The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

 - 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).

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

“I still hear her whenever I open my window”

The MHS recently acquired two fascinating letters related to a woman named Nancy Barron, and when cataloging the collection, I found a surprising connection. 

The first letter, addressed to Dr. “Hayward” of Concord, Mass., was written on 20 July 1827 by R. Barron, Nancy’s mother. The Barrons lived in Boston. The letter begins:

Sir I sent a letter to you since Mr Stow was here but have receaved no answer. I take the liberty to state my curcumstances to you and hope that you will concider my case. My daughter is sick more or less all of the time. As for myself I cannot do any work of any consequence. Nancy can do some work all though not capable of takeing care of herself.

 

 

R. Barron asked the doctor for help with their rent, which was two months overdue, and explained that she and her daughter couldn’t come to Concord “as it would make Nancy as bad as she was before.” The family received some charity, but it wasn’t enough.

The only other letter in the collection was written almost a year later, this time to Dr. “Haywood.” The writer, D. Patten of Boston, pleaded on behalf of the Barrons, for whom circumstances had deteriorated. Mrs. Barron was “verry much afflicted with ill health,” and the family suffered “poverty and want in a great degree.” Adding to these troubles was Nancy’s “derangement of Mind […] which of late has become much worse.”

 

Just identifying the correspondents in this small collection was challenging. The two letters were clearly written to the same person, but spelled his name differently. I started with him, assuming he’d be the easiest to find. It took some digging, and through trial and error, I finally stumbled on Dr. Abiel Heywood (1759-1839). Neither Barron nor Patten had spelled the name right.

According to a biography of Heywood published in Memoirs of Members of the Social Circle in Concord (pp. 228-33), he began practicing in Concord in 1790, though he soon left medicine to serve in a series of public positions, including town clerk, selectman, tax assessor, justice of the peace, and Middlesex County judge. He was a very eminent member of the community in 1827, when Mrs. Barron appealed to him.

I never did identify the writer of the second letter, D. Patten. I also don’t know the first name of Nancy’s mother. But when I started looking for Nancy, I found more than I expected. A Google search turned up her name in, of all places, the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The relevant journal entry is dated 24 June 1840. By this time, Nancy was living at the Concord Asylum, an almshouse just 200 yards behind Emerson’s home, across the Mill Brook. The reference to her is unexpected and startling. Emerson wrote:

Now for near five years I have been indulged by the gracious Heaven in my long holiday in this goodly house of mine, entertaining and entertained by so many worthy and gifted friends, and all this time poor Nancy Barron, the mad-woman, has been screaming herself hoarse at the Poor-house across the brook and I still hear her whenever I open my window.

 

Ralph L. Rusk, who edited the published volumes of Emerson’s letters beginning in 1939, included citations for a few letters related to Nancy, but he misread her last name as “Bacon.” The error was corrected in an annotation in volume 7 (p. 336) by subsequent editor Eleanor M. Tilton. Apparently, between 1839 and 1843, Emerson corresponded with a Mary Mason about Nancy’s case; these letters are currently on deposit at Harvard’s Houghton Library. It seems Emerson and others provided financial support for Nancy’s care, which would account for how he knew her name.

Like his neighbor Abiel Heywood (the land adjacent to Emerson’s home is still called Heywood Meadow), Emerson belonged to the Social Circle in Concord, a private club for illustrious men of the town. Also among its members was Cyrus Stow—undoubtedly the man R. Barron mentioned in her letter. According to the Memoirs (pp. 295-301), Stow contracted with the town “to take charge of its poor for the use of the Cargill Farm.” Concord Asylum was located on Cargill Farm, probably near where the police and fire department building stands now. Stow was the last piece of the puzzle.

The only other result of my search for Nancy was a single line in the register of births,  marriages, and deaths in Concord: “Nancy Barron aged 46 years died March 29, 1843” (p. 355). Emerson acknowledged her death in his correspondence with Mary Mason.

The striking juxtaposition of Nancy Barron and Ralph Waldo Emerson, with just 200 yards and a narrow brook between them, may have been the kind of thing Henry David Thoreau had in mind when he wrote the following passage in Walden (p. 172):

But how do the poor minority fare? Perhaps it will be found, that just in proportion as some have been placed in outward circumstances above the savage, others have been degraded below him. The luxury of one class is counterbalanced by the indigence of another. On the one side is the palace, on the other are the almshouse and “silent poor.”

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 22 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

Introducing John Adams, Vice President

"Huzza for the new World and farewell to the Old One," John Adams wrote in late 1787, wrapping up a decade of diplomatic service in Europe and packing for his new farm, Peacefield. "For a Man who has been thirty Years rolling like a stone," his recall was welcome news indeed. After completing several missions in Paris, The Hague, and London, Adams was eager to head home in order to witness the progress of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the establishment of the federal government. His last 28 months abroad, chronicled in the Adams Papers' newest release, Volume 19 of the Papers of John Adams, were busy. The Massachusetts lawyer-turned-statesman secured American credit in Europe. He fought his way through the delicate etiquette of resigning his diplomatic commissions to Great Britain and the Netherlands. He wrote the second and third volumes of his landmark work on tripartite federalism, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. With wife Abigail, he made plans for a quiet retirement in leafy Braintree. So long a citizen of the world, John Adams pondered his role in shaping the young nation’s progress. "Shall I feel, the Stings of Ambition, and the frosts of Neglect?" he wrote. "Shall I desire to go to Congress, or the General Court, and be a Fish out of Water? I Suppose so, because, other People have been so. but I dont believe So."

