The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From Our Collections

Correcting the Record

When searching for MHS material about Cuba to coincide with President Obama’s recent trip, I ended up on the trail of another mystery, this time related to the identification of a photograph. In the Winthrop Murray Crane photographs, I found an image identified as Theodore Roosevelt in Havana, Cuba, 2 March 1904. But there was a problem: Roosevelt was serving as president in 1904. News outlets had been consistently reporting that Obama was only the second sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba, Calvin Coolidge being the first. It seemed unlikely that I’d uncovered a previously unknown trip to the island by Theodore Roosevelt!

Here’s the photograph in question. The subject, whoever he is, strolls pensively through the tobacco fields.

 

 

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I was the one who processed this collection as an MHS intern over ten years ago. I don’t remember what I based my identification on, but it wasn’t far-fetched; Crane was a Republican politician and close friend of Roosevelt’s. In fact, the very same collection includes three photographs of Crane and Roosevelt in Framingham, Mass. in 1902, during Crane’s tenure as governor of Massachusetts.

 

 

 

The puzzling 1904 photograph was apparently sent to Crane by a man named Arthur Plumb, who wrote on the back: “Compliments of Arthur W. Plumb, Havana Cuba March 2d 1904.” No mention of Roosevelt, and the photograph may have been taken at any time and only given to Crane that year. So both subject and date were questionable. (Probably the absence of Roosevelt’s characteristic pince-nez spectacles should have been a clue.)

Thankfully we have some great resources here at the MHS library. One of them is our resident walking encyclopedia, Peter Drummey (otherwise known as the Stephen T. Riley Librarian). He immediately identified the subject of the photograph as Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915), great-grandson of John Adams and former president of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Adams was in Cuba in 1890, which may have been when the photograph was taken. I compared it to others in our holdings. Here’s Adams as he appears in our collection of portraits of MHS members, sporting his trademark bushy white mustache. His jacket is even buttoned the same way!

 

 

I’ll close with an interesting, though unrelated, anecdote about Governor Winthrop Murray Crane documented in his papers and photographs. On 3 September 1902, Crane and Roosevelt were in a dramatic traffic accident in Pittsfield, Mass., when their horse-drawn carriage was hit by a streetcar. Unfortunately a man named William Craig died in the accident, becoming the first Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty. Here is a photograph of the damaged carriage.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 6 April, 2016, 10:39 AM

April Fools’ Day, 1864: The Cartoon Antics of Thomas Nast

Happy New Year!

…April Fool! Though, according to the Julian calendar developed by Julius Caesar, April 1 was designated the first day of the year. When Pope Gregory XIII instituted a new calendar in 1564 with January 1 as the start of the new year, adherents of the Gregorian calendar ridiculed the old-timers who continued to celebrate April 1 as New Year’s Day, labelling them “fools” and heaping pranks upon them. This tradition of practical jokes and pranks continues today, though in harmless fun and enjoyment for all (hopefully).

 

 

Printed in the April 2, 1864 issue of Harper’s Weekly, Thomas Nast’s depiction of “The First of April, 1864incorporates political commentary, Civil War satire, and general foolery. In the top insets, we see the antics of Union soldiers fooling their fellow men regarding the Confederate Army’s nearby whereabouts (top left), and Union sailors likewise blocking their comrades’ view of the enemy (top right). The bottom left inset depicts a husband and wife who have switched appearances, the wife sporting a coat, top hat, and mustache while her husband wears a dress and bonnet. In the center images, people have attached signs and strings with objects to others behind their backs. Nast gives the viewer a sense of his feelings for the Peace Democrats of the North, who were proponents of a cease-fire and negotiated settlement with the Confederacy, by depicting them as geese and donkeys in the top center image.

 

 

Thomas Nast, known as the “Father of the American Cartoon,” was a German-born American whose politically-charged cartoons wielded considerable influence over public opinion. His cartoons, many published in Harper’s Weekly, helped bring down the infamous “Boss” Tweed of Tammany Hall and influenced the elections of Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and Ulysses S. Grant in 1868 and 1872. Nast is also noted for creating the Republican Party symbol of the elephant and the modern depiction of Santa Claus.

