The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Beehive series: From Our Collections

John Quincy Adams’ 1794 London Interlude

Lucia AmaliaSchueg

When John Quincy Adams arrived in London on October 15, 1794, on his way to The Hague to become minister resident to the Netherlands, he was a 27-year-old beginning his new life as an American statesman. We know much about his two week stay in London because he recounted his visit in his diary, transcriptions of which will eventually be available through The John Quincy Adams Diary Digital Project website.

John Quincy purposefully stopped in London to deliver important government documents; however, he almost lost these papers. “Just before we got to the London Bridge we heard a rattling before us and immediately after a sound as of a trunk falling from the Carriage. I instantly looked forward and saw that both our trunks were gone. One of them contained all the public dispatches which I brought for the American Ministers here … For a moment I felt sensations of the severest distress.” Luckily his brother, Thomas Boylston Adams, who accompanied him as his secretary, jumped out of the carriage and located the trunks. John Quincy noted how detrimental their loss would have been to American diplomacy and his career: “Entrusted with dispatches of the highest importance … particularly committed to my care, because they were highly confidential,” he questioned how he could have ever “presented myself” to the men for whom they were intended, only to inform them “that I had lost” their documents. He believed the trunks had been purposefully cut loose and considered their quick recovery “as one of the most fortunate circumstances that ever occurred to me in the course of my life.”

It was during this visit that John Quincy participated in one of his first diplomatic activities. He, Chief Justice John Jay, and U.S. minister to Great Britain Thomas Pinckney discussed the document that would become known as the Jay Treaty, which sought to settle outstanding issues between America and Great Britain left unresolved after the Revolutionary War. That Jay and Pinckney included Adams in these deliberations demonstrated the young man’s status among the American diplomatic corps. The three men held lengthy conversations during which the draft treaty was “considered Article by Article.” Adams commented on the treaty in his diary: “it is much below the standard which I think would be advantageous to the Country, but … it is in the opinion of the two plenipotentiaries, preferable to a War: and when Mr Jay asked me my opinion I answered that I could only acquiesce in that idea.” John Quincy’s inclusion in these discussions proved prescient, for in 1795 he received instructions to return to London to exchange ratifications of the Jay Treaty.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 10 August, 2018, 12:00 AM

Revisiting the Nathaniel T. Allen Photograph Collection

Three weeks ago, I told you about the Nathaniel T. Allen papers and photographs, two collections available for research here at the MHS library. Allen founded the West Newton English and Classical School (or “Allen School”) in West Newton, Mass. As I processed the photograph collection, I stumbled across a lot of interesting stories and trivia about students of the Allen School and the Misses Allen School, as well as friends and relatives. I’d like to share a few of them in this post.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 3 August, 2018, 5:03 PM

The Battle of the Barges

Joseph Pennell originally titled his dramatic depiction of war-ravaged New York City, a poster he created during World War I for a patriotic loan drive, “Buy Liberty Bonds or You Will See This.” In 1918, the idea of New York under aerial bombardment and in flames would have seemed to be a fantasy, but Pennell’s lithograph contained one element that reflected actual events a century ago. In the poster, just to the right of the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty, the sinister shape of a German submarine glides through New York Harbor. In the summer of 1918, “U-Kreuzers,” German long-range submarines, patrolled off the coast of Long Island where, at night, crewmembers could see light cast by the “Great White Way” of Manhattan on the horizon. The threat of enemy attack had come to North American waters and would soon arrive off the shores of Cape Cod.

July 21, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the only attack on American soil—although probably inadvertent—during the First World War. On that summer Sunday morning, 21 July 1918, while shooting at the tugboat Perth Amboy and its towline of four large barges off Nauset Beach in Orleans, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the German submarine U-156 fired shells that passed over their intended targets and landed on the beach. Town residents and vacationers, attracted by the rumble of artillery fire, gathered to watch the “Battle of the Barges,” also known as the “Battle of Nauset Beach.”

Dr. Joshua Danforth Taylor of East Boston, a loyal subscriber to the Boston Globe, telephoned the Globe newsroom from his vacation cottage overlooking the scene to give the editors and reporters, in real time, a blow-by-blow (shell-by-shell?) account of the one-sided “battle.” Almost miraculously, although some of the barge captains were accompanied on their ships by wives and children, there were only two serious injuries, both to members of the Perth Amboy’s crew. The casualties, John Bogovich and John Zitz, turned out to be immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then at war with the United States, so Bogovich and Zitz—although badly wounded—fell under suspicion of playing some sort of nefarious role in the attack.

