The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Travel Without Moving : Adam Matthew Digital and the History of Tourism

As summer draws to its inevitable end, I am somewhat grateful (In case you haven’t noticed, it has been a hot one!) and somewhat wistful. Although I’ve been privileged to take several trips this season, I am someone always thinking of the next place left to explore, even if that place is as close as downtown Boston or a small piece of New England I haven’t yet seen in my lifetime of living here. Luckily, as a library assistant here at MHS and an aspiring archivist, I do always have an option to turn to when needing to be transported to a new place: the archives.

Quite the useful tool in my vicarious travels has been the Adam Matthew Digital online database Leisure, Travel and Mass Culture: The History of Tourism. This digital collection - available by subscription - highlights materials from several contributing institutions around the world, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, revolving around the birth and growth of travel and mass tourism between 1850 and 1980. The collection is made up of all sorts of ephemera from photographs, travel brochures, and ads to promotional tourism films. One can explore the collection by curated themes, country or region, contributing institution, or even within a set chronological timeline. It can be accessed online here at the MHS, or within any contributing or subscribing library.

Below I’ve highlighted a few items from our collections available on this database, and how they contribute to our understanding of how Americans traveled and toured New England in the past two centuries.

Many of the more eye-catching items are those tourism guides and brochures by transportation and tourism companies trying to entice consumers to be whisked away on a seasonal adventure of a lifetime. A prime example is this guide, Outdoors in New England, published in 1909 by the Boston & Maine Railroad General Passenger Department.

 

Inside this colorful volume, are nearly 50 pages of enthusiastic prose on the many leisure activities in the different states of New England, “the ideal, the perfect resting-up section of America.” Accompanied by both photographs and tri-colored illustrations of serene activities like boating and fishing, it captures the ever increasing narrative of the commodity of vacation as a respite from the tedium and stress of work and everyday life that was becoming available to the average American as railroads commercialized.

 

As the next decade approaches, more of these brochures became geared toward automobile travel, such as Real Tour to the Berkshires, published by the Real Tour Association of Lenox, MA. Including a fold-out map of the routes, the guide provides a detailed description of a scenic drive from New York through Connecticut and into the Berkshire area of western Massachusetts, with suggestions of accommodations and activities along the ride.

 

 

Aside from brochures and advertisements, a large part of our travel related collections on this database, and in general, are travel diaries. The diaries of Eva E. Blackwelder record her travels through Boston and surrounding towns, from winter 1938 to spring 1939. Eva’s entries are quite thorough, noting the weather, the sights seen, town histories learned on her tours and the quality, or lack thereof, of food at each of their accommodations. Not unlike myself, Eva seems to have kept most of the brochures, maps, photos and newspaper clippings collected along her journey to remember these places by. A notable realization as one leafs through these pages is how most of the sites she visited nearly a hundred years ago - the many stops of the Freedom Trail, Plymouth village, the House of Seven Gables in Salem - remain the draw for many tourists to this area today due to eastern Massachusetts’ historic past.

Eva E. Blackwelder Scrapbook [8], c.1938-1957.

 

Eva E. Blackwelder Scrapbook [Brochures], 1935.

 


Eva E. Blackwelder Scrapbook [Brochures], c.1938-1957.


Here’s a final nostalgic image from Eva’s journal - soon to be just a faint memory for Massachusetts travelers - physical turnpike tolls. On her way back into Boston at one point she writes:  

The toll houses were constructed with large gates which swing across the way as reminders to the traveler that he must help pay for the road.

The toll rates for passing over the turnpike were 25 cents for one person with a carriage of 4 wheels drawn by four horses. Carts and wagons with 2 horses paid half this amount… horse chaise, 10 cents. A man on horseback 5 cents. Cattle one cent and sheep and swine 3 cents a dozen. According to the general turnpike laws no toll could be collected from a passenger on foot; nor could toll be collected from those going to or from public worship within the limits of any town.

It’s hard to decide which is more surreal - a 25 cent toll or dozens of sheep on I-90! Either way, I hope this post inspires you to venture out on one last day trip before it’s too late.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 3:31 PM

This Week @ MHS

After a very quiet week with naught on the schedule but a Saturday tour, we are back this week with a couple more programs happening in the days ahead. Specifically, we have pair of Brown Bag lunch talks as well as our Saturday building tour. Here are the details:

- Wednesday, 22 August, 12:00PM : Sunmin Kim of Dartmourth College leads the first Brown Bag this week. The talk, titled "Re-categorizing Americans: Difference, Distinction, and Belonging in the Dillingham Commission (1907-1911)," traces how the federal government surveyed immigrants in the early-20th century and how such attempts helped solidify the racial boundary-making for the nation. By dissecting the tenuous connections between racist ideology, state power, and social science knowledge, this talk provides an empirical account of how categories such as race and ethnicity emerge from confusion and contradiction in knowledge production.

