The Nathaniel T. Allen Papers and Photographs

By Susan Martin, Collections Services

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you about two terrific collections available for research at the MHS, the papers and photographs of Nathaniel T. Allen of West Newton, Mass. The Allens were a truly remarkable family. Nathaniel, his wife Carrie, and their three daughters (as well as many other relatives) were educators and reformers of the 19th and 20th century, and these fascinating collections are a very welcome addition to our library. I processed the photographs, and my colleague Laura Lowell processed the papers.

This cabinet card photograph (Photo. #247.311), taken in 1882, is my favorite of the Allen family. Seated are Nathaniel Topliff Allen (1823-1903) and his wife Caroline Swift (Bassett) Allen (1830-1915). Standing behind them, from left to right in reverse age order, are their three children: Lucy Ellis Allen (1867-1943), Sarah Caroline Allen (1861-1897), and Fanny Bassett Allen (1857-1913). A son, Nathaniel, Jr., had died as a child.

Nathaniel Allen was the founder and principal of the West Newton English and Classical School (familiarly known as “the Allen School”) from 1854 to 1900. The school was progressive, co-educational, and integrated, and its student body included African American, Latino/a, and Asian boys and girls, as well as international students. It was also one of the first schools to incorporate physical education into the curriculum. Nathaniel’s wife Carrie worked with him to run the school and look after the students, many of whom boarded in various Allen family homes. Several aunts, uncles, and cousins also served as teachers and administrators.

This photograph (Photo. #247.874) of the Allen School at 35 Webster Street, West Newton, dates from 1886. Carrie is seated in the middle wearing a light-colored shawl, with Nathaniel immediately to her right. You can also see some exercise equipment in the yard.

After Nathaniel died in 1903, his oldest and youngest daughters, Fanny and Lucy, opened the Misses Allen School for Girls at the same location. Their middle sister Sarah, unfortunately, had died in childbirth in 1897 at the age of 36.

Laura and I processed the papers and photographs concurrently, and I think our work really benefited from the collaboration. We arranged the collections to mirror each other, for the most part, with separate series of family and school material. This division was trickier than it sounds, because many family members were also teachers and students. I frequently had to move photographs from one section to the other as I figured out who everyone was. (For more information about how we process photographs at the MHS, see my earlier Beehive post.)

The photograph collection contains 1,030 photographs, primarily individual and group portraits of Allen family members and students spanning almost 100 years. While Laura got to know the Allens from their letters, diaries, and other writings, I got to know them from their faces. The collection was completely disorganized when it came to us, but by the end I’d gotten pretty good at identifying people and could even distinguish baby pictures of the three sisters!

It was a lot of fun to share information and compare impressions with Laura as we worked. When she came across a particularly interesting person, she was curious to see what he or she looked like. I also went to her to learn more about the people who intrigued me. For example, I loved the way Lucy, the youngest Allen, usually smiled directly into the camera while other subjects looked stiff or coy with a slightly averted gaze.

The story of the Allens has so many fascinating threads to follow that we hope these collections will be of interest to a wide variety of researchers. For example, Edwin and Gustaf Nielsen were two brothers who, through the intervention of the poet Celia Thaxter, were taken as wards into the Allen home and became de facto members of the family. There’s also Fanny Allen’s decades-long friendship with Pauline Odescalchi, Princess of Hungary. Not to mention the fact that the Allens played an active part in the anti-slavery, suffrage, temperance, peace, and educational reform movements, rubbing elbows with the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Horace Mann, and Lucy Stone.

Nathaniel and Carrie Allen had no surviving grandchildren. Fanny and Lucy never married, and Sarah’s only daughter died two days after she did in 1897. But this family of teachers clearly had a profound and far-reaching influence on the thousands of boys and girls who attended the Allen School and Misses Allen School. Among them were future writers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, activists, soldiers, at least one actor, and a Supreme Court justice. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about them.

The Adams Papers Digital Edition Turns Ten!

By Amanda M. Norton, Adams Papers

On July 1, 2008, the Massachusetts Historical Society launched the Founding Families Digital Editions, the home of the Adams Papers Digital Edition. This resource converted 45 years’ worth of published material, comprising 32 volumes and three generations of Adamses, and made them more accessible than ever with keyword searching, a cumulative index, and hyperlinked cross references on a freely available website. This massive multi-department undertaking took three years, financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Harvard University Press, as well as technical support from Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press. Using a defined subset of the Text Encoding Initiative, an XML-based tagging language designed for the digital markup of various kinds of texts in the humanities, the website retains the editorial standards of the original letterpress volumes, while making the presentation more flexible for the digital environment. As originally conceived, this Founding Families project was to house both the Adams Papers and the seven volumes of the Winthrop Family Papers; however, over time, the projects were separated and the Founding Families page was renamed to simply the Adams Papers Digital Edition.

