John Adams for President

By Sara Georgini, Series Editor, The Papers of John Adams

John Adams and the United States government face a world afire with rebellion in Volume 21 of The Papers of John Adams, which chronicles the period from March 1791 to January 1797. With the federal system newly in place, fresh challenges crept in on all sides. Adams and his colleagues struggled to bolster the nation against a seething partisan press, violent clashes with Native peoples on the western frontiers, a brutal yellow fever epidemic in the federal seat of Philadelphia, and the political effects of the Whiskey Rebellion. “I Suffer inexpressible Pains, from the bloody feats of War and Still more from those of Party Passions,” he wrote.

Gilbert Stuart, John Adams, ca. 1800/1815, National Gallery of Art

Working with President George Washington and an increasingly fractious cabinet, Adams dealt with the issues that defined U.S. foreign policy for decades to come, including the negotiation, ratification, and implementation of the controversial Jay Treaty, as well as the unsettled state of relations with revolutionary France. To the former diplomat, Europe’s abrupt descent into chaos signaled a need to uphold U.S. neutrality at any cost. “We are surrounded here with Clouds and invelloped in thick darkness: dangers and difficulties press Us on every Side. I hope We shall not do what We ought not to do: nor leave undone what ought to be done,” Adams wrote.

As most of Europe went to war, U.S. lawmakers tried to keep the nation afloat in the face of financial panic and frontier uprisings. Exploring the remainder of John Adams’ vice presidency, the 379 documents printed in Volume 21 portray a veteran public servant readying to fill the nation’s highest office. Though he wearied of the incessant politicking that came with building a government, Adams was committed to seeing his service through. “The Comforts of genuine Republicanism are everlasting Labour and fatigue,” he advised a friend in Switzerland.

U.S. Senate Ratification of Jay Treaty, 24 June 1795, with John Adams’ record of votes, Records of the United States Senate, National Archives and Records Administration.

Several big stories unfold in the second half of Volume 21. On the high seas, persistent French attacks on U.S. trade punctured the new nation’s economic hopes and shredded Franco-American relations. An unpopular new deal with Great Britain, known as the Jay Treaty, roused popular discontent. Amid all this political uproar, John Adams squared off with Thomas Jefferson and others in the presidential election of 1796. Though modern campaigning was not yet in mode, grassroots electioneering seized center stage. Partisans for both the Federalist Adams and the Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson skirmished in pamphlet wars and battled in the press.

John Adams prevailed, though he did not open and count the votes of his victory until 8 February 1797. In the interim, Adams planned his first steps in office. The job had changed since 1789. He was no Washington, and John Adams’ United States looked vastly different than it had even five years earlier. Anticipating his new role, Adams turned to Harvard classmate Francis Gardner with a blend of excitement and nostalgia. “The Prospect before me, of which you Speak in terms of so much kindness and Friendship, is indeed Sufficient to excite very Serious Reflections. My Life, from the time I parted from you at Colledge has been a Series of Labour and Danger and the short Remainder of it, may as well be worn as rust. My Dependence is on the Understanding and Integrity of my fellow Citizens, for Support with submission to that benign Providence which has always protected this Country, and me, among the rest, in its service,” he wrote. We are hard at work on telling John Adams’ story of presidential service anew in Volume 23.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding for The Papers of John Adams is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the Packard Humanities Institute.

The Autoists of New England

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist

I just finished cataloging a very fun diary describing two road trips through Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut. And not just any road trips, but road trips undertaken during the earliest days of automobile travel. This diary was written in September and October of 1906, just 21 years after the first gas-powered automobile was invented by Karl Benz and a full two years before Henry Ford’s Model T.

The writer is unidentified, but she and her husband were clearly driving enthusiasts, or “autoists,” in her parlance. They were constantly on the move, and their trips took them primarily through central and western Massachusetts, but also as far as West Point, N.Y. The diary describes the sights and the people they encountered along the way, as well as the hotels they stayed in and the meals they ate.

The volume is actually a combination diary and scrapbook, and pasted into its pages are a number of postcards, pieces of hotel letterhead, menus, and other printed matter. Our writer even provided some of her own illustrations.

Diary entry, 14 Sep. 1906
Diary entry, 19 Oct. 1906

I went looking through the MHS catalog for some other sources on early automobiles, and I was not disappointed. I found The New England Automobile Guide Book, published in 1905, which describes different driving routes through the region and the sights along them. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

No other section of country on the Atlantic Coast offers the Automobile Tourists so many natural and historical places of interest as are to be found in Old New England. Through the mountain sections the roads are necessarily hilly, but the Motor Car that is up-to-date does not stop at the hill that has not been too steep for the horse drawn vehicle, and as every hill has its valley the beauty and grandeur of the view that is to be had from the summit, more than repays the effort of the climb.

