The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

The Nathaniel T. Allen Papers and Photographs

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.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, July 1918

Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s previous entries, here:

January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December

 

As regular readers of the Beehive know, we are following Barbara throughout 1918 with monthly blog posts that present Barbara’s daily life -- going to school, seeing friends, playing basketball, and caring for family members -- in the words she wrote a century ago. Here is Barbara’s June, day by day.

 

* * *

MON. 1                       JULY

Came to Camp.

TUES. 2

Got word that Peg was operated on. Unpacked. Swimming

WED. 3

Hung around. Swimming. Went to Hillcrest

Image from Tileston’s off-hand sketches in Boston Harbor: Pen and Ink Drawings, Centennial 1876.


THUR. 4                      INDEPENDENCE DAY

Governor’s Island picnic. Drunk! Raspberries! Swimming

FRI. 5

Went to [Wiers]. Swimming. Run Sheep Run.

SAT. 6

Played Basketball. Swimming

SUN. 7

Hung around. Swimming.

MON. 8

Went to Merideth. Swimming

TUES. 9

Basketball. Swimming

WED. 10

Pete + Babe [start] for Reg’s wedding. Swimming

THUR. 11

Went to Haunted House. Libby + Rosamond came. Swimming.

FRI. 12

Bear Island

SAT. 13

Basket Ball. Canoeing. Thunder Storm

SUN. 14

Rehearsed for play. Swimming. Powder fight.

MON. 15

Went Blueberrying. Swimming

TUES. 16

Peg got after the skunk. Uncle Sam. Swimming. Cake. Play.

WED. 17

Hot as the dickens. Mother went home.

THUR. 18

Col. Cummings Sick?

FRI. 19

Walked down Boulevard. Swimming

SAT. 20

Hung around

SUN. 21

Went to church. Song service.

MON. 22

P The Hiems took us to the movies. Swimming

TUES. 23

The Streeter’s came. Went Raspberrying on Governor’s Island

WED. 24

Basketball. Swimming

THUR. 25

Sprained my finger. Went by ice houses. Supper on the [stove].

FRI. 26

Basketball. Couldn’t play. [Streiter’s] went home. Pinnicle over night

SAT. 27

Hung around and […]

SUN. 28

Hung around. Swimming

MON. 29

Canoeing. Swimming. Uncle Freddie, Miss A- + Mr R-S [show]

TUES. 30

Basketball. Swimming

WED. 31

[no entry]

* * *

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 Barbara Hillard Smith collection may be found here.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 11:00 AM

Piracy and Repentance

As many of us are gearing up to indulge in summer fun, potentially beach or ocean related, it seems a more than appropriate time to delve into MHS collections related to real life swashbucklers. In an earlier post we discussed collections related to the Whydah pirates who were executed in Boston in 1717. Boston also boasts as the place of capture for the notorious Capt. William Kidd.

Kidd started out as a British privateer and was praised for defeating several French ships for England. In 1695, he received a commission from the King to take out pirates that were attacking East India Trading Company Ships. It was after setting sail to fulfill this commission that Kidd turned to piracy.

The most extensive document we have related to Kidd’s story is titled A Full Account of the Proceedings in Relation to Capt. Kidd… written in 1701 by “A person of quality.”

 

Leading up to Kidd’s trial in 1701 there were many rumors and great debate that he was framed by his benefactors, primarily the Earl of Bellemont. The Earl had been responsible for proposing the pirate-hunting commission from the king and was also responsible for helping fit Kidd with a ship and crew. This pamphlet was published by allies of the Earl and primarily serves to argue for the Earl’s ignorance in relation to Kidd’s intentions of piracy, discuss the details of Kidd’s commission, and call for a salvaging of the Earl’s reputation while also recounting a sort of origin story for Kidd that follows up until his trial in England.

In addition, there are The Dying Words of Capt. Kidd and Capt. Kidd: a noted pirate, who was hanged at Execution Dock, in England. Both documents appear to have the same information, but are housed in different formats, accompanied by different art, and are marked with different publishing dates.

 

Capt. Kidd : a noted pirate, who was hanged at Execution Dock, in England, pictured above, is a small broadside adorned with a drawing of a ship set in the center of the title. It is believed to have been published sometime between 1837 and 1841, but the publisher is unknown. Running vertically up the center of the document, there is writing that indicates this piece was once sold, “by L. Deming at the sign of the Barber’s Pole, Hanover Street, Boston, and at Middlebury, Vt.”

 

The Dying Words of Capt. Kidd, however, is held as microform and is marked in the upper left-hand corner with an illustration of a figure on a horse looking onward towards another figure hanging from gallows. The publisher for this piece is also unknown and the publishing date an uncertain “1800?” Either way, they seem to simply be two separate printings of the same song.

Yes, you read correctly, song. Both titles turning out to be incredibly misleading, the text in these works appear not to be Kidd’s words at all, but a sort of foreboding nursery rhyme. The painfully repetitive lyrics recount a remorseful and repentant Kidd warning other sailors not to follow his example and, “for the sake of gold, lose your souls.”

