days after she did in 1897. But this family of teachers clearly had a profound and far-reaching influence on the thousands of boys and girls who attended the Allen School and Misses Allen School. Among them were future writers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, activists, soldiers, at least one actor, and a Supreme Court justice. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about them.

The Adams Papers Digital Edition Turns Ten!

By Amanda M. Norton, Adams Papers

On July 1, 2008, the Massachusetts Historical Society launched the Founding Families Digital Editions, the home of the Adams Papers Digital Edition. This resource converted 45 years’ worth of published material, comprising 32 volumes and three generations of Adamses, and made them more accessible than ever with keyword searching, a cumulative index, and hyperlinked cross references on a freely available website. This massive multi-department undertaking took three years, financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Harvard University Press, as well as technical support from Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press. Using a defined subset of the Text Encoding Initiative, an XML-based tagging language designed for the digital markup of various kinds of texts in the humanities, the website retains the editorial standards of the original letterpress volumes, while making the presentation more flexible for the digital environment. As originally conceived, this Founding Families project was to house both the Adams Papers and the seven volumes of the Winthrop Family Papers; however, over time, the projects were separated and the Founding Families page was renamed to simply the Adams Papers Digital Edition.

Over the last ten years, the website has only increased in its value to scholars and the public as thirteen more volumes have been made available, additional search and browse features were added, and displays were updated.

This summer we are pleased to announce that to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the Adams Papers Digital Edition has undergone a complete redesign. The all new web platform enhances not only its readability but also its usability, with more tailored search options, the ability to save your most recent search, and a better mobile experience. Last, but certainly not least, the relaunched website benefits from the addition of a new volume, Papers of John Adams, Volume 17. This volume includes a momentous occasion for both the Adamses and the nation—John Adams greeting King George III as the first minister from the newly independent United States. John’s detailed account of this dramatic meeting, written in code to the secretary of foreign affairs, John Jay, is just one highlight from a volume that also includes the first substantial correspondence between Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the beginnings of treaty negotiations with the Barbary States of North Africa.

While some of the Adams Papers volumes are also available on both the National Archives’ Founders Online and Rotunda’s Founding Era sites, only the Adams Papers Digital Edition website includes all of the historical documents and editorial content from all of the digitized volumes in one place; and the Adams Papers Editorial Project with the Massachusetts Historical Society is committed to continuing to expand its digital offerings. Visit our new site at www.masshist.org/publications/adams-papers.

This Week @ MHS

By

 – Monday, 25 June, 12:00PM : Jean Franzino of Beloit College presents this week’s first Brown Bag talk, titled “Dis-Union: Disability in the U. S. Civil War.” Franzino’s project examines the emerging legal category of “disabled” American at the end of the nineteenth century in relation to the construction of disability in Civil War literature, broadly conceived. In texts ranging from hospital newsppaer poetry to mendicant narratives sold for veterans’ financial support, representations of Civil War injury engaged shifting understandings of disability: from individual condition to evolving social class.

This talk is free and open to the public. Pack a lunch and come on in!

– Tuesday, 26 June, 6:00PM : Stephen Bush of Brown University is on-hand to discuss his new book, William James on Democratic individuality. William James advocated a philosophy of democracy and pluralism that emphasizes individual and collective responsibility for our social arrangements, our morality, and our religion. In James’s view, democracy resides first and foremost not in governmental institutions but rather in the characteristics of individuals and in qualities of mind and conduct. It is a philosophy for social change, counseling action and hope despite the manifold challenges facing democratic politics, and these issues still resonate strongly today. Stephen Bush explores how these themes connect to James’s philosophy of religion, his moral thought, his epistemology, his psychology, and his metaphysics.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

– Wednesday, 27 June, 12:00PM : Judith Harford of University College Dublin leads the second Brown Bag talk of the week, and it is called “The Gendering of Diaspora: Irish American Women Teachers and the Rise of the Irish American Elites, 1880-1920.” This talk examines the education, professional training and wider public activism of first-generation Irish American women teachers during the peak of Irish emigration to the United States. 

This talk is free and open to the public.

– Friday, 29 June, 2:00PM : Guest curator and American furniture specialist Clark Pearce leads visitors through the current exhibition with this Gallery Talk: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End, identifying highlights while giving deeper context to the life and work of two extraordinary Massachusetts craftsmen, Isaac Vose and Thomas Seymour.

This event is free and open to the public.

– Saturday, 30 June, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825.

