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April 2015

May Day Mayday! at the MHS on 2 May

"First they saw bones—human bones—littering the thwarts and floorboards, as if the whaleboat were the seagoing lair of a ferocious, man-eating beast. Then they saw two men. They were curled up in the opposite ends of the boat, their skin covered with sores, their eyes bulging from the hollows of their skulls, their beards caked with salt and blood . . ."

- From In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Attacked at Juan de Fuca StraightsMassachusetts has always looked to the sea. Merchant trade, fishing, and whaling were the engines that drove the New England economy. However, the bounty of the sea was not without cost. Shipwrecks and heroic rescues as well as survival stories that push the limits of belief are staples of nautical history. To celebrate May Day, on 2 May at 6:00 PM, the MHS will host a special evening with Nathaniel Philbrick, William Fowler, and Michael Tougias, three of America's most eminent maritime historians, who will tell stories of catastrophes and survival at sea. There is a $20 fee but no charge for MHS Fellows and Members. The evening will begin with a reception at 5:30 PM. Register today for May Day Mayday!

A Day of History Comics on 21 April

Hamilton illustrationJoin us on 21 April for a hands-on history program for families, an author talk featuring a new publication of historical comics, and a special event for MHS Associate Members. Starting at 2:00 PM, young historians and their families are invited to Comic History: Making Your Own History Comic with John L. Bell and a team of local comic book artists. Finished comics will be displayed at the evening program. At 6:00 PM, visitors are invited to Colonial Comics with Jason Rodriguez. Following the talk, MHS Associate Members are invited to Colonial Comics Happy Hour. For more information, please visit

(Illustration by Andrea Cronin)

Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize Deadline Approaching

Map of MassachusettsSubmissions are still being accepted for the 2015 Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize. The deadline is 1 May. One prize of $2,500 will be offered for a distinguished book on the history of Massachusetts published in 2014. The award will be announced in the fall. All nonfiction historical works representing any period of the history of Massachusetts are eligible for consideration. Works must represent original research; if scholarly in nature, the volume should also appeal to the general reader. Books that address a wider geographic region than Massachusetts should make a significant contribution to the history of the Commonwealth. The committee is seeking works of exemplary scholarship written in a clear and engaging style. Submissions will be accepted from publishers or authors. Only books with a 2014 copyright date are eligible for the 2015 prize. For more information and instructions on submitting titles, visit

The Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize is an annual award that honors the memory of Rev. Peter J. Gomes, a Harvard scholar and a respected and beloved Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society for almost thirty-five years. Reverend Gomes had a deep and enduring interest in the history of his native state, so it is only fitting that this award should recognize exemplary work on a subject that meant a great deal to him.

GLCA Boston Summer Seminar Coming to the MHS in June

GLCA Boston Summer SeminarThe GLCA (Great Lakes Colleges Association) Boston Summer Seminar is delighted to announce that three faculty/student teams have been awarded funding for three weeks of research as part of its inaugural seminar to be hosted by the MHS this June. Thanks to the generosity of GLCA Expanding Collaboration Initiative and the Mellon Foundation, financial support has been extended to student, as well as faculty, participants. We look forward to working with Dr. Kabria Baumgartner (History, College of Wooster) and students on their project "Presence and Absence: Women and Education in 19th-Century America"; Dr. Julia Randel (Music, Hope College) and students on their project "19th-Century Ballet and Its Legacy"; and Dr. Patrick Bottiger (History, Kenyon College) and students on their project "Agri-Culture: Tracing Cultural Convergence through Food." Follow @GLCABOSTON for regular updates!

Library Closings

MHS Reading RoomTo accommodate the conference "So Sudden an Alteration": The Causes, Course, and Consequences of the American Revolution, the library will close at 3:00 PM on Thursday, 9 April, and will remain closed on Friday, 10 April, and Saturday, 11 April.

Looking at the Civil War: Massachusetts Finds Her Voice

April 1865: ". . . I heard a woman's voice say the 'President is shot' with a distinctness I shall never forget."

Sarah Swain Forbes letterLetter from Sarah Swain Forbes to Mary Forbes Russell, 15 April 1865

In this letter, begun in the early hours of 15 April 1865, a shaken Sarah Swain Hathaway Forbes describes the unfolding details of Pres. Abraham Lincoln's assassination to her daughter Mary. Earlier in the evening, Forbes had been rolling bandages for wounded soldiers while her son John Malcolm Forbes attended Ford's Theater in hopes of seeing General Grant, who was rumored to be attending the production of Our American Cousin with President and Mrs. Lincoln. Forbes's letter captures the chaos that descended upon the city as rumors about Lincoln's condition and of attacks on other notable men swirled through the streets. Read more about Sarah Swain Forbes and this letter.

