The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

- Monday, 30 July, 12:00PM : Diego Pirillo of University of California, Berkeley, closes out the month with a Brown Bag talk. "The Heterdox Atlantic: Italian Heretics in Early America" presents the initial findings of a new project on religious radicalism in early America, which aims at recovering the transatlantic legacy of Italian Protestantism. Focusing on 17th- and 18th-century New England, the talk examines discussions on religious migration and liberty of conscience.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Wednesday, 1 August, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk of the week features Christopher Minty of the Adams Papers Editorial Project here at the MHS. Minty's talk is titled "'The Sons of Britain': Partisanship & the Origins of the American Revolution in New York City." In 1775, New York City merchant Frederick Rhinelander told a friend, “if this province ever fights, it will be for the King.” Yet Rhinelander’s reasons were not based on New Yorkers’ blind loyalty to George III or Great Britain. Instead, for him and many of his friends, loyalism was a tool to challenge political opponents.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Saturday, 4 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.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 29 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

- Wednesday, 25 July, 12:00PM : "The End of War: The Wabanaki Struggle with New England, 1722-1727" is a Brown Bag talk with Ian Saxine of Alfred University. This talk examines the Anglo-Wabanaki War of 1722-1727 in the American Northeast. It situates the conflict as the final resolution of a half-century of imperial crisis in the region. The talk argues the limits of indigenous, colonial, and imperial power influenced the war’s outbreak, the fighting, and its resolution.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Wednesday, 25 July, 6:00PM : On November 23, 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men, Dr. George Parkman, vanished. What resulted was a baffling case of red herrings, grave robbery, and dismemberment on the grounds of Harvard Medical School. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. John White Webster pioneered the use of medical forensics and the meaning of reasonable doubt. In "Bloody & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard," Paul Collins of Portland State University brings 19th-century Boston back to life in vivid detail, weaving together accounts of one of America’s greatest murder mysteries.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM, followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.

- Thursday, 26 July : The teacher workshop "Immigration Policy in American History" has been POSTPONED. Please check back for further information about rescheduling.

- Friday, 27 July, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk this week is with Katherine McIntyre of Columbia University. "Maroon Ecologies: Albery Allson Whitman and the Place of Poetry" follows the intertwining of race and ecology in Albery Allson Whitman’s 1884 The Rape of Florida through an analysis of colonial cartographic practices. Using maps to examine the cartographic representation of swamps and other wetlands that permeate the boundary between land and water, this talk opens questions about the porous ecologies of maroon communities and the poetics that follow from such ecologies.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Saturday, 28 July, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS tour 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.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 22 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Battle of the Barges

Joseph Pennell originally titled his dramatic depiction of war-ravaged New York City, a poster he created during World War I for a patriotic loan drive, “Buy Liberty Bonds or You Will See This.” In 1918, the idea of New York under aerial bombardment and in flames would have seemed to be a fantasy, but Pennell’s lithograph contained one element that reflected actual events a century ago. In the poster, just to the right of the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty, the sinister shape of a German submarine glides through New York Harbor. In the summer of 1918, “U-Kreuzers,” German long-range submarines, patrolled off the coast of Long Island where, at night, crewmembers could see light cast by the “Great White Way” of Manhattan on the horizon. The threat of enemy attack had come to North American waters and would soon arrive off the shores of Cape Cod.

July 21, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the only attack on American soil—although probably inadvertent—during the First World War. On that summer Sunday morning, 21 July 1918, while shooting at the tugboat Perth Amboy and its towline of four large barges off Nauset Beach in Orleans, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the German submarine U-156 fired shells that passed over their intended targets and landed on the beach. Town residents and vacationers, attracted by the rumble of artillery fire, gathered to watch the “Battle of the Barges,” also known as the “Battle of Nauset Beach.”