Over the last ten years, the website has only increased in its value to scholars and the public as thirteen more volumes have been made available, additional search and browse features were added, and displays were updated.

This summer we are pleased to announce that to celebrate its tenth anniversary, the Adams Papers Digital Edition has undergone a complete redesign. The all new web platform enhances not only its readability but also its usability, with more tailored search options, the ability to save your most recent search, and a better mobile experience. Last, but certainly not least, the relaunched website benefits from the addition of a new volume, Papers of John Adams, Volume 17. This volume includes a momentous occasion for both the Adamses and the nation—John Adams greeting King George III as the first minister from the newly independent United States. John’s detailed account of this dramatic meeting, written in code to the secretary of foreign affairs, John Jay, is just one highlight from a volume that also includes the first substantial correspondence between Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the beginnings of treaty negotiations with the Barbary States of North Africa.

While some of the Adams Papers volumes are also available on both the National Archives’ Founders Online and Rotunda’s Founding Era sites, only the Adams Papers Digital Edition website includes all of the historical documents and editorial content from all of the digitized volumes in one place; and the Adams Papers Editorial Project with the Massachusetts Historical Society is committed to continuing to expand its digital offerings. Visit our new site at www.masshist.org/publications/adams-papers.

This Week @ MHS

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 – Monday, 25 June, 12:00PM : Jean Franzino of Beloit College presents this week’s first Brown Bag talk, titled “Dis-Union: Disability in the U. S. Civil War.” Franzino’s project examines the emerging legal category of “disabled” American at the end of the nineteenth century in relation to the construction of disability in Civil War literature, broadly conceived. In texts ranging from hospital newsppaer poetry to mendicant narratives sold for veterans’ financial support, representations of Civil War injury engaged shifting understandings of disability: from individual condition to evolving social class.

This talk is free and open to the public. Pack a lunch and come on in!

– Tuesday, 26 June, 6:00PM : Stephen Bush of Brown University is on-hand to discuss his new book, William James on Democratic individuality. William James advocated a philosophy of democracy and pluralism that emphasizes individual and collective responsibility for our social arrangements, our morality, and our religion. In James’s view, democracy resides first and foremost not in governmental institutions but rather in the characteristics of individuals and in qualities of mind and conduct. It is a philosophy for social change, counseling action and hope despite the manifold challenges facing democratic politics, and these issues still resonate strongly today. Stephen Bush explores how these themes connect to James’s philosophy of religion, his moral thought, his epistemology, his psychology, and his metaphysics.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders).

– Wednesday, 27 June, 12:00PM : Judith Harford of University College Dublin leads the second Brown Bag talk of the week, and it is called “The Gendering of Diaspora: Irish American Women Teachers and the Rise of the Irish American Elites, 1880-1920.” This talk examines the education, professional training and wider public activism of first-generation Irish American women teachers during the peak of Irish emigration to the United States. 

This talk is free and open to the public.

– Friday, 29 June, 2:00PM : Guest curator and American furniture specialist Clark Pearce leads visitors through the current exhibition with this Gallery Talk: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End, identifying highlights while giving deeper context to the life and work of two extraordinary Massachusetts craftsmen, Isaac Vose and Thomas Seymour.

This event is free and open to the public.

– Saturday, 30 June, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led walk through our public rooms. The tour is free, open to the public, with no need for reservations. 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.

While you’re here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Entrepreneurship & Classical Design in Boston’s South End: The Furniture of Isaac Vose & Thomas Seymour, 1815 to 1825.

– Saturday, 30 June, 3:00PM : As a doctoral student at Boston University’s School of Theology, Martin Luther King, Jr., spent some of his formative years walking the streets of Boston and living in the South End. His life in Boston was King’s first immersive experience outside of the segregated South and while he experienced the de facto racism of the North he also enjoyed the acceptance of the BU and Boston area communities. The Martin Luther King Jr. in Boston Walking Tour will guide visitors through areas of Boston where King lived and socialized, where he met and courted Coretta Scott, and where he returned later at the height of the Civil Rights Movement to deliver powerful speeches on the struggle for racial and economic equality.

This event is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10  (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows or EBT cardholders).

A Little Free Library @ MHS!

By Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reader Services

The next time you are in the neighborhood, we invite you to stop to check out the Little Free Library we have installed to the left of our front steps. One of many such book exchanges in Boston, the Little Free Library maintained by Massachusetts Historical Society staff will be filled with books that are free for the taking! If you take a book, also consider leaving a book in its stead so that another reader may have a chance to enjoy it. 

While you’re pausing to browse the current selection of free books, be sure to check out our upcoming events on the calendar to your left — many of our events are free and open to the public.

Of course, the Massachusetts Historical Society is, itself, a big free library — we welcome researchers into our reading room Monday through Saturday to work with our non-circulating collections of manuscripts, rare print materials, art, artifacts, and photograph collections. More information about planning a visit to work with our collections may be found on our website.

 

Massachusetts Historical Review : Its Origins and Legacy

By Katheryn Viens, Research

To most MHS members, the Massachusetts Historical Review is the annual publication that appears in their mailboxes every autumn, with a glossy, colorful cover and intriguing historical content. Few members know its rich history or visualize its exciting prospects for the future. As we typeset the forthcoming issue and develop essays for future volumes, this seems a good time to reflect on the MHR’s heritage and legacy.

In 1859, the members of the MHS decided to launch a new publication. Since 1792, the year after the Society’s founding, members had been “multiplying the copies” of items in the archives by issuing Collections volumes. Now, as the country approached a civil war, Boston was growing dramatically, from a town of fewer than 20,000 in 1790 to a city of almost 180,000. The Society’s collection, too, had ballooned with the 1857 acquisition of the more than 4,600 volumes in the library of Thomas Dowse. The men who made up the Society now represented a wider range of interests, and they decided to apply the best practices of corporate business to the conduct of the MHS.

A new publication would document the Society’s “proceedings” and include an annual report. It would contain transcripts of the lectures that members offered when they gathered for meetings. A commitment to publish these talks could have resulted in a series of dry volumes—but what a roster of historians would appear in the pages of the Proceedings! Over nearly 140 years, until 1998, the deep leather chairs, madeira, and slanting sunlight of the Society’s afternoon meetings yielded the wisdom of Henry Adams, Oscar and Lillian Handlin, Edmund Morgan, and Bernard Bailyn, to name just a handful of the illustrious historians represented in the Proceedings’ pages.

Enter the 1990s. Computers and the internet transformed the way in which the MHS related to the outside world. Alongside our expanding research programs, including fellowships, conferences, and seminars, the Proceedings came to feel constrained. The MHS made the decision to end its publication and invite the wider possibilities of an annual journal that would accept outside submissions and, in its design, serve as an ambassador of the Society’s vibrant mission. The Massachusetts Historical Review was born.

Two decades later, the MHR features scholarship on all historical periods, from across the country and overseas. This takes the form of essays, photo-essays, historical documents, and review articles authored by both eminent scholars and those new to the field. There have been themed issues and a recent special issue on the occasion of the Society’s 225th anniversary, “Massachusetts and the Origins of American Historical Thought.” The forthcoming issue will include essays on the Harlem Renaissance artist Cloyd Lee Boykin, who taught in Boston, colonial Massachusetts Governor Thomas Pownall, and the 1975 Edelin manslaughter trial. Essays demonstrate the influence of Massachusetts across the nation and around the world.

As with the Proceedings, the Research Department acquires and develops the content for the MHR, while the Publications Department handles the copyediting, design, and indexing. Throughout this process, the MHS staff maintains a commitment to scholarly excellence. They send each essay to at least two peer reviewers in a “double-blind” process, and the editors and authors work together to revise and edit the contributions.

Now available online (as are the Proceedings), the MHR has a wider reach than ever before. It takes its place comfortably among a range of professional journals in major research libraries. And it offers a pleasant read in a comfy chair on a quiet afternoon, perhaps alongside a little glass of good madeira.

 

Announcing 2018-2019 Research Fellowships

By Alexis Buckley, Research

Each year the MHS grants a number of research fellowships to scholars from around the country. Our four fellowship programs bring a wide variety of researchers to the MHS. See the list of incoming 2018-2019 fellows and their project titles below. You can learn more about each fellow’s research at their MHS brown bag lunch talk—keep an eye on the calendar to find out when they’ll present!

This year we offered 23 short-term fellowships to scholars whose research brings them to the MHS, including a new fellowship for a project on American religious history, the C. Conrad and Elizabeth H. Wright Fellowship. (See page 8 of our last newsletter for details!)