 

Regretfully, no melody for the tune can be provided from the text, but if you’re looking for suggestions, I would recommend “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain.” Just give it a try.

It is difficult to imagine that Kidd actually felt or ever even said many of the lines recounted in this song himself, especially given that either of these were published a decent century after his execution. What isn’t difficult to imagine or observe is that religious leaders of the 17th and 18th century would often use pirate executions as an opportunity to draw the minds of their congregations to their own sins and need for repentance. This practice can be seen in action throughout several MHS collections, more notably by people like Cotton Mather who was also referenced in the earlier piratical blog post.

One example that can be given comes in a pamphlet from the Boston Society for the Moral and Religious Instruction of the Poor entitled An Address to the Spectator of the Awful Execution in Boston, referring to the execution of several pirates.

 

This brief pamphlet charges onlookers to pray for the pirates, reflect on their own sins, and to take initiative in dissuading their children and friends from sin. It ends with a hymn of repentance.

 


For more on pirates and guilt trips… I mean repentance:

Davis, William C., The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World Of The Corsairs Of The Gulf. 1st ed. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, 2005.

Kidd, William, Nicholas Churchill, and Don C Seitz., The Tryal Of Capt. William Kidd For Murder & Piracy Upon Six Several Indictments. New York: Printed for R.R. Wilson Inc., 1936.

Mather, Cotton, The Converted Sinner :… A Sermon Preached In Boston, May 31, 1724. In The Hearing And At The Desire Of Certain Pirates, A Little Before Their Execution, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1724.

Tully, Samuel, The Last Words Of S. Tully : Who Was Executed For Piracy, At South Boston, December 10, 1812, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1812.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 6 July, 2018, 10:23 AM

The Adams Papers Digital Edition Turns Ten!

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.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 29 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

Massachusetts Students at National History Day

On June 10th, 64 middle and high school students from 25 different Massachusetts schools set out to the University of Maryland, College Park for the 2018 NHD National Contest. There they joined a group of over 3,000 students representing all fifty United States, Washington, D.C., Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and international schools in China, Korea, and South Asia.  Once at College Park, they spent the week presenting the history projects they’ve worked on all year, traded state pins and stories with students from around the world, and shared in the incredible experience that is National History Day.

Students bring pins from their state to National History Day, which they trade during the week. The goal is to collect every state and territory!


The annual National History Day contest serves as the final stage for a series of smaller NHD contests at the local and state/affiliate levels. There, students who have spent the year working on primary source-based research papers, exhibits, performances, documentaries, and websites and have made it through local, regional, and state contests compete against hundreds of other national and international projects. Massachusetts prize-winning projects explored this year’s theme of “Conflict and Compromise” through topics and historical figures including Deborah Sampson, the Treaty of Portsmouth, The Philippine-American War, Desmond Doss, and the Civilian Public Service.

Students visited the Lincoln Memorial during their D. C. Monuments Tour.


During their four day stay in College Park, students experienced life on a college campus, staying in dorms and eating in the school dining halls with students from around the world.  They viewed the exhibits and performances of other students and explained their own topics of research to new friends.  They also participated in a variety of activities with their Massachusetts cohort, including a monument tour of D.C., a trip to the National Zoo, and a Red Sox-Orioles baseball game at Camden Yards.  Finally, on the last day they participated in a massive parade and award ceremony in the UMD Stadium.

The MA students are wearing blue t-shirts with our tricorn hat logo on them.

 

The Massachusetts Historical Society is incredibly proud to recognize the following winners from the 2018 National Competition:

 

First Place - Senior Group Website

Tucker Apgar, Lily Ting, Sean Li

"'By Winter We Will Know Everything': The Prague Spring and Conflict over Control"

 Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School, Wenham MA

 

Outstanding Junior Entry from Massachusetts - Junior Paper

Heather Anderson

“The Penny War: How Children Fought to Compromise with Millionaires”

Hanscom Middle School, Lincoln MA

 

Outstanding Senior Entry from Massachusetts - Senior Group Website

Zijian Niu, Robert Sucholeiki

"The Geneva Accords: The Compromise That Sparked the Vietnam War”

Winchester High School, Winchester MA

 

We’d also like to extend a special shout out to William Sutton of Hingham High School for his selection as the Legacy Award nominee for Massachusetts, and to Massachusetts students who made it into the top ten finalists at NHD 2018: Angela McKenzie (Stoneham HS), Ben Franco and Massimo Mitchell (Applewild School), Nora Sullivan Horner (Hamilton Wenham HS), Arda Cataltepe (Weston HS), Robert Sucholeiki and Zijian Niu (Winchester HS), and Heather Anderson (Hanscom MS). Congratulations to all of our student historians!

If you are interested in learning more about NHD or joining us as a teacher, student, or judge for Massachusetts History Day 2018, please visit our website at www.masshistoryday.com.   


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 27 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

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