The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

The Ghoulish Bits

In October's issue of Boston magazine, writer Adrianna Borgia examines a few of the more macabre artifacts in the collections of the Society and other local institutions. Among the items highlighted from MHS are a lock of John Quincy Adams' hair, some cloth stained with the blood of Abraham Lincoln, and a fishhook supposedly made from a bone of Captain James Cook. The ashes of Sacco and Vanzetti (a portion of which are now at the Boston Public Library) and the book bound in human skin from the collections of the Boston Athenaeum round out the ghastly set.

You can read the whole article, and see pictures (if you wish), here.

We have a few other "relics" here in the MHS collections, including a piece of tanned human skin which accompanies a pamphlet ("Argument before the Tewksbury Investigation Committee by Governor Benj. F. Butler, upon facts disclosed during the recent investigation, July 15, 1883"), the death masks (casts of faces made soon after the subject's demise) of artist Washington Allston and historian Francis Parkman, some hair jewelry and other locks of hair (including that of Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, and the very creepy "hair of Josiah Winslow of Plymouth Colony, taken from his head in 1740, sixty years after he was buried"). We've also got a noose which its donor believed was the very one used to hang John Brown in 1859, and the windpipes of a chicken and a turtle, both given to the Society by S. Hall of Bridgewater in 1833.


permalink | Published: Friday, 2 October, 2009, 8:36 AM


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