We talked about our collaboration with the National Endowment for the Humanities in our last blog post. This collaboration allows us to offer long-term fellowships, where the researchers spend 4-12 months as part of the MHS community. We also partner with the Boston Athenaeum to offer a Loring fellowship for a researcher studying the Civil War, its causes and consequences. The Athenaeum’s Civil War collections are anchored by its holdings of Confederate states imprints, the largest in the nation. The Society’s manuscript holdings on the Civil War include diaries, photographs, correspondence from the battlefield and the home front, papers of political leaders, and materials on black regiments raised in Massachusetts.

The MHS is also proud to be a founding member of the New England Regional Fellowship Consortium, a collaboration of over two dozen major cultural institutions across New England. Each year, the Consortium offers fellowships to researchers whose projects bring them to NERFC member archives. This year, 11 of the 2018-2019 NERFC fellows will be researching at the MHS.

We are looking forward to welcoming all our 2018-2019 research fellows, and learning more about their work on 20th-century reform movements, 17th-century mercantilism, and all points in between!

*****

Suzanne and Caleb Loring Fellows on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences

Jean Franzino

Beloit College

Dis-Union: Disability Cultures and the American Civil War

 

MHS Short-term Fellowships

African-American Studies Fellow

Crystal Webster

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: Nineteenth Century Black Children’s Cultural and Political Resistance

 

Andrew Oliver Fellow

Ann Daly

Brown University

Hard Money: The Making of a Specie Currency, 1828-1860

 

Andrew W. Mellon Fellows

Nicholas Ames

University of Notre Dame

Communities of Difference in 19th Century Irish-America

 

Caroline Culp

Stanford University

The Memory of Copley: Afterlives of the American Portrait, 1774-1920

 

Timothy Fosbury

University of California, Los Angeles

Persistent Archives and the Early Americas, 1600-1830

 

Madeline Kearin

Brown University

Sensory Experiences of Daily Life at New England Hospitals for the Insane

 

Andrew Kettler

University of Toronto

Odor and Power in the Americas

 

Molly Laas

University Medical Center Göttingen

Moral Measurements: Wilbur Olin Atwater and the Making of the American Diet

 

Kirsten Macfarlane

Cambridge University

The Reception of European Biblical Scholarship in Early North America

 

Adam Mestyan

Duke University

American Travelers in the Middle East, 1830s-1930s

 

Molly Reed

Cornell University

Ecology of Utopia: Environmental Discourse and Practice in Antebellum Communal Settlements

 

Benjamin F. Stevens Fellow

Dexter Gabriel

University of Connecticut

A West Indian Jubilee in America: Mapping August First in New England

 

C. Conrad & Elizabeth H. Wright Fellow

Jennifer Rose

Claremont Graduate University

The World Becomes Round: Early Encounters between Bombay Parsis & Yankee Merchants, 1771-1861

 

Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellows

Nicole Breault

University of Connecticut

The Night Watch of Early Boston, 1662-1776

 

Matthew Fernandez

Columbia University

Images Abroad: Henry Adams and the Picturing of Modernism

 

Xiangyun Xu

Pennsylvania State University

The American Debate over the China Relief Expedition of 1900

 

Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellow

Diego Pirillo

University of California, Berkeley

Renaissance Books in Early America: John Winthrop Jr. and Italian Occultism

 

Marc Friedlaender Fellow

Nicole Williams

Yale University

The Shade of Private Life: The Right to Privacy and the Press in American Art, 1875-1900

 

Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellow

Roberto Flores de Apodaca

University of South Carolina

“Alas my Backsliding Hart!”: Religious Worldview and Culture of New England Continentals 1775-1783

 

Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellows

Shealeen Meaney

Russell Sage College

Boston meets Brahmin: Massachusetts Women in Gandhi’s India

 

Christopher Stampone

Southern Methodist University

“[A]s if she were born to empire”: Isabella, the Bildungsroman, and the Establishment of a New American Society Identity in Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s The Linwoods

 

W. B. H. Dowse Fellows

Taylor Kirsch

University of California, Santa Cruz

Indigenous Land Ownership in the Praying Towns of the New England Borderlands: Indigenous Lives Lands and Legacies of Seventeenth Century Massachusetts

 

Ian Saxine

Alfred University

The End of War: Indians, Empires, and Identity in the American Northeast, 1713-1727

 

MHS-NEH Long-term Fellowships

Mara Caden

Yale University

Mint Conditions: The Politics and Geography of Money in Britain and Its Empire, 1650-1760

 

Brent Sirota

North Carolina State University

Things Set Apart: An Alternative History of the Separation of Church and State

 

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium Fellows

Doris Brossard

Rutgers University

The “‘right’ to indulge in the act of sexual intercourse”: Unmarried People, Sex, and the Laws on Contraception in Massachusetts (1960- 1972)

 

