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Beehive series: Today @MHS

The Significance of Strawberries

In New England, the arrival of summer is synonymous with strawberries. Strawberry plants (fields) can be found throughout the region, and the strawberry harvest in late May and early June goes hand-in-hand with the most beautiful part of the year. The lovely, fragrant evenings and the final sigh of relief as New Englanders pack their coats away for the summer inevitably lead to the sudden desire to celebrate the arrival of the long-awaited warm months of summer. So, naturally, spring fetes were often “Strawberry Festivals.” The delicious berry was a welcome addition to the kitchen after months of cooking and consuming dried fruit. Every dish on the table was augmented, filled, or garnished with the beautiful, vibrant, and sweet berry.

In the nineteenth century Strawberry Festivals or parties were very popular. The strawberry was the first crop of the summer, and the region was dotted with strawberry farms. Strawberry festivals were popular events celebrated in many New England towns. Here at the Historical Society we have a few examples of broadside advertisements for local strawberry festivals from the late nineteenth century.

 

Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club (yes, they were up to the same silliness all those years ago!) produced an annual show called “Strawberry Night” in June. 

 

But for us at the Massachusetts Historical Society, such festivals have a very special significance as our annual strawberry festival may have indeed led to the bequest of our biggest benefactor. According to Robert C. Winthrop, MHS President from 1855-1885, it was the invitation to the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Strawberry Festival that led Thomas Dowse to donate his prized library to the MHS, and to that end, Winthrop says, “the regeneration of our Society may thus be fairly dated.”

“SPECIAL MEETING, JUNE, 1886. A Social Meeting of the Society was held at the house of Mr. Charles Deane, in Cambridge, on Friday, the 18th instant, at five o'clock, P.M.

The Hon. Robert C. Winthrop then spoke as follows :

 “Passing from this topic, let me say how glad I am to find myself at another social meeting of our old society at Cambridge…

…But another of these Cambridge meetings was still more memorable, and can never be forgotten in the history of our Society. I refer, as I need hardly say, to the meeting at good George Livermore's in 1856, just thirty years ago. From that meeting came the library and large endowment of our great benefactor, Thomas Dowse. Mr. Dowse was a neighbor and friend of Mr. Livermore, and had been specially invited by him to come over to our strawberry festival. Age and infirmities prevented his acceptance of the invitation; but the occasion induced him to inquire into the composition and character of our Society, and he forthwith resolved to place his precious books, the costly collections of a long life, under our guardianship, and to make them our property forever. From that meeting the regeneration of our Society may thus be fairly dated. Cambridge strawberries have ever since had a peculiar flavor for us, - not Hovey's Seedling, though that too was a Cambridge product, but what I might almost call the Livermore Seedling or the Dowse Graft, which were the immediate fruits of our social meeting at Mr. Livermore's.”*

Read more about Thomas Dowse and the Dowse Library here! (http://www.masshist.org/database/210)

 

 

Ten years ago, The Librarian of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Peter Drummey, suggested the library staff resurrect the age-old tradition; one hundred and fifty years later, a Strawberry Festival was once again held by the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The Library Staff of the Massachusetts Historical Society holds a Strawberry Festival every year in late May or early June for the staff, friends, volunteers, researchers and patrons of the Massachusetts Historical Society. We will be hosting our 2017 Strawberry Festival on Friday, June 2nd.

 

*Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Second Series, Vol. 3, [Vol. 23 of continuous numbering] (1886 - 1887), pp. 53-54

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 2 June, 2017, 8:51 AM

This Week @ MHS

Returning from a long weekend, this week's schedule is heavy at the tail-end. Here is what's coming up in the week ahead:

The MHS is CLOSED on Monday, 29 May, in observance of Memorial Day. Normal hours resume on Tuesday, 30 May. 

- Thursday, 1 June, 6:00PM : The seventh annual Cocktails with Clio takes place at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum at Columbia Point. We invite you to join us for a festive evening in support of the Center for the Teaching of History at the MHS featuring Jill Lepore in conversation with Robin Young. The evening will begin with cocktails in the pavilion space overlooking the harbor. A seated dinner will follow. Registration is required for this event. 