On View

God Save the People! From the Stamp Act to Bunker Hill

Boston Massacre engraving by Paul RevereTo tell the story of the coming of the American Revolution in Boston, this exhibition follows the evolution of colonial thought and political action through the letters and diaries of men and women caught up in the conflict, together with political cartoons, newspapers, maps, artifacts, and portraits. The exhibition is on display at the Society 27 February through 4 September.

Explore the coming of the American Revolution through these online displays. Perspectives of the Boston Massacre is an interactive website that allows visitors to examine materials offering a range of perspectives related to the events of 5 March 1765. The Siege of Boston presents more than one dozen accounts written by individuals personally engaged in or affected by the siege, which occurred from April 1775 to March 1776. The Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr, Jr., presents the complete four-volume set of Revolutionary-era Boston newspapers and pamphlets assembled, annotated, and indexed by Harbottle Dorr, Jr., a shopkeeper in Boston. Discover the fears, friction, and turmoil that shaped these times with The Coming of the American Revolution, a web display of newspapers, official documents, and personal correspondence arranged into fifteen key topics.

The exhibition galleries are open to the public, Monday through Saturday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

MHS Events Calendar

The MHS will be closed on Monday, 20 April for Patriot's Day.

Thursday, 9 April 5:00 PM

Conference Keynote Address
"Not Yet": The Originality Crisis in American Revolution Studies
Woody Holton, University of South Carolina
Space is limited
Registration required: call 617-646-0568

Tuesday, 14 April 5:15 PM

Environmental History Seminar
Legacy Pollution Issues in Energy Development: The Cases of Manufactured Gas & Natural Gas
Joel Tarr, Carnegie Mellon University
Comment: Patrick Malone, Brown University
Registration required: Legacy Pollution Issues

Wednesday, 15 April 12:00 PM

The Urban World of the Early Modern British Caribbean
Mary Draper, University of Virginia

Wednesday, 15 April 6:00 PM

Lincoln and the Legacy of Conflict Series
Mourning Lincoln & Racial Equality
John Stauffer, Harvard University
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 PM
$20 fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members)
Registration required: Mourning Lincoln & Racial Equality

Saturday, 18 April 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History & Collections of the MHS

Tuesday, 21 April 2:00 to 4:00 PM

Family Program
Comic History: Making Your Own History Comic
John L. Bell, independent historian, and a team of comic book artists
Registration required: Making Your Own History Comic

Tuesday, 21 April 6:00 PM

Colonial Comics
Jason Rodriguez, independent author
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 PM
Registration required: Colonial Comics

Tuesday, 21 April 7:30 PM

Special Event
Colonial Comics Happy Hour
This event is open only to MHS Associate Members (age 40 and under)
Registration required: call 617-646-0543

Thursday, 23 April 5:30 PM

History of Women and Gender Seminar
Mildred Jefferson & the Right to Life Revolution of 1976
Jennifer Donnally, Hollins University
Comment: Sara L. Dubrow, Williams College
Registration required: Mildred Jefferson

Saturday, 25 April 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Special Event
Massachusetts History Lab
Registration required: Massachusetts History Lab

Tuesday, 28 April 5:15 PM

Immigration and Urban History Seminar
Due Credit: Chinese Workers & the Central Pacific Railroad
Manu Vimalassery, Barnard College
Comment: Hidetaka Hirota, Columbia University
Registration required: Due Credit

Wednesday, 29 April 6:00 PM

Author Talk
Picture Freedom
Jasmine Nichole Cobb, Northwestern University
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 PM
$10 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members)
Registration required: Picture Freedom

Saturday, 2 May 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History & Collections of the MHS

Saturday, 2 May 6:00 PM

May Day Mayday!
William Fowler, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Michael Tougias
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 PM
$20 fee (no charge for Fellows and Members)
Registration required: May Day Mayday!

Tuesday, 5 May 5:15 PM

Early American History Seminar
"All Manner of Slavery Servitude Labour Service Bondage & Hire": Varieties of Indian & African Unfreedom in Colonial New England & Jamaica
Linford Fisher, Brown University
Comment: Jennifer Anderson, SUNY—Stonybrook
Registration required: All Manner of Slavery Servitude

Wednesday, 6 May 12:00 PM

Slave Horse: The Narragansett Pacer
Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Roger Williams University

Saturday, 9 May 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History & Collections of the MHS

All events are free and open to the public and held at the MHS unless otherwise noted. Reservations are requested for most events. There is a charge to receive seminar papers in advance.

For complete event and RSVP information, visit the MHS online calendar:

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