Daniel Burge

University of Alabama

A Struggle Against Fate: The Opponents of Manifest Destiny and the Collapse of the Continental Dream, 1846-1871

 

Christina Casey

Cornell University

Lady Governors of the British Empire

 

Donna Drucker

Technische Universität Darmstadt

The Study of Human Sex Problems: A History of American Sexual Science, 1895–1945

 

Susan Eberhard

University of California, Berkeley

American Silver, Chinese Silverwares, and the Global Circulation of Value

 

David Faflik

University of Rhode Island

Passing Transcendental: Harvard, Heresy, and the Modern American Origins of Unbelief

 

Alexey Krichtal (MHS)

Johns Hopkins University

Liverpool, Slavery, and the Atlantic Cotton Frontier, c. 1763-1833

 

Katherine McIntyre (MHS)

Columbia University

Maroon Ecologies: Albery Allson Whitman and the Place of Poetry

 

Gwenn Miller (MHS)

College of the Holy Cross

“You Will Bring Opium to Canton”: John Perkins Cushing and Boston’s Early China Trade

 

Joshua Morrison (MHS)

University of Virginia

Cut from the Same Cloth: Salem, Zanzibar, and American-Omani Trade (1820-1870)

 

Peter Olsen-Harbich (MHS)

College of William and Mary

A Meaningful Subjection: Coercive Inequality and Indigenous Political Economy in the Colonial American Northeast

 

Camille Owens (MHS)

Yale University

Blackness and the Human Child: Race, Prodigy, and the Logic of American Childhood

 

Traci Parker

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights

 

Fabricio Prado

College of William and Mary

Inter-American Connections: North-South American Networks in the Age of Atlantic Revolutions

 

Kimberly Probolus

George Washington University

Separate and Unequal: The Rise of Special-Selection Programs in Boston, 1950–2000

 

Wendy Roberts

State University of New York, Albany

Itinerant Politics: Settler Colonialism and the Evangelical Long Poem

 

Josh Schwartz

Columbia University

Pictures: Charles Dana Gibson, John Sloan, and the Making of Modern Americans

 

C. Ian Stevenson (MHS)

Boston University

“Army Tales Told While the Pot Boiled”: The Civil War Vacation in Architecture and Landscape, 1880-1910

 

Hannah Tucker (MHS)

University of Virginia

Masters of the Market: Mercantile Ship Captaincy in the Colonial British Atlantic, 1607-1774

 

Thomas Whitaker (MHS)

Harvard University

The Missionary Republic: The Rise of Evangelical Missions in the United States, 1789-1819

 

Rhaisa Williams

Washington University in St. Louis

Shuffling, Shouting, and Wearing Down: Rethinking the Techniques of Protest in Welfare Rights Organizations

 

Nathaniel Windon (MHS)

Pennsylvania State University

Gilded Old Age: Inheritance and American Literature, 1877-1918

 

Kari Winter

State University of New York, Buffalo

Fourteenth: Vermont’s Struggle For and Against Democracy, 1775-1875

 

Colonial Society of Massachusetts Fellowship

Andrew Rutledge (MHS)

University of Michigan

“We have no need of Virginia Trade”: New England Tobacco in the Atlantic World

Welcome to Our 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Fellows!

By Lex Buckley, Research Dept.

The Massachusetts Historical Society’s Research Department is pleased to announce our two 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows, Mara Caden and Brent Sirota. Mara Caden will be researching the mint and early economic conditions in New England, and revising her book manuscript, which comes out of her Yale University dissertation, “Mint Conditions: The Politics and Geography of Money in Britain and Its Empire, 1650-1750.” Brent Sirota is an associate professor at North Carolina State University, and will be researching and writing his second monograph, Things Set Apart: An Alternate History of the Separation of Church and State, examining how people in the 18th– and 19th-century British Atlantic maintained their religion separate from the state after 1689.

Caden and Sirota join a renowned group of current and former MHS-NEH fellows. The long-term fellowship began in 2002, and the National Endowment for the Humanities has helped to support long-term fellows every year since. NEH support has allowed the MHS to have fellows spend four to twelve months as not only researchers, but as part of the scholarly and collegial fabric of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Our 2017-2018 fellows have presented at MHS seminars and brown bag lunches, and prior fellows have presented at MHS conferences and elsewhere in the city of Boston during their tenure here, and often return to the MHS to serve on committees for seminars, conferences, and future fellowship selections. As well as taking the opportunity to share their research and historical expertise in these formal settings, our MHS-NEH fellows—many of whom are established scholars in their fields—also foster an intellectual atmosphere at the Society by taking local graduate students and short-term fellows under their wing. They attend other researchers’ presentations, invite them for coffee, and offer advice on archives to visit, collections to search, and ways to read documents, artifacts, and silences. Our long-term fellows come from History, English, Political Science, Drama, and other fields, and their innovative methods and deep understandings of their field have broadened research horizons for younger fellows and students for over a decade.

