The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

"Splendid Flowering Bulbs": Washburn & Co.'s 1865 Autumn Catalog

As we near the end of October here in Boston the trees are starting to turn vibrant yellows and oranges while the morning air is crisp with overnight frost. While many gardeners are digging up gardens and bringing plants indoors out of the cold for the winter ahead, it’s also time to think ahead to spring! Now is the season to plant tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and other flowering bulbs to rest through the winter months and flower with the return of light and warmth to the northern hemisphere. 


In the Massachusetts Historical Society’s collection of trade catalogs is an autumn catalog for 1865 from Washburn & Co. for Splendid Flowering Bulbs and Other Flowering Roots with Full Instructions for Cultivation. Inside are twenty-four pages of dense description and product listings by type: crocus, cyclamen, hyacinth, lilies, snowdrops, tulips, and more. Each price list is preceded by lush description: “The tulip,” offers the catalog, “of all bulbous flowers, is the most celebrated, popular, brilliant, and beautiful . . . easy of culture both in the conservatory or parlor and the open garden.” The Japanese lily, for which Washburn & Co. was lately rewarded with a silver medal by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, is given pride of place as an illustration inside the front of the catalog. 

Gardeners are able to order a range of bulbs for around $1.00 per bulb, or $4-8 per dozen, depending upon the variety. The catalog also offers gardening tools including flower pots, baskets (“a splendid assortment”), weather vanes, preserving jars, and flower arrangements for weddings and funerals. “Orders by Express or Telegraph will receive prompt attention”!

Interested in gardening in times past, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, or other aspects of flora and fauna in New England? Researchers are welcome to visit the library to consult this and other trade catalogs in our reading room. And don’t forget to venture out into this crisp autumn weather and enjoy the changing seasons in your own back yard. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 1:00 AM

This Week @MHS

We have a busy week ahead with a couple of seminars, an author talk, and a workshop.

- Monday, 22 October, 5:15 PM: Paul Revere's Ride through Digital History with Joseph M. Adelman, Framingham State University and Omohundro Institute; Liz Covart, Omohundro Institute; Karin Wulf, Omohundro Institute. This seminar examines components of the Omohundro Institute’s multi-platform digital project and podcast series, Doing History: To the Revolution. It explores Episode 130, “Paul Revere’s Ride through History,” and the ways the topic was constructed through narrative and audio effects, as well as the content in the complementary reader app. Participants are asked to listen to the podcast and access the reader app before the session. 

- Tuesday, 23 October, 5:30 PM: Reproducing Race in the Early Americas with Rhae Lynn Barnes, Princeton University; Deirdre Cooper Owens, Queens College; Sasha Turner, Quinnipiac University, and moderated by Nicole Aljoe, Northeastern University. This roundtable will use the body as frame for examining racial formation in the Caribbean and U.S. from the eighteenth century to the present. The presenters will meditate on biological reproduction in relation to citizenship and subjecthood, labor and economy, medical and scientific knowledge, and representations of blackness in popular culture. This program will take place at the Knafel Center, Radcliffe Institute. This is part of the Boston Seminar on the History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality series. Seminars are free and open to the public. 

- Wednesday, 24 October, 6:00 PM: Swindler Sachem: The American Indian Who Sold His Birthright, Dropped Out of Harvard, & Conned the King of England with Jenny Hale Pulsipher, Brigham Young University. Jenny Pulsipher opens a window onto 17th-century New England and the English empire from the unusual perspective of John Wompas, a Nipmuc Indian who may not have been all he claimed but was certainly out of the ordinary. Drawing on documentary and anthropological sources as well as consultations with Native people, Pulsipher examines struggles over Native land and sovereignty during an era of political turmoil and reveals how Wompas navigated these perilous waters for the benefit of himself and his kin. 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) 

- Saturday, 27 October, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM: Fashioning History workshop. Throughout history, our choices about what we wear tell the world about our personality, position, background, and beliefs. From textile in Boston Boycott, manufacture in the Industrial Revolution, to the fashion of war and protest, clothing offers a vivid lens to examine American cultural history. Drawing on the MHS exhibit “Fashioning the New England Family,” we will explore how clothing and style help us understand the everyday lives of historical New Englanders. This program is open to all who work with K-12 students. Teachers can earn 22.5 Professional Development Points or 1 graduate credit (for an additional fee). For questions, contact Kate Melchior at education@masshist.org or 617-646-0588.

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

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

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Monday, 22 October, 2018, 1:00 AM

Calling All High School Students: Apply for a 2019 John Winthrop Fellowship at the MHS

Are you a student who loves history?  Are you a teacher with students who are intrigued by primary source research?  Want the chance to spend some time in the MHS archives?  Check out the fellowship opportunities at the Center for the Teaching of History! 

John Winthrop Student Fellowship

The John and Elizabeth Winthrop Endowed Fellowship encourages high school students to make use of the nationally significant documents of the MHS in a research project of their choosing. Selected students will be referred to as "Winthrop Fellows".  Winthrop Fellows and their supervising teacher will each receive a $350 stipend. This fellowship gives students the chance to learn how to navigate an archive, work directly with primary sources, and experience what it is like to be a historian.

