Digital Commonwealth added a lot of new items to existing collections in December, but only Lincoln Public Library and the Massachusetts Archives added wholly new collections.  The Archives added a small collection of photographs of founders and commissioners of the Metropolitan Park Commission.  Lincoln uploaded the Isabelle Peirce Collection, which consists mainly of 19th century letters to Isabelle Peirce as well as some Peirce family documents.

Wrapping up the centennial of the end of World War I, Massachusetts General Hospital added scrapbooks to its World War I collection, one of which included the news clipping of the headline announcing the end of the war. (Below.) More than 500 MGH employees wound up serving in Europe.  These scrapbooks document their wartime experiences.

Dorothy Tarbox scrapbox
Scrapbook of Dorothy Tarbox, RN, World War I from MGH Archives and Special Collections and the MGH School of Nursing Collection

Annisquam Historical Society
Annisquam Historical Society’s Collection of Historical Documents – 2 items added to an existing collection

Boston Public Library
Early, Rare, and Exceptional Items from Special Collections, Rare Books – 1 item added to an existing collection
Medieval and Early Renaissance Manuscripts (Collection of Distinction) – 9 items added to an existing collection
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 762 items added to an existing collection
Press Photography from the Brearley Collection – 474 items added to an existing collection
Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee (Collection of Distinction) – 2,127 items added to an existing collection

Lincoln Public Library
Isabelle Peirce Collection, 1766-1994, bulk 1840-1920 – 170 items

Massachusetts Archives
Massachusetts Metropolitan Park Commission, Founders and Commissioners, Photographic Portraits, ca. 1892 to ca. 1907 – 15 items

Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital
Massachusetts General Hospital World War I Collection – 7 items added to an existing collection

SAILS Library Network
47 new items harvested

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries
39 new collections – 21, 161 new items harvested

Minnie Avery and bicycle on road between Lenox Dale and New Lenox
Minnie Avery & bicycle on road between Lenox Dale and New Lenox from Lenox Library Association Local History Photograph Collection

I have no idea who Minnie Avery is or why she rode her bicycle out to the road between Lenox Dale and New Lenox at the turn of the 2oth century.  It is enough for me that someone captured it on film.  My first question is, “Why is Minnie Avery standing in what looks like a large saucepan on the side of a dirt road surrounded by trees?”  There are even logs under the “pot” that could be lit for a cooking fire.  More questions naturally follow: Is the photographer responsible for this Minnie stew?  Did Minnie know what was in store for her when she put on her straw boater and summer finery to go riding in the Berkshires?  Why is no one named Minnie anymore?

Thanks to Digital Commonwealth’s wonderful zoom utility, I can click on the magnifying glass and get a closer look without losing any resolution.  Now it’s a whole new – and, alas, less interesting – story.  Minnie is standing on the far side of the vat, not in it.  She is holding a cup or tin of some sort and there is a pipe – not a handle – on the right.  Apparently, this is a drinking station, possibly from a local spring.  Minnie has biked out to a scenic spot and stopped for refreshment.  The box on her handlebar may be a picnic lunch or her own box camera.  Perhaps, she will be the photographer of her companion taking the next drink.  All we know for sure is she has nothing to worry about from local cannibals.

If you have a favorite photo as deserving of A Closer Look as Minnie Avery and her bicycle, please let us know.  Send your Closer Look or a link to your photo to outreach@digitalcommonwealth.org.

End the debt! Decolonize! Liberate Puerto Rico! Scroll
End the debt! Decolonize! Liberate Puerto Rico! Scroll from AgitArte’s Collaborations

This month we welcome AgitArte, an organization of working class artists and cultural organizers, who added the scroll, one of their community art projects, at left.  Almost unbelievably, the Medford Historical Society & Museum has added several hundred more Civil War photos and the Chicopee Public Library has allowed the harvest of two more collections.

As last month, I want to highlight one of Digital Commonwealth’s mainstays, the Boston Public Library.  The Press Photography from the Brearley Collection has grown exponentially.  The 1,222 items added this month nearly double the size of the collection.  The BPL also added a new collection of 394 items, the Edmund Blampied (1886-1966) Prints and Drawings collection, which includes the exquisite crayon drawing, Beach Scene (10) below.

Agitating for the community or a virtual beach visit may warm you up this December.  Happy holidays to all!

