The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Barbara Hillard Smith’s Diary, March 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 January and February entries, here:


January | February | March | April

May | June | July | August

September | October | November | December


We will be 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 March, day by day.


* * *

FRI. 1                          MARCH

School. Dentist Cousin Bert came. Papa glad to see him, Sick

SAT. 2

Showed C. Booklet to K. Heard Galli Curci. She is wonderful. Seminary with Mother


SUN. 3

Helped Mother. Studied

MON. 4

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Papa died. Grandma very brave, Mother is wonderful. C. Burt came.


Aunt Mabel gave Mother her car. She is very busy. People are very kind. Cousin Bert is the [back…]

WED. 6

Everything peaceful. Deluged with flowers. Funeral services very sweet + pretty. C. Bert went back.


I must stand up for Mother. Worked. Flowers from […]. Waltham with Mrs. Pyrene. Hard to keep tears back

FRI. 8

Worked. Doctors with Mother. Things [go] a little easier. I feel like crying all the time.

SAT. 9

Helped Mother. Got Camp Fire Cocoa. Mrs Richmond came. Wood called up. At McDonalds

SUN. 10

Church. Sunday S. Cousin Mildred to dinner. Dr. Huntington.

MON. 11

School. Mrs. Reed

TUES. 12

School. Basket Ball

WED. 13

School. Gym dancing. Swimming


School. Basketball. Got on class team

FRI. 15

School. Took care of the baby. Captain of the team

SAT. 16

Sewed at Mrs. Bucknams. Over to Lanes. Went swimming

SUN. 17

Shot Cat. Church and Sunday School. Moody’s for supper. Mr. Bailey out.

MON. 18

School. Took care of baby. Got [byce] out. Living Pictures.

TUES. 19

School. Played the Freshmen. 16-5 s. Juniors beat 30-0. Saw Dr. Ashland.

WED. 20

School. Rehearsed dancing. Swimming.

THUR. 21

School. Played the Juniors. They beat us. 25-10. Saw Dr. Ashland.

FRI. 22

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Newton-Erasmus game. We licked em up. War is awful

SAT. 23

Mrs. Reed’s all day.

SUN. 24

Church. Sunday School. Saw Dr. Ashland ([nude]). He seems much better. Dr. McClure.

MON. 25

School. In Town. Got suit. It seems funny without paper.

TUES. 26

School. Went to Mrs Reeds. Sick.

WED. 27

School. Dancing. In Town. Peg went with me.

THUR. 28

School. Mrs. Reed’s. Wrote Dr. Gordon

FRI. 29                                    GOOD FRIDAY

No School. Mrs. Reed’s all day. Surgical dressings

SAT. 30

Mrs. Reeds. In town. Got new hat

SUN. 31                      EASTER

Church[,] Sunday School and Concert. [Fraulein] and Miss [Colin] to dinner.

* * *

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, 7 March, 2018, 12:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

As of this writing, it is a very dreary and soggy day outside. After you dry your bones this weekend, consider visiting the MHS in the week ahead for one or more of these upcoming events:

- Tuesday, 6 March, 5:15PM : We start our programs this week with a seminar combo, bringing together Environmental History and Early American History into one neat package. "Common Spaces: Environmental History and the Study of Early America" is a panel discussion with Christopher Pastore, State University of new York at Albany; Nancy Shoemaker, University of Connecticut at Storrs; and Conevery Bolton Valencius, Boston College; with Matthew McKenzie of University of Connecticut at Avery Point moderating. Environmental historians are concerned with concepts such as ecological imperialism and non-anthropocentric empires, built and natural environments, controlling and organizing space, and the relationship between borders and frontiers. How does or might this influence scholarship on early America? How can work on early American history enrich environmental historians’ understanding of empire, metropoles and borderlands, movement and colonization?

Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers.To RSVP: email or call (617) 646-0579.

- Wednesday, 7 March, 12:00PM : The Brown Bag discussion this week features G. Patrick O'Brien of University of South Carolina, who presents "A Massachusetts Family's Exile & Return, 1775-1790." After being forced to flee Marblehead in May 1775, the Robie family joined fellow refugees in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In exile, each family member developed a unique perspective on his or her new home and outlook for the future. Repatriation further complicated these understandings and divided the family between two nations. This project explores how a family in exile struggled to maintain kinship networks while its members adapted to a new social environment. This talk is free and open to the public. 

- Wednesday, 7 March, 6:00PM : Join us for an author talk with Liesl Olson of the Newberry Library as she discusses her recent work, Chicago Renaissance: Literature and Art in the Midwest Metropolis. From the 1893 World’s Fair through mid-century, Chicago writers revolutionized literary forms during the first half of the 20th century, a period of sweeping aesthetic transformations all over the world. Olson’s enthralling study bridges the gap between two distinct and equally vital Chicago-based artistic “renaissance” moments: the primarily white renaissance of the early teens and the creative ferment of the “Black Metropolis” of Bronzeville. This talk is open to the public, registration required with a fee of $10 (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). 

