This Week @ MHS
In like a lion, out like a lamb. And so it goes with the MHS events schedule in this final week of March.
This Wednesday, 27 March 2013, the MHS hosts an author talk with New Jersey City University's Ellen Gruber Garvey. In this talk, Ms. Garvey will revisit the many perspectives featured in her recent book, Writing with Scissors: American scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. Using scrapbooks as evidence, the book examines how a variety of people organized and made sense of large amounts of information in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Through her research and findings, including work done with materials at the MHS, Ms. Garvey highlights a broad segment of these interpretations, from Mark Twain and an African-American janitor to Susan B. Anthony and Confederate soldiers, to demonstrate the complex nature of the press and its voices. Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30pm and the talk starts at 6:00pm. This is a public program with no cost but registration is required. Contact the education department at 617-646-0560 / email@example.com for more informaiton.
And on Saturday, 30 March, stop by for a free tour that begins at 10:00am.The History and Collectons of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour of the Society's public spaces and informs visitors of the organization's history, collections, art, and architecture. The tour is free and open to the public and no reservation is required for individuals and small groups.
Parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending a tour. For more information please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FInally, remember that there are currently three related exhibits on view now until May 24. "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land: Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865," "Forever Free: Lincoln &the Emancipation Proclamation," and "Lincoln in Manuscript & Artifact," are open for public viewing at no cost, Monday-Saturday, 10:00am-4:00pm.
| Published: Monday, 25 March, 2013, 1:00 AM
By Dan Hinchen, Reader Services
Continuing a theme that started many months ago, it is time to take a new look Around the Neighborhood for another glimpse of the history that is part of, and surrounding, the MHS. In this installment, let us look just around the corner onto Ipswich Street, where we find the Fenway Studios.
In 1904, a fire at the Harcourt Studios on Irvington St, near present-day Copley Plaza, deprived many Boston artists of their studios and life’s work, some lucky to emerge alive. Almost immediately, members of the Copley Society and St. Botolph Club started collaborating to get a new space designed and built. It took only three months for the group to raise $90,000, through subscriptions, to fund a building and to get land donated.
Built the same year, the Fenway Studios is the oldest continuously functioning building in the United States that was designed and built for use by artists. The building is now on the list of National Historic Landmarks.
The studios were built in the Arts and Crafts design, a style that took its cues from the Aesthetic Movement that was in vogue in England at the time. Englishman William Morris summed up his vision for the movement when he said “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” The simplicity of this idea and the implied ambiguity – what constitutes Useful or Beautiful? – have granted the Arts and Crafts movement impressive longevity.
Drafting of the building was done quickly but not without heavy input from the artists that would occupy its space. Many of these original artists had studied in Paris in the late 19th century and, with that as inspiration, came up with four elements that were key to their vision of a new workspace: abundant north light, spacious rooms, convenient location, and affordable rents. The building was thus constructed with each of the 46 studios possessing 12-feet high, north-facing windows and 14-feet high ceilings.
Externally, the building was constructed using clinker brick – bricks that are partially vitrified. When created, the bricks are burned at extremely high temperature which yields denser, heavier, and darker bricks. The resulting pieces are very water resistant but with higher thermal conductivity and therefore lending less insulation.
Though the building is still standing and in use today, according to the National Park Service, as of 1998 it has severe structural problems on the north elevation and, due to possible encroachment by the development of the Turnpike in front of it, the north light that is so vital to artists is under threat.
While the MHS does not hold any records relating specifically to the Fenway Studios, the Society does hold some secondary works relating to the Arts and Crafts movement as well as some pieces created some of the notable artists of the day that would have used the studios, including Charles Hopkinson, Lilian Westcott Hale, and Philip Hale.
Contact the MHS Library to find out more!
- Brandt, Beverly K., The Craftsman and the critic, Amherst, Mass: Univ. of Mass. Press (2009).
- "Fenway Studios History," Friends of Fenway Studios, accessed 21 March 2013, http://www.friendsoffenwaystudios.org/about_fenway.php.
| Published: Friday, 22 March, 2013, 10:00 AM
“Your Trew and Truly Husband”: The Letters of Civil War Sharpshooter Moses Hill, Part 1
By Susan Martin, Collection Services
The Frank Irving Howe, Jr. family papers here at the MHS include a wonderful series of Civil War letters by Howe's grandfather Moses Hill (1823-1862). Hill served in the 1st Company of Massachusetts Sharpshooters, or “Andrew Sharpshooters,” during some of the worst fighting in Maryland and Virginia in 1861 and 1862. He wrote most frequently to his wife Eliza, but also to their two children, Lucina and George, affectionately known as “Sis” and “Bub.”
Moses, a stone mason of Medway, Mass., was 38 years old when he enlisted in August 1861 and began his service at Camp Benton, Md. His health was good, and he wrote contentedly about life at camp and proudly of the men of the 1st Company:
I am well and we live very well. A beter company never went into the army, the Smartist & largest lot of men I never saw....I think the Governer is proud of the company. It is cald Andrews Sharp Shooters. He says we can have any thing we want....I think camp life will suit me firstrate.
The company was “composed of Lawyers school masters, schollars, clearks, Laboring men, black legs, machinests, and most every thing else.” They fought well at Ball's Bluff and Edwards Ferry, but Moses didn't expect the war to last long and hoped to be back in Medway by spring. In November, with Thanksgiving approaching, he urged his wife Eliza to enjoy the holiday without him. He tried to do the same, but with little success:
They have a kitten in the cooks house, and last night when I put my men on guard, I sat by the fire alone and she came and play'd with me and it made me think of home....I belieave I never was so long away from home before.
