Jefferson’s Filing Table on View at Monticello
Published: Friday, 8 April, 2011, 12:56 PM
If you find yourself at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville, Va., be sure to see the filing table of the third U.S. president. Given to the MHS in 1912, the table has been on loan since 1929 to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which displays it in its original location in Jefferson’s library. Based on a design typically used in England for managing paperwork, and known there as a “rent table,” the Jefferson piece originated in Philadelphia or New York between 1790 and 1800. Because the drawers set into the octagon of the tabletop are marked with letters for filing, the family called it “the ABC table.” According to Joseph Coolidge, who met and married Jefferson’s granddaughter Ellen Randolph at Monticello, Jefferson “habitually used [it] in his chamber” to store his papers.
After Jefferson’s death in 1826, the table became the subject of a family tug-of-war. Two of Jefferson’s grandchildren, Ellen Randolph Coolidge and Thomas Jefferson Randolph, were determined to purchase the table when it was scheduled to be offered for sale in January 1827. Jefferson’s daughter Martha Randolph settled the matter by giving the table to her daughter Ellen. The table descended to Ellen’s son Thomas Jefferson Coolidge, who gave it to the MHS in 1912.
The MHS is home to the second largest collection of Thomas Jefferson manuscripts (primarily his private papers) thanks to the generosity of several generations of Jefferson's Coolidge descendents; the Library of Congress holds the largest single collection of Jefferson manuscripts (primarily his public papers). To learn more about the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts at the Massachusetts Historical Society, go to www.masshist.org/thomasjeffersonpapers/.
MHS Presents at History Education Conference
Published: Friday, 8 April, 2011, 12:54 PM
The MHS was well represented at the National Council for History Education (NCHE) conference held in Charleston, S.C., at the beginning of April. Director of Education and Public Programs Jayne Gordon, Education Coordinator Kathleen Barker, and Head of Reader Services Elaine Grublin presented a breakout session on 2 April and staffed an MHS booth in the exhibition hall throughout the weekend. NCHE is a leading organization for promoting ways to improve the teaching and learning of history in the K-12 environment. This year’s annual conference drew more than 1,000 educators, library media specialists, historic site interpreters, and other history professionals from across the United States.
The 50-minute breakout session, “‘Good Men Wanted, No Boys Need Apply’: Recruiting a Union Army, 1861-1865,” was planned to complement this year’s conference theme, “The Causes and Consequences of Civil Wars.” The session used examples from MHS collections to demonstrate how educators could use primary source materials, particularly letters and diaries, to investigate what motivated people to volunteer for the war effort. The process of assembling the presentation and the subsequent discussions with conference attendees led to a range of insights about the reasons that led soldiers to join the Union Army. While some young men saw military service as their patriotic duty, others were motivated by the promise of financial reward. Alongside those findings, the discussions also addressed newspaper articles, letters, and diaries that documented how women became involved in the war effort, from joining sewing circles to volunteering as nurses near the front.
When not attending the many other engaging sessions, MHS staff talked with the conference attendees who visited the Society’s booth in the exhibition hall. As part of its ongoing service to teachers from across the United States, the MHS recently became part of the New England Historic Sites Collaborative, a group that includes sister institutions such as the American Antiquarian Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and Plimoth Plantation. Together these organizations are developing week-long workshops designed specifically for educators participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History grant program. As a result of the Society’s presence at the conference, the MHS expects an increasing number of teachers from across the United States at its workshops over the next few years.
Published: Friday, 14 January, 2011, 2:14 PM
Just in time for the New Year, the MHS was awarded a number of important grants totaling over $280,000 that support all aspects of the Society's work.
• A $185,307 Publishing Historical Records grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission will support the publication of The Papers of John Adams.
• The Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation has provided $60,910 to the William L. Saltonstall Memorial Fund at the MHS. The Society will use $18,910 to continue the digitization and conservation of items in the Saltonstall family papers and perform additional processing on the papers of Sen. Leverett Saltonstall. The remainder of the grant ($42,000) will be directed to an endowment fund in Bill Saltonstall's name, designated to help underwrite Society's public program and exhibition expenses.
• Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati has made a $12,200 grant to the Society, providing $10,000 to support a summer teacher workshop based around the newly digitized Siege of Boston documents (also funded by MASOC) and $2,200 to fund the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Short-Term Fellowship.
• A $9,000 grant from the C. F. Adams Charitable Trust will sponsor a pilot conservation and digitization project in conjunction with the publication of the diaries and autobiographical writings of Louisa Catherine Adams.
• An $8,290 grant from the Peck Stacpoole Foundation will enable the MHS to arrange and describe the papers related to the family of American poet E. E. Cummings.
• The Charitable Irish Society has awarded $6,930 to arrange and describe its records, which are in the MHS collections, and present a searchable guide at the MHS website.
