The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

The MHS is CLOSED on Monday, 20 February, for Presidents' Day. 

Despite the holiday-shortened week, there is quite a bit of activity at the Society. Here's is what we have the calendar for the final full week of February:

- POSTPONED : "Harvest for War: Fruits, Nuts, Imperialism, and Gas Mask Manufacture in the United States During World War I," originally scheduled for Tuesday, 21 February, is postponed to Tuesday, 9 May, 5:15PM. 

- Wednesday, 22 February to Thursday, 23 February : "Women in the Ear of the American Revolution" is a two-day teacher workshop open to K-12 educators. Participants will explore the daily lives of revolutionary women, including those who served as soldiers and secret agents, or followed the army as cooks and laundresses. The program fee includes a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts. Please email education@masshist.org or call 617-646-0557 for more information or to register.

- Wednesday, 22 February, 12:00PM : Stop by at lunchtime for a Brown Bag talk with Emily C. Burns of Auburn University. Her talk, "Constructing American Belatedness: The Archives of American Artists in Late Nineteenth-Century Paris" culls archival materials to understand how American culture collectively became defined through internatioanl mobility as belated and innocent. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Wednesday, 22 February, 6:00PM : "MIT: History and Architecture," is a public talk with Douglass Shand-Tucci, author of the recently published MIT: The Campus Guide. This talk focuses on the way MIT and Harvard, now universally ranked among the top five seats of higher learning in the world, reflected Boston 19th century Unitarian tradtion and framed its Brahmin Ascendancy. Registration is required for this program with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows or Members). Pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM followed by the speaking program at 6:00PM. 

- Thursday, 23 February, 5:30PM : Please join us for a conversation with the authors of two important new books in the history of sexuality. "Sexuality of History, History of Sexuality" is part of the History of Women and Gender seminar series.  This wide-ranging discussion, with Sue Lanser of Brandeis  University and Jim Downs of Connecticut College, will explore the relationship between lesbian and gay male histories, literary and historical methods, representation and political mobilization of people and communities. Jen Manion of Amherst College moderates the discussion. Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. Please note that there are no precirculated essays for this session. This program takes place at Radcliffe, Fay House, Sheerr Room, 10 Garden St. in Cambridge.

- Saturday, 25 February, 9:00AM : "Abraham Lincoln & Emancipation" is a teacher workshop open to K-12 educators. MHS staff and participants will use primary sources from the Society's collection to discuss and debate Lincoln's grounds for opposing slavery and his thoughts on colonization, abolition, and gradual emancipation. The group will be joined by Kevin M. Levin, author of Civil War Memory. Registration is required with a fee of $25. Please email education@masshist.org or call 617-646-0557 for more information or to register. This workshop was originally scheduled for Saturday, 11 February.

- Saturday, 25 February, 1:00PM : "Begin at the Beginning: Mapping New England - a visual story." Join MHS librarian Peter Drummey in investigating the world of early New England maps: how they were created; what they included and what they omitted; the images their creators choose and the messages they conveyed. Were early maps designed to encourage emigrants, or aids to navigation? Did they chart colonial-Native American conflict or paint an idyllic garden scene? Find out how these non-textual artifacts communicated the world of 17th-century New England. Registration is required at no cost. Please RSVP 

NOTE: This meeting is a discussion, not a lecture. Come prepared to examine maps, raise questions, and make your points! No expertise required, just a willingness to engage with primary material, talk to fellow attendees, and enjoy yourself.

- Saturday, 25 February, 10:00AM-4:00PM : This is your last chance to view our current exhibition, Turning Points in American History, which ends on 2/25

There is no public tour this week.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 19 February, 2017, 12:00 AM

Working with Google to Showcase MHS Content about U. S. Presidents

Selections from MHS’s two most important collections, the Adams Family Papers and the Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, are now part of the Google Arts & Culture website. This website is administered by the Google Cultural Institute, a non-profit initiative founded in 2011 that partners with cultural organizations to “bring the world’s cultural heritage online.” [Read more about the Google Cultural Institute here: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/about/partners/.]

