January 1894: A.C. Woodworth, Traveling Salesman

By Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

Several years ago, I launched an annual blog series transcribing a diary from exactly 100 years ago, month by month, for the Beehive. It’s been a fun way to get to know the everyday voices in our collection; since I began we’ve followed a year in the life of Boston matron Margaret Russell (1916), architect Lady Gertrude Codman Carter (1917), high school student Barbara Hillard Smith (1918), and George Hyland, a casual laborer living in southeastern Massachusetts (1919). This year, we are returning to the type of diary that inspired this project — the travel diary. In 2015, I published a series of posts featuring the travels of anonymous woman’s pleasure cruise down the Nile. As none of the diaries in our collection from the year 1920 stood out as particular candidates for a full year’s worth of transcription, I am going to offer up a bouquet of excerpts instead … one month for each diary, and each diary a different journey.

For the month of January, I have selected the diary of A.C. Woodworth, a businessman who was based in Chicopee, Mass. at the turn of the 20th century. The MHS holds two of his daily diaries covering the years 1894 and 1905 in which he kept records related to his travels and business dealings, expenses, family, and personal matters. The entries transcribed below recount his regional travels for work during the month of January 1894. At the beginning of January 1894 Woodworth accepted a position as traveling sales agent for the Field Life Guard Co., which sold “life guards,” or fenders, to be installed on the front of streetcars to prevent pedestrian fatalities. The below entries document his first few weeks in his new position.

* * *

Friday, January 5, 1894


I had a long talk with Lawyer Nash, 19 Congress St. yesterday, and he told me he had brought Suit against Sam’l May to collect the notes amounting to $15,000 — which I hold against him. The suit is brought in Springfield though Mr. McClough may want to […] Nash and said he wanted a personal interview with me, and Nash made an appointment for me to meet May today at 11 o’clock but May did not turn up — Mr. Nash will push the suit to judgement but I hope May will offer to settle on some […] before that time. Had an interview with Lawyer Fowle — 53 State St. — about the […] Elevated R.R. Stock (yesterday) the stock is simply worthless. Fowle asked me to try to get Chicago people interested.

Saturday, January 6, 1894

Boston.                                                                                                                                    Prov’c

I came to Providence this a.m. and took room 34 at the Hotel […]

I find Mr. Harris has not yet returned from Brooklyn where he went to have a trial […] but he is expected home today. Mr. Makepeace is sick in bed and […] me until tomorrow.

Met Mr. Wheeler on the […] went to the theater in the evening.

Sunday, January 7, 1894


I had a long talk with Mr. M […] today, at his home, where I took tea. M […] says he has cancelled […] $100-note I sent him, and will give me […] $200-note he holds on which I paid him $100 — I think he thought to do this because I have put as much money in working up […]

M […] told me all about […] in the Fender business & Harris Connection — also the chalk business.

Monday, January 8, 1894


Harris has gone to Portland today to hold the annual stockholders meeting […] Field Life Guard Co. tomorrow (Wednesday) there will be a meeting after directors of that company held here in Providence when, if what Harris and Makepeace says comes true, an arrangement will be made with me to become their Western Agent on a salary of $2,500 per year and a commission of 10% on my sales — they to pay all my expenses.

Tuesday, January 9, 1894


I had a long interview with Mr. Geo. H. Corliss and Miss. Corliss. I went to their house, cor. Angel & Prospect Sts. abt. 12 o’clock, by appointment made by Mr. Weeden (nephew) The interview was a very satisfactory one — but I am obliged to wait until the 20” of this month, before they will put a price on their property — at that time they will give me a price for the Geo. H. Corliss Engine Co. — Complete as it now stands, if the partners who are now negotiating for it have not closed the bargain.

[…] Exp. Bkft. 60c. Cigars. 50. Lunch .45c. Supper 1-. Papers .10c. Ames came tonight. $2.65.

Wednesday, January 10, 1894


I have this day engaged with the Field Life Guard Co. of this city, for six months at $200 per month salary and all my expenses — I am also to have 10% com on all the new business I bring the co. Salary to begin January 1/94.

Exps.    Breakfast                     1.25
Papers                                         .05
Dinner                                       1.30
Supper                                       1.25
Ames (personal)                   25.00
Cigars                                          .25
Expenses                                   1.25
Expenses                                     .25
                                    $           30.85

Thursday, January 11, 1894

Providence & Chicopee.

Ames […] came to Chicopee this p.m. I have started my work for the Field Life Guard Co. Am going to Holyoke tomorrow morning & to Rochester in the afternoon.

Life Guard act.
R.R. to Chicopee                  $2.44

Genl exp. act.
Hotel bill                               $8.96
Meals                                      $1.70
R.R.                                         $2.44

Friday, January 12, 1894

Chicopee, Holyoke & En Route.

Went to Holyoke this a.m. Saw Mayor Whitcomb & City Clerk. They have taken no action on the Fender business. Perkins out of city. Callahan dead. Am going to call Perkins Monday.

Life Guard act.
R.R. to Holyoke & return      .24 c
Shirt […]                                   .10
Dinner                                       .75
Ink stand                                  .50
Copy book                              1.30
To Springfield              .10  $2.99

R.R. to Rochester               $6.94
Sleeper to “                             2.00
Supper on cars                       1.00                 9.94
Hotel                                           .15
Cab to Hotel                              .50

Saturday, January 13, 1894

See […] in other book.

En Route, Rochester & Syracuse.

Arrived here this a.m. 3.20.

Went to Powers Hotel.