Of course, such erudite scholars also use their long-term fellowships to research and write, and have published impressive works on a wide variety of subjects. From the fellowship’s first year in 2002-2003, we had Walter Woodward, who was working on Prospero’s America: John Winthrop, Jr., Alchemy, and the Creation of New England Culture, 1606-1676. There is 2003-2004 fellow Woody Holton’s research project, “Minds Afire,” now the book, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution; Lisa Wilson’s A History of Stepfamilies in Early America; Lisa Tetrault’s The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898; Vincent Carretta’s biography of Phyllis Wheatley; Martha Hodes’s Mourning Lincoln; Linford Fisher’s The Indian Great Awakening; and many, many more stellar works produced and forthcoming. (Keep an eye on our fellows’ publications page to read what comes out next!)

In sum, we couldn’t be more excited to have Caden and Sirota join an already prestigious array of long-term fellows in enriching the field with the scholarship they’ll produce here, and enriching the MHS with the expertise that they’ll share with young fellows and researchers during their stay. And we couldn’t offer any of this without the generous support and encouragement from the National Endowment for the Humanities!

(For more on the National Endowment for the Humanities, see their webpage. For more on our long-term MHS-NEH fellowships and past recipients, please visit http://www.masshist.org/2012/research/fellowships/long-term.)

 

MHS Programs Explore Aspects of African American History

By Gavin Kleespies, Public Programs

This past November, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar spoke at the MHS about their new book The Annotated African American Folktales. This publication presents nearly 150 African American stories, among them familiar Brer Rabbit classics, but also stories like “The Talking Skull” and “Witches Who Ride,” as well as out-of-print tales from the 1890s’ Southern Workman. Professor Gates’ reflections on how folktales weaved into his own personal history made the power of these stories very real, while professor Tatar helped place these stories in historical context and as a part of the American literary tradition.

Both Gates and Tatar are faculty members at Harvard University. Professor Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures. She chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology, where she teaches courses in German Studies, Folklore, and Children’s Literature. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He is an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, a literary scholar, a journalist, a cultural critic, and an Overseer and long term friend to the MHS.

For the audience, it was a captivating opportunity to hear new tales and revisit some familiar stories. These folktales are so full of wisdom, humor, whimsy, and intelligence that anyone who reads or hears them must understand that they should hold a prominent place in the Western literary canon. However, the personal stories of when these tales were first heard or memories of them being shared made the evening truly special.

Kicking off African American History Month, we have made this program available to all on our website. Over the course of the month we are hosting several programs that explore aspects of African American history.

 

February 8 – 6:00 pm

Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America with Douglas Edgarton (Le Moyne College)

One of the most treasured objects belonging to the Society’s collection is the battle sword of Robert Gould Shaw, the leader of the courageous 54th Massachusetts infantry, the first black regiment in the north. The prominent Shaw family of Boston and New York had long been involved in reform, from antislavery to feminism, and their son, Robert, took up the mantle of his family’s progressive stances, though perhaps more reluctantly. In this lecture, historian Douglas R. Egerton focuses on the entire Shaw family during the war years and how preceding generations have dealt with their legacy.

$10 (free for MHS members)

 

February 20 – 6:00 pm

Growing Up with the Country with Kendra Field (Tufts University)

Following the lead of her own ancestors, Kendra Field’s epic family history chronicles the westward migration of freedom’s first generation in the fifty years after emancipation. Field traces their journey out of the South to Indian Territory, where they participated in the development of black towns and settlements. When statehood, oil speculation, and segregation imperiled their lives, some launched a back-to-Africa movement, while others moved on to Canada and Mexico. Interweaving black, white, and Indian histories, Field’s narrative explores how ideas about race and color powerfully shaped the pursuit of freedom.

$10 (free for MHS members)

 

February 26 – 6:00 pm

Supreme Injustice: Slavery in the Nation’s Highest Court with Paul Finkelman (Gratz College)

The three most important Supreme Court Justices before the Civil War—Chief Justices John Marshall and Roger B. Taney and Associate Justice Joseph Story—upheld the institution of slavery in ruling after ruling. These opinions cast a shadow over the Court and the legacies of these men, but historians have rarely delved deeply into the personal and political ideas and motivations they held. In Supreme Injustice Paul Finkelman establishes an authoritative account of each justice’s proslavery position, the reasoning behind his opposition to black freedom, and the incentives created by his private life.