When MHS was approached by a coordinator of the Google Cultural Institute in the late summer and asked to contribute content about U.S. Presidents for the American Democracy Project, MHS staff realized there were many benefits of having our collections showcased within the Google Arts & Culture web delivery system.  Highlights of the Society's extraordinary Adams and Jefferson manuscript collections are now available to users who browse and search the content Google is hosting from about 1,200 significant museums, archives, and cultural organizations.

MHS's main website has thousands of presentations of documents from our Adams and Jefferson materials, and the first challenge was to figure out what specifically to contribute to Google's recent project.  The Google content management system features items as single digitized images and online exhibitions featuring those digital items.  Given limited production time to assemble the online content, we decided to focus our efforts on creating two online exhibitions--"The Private Jefferson" and “From Diplomats to Presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams”.

For "The Private Jefferson" online exhibition, Laura Wulf, Production Specialist, worked from the publication, The Private Jefferson: Perspectives from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the companion to the recent MHS exhibition.  It features selected letters written by Jefferson, pages from manuscript volumes, architectural drawings and sketches, published documents, and engravings.

Neal Millikan, Digital Projects Editor, and Amanda Norton, Digital Projects Editor (with input from their colleagues within the Adams Papers department) crafted an informative narrative for the exhibition “From Diplomats to Presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams.” This exhibition presents key documents and quotations about the extensive careers in public service of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams.

The MHS digital team (Laura Wulf, Peter Steinberg, and I) assembled all the digital components (images and associated metadata), loaded them into the Google web delivery system, and used the exhibition editor tool to assemble the online exhibitions.

Please explore the exhibitions and MHS's online content within the Google Arts & Culture website, and the entire Google American Democracy project.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 17 February, 2017, 12:00 AM

“We...Intend to Make Things Lively”: Boston’s Black Voters in 1884

The MHS just acquired a fascinating document related to political activism by Boston’s black voters during the 1884 presidential election. This election, only the fourth presidential contest in which black (male) voters could take part, pitted Democrats Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks against Republicans James G. Blaine and John A. Logan. Most African Americans supported the Republican Party, and “Blaine and Logan Clubs” had sprung up in many American cities, including Boston.

 

On 20 Sep. 1884, a committee consisting of three Boston men sent this letter to the Republican National Committee on behalf of the “colored voters of the 3d. Congressional district” of Massachusetts. They requested information on the candidates, particularly Democratic vice presidential nominee Hendricks. The letter reads, in part:

We hope you will be able to forward a good stock of Hendrick’s [sic] public record so that every colored man in the Commonwealth may know all about the Democratic candidate for the Vice-Presidency. […] We have formed a Blaine & Logan Club and intend to make things lively for Messrs. Cleveland & Hendricks on the 4th day of next November.

I was curious about this “opposition research” targeting Hendricks. Thomas Andrews Hendricks (1819-1885) of Indiana certainly had a substantial public record. By 1884, he’d served in multiple elected offices, including state congressman, U.S. representative, U.S. senator, and governor. He’d even run for vice president once before, on a ticket with Samuel Tilden in 1876, but they lost to Rutherford B. Hayes. So, what specific grievances did black voters have against Hendricks? To answer that question, I found two terrific resources in the MHS stacks, both printed in Boston in 1884.

The first is a book called The Life and Public Services of Grover Cleveland, by Frederick E.  Goodrich, which includes an appended biography of Hendricks. Goodrich was an enthusiastic Democrat, and his biography is unabashedly partisan. He describes the Democrats as the true heirs to the Founding Fathers and calls the Republicans “demoralized” and “thoroughly corrupt.” Hendricks himself sounds almost mythical: “His honesty was above suspicion, his integrity was never questioned, nor his motives impugned. He won the respect of all his colleagues and retained the confidence and support of his constituents.”

Goodrich wrote in generalities and didn’t have much to say about Hendricks’ specific votes related to slavery or African American civil rights. He did explain, in one passage, Hendricks’ support for the Fugitive Slave Act:

It has been objected to him lately, that he was in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law; but so was the majority of his party, which at that time recognized that slavery was a legal institution in the Southern States, and which upheld the right of the slave-owners to claim their property wherever they found it. It is too late in the day now to rake up the anti-slavery record of any man, because many of our foremost and most honored public men since the war were, prior to that event, defenders, or at least apologists of slavery.

