The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From Our Collections

Mount Auburn: A Guide through the Nation's First "Rural" Cemetery

When friends and family ask me what they should do while visiting the Boston area in the fall, I generally get a strange look after my main recommendation. I tell them to visit Mount Auburn Cemetery, the first landscaped “rural” cemetery in the United States, located between Cambridge and Watertown. It's a beautiful setting year-round, but there's something about this season that brings out the best in Mount Auburn.

I'm tempted to list all of the reasons why I love Mount Auburn, but I'll resist that urge here and tell you what I found out about it while searching our online catalog, ABIGAIL – mainly, that the MHS collections contain a lot more on Mount Auburn than I previously thought. Much of what we have are published materials, including catalogues of proprietors, maps, guides, pocket companions, and anthologies. Then, there are more personal items, such as poems written about Mount Auburn, speeches given at the cemetery, admission tickets, a broadside depicting Mount Auburn "on a delightful day in the Autumn of 1876," and more. Mention of Mount Auburn arises in manuscript collections as well. Search for yourself in ABIGAIL to see what kinds of materials you can find at the MHS connected to this historic cemetery.

For someone whose interest in maps almost rivals her love of cemeteries, I found the fold-out maps in our copies of Dearborn's Guide through Mount Auburn, published by Boston-based engraver Nathaniel S. Dearborn, most interesting. The map in the 1857 edition includes small engravings of the Egyptian Revival entrance and Washington Tower, an observation lookout providing panoramic views of Cambridge, Boston, and beyond. The guide in general is full of useful information about the cemetery as it functioned in 1857. Regulations include prohibition of "discharging firearms in the Cemetery," and a warning of prosecution for anyone "found in possession of flowers or shrubs, within the grounds or before leaving them." On that note, a poem titled "Touch Not the Flowers" by Mrs. C. W. Hunt adds a lyrical emphasis to the rule (and implores visitors with the ominous last line, “Touch not the flowers. They are the dead’s.”). After all, the cemetery was and remains as much a horticultural gem as a place of burial and memorial.

Among the conditions for proprietors, plot owners are informed that any monument, effigy, or inscription determined to be "offensive or improper" is subject to removal by the Trustees. Engraved illustrations present the cemetery-goer with a sampling of must-see monuments of notable men and women (and pets), including a memorial to Robert Gould Shaw, the impressive tomb of William P. Winchester on Narcissus Path, and a marble sculpture depicting the watchdog of Thomas H. Perkins, “an apparent guard to the remains of the family who were his friends.” Beautiful illustrations of the tower and chapel embellish the guide as well.


For the directionally gifted, the guide lists names of foot paths, avenues, and carriage roads, with rather complicated descriptions of how they are situated – “Willow, with two branches, the 1st branch from Poplar Av., northeasterly. to Narcissus Path, then curving easterly for the 2nd branch, to the south, to Larch Avenue.” I think you can see why Dearborn included a map.


Visitors can find up-to-date maps at the cemetery entrance today, so grab one for yourself and venture among the monuments and mausolea. Then, visit the library to see how the cemetery has changed over the years!


Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.)

Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.) Maps

Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.) Pictorial works.

Mount Auburn Cemetery (Cambridge, Mass.) Poetry.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 14 October, 2016, 12:00 AM

Letters to Rosamond



For most of her life, Rosamond Gifford was a resident of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. However, she was also received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Radcliffe College, attended the Sorbonne in Paris, and was fluent in French.[i] Clearly, her residency in Boston never limited her worldview, or indeed, the array of individuals who corresponded with her. The Rosamond Gifford papers, 1930-1954, is composed of letters primarily dating from 1931-1946. During this time, Gifford received letters from a Harvard college professor advising her on thesis work for Radcliffe College, former classmates from the Waltham School for Girls, and friends who became soldiers and Red Cross nurses during World War II. Rosamond herself wrote to her family from France while touring abroad and studying at the Sorbonne in Paris. I have decided to highlight some of this correspondence for my blog post this week.


The first of these comes from George L. Lincoln, a professor who worked in the Department of Languages and Literature at Harvard. The letter is dated November 3, 1931, when Rosamond was an undergraduate in her junior year at Radcliffe College. The letter is brief, consisting primarily of several book recommendations for Rosamond’s thesis about French religious history, including The Holiness of Pascal by H.F. Stewart, but there is a note at the end that reads: “It seems to me that this thesis – if favorably commented upon by C.H.C.W. – might well be the basis for your HONOR Thesis next year.” This is an interesting comment, notable in that Lincoln later serves as an academic advisor for Gifford in letters sent between 1931 and 1933, before Radcliffe College and Harvard merged their classrooms, which would not happen until over ten years later.[ii] For Radcliffe women, interaction with Harvard faculty was often conducted through different channels, whether this was separate classes taught later at night, or corresponding with professors about their academic work through postal mail. Despite these interactions, female undergraduate and graduate students would receive degrees only through Radcliffe at this time.