Papers of John Adams, Volume 19

Volume 19, which stretches from February 1787 to May 1789, marks a transitional period in John Adams' public career and personal life. Through the window of 341 documents, we watch a rich trove of stories unfold: the United States' uneasy peace with Britain; the risky state of American credit abroad; the political fallout of popular uprisings like Shays' Rebellion; the crafting of the federal Constitution; a surge in the British impressment of American sailors; and the monumental effort to form a cohesive federal government. Meanwhile, Adams settled into rural retirement with Abigail and watched the Constitution’s ratification evolve. His respite was cut short in April 1789. By volume's end, John Adams returned to the adventure of public life, preparing to serve as America's first vice president.

From Europe, Adams reported on a high tide of political crises. Piecing together Thomas Jefferson's and the Marquis de Lafayette's accounts of the reforms unspooling at the Assembly of Notables in 1787, and again at the convening of the Estates General two years later, Adams perceived France's prerevolutionary peril. Adams, from his perch at No. 8 (now No. 9) Grosvenor Square, longed to go and see the "Illustrious" group. "I wish I could be a Sylph or a Gnome & flit away to Versailles on a sun-Beam—to hear your August Debates," he wrote to Lafayette. To Adams' mind, the late eighteenth century heralded both an age of revolutions and an age of constitutions that realigned the continent’s balance of power. "England will rise in Consideration and Power, and France will Fall, in the Eyes of all Europe," he wrote. 

John Adams portrait

John Adams spent his last summer in Europe traveling with family—including his first grandchild, William Steuben Smith—in rural Devonshire, compiling the second volume of his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, and mulling his legacy. He answered reference questions about the Revolution from scholars such as Philip Mazzei, Mercy Otis Warren, David Ramsay, and Reverend William Gordon. Retirement beckoned, but Adams was conflicted about trading the public stage for the solitude of Peacefield. Reflecting on his service, Adams claimed two wins: the ratification of the Moroccan-American Treaty of Peace and Friendship; and the progress of a proposed Portuguese-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The Adamses’ exit saddened friends like Jefferson, who wrote: “I shall now feel be-widowed.” Adams packed up his papers, including the letterbooks where he kept a close financial record of what it cost to be an American diplomat in Europe–a fascinating (and frugal!) report of expenditures that appears in the Appendix of Volume 19. He sold his chariot at The Hague. He closed up the London legation. "And now as We Say at Sea," Adams wrote to Jefferson, "huzza for the new World and farewell to the Old One."

S.E. Prospect

Home at last in June 1788, Adams briefly settled into the life of a gentleman scholar. Throughout the autumn, a stream of support for Adams' political ascent materialized in the mail. Reverend Jeremy Belknap, later a founder of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and Dr. Benjamin Rush conveyed support for Adams as a contender for the vice presidency. On 6 April 1789, senators began counting votes from the Electoral College. George Washington was the unanimous choice for president. Adams, who received 34 out of 69 votes, was elected as the first vice president. Basking in ceremonial fanfare, Adams traveled to New York City. To the ever-candid Adams, the Federalists' victory felt bittersweet. The 54-year-old statesman now faced an unprecedented task in shaping the largely undefined office of the vice presidency. Adams' days became a whirlwind of meetings, visits, and reunions. He was flooded with requests for patronage. Many Americans hoped to earn jobs as port collectors, naval officers, or customs inspectors. Office seekers appealed to Adams' Federalist views, Harvard College roots, or New England connections. Within the Adams Papers, these letters form a unique genre documenting patronage in early American politics. Moved by the sentiment but bound by the Constitution, Adams rejected many pleas. Early on, he staked out strict constitutional boundaries for the vice president’s powers. Looking out from his seat in a Senate increasingly riven by regional factions, Vice President John Adams wondered: What came next for the new nation?

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 19 June, 2018, 10:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

The week ahead is a busy one, loaded with public programs. Here is the round-up for the week:

The library closes early on Monday, 18 June, at 4:00PM.

- Monday, 18 June, 6:00PM : Join us for our first Juneteenth Open House, with a one-day display celebrating milestones on the road to the end of slavery. Featured items explore the 1783 abolition of slavery in Massachusetts; celebrations within the African American community in Boston of the ending of slavery in the British West Indies in 1833; Garrisonian protest banners; and a look at the evolution of depictions of Crispus Attucks’s death in the Boston Massacre as a symbol of black abolitionism before and during the Civil War.

This talk is free and open to the public, though registration is required.