The book also includes state traffic laws related to speed limits, safety, licensing, and registration; early advertisements for cars, some of which could be had for the low-low price of $500; and a helpful list of the thirteen garages in Boston.

Pages from The New England Automobile Guide Book

The MHS also holds the photographs of the Country Club Car Company, which manufactured cars during the first decade of the 20th century. This one is definitely my favorite.

Vroom vroom! (Photo. #191.4)

I tried to identify the diary’s author, but unfortunately was unsuccessful. She just didn’t give me enough personal information. I know her husband’s name (Otis) and the names of a few of her correspondents: Cy (Cyrus?), Josie (Josephine?), Mrs. Fisher, etc. But her relationship to these correspondents is unclear. I couldn’t even be sure what town she lived in, which might have helped to narrow my search.

However, I did identify some of her traveling companions. She took her second trip with Charles Lowell Ridgway of Winthrop, Mass., his wife Harriet (née Cross), their son Herbert Newell Ridgway, and his wife Madeline (née Clarke). Charles and Herbert were father-and-son inventors and developers of amusement parks, including Revere Beach. Rounding out the group was the Ridgways’ chauffeur Robert L. Parquett.

There are a lot of interesting details in the diary. For example, one of the things that struck me was how much DIY was involved in early automobiling. It seems that, for the most part, drivers had to maintain their own cars, as shown in this illustration.

The “men folks” doing some “tinkering”

Also, it’s obvious that cars were quite a novelty, and the diary describes scenes of children running alongside the road as they went by or crowding around to stare. According to Department of Energy statistics, in 1906, only 1.27 out of every 1,000 people in the U.S. owned cars. If my calculations are correct, that’s only about 108,520 people in the entire country.

If cars were in their infancy, so were speed limits. Our diarist was amused by an “unusual” sign in Millbrook, N.Y. prohibiting the operation of any car, motorcycle, bicycle, or horse over 10 miles an hour. She also sat in on the trial of a fellow autoist accused of traveling at an unacceptable 12 miles an hour. (He was caught by two police officers who had used stopwatches to time him.)

The hotels situated along these early driving routes ran the gamut. Some were pretty swanky, others less so. One man warned “Mrs. Otis” and her husband against the Hinsdale Hotel in Hinsdale, Mass. because “they serve nothing to eat there but plenty to drink, he never goes in there, because he’s ashamed to be seen coming out. It’s a ‘Speak Easy’ place he said, what ever that is.”

They also decided against the Quaboag House in West Warren, Mass., which “looked neat enough but there were all Irish names on the register written in pencil & only 2 or 3 a day. He thinks it may be a rum hole.”

For all her squeamishness about alcohol, however, when she came down with a bad cold, she complained:

I cant get warm, am taking the quinine, but have used up all my whiskey[.] Otis went off to the Drug store to get me some, but they would not give it to him, without a Doctor’s prescription[,] evidently thought his story about a sick wife, was a “put up job” & they were not to be fooled in that way. I want the whiskey, what am I to do.

We hope you’ll drop by the MHS library and take a look at the diary for yourself!

A Farewell to The Liberator

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Associate

William Lloyd Garrison was brutally attacked in Boston on 21 October 1835 while speaking at a meeting of the Female Anti-Slavery Society. You can read more about the attack and how eyewitness stories differed in a previous Beehive blog post.

Garrison, a Boston journalist, abolitionist, and social reformer, was most famous for his widely read antislavery newspaper, The Liberator. The Boston paper began in 1831 and ceased publication when enslavement in the United States was constitutionally abolished in 1865. The MHS has several items relating to The Liberator, including the stand on which Garrison set the type for printing, a banner to celebrate the beginning of The Liberator, and several issues of The Liberator, including the first issue, and the first and second editions of the last issue.

Left: Imposing stone for The Liberator. Made of slate encased in pine, 1840. Used by Garrison between 1845–1865. Right: Banner that reads: “The Liberator commenced January 1st, 1831, W.L.G. “I am in earnest! I will not equivocate! I will not excuse! I will not retreat a single inch! And I will be heard!”
Left: First issue of The Liberator, 1 January 1831. Center: Last issue, first edition of The Liberator, 29 December 1865. Right: Last issue, second edition of The Liberator, 29 December 1865. Although printed on the same day, there are differences on page 3 and 4 of this issue from the first edition.

In the last edition of The Liberator on the last two pages is a Farewell Address to the paper, written by William Cooper Nell, an educated post-office employee, author, and abolitionist in the Boston African American community. He created antislavery societies and was a friend, supporter, and article writer for Garrison and his Liberator. Nell worked to desegregate antislavery societies and schools in Boston. He achieved the latter in 1855.