Lodging, Bkfst & Dinner        3.50
Other Exps.                                 .45
Bus to depot                                .25
Telegram to Harris .35 .46       .81
Ticket to Syracuse                    1.68
“         “   Sprg                             5.30
Sleeper “     “                               1.50

Supper                                           .75
Exps                                               .25
Stamps                                          .20
Porter                                            .25
Breakfast                                       .75

Saw Prest & Secy of Rochester Railway Co. and arranged for trial of fender in about 10 days. Took measurements of car — gave price at $40 per car job at Worcester […] furnish man to supt putting fenders on cars — they have 150 cars to be fitted up. […] has been given the authority to fit up tr. cars — they have one very fine car that is to be fitted with nickel plated fender — they are going to have the Pittsburgh fender. […] $5,000,000–

John H. Beckley, Prest. F. P. Allen, Treas. C.A. Williams, Secy.

[gap in record]

Tuesday, January 16, 1894

M[…]                                                                                                    Providence

Stayed at the Bay State House all night — Mr. F[…] came this AM and we went to the […] Co. together.

Telephone to Prov.             .45
Car fares                               .20
Cigars                                    .25
Bill at hotel                        3.00
R.R. to Providence   1.10 5.00
Supper                                    45

F.L.G. Co. settled for Exp.

Chiropodist                    $5.00
Theatre                               1.50
F. Co. Exp. to date        $40.14

Wednesday, January 17, 1894

Providence & Brockton.

Field Life Guard Co. act.
Breakfast                             .65
Hotel                                   1.50
Dinner                                  .50
R.R. to Taunton                 .60
Supper                                 .35
R.R. to Brockton               .80
Expenses                             .25

Thursday, January 18, 1894

Worcester, Brockton & Providence.

I reached last [night] arriving at 9pm. Stopped at the B […] Hotel. Mr. C.B. Ragans Supt of this City .. will not put on fenders until he is obliged to.

Hotel                1.20
R.R. to Prov.   1.22
Papers               .05
Dinner               .60
R.R. to […]       1.10
Cigars                .30
[…]                     .05
Telephoning      .29

Received from the F.L.G. Co. p/c of Expenses $150

Friday, January 19, 1894

Mashpee & Boston.

Spent the day at Ames Plow Co. Field did not come as promised. Went to Boston at 4.22pm. Hotel                     4–             R.R. to Boston 1–

R[…]                .35       Street Car       .10
Messenger      .28       Supper           .90
F.L.G. Exps $6.60

Personal $5–

Mr. Field met me at Reynolds hotel this morning.

Saturday, January 20, 1894

Boston, Worcester, and Chicopee.

Took 7am train for Worcester, Field with me.

Hotel                              2–
Breakfast                      […]
R.R. to Worcester        1–
Papers                             .10
R.R. to […]                   1.24
R.R. to Chicopee           .10

[additional calculations]

Sunday, January 21, 1894

Chicopee & New York.
R.R. to New York                2.75
Street Car                               .05
Supper                                     .75
Cigars                                      .25

I came to New York this evening and am stopping at the New Amsterdam Hotel cor. 21” and 4” Ave. Mr. Harris met me here at 11 o’clock.

Monday, January 22, 1894

New York & Brooklyn.

Breakfast                      .75
Street Cars                   .10
Papers                          .05
Dinner                          .65
Supper                        1.05

Spent most of the day at the DeKalb […] shops with Harris and Field getting […] ready for […] Fender tomorrow. Saw […] a few moments.

diary page
Page from diary of A.C. Woodworth, 23 January 1894

Tuesday, January 23, 1894

New York – Brooklyn – En Route.

Breakfast (2)                   1.65
Cab fares                            .15
Lunch (2)                          .80
Papers                                .05
Supper                               .75
Hotel Bill                        3.00
Cigars                                 .50
R.R. to Binghampton   8.00
Gave Field                    20.00
Porter                                .75

Had live [demonstration] of our fender today. Chauncy, Linton, and Supt. of DeKalb Short Railway being present. The test went off fairly well. I leave for Binghampton tonight at 8-30pm.

Wednesday, January 24, 1894

Binghampton & Rochester.

Arrived here this AM at 3-55 went to the […] Hotel. Saw Mr. G. Linny Pagus Prest. of the Binghampton Rd. Co.

Hotel Bill                      1.25
R.R. to Rochester       3.65
Papers                           .05
Telegram                       .35
H[…]                              .50
Cigars                            .25

Thursday, January 25, 1894


[illegible list of supplies and prices]

At work getting fenders on cars for trial.

[…] H. Moffett tonight that fender that would come off […].

Rec’d telegraph from Harris.

[gap in records]

Sunday, January 28, 1894


Sunday papers            .75

Monday, January 29, 1894

Rochester – En Route.

Briefly went to New York yesterday — Had talk with Williams & Rasborough — Am to make a new fender & put on a car here. Packed up the 2 fenders and sent home by Express.

Helpers                                      1.25
Cigars                                           .75
Car Fares                                     .20
Papers                                          .05    – 2.25
Hotel Bill (5 days)                  17.50
Telegram from Moffitt              .50
Buss [sic]                                     .25
Supper                                          .95
R.R. to Sp […]                           6.92
Porter                                            .25
Waiter                                           .25
Sleeper to Sp […]                      4.00
Cigars                                            .25
Porter                                           .50

Tuesday, January 30, 1894

En Route & Chicopee.

Porter                          .50
Breakfast                    .75
Dinner                         .50
Car fare                       .10

Wednesday, January 31, 1894

Mashpee & […] & Prov.