To view this woodcut print in greater detail, visit the library in person and see if you can decipher more April Fools’ Day trickery in these scenes!

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 1 April, 2016, 12:00 AM

Margaret Russell's Diary, March 1916

Today, we return to the line-a-day diary of Margaret Russell. If you have missed previous installments of the diary you can find January (along with a brief introduction to the series) and February in the blog archive. In contrast to her busy travel schedule in February, Margaret Russell remained in Boston throughout the month of March. The weather continued to be quiet wintery, with Margaret often noting snow and “blowing” wind. Her days were spent socializing with friends, charity work, and cultural activities such as visits to the museum and attendance at lectures.

One of the things that can be most jarring or haunting about reading a line-a-day diary is the way in which meaningful events are sandwiched within otherwise mundane entries. For example, on March 5th Margaret writes that “Henry Curtis is dead” between noting where she ate lunch and how “fine” the Wagner concert she attended that day was.

 

And even though Margaret spent the month of March in Boston, she was not wanting for high-profile performers and speakers; among the lectures she attended was a speech by former President William Howard Taft and among the concerts she attended were two performances by pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941) who three years later would become prime minister of Poland.

 

* * *

March 1916

1 March.* Wednesday - Mrs. Ward’s lecture. Lunched at Club. Art Museum talk. Home to rest. Second lecture of coal by Prof. Jeffrey with Miss A--.

2 March. Thursday. M.G.H. Meeting. Walked down to see Miss Cannon. First [illegible words] England - Individualism. Skating Carnival with Parkman.

3 March. Friday. To Mrs. Dalton’s on C.D. business. Beautiful concert. To hear Pres. Taft speak at Red Cross in the evening.

4 March. Saturday - Mrs. Tyson’s reading. Paid calls & went to musical at Miss Mason’s.

5. March. Sunday - Walked to Cathedral with Miss A. Lunched at HGC’s. Henry Curtis is dead. Fine Wagner concert. Family to dine.

6 March. Monday. Hospital meeting. [illegible word]. Went to Mt. Auburn with CPC for funeral. Botany lecture.

7 March. Tuesday - snowing again. Lunched at Mrs. Mattey’s. Went to hear Mrs. Dupriez on Belgium. Very painful.

8 March. Wednesday - Church. Chilton. Had lunch at Miss Lamb’s. Art museum. Snowing hard.

9 March. Thursday - Chilton meeting. Am back as Gov. Lunch club at Mrs. Hunnewell’s. Power lecture. Dined at Mrs. Crafts.

10 March. Friday - Snowing again. Mrs. W. Charles came to play. Concert with Paderewski. Had dinner of 22 for Ellen at Chilton. Dancing class afterwards.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

11. March. Saturday. Mrs. Tyson’s reading. Mama sick so stayed at home with Mama. Mrs. Sears to concert as Paderewski played.

12 March. Sunday. Church. Lunched at HGC’s  Family to dine.

13 March. Monday. Errands - [illegible word] - lunched at Marian’s. Botany lesson. Thawing.

14 March. Tuesday. Ear & Eye visit in the A.M. Tuesday Club at M. Ware’s. Red Cross discussion. Had ten people to dine. Seemed pleasant.

15 March. Wednesday. Ward lecture. Lunched at Chilton. Art museum class - Snowing hard & blowing.

16 March. Thursday. Walked down town errands & church. After lunch went out to see Aunt E. Last [illegible word] lecture.

17 March. Friday - Fine day. Walked down town. Mrs. Chandler came to play. Lunch at Mrs. Jack Peabody’s. Drove out to Riverside, road good.

18 March. Saturday - 4 [illegible word] this A.M. - Mrs. Tyson’s. After lunch went down to Swampscott. Badly drifted in places but we did not suffer.

19 March. Sunday - Church to see Parkmans. Lunched at H.G.C’s. Paid calls. Found Mary R. who looks very ill. Family to dine.

20 March. Monday - Mrs. Norcross from [illegible word] Com. came by to see me & I liked her very much. Botany lesson at Cambridge. Was lecture at Mrs. Sears.

