Holton Wins Bancroft for “Abigail Adams”

By Jeremy Dibbell

We’re thrilled and excited here at MHS today to report that our friend Woody Holton has been awarded one of the three 2010 Bancroft Prizes for his book Abigail Adams. One of the most prestigious prizes for books of history, the Bancroft is awarded by the trustees of Columbia University “to the authors of books of exceptional merit in the fields of American history, biography, and diplomacy.”

Congratulations, Woody, on this well-deserved honor!

Hessian Journals and Cultures of Print

By Jeremy Dibbell

Two recent publications by MHS researchers:

– An annotated translation of the journal of Hessian 2nd Lt. Friedrich von Keudell appears in the 2009 volume of The Hessians: Journal of the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association. Keudell’s journal, which covers the period 14 November 1783 – 14 April 1784, contains notes on the departure of the Hessen-Cassel grenadier battalion von Lowenstein from American soil and the transatlantic passage back to Bremerhaven, Germany. The journal was translated by Henry J. Retzer and annotated by Lt. Col. Donald M. Londahl-Schmidt. Keudell’s journal appears in the same volume as the Wilhelm Freyenhagen journal, which covers the period from 1776 through 1778. An annotated translation of Freyenhagen’s journal will appear in a later edition of The Hessians.

– MHS short-term researcher fellow (1999-2000) Jonathan Beecher Field has published Errands into the Metropolis: New England Dissidents in Revolutionary London (Dartmouth University Press, 2009). The publisher’s description notes: “Through chapters focusing on John Cotton, Roger Williams, Samuel Gorton, John Clarke, and the Quaker martyrs, Field traces an evolving discourse on the past, present, and future of colonial New England that revises the canon of colonial New England literature and the contours of New England history. In the broader field of early American studies, Field’s work demonstrates the benefits of an Atlantic perspective on the material cultures of print. In the context of religious freedom, Errands into the Metropolis shows Rhode Island’s famous culture of toleration emerging as a pragmatic response to the conditions of colonial life, rather than as an idealistic principle. Errands into the Metropolis offers new understanding of familiar texts and events from colonial New England, and reveals the significance of less familiar texts and events.”

A Productive Bunch!

By Jeremy Dibbell

Conrad Wright, our Director of Research, recently contacted past MHS research fellows and encouraged them to submit the titles of any books or articles they’d published which were based primarily on their research here at the MHS. The results are pretty impressive, I think. From 1985 through 2008, the Society has sponsored at least 145 research fellowships, and those fellows report some 292 publications (everything from books to journal articles to documentary editions). You can view the full list in PDF form here.

Abigail Adams, Investor

By Jeremy Dibbell

Historian (and 2003-04 MHS research fellow) Woody Holton had an essay in Sunday’s Washington Post, “On Money, a Founding Mother Knows Best.” He writes “If you were to hire Abigail Adams as your financial adviser, here’s the advice that the Massachusetts matriarch would offer,” and provides ten pieces of financial wisdom drawn from Adams’ experiences and correspondence. I think my favorite might be the eighth, which Holton describes as “Prevent your spouse from keeping a close eye on you. One of Abigail’s favorite techniques was the cover letter. Since John had no compunction about opening his wife’s incoming mail but considered letters received by Abigail Junior to be sacrosanct, Abigail sometimes asked her correspondents to enclose their messages for her inside letters to her daughter.”

Holton is the author of “Abigail Adams, Bond Speculator” in the October 2007 William & Mary Quarterly, and his biography of Abigail Adams (Abigail Adams: A Life) will be published by Free Press in November 2009.

Martinko on Historic Preservation

By Jeremy Dibbell

University of Virginia doctoral candidate and 2009-10 MHS short-term research fellow Whitney Martinko’s article “Progress and Preservation: Representing History in Boston’s Landscape of Urban Reform, 1820-1860” has been published in the June issue of The New England Quarterly. Martinko’s article is a fascinating re-evaluation of the roots of historical preservation in America: she argues that while preservation in the modern sense of retaining historic structures as such did not come into fashion until after the Civil War, antebellum Bostonians found other ways to “preserve the historic fabric of their city even as they directed its transformation into a modern metropolis.”

Working with MHS Curator of Art Anne Bentley, Martinko examined artifact data sheets relating to several pieces in the Society’s collections: an exterior pediment from the Foster-Hutchinson mansion, donated to the MHS for use as a pedestal; an early daguerrotype of the Old Feather Store; a round wooden box made from the remnants of a seventeenth-century house on Tremont Street, and several other items. Martinko suggests that these artifacts, along with other materials such as historical guidebooks and popular literature which drew on the historical culture of the city, reveal that Bostonians of the early 19th century “preserved the historic landscape in two ways: by recognizing buildings as historic while appropriating them for contemporary use, and by representing them [in artwork, photographs, prose, &c.].”

New Publications from MHS Friends

By Jeremy Dibbell

One of the things I’ll try to keep track of here at The Beehive is new and recent publications based on MHS collections. The only promise I can make about this is that I won’t be able to be comprehensive (I try to keep a pretty close eye on these things, but it would be a vast overstatement of my abilities to suggest that I could catch them all), so if you’re a current or former MHS fellow or researcher, please feel free to email me (beehive@masshist.org) with information on your work and I’ll be happy to mention it here as time and space permit.

Bryan Waterman, associate professor of English at NYU, was a 2007-08 Andrew W. Mellon research fellow at the MHS. His article “Elizabeth Whitman’s Disappearence and Her ‘Disappointment'” appears in the April 2009 issue of William & Mary Quarterly (3d Series, Volume LXVI, Number 2, pp. 325-364. Waterman’s research at the MHS included examinations of the diary and correspondence of Jeremy Belknap (who played a fascinating role in the dissemination of the Whitman story), the Nathan Webb diary, and other collections. Elizabeth Whitman, the subject of the article, is best known as the inspiration for Hannah Webster Foster’s 1797 The Coquette; Waterman explores the different, competing versions of Whitman’s story (including Foster’s, Belknap’s, and others).

Incidentally, Waterman is also the co-editor of the current special issue of the e-journal Common-place, “Who Reads an Early American Book?” His preface provides some background information on the Whitman story and the continuing vitality of both The Coquette and its historical inspiration.

Also in this issue of Common-place, two MHS connections are present, in a feature in which historians discuss books revelant to America that they teach or study. Current NEH long-term fellow Carolyn Eastman, assistant professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, recommends Alexandre Exquemelin’s Bucaniers of America, while James Sidbury, professor of History also at UT-Austin, goes for John Kizell’s “Apology for For the Conduct of John Kezell And His associates Occasioned By the Strictures And Denunciations by the Rev. Daniel Coker In His Journall Letters and Informations In the fourth Annual Report,” a manuscript pamphlet in the Ebenezer Burgess papers here at MHS.