R.R. to Prov.               $2.44
“           “                           .10
Exps                                .35
R.R. to […]                     1.10
Papers                             .05
Dinner                             .65
Cigars                              .25
Telegram to Harris       .55
Car Fares                        .10

Came back from Providence to Worcester this morning.

* * *

Please note that the diary transcription is a rough-and-ready version, not an authoritative transcript. Researchers wishing to use the diary in the course of their own work should verify the version found here with the manuscript original. The A.C. Woodworth diaries are unrestricted and may be consulted in our reading room. If you have questions about the collection, or about planning a visit to the library, please contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

New Year’s Day 1812

by Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

Page from Harriet Otis diary
Page from the diary of Harriet Otis, 1811-1814

Wedy Jany 1st – The new year commenced in bustle and hurry – All was preparation for the grand event of waiting on the Queen – the room smoked so while we were dressing, that our eyes looked as tearful and red as if we were going to a funeral instead of a frolic.

Thus began New Year’s Day 1812 for 24-year-old Harriet Otis. The day was full of activity and interesting people, and fortunately for us, she described it all in her diary.

The Otis family lived in Washington, D.C., and the first item on the day’s agenda was the New Year’s reception at the White House. Harriet’s father, Samuel Allyne Otis, was secretary of the Senate, and like many other well-to-do Washingtonians, the Otises made an appearance at this important social occasion. (“The Queen” was Harriet’s somewhat snarky nickname for First Lady Dolley Madison.)

Harriet rode to the White House in the carriage of Hannah (Hooper) Reed, the wife of a Congressman from Massachusetts. It was a busy day in the city.

After a little hurry scurry our carriages set of[f] on full tilt – the whole city was alive – everybody in motion. [At the White House] we were jostled […] about two hours, diverted with strange figures and smiling and bowing and recieving [sic] good wishes untill [sic] it was time to go to Mrs Lloyd’s to dine.

The Otises’ next stop was the home of James Lloyd, senator of Massachusetts, and his wife Hannah (née Breck). It’s obvious from her diary that Harriet knew some of the most eminent men and women of the time, not just through her father, but also her brother Harrison Gray Otis and her uncle and aunt, James and Mercy (Otis) Warren.

I could identify some, but not all, of the people who dined at the Lloyds’ that day. Even so, Harriet’s uncensored opinions on the members of her exclusive social circle—and her gossipy, breezy writing style—make the diary very fun to read. We’ll start with Mrs. Lloyd.

A very sweet lovely woman but not always a very entertaining companion, having [a] trick of looking dreadfully wearied with everything.

Someone named Dr. Mitchell made a distinct impression, and I particularly like how Harriet described him.

As curious an Animal as any menagerie can furnish – very harmless though and accommodating too, for let him talk (and it is difficult to prevent him) he little regards whether you are listening or not – pompous, vain but goodnatured – his brain filled with all sort of knowledge ill digested and worse assorted.

And then, unexpectedly, a name I recognized.

Fulton the grand inventor of all manner of schemes – torpedos steamboats &c &c – just obtained a patent for building steamboats on the western waters for twenty eight years – His exterior quite prepossessing.

Portrait of Robert Fulton
Robert Fulton, from the frontispiece of Robert Fulton and the Clermont, 1909

When Harriet met him, the accomplished Robert Fulton had embarked on a venture to establish exclusive rights to steamboat passage down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. Just days after she wrote this entry in her diary, in fact, his steamboat New Orleans would complete its maiden voyage.

But while he was much renowned for his inventions, Fulton was also unfortunately (according to Harriet) a Democratic-Republican, and the Lloyds, Otises, and Reeds were all Federalists. Outnumbered, Fulton used a time-honored tactic for navigating political conversations during the holidays: avoidance.

Certainly a politic man for he wa[i]ved a political discussion (being a high Demo in company with feds) by saying “Dont ask me about politics, I have nothing in my head but wheels and pivots.”

A very happy and healthy New Year from the MHS to all of you and yours.

An Old Message for a New Year

By Daniel Hinchen, Library Reader Services

As we approach the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, I want to briefly share a few stanzas found in a publication from the 1830s. Titled A Saucy Carrier’s address for the year 1833, this multi-page piece of verse is “Dedicated, in general, to the readers of the Boston daily, semi-weekly, and weekly Advocate.” But the author does not stop there, but instead adds “[Including all who can read, wont read, but ought to be made to read, the TRUTH; with especial wishes for a Happy New Year to its FREE, bold Patrons, and all who are about to become such.]”

1833 New Year Address
A saucy carrier’s address for the year 1833. Dedicated, in general, to the readers of the Boston daily, semi-weekly and weekly Advocate …, [Boston : s.n., 1833].
Without further ado, some words of wisdom from the Saucy Carrier:

TIME rolls his certain, ceaseless round : again
The CARRIER, true to time, knocks at your door ;
Another year has gone, with all of vain,
Or good, that mark’d its progress, and once more
We pause to draw experience from the last,
And in the future, mend the errors of the past

The year that’s gone ! tis but another wave,
Washed on the shore of Time’s all-whelming sea :
Bu ah ! what wrecks of mind, when none could save,
What broken fair resolves, what bliss to be,
Lie buried in that wave’s resistless tide,
Or thrown upon the strand, in ruin wide!

There Retrospection comes, in pensive mood,
To gather up sad fragments of the past :
Fond Melancholy loves to sit and brood
O’er joys that she has lost, the best, the last ;
Hope lingers still, though all around is dark,
And sees, in every rising cloud, her coming bark.