21 March. Tuesday - Eye & Ear through the A.M. Dined at the H. Burrs. Streets in awful condition.

22 March. Snowing hard & blowing again. Went out to Fogg museum where Ed. Forbes showed us the [illegible word] pictures.

23 March. Thursday - Walked for errands. Mrs. Charles to play. Lunch club at Jessie’s. Went out to see Aunt Emma.

24 March. Friday - Down town to buy typewriter & to church. Miss Ruelker to lunch & to go to concert. Went to Cambridge to see [illegible word].

25 March. Saturday - Mrs. Tyson’s reading.

26 March. Sunday Church. Lunched at Horatio’s. Family to dine. Went to see Mary Russell but there had been a sudden change.

27 March. Monday - went to walk for errands. Lunch at Marian’s. Visited the Eye & Ear.

28 March. Tuesday - Colonial Dames annual meeting but to Cambridge to lunch at Edith’s. Back to hear Miss Holinau speak at the Allens.

29 March. Wednesday - Interesting lecture from Pres. Taft. Lunched at Mrs. Allen’s with Miss Holinau. F. O. & Mrs. Hay & F. D. Cambridge concert in evening.

30 March. Thursday - Mrs. Charles to play. Went out to see Aunt Emma & there to dine. Mary Russell has had [illegible word].

31 March. Friday - Service at cathedral. Lunched at Chilton’s. Had Miss Reulker & Mrs. Bell, Mrs. Sears E & J. All went to concert. Dined at Georgie’s.

 

* * *

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.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 12:00 AM

This Island, Cuba

After President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some MHS material related to the island and its history. We hold a number of collections touching on the subject, including the papers of Boston-area merchants engaged in the U.S.-Cuba sugar trade during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Foremost among these merchant families was the Atkins family. Our popular collection of Atkins family papers spans from 1845 to 1950 and consists almost exclusively of the business papers of Elisha, Edwin F., and Robert W. Atkins, as well as the records of E. Atkins & Co. The Atkins family owned a sugar plantation called the Soledad estate on the southern coast of Cuba near Cienfuegos. By the end of the 19th century, under the leadership of Edwin F. Atkins, the prosperous Soledad had grown to enormous proportions, encompassing about 12,000 acres. Five thousand acres were planted with sugar cane.

 

Edwin F. and his wife Katharine W. Atkins, from their Cuban passport, 1917

 

The Atkins family papers came to the MHS with hundreds of photographs depicting life on the estate, as well as scenes of Cuban cities and seaports. It’s difficult to choose from so many terrific images, but here are a few of my favorites. (All of the photographs below are unfortunately undated.)

 

Soledad

 

An outing

 

Cienfuegos

 

Havana

 

Havana

 

Soledad

 

A big tree!

 

The MHS website features a digital exhibit of select items from the Atkins family papers, or you may just want to search our website for Cuba material. Other collections related to Cuba include the papers of the Foster, Morse, and Dabney families. Bay Staters also traveled to the island as tourists, and we hold many letters and diaries written during these trips. We hope you’ll visit our library to see what we have!

 

comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Friday, 25 March, 2016, 4:42 PM

The New Look of Science....260 Years Ago

Between 1752 and 1756 in Paris, Jaques Fabien Gautier, or Gautier d'Agoty (1717-1785) published a six-volume, 18-part set titled Observations sur l'histoire naturelle, sur la physique et sur la peinture... While such publications were not uncommon at the time, what set this one apart was that it contained plates printed in color, the first science periodical to ever do so. He employed a well-established intaglio printmaking process known as mezzotint, a method of engraving in tone.1 

The Society holds two volumes in one of d'Agoty's Observations sur l'histoire naturelle. In addition to observing specimens of natural history, like plants, mammals, birds, and humans, d'Agoty also included obeservations on physical science as well as art and painting. Below are some of the striking images that appear in the work. Enjoy!

[Disclaimer: If you got squeamish when dissecting a frog in high school, be aware that there are a couple of images of internal anatomy of humans and animals.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Osborne, Harold, The Oxford Companion to Art, Oxford University Press, 1970.

comments: 1 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 5 March, 2016, 3:45 PM

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