Photograph of William Cooper Nell.

Nell’s “Farewell Address” in The Liberator, was addressed to his “Dear Friend Garrison.” It is both a love letter and, at times, a chastisement towards white abolitionists, as seen in these passages: “The first year, the Liberator was supported by the colored people, and had not fifty white subscribers,” and “In reading the Liberator for these thirty-five years, what volumes might be gleaned illustrating the noble, heroic and martyr spirit of the anti-slavery women, who, in the earliest days, rallied, in the midst of fiery persecution, to encourage by their presence, assist by their counsel, and by the magic influence of voice, pen and purse sustain the anti-slavery cause, and through whose devoted labors that cause received an impetus which you have often acknowledged could have been gained through no other instrumentality!”

The two-page Farewell Address in the last edition of The Liberator, written by William C. Nell.

At the end, Nell shows deep feeling, “I have cherished an interest in the Anti-Slavery cause from the time of your lectures in the old Athenaeum Hall on Pearl Street, before the Liberator was unfurled to the breeze, every copy of which I rejoice to have in my possession, and which no ordinary pressure of circumstances will ever compel me to part with.” His address finishes with a poem by Anne Warren Weston, and his own heart-felt thanks: “With a heart overflowing with gratitude for your life-long services in the cause of those with whom I am identified by complexion and condition, Ever fraternally yours, William C. Nell.”

“Greatly to be is enough for me”: The Life and Work of Caroline Sturgis Tappan

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist

Yesterday (30 August) was the 203rd anniversary of the birth of Transcendentalist Caroline Sturgis Tappan. When I searched old posts at the Beehive and discovered I’d never written about this interesting and talented woman, I decided I should correct that oversight.

Caroline Sturgis was born on 30 August 1819, the daughter of Elizabeth and William Sturgis of Boston. She had four sisters and one brother. As the daughter of a wealthy merchant, Caroline had quite the privileged upbringing and was educated by some of the most eminent 19th-century thinkers and teachers, including Amos Bronson Alcott, Dorothea Dix, and Margaret Fuller.

Today, Caroline is known primarily as a Transcendentalist poet and children’s author. Her poems appeared in The Dial with the byline “Z,” and her children’s stories were published (anonymously) as Rainbows for Children and The Magician’s Show Box. She was also an intimate friend and confidante of both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, as described by Francis B. Dedmond in 1988, Kathleen Lawrence in 2005, and Megan Marshall in 2013.

Given her accomplishments and important literary connections, I think Caroline gets short shrift in histories of the Transcendentalist movement. I found no record of a full-length biography, though she’s mentioned in passing in biographies of Emerson, Fuller, Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne.

Caroline may have been overshadowed by her older sister, Ellen Sturgis Hooper, who was also a poet. Even the notice that appeared in the pages of Literature magazine (page 178-82) after Caroline’s death, which characterized her work as “daring” and brilliant,” spent more time praising her sister’s “finer [poetic] touch” and citing Ellen’s poetry. You can see a similar dynamic in an 1885 article in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (pp. 249-50).

Meanwhile, a joint biographical sketch of the sisters in Notable American Women (vol. 2, pp. 214-5) describes Caroline as “the more outgoing and unconventional of the two.” One of her poems, published in The Dial in October 1840, begins with these lines:

Greatly to Be

Is enough for me,

Is enough for thee.

As an archivist, I’m most familiar with Caroline through her manuscript correspondence, which appears in a few different collections at the MHS, including the Davis-Sturgis-Tappan family papers and the Sturgis-Hooper family papers. Author Megan Marshall calls Caroline “high-spirited” (p. 100), and after reading through some of her letters, I have to agree. You can almost picture her grinning to herself as she writes. Here’s a sampling:

To her sister Ellen, 18 Sep. 1838: “Your tortoise of a letter has at length been welcomed at Naushon, & I thought at first it was from father, until I perceived it had no date & then I knew that it must of course be from you. I suppose you think time is nothing & it is not worth while to note down the day when you write.”

To Lidian Jackson Emerson, 4 June 1839: “I am sure it is very kind for you & Mr Emerson to invite me to stay with you, for I am as uninteresting as possible, & have nothing to say. […] I shall not send my love to the baby for I never like anything that can only express itself by doleful cries. I only love it when it arrives at smiles.”

To Ellen, about a mouse, 29 Sep. 1839: “I called him Romeo, because he roamed about & squealed O! all the time.”

To her husband William A. Tappan, 17 Jan. 1849: “It seems to be a great trouble to build a house & after it is done we shall feel as if we must like it whether we do or not.”