Tis vain, tis vain : of Time that once has been,
One hour, one moment, we can ne’er recall ;
Its virtue or its crime, its bliss or pain,
Have fled. Remorse, repentance, now are all
The wretch has left of guilty, misspent hours,
And wither’d too, lie pleasure’s sweetest flowers.

The author carries on for several more pages, invoking political actors of the day and their effects upon the nation. To read what else this postal poet penned, resolve to visit the Library in the New Year and find out for yourself!

Happy Holidays!

2019 John Winthrop Student Fellow: Riana Bucceri, Changing Gravestone Iconography & Theological Sentiment in Early New England

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Every year, the MHS selects one or more high school students for our John Winthrop Student Fellowship. This award encourages high school students to make use of the nationally significant documents of the MHS in a research project of their choosing. Students perform historical research and create a project (usually an assignment for class) using materials at the MHS, both in our archives or digitized online. This project can be something assigned in a class, a National History Day project, or something of the student’s invention!  Both student and teacher each receive $350 to support their research. Applications for the 2020 student fellowship are due on 11 February 2020Learn more and apply!

Broadside detail
Upon the Death of the Virtuous and Religious Mrs. Lydia Minot, detail of broadside, [Cambridge, Mass. : Printed by Samuel Green, 1668]
In 2019, Riana Bucceri and her teacher William Miskinis from Littleton High School were awarded one of our student fellowships to research how trends in gravestone iconography reflected shifts in early New England theology. Riana spent several months working in the MHS library with the support of our research librarians and produced an essay titled “The Frailty of Man”: An Analysis of Changing Gravestone Iconography and Theological Sentiment in Early New England. Read Riana’s account of her experience at the MHS:

Every student in our AP U.S history class is required to do a local research project. I had already known I was doing an analysis on gravestone iconography, but working solely with the sources I was getting from my town’s historical society was not cutting it. Luckily, I discovered the Massachusetts Historical Society and the search engine ABIGAIL, and was then able to breathe a sigh of relief. I found sermons from every time period I needed to connect iconographic trends on New England gravestones to the theology of the time. It was through this browsing of the MHS’s website that I discovered I had the opportunity to apply for the John Winthrop fellowship, which I immediately decided that I wanted to do.

When I went in to visit the MHS, I was instantly impressed with the welcoming, intellectual, and professional environment I encountered. Every employee was willing to help. I was honestly shocked that I was able to touch actual letters and sermons that were up to 300 years old. Sitting in the stately reading room, holding handwritten letters, I felt like I had history in my hands. After struggling with the delicate handwriting for a while, I deciphered letters from rural pastors addressed to city priests describing the great religious revivals they had witnessed. Their handwritten words demonstrated a clear turning point in religious sentiment that became the backbone of my paper. These letters show turning points in theological sentiment, which coincided with changes in iconography. I used these to compare the general evolution of New England gravestone iconography with greater theological ideas, such as predestination, and the First and Second Great Awakenings.

Possibly one of the most helpful and interesting sources I found was Ezra Sampson’s sermon on seventeen year old Olive Soule. His metaphors comparing death to nature were really beautiful, and the way he emphasized ‘the frailty of man’ was engrossing. He said, “Grass we know is but of short duration. It grows and flourisheth but a little while, before it fadeth and withereth away…and this holds true of man…” His themes showed an important turning point in religious sentiment that supported my thesis. In fact, I decided to entitle my paper “‘The Frailty of Man” because of the way the phrase resonates throughout my research. Looking back, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to use the resources available at the Massachusetts Historical Society. If I had not had access to these sources, I would not have been able to create such a complex and nuanced paper.

If you are interested in learning more about the John Winthrop Student Fellowship or any of our other programs, please visit the Center for the Teaching of History website or e-mail us at education@masshist.org.  We look forward to hearing from you!

The Curious Incident of the Music in the Morning

By Lance Boos, MHS Malcolm and Mildred Frieberg Short-Term Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate in History, Stony Brook University

I have been incredibly lucky to spend several weeks during the summer and autumn of 2019 doing research at the Massachusetts Historical Society for my dissertation on the musical marketplace of Revolutionary and Early National America. In course of my work, I came across an unusual request in a 1769 letter from three Boston wardens (Thomas Walley, John Joy, and Henry Hill) to Colonel Alexander Mackey, commanding officer of the British troops stationed in the city. Following what they described as a “Gross affront & insult” toward a citizen of Boston, they urged Mackey to forbid his troops from performing music during the Sunday morning changing of the guard.1

The incident that sparked the request had occurred on the previous Sunday, when, as the the letter described it:

a Young Gentleman an Inhabitant of the Town, appeared at ye relieving of ye Main Guard who being desired by one of ye Wardens to retire showed a willingness to Comply, but Capt. Molesworth of ye 29th Regiment, who was Capt. of ye Guard that was to be relieved, & an other officer Came to him & Insisted upon his tarrying to hear the Musick, Saying he would protect him, & Immediately ordered the fifes to play (in derision, as we Suppose,) what by them is Commonly Called ye Yankee Tune.2

In this account, the soldiers doubly antagonized the young gentleman first by instructing him to leave, and then by summoning him back for an insulting musical performance of what was very likely “Yankee Doodle.” The etymology of “Yankee Doodle” and the origins of its melody have been extensively studied, but the lack of pre-Revolution documentation make definitive answers elusive. However, scholars generally agree that British soldiers used the tune to mock American colonists until Americans defiantly appropriated it during the Revolutionary War.3

The letter gives greater weight to the conclusion that it was deployed mockingly by the British, confirms that this dynamic had developed at least six years prior to Lexington and Concord, and adds an important dimension about the actual use of the song and how the colonists initially responded to that derision. The writers couched their complaint in supplication, both opening and closing the letter by appealing to Mackey’s politeness and magnanimity. They went on to note that it was the music “which draws great Numbers of persons together,” thus alarming or annoying the soldiers. This point frames their request not solely as a concession to the Bostonians, but as a practical method of easing tensions and preventing further disruption. Yet they return to imploring Mackey to “protect us from any Insults from ye officers or soldiers,” reminding him of his soldiers’ antagonistic conduct.

