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August 2014

Cocktails with Clio 2014 Featuring David Hackett Fischer

Ccoktails with ClioSave the date of Friday, 7 November, for the fifth annual Cocktails with Clio featuring MHS Fellow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and historian David Hackett Fischer. In a career of more than 50 years at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., Prof. Fischer has taught thousands of students, won countless awards and honors, and written a versatile array of influential books, including Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington's Crossing, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America, Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas, and Paul Revere's Ride. Spanning time, place, and culture, Prof. Fischer's books dispel much of the popular myth and legend associated with well-known historical events. Join us on 7 November as we feast on sumptuous bites, sip cocktails, socialize with friends, and celebrate history with renowned historian David Hackett Fischer. Tickets are $250 per person and can be purchased online at

Transitions at the MHS

MHS buildingA Fond Farewell to Jayne Gordon . . .
This fall, the MHS bids a fond farewell to Director of Education and Public Programs Jayne Gordon. In her eight years at the Society, Jayne developed a full range of programs—onsite, offsite, and online—for teachers, students of all ages, and the general public. While she will not be at the Society full time, we are happy to say that Jayne will continue to work with the MHS as a consultant on special projects. To Jayne, for all that she has done for the Society, the MHS staff offers a very heartfelt thank you. Please join us in wishing Jayne the best of luck in all of her future endeavors.

And A Welcome to the Society's New Director of Programs
Staying true to the Society's 223-year-old mission—to preserve our nation's history and make it accessible to all—we strive to encourage an ever-widening circle of appreciation for American history. To that end, the Society is pleased to welcome a new Director of Programs. Gavin Kleespies will join the MHS on 18 August. He will be responsible for developing and implementing a broad-based, engaging, and intellectually strong roster of public programs and exhibitions that encourage a diverse and expanding audience in the Boston area, across the nation, and around the globe. Gavin has been the Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society for the past six years, where the community has benefitted from his innovative public and educational programs. At the MHS, Gavin will be able to focus on what he loves to do—developing programming and engaging new audiences.

From the Stacks: The MHS as Time Machine

MHS StacksCan you imagine the fascinating conversation you would have talking to a man born a few weeks before the Boston Tea Party, who was old enough to remember events of the Revolutionary War and who lived to see the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 14th Amendment? While processing letters from the Knapp family correspondence, one MHS staff member was introduced to Jacob Newman Knapp, a teacher and occasional preacher of Walpole, N.H. Born 7 November 1773, Knapp lived to be almost 95 years old and witnessed many changes in the world. His wit, eloquence, philosophical attitude, and affection for his family are very much apparent in his letters. On 21 May 1850 he writes to his son Francis, "Life is undoubtedly a serious trust and must be seriously accounted for; but there is so much of the ludicrous, of the absurd extravagant and incomprehensible in the human character, that I feel inclined to cry and to laugh at the same time." Read more about Jacob Newman Knapp.

2014-2015 Seminar Series

MHS Seminar RoomMore than two dozen seminars have been scheduled for 2014-2015, offered in five series: the Boston Area Early American History Seminar, the Boston Environmental History Seminar, the Boston Immigration and Urban History Seminar, the New England Biography Seminar, and the Boston Seminar on the History of Women and Gender, presented in conjunction with the Schlesinger Library.

Sessions will transport participants from Boston Harbor to New Orleans and Latin America, the American West, and throughout the Atlantic World. The series commence on 23 September, when Natalia Molina of the University of California, San Diego, will explore the effects of gentrification on the culturally rich Echo Park community of Los Angeles.

On 7 October, David Konig of Washington University in St. Louis will present "Thomas Jefferson, Slavery, and the Law." Look for presidential historians Evan Thomas, Kathleen Dalton, and David Michaelis in conversation with Ted Widmer at the 6 November New England Biography Seminar.