To her father William Sturgis, 9 Mar. 1854: “You know children will be children & mine do not make any pretensions to be angels, except that the other day Ellen refused a tart which was offered her, saying her mother did not let her eat tarts, which I consider slightly angelic.”

As an added treat, Caroline frequently illustrated her letters.

Letter by Caroline Sturgis Tappan, 27 June 1839, from the Davis-Sturgis-Tappan family papers
Letter by Caroline Sturgis Tappan, [7 August 1841], from the Sturgis-Hooper family papers

Caroline Sturgis married William Aspinwall Tappan, son of abolitionist Lewis Tappan, in 1847. The couple had two daughters, Ellen and Mary. Caroline survived all her siblings, dying on 20 October 1888, and is buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. In the 1930s, the Tappans’ home, Tanglewood, was donated to the Boston Symphony Orchestra by their daughter and granddaughter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Caroline Sturgis Tappan as much as I have!

The Role of Trade in Chinese-American Relations: A John Winthrop Student Fellowship Project

By Sam S., John Winthrop Fellow

Every year, the MHS selects one or more high school students as recipients of the John Winthrop Student Fellowship. This award encourages high school students to make use of the nationally significant collections of the MHS in a research project of their choosing. Applications for the 2022 Student Fellowships will open in December 2022. Learn more and apply!

This year, John Winthrop Student Fellow Sam S., who attends Nobles and Greenough in Dedham, has created a podcast to talk about the history of trade between China and the United States, focusing on trade relations between 1794 and 1900.

I had been interested in the topic of Chinese-American relations for a while so the opportunity to research this topic in depth was exciting. Once I was accepted I eagerly began reading several books to develop a strong background to help contextualize my later research. During my first meeting with the Massachusetts Historical Society I planned to make an entire series of podcasts covering most of the timeline of Chinese-American relations.

One of the first things I did to find resources from their archives was to search for “China” in their online collection guides. From here I was able to identify the Forbes papers. I brought up these papers in my next meeting with (Asst. Director of Education) Kate Melchior from the MHS where we talked about narrowing the focus of the podcast. She mentioned that the MHS had a podcast where they focused each episode on one specific piece from their archives which made me think that for my podcast I could do the same but perhaps not quite as extreme.

Grand chop of the ship Astrea, January 1790
All foreign traders shipping cargo out of Canton, China, were obliged to observe a complex series of customs. This grand chop states that all proper duties have been paid for the Astrea, enabling the ship to continue travelling down river.

When I finally visited the archives the librarians there showed me how to view the microfilm that the Forbes papers were copied onto. I used the index of the papers to find the letters and notes within the collection that were most relevant to Chinese-American relations which I took pictures of and transcribed for late use. One specific letter from the mid 19th century from John Forbes, an American merchant, to Houqua, a Chinese merchant, was especially helpful. It showed that early American merchants were able to form strong connections with their Chinese counterparts through trade.

As I was finishing my last book at the same time, it mentioned a lecture given by John Quincy Adams at the MHS itself. In my next meeting with Kate Melchior I brought this up and she managed to find the approximate date of this lecture. When I visited the MHS again, I asked one of the librarians about this and she was able to find an original newspaper that published the transcript of this lecture. This ended up being one of the most important parts of my podcast because Adam’s discussion about the opium wars through the lens of promoting free trade helped highlight the importance of trade to America but also the often self-serving nature of their relations with China. Because of this article I ended up focusing on making the script for one podcast episode on the role of specifically trade in Chinese-American relations pre 1900.

For any students who are interested in becoming student fellows, my main advice would be to make sure you specify your topic over the course of your research, use primary sources to help your argument, take advantage of the check ins, and make sure to put enough time aside if you’re looking at handwriting sources because they take some extra thinking to read. With my podcast I hope to inform people about Chinese-American relations pre 1900 as my topic suggests and I think it also provides a respectable background for learning about and contextualizing relations post 1900.

John Adams’s Snowy, Rainy, and Illness-Filled Journey to the Cincinnati Observatory

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Associate

John Quincy Adams retired from public life when he lost the 1828 presidential election to Andrew Jackson. However, he was not retired for long. In 1830, he ran for and was elected to a seat in the House of Representatives for Massachusetts. He served in this role, being elected to office nine consecutive times, until his death in 1848.

Adams had always exhibited a deep interest in astronomy, as I’ve written about here. In 1843, at the age of 76 and while serving as a congressman, he embarked on a journey to Cincinnati to lay the cornerstone of the Cincinnati Observatory. This observatory was built through the efforts of professor Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, who personally solicited donations for a month and a half, raising $7,500, enough to buy a telescope.