Radcliffe was not the only women’s school where Rosamond studied. The Gifford collection also includes a ‘Round Robin’ correspondence between Rosamond and former classmates from the Waltham School for Girls (the list of names includes Eleanor “Batesy” Bates, Vi Campbell, Rosalie Norris, Janet Lewis, and  Marion Chick). It began on January 22, 1940 with a letter from the organizer and ringleader of this endeavor, Eleanor “Batesy” Bates, who opens her letter with a cheery, ““Dear Round Robinites” and encloses her hopes that 1940 will bring forth a “new and rejuvenated Waltham Round Robin.” In this set of correspondence, Rosamond and her classmates discuss their lives with a refreshing degree of frankness. The letters include inexplicable nicknames and private jokes, slang, political talk, gossip about other classmates, and discussion of professional careers (writing, welfare work, teaching, and librarianship among them). I have included some favorite excerpts below:


“Oh, yes, I saw Gone With the Wind in New York two weeks ago, and liked it so much I sat through it a second time – ten hours in the movie before I left, but I had brought sandwiches with me, and went out during intermission.” – Eleanor “Batesy” Bates

“I do not get around much as my time is so taken up with writing and study, to say nothing of my son, husband and housework.” – Vi Campbell. 

“Will be awfully glad to see you all if we decide to visit Waltham this year en masse so do let me know the place. It would be fun to have a cigarette in North Hall, instead of behind the gym just once.” – Janet Lewis


After World War II, there aren’t many more letters between Rosamond and her various correspondents, but Rosamond continued to live at 340 Commonwealth Ave. until her death in 1997. The Rosamond Gifford collection was a delight and a surprise to stumble across and have the opportunity to explore. Although I have shared words from Rosamond’s various correspondents, I would like to end this post with an excerpt from a letter written by Rosamond herself, dated July 16, 1936, while she was traveling abroad on an Anne Radcliffe fellowship for her graduate studies in France:[iii]


“Dearest Tribe,

We arrived here contrary to your expectations on time, July 13, and depart the twentieth for a dozen days mad scramble through Normandie and Bretagne…From here we went to Ajaccio, one of the most charming cities I ever was in. The atmosphere exhales Napoleon and the house where he was born is most satisfactory. It is located on a little square with a garden, and the interior retains for the most part the original decoration of delicate eighteenth century designs. The main square is lined with palms and slopes down to the harbor which is surrounded by more red mountains – which were glowing in the evening light as we sailed away. I loved Corsica, best of the whole trip.”

She signs the letter, “Ever and ever so much love, Tibbles.”


[i] “Rosamond Gifford, 87, Philanthropist, taught French.” The Boston Sunday Globe, July 20, 1997.

[ii]  Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. Yards and gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe history. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, 216. Radcliffe would not officially merge with Harvard until 1977.

[iii] “Radcliffe Gives 42 Fellowships.” Daily Boston Globe, May 12, 1935.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 12:41 PM

Reference Collection Book Review: Chinese in Boston

Chinese in Boston, 1870-1965 by Wing-Kai To and the Chinese Historical Society of New England (Charlestown, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2008), part of the Images of America Series, tells the story of the Chinese experience in New England with a focus on Boston, MA through historic photographs with captions. The book is divided into seven chapters, which range from the first arrivals of Chinese immigrants in New England to the Settlement of Boston’s Chinatown, to various other topics until finally arriving at the modern experience of the Chinese in Boston. The text is brief as the photographs are the main source of history and context in this book.

The images come from a variety of sources ranging from the Bostonian Society to the Peabody Essex Museum to the Chinese Historical Society of New England, which was founded in 1992 to document the coherent and vibrant culture of Chinese Americans in New England. The book features the first Chinese owned business, notable members of the Chinese community, and photographic evidence of cultural assimilation as well as cultural preservation carried out in New England. The photographs are well presented and illustrative of the Chinese American experience in New England.

This book is useful for people trying to familiarize themselves with the Chinese history in New England and due to its length and format, can be read/viewed easily and quickly. It is hard to research the history of immigrant groups or minorities who were often not affluent and therefore not the subject of art, photography or historical records, making this book a rare source of an under-represented topic of New England History. This book begins circa 1870 with the first (known) photographic evidence of Chinese immigrants in New England and concludes with present day imagery.