- Saturday, 10 March, 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

While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Yankees in the West.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 4 March, 2018, 12:00 AM

Book Review: "The Palatine Wreck: The Legend of the New England Ghost Ship"


For nearly three centuries, stories of a burning ghost ship haunted the residents of Block Island, Rhode Island. Although it is unknown what it was witnesses have seen, the origin of “The Palatine Light” tells a different tale then the one passed down through popular culture. The Palatine Wreck: The Legend of the New England Ghost Ship by Jill Farinelli examines how the legend developed from the wreck of the Princess Augusta and explores how legends can emerge from public memory. By examining surviving letters of passengers, notarial records, and newspaper accounts of merchant ships, Farinelli was able to piece together a narrative of the Princess Augusta’s final journey in 1738 (xv-xvii). Further information on witnessed accounts of the ghost ship and surviving artifacts of the shipwreck was provided by Block Island’s historians. Jill Farinelli has worked as a freelance writer and editor for twenty-five years in Boston, Massachusetts. The Palatine Wreck is her first work of historical non-fiction.

In January 1867, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier published a poem titled “The Palatine” in the Atlantic Monthly. Based on a tale he heard from a friend, the poem was the first to launch the legend of “The Palatine Light” into mainstream society (158).

"The Palatine Light, from an illustration in the Providence Evening Bulletin, September 12, 1933. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library."

For still, on many a moonless night,

From Kingston Head and from Montauk light

The spectre kindles and burns in sight.


Now low and dim, now clear and higher,

Leaps up the terrible Ghost of Fire,

Then, slowly sinking, the flames expire.


And the wise Sound skippers, though skies be fine,

Reef their sails when they see the sign

Of the blazing wreck of the Palatine!


"They burned the wreck of the Palatine."

The origin of the Palatine Light legend began in 1738. Palatines, a name given to the people who resided in regions along the Rhine of modern-day Germany, began emigrating in vast numbers in the early 18th-century. As Farinelli examines, over 6,500 emigrants made their way to the British colonies in 1738 alone in hopes of a better economic opportunity in the Pennsylvania colony (169). Unfortunately, the 1738 sailing season would be one of the deadliest in history, with a death rate of 35 percent. Massive storms in the Atlantic and ill-preparation for numerous overcrowded ships were to blame. The Princess Augusta departed from Rotterdam in June 1738 with an estimated 340 passengers. While only 68 would survive the journey across the Atlantic, it was the ship’s destruction within the sandbanks of Block Island that brought wide-spread attention to the voyage.

Farinelli explores how such a common story captivated the public’s mind in final section of the book. Why was the Princess Augusta the event to be immortalized? One idea Farinelli explores is the rise of the Spiritualist Movement in the 19th century. People became interested in the paranormal and were simply captivated by stories believed to be started by the ship’s survivors, allowing them to remain popular amongst New Englanders (144-145). While Farinelli and other researchers are unsure what exactly caused the illusion of a burning ship, the legend has been embraced by many New Englanders.

"Map of Block Island.

Map: Patti Isaacs, 45th Parallel Maps and Infographics."

Farinelli’s research on the works of 19th-century New England writers, interviews with local Block Island historians, and years of researching Palatine emigration allows The Palatine Wreck to work as a case study for how history can transform itself into legend. A mixture of human tragedy fueled by the national rise in Spiritualism sparked interest amongst artists, who used the legend within their own fictional works. Whittier may have been the most famous example, but a number of writers had interpreted the event in their own ways. The emergence of Spiritualism sparked interest in these types of tales, combined with increased tourism in Block Island. At the end, Farinelli points out that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In the end it doesn’t matter whether the Palatine Light is a phantom, a figment, or a floating mass of dinoflagellates. Because the light has become an integral part of the legend, its reappearances has served a continual reminder of the tale. Without it, the Princess Augusta and its many passengers lost to the sea, would be lost to history as well. (152).

This book may be of particular interest to those who study transatlantic migration, German migration, and the development of public memory. Local New England residents who are familiar with the tale of “The Palatine Light” may also be interested, as the book provides a thorough background to the incident. The Massachusetts Historical Society holds a number of collections that complement the themes of this book including Palatine migration, transatlantic history, spiritualism, and maritime culture: 



Depositions of officers of the Palatine ship Princess Augusta, 1939

The Palatine, or, German immigration to New York and Pennsylvania, 1897

John Erving logbooks, 1727-1730

Log of the Brigantine Dolphin, 1732-1734


Printed Material

Early eighteenth century Palatine emigration: a British Government Redempitioner Project to Manufacture Naval Stores by Walter Allen Knittle [Philadelphia: S.N., 1936]

Boston in the Golden Age of Spiritualism: Séances, Mediums, and Immortality by Dee Morris [Charleston, SC: History Press, 2014]


To work with these materials, or any other collections at the MHS, consider Visiting the Library!