If the letter genuinely sought to quell growing hostilities between Bostonians and soldiers, it simultaneously advanced an argument against military occupation and deflected attention away from the possibility that the soldiers’ behavior had been provoked by unruly Bostonians. Less than a year before the Boston Massacre, this possibility can not be discounted. The letter is, of course, a one-side account of the incident, and while the writers detailed the soldiers’ offenses right down to the song, they provided no information about what precipitated the initial order for the “young gentleman” to depart.

By calling for the cessation of all music during the Sunday morning guard change rather than just banning “Yankee Doodle,” the writers reveal that this was about more than a single song. They very likely understood the importance of the fife and drum to military formalities, and may have seen this as a means of undermining the military’s stature in the city by curtailing its ability to use music as a performance of its authority, tool of insult and intimidation, or vehicle for militaristic sentiment. I have not yet found any sources indicating how, or even if, Mackey responded, although it is unlikely that he acquiesced. He returned to England two months later, and maintained that the troops had been treated quite poorly by the Americans.4

This incident shows that tension between the soldiers and the people of Boston was clearly palpable, and “Yankee Doodle” was an obvious point of discord. Music, more than just the song itself, was a venue of contestation through which Bostonians and royal officials debated the role and behavior of soldiers in the city, and more broadly the relationship between colonial citizens and the empire.


1 Letter to Col. Alexander Mackey [manuscript copy], 17 June 1769. Misc. Bd. 1769 June 17

2 ibid.

3 The turning point for the song was likely the British retreat from Lexington and Concord in 1775. However, J.A. Leo Lemay makes a convincing argument that despite its subsequent derisive use by British soldiers, the song was American rather than British in origin and likely dates from the 1740s. See Oscar Sonneck, Report on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Hail Columbia,” “America,” “Yankee Doodle” (Washington, DC : Government Printing Office, 1909), 79-156;  S. Foster Damon, Yankee Doodle (Providence: Brown University Library, 1959); J.A. Leo Lemay, “The American Origins of ‘Yankee Doodle.’” The William and Mary Quarterly 33 no. 3 (1976): 435-464; Kenneth Silverman, A Cultural History of the American Revolution: Painting, Music, Literature, and the Theater in the Colonies and the United States from the Treaty of Paris to the Inauguration of George Washington, 1763-1789 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), 140-144, 275-290; and Henry Abelove, “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Massachusetts Review 49, no. 1/2 (2008): 13-21.

4 Edith Lady Haden-Guest, “MACKAY, Hon. Alexander (1717-89), of Strathtongue, Sutherland.” The History of Parliament Online. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/mackay-hon-alexander-1717-89  (Accessed 07 December 2019.

“A worm preying upon the vitals of the Administration”: John Quincy Adams on William Harris Crawford

By Neal Millikan, Series Editor, Digital Editions

During President James Monroe’s administrations, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) served alongside Secretary of the Treasury William Harris Crawford (1772–1834), one of the men against whom he would vie for the presidency in the election of 1824. Adams’s Diary offers his private musings on and feelings toward his fellow cabinet member and political opponent; it also gives tantalizing glimpses of Adams’s deteriorating opinion of Crawford.

John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams engraving by Francis Kearney, circa 1824

On February 3, 1819, Adams recorded in his Diary his current view of the treasury secretary: “Crawford is not a worse man, than the usual herd of ambitious intriguers. Perhaps not so bad as many of them— I do not think him entirely unprincipled; but his ambition swallows up his principle.” However, two years later in his entry for March 3, 1821, Adams’s tone was far more cynical: “Crawford has been a worm preying upon the vitals of the Administration within its own body.” Adams also noted “the emptiness of the Treasury, and Crawford’s utter inability to devise any other source of Revenue but loan upon loan.”

Engraving of William Harris Crawford
William Harris Crawford engraving by S. H. Gimber, no date

Like Adams, Crawford sought to attain the presidency in the 1824 election, but a stroke in the fall of 1823 kept him out of politics for several months. Adams was elected president in February 1825 and subsequently offered the treasury secretary the opportunity to remain in his cabinet position, but Crawford declined. On December 14, President Adams learned a shocking piece of information about Crawford, which he recorded in his Diary. According to a clerk in the Treasury Department, “all personal communication between Mr Monroe and Mr Crawford had ceased” toward the end of Monroe’s presidency. Curious as to the cause of this breach, Adams asked his secretary of the Navy, Samuel Southard, “if this fact had been known to him.” Southard, who had visited the White House shortly after the argument occurred, stated that he “found Mr Monroe walking to and fro across the room in great agitation.” Crawford had recommended certain customs officials for office to whom Monroe objected. Crawford then “said petulantly; well—if you will not appoint the persons well qualified for the places, tell me whom you will appoint; that I may get rid of their importunities.” Monroe then “replied with great warmth; saying that he considered Crawford’s language as extremely improper, and unsuitable to the relations between them.” At this point, Crawford “raised his Cane, as in the attitude to strike, and said ‘you damned infernal old Scoundrel’— Mr Monroe seized the tongs at the fire-place for self-defence; applied a retaliatory epithet to Crawford and told him he would . . . turn him out of the house.” Adams then told Southard: “if I had known it at the time, I should not have invited Mr Crawford to remain in the Treasury Department.”