Adams recorded his travels in a daily diary, as he had been doing since he was a child, and he made an interesting entry on 1 November 1843—a list of locations with a number next to each. Perhaps those numbers indicated the number of days since he began his trip?

“1. IV:30. Wednesday— From

Cleveland to
Mill creek9.
Tinker’s creek13
Old Portage32
Coal house35
New Portage44
Jenning’s bridge86
Port Washington112
Newport, Lewisville132
Adam’s Mills145
Licking T170.
N. end of Licking Summit181
Millersport (D.C.)191
Rarey’s Bridge214

If numbers meant days, then Adams had been traveling for the better part of a year! Between the above diary entry on 1 November, and his arrival in Cincinnati on Wednesday, 8 November 1843, he writes of having a cold with “head ache, feverish chills, hoarseness, and a sore throat and my tussis senilis in full force.” Tussis senilis was the name for a severe, chronic cough, but he also named one of his ailments as catarrh, or a buildup of mucus in the throat. His diary goes on to mention waking up several times during the night, something he records often on the later leg of his journey.

He also describes the other passengers with “fascinating manners (which) substitutes for beauty,” and the layout of the canal packet boat Rob-Roy used to convey him from Akron, up the Ohio Canal to Portsmouth, Ohio, then by land carriage to Cincinnati, with several stops on the snowy seven-day trip.

At each stop on his journey, Adams was met with a throng of people expecting him to make speeches, kiss cheeks, shake hands, dine, play cards, and generally be affable. He seemed not to mind this but rather to enjoy it in his irreverent way. In Portsmouth, a delegate from the Cincinnati Astronomical Society, Mr. William Green, joined Adams and accompanied him for the rest of his trip to Cincinnati. However, Adams’s mood wears thin within just a few days, “The activity and unceang (unceasing) attentions of this gentleman since he joined us, have alleviated much my anxiety; but my catarrh, and excessive kindness drive me to despair.”

Finally arriving in Cincinnati, Adams was ushered into a barouche, a type of open carriage. A welcoming crowd followed the carriage to a resident’s house, where the mayor made a welcoming speech and the crowd cheered Adams. However, after so many days traveling and feeling too ill to sleep properly, Adams confessed to his diary, “My answer was flat, stale and unprofitable, without a spark of eloquence or a flash of oratory—confused—incoherent—muddy, and yet received with new shouts of welcome.”

The next day was the day of the stone laying for the Cincinnati Observatory. Adams had been working on his address during his travels but notes in his diary his difficulty writing it because of the cramped conditions, the weather, his cold, and the company around him. Nevertheless, he finished the address before breakfast the morning of the stone laying. To get to the observatory, another barouche was set up to include the mayor and the president of the Astronomical Society. The procession also included carriages with other important Cincinnatians, a military escort, a band, and a crowd of supporters to walk beside the carriages. Then it started to rain. The cover of the barouche had to be lifted to protect the dignitaries from the rain, and in effect it “exclude(d) the sight of me from the people and of the people from me.” But the procession continued:

“The procession marched round sundry streets, the rain increasing till it poured down in torrents. Yet the throng in the Streets seemed not at all to diminish—It looked like a sea of mud—The ascent of the hill was steep and slippery for the horses, and not without difficulty attained—The summit of the hill was a circular plain of which the corner stone was the centre. At the circumference, a stage was erected from which my discourse was to have been delivered; but the whole plain was covered with an auditory of Umbrella’s instead of faces.”

Cincinnati Thursday 9. November 1843.

Adams laid the cornerstone and read his address, which received three “hearty cheers.” Afterward, the crowd dispersed. The discourse portion of the event was postponed to the following day and held inside a chapel. That evening, Adams attended a temperance tea party in a house that had formerly been a theater.

On his third day in Cincinnati, Adams gave a speech for nearly “two hours, without a symptom of impatience or inattention of the Auditory.” Afterward, the city named the hill upon which the observatory stands “Mount Adams.” Adams then shook hands with every member of the Astronomical Society, as well as anyone in the crowd who wished to shake his hand. He then retired to his accommodations and talked to numerous visitors bearing invitations. In the evening, he went to a theatrical comedy and then a ball. “The Ball was splendid—the banquet sumptuous and temperate and the company genteel and lovely— Thus closes, blessed be God one memorable day of my life.”  

“Sweet dreams my love; you’re wonderful”: the letters of Frank and Christine Crawley

By Susanna Sigler, Library Assistant

One of my first directives when I started at the MHS as a library assistant back in May was to begin to familiarize myself with using the ABIGAIL interface. This is how I found myself searching for materials on topics of interest to me, including the (admittedly very broad) topic of WWII.