Dr. Joshua Danforth Taylor of East Boston, a loyal subscriber to the Boston Globe, telephoned the Globe newsroom from his vacation cottage overlooking the scene to give the editors and reporters, in real time, a blow-by-blow (shell-by-shell?) account of the one-sided “battle.” Almost miraculously, although some of the barge captains were accompanied on their ships by wives and children, there were only two serious injuries, both to members of the Perth Amboy’s crew. The casualties, John Bogovich and John Zitz, turned out to be immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then at war with the United States, so Bogovich and Zitz—although badly wounded—fell under suspicion of playing some sort of nefarious role in the attack.

 

   

As shown in the accompanying photographs (deck of tug / side of tug) , the Perth Amboy was badly damaged by shell fire and abandoned by its crew, but it survived the attack. The four barges were all sunk. Prompt action by the Coast Guard and local fishermen saved the barges’ crews, families, and even a ship’s dog named Rex. Jack Ainsleigh, a young son of the master of the sail barge Lansford, became an instant celebrity when he waved the American flag as his family abandoned ship and threatened to return the 150 mm cannon fire from the U-156 with his .22 caliber rifle.

The U-156 disappeared with all hands in September 1918 during its voyage home to Germany, probably sunk by a British or American mine in the North Sea, so some of its operations are conjectural or based on intercepted radio messages, but its presence off Nauset Beach probably had more to do with an attempt to cut the transatlantic telegraph cable to France that came ashore in Orleans than to sink empty coal barges and scare/thrill the local population. If cable cutting was the U-156’s mission that day, it failed, but the U-Kreuzer already had delivered a heavy blow: the mines it laid off the coast of Long Island sank the armored cruiser San Diego on 19 July, the largest U.S. warship lost during the war.

With no loss of life to darken the story and many human interest elements to enliven the very heavy press coverage of the event, the “Battle of the Barges” seems a long-ago and somewhat bizarre summer adventure at the beach for the people who witnessed it. The U-156 was a technological marvel, but it devoted most of its voyage to destroying sail-powered American and Canadian fishing vessels. Nevertheless, the German long-range submarine campaign in 1918 was, in some respects, a rehearsal for the much more dangerous and successful German U-boat operations in North American waters during the Second World War.

The photographs of the Perth Amboy after it was salvaged and towed into Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard are from the diary of Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster, an avid yachtsman, who inserted them between his entries for August 1918, but otherwise made no note of the attack on Orleans or the presence of German submarines along the coast. Joseph Pennell’s Liberty Loan poster is from the Massachusetts Historical Society’s large collection of World War I posters, many the gift of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the president of the Historical Society during the war.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 12:11 PM

This Week @ MHS

- Wednesday, 18 July : People did not become loyalists; it was the patriots who first began to craft an identity different from that of a loyal British subject.  In the struggle over identity and ideology, families were torn apart, friendships were broken, and lifelong residents of Massachusetts were forced to surrender their homes and possessions. Through letters, diaries, newspapers, propaganda, and historical sites, "Loyalism in the Era of the American Revolution," a multi-day teacher wokshop, will introduce teachers to some of the people and places implicated in debates over loyalism between 1770 and 1785.

This program is open to all K-12 educators, registration required with a fee of $50 per person. If you have any questions, please contact Kate Melchior at kmelchior@masshist.org or 617-646-0588.

- Thursday, 19 July, 6:00PM : Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood is not just a quintessential Victorian neighborhood of the 19th century but one that was infilled and planned as the premier residential and institutional development. In Back Bay Through Time, a photographic history of the Back Bay of Boston, Anthony M. Sammarco, with the contemporary photographs of Peter B. Kingman, has created a fascinating book that chronicles the neighborhood from the late 19th century through to today. Join us as Mr. Sammarco discusses his work.

This talk is open to the public, registration requried with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM, followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.

- Saturday, 21 July, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS tour 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.

- Saturday, 21 July, 2:00PM : To gain some insight into our current exhibition, join us for a special Gallery Talk. Guest curator and American furniture specialist Clark Pearce will lead visitors through the exhibition’s highlights while giving deeper context to the life and work of two extraordinary Massachusetts craftsmen, Isaac Vose and Thomas Seymour.