Bring Your Students to MHS!

By Kate Melchior, Center for the Teaching of History

December is knockingon the door which means that the Center for the Teaching of History at the MHS is wrapping-up its inaugural semester of class visits! This fall, the MHS hosted a number of programs for middle school, high school, and college students who want to learn about primary sources and experience the work of historians first-hand.

Students getting up close and personal with MHS documents.


Our collection of Revolutionary War-era material is popular with middle and high school classes who come to MHS to learn about the real people behind Boston’s Freedom Trail. For example, Cohasset-based Chris Luvisi’s AP US History class examined artifacts and documents related to the Boston boycott of British goods in the 1760s and 1770s, including the 1767 “Address to the Ladies” which encouraged Boston women to forgo imported British luxuries in order to appear “Fair, charming, true, lovely, and cleaver” to young men. After taking on identities of Boston craft workers, merchants, shopkeepers, and domestic housewives, students voted on whether to support or ignore the nonimportation agreement. While most students supported the boycott in theory, a number of them admitted that they would likely keep buying their imported tea under the table!

Students were excited to get a close look at a bottle of tea leaves collected from Dorchester Neck the morning after the Boston Tea Party in 1773.


Vincent Bradley’s AP US History class from Catholic Memorial School also engaged with the history of the Revolution, this time through the perspective of John Adams. Students explored how Adams’ views on protest and dissent changed over time by looking at his opinions on the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, Shay’s Rebellion, and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Bradley’s class also saw historians in action while participating in one of MHS’ Brown Bag Lunches, where they heard Kabria Baumgartner from the University of New Hampshire speak about her current research on Black girlhood and the desegregation of Massachusetts public schools. Catholic Memorial students asked Professor Baumgartner questions about her work and listened as she workshopped her research with other local historians and visitors.

Students deciphered John Adams’s notes from the Boston Massacre trials to learn about his motivation for defending British soldiers. 


As the state coordinators for Massachusetts History Day, the Center for the Teaching of History (CTH) also helps many students learn research strategies for their upcoming projects. Megan Brady’s eighth grade history club from the John F. Kennedy School in Somerville came in on a Saturday so that they could learn about the collections at MHS and practice working with primary sources. Her students, whose National History Day interests range from early Pilgrim-Wampanoag relations to LGBTQ History in the 1920s, posed thoughtful questions to Stephen T. Riley Librarian Peter Drummey while looking at Sarah Gooll Putnam’s Civil War-era childhood diary and a daguerreotype of author and reformer Annie Fields, who lived in a “Boston marriage” with her partner Sarah Orne Jewett for decades. You can learn more about National History Day and find inspiration for your own projects at the Massachusetts History Day website, the National History Day site, or at our own Center webpage.

Sarah Gooll Putnam’s diary entry on 14 April 1865. The young artist drew her own expression at hearing of President Lincoln’s asssassination to illustrate how she felt at the news.


The Center sometimes partners with Library Reader Services to help host college visits as well, which gives the perfect excuse to explore more specific and unusual themes in the MHS collections. Erika Boeckeler brought two of her Northeastern University classes this fall to explore Children’s Literature and Shakespeare in America, leading to rediscovery of gems in our stacks such as a homemade morality tale titled “Adventures of a ruffle” that was written by Anne Harrod Adams, John and Abigail’s daughter-in-law! On another day, Cathy McCarron’s class joined us from Middlesex Community College to explore Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker’s court petitions for manumission and their leadership in ending slavery in Massachusetts. We discussed the different types of primary sources that illustrate the lives of individuals who previously lacked a voice in traditional historical narratives.

If you would like to bring students to visit us, or have the Center for the Teaching of History come to you, please contact the Center for the Teaching of History at kmelchior@masshist.org. All of our student programs are free of charge, and we would love to work with you to create a memorable program with your class!  For more information on our programming, visit the Center at http://www.masshist.org/teaching-history

Meet Your Archivists!

By Rakashi Chand, Reader Services

October is Archives Month, and to celebrate our wonderful archivists, we would like to introduce them to you! Every day the very talented and skilled archivists of the MHS work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that theSociety’s collections are safe, properly preserved, well-organized, and accessible for use today and for future generations.

To introduce them to you, we asked our archivists a few fun questions, and here are their answers:

 

Collection Services:

Katherine H. Griffin, Nora Saltonstall Preservation Librarian

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Kathy: William Sturgis papers.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Kathy: I was in a “public history” master’s degree program at Northeastern University, thinking I wanted to work in museums, and I had an adjunct professor from the MHS.  We had a tour of the MHS for one of the classes, and I was completely captivated by manuscripts and paper conservation.