I found in ABIGAIL that the MHS holds many collections related at least in some way to WWII — although it is a small fraction of the larger holdings — and is currently working to acquire more. Somewhat randomly, I picked the papers of Cambridge resident Frank T. Crawley to investigate further.

The record in ABIGAIL explains that these letters were largely to Frank’s fiancée Christine, and that they cover a variety of subjects, many related to his time stationed in the Panama Canal Zone with the U.S. Marine Corps. The memory of WWII in the United States today has ascended to a status that is almost beyond reproach, a kind of veneration expressed in severe memorials and Serious Dramas. I was interested in the experiences of Frank, who like many Americans serving in the war, did not see combat.

One topic in particular also caught my eye — “his love for her.” I was intrigued by what that might look like. Real WWII love letters, the stuff of movies. Some special, more pure kind of devotion that people insist does not exist today.

Having taken a dive into the beginnings of this collection of correspondence, I feel confident in reporting that couples in the 1940s were very much the same as they are today, differences in slang notwithstanding. “Swell” and “grand” are common adjectives, “gee” is peppered throughout, his nicknames for her are a carousel of darlings, honeys, and sweethearts. His proclamations are often and strong, that he misses her, that he loves her, that her happiness means everything to him and that he wishes the war were over so that they could be together.

Your love keeps me going and keeps my heart warm. Darling you’re so sweet and thoughtful and I’ll never stop loving you no matter where I am or who I am. 

Additionally, a member of Frank’s family or from Christine’s makes their way into the mix. There is a whirlwind of a letter from Frank’s sister-in-law Marie, who, in her update to Frank, had become an American citizen, obtained her driver’s license, and was on her way to becoming a 2nd Lieutenant in the Red Cross Motor Corps, all in quick succession.

Frank and Christine marry on June 6th, 1943, one year prior to D-Day. On their anniversary, Frank sends a telegram, as well as a letter. About D-Day he writes,

Darling it looked like General Eisenhower waited for your big day to put on his show and from the radio reports it is going along quite successful and I hope and pray that Germany will be knocked out in a hurry. We are all so darn sick of this war and the sooner it ends the better. 

Anniversary telegram from Frank to Christine.

Though the vast majority of the letters are from Frank, there are scattered replies from Christine in which she returns his sentiments, thanking him for his latest “sugar report,” and updates him on events back home.

Letter from Christine to Frank dated March 10th, 1944.

Honey, you wrote that you had seen the Andrew Sisters in “Always a Bridesmaid.” Jo & I saw that Monday night, a few days after you did. You seem to see the same pictures we have playing at the local theatres. It’s fun hearing we’ve seen the same pictures at almost the same time. Somehow, it feels as if we had seen them together. — almost.  

There are many passages that are similarly moving, so much so that it only really hit me about halfway through the second box of letters that that was what I was reading — someone’s personal correspondence. These were words that presumably Frank didn’t think anyone besides Christine, and possibly her family, would ever see (well, besides the censor).

In some ways it feels even more like an intrusion due to the letters’ relative recency. Frank and Christine were about the same age during the war as my grandparents. Their letters feel more personal than looking at business papers, or those of a noted head of state. These are Frank and Chris, who love movies and baseball and talk about how desperate they are to see each other on the rare weekends he’s allowed during training. Even the fact that I’m casually referring to them by their first names and nicknames, these people I’ve never met, feels like something that really only happens in an archive.

Ultimately, this collection helped me continue with what I set out to do — familiarize myself with the MHS catalog and the reading room handling guidelines. It also fueled my interest in exploring more collections related to WWII, and to start compiling information for a potential subject guide that researchers could use. But it also made me pause, and remember the intense personal nature of manuscript collections — all manuscript collections — and just how a person’s life, and their most intimate relationships, can become “history.”


Christine Panariello Crawley to Frank T. Crawley, 10 March 1944, Frank T. Crawley Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Frank T. Crawley to Christine Panariello Crawley, 13 February 1943, Frank T. Crawley Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Frank T. Crawley to Christine Panariello Crawley, 7 June 1944, Frank T. Crawley Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society. “Research Starters: US Military by the Numbers.” The National WWII Museum. Accessed August 5, 2022.

“The publick Power should be divided into different parts”: On the Trail of John Adams and Plato

By Rhonda Barlow, Research Associate

According to Abigail Adams, Plato was John Adams’ favorite author, and she wrote in 1784 that he was “in his easy chair reading Platos Laws.” Although John later wrote that some of the ideas of the Greek philosopher emerged from a lunatic asylum, Plato’s views on balanced constitutions resonated with the New Englander. So how did John Adams learn about them?