The MHS Adds a Cannon to its Arsenal
Published: Friday, 14 January, 2011, 11:45 AM
The Society has received many interesting objects over the last 200 years. Often, these are personal artifacts--watches, jewelry, and the like--that are donated along with collections of family papers. At the end of 2010, one of the largest, and certainly heaviest, gifts received by the Society arrived: the Shepherd/Brooks/Saltonstall cannon, captured from the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. As a gift from Mrs. William L. Saltonstall, the cannon joins the immense collection of Saltonstall and Brooks family papers at the MHS.
Members of the Saltonstall family have been active in the MHS for almost two centuries, but none can match the 40-year service of our late Fellow, William L. Saltonstall. He was one of the most active and generous Board Members of the Society. Now an object that he cherished, and until recently decorated his home, has come to the MHS.
The brass six-pounder cannon on a ship-style gun carriage has an interesting provenance. It has no apparent identifying markings, but bears the following inscription engraved on the top of the barrel: "This Cannon was captured from the British at the Battle of New Orleans January 8th 1815. Later, at the sale of sundry effects of the United States Government, this gun, amongst them was bought by Mr. R. D. Shepherd and has descended to his heirs."
Rezin D. Shepherd (1784-1865) of Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia), purchased the cannon as a memento of his service during the War of 1812. In 1815, he served as a volunteer aide to Commodore Daniel T. Patterson, the commander of United States naval forces at the Battle of New Orleans. Shepherd, a widower, eventually transferred his shipping business to Boston, where the cannon passed on to the family of his only child, Ellen. Years later Ellen's granddaughter, Eleanor Brooks, would marry Richard M. Saltonstall, bringing the cannon, via the Brooks family, into Saltonstall family hands. It then came into possession of Richard and Eleanor's grandson, William L. Saltonstall.
Family lore has it that the identifying marks on the cannon were removed to prevent any attempt by the Royal Navy to forcibly reclaim the weapon when it went to sea aboard one of Shepherd's ships. Today, the cannon is safely preserved along with the other extraordinary Brooks and Saltonstall family papers and artifacts held by the MHS-and the library is ready to repel boarders. Time will tell if the MHS continues the long-standing family tradition of firing it on festive occasions.
U.S. Refugee Policy Talk to Launch Immigration Conference
Published: Friday, 14 January, 2011, 11:38 AM
Please join us on 7 April at 6:00 PM when Prof. Maria Cristina Garcia of Cornell University will present "U.S. Refugee Policy in the Post-Cold War Era: Balancing Humanitarian Obligations and Security Concerns." Professor Garcia is the author of Seeking Refuge: Central American Immigration to Mexico, the United States, and Canada (2006). This program serves as the keynote for What's New about the New Immigration to the U.S.? Traditions and Transformations since 1965, a three-day conference that addresses a question of current interest for American society: What is new about recent immigration, and how has it transformed our nation? The keynote address is free and open to the public. It will be held at a soon to be announced Back Bay location. Sessions on 8 and 9 April will focus on immigration and work, the economy, politics, geography, family, religion, and identity. To view the complete program and register online, please visit www.masshist.org/events/conferences.cfm.
Immigration Conference: Teacher Workshop
The MHS is offering a teacher workshop in conjunction with the conference. Earn professional development points and examine how content from the conference can be adapted to the classroom.
Teacher Workshop sessions will be held:
Friday, 8 April
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM (with continental breakfast)
11:30 AM -1:00 PM (lunch provided)
Saturday, 9 April
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM (with continental breakfast)
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM (lunch provided)
Teachers who participate will be able to:
• Participate in the entire conference, listen to presentations, and join in conversations with top scholars in the field.
• Attend special sessions just for educators with historian Michael Hoberman and MHS Education Staff to discuss key conference themes and materials.
• Examine how content can be adapted to the classroom and aligned with the curriculum framework: USII.30 Describe some of the major economic and social trends of the late 20th century. (H, E).
• Earn 15 Professional Development Points. Attendees can earn an additional 2 points by attending the Thursday evening keynote lecture (optional).
• Receive one graduate credit through Framingham State University for only $65 (optional).
• Pay a reduced fee to attend the conference: $50 for all sessions, including workshop.
Participants must agree to:
• Attend all regular conference sessions on Friday and Saturday (10 hours).
• Attend 5 additional hours of workshop sessions.
• Read, report on, and co-lead workshop discussion of the pre-circulated conference papers written by the presenters on any one topic area (see conference schedule). You will be asked to choose a topic when you register; three or four teachers will be assigned to one topic. There are three papers for each topic which will be available online a month before the conference.
• Additional work is required for graduate credit; the course syllabus and requirements will be sent upon registration.
To participate at the special teacher rate, register online or call Education Coordinator Kathleen Barker at (617) 646-0557.