This Week @MHS

This week marks the end of our fall programming at the MHS with an author talk, a seminar, and a tour. Take a look at what is planned.

On Monday, 16 December, at 6:00 PM: Revolutionary Networks: The Business & Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789 with Joseph Adelman, Framingham State University. During the American Revolution, printed material played a crucial role as a forum for public debate. Joseph Adelman argues that printers—artisans who mingled with the elite but labored in a manual trade—used their commercial and political connections to directly shape Revolutionary political ideology and mass mobilization. Moving through the era of the American Revolution to the war’s aftermath, this history details the development of the networks of printers and explains how they contributed to the process of creating first a revolution and then the new nation. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Tuesday, 17 December, at 5:15 PM: Dr. Ana Livia Cordero, Social Medicine, & the Puerto Rican Liberation Struggle with Sandy Placido, Queens College, CUNY, and comment by Susan Reverby, Wellesley College. Born in San Juan in 1931, Ana Livia Cordero was a trailblazing physician and activist-intellectual whose life illuminates the crucial role Puerto Ricans played in Cold War-era freedom struggles. Cordero worked as a physician, public health advocate, and radical organizer in New York, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Ghana, Egypt, and Nicaragua for over four decades. Using a new framework of feminist social medicine, this essay examines Cordero’s contributions to the field of social medicine, particularly maternal and children’s health. This is part of the Boston Seminar on the History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality series. Seminars are free and open to the public. 

On Saturday, 21 December, at 10:00 AM: The History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

Abigail Adams: Life & Legacy Pop-Up Display
Abigail Adams urged her husband to “Remember the Ladies” and made herself impossible to forget. But Abigail is memorable for more than her famous 1776 admonition. This final Remember Abigail display uses documents and artifacts through the ages to consider the way Abigail viewed her own legacy and to explore how and why we continue to Remember Abigail.

Fire! Voices from the Boston Massacre
On the evening of March 5, 1770, soldiers occupying the town of Boston shot into a crowd, killing or fatally wounding five civilians. In the aftermath of what soon became known as the Boston  Massacre, questions about the command to “Fire!” became crucial. Who yelled it? When and why? Because the answers would determine the guilt or innocence of the soldiers, defense counsel John Adams insisted that “Facts are stubborn things.” But what are the facts? The evidence, often contradictory, drew upon testimony from dozens of witnesses. Through a selection of artifacts, eyewitness accounts, and trial testimony—the voices of ordinary men and women—Fire! Voice from the Boston Massacre explores how this flashpoint changed American history. The exhibition is on display at the MHS through 30 June 2020, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Please note that the library and gallery spaces will be closed Monday, 23 December 2019 through Wednesday, 1 January 2020.

Italy in the MHS Collections

By Florentina Gutierrez, Library Assistant


My name is Florentina and I am a Library Assistant at the Massachusetts Historical Society. This is my first blog post and I want to start off by sharing a little bit about myself.

During my undergraduate career, the focus of my studies was Classical Civilizations, particularly ancient Rome. My junior year of college, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to travel abroad not only to volunteer at an excavation of a Roman bath but to take classes in Rome and visit archaeological sites. Maybe it was because it was my first trip outside of North America, by myself, and with limited knowledge of Italian, but I had some of my most memorable experiences there and I have hoped to be able to visit again ever since. As such, I have attempted to satisfy my wanderlust by studying Italian on my own and reading Italian travel blogs and diaries.

Now, you may ask why I am talking about Italy on the Society’s blog. Well, one day as I was browsing through Abigail, the Society’s online catalog, I wondered if there was any chance that we held materials related to Italy. Surprise- we do! Among what we have available are travel diaries, architectural sketches, photographs, handbooks for travelers dating from the mid to late 19th century, and historical works. If you do a quick search of “Italy” as a subject, you can find a list of related Italian subjects and the associated resources.

Of the resources I have looked at, one that caught my eye is the book titled Italian scenery: from drawings made in 1817 by Elizabeth Frances Batty (1791-1875), published by Rodwell & Martin in 1820. I really admire art that is composed of intricate details and this book is filled with etchings of beautiful Italian scenes based on a journey that Batty took with her father in 1817.

Title Page of Batty book
Image of title page. Batty, E. F. (1820). Italian scenery: from drawings made in 1817. London, England: Rodwell.

Even though these etchings are the only known works by Elizabeth Frances Batty, she clearly had well-developed artistic skills when she created them. According to Frances Allitt, from the Antiques Trade Gazette, her drawings suggest that she studied under the artists John Glover due to her use of the “split brush technique”, whereby she made two strokes at once to add more detail to her work (see below for an example of Glover’s work from the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Batty may have also used a camera obscura for some of her more accurate and detailed drawings.

John Glover illustration
Glover, J. (before 1831). Early morning near Loch Katrine in the Trossachs, Scotland. Retrieved from https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/399140

Below is an example of Batty’s work included in the book.