It is tempting to imagine the Harvard-educated lawyer absorbed in reading Plato’s complete works in the original Greek. This does not seem to be the case. Years later, Adams recalled that he read all of Plato in translation, using English, French, and Latin, and compared selections with the Greek. But his 31 March 1791 letter to Connecticut poet John Trumbull gives us a glimpse into how he actually accessed a classical author.  In his criticism of the unbalanced constitutions of revolutionary France, Adams quoted from Plato’s Laws in Latin, not Greek.

handwriting, letter
John Adams letter to John Trumbull, March 31, 1791

Adams’ Latin can be translated as, “The republics, gentlemen, of which you are members, are true republics; but those we have just been speaking of, aristocracy, democracy, and monarchy, are not republics; they are communities where one part is a slave to the other part that dominates,” and “Not one of them is a true republic; the right name is seditions. In none do we find a willing sovereign with willing subjects, but a sovereign controlling reluctant subjects by violence.”

Adams then explained, “Human passions domineer in each of the three Simple Governments. to enquire which of them is the best is only to enquire, which will produce most mischief, the Passions of one Man the Passions of the Majority of a Senate or the Passions of a Majority of the Multitude. to enquire whether a mixed Government is better than a Simple one, is to ask whether the Passions are as wise as just and as moderate as the Laws.”

Adams had a Greek and Latin parallel version, and as lawyers, he and Trumbull could be expected to be more proficient in Latin than Greek. But the quotes did not come from Adams’ parallel version, and do not follow the original Greek closely. Instead, his source was his friend Gabriel Bonnot Abbé de Mably’s Entretiens de Phocion, a dialogue highlighting ancient Athenian statesman Phocion. Not only do the two Latin quotes match exactly, but Adams quotes them in the same order. Furthermore, when writing to James Madison about balanced constitutions 27 years later, Adams repeated his appreciation for Plato and de Mably and their views on mixed governments, and this time provided page numbers:

handwriting, letter
John Adams letter to James Madison, April 22, 1817

Accidentally his Phocion is on my Table. In the Second Conversation, p. 45 and 49, he censured Monarchy, pure Aristocracy, and popular Government, The Laws are not safe, under these Administrations… What is the Security against these dangers? According to Plato, Phocion and De Mably, “An able Mixture of all these Governments; the publick Power should be divided into different parts, capable of controuling restraining, over-awing each other; of ballancing each other, and of reciprocally moderating each other.”

Adams probably did read much of Plato’s Laws in translation, and also encountered the ancient philosopher in contemporary writers. His dedication to his own role in a mixed and balanced government while serving as America’s first vice-president is showcased in volumes 20 and 21 of the Papers of John Adams.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding of the edition is currently provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the Packard Humanities Institute.

Guide, Guide, Everywhere a Guide

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist

text, webpage
Screenshot from MHS website

The job of processing the MHS’s terrific collections falls to members of the Collections Services department. Processing archivists like me are responsible for arranging and describing collections in the best and clearest way possible for our researchers, be they scholars, teachers, students, authors, genealogists, members of the general public, or MHS staff.

Not only are collections cataloged in our online catalog ABIGAIL, but many of our manuscript, photograph, graphics, and artifact collections are further described in online guides. The guides contain more detailed historical and contextual information and allow researchers to zero in on the specific material they’re looking for. But these guides are not static. They’re frequently revised, and new guides are posted on a regular basis.

I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight a few of the guides that have been added to our website recently.

The Kimball-Griswold family papers consist of papers of Unitarian clergyman John C. Kimball, his wife Emily, their adopted daughter Grace, and other family members. Rev. Kimball was a Civil War chaplain and a social activist for temperance, abolitionism, women’s suffrage, and workers’ rights. Emily Kimball was a teacher, school administrator, and women’s rights advocate. John’s brother Joseph served in the Civil War as an officer in the 37th and 116th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments and took part in 37 battles.

The Heath-Doliber-Hedge-Hammond family papers contain papers of four interrelated families, including a large number of diaries kept by several different women. Correspondence of Charles H. Heath covers his travels to California, Jamaica, Italy, Greece, Nicaragua, and Mexico in the mid-19th century. And one interesting journal describes the “water cure” at a hydropathic institution in Brattleboro, Vermont.

And last but certainly not least, the Garrison family papers consist of papers of noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and several members of his family, particularly his son George T. Garrison. George worked in various professions all over the country and during the Civil War served as an officer in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, a Black regiment. The collection includes 50 years of his diaries. John Ritchie, whose papers also form part of the collection, was a Garrison family friend and officer of another Black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry.