- Friday, 2 June, 2:00PM : A Description of the New York Central Park by Clarence C. Cook, published in 1869, is recognized as the most important book about the park to apper during its early years. Stop by on Friday for a talk with Maureen Meister, who recently penned the introduction to a re-publication of the work. This talk is free and open to the public. 

The Library closes early on Friday at 2:30PM.

- Saturday, 3 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: The Irish Atlantic: A Story of Famine Migration and Opportunity.

- Saturday, 3 June, 1:00PM : Begin at the Beginning - "'They being stolne': Conflicting Views of Slavery and Governance in Early Massachusetts." Holly Brewer of the University of Maryland leads a discussion of primary documents revealing Massachusetts’s contradictory views and practice on slavery.  Compared to other British colonies, where elements of slavery were justified with broad and near-feudal rationales, she argues, Puritan Massachusetts resisted the right of kings and broadened the idea of consent. These ideas helped restrict slavery, even in the face of royal approval and promotion of slavery during the later 17th century and into the eighteenth century. This event is open to the public and registration is required at no cost. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 28 May, 2017, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It is a very quiet week ahead as we approach a long holiday weekend, with only one event on the calendar. It is:

- Tuesday, 23 May, 6:00PM : The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism is the title of a new book, and this talk, by Brad Snyder of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Through the lens of a group of ambitious young men disillusioned with the slow pace of change in the Taft Administration, Snyder looks at how ideas shifted from progressivism into what today we refer to as liberalism. This talk is open to the public and registration is required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM. 

Remember that our current exhibit, The Irish Atlantic, is open to the public free of charge, Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM. 

The MHS is CLOSED, Saturday, 27 May-Monday, 29 May, in observance of Memorial Day. Normal hours resume on Tuesday, 30 May. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 21 May, 2017, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

- Tuesday, 16 May, 5:15PM : This week's Environemental History seminar is headed by Jason L. Newton of Syracuse University and is rescheduled from 14 March. "The Winter Workscape: Weather and the Meaning of Industrial Capitalism in the Northern Forest, 1850-1950," draws on methods from environmental and labor history and the history of slavery and capitalism to characterize industrial capitalism as a force that will sustain seemingly anachronistic modes of production as long as they remain profitable. Richard W. Judd, University of Maine, provides comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.

- Thursday, 18 May, 6:00PM : Join us for the next installment of the Cooking Boston series. This episode, titled Sweet Boston, looks at the unusually strong interest in sweets that has long held in Boston. This panel discussion features Joyce Chaplin of Harvard University Department of History, author Michael Krondl, and Carla Martin, Founder and Executive Director of the Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institution and Lecturer at the Harvard University Department of African American Studies. This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $20 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM, followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM. 

- Saturday, 20 May, 10:00AM : The History and Collection 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: The Irish Atlantic: A Story of Famine Migration and Opportunity.

- Saturday, 20 May, 2:00PM : Stop by for a free author talk with Andrew Carroll of the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, and author of My Fellow Soldiers: General John Pershing and the Americans Who Helped Win the Great War. Registration is required for this event at no cost. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 14 May, 2017, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

It is a pretty quiet week here at the Society. This is what is on tap:

- Tuesday, 9 May : The Environmental History Seminar is CANCELED. 

- Wednesday, 10 May, 12:00PM : Join us for a Brown Bag lunch talk with Emily Gephart of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. "Avian Affinities and Refashioning Roles: Feathers, Millinery and American Bird Protection" examines the storyof how bird death led to rejection of fashion's mandates, a process that was neither swift, nor direct, nor simple, but reveals a complex politics of hybridity, in which roles, refusal, and refashioning play off one another in dynamic exchange. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Thursday, 11 May, 6:00PM : Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth is the title of a recent publication as well as the title of a talk with the author, Holger Hoock, of University of Pittsburgh. Often portrayed as an orderly, restrained rebellion, Hoock shows that the Revolution was not only a high-minded battle over principles, but also a profoundly violent civil war that shaped the nation and the British Empire in ways we have only begun to understand. This talk is open to the public. Registration is required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM. 

There is no tour this week, but you can still come in to view our current exhibition, The Irish Atlantic, anytime during normal exhibit hours, Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM. 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 7 May, 2017, 12:00 AM

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