Most programs take place at the MHS. Most sessions (excluding Biography) consider a pre-circulated paper. The programs are free and open to the public, but an RSVP is requested. E-mail or call 617-646-0568. Those who subscribe to a series receive advance access to the papers that will be discussed. Visit for information. The Early American, Environmental, and Immigration and Urban series are underwritten in part by Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass.

MHS Library Hours Changing

MHS Reading RoomBeginning Tuesday, 2 September, the MHS library will no longer be open on Tuesday evenings. The reading room will now close at 4:45 PM on Tuesdays. The library's new operating hours will be Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM, and Saturday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. We have found that use of the library on Tuesday evenings is limited and therefore does not justify extended hours. Saturday continues to be a popular day for researchers who cannot visit the MHS during the week.

MHS Graduate Student Reception: 18 September

Calling all graduate students and faculty! Mark your calendars to join us on Thursday, 18 September, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, for our fifth annual Graduate Student Reception for students in history, American Studies, and related fields. This event is free of charge; more information will be sent to academic departments in early September. In the meantime, e-mail with any questions.

Object of the Month

"These Words deserve to be written in Letters of Gold . . ."

New-England CourantIn the 23-30 July 1722 issue of the New-England Courant, James Franklin made his own powerful argument against what he saw as his unjust imprisonment and his right to a trial by a jury, essentially devoting the entire issue of the weekly paper (a single sheet, printed on both sides) to his cause. He went on to quote Chapter XXIX of Magna Carta in its entirety, describing the chapter as words that "deserve to be written in Letters of Gold." Read more about James Franklin, his famous younger brother Benjamin, and the New-England Courant.

Looking at the Civil War: Massachusetts Finds Her Voice

August 1864: "If I can't have a horse to ride I wont work for Uncle Sam any more . . . "

letter from Letter from Flavel King SheldonLetter from Flavel King Sheldon to Silas and Anna Sheldon, 2 August 1864

"Yesterday I was about half dead. Today I am just about half alive and the Capt is about as I was yesterday," writes Lt. Flavel King Sheldon in this 2 August 1864 letter to his parents. Sheldon, a member of the 37th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, describes the brutally hot conditions that he and his fellow soldiers endured while maneuvering in northern Virginia, and expresses his frustration with army leadership for sending all of the men of the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac on fruitless campaigns in the scorching heat. Read more about Flavel King Sheldon and the death toll that resulted from the extreme heat.

On View

Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in the First World War

Margaret Hall photoTo commemorate the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, the MHS has organized this exhibition focusing on two of the hundreds of women from the Commonwealth who went to France as members of the U.S. armed forces, the Red Cross, and other war relief organizations. From the Society's extraordinary collection of women's remembrances, the exhibition features photographs, letters, diaries, and memorabilia related to Margaret Hall and Eleanor (Nora) Saltonstall, Red Cross volunteers in France. The exhibition highlights Hall's large-format photographs of the battlefront on loan from the Cohasset Historical Society. Both women were keen observers of the climactic months of the war and depicted what they witnessed in vivid detail. Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country is open at the MHS through 24 January 2015.

Visit, a companion website, featuring 246 of Hall's photographs and 29 other illustrative items from the Society's typescript of her memoir.

The new edition of Hall's previously unpublished memoir of her World War I experiences is now available for purchase:

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

MHS Events Calendar

The building will be closed on Saturday, 30 August, and Monday, 1 September, for the Labor Day holiday.

Saturday, 16 August 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History & Collections of the MHS

Monday, 18 August 12:00 PM

Operating Outside of Empire: Trade & Citizenship in the Atlantic World, 1756-1812
Mark Dragoni, Syracuse University

Saturday, 23 August 10:00 AM

MHS Tour
The History & Collections of the MHS

Wednesday, 3 September 12:00 PM

Unspeakable Loss: North America's Invisible Throat Distemper Epidemic of 1735-1765
Nicholas Bonneau, University of Notre Dame

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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