This Week @ MHS
On Tuesday, 10 March, there is an Environmental History Seminar beginning at 5:15PM. All are welcome to join us for "Fear of an Open Beach: The Privatization of the Connecticut Shore and the Fate of Coastal America." This seminar features Andrew W. Kahrl of the University of Virginia, with Karl Haglund, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, providing comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
Then, on Wednesday, 11 March, is the next installment of the Landscape Architecture Series. In this program, Keith Morgan, Director of Architectural Studies - Boston University, presents "The Brookline Troika: Olmsted, Richardson, Sargent and the Planning of a 'Model Community.'" A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the talk begins at 6:00PM. This talk is open to the public with a fee of $10 (no charge for Fellows and Members of the MHS, Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Nichols House Museum). Registration is required; Please RSVP.
And on Saturday, 14 March, come in at 10:00AM for a free tour. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led walk through the public spaces here at the Society and provides some background on the art, history, collections, and architecture of the MHS. The tour is free and open to the public. Larger parties (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley in advance at 617-646-0508 or email@example.com. While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition, "God Save the People!” which explores events leading up to the American Revolution.
| Published: Saturday, 7 March, 2015, 10:40 AM
Untangling North Atlantic Fishing, 1764-1910, Part 1:
British Claim to the North Atlantic Fishery
By Andrea Cronin, Reader Services
Boundaries on land are largely man-made. These lines scribbled on paper or enclosed by transient fences signify what is claimed. Borders change over time. Geography shifts with natural disaster into or out of the ocean. Land boundaries are surprisingly fluid but not as immaterial as the open ocean, which poses the indeterminate question: Who owns the sea? Who has the right to fish the ocean?
In a five-post blog series, I aim to examine the claims over the North Atlantic fishery from 1764 to 1910. I cannot identify who owns the ocean. You may want to ask Poseidon or Neptune. My goal is to tell the story of claims and contestation of this “American fishery” between Great Britain, Canada, and the United States through our collections at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The contestation truly begins with the coming of the American Revolution.
In the North Atlantic, various claims to the plentiful fishing waters off the Newfoundland coast to the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts Bay caused great strife between Great Britain and its colonies. Great Britain’s economy relied heavily on Atlantic fish trade especially that of dried, salted cod. The growth in population and life expectancy in New England throughout the 18th century also increased the numbers of New England fishermen and their fishing vessels, and thus increased Atlantic fishing. In response to this additional competition in the Atlantic, British fish merchants cornered the market by prevailing upon Parliament to protect their interests in the “American” fishery. To this end, Sir Hugh Palliser became Governor and Commander-in-Chief at Newfoundland in 1764 and intensified the removal of New England fishing vessels from the coastal waters in support of a British fishery in the North Atlantic.
Massachusetts resident William Bollan published a treatise entitled The Ancient Right of the English Nation to the American Fishery in the same year as Palliser’s appointment. This publication summarizes a history of naval conflict in the North Atlantic in an effort to persuade his London audience of their might over the pitiable French. In establishing the English right to this fishery, he then asks to share these waters with the enemy:
“…I cannot forbear recolleƈting that the eagles grief was encreased on her finding that she was shot with an arrow feathered from her own wing; and that my cordial wishes for the future happy fortunes of my prince and country are accompanied with concern that after obtaining so many important victories, whereby the enemy was so far enfeebled and disarmed, and the sources of her commence and naval strength brought into our possession, there should be prevailing reasons for putting into her hands so large a portion of this great fountain of maritime power.”
Bollan’s use of the eagle shot with an arrow feathered from her own wing in hindsight unintentionally reflects the growing revolutionary sentiments in the British North American colonies during the 1760s.
With tensions rising over the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765, British seizures of American fishing vessels in Newfoundland waters increased the building momentum of riotous debate over colonial rights. In the summer of 1766, Captain Hamilton of HMS Merlin boarded the colonial schooner Hawke and demanded to know what business skipper Jonathan Millet had in the Newfoundland waters. The New England fishermen were there for cod fishing. Upon the response, the captain promptly seized the vessel and fish, according to Jonathan Millet’s deposition from 13 September 1766, “…[Captain Hamilton] threatn’d that if he ever Catch’d any New England Men Fishing there again that he wou’d seize their Vefsells & Fish and Keep all the Men, beside inflicting severe Corporal Punishment on every man he took,….” Spurred by his foul treatment at the hand of the captain, skipper Millet recounted his impressment grievances to the Justices of the Peace Benjamin Pickman and Joseph Bowditch in Salem for this deposition.
A plethora of impressment grievances appear in the 1760s in the MHS collections. In fact, William Bollan personally knew of impressment as a major issue of contention. Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson wrote to Bollan in the latter’s capacity as colonial agent in London on the issue of impressment in 1756. This letter was written a decade prior to the Hawke impressment. British inattention to colonial rights and the impressment of colonial fishermen certainly led to rebellion. But the contestation over Newfoundland fishing rights continued well into the 19th century.
In the next blog post, I will examine the fishing in the Early Republic as New England fishermen become citizens of the United States, and Britain’s continued impressment until the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.
| Published: Friday, 6 March, 2015, 3:07 PM
This Week @ MHS
At last it is time to leave February behind. As the snow starts to melt, why not come in to the MHS for some history?