This event is open to the public free of charge.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 15 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

The Nathaniel T. Allen Papers and Photographs

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about two terrific collections available for research at the MHS, the papers and photographs of Nathaniel T. Allen of West Newton, Mass. The Allens were a truly remarkable family. Nathaniel, his wife Carrie, and their three daughters (as well as many other relatives) were educators and reformers of the 19th and 20th century, and these fascinating collections are a very welcome addition to our library. I processed the photographs, and my colleague Laura Lowell processed the papers.

 

This cabinet card photograph (Photo. #247.311), taken in 1882, is my favorite of the Allen family. Seated are Nathaniel Topliff Allen (1823-1903) and his wife Caroline Swift (Bassett) Allen (1830-1915). Standing behind them, from left to right in reverse age order, are their three children: Lucy Ellis Allen (1867-1943), Sarah Caroline Allen (1861-1897), and Fanny Bassett Allen (1857-1913). A son, Nathaniel, Jr., had died as a child. 

Nathaniel Allen was the founder and principal of the West Newton English and Classical School (familiarly known as “the Allen School”) from 1854 to 1900. The school was progressive, co-educational, and integrated, and its student body included African-American, Latino/a, and Asian boys and girls, as well as international students. It was also one of the first schools to incorporate physical education into the curriculum. Nathaniel’s wife Carrie worked with him to run the school and look after the students, many of whom boarded in various Allen family homes. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins also served as teachers and administrators.

 

This photograph (Photo. #247.874) of the Allen School at 35 Webster Street, West Newton, dates from 1886. Carrie is seated in the middle wearing a light-colored shawl, with Nathaniel immediately to her right. You can also see some exercise equipment in the yard.

After Nathaniel died in 1903, his oldest and youngest daughters, Fanny and Lucy, opened the Misses Allen School for Girls at the same location. Their middle sister Sarah, unfortunately, had died in childbirth in 1897 at the age of 36.

Laura and I processed the papers and photographs concurrently, and I think our work really benefited from the collaboration. We arranged the collections to mirror each other, for the most part, with separate series of family and school material. This division was trickier than it sounds, because many family members were also teachers and students. I frequently had to move photographs from one section to the other as I figured out who everyone was. (For more information about how we process photographs at the MHS, see my earlier Beehive post.)

The photograph collection contains 1,030 photographs, primarily individual and group portraits of Allen family members and students spanning almost 100 years. While Laura got to know the Allens from their letters, diaries, and other writings, I got to know them from their faces. The collection was completely disorganized when it came to us, but by the end I’d gotten pretty good at identifying people and could even distinguish baby pictures of the three sisters!

It was a lot of fun to share information and compare impressions with Laura as we worked. When she came across a particularly interesting person, she was curious to see what he or she looked like. I also went to her to learn more about the people who intrigued me. For example, I loved the way Lucy, the youngest Allen, usually smiled directly into the camera while other subjects looked stiff or coy with a slightly averted gaze.

The story of the Allens has so many fascinating threads to follow that we hope these collections will be of interest to a wide variety of researchers. For example, Edwin and Gustaf Nielsen were two brothers who, through the intervention of the poet Celia Thaxter, were taken as wards into the Allen home and became de facto members of the family. There’s also Fanny Allen’s decades-long friendship with Pauline Odescalchi, Princess of Hungary. Not to mention the fact that the Allens played an active part in the anti-slavery, suffrage, temperance, peace, and educational reform movements, rubbing elbows with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Horace Mann, and Lucy Stone.

Nathaniel and Carrie Allen had no surviving grandchildren. Fanny and Lucy never married, and Sarah’s only daughter died two days after she did in 1897. But this family of teachers clearly had a profound and far-reaching influence on the thousands of boys and girls who attended the Allen School and Misses Allen School. Among them were future writers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, activists, soldiers, at least one actor, and a Supreme Court justice. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about them.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

older posts