The second resource I found at the MHS was a speech by W. R. Holloway delivered on 2 Aug. 1884 and published in pamphlet form as A Bad Record: Hendricks as a Public Man. William Robeson Holloway (1836-1911), a staunch Republican and brother-in-law of Gov. Oliver P. Morton, had held various political appointments in Indiana. He was a full-throated anti-Hendricks man and didn’t mince his words, characterizing Hendricks like this:

Shown to have been the Friend and Apologist of Slavery, a Copperhead of the worst type.—An Intense Negro Hater, as well as a Defender of Treason, a Constant Sympathizer with the Rebellion.—The Champion of Traitors, and always a Bogus Reformer, an Insincere Demagogue, and an Uncertain Leader.—Not a Redeeming Feature to be found in the Public Career of the Choice of the Democracy for Vice-President.

Hendricks did, in fact, oppose all three Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution: the Thirteenth (abolishing slavery), Fourteenth (extending citizenship, due process, equal protection, etc.), and Fifteenth (granting suffrage to black men). In his speech, Holloway also described how the Democrat “sustained and defended the Dred-Scott decision,” “denounced the Emancipation Proclamation,” and opposed the military service of African Americans, arguing that black soldiers lacked the courage to serve alongside whites. He accused Hendricks of opportunism, hypocrisy, and cowardice. Here’s more:

He has been consistent in his opposition to the negroes, and while in the Senate, voted uniformly against the colored race, against emancipation in the District of Columbia, against their civil and political rights in that District, and against their right to ride on the street-cars in the city of Washington; opposed their employment as soldiers, and after they were enlisted and had gallantly perilled their lives on the field of battle, he voted on more than one occasion to deny them equal compensation with white soldiers in the same service.

It’s no wonder the “colored voters of the 3d. Congressional district” were determined to “make things lively”! Massachusetts’ 14 electoral votes went to the Republican nominee, James G. Blaine, but despite the party’s best efforts, Grover Cleveland won the election by a narrow margin. Thomas A. Hendricks died one year later on 25 Nov. 1885, and the vice presidency remained vacant for the rest of Cleveland’s term.

I hoped to find out more about the three men who sent the letter, A. P. Jones, W. D. Johnson, and Jas. H. Wolff, but could only definitively identify the third man. The remarkable story of James Harris Wolff (1847-1913) probably deserves a blog post of its own. He served in the Navy during the Civil War and became a prominent black attorney who argued civil rights cases for African Americans. In 1910, he was the first black person to deliver the official Fourth of July oration in Boston.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 15 February, 2017, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

Coming back after a couple of snow days, we have a quiet week ahead here at the Society. Please be sure to check our website and calendar in the coming weeks to be aware of weather closures. 

- Thursday, 16 February, 6:00PM : Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution Through Painters' Eyes contains the stories of five artists - Peale, Copley, Trumbull, West, and Stuart - who interacted continually with the nation's Founders. Each story opens a fresh window on the Revolutionary era, making more human the figures we have long honored as our Founders, and deepening our understanding of the whirlwind out of hw hich the United STates emereged. Join us for a talk with Paul Staiti of Mount Holyoke College who authored the book. This talk is open to the public but registration is required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Members or Fellows). A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30PM and the program starts at 6:00PM. 

- Saturday, 18 February, 10:00AM : The History and Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society Tour 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: Turning Points in American History.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 12:00 AM

“A Remarkable Deception”: The Cardiff Giant Hoax

In the autumn of 1869 the peaceful valley of Onondaga, in central New York, was in commotion from one end to the other. Strange reports echoed from farm to farm. It was noised abroad that a great stone statue or petrified giant had been dug up near the little hamlet of Cardiff, almost at the southern extremity of the valley; and soon, despite the fact that the crops were not yet gathered and the elections not yet over, men, women, and children were hurrying from Syracuse and from the farm-houses along the valley to the scene of the great discovery.