- Wednesday, 20 June, 12:00PM : Matthew Fernandez of Columbia University leads the first Brown Bag talk of the week, titled "Picturing Modernism in the Work and Archive of Henry Adams." This talk examines three interrelated elements of Henry Adams’s literary output: his transnational focus, his reconsideration of subject/object relations, and his interest in the visual arts. While travelling during the 1890s, Adams took a break from writing to immerse himself in painting and sketching—after which he produced acclaimed works like Chartres and The Education. His time abroad represents an important transitional moment between the Romanticism of the nineteenth century and the Modernism of the twentieth century.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Thursday, 21 June, 6:00PM : Chateau Higginson: Social Life in Boston's Back Bay, 1870-1920 is a recent work published by Margo Miller, Boston Globe (retired), and the title of this author talk. Miller's work is a vivid and absorbing account of one man’s efforts to construct a building that would create “a new way for Bostonians—and Americans—to live.” Henry Lee Higginson is best known for founding the Boston Symphony Orchestra, but exploring his housing gamble helps bring him to life, as well as a whole social class in 19th-century urban America.

This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM, followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM.

- Friday, 22 June, 12:00PM : The second Brown Bag talk this week is with Joshua Morrison of University of Virginia, and is called "Cut from the Same Cloth: Salem, Zanzibar, and the Consolidation of the Indo-Atlantic World, 1820-1870." This talk explores the economic and cultural exchange between New England and Zanzibar, the premier entrepôt of the Western Indian Ocean. This trade network linked the cotton magnates of Massachusetts with the Omani elite, Indian merchants, and Swahili slaves of Zanzibar. As the trade expanded, each close-knit community found themselves increasingly dependent on an incredibly foreign counterpart for survival. This project maps the many compromises, adaptations, and concessions made in the name of profit.

This talk is free and open to the public.

- Saturday, 23 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.

The library closes early on Saturday, 23 June, at 3:00PM.

- Saturday, 23 June, 4:00PM : Join us for a special Saturday program to celebrate "The All-American Girls: Women in Professional Baseball." Baseball is not just a beloved pastime for American boys and men. From 19th-century college teams formed at Vassar and Smith and the nationally celebrated Boston Bloomer Girls to the formation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League when major male talent faced the WWII draft, women players have increasingly found ways to make their mark on the game. Today, more women than ever before are playing baseball at a world-class level, staking a claim on the most nostalgic and patriotic of American sports. This event features a panel discussion moderated by Red Sox historian Gordon Edes, and panelists Maybelle Blair and Shirley Burkovich (All American Girls Professional Baseball League); Donna Mills (Women's World Cup of Baseball MVP); Marti Sementelli (U.S. Women's National Baseball Team); and Dr. Kat Williams (Women's Sports historian at Marshall University). Also, through a partnership with the Red Sox, MHS is offering a limited quanity of tickets for audience members who want to follow the afternoon panel discussion with a 7:15 Red Sox game against the Seattle Mariners. Tickets are available for purchase through our program registration link.

This program is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $20 (no charge for MHS Members and Fellows or EBT cardholders). Reception begins at 3:30PM followed by the panel discussion at 4:00PM.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 17 June, 2018, 12:00 AM

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, June 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.

 

* * *

SAT. 1                         JUNE

Swimming. May [Fête]. Hot as the deuce

SUN. 2

Went to Winthrop

MON. 3

School. Babies

TUES. 4

School. Babies

WED. 5

School. Babies

THUR. 6

School. Swimming Exhibition

FRI. 7

School. Went up River and to Park.

SAT. 8

Babies. In town with Peg.

SUN. 9

Hung around. Commencement Vespers

MON. 10

School. Babies. Class Night at Lasell

TUES. 11

School. Sick? Mother with Cousin Bert

WED. 12

School. Babies

THUR. 13

School. Babies

FRI. 14

School. Babies

SAT. 15

In Town. Wellesley with Peg. Dance at Spuds

SUN. 16

Church. S. School. Mrs. Moody to dinner

MON. 17

School. Babies

TUES. 18

School. Babies. Got a boil.

WED. 19

School. Riding with Cousin Bert. Peg over Night.

THUR. 20

French Exam. Mother’s Birthday. Headache. Pegs. Almost Sick

FRI. 21

Latin Exam. Tennis at Pegs

SAT. 22

Cooked. Pegs. Party at Posies. Dancing at Garden

SUN. 23

Sunday School. Peg’s over night.

MON. 24

Geometry Exam. Cleaned Closet. Peg’s for eighth grade party.

TUES. 25

In town with Mrs. Dow. Cousin Alice’s for supper. Met Babe

WED. 26

In town to the Dr. Dill. K’s for supper. Study club affair

THUR. 27

DIn town. Worked with Platt.

FRI. 28

Cleaned. Dentist. Dinner with Platt. Saw him off.

SAT. 29

Shampoo. Aunt Mable’s. Said goodbye to Stewarts

SUN. 30

Church. Sunday School. Riding with [Gathaman’s]. Packed.

* * *

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: Friday, 15 June, 2018, 12:52 PM

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