[Coliseum, p.74]. Batty, E. F. (1820). Italian scenery: from drawings made in 1817. London, England: Rodwell.
Detail of Colosseum
[Detail of Coliseum, p.74]. Batty, E. F. (1820). Italian scenery: from drawings made in 1817. London, England: Rodwell.
Accompanying the drawing of the Colosseum, is a three-page description (as there is with every other image in the book). We learn from a note at the beginning of the book that the writing was done by a friend of the publisher, although we are not told who that was.

The Colosseum’s section starts off with:

“Passing by the arch of Titus, seen in the preceding view, a little to the left, we come to the Flavian amphiteatre, now called the Coliseum, erected by Vespasian out of materials and upon part of the site of the golden house of Nero, which was then deemed to sumptuous even for a Roman emperor” (p.75-76).

This book provides a nice historical overview of Italy but also serves as a visual travel guide (you could almost consider it an early version of a Rick Steve’s travel guide without the restaurant and hotel recommendations). Abbott and Holder Ltd. (an art gallery in London) says that “following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 Europe had once again become accessible to British travelers, and as their numbers rose, so did interest in illustrated travel books. Accurate and evocative wash drawings made by those who actually made the journey…were the cornerstone of these publications, and on which their success depended.” It is unclear whether Elizabeth meant for the etchings to be personal keepsakes from her travels or if she sought for them to be published. The inside of the book, however, does have a dedication to her father that states:


As an interesting side note, Abbott and Holder mentions that it was recently discovered that her etchings were used for a series of blueprinted earthenware by Enoch Woods & Sons, Staffordshire potters in the UK from 1818 to 1845, whose wares were for the greater part exported to America (see example below).

Staffordshire pottery
[Staffordshire pottery inspired by Elizabeth Frances Batty’s work]. Kling, L. (2012). Wood’s Italian scenery [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.transcollectorsclub.org/specinterest/Wood’sItalianScenery-Reduced.pdf
If you take anything from this post, besides my obsession with Italy, it should be that our collections cover a variety of subjects. It can be fun to delve into our catalog to see what’s available and you might even be surprised by what you find. There is also nothing else like being able to see and hold with your own hands a piece of history (of course, while following our handling guidelines!).



Allitt, F. (2019). London gallery showcases rediscovered drawings that record an Italian journey in 1817. Retrieved from https://www.antiquestradegazette.com/print-edition/2019/may/2393/dealers-diary/london-gallery-showcases-rediscovered-drawings-that-record-an-italian-journey-in-1817/

Batty, E. F. (1820). Italian scenery: from drawings made in 1817. London, England: Rodwell.

Elizabeth Frances Batty (1791-1875): A rediscovery. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.abbottandholder-thelist.co.uk/batty-italy/

Kling, L. (2012). Wood’s Italian scenery [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.transcollectorsclub.org/specinterest/Wood’sItalianScenery-Reduced.pdf

“It makes my blood boil”: Abolition from Boston to San Francisco

By Susan Martin, Processing Archivist & EAD Coordinator

Frederick Beck, whose papers form part of the Beck-Alleyne family papers here at the MHS, counted among his friends and acquaintances many eminent artists and intellectuals of 19th-century Massachusetts. His correspondence includes letters from artist Hammatt Billings, writers Ednah Dow Cheney and Kate Field, physician Nancy Elizabeth Clark, and Ralph Waldo Emerson, whom Beck greatly admired. The collection also contains a few letters from the charismatic young minister and lecturer, Thomas Starr King.

Photograph of Thomas Starr King, ca. 1850s
Photograph of Thomas Starr King, ca. 1850s (Photo. #1.365L)

Standing about five feet tall, weighing only 120 pounds, and by all accounts looking even younger than his years, with little formal education, King may have seemed an unlikely celebrity, but that’s what he became. After preaching in Charlestown, Mass. for a short time in the 1840s, he took over the pulpit at Hollis Street Church in Boston. There he made a name for himself and gained recognition as a compelling orator, one of the best of his day. He joined the popular lyceum circuit, lecturing to audiences in New England and the Midwest on religious, literary, and social topics.

The Becks were friends of Thomas Starr King. According to a family history published in 1907, Frederick Beck said:

Thomas Starr King and my mother were great friends, for they were both very humorous and he used to come to our house a great deal. He was a brilliant talker; we went to his church, which is now the Hollis Street Theater. I saw a great deal of Starr King, and he used to tell us most amusing anecdotes. (p. 107)

King was an abolitionist, like many of his Boston contemporaries, and in his correspondence with Beck, he shared his feelings on the subject of slavery. In early 1859, Beck was traveling in St. Augustine, Florida, and sent King an advertisement for a local slave auction, or “barracoon bill of lading.” A disgusted King replied:

Your impassioned pages on Slavery stirred me thoroughly. I have always felt that presence at a slave-auction would crystallize me into a confederate of Parker Pillsbury. I never read the Liberator, because it makes my blood boil. I fear you are right in saying that only blood will atone for the horror & blasphemy that are rampant now in the slave-state customs & literature. The day of grace is doubtless sinned away.

Letter to Frederick Beck
Letter from Thomas Starr King to Frederick Beck, 27 Feb. 1859

In 1860, King moved to San Francisco and was soon drawn into the political arena. California had only been a state for ten years. With transplanted Southerners threatening secession, King delivered long, fiery speeches around the state aimed at keeping California in the Union. On George Washington’s birthday in 1861, King spoke to a packed house for 2 1/4 hours. He wrote to Beck ten days later:

This is the Fourth of March, inauguration day of the new President over the Crippled Union. I am afraid the wretches around the Gulf will get back again by some imbecile compromise. They ought to be pitched into the Gulf that Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom looked down into. I hope that our Abraham will make them feel where they are, & how comfortable a drop of water would be.