 

   

As shown in the accompanying photographs (deck of tug / side of tug) , the Perth Amboy was badly damaged by shell fire and abandoned by its crew, but it survived the attack. The four barges were all sunk. Prompt action by the Coast Guard and local fishermen saved the barges’ crews, families, and even a ship’s dog named Rex. Jack Ainsleigh, a young son of the master of the sail barge Lansford, became an instant celebrity when he waved the American flag as his family abandoned ship and threatened to return the 150 mm cannon fire from the U-156 with his .22 caliber rifle.

The U-156 disappeared with all hands in September 1918 during its voyage home to Germany, probably sunk by a British or American mine in the North Sea, so some of its operations are conjectural or based on intercepted radio messages, but its presence off Nauset Beach probably had more to do with an attempt to cut the transatlantic telegraph cable to France that came ashore in Orleans than to sink empty coal barges and scare/thrill the local population. If cable cutting was the U-156’s mission that day, it failed, but the U-Kreuzer already had delivered a heavy blow: the mines it laid off the coast of Long Island sank the armored cruiser San Diego on 19 July, the largest U.S. warship lost during the war.

With no loss of life to darken the story and many human interest elements to enliven the very heavy press coverage of the event, the “Battle of the Barges” seems a long-ago and somewhat bizarre summer adventure at the beach for the people who witnessed it. The U-156 was a technological marvel, but it devoted most of its voyage to destroying sail-powered American and Canadian fishing vessels. Nevertheless, the German long-range submarine campaign in 1918 was, in some respects, a rehearsal for the much more dangerous and successful German U-boat operations in North American waters during the Second World War.

The photographs of the Perth Amboy after it was salvaged and towed into Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard are from the diary of Charles Henry Wheelwright Foster, an avid yachtsman, who inserted them between his entries for August 1918, but otherwise made no note of the attack on Orleans or the presence of German submarines along the coast. Joseph Pennell’s Liberty Loan poster is from the Massachusetts Historical Society’s large collection of World War I posters, many the gift of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, the president of the Historical Society during the war.

 

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 12:11 PM

The Nathaniel T. Allen Papers and Photographs

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.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 13 July, 2018, 12:00 AM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, July 1918

Today we return to the 1918 diary of Newton teenager Barbara Hillard Smith. You may read our introduction to the diary, and Barbara’s previous entries, here:

January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December

 

As regular readers of the Beehive know, we are following Barbara throughout 1918 with monthly blog posts that present Barbara’s daily life -- going to school, seeing friends, playing basketball, and caring for family members -- in the words she wrote a century ago. Here is Barbara’s June, day by day.

 

* * *

MON. 1                       JULY

Came to Camp.

TUES. 2

Got word that Peg was operated on. Unpacked. Swimming

WED. 3

Hung around. Swimming. Went to Hillcrest

Image from Tileston’s off-hand sketches in Boston Harbor: Pen and Ink Drawings, Centennial 1876.


THUR. 4                      INDEPENDENCE DAY

Governor’s Island picnic. Drunk! Raspberries! Swimming

FRI. 5

Went to [Wiers]. Swimming. Run Sheep Run.

SAT. 6

Played Basketball. Swimming

SUN. 7

Hung around. Swimming.

MON. 8

Went to Merideth. Swimming

TUES. 9

Basketball. Swimming

WED. 10

Pete + Babe [start] for Reg’s wedding. Swimming

THUR. 11

Went to Haunted House. Libby + Rosamond came. Swimming.

FRI. 12

Bear Island

SAT. 13

Basket Ball. Canoeing. Thunder Storm

SUN. 14

Rehearsed for play. Swimming. Powder fight.

MON. 15

Went Blueberrying. Swimming

TUES. 16

Peg got after the skunk. Uncle Sam. Swimming. Cake. Play.

WED. 17

Hot as the dickens. Mother went home.

THUR. 18

Col. Cummings Sick?

FRI. 19

Walked down Boulevard. Swimming

SAT. 20

Hung around

SUN. 21

Went to church. Song service.

MON. 22

P The Hiems took us to the movies. Swimming

TUES. 23

The Streeter’s came. Went Raspberrying on Governor’s Island

WED. 24

Basketball. Swimming

THUR. 25

Sprained my finger. Went by ice houses. Supper on the [stove].

FRI. 26

Basketball. Couldn’t play. [Streiter’s] went home. Pinnicle over night

SAT. 27

Hung around and […]

SUN. 28

Hung around. Swimming

MON. 29

Canoeing. Swimming. Uncle Freddie, Miss A- + Mr R-S [show]

TUES. 30

Basketball. Swimming

WED. 31

[no entry]

* * *

If you are interested in viewing the diary in person in our library or have other questions about the collection, please visit the library or contact a member of the library staff for further assistance.

 

 *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 catalog record for the Barbara Hillard Smith collection may be found here.

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 11:00 AM

older posts