By December, Moses began to realize the war would last much longer than a few months. He missed his family terribly, but was determined to do his job the best he could. On Christmas eve, he wrote a letter to his 13-year-old daughter Lucina:
I wish I was at home to see you all and hug and kiss you and bub but I think it is better for me to be here to give you better suport and to serve my countery. I pray the National Troble will close soon. Then I hope I shal be with you as long as we live....Kiss bub for me and Mother to, and tak as meny for yorself as you are a mind to.
On 3 Jan. 1862, the Andrew Sharpshooters left Camp Benton via the C&O Canal. I'll be blogging more about Moses Hill right here at the Beehive, so stay tuned!
*Eliza Ann Arnold Hill and Lucina Maria Hill [photograph], [ca. 1855], Photo 1.570, Massachusetts Historical Society.
| Published: Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 8:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
Here is the weekly round-up of events going on at the MHS this week, presented in a 3-2-1 fashion.
First, there are three exhibitions currently on display, all interrelated. The main feature, "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land: Boston Abolitionists, 1831-1865," highlights the work of Boston abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and his famed newspaper the Liberator. Through manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts, the exhibit looks at the work of Bostonians to thwart the spread of slavery as well as the fierce resistance met by their radical movement.
In complement to the main feature, the Society has two smaller exhibits which focus on Abraham Lincoln, slavery, and the Emancipation Proclamation. "Lincoln in Manuscript & Artifact" includes a bronze cast of the life mask and hands of Lincoln made by Leonard Volk in 1860 along with a letter to Joshua Speed which demonstrates his evolving views on slavery. In addition, "Forever Free: Lincoln & the Emancipation Proclamation" displays the pen that Lincoln used the sign his famous Proclamation along with paintings, broadsides, and manuscripts that tell the story of Boston's celebration of the Emancipation. All of these exhibits are free and open to the public, available for viewing Monday-Saturday, 10:00am - 4:00pm.
Next on the calendar, the MHS has two public seminars this week. On Tuesday, 19 March 2013, drop by the MHS for the latest Immigration and Urban History Seminar, "Dynamic Tensions: Charles Atlas, Immigrant Bodybuilders, and Eugenics, 1920-1945." Dominique Padurano, Scarsdale High School, presents a paper which highlights the paradox of bodybuilders like Charles Atlas who marketed diet and exercise regimens by emphasizing their own innate weaknesses while, at the same time, espousing eugenics techniques of the day. Ms. Padurano also argues that, in a time when the nation was not a hospitable place for foreigners, both techniques served as sorts of assimilation strategies within immigrant and ethnic bodybuilding communities. Martin Summers, Boston College will provide comment. The seminar will begin at 5:15pm and is free and open to the public. RSVP required. Subscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar paper.
Then, visit the Society again on Thursday, 21 March, for "Subjects in Context: The Role of Place in the Writing of Bigoraphy." In this panel discussion, part of the MHS Biography Seminar series, Carla Kaplan, Diane McWhorter, and Lois Rudnick will present their views on the topic through the prisms of their respective projects. Ms. Kaplan will highlight her forthcoming book on white women in the Harlem Renaissance; Ms. McWhorter will focus on the civil rights struggle and the growth of the military-industrial comples in postwar Alabama; and Ms. Rudnick discuss Mabel Dodge Luhan and her circle of friends in New Mexico. The discussion will be moderated by Carol Bundy. This event is also free and open to the public and will begin at 5:30pm. Again, RSVP required.
And rounding out the countdown this week, there will be one public tour happening. Come in on Saturday, 23 March 2013, for a free docent-led tour of the Society. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute tour that touches on the history and collections of the MHS, as well as some of the art and architecture on display in the Society's public rooms. No reservation required for individuals or small groups but parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending the tour. For more information, please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or email@example.com. Tour will begin at 10:00am in the lobby.
| Published: Monday, 18 March, 2013, 8:00 AM
Margaret Fuller’s Italy Comes to Life
By Emilie Haertsch, Publications
Author and MHS Fellow Megan Marshall recently published a new biography of Margaret Fuller titled Margaret Fuller: A New American Life (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013), and on the evening of Wednesday, 13 March, she joined with Italian folk musicians Newpoli to honor Margaret Fuller’s time in Italy.
A Massachusetts native, Fuller was, in Marshall’s words, an “intellectual prodigy and brilliant conversationalist.” In the 1840s, Fuller organized the “Conversations” discussion group in what is now the Jamaica Plains neighborhood of Boston, and came to know many prominent intellectuals in the Boston area. Fuller befriended Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and joined the growing American Transcendentalist movement. An accomplished writer, she cofounded the Transcendentalist publication the Dial, and became its first editor. Horace Greeley then hired Fuller to be a front-page columnist for the New York Tribune and eventually sent her to Europe as a correspondent.
Fuller’s travels led her to Italy in 1847 when she met a young Italian man named Giovanni Angelo Ossoli and they became lovers. They had a child together and then married. Fuller lived in Italy until 1849, and this period of her life was the focus of the MHS event. Marshall spoke of Fuller’s feelings of contentment during her respite in Italy. “Rome fulfills my hopes,” Fuller wrote. She witnessed the Roman revolution of 1848 and became enamored of Italian culture.
That Italian culture was on display at this event in the form of traditional Italian folk music. After a reading by Marshall, Newpoli took the stage and serenaded a captivated audience with songs ranging from tarantellas to ballads. The songs touched on subjects as diverse as funny tongue-twisters about fish to sad tales of corruption in church and government.
In a great tragedy, Margaret Fuller, her husband, and their young son died in a shipwreck just off the coast of Fire Island, New York, on their return voyage from Italy. But in listening to her story and hearing the music she experienced on the streets of Rome, it was easy to feel her presence still inspiring the Boston intellectual and cultural scene.
| Published: Friday, 15 March, 2013, 8:00 AM