On Tuesday, 3 March, there is an Early American History Seminar taking place at 5:15PM. Join us as Elizabeth Cover of Boston presents "Degrees of Britishness: The People of Albany, New York, and Questions of Cultural Community Membership," with Lisa Wilson of Connecticut College providing comment. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.
On Wednesday, 4 March, at noon is a Brown Bag lunch talk given by Robert Shimp of Boston University. The talk is titled "John Quincy Adams and the Paradox of Anglo-American Relations in the Early Republic: The London Years, 1815-1817." Brown Bags are free and open to the public. Pack a lunch and stop on by!
Also on Wednesday, join us at 6:00PM for "Charles Eliot and the Modernization of Boston's Landscape," part of the Landscape Architect Series. This talk is given by Anita Berrizbeitia, Professor of Landscape Architecture - Harvard Gradute School of Design. The event is open to the public with a $10 fee, registration required (no charge for Fellows and Members of the MHS, Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Nichols House Museum). Please RSVP. Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM.
Finally, on Saturday, 7 March, come by at 10:00AM for a free tour. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour of the public spaces at the Society, touching on the art, collections, architecture, and history of the MHS. No reservations required for individuals or small groups. However, parties of 8 or more should please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition, "God Save the People! From the Stamp Act to Bunker Hill," open to the public Monday-Friday, 10:00AM-4:00PM, free of charge.
| Published: Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 12:42 PM
Attention All Cartophiles
Back in Novermber I posted on the Beehive about the MHS library staff field trip to Worcester's American Antiquarian Society. The motivation behind the trip was to learn more about the AAS collections, policies, and how their services can benefit our researchers. We, the staff, also selected many other local institutions to visit to gain better understanding of the resources available to our researchers when they need to get beyond our holdings.
Yesterday, my colleague Kittle and I had the pleasure of visiting the Norman Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library. While there, we learned about their collections (over 200,000 maps), their accessibility (open to the public), and their short history.
The Map Center's holdings range from the late 15th century all the way up to the present day, from some of the earliest printed maps to modern metropolitan planning maps. The materials are all cataloged online via the BPL Bibliocommons. In addition, the Leventhal Center has over 7,000 items digitized and viewable on their website. And for those that enjoy a more whimsical view of things, they also hold a collection of maps from fiction. These chart the geographies of places like Middle Earth and Narnia, detail the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, and map out the course of Captain Ahab and the Pequod. These fictional maps are the focus of the Center's current exhibition.
After we learned about the public side of the Map Center, the gracious staff also toured us through the background, showing us the secured storage spaces where these important collections are housed and preserved.
Learning more about the Leventhal Map Center allows now to better direct our own researchers who need cartographic resources that the MHS does not hold. And not only did we get to learn about the wonderful collections but we got to introduce ourselves and meet some of our neighbors. Stay tuned for more installments from our staff site visits to see who we meet and what we find!
| Published: Saturday, 28 February, 2015, 12:00 AM
Giving a Photograph a Name: Identifying Mary Swift Lamson in the MHS Photo Archive
By Sabina Beauchard, Reader Services
The photograph collections in the MHS library never fail to excite me. Dabbling in photography as a hobby has allowed me to better appreciate the laborious processes of early photography, and how beautiful the resulting images turn out.
Recently, two unidentified photographs caught my interest while searching for images on behalf of a remote researcher. The initial search for images of Mary Swift Lamson in our online catalog ABIGAIL only turned up one result; a companion portrait of Mary accompanying portraits of her husband Edwin and her young son Gardner drawn by Matthew Wilson in the 1850s. However, I knew our library holds the Lamson family papers, and with them the Lamson family photographs. This collection is comprised of three carte de visite albums, one box of loose portraits, and ambrotypes and daguerreotypes stored separately.
Many of the ambrotypes and daguerreotypes from the Lamson family are unidentified, primarily of children, taken in the mid-19th century. I looked through several of these unidentified photographs in my search for Mary. Two of these photographs were reminiscent of the 3 companion portraits; photographs of a young couple and a mother with her child. With the help of our Senior Cataloger Mary Yacovone, these two photographs have now been identified and cataloged with additional information in our online catalog ABIGAIL.
Mary Swift Lamson, son Gardner Swift Lamson, and husband Edwin Lamson. Each by Matthew Wilson ca. 1855-1858. Currently on loan to the Parkman House, Boston. Images taken from the catalog Portraits in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Oliver, Hanson, and Huff, eds. (Boston: MHS, 1988.)
The portrait of the young couple was the most striking to me. The young woman’s direct gaze and the hint of a smile playing at her lips stands out from the many portraits with eyes averted. Mary’s pursed lips and Edwin’s pronounced brow crease stood out to me immediately as part of their defining features in their painted portraits. With this photograph identified, it was easy to notice the young mother in the other photograph was Mary. While infants are more difficult to pin down, the child has a similar appearance to Gardner in his painted portrait (although perhaps Matthew Wilson took liberties with painting him in a more flattering light, his hair is perfectly groomed).
The photographs, previously labeled as “Unidentified man and woman” and “Unidentified woman with child” can now be found in our library catalog as Mr. and Mrs. Edwin and Mary Swift Lamson, ca 1846 and Mary Swift Lamson with child, ca. 1855-1856. The child is tenuously identified as Gardner in the catalog description. Now that the photographs are better described and thus more easily accessible, I hope this will aid researchers in their research into this winsome family.
| Published: Tuesday, 24 February, 2015, 1:00 AM