This talk is free and open to the public. Pack a lunch and come on in!

- Friday, 25 August, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk this week is "'A Brazen Wall to Keep the Scriptures Certainty': European Biblical Scholarship in Early America," with Kirsten Macfarlane of University of Cambridge. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European scholars made significant advances in the historical and critical study of the Bible, often with highly controversial and factious results. This talk will examine how such exciting but potentially subversive European scholarship was received and transformed by its early American readers, through a close study of the books owned and annotated by seventeenth-century readers in New England and elsewhere.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Saturday, 26 August, 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: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825.

 

N. B. - The teacher workshop scheduled for this 23-24 August, "Education: Equality and Access" is POSTPONED. Further information will be posted here when it is rescheduled.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 19 August, 2018, 12:00 AM

Adding Evening Hours in the Library

On Tuesday, 4 September, after a four-year hiatus, evening hours are returning to the MHS library!

The library will operate until 7.45 PM every Tuesday, allowing researchers with 9-5 work schedules and full-time students more opportunities to work with the MHS collections in the library. 

Starting September 1, our library hours will be:

Monday: 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM
Tuesday: 9:00 AM to 7:45 PM
Wednesday: 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM
Thursday: 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Please help us spread the word – and of course also plan to visit the library on a Tuesday evening in the not too distant future. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 8:00 AM

John Quincy Adams’ 1794 London Interlude

Lucia AmaliaSchueg

When John Quincy Adams arrived in London on October 15, 1794, on his way to The Hague to become minister resident to the Netherlands, he was a 27-year-old beginning his new life as an American statesman. We know much about his two week stay in London because he recounted his visit in his diary, transcriptions of which will eventually be available through The John Quincy Adams Diary Digital Project website.

John Quincy purposefully stopped in London to deliver important government documents; however, he almost lost these papers. “Just before we got to the London Bridge we heard a rattling before us and immediately after a sound as of a trunk falling from the Carriage. I instantly looked forward and saw that both our trunks were gone. One of them contained all the public dispatches which I brought for the American Ministers here … For a moment I felt sensations of the severest distress.” Luckily his brother, Thomas Boylston Adams, who accompanied him as his secretary, jumped out of the carriage and located the trunks. John Quincy noted how detrimental their loss would have been to American diplomacy and his career: “Entrusted with dispatches of the highest importance … particularly committed to my care, because they were highly confidential,” he questioned how he could have ever “presented myself” to the men for whom they were intended, only to inform them “that I had lost” their documents. He believed the trunks had been purposefully cut loose and considered their quick recovery “as one of the most fortunate circumstances that ever occurred to me in the course of my life.”

It was during this visit that John Quincy participated in one of his first diplomatic activities. He, Chief Justice John Jay, and U.S. minister to Great Britain Thomas Pinckney discussed the document that would become known as the Jay Treaty, which sought to settle outstanding issues between America and Great Britain left unresolved after the Revolutionary War. That Jay and Pinckney included Adams in these deliberations demonstrated the young man’s status among the American diplomatic corps. The three men held lengthy conversations during which the draft treaty was “considered Article by Article.” Adams commented on the treaty in his diary: “it is much below the standard which I think would be advantageous to the Country, but … it is in the opinion of the two plenipotentiaries, preferable to a War: and when Mr Jay asked me my opinion I answered that I could only acquiesce in that idea.” John Quincy’s inclusion in these discussions proved prescient, for in 1795 he received instructions to return to London to exchange ratifications of the Jay Treaty.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 10 August, 2018, 12:00 AM

Revisiting the Nathaniel T. Allen Photograph Collection

Three weeks ago, I told you about the Nathaniel T. Allen papers and photographs, two collections available for research here at the MHS library. Allen founded the West Newton English and Classical School (or “Allen School”) in West Newton, Mass. As I processed the photograph collection, I stumbled across a lot of interesting stories and trivia about students of the Allen School and the Misses Allen School, as well as friends and relatives. I’d like to share a few of them in this post.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 3 August, 2018, 5:03 PM

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