Our public is greatly exercised on Disunion & Pacific Republics. The Chivalry here began to pull the wires to divorce sympathies between California & the North, & we have pitched into them. […] Such a thing was never known in California before, & it makes the “Chivs” open their eyes, & wonder what century they live in. We have utterly crushed Disunion, Secessionism, & Pacific-Republic folly in the State.

Letter to Frederick Beck, 4 March 1861
Letter from Thomas Starr King to Frederick Beck, 4 Mar. 1861

This speech was just one of many. None other than Abraham Lincoln is said to have credited King with preventing the secession of California.

King was not all fire and brimstone, though. Beck described his friend as “humorous” and “amusing,” and King’s letters are often very funny. He complained that the San Francisco fleas were too “attentive.” And here’s what he had to say about a fellow clergyman:

Bellows has no principles. His impulses are the noblest, but he exhausts a subject, & feels it blaze, after one flaming exposition of it, & in the evening rights himself by taking the other side. I understand that his evening sermon […] was the antipodes of the morning. That’s the way he “comes full circle.” He is not an individual, so much as an incarnate debating-society.

Thomas Starr King died in 1864, at the age of 39, due to diphtheria and pneumonia reportedly brought on by exhaustion. He left a wife and two children. He is buried in San Francisco.

This Week @MHS

There is a lot going on at the MHS this week. Take a look at the programs we have planned:

On Monday, December, at 6:00 PM: Destination: Boston–Immigration & Migration, 1820-1920 with Andrew Robichaud, Boston University. From 1820 to 1920, Boston grew by leaps and bounds through an intensive (and often contentious) process of immigration and migration that ultimately created the modern metropolis. In this presentation and virtual exhibit, Prof. Andrew Robichaud and students from Boston University will present more than 20 rare artifacts and documents from the archives of the MHS. Through letters, diaries, drawings, photographs, reform tracts, and memoirs, presenters will unearth the complex and nuanced dimensions of immigration and migration to Boston. Light refreshments will be served following the presentation.

On Tuesday, 10 December, at 5:15 PM: Who Was “One-Eyed” Sarah? Searching for an Indigenous Nurse in Local Government with Gabriel J. Loiacono, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and comment by Cornelia Dayton, University of Connecticut. This essay considers the life of an indigenous woman, known as “One-Eyed” Sarah, who provided full-time nursing care to poor communities in early nineteenth-century Providence, RI. The only historical sources that describe Sarah’s work never provide her last name or details beyond the description “Indian.” So who was she, and how do we tell her story? Using sometimes patchy sources of non-elite people, the author hopes to gain new insights into social welfare history and explore how ordinary women made the poor law function. This is part of the Pauline Maier Early American History Seminar series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 11 December at 6:00 PM: At Home: A Look at Historic Houses Through the Archives with Beth Luey. Archival collections held in local institutions can help historians uncover the untold stories of historic houses in Massachusetts. The library of the New Bedford Whaling Museum documents the homes of the great whaling families, while Harvard documents the Ward House and the American Antiquarian Society welcomes us into the Salisbury Mansion in Worcester. The Mary Baker Eddy library documents the many houses where she lived, and, of course, the Massachusetts Historical Society brings the Adams family and their houses to life. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

On Saturday, 14 December, at 10:00 AM: The History & Collections of the MHS. This is a 90-minute docent-led walk through of our public rooms. The tour is free and open to the public. If you would like to bring a larger party (8 or more), please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org.

On Saturday, 14 December, at 4:00 PM: Legacies of 1619: Citizenship & Belonging with Manisha Sinha, University of Connecticut; Elizabeth Herbin-Triant, University of Massachusetts—Lowell; Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Ohio State University; and moderator Marita Rivero, Museum of African American History, Boston. For 400 years, Africans and African Americans carved out a distinctive culture for themselves even as they sought equal rights in American society. This program will consider how African Americans struggled to gain equal access to political and social rights, all the while making the American experience their own. This is the final program in a four-part series co-sponsored by the Museum of African American History and the Roxbury Community College. There will be a pre-talk reception at 3:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 4:00 PM.

Abigail Adams: Life & Legacy Pop-Up Display
Abigail Adams urged her husband to “Remember the Ladies” and made herself impossible to forget. But Abigail is memorable for more than her famous 1776 admonition. This final Remember Abigail display uses documents and artifacts through the ages to consider the way Abigail viewed her own legacy and to explore how and why we continue to Remember Abigail.

Fire! Voices from the Boston Massacre
On the evening of March 5, 1770, soldiers occupying the town of Boston shot into a crowd, killing or fatally wounding five civilians. In the aftermath of what soon became known as the Boston  Massacre, questions about the command to “Fire!” became crucial. Who yelled it? When and why? Because the answers would determine the guilt or innocence of the soldiers, defense counsel John Adams insisted that “Facts are stubborn things.” But what are the facts? The evidence, often contradictory, drew upon testimony from dozens of witnesses. Through a selection of artifacts, eyewitness accounts, and trial testimony—the voices of ordinary men and women—Fire! Voice from the Boston Massacre explores how this flashpoint changed American history. The exhibition is on display at the MHS through 30 June 2020, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.

Please note that the library and gallery spaces will close at 3:30 PM on Thursday, 12 December and the library will close at 3:00 PM on Saturday, 14 December.