[Updated, 5 March 2018, to include images.]

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 2 March, 2018, 3:58 PM

This Week @ MHS

Here is a look at events taking place at the Society in the week ahead as the calendar turns another page:

- Monday, 26 February, 6:00PM : Starting things off this week is an author talk with Pual Finkelman of Gratz College. Supreme Inustice: Slavery in the Nation's Highest Court examines the careers of three important antebellum Supreme Court Justices: John Marshall, Roger B. Taney, and Joseph Story, who all upheld the institution of slavery in multiple rulings. Finkelman establishes an authoritative account of each justice's proslavery position, the reasoning behind his opposition to black freedom, and the incentives created by his private life. 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. 

- Tuesday, 27 February, 5:15PM : This week's seminar is part of the Modern American Society and Culture series and is a panel discussion. In "Capitalism and Culture," Jonathan Cohen of University of Virginia and Davor Mondom of Syracuse University examine the reaction against welfare state capitalism in the mid-20th century U. S., looking at two companies that promoted themselves as bastions of free enterprise or as a solution to high state taxes. Sven Becker of Harvard University provides comment. 

Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP requiredSubscribe to receive advance copies of the seminar papers. To RSVP: email or call (617) 646-0579.

- Thursday, 1 March, 6:00PM : MHS Fund Giving Circle members are invited to Dinner with Dolley, a festive evening with good food, fine wine, and lively conversation inspired by Dolley Madison. During dinner, MHS President Catherine Allgor, who is known for her published work on Dolley Madison, will provide history and fun facts about dining with Mrs. Madison. 

This event is open only to MHS Fund Giving Circle Members. Join a Giving Circle today at

- Saturday, 3 March, 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

While you're here you will also have the opportunity to view our current exhibition: Yankees in the West.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 25 February, 2018, 12:00 AM

“He has been the great landmark of my life”: CFA on JQA’s death and legacy.

On a drizzly February morning in 1848, Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, walked into his Boston office. As he reached his desk, Adams noticed a telegraph that communicated that his father “whilst in his seat at the House of Representatives at half past one o’clock was taken in another fit of paralysis and that it was not thought he could survive the day,” CFA wrote in his diary. Adams was on the next train south.

Charles Francis Adams, Photogravure, from "Portraits of American Abolitionists," MHS.


Delays prevented Adams from making his connection to Philadelphia. As he waited for the next train, Adams began reading the book his wife had sent with him, Jane Eyre. That night, February 23rd, he anxiously read a newspaper that had reports from 11 p.m. on the 22nd that John Quincy “lingered.”

The next morning, while on the train to Baltimore, Charles Francis opened that day’s paper.

The first thing I saw was the announcement that at a quarter past seven last night my father had ceased to breathe. . . . Here then it is in all its reality— I have no longer a Father.

After another short layover in Baltimore, Charles Francis reached his parents’ home in Washington, D.C. He went straight upstairs to comfort his mother, Louisa Catherine. Charles Francis sat with her until it was time to go to bed.

She then told me she had no place to put me in but his room— And I went to it, just as he had left it on Monday morning: Yes there was his table and chair, his papers and writing materials, his bed and all his materials for his late sick life. And the animating spirit was not there and I was.

Charles Francis got little sleep.

The next day, his mother was “in a low, fainting state all day, and utterly unable to say any thing.” After a morning of greeting acquaintances and thanking them for their condolences, Charles Francis traveled to the House. He was ushered through crowds to the coffin, where he was left alone. “And here I was to take my last look upon one to whom for forty years I had been looking for support and aid and encouragement!” Charles Francis studied his father’s face through a glass pane and considered his future responsibilities. Poignantly, Adams reflected that he was “alone in the generation,” as his two older brothers and younger sister had all already passed away. He shed a few tears before returning to the committee room to discuss arrangements “until every nerve in me quivered.”

His mother being too unwell to attend, Charles Francis represented his family at the funeral. As he stood on the steps of the Capitol waiting for his carriage, he felt acutely the curious eyes of gawkers and resolutely stared ahead, reflecting on his father’s influence. “He has been the great landmark of my life,” Charles Francis wrote. “My stay and companion.” As he descended the stairs and climbed into the carriage, Adams prepared himself to become the Adams patriarch. “For the future I must walk alone and others must lean on me.”


comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 23 February, 2018, 12:00 AM

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