Related Collections:

For more general history of Chinese immigrants in America the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society offers there secondary sources:

The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang (New York: Viking, 2003).

Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 by Roger Daniels  (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988).

Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869 by Stephen E. Ambrose (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

For the Chinese Exclusion Act we offer:

The Chinese Exclusion Act, Known as the Geary Law: Speech of Hon. Elijah A. Morse, M.C., of Massachusetts, in the House of Representatives, Friday, October 13, 1893 (Washington : [s.n.], 1893).

Amendment of the Chinese Exclusion Act. Speech of Hon. William Everett, of Massachusetts, in the House of Representatives, Saturday, October 14, 1893 (Washington: s.n., 1893).

Chiang Yee: The Silent Traveller from the East: A Cultural Biography by Da Zheng; foreword by Arthur C. Danto. New Brunswick (N.J. : Rutgers University Press, 2010).  

An Anglo-Chinese calendar for the year ...: corresponding to the year for the Chinese cycle era (Canton : Office of the Chinese Repository).

Circular letter, signed C. L. Woodworth, regarding the Associations efforts with Chinese immigrants, Indians and African Americans. [Boston : s.n., 1880]

The library of the Massachusetts Historical Society houses a rich collection of China Trade papers and resources:

“Manuscripts on the American China trade at the Massachusetts Historical Society” by Katherine H. Griffin. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, v. 100 (1988), p. 128-139.

Researchers on site also have access to the Adam Mathew database of primary source materials China, America and Pacific: Trade & Cultural Exchange.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 30 September, 2016, 4:04 PM

An Adams Homecoming

On September 4, 1801, John Quincy Adams stepped ashore in Philadelphia, returning to the United States almost exactly seven years after he had left on his diplomatic mission to the Netherlands. He was not returning alone however; now his wife, Louisa Catherine Adams, and their first son, five-month-old George Washington Adams, accompanied him. Greeted by his brother Thomas Boylston Adams who was living in the city, the reunion was a happy but brief one. Both Louisa and John Quincy were anxious to see their parents once more but as the Johnsons lived in Washington, D.C., and the Adamses in Quincy, going together would mean a long wait for one of them. Neither wanted to put off greeting their families and so they went in opposite directions for the first time in their marriage. Louisa departed on the stage on September 12 with their son headed south, and John headed first to New York to see his sister, Nabby, before completing the journey to Massachusetts.

The decision to go independently was not without its concerns, however. Although her father was American, Louisa was “yet a forlorn stranger in the land of my Fathers” and ultimately in an unfamiliar country with an infant. John Quincy noted his distress over the separation in his Diary: “I parted from her and my child with pain and no small concern and anxiety.”

In her Autobiography, Louisa recalled reuniting with her parents for the first time in four years: “When I arrived after a tedious and dangerous journey, my Father was standing on the steps at the door of the house, expecting his Child, yet he did not know me— After he had recovered from the shock at first seeing me; he kept exclaiming that ‘he did not know his own Child,’ and it was sometime before he could calm his feelings, and talk with me.” John Quincy’s experience on the other had was quite different; on the 21st he recorded the event: “Here I had the inexpressible delight of finding once more my parents. After an absence of seven years— This pleasure would have been unalloyed but for the feeble and infirm state of my mother’s health. My parents received me with a welcome of the tenderest affection.”

As both John Quincy and Louisa settled in, they reunited with old friends and wrote to each other from afar. Although the plan was for Louisa to once again travel alone and meet John Quincy in Massachusetts, John Quincy agreed to meet Louisa and escort her and their son northward for one more significant homecoming—on November 25 John Quincy “had the pleasure of introducing my wife and child to my parents.” For her part, Louisa acknowledged that she had been received “very kindly,” but after London and Berlin, Quincy was quite an adjustment, and indeed Louisa declared, “Had I steped into Noah’s Ark I do-not think I could have been more utterly astonished.” It would take time for this homecoming to feel like home.


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 8:24 AM

Autumn Dinner in the White Mountains, September 1875

It is ‘Leaf Peeping’ (fall foliage viewing) season in New England, so here are a few inspired leaves of thought...

Looking through our collections I came across an intriguing broadside, having read about the once opulent Hotels that dotted the New Hampshire Countryside in the mid nineteenth century. The [Dinner menu and wine list for Sunday September 12], no doubt, would serve as a glimpse into the grandeur of the majestic New Hampshire Resorts.

This unique Broadside attests to the lavish dinners served at the Crawford House, located in Crawford Notch New Hampshire. The most fascinating feature of this broadside is the material on which it is printed, a lovely piece of Birch bark. Birch trees are known for their beautiful lenticel marked white bark and can be seen throughout the forests of the White Mountains.


