Object of the Month

“I never, never wish to be away from that Christmas party”: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Bowditch Family Christmas Revels

Ribbon badges (two) relating to the fiftieth Bowditch family Christmas celebrations, 1886 Manuscript and ribbons

Ribbon badges (two) relating to the fiftieth Bowditch family Christmas celebrations, 1886

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These two badges are from the Bowditch family Christmas collection, 1843-1936, and they commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the celebration in 1886. The badge on the right was hand-embroidered on red silk by Eliza I. Bowditch.

A "Circle of Love"

For a hundred years, the Bowditch family of Boston and their extended family celebrated Christmas together with poems, theatrical performances, and good-natured teasing of family members, which are documented in the Bowditch family Christmas collection, given to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1996. Generations of Bowditches, Dixwells, and Ingersolls produced and starred in skits and penned "round Robin" letters that were sent with greetings and updates to family members far away. 1886 marked the fiftieth year of the celebration, and in addition to the printed badge (above left) issued to all family members, a circular was published reminding family members of the long tradition and listing "family relics" in possession of various members of the family.

Who was Eliza I. Bowditch?

Like many New England families, the Bowditches repeated names of beloved family members from generation to generation, but the Eliza Ingersoll Bowditch who stitched this badge was likely the daughter of Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch and Lucy Orne (Nichols) Bowditch, born November 25, 1852, in Boston. Jonathan Ingersoll Bowditch (1806-1889) was a prominent Boston merchant and the second son of Nathaniel Bowditch, "the navigator." After his father's death in 1838, Jonathan assumed responsibility for editing and publishing many subsequent editions of Nathaniel Bowditch's New American Practical Navigator. Eliza was one of eight children born to Jonathan and Lucy and she died a few days short of her 38th birthday in 1890. She is buried near her parents in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

For Further Reading

For more information on the Bowditch family celebrations, view this playbill from the Bowditch family Christmas collection.