Although students are welcome to work at the MHS Reading Room in Boston, online access to hundreds of recently-digitized documents from our collections now makes it possible for students from across the country to identify, incorporate, investigate, and interpret these primary sources in their work. Together with their teacher advisor (a current or past History or English teacher, member of Library/Media staff, etc), students decide on a research project proposal that uses sources from the MHS collections.  This can be a project already assigned in class.  With the support of MHS library and education staff, students then perform research using MHS materials during the spring and must complete their research project to the teacher advisor’s satisfaction by 1 June, and finally write a blog post about their experience.

The John Winthrop Fellowship empowers students to explore a topic of their interest and helps them to access the often intimidating world of historical research. One of the most valuable aspects of this fellowship is the opportunity for students to directly interact with materials from the MHS archives.  In reflecting on their experiences, many students were struck by the immediacy of the artifacts:

"I never expected to be staring at a three hundred year old letter in which Hugh Hall, one of Boston’s prominent slave traders, complains rather vehemently of seasickness. The letter was written in big, loopy handwriting, the polar opposite of Hugh’s brother Richard’s cramped impossibility, on yellowed old paper that felt somewhat slimy. For a moment, I was overcome by the idea that I was touching Hall’s DNA." (2015 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

"It was incredible to see old newspapers that were transported along the Post Road to relay the world’s current events in the early 1700s, transformed into a computer document and displayed right in front of us.  The only thing that could top it was being able to hold the physical letter that essentially started the Boston Post Road. Oh yeah, we did that too!" (2016 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

Many students appreciated the chance to draw their own impressions of history directly from primary sources rather than interpreted through a textbook:

"At points in the letters, Nora [Saltonstall]’s sense of humor and wittiness were evident which reminded me that she was indeed human and brought to life the events that transpired, in a way that textbooks are unable to." (2013 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

"I suppose what I liked most was the ability to interpret the original documents on my own and draw my own conclusions around the actual evidence, rather than directly being told a conclusion by a third party." (2013 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

Students also valued the opportunity to work with MHS staff and librarians, who welcomed them to the archive and made the work of historical research more accessible:

"The staff always took me seriously, and was always ready to help if I had a question. Until now I had never used microfiche, but within two minutes the reference librarian had me set up and I knew all I needed to know to use it. I could even take pictures of the old documents and email them to myself so I could do work at home." (2014 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

"Although we were entirely new to the MHS, the staff treated us as if we were any other historians. Along with finding great sources, the respect we received from the staff boosted our confidence in our historical research skills." (2016 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

Most importantly, students walked away from their fellowship opportunity empowered by their experience at the MHS:  

"I have always wanted to be a historian. My time at the Massachusetts Historical Society obliterated any lingering doubts in that ambition. Words cannot describe the joy of these encounters with the past, an opportunity I will never forget." (2015 John Winthrop Student Fellow)

Applications for 2019 John Winthrop Fellowships should be mailed no later 18 February 2019. Check out our website for more information on the Swensrud Fellowship and how to apply!

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 19 October, 2018, 8:00 AM

Hints to Soldiers on Health: 14 tips for those serving during the Civil War

In the Albert Gallatin Browne papers you will find a printed piece of paper entitled, "Hints to Soldiers on Health." These "Directions for Preservation of Health" give pointers to soldiers serving in the Union Army during the Civil War on how to keep themselves in tip-top shape while living through the worst of conditions and on the move. It includes my favorite tip, number 11, regarding bleeding to death:

If, from any wound, the blood spirts out in jets, instead of a steady
stream, you will die in a few minutes unless it is remedied; because an artery
has been divided and that takes the blood direct from the fountain of life . . .

Aren't those positive words? If your blood is spurting out, you will most likely die. Don’t forget to wear flannel!

The handout does mention the difference between blood spurting and blood flowing, and what to do in either situation. While it’s necessary to know these things when you are about to enter a battlefield, the rather blunt wording shook me, thinking of all those who did indeed bleed out over the course of the war on both sides.

Number 7 is also a good reminder:

Recollect that cold and dampness are great breeders of disease. Have a 
fire to sit around, whenever you can, especially in the evening and after rain; 
and take care to dry every thing in and about your persons and tents. 

Even in the warmest of climates, it seems like having a fire would still be necessary. As William H. Eastman, a member of the 2nd Battery (Nim's Battery) of Massachusetts Volunteer Light Artillery writes home to his mother from Bayou Boeuf, Louisiana, 8 May 1863:

. . . the flys are awful thick + as soon as the sun sets 
musquitoes “Oh Dear” tis no use for me to try +
give any idea of their number a swarm of Bees
is no comparison as soon as sundown we build large
fires of corn husks + keep them agoing all night
why if a man has occasion to do a job for himself
after dark he is obliged to take some husks out + build
a fire + sit in the smoke else his rear will be in rather 
a dilapidated condition rather a tough state of things
but such is the case. I am fortunately well off as
I have confiscated the Captains Bed and Musquito bar
that were among the stores but is rather hard for many 
of the poor fellows without bars ^who get up + walk around
half the night to pass the time away.

Well! Hopefully this post has made you feel a little more comfortable with your living conditions, and thankful winter will soon set in and erase mosquitoes from our lives for a short time. Remember, "if disease begins to prevail, wear a wide bandage of flannel around the bowels!"

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 1:00 AM

Meet Some of Our Amazing Archivists

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!


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 10:00 AM

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