Several years later, a position came open at the MHS and Anne Bentley called me and told me to apply, which I did, and Voila!

What is a fun fact about you?

Kathy: I never wanted to live in a city, but now it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.

*****

Peter Steinberg, Digital Projects Production Specialist 

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Peter: The Wilder Dwight letter he wrote as he lay dying.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Peter: For the benefits.

What is a fun fact about you?

Peter: I like All Bran.

*****

 

Reader Services:

Alexandra Bush, Library Assistant

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Alex: It’s hard to choose a favorite, but one item from our collections that I really love is Christopher P. Cranch’s 1839 journal (part of the Christopher P. Cranch papers). It includes some great cartoons and rough doodles representing Cranch’s interest in the Transcendentalist movement. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is an early sketch of Cranch’s famous “transparent eyeball” cartoon, which is based on a passage from Emerson’s Nature. (Here’s a link to the digitized version of the journal -> http://www.masshist.org/database/viewer.php?item_id=3279&mode=large&img_step=12#page12)

Why did you become an Archivist?

Alex: I chose to become an archivist because I wanted an outlet for my love of history that allowed me to do my own research as well as help other people who also love history. I’m also really into organizing things!

What is a fun fact about you?

Alex: I’m an aspiring artist and also a dweeb who secretly loves video games.

Favorite archival tool?

Alex: The microspatula!

*****

Brendan Kieran, Library Assistant

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Brendan: One item I enjoyed working with, and writing about, this year is the volume of Cigar Factory Tobacco Strippers’ Union records, 1899-1904, that is included in the Society’s collection of Boston Central Labor Union (Mass.) records. It was exciting to read about some ways in which women in Boston organized and responded to their working conditions during that period. Eventually, I’d like to look through other items in this collection and learn more about union activities in late 19th– and early 20th-century Boston.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Brendan: I gained my initial exposure to the field as an archives volunteer during my junior year of college. After I graduated, I sought out more opportunities in libraries and archives, and, as I gained more experience, I came to the conclusion that this was what I wanted to do long-term. Now I’m in library school, and I’m definitely happy that I chose this field!

What is a fun fact about you?

Brendan: My go-to fun fact is that I’m an identical twin!

*****

 Erin Weinman, Library Assistant

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Erin: It is really hard to pick just one item, but I absolutely love our collection of Powder Horns from the American Revolution. The designs on the horns are so interesting to look at and make each one very unique. They always give such a unique perspective on the soldiers who fought during the war. They also show who can and cannot draw, which I think we can all relate to today!

Why did you become an Archivist?

Erin: I absolutely love history, and I was very active in gaining experience in museums and archives growing up. I was introduced to public history in college which put a lot of emphasis on the importance archives had in the field. I knew right away that I wanted to be the person who assisted researchers in gaining access to archival records, create exhibits, and educate future historians. It has been very rewarding to work first-hand with materials and provide reference to such a diverse group of researchers. To me, there is nothing more important than having full access to our historical past!

What is a fun fact about you?

Erin: It is my goal to visit all of the National Parks in our country! I have been slowly making my way through the parks in the North East, but there are over 450 to visit!

*****

 

Dan Hinchen, Reference Librarian

What is your favorite collection or your favorite item in the collection?

Dan: I can’t say that I have a single favorite. Usually, it is whatever collection/item I am currently working with. Recently, while working on a reference question, I did some digging through a small collection of Smith family papers. Included are some logbooks and account books kept by Capt. William Smith – apparently, the first ship captain to pilot a U. S. ship to Siam (Thailand), in 1818. Inside the volumes are several pencil drawings of various vessels, including a couple that depict the U. S. S. Constitution engaged in battle with the H. M. S. Gurriere, an event that was part of the War of 1812.

Why did you become an Archivist?

Dan: After college I was working a few part-time jobs and not pursuing a career in biology. Library school is something that was suggested by a couple of people near and dear to me, and I liked the sound of working in archives as a profession. Ten years later and here I am!

What is a fun fact about you?

Dan: In the summertime I have a second life, my weekends lived in the kitchen of a small clam shack on Cape Cod. Fry or die!

*****

 

Now that you have had the chance to meet some of our archivists, come visit the MHS to meet more of our fascinating staff. We welcome questions about the MHS collections as well as the archival profession, and would be happy to tell you more! Email us at Library@masshist.org or call us with any questions at 617-646-0532. 

 

Happy Archives Month from all of us at the MHS!