These are just three of the most recent collections now available for research at the MHS. You’ll find guides to hundreds of other collections of manuscripts, photographs, and other materials at our website.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention here the contributions of our crack digital team that works diligently to provide digital access to MHS material. For examples of the work they do, see the recently digitized papers of the Indian Industries League, diaries of Charles Edward French and John Rowe, and 17th-century sermon notes by Robert Keayne. To see more digitized collections, look for the blue “Digital Content” label.

text, webpage
Screenshot from MHS website

Highlight from the Collections: The Lafayette Medals

By Evan McDonagh, Library Assistant

Visitors to the MHS will not be surprised to learn that the Society holds an extensive records collection on early American history. On paper and film alone, the Society houses more than fourteen million pages of manuscripts, approximately 120,000 images, more than 10,000 broadsides, and over 2,500 maps among a plethora of books and other items.[1] However, the MHS also possesses a wide range of unconventional American artifacts, many of which receive less visibility than the more prominent paper records. The Society’s numismatic holdings provide one such example.

As defined by Meriam-Webster dictionary, numismatics refers to “the study or collection of coins, tokens, and paper money and sometimes related objects (such as medals).” The Society holds a plethora of coins, tokens, and medals, with medals’ being of particular interest.

Beginning shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War, the production of medals and tokens bearing the likenesses of prominent heroes and political figures cemented and reinforced the developing American mythos. Likewise, collecting these special coins, tokens, and medals became a means of demonstrating individual patriotism and of flexing one’s status and means.

Left to right: An 1825 General Lafayette, Companion of Washington silver medal. The visible side depicts a radiant sun flanking two monuments; a globe labeled USA and an eagle sit between them. A Lafayette medal in the MHS collections. The inscription reads ‘Aux Intrepides Citoyens de Paris.’ An 1830 Lafayette The Hero tin medal. The visible side depicts the right-facing profile of Lafayette; the opposing side shows the profile of the French king Louis Philippe I surrounded by two concentric circles.

Patriotic artisans found a popular subject in the Revolutionary War hero Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Born on 6 September 1757 in Chavaniac, France as the orphaned son of a French aristocratic family, Lafayette traveled to the rebelling American colonies in July 1777 to obtain glory as a revolutionary fighter. Despite his lack of experience, the young soldier quickly won the friendship of George Washington. Lafayette earned distinction and fame for his actions at the Battle of the Brandywine in 1777, Barren Hill in 1778, and his successful campaigns against British commanders Benedict Arnold and Lord Charles Cornwallis in 1781.

By the war’s end, Lafayette had attained nationwide fame, so much so that several states named him an honorary citizen during a 1784 visit. Lafayette’s youth and reputation marked him as an ideal figurehead and symbol for Revolutionary War medals and tokens.[2]

A 1789 ‘Vivre libre ou mourir’ Lafayette silver octagonal medal. On the left is a left-facing military bust of Lafayette. The image on the right depicts the coat of arms of Paris.

In the present day, the MHS has the good fortune to hold a number of Lafayette medals dating from the Revolutionary War to the late 19th century. Many of these medals come from the collection of William Sumner Appleton, Sr., a wealthy Boston resident in the late 19th century. Appleton specialized in the preservation of historic homes, but American coins and medals ranked high among his other interests. Upon Appleton’s death, his estate split up his numismatic collection, and though it sold a majority of the coins, the “Americana” part of the collection – U.S. colonial and federal coins and U.S. and personal medals – found its way to the MHS in 1905. Other Lafayette medals entered the collection in the following decades.

A 1934 Lafayette medal produced by the American Friends of Lafayette to celebrate the centenary of the general’s death. The medal depicts themes of peace and war.

The Lafayette medal collection showcases a method by which Americans have left their history and mythos to the future. Even during the 19th and 20th centuries, the production of new Lafayette medals saw the celebration of the general and of American patriotism go hand in hand. This 1934 Lafayette medal (above), produced by the American Friends of Lafayette to celebrate the centenary of the general’s death, demonstrates this dichotomy. Lafayette walks past a pillar labeled “America’s Adopted Son,” a reflection of Lafayette’s French roots and the mythos of the great American melting pot. Meanwhile, the depiction of the sword and olive branch, of war and peace, reflects the symbology present on the Great Seal of the United States.[3]

seal of the United States
The Great Seal of the United States, first designed in 1782 by Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson.

The Lafayette medals serve as a portable, collectible reminder of the American experiment. Their inclusion in the Society’s collection alongside other numismatic items and artifacts speak to the plethora of ways in which Americans have chosen to remember and to commemorate their history.

[1] Massachusetts Historical Society. “Our Collections.” Accessed July 27, 2022.

[2] Leepson, Marc. “Marquis de Lafayette.” Britannica. Accessed July 27, 2022.

[3] National Museum of American Diplomacy. “The Great Seal.” Accessed July 29, 2022.