The single page pamphlet is printed on both sides and folded in half conveniently presenting the day's fare and other pieces of information for hotel guests. For those intrigued by gastronomical history this is a fascinating specimen. Examining what was served on Sunday, September 12th 1875, one can truly note the changes in our collective palate and food culture over 150 years.


Finally, the last page features an extensive wine list, after all, how else would one be on a proper vacation? Modern coinsures will be intrigued by the Hock (German White wine) and Sauternes (French sweet wine) being such popular categories, but otherwise the list is quite familiar. Moet et Chandon champagne was a full $4.00 (The equivalent of $86.96 modern currency) proving that some things never change!


The first Crawford House was built in 1850. Described as having "a three and a half story central pavilion with a fine Greek Revival portico, identical five-bay, two and a half story wings, topped by pitched roofs with dormer windows."  By 1852 there was such a high demand for rooms, that the owners of the Crawford House expanded, to create 200 sleeping rooms, by enlarging each wing by "eight bays". Unfortunately the first Crawford House succumbed to fire, although within two days plans for the new Crawford House were already underway. Cyrus Eastman and his partners utilized a workforce of 175 men and 75 oxen and horses to complete the fastest hotel construction 1859 had ever seen.   Opening night was July 13th when 40 guests were received for dinner and 100 were entertained for the night, and the press noted that it was "the most spacious hotel about the mountain".  In Eastman's words "The Crawford House is a large and new edifice, very commodious and agreeable for a summer hotel. There are pleasant piazzas on the outside, and five halls, much used in the evening for promenading, run the entire length of the house within. The parlor is large and well furnished, the dining room ample in its proportion, and its tables always supplied with the delicacies of the metropolitan markets, as well as such substantial articles of mountain production, as delicious berries, and the richest milk and cream. The office is situated in the central part of the house... Here also is the post office of this wild region. Portraits of two of the Crawfords, patriarchs of these mountains, adorn the wall. The lodging rooms of the house are well furnished, and pleasant, especially those which have windows toward the Notch. Connected with the hotel are a bowling-alley for rainy-day and evening amusement, and extensive stables, furnished with a large number of horses... Last summer two tame bears afforded guests much amusement."

Bostonians have always flocked to the White Mountain of New Hampshire to enjoy the striking natural beauty, although we in the modern era will never experience the grandeur met there by our predecessors.  A great transformation came to the region in the 1850s, the beginning of a huge tourist Industry, prompted by the laying of railroads, and later fueled by the Industrial Revolution which created a surplus of wealth in eastern cities. In the 1820s and 30s, the mountains and lakes were home to only a few highway taverns and Inns that provided rest for the weary stagecoach traveler on the harrowing passage north. After 1850, the region that had only been visited by a few hundred, started to see tens of thousands of tourists. This was the heyday of the White Mountain Resorts and Hotels. Rising up from scenic valleys, construction began on the grandest hotels in America in the mid-nineteenth century. These hotels were famous for their luxurious lodging, exquisite dinning, and state of the art facilities such as gas lighting. Travelers came from Europe to admire the grandeur of these Hotels, and to admire the beauty of the White Mountains, which, according to some European Newspapers, rivaled that of the Alps. Each of these hotels could accommodate 200-500 or more guests, offering extensive entertainment, numerous excursions, exquisite gardens, elegant parlors and dining halls serving the finest cuisine. Some of these Hotels had their very own railroad stations, conveniently bringing guests from Boston, Portland and New York directly to their doors and promising a scenic journey through the mountains before arriving at the their lavish lodgings. These hotels were The Crawford House, the Fabyan House, the Profile House, the Maplewood, and the Waumbek.

Unfortunately, the grand Hotels of New Hampshire were all built of wood, and almost all perished in fire. The Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center sits on the site of the former Crawford House. The last of the majestic hotels built in the region was the Mount Washington Hotel, the grandest and largest, which still remains, a testament of the elegance and luxury of a bygone era and the largest wooden structure in New Hampshire.

The Massachusetts Historical Society lists 153 titles under the heading ‘Menu’ in our catalog. For this broadside, or to search for other broadsides in our collection, please use ABIGAIL, our online catalog. Visit the library of the Society to research more culinary history!


Next up:

Nineteenth Century Travels through New Hampshire

(Burrage, Mary Greene Hunt. Letter to Margaret Howe (Cotton) Hunt [transcript] [1854} in Miscellaneous Manuscripts 1854)

Followed by:

The first map of the White Mountains done by none other than our very own Jeremy Belknap!


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 23 September, 2016, 3:35 PM

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