So begins Andrew D. White in a 1902 article for The Century titled “The Cardiff Giant: The True Story of a Remarkable Deception.” Thus, he sets the scene for his bizarre – yet true – story about a very fake giant.

 

 

I came across White’s article in a scrapbook of clippings in our collections, illuminating the events and deceptions surrounding the once-famed Cardiff Giant. While the compiler of clippings in this scrapbook is unknown, this person had enough interest to collect published material and neatly title the scrapbook in black ink, “The Cardiff Giant.” On the first page, a note from the November 1902 meeting of the Massachusetts Historical Society recognizes “one of our distinguished Corresponding Members,” Andrew D. White, for his “minute description of the attempt to cheat the public.”  

On 16 October 1869, workers who were hired to dig a well on the property of William C. “Stub” Newell in Cardiff, New York, unearthed what became known as the Cardiff Giant. The bewildered well diggers were hired by Newell, who knew the figure had been deliberately planted almost a year earlier by his cousin, George Hull. While in Iowa in 1866, Hull was reportedly inspired to create a stone giant and pass it off as a petrified man after he argued with a Methodist revivalist, Rev. Mr. Turk, and wondered why so many believed the remarkable stories in the Bible about giants. Two years later, Hull hired men to quarry out an eleven-foot block of gypsum near Fort Dodge, Iowa, which he shipped by train to Chicago to be sculpted into the giant. The finished 3,000-pound figure was shipped again to Cardiff and buried to await its debut. Once it was uncovered, Newell set up a tent to display the nearly ten-foot-five colossus, and hundreds flocked to his Cardiff hamlet for a twenty-five-cent viewing of what many believed to be a petrified man (Newell raised the price to fifty cents after two days). Following the discovery, Hull sold the giant to David Hannum for $23,000, who shipped it to Syracuse and began a road tour toward New York City. Noting the public’s remarkable interest in the giant, P.T. Barnum offered to purchase it for $50,000. Though his offer was declined, Barnum covertly made an exact copy of the giant and charged visitors to view it.

While much of the public and even some professionals were fooled, others saw through the deceit, partially or fully. An article in the 3 November 1869 edition of the Worcester Daily Spy includes a testimony from Professor James Hall, “the state geologist of New York, a scholar of a good American reputation.” Hall states, “It is certainly a great curiosity, and, as it now presents itself, the most remarkable archaological [sic] discovery ever made in this country, and entirely unlike any other relics of a past age yet known to us.” While Hall did not believe it to be a petrified human, he thought it a unique object related to “the race or people of the past formerly inhabiting that part of the country.” Another article includes a letter dated 24 November 1869, in which Professor O. C. Marsh concludes, “Altogether, the work is well calculated to impose upon the general public; but I am surprised that any scientific observers should not have at once detected the unmistakable evidence against its antiquity.” He posits evidence for the deliberate and relatively recent burial of the figure, namely an analysis of the gypsum from which it was cut and the estimated erosion timeline that both support the “humbug” conclusion.

 

 

It struck me while reading George Hull’s obituary in the Boston Journal that the notice is hardly about Hull. Less of an obituary and more of a sensational article, the heading reads “Cardiff Giant” and within the article, “Hull Proud of It.” I presume it’s safe to say Hull wouldn’t have minded – the obituary notes, “Hull was very proud of the affair, and he never tired of talking about it.” According to the Boston Journal, Hull accumulated a fortune from his hoax but died in poverty. Whoever assembled this scrapbook of clippings also included an obituary next to Hull’s, printed just fifteen days later for “the last survivor of the famous ‘Cardiff Giant’ humbug,” sculptor John J. Sampson of Chicago.

The tale of the Cardiff Giant sparked the imaginations of authors Mark Twain and L. Frank Baum, and the giant even found his way into a Nancy Drew mystery. Today you can find him on display at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

If you would like to explore this topic further, visit the library to see what else you can uncover about the Cardiff Giant, its public reception and famed deception.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 8 February, 2017, 12:00 AM

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