– Saturday, 30 June, 3:00PM : As a doctoral student at Boston University’s School of Theology, Martin Luther King, Jr., spent some of his formative years walking the streets of Boston and living in the South End. His life in Boston was King’s first immersive experience outside of the segregated South and while he experienced the de facto racism of the North he also enjoyed the acceptance of the BU and Boston area communities. The Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston Walking Tour will guide visitors through areas of Boston where King lived and socialized, where he met and courted Coretta Scott, and where he returned later at the height of the Civil Rights Movement to deliver powerful speeches on the struggle for racial and economic equality.

This event is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10  (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows or EBT cardholders).

A Little Free Library @ MHS!

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

The next time you are in the neighborhood, we invite you to stop to check out the Little Free Library we have installed to the left of our front steps. One of many such book exchanges in Boston, the Little Free Library maintained by Massachusetts Historical Society staff will be filled with books that are free for the taking! If you take a book, also consider leaving a book in its stead so that another reader may have a chance to enjoy it. 

While you’re pausing to browse the current selection of free books, be sure to check out our upcoming events on the calendar to your left — many of our events are free and open to the public.

Of course, the Massachusetts Historical Society is, itself, a big free library — we welcome researchers into our reading room Monday through Saturday to work with our non-circulating collections of manuscripts, rare print materials, art, artifacts, and photograph collections. More information about planning a visit to work with our collections may be found on our website.

 

Massachusetts Historical Review : Its Origins and Legacy

By Katheryn Viens, Research

To most MHS members, the Massachusetts Historical Review is the annual publication that appears in their mailboxes every autumn, with a glossy, colorful cover and intriguing historical content. Few members know its rich history or visualize its exciting prospects for the future. As we typeset the forthcoming issue and develop essays for future volumes, this seems a good time to reflect on the MHR’s heritage and legacy.

In 1859, the members of the MHS decided to launch a new publication. Since 1792, the year after the Society’s founding, members had been “multiplying the copies” of items in the archives by issuing Collections volumes. Now, as the country approached a civil war, Boston was growing dramatically, from a town of fewer than 20,000 in 1790 to a city of almost 180,000. The Society’s collection, too, had ballooned with the 1857 acquisition of the more than 4,600 volumes in the library of Thomas Dowse. The men who made up the Society now represented a wider range of interests, and they decided to apply the best practices of corporate business to the conduct of the MHS.

A new publication would document the Society’s “proceedings” and include an annual report. It would contain transcripts of the lectures that members offered when they gathered for meetings. A commitment to publish these talks could have resulted in a series of dry volumes—but what a roster of historians would appear in the pages of the Proceedings! Over nearly 140 years, until 1998, the deep leather chairs, madeira, and slanting sunlight of the Society’s afternoon meetings yielded the wisdom of Henry Adams, Oscar and Lillian Handlin, Edmund Morgan, and Bernard Bailyn, to name just a handful of the illustrious historians represented in the Proceedings’ pages.

Enter the 1990s. Computers and the internet transformed the way in which the MHS related to the outside world. Alongside our expanding research programs, including fellowships, conferences, and seminars, the Proceedings came to feel constrained. The MHS made the decision to end its publication and invite the wider possibilities of an annual journal that would accept outside submissions and, in its design, serve as an ambassador of the Society’s vibrant mission. The Massachusetts Historical Review was born.

Two decades later, the MHR features scholarship on all historical periods, from across the country and overseas. This takes the form of essays, photo-essays, historical documents, and review articles authored by both eminent scholars and those new to the field. There have been themed issues and a recent special issue on the occasion of the Society’s 225th anniversary, “Massachusetts and the Origins of American Historical Thought.” The forthcoming issue will include essays on the Harlem Renaissance artist Cloyd Lee Boykin, who taught in Boston, colonial Massachusetts Governor Thomas Pownall, and the 1975 Edelin manslaughter trial. Essays demonstrate the influence of Massachusetts across the nation and around the world.

As with the Proceedings, the Research Department acquires and develops the content for the MHR, while the Publications Department handles the copyediting, design, and indexing. Throughout this process, the MHS staff maintains a commitment to scholarly excellence. They send each essay to at least two peer reviewers in a “double-blind” process, and the editors and authors work together to revise and edit the contributions.

Now available online (as are the Proceedings), the MHR has a wider reach than ever before. It takes its place comfortably among a range of professional journals in major research libraries. And it offers a pleasant read in a comfy chair on a quiet afternoon, perhaps alongside a little glass of good madeira.