Beach scene (10)
Beach scene (10) from BPL’s Edmund Blampied (1886-1966). Prints and Drawings

AgitArte
Collaborations – 1 item

Boston Public Library
Edmund Blampied (1886-1966). Prints and Drawings – 394 items
Press Photography from the Brearley Collection – 1,222 items added to an existing collection

Chicopee Public Library
2 new collections, 710 new items harvested

The Medford Historical Society & Museum
The Medford Historical Society Civil War Photograph Collection – 851 items added to an existing collection

 

Sandwich High School, class of 1940
Sandwich High School, class of 1940 from the Sandwich Town Archives

Sometimes when I write these blog entries, I mention in passing that, ho-hum, the Boston Public Library or UMass/Amherst have added – again – to their extensive holdings.  I like to shine the spotlight on the little guy, like Northfield Mount Hermon or the Sandwich Town Archives.

Then I see this month’s addition by UMass/Amherst of two – count ‘em, two – collections totaling 9,135 items.  Wow.  Words fail me.

In the meantime, even if you didn’t attend Sandwich High School, you should enjoy a look at the class photos from the 1940s-1970s.  (See left.) It is interesting to note the growing population and, always, the change in hairstyles and fashion.  If you follow this blog, you know that I love a good map and the Massachusetts Archives has added more town plans.  The plan of Monson by Aaron Bliss is jarringly colorful.  (See below.)  Once you zoom in, it looks like a town plan.  In the thumbnail, I keep thinking abstract expressionism.  Very Picasso.

Plan of Monson made by Aaron Bliss, dated 1831
Plan of Monson made by Aaron Bliss, dated 1831from the Massachusetts Archives

Boston Public Library
American Masters 1850-1960 – 4 items

Digital Transgender Archive
9 collections – 2391 items re-harvested

Massachusetts Archives
Town plans, 1830 – 324 items

Northfield Mount Hermon
The Hermonite (1888-1969) – 38 items

Sandwich Town Archives
Sandwich Town Archives Historical Photograph Collection – 33 items

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library
6 collections – 501 items

University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries Special Collections and University Archives
2 collections – 9,135 items re-harvested

 

Written by Anne Berard, Reference& Outreach Librarian, Milford Town Library

Trade card for Hunt's Remedy, the great kidney & liver medicine
Hunt’s Remedy, the great kidney & liver medicine, William E. Clarke, proprietor, Providence, Rhode Island, undated from Historic New England’s EP001: Ephemera collection
Malt Bitters - the purest and best medicine in the world for nourishing and strengthening and for overcoming dyspepsia, debility and wasting diseases. The house that Jack built
Malt Bitters – the purest and best medicine in the world for nourishing and strengthening and for overcoming dyspepsia, debility and wasting diseases. The house that Jack built. from Boston Public Library’s 19th Century American Trade Card
Ayer's Sarsaparilla, Dr. J.C. Ayer & Company, Lowell, Mass.
Trade card for Ayer’s Sarsaparilla, Dr. J.C. Ayer & Company, Lowell, Mass. from Historic New England’s EP001: Ephemera collection

While the earliest advertising cards first circulated in London, Lyon and Paris in the late 17th century, advances in color lithography and printing in the 19th century made them easier to produce and more ubiquitous. Everything from soap, thread, perfume, hats, shoes, coffee, candy and more were marketed in these stylized cards.  Digital Commonwealth has more than 3700 unique images in its collection. Some of the most entertaining and possibly alarming, cards were for tonics and health remedies that might belong in the annals of medical quackery. Blood-purifying agents were all the rage.

Hunt’s Remedy (above, left) claimed that it was“never known to fail” and cured dropsy (edema), liver, bladder, kidney and urinary problems. It was produced by William E. Clarke of Providence, Rhode Island. The graphics show a shirtless man fighting off the Grim Reaper.

Boasting of health and sunny hours, an Ayers Sarsaparilla (above, center) card from 1902 featured a lovely woman in Victorian dress holding a tot on her shoulder. Dr. J.C. Ayers operated in Lowell, MA. Sarsaparilla root is still used today in some herbal medicines to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Touting itself as the “purest and best medicine in the world” for overcoming dyspepsia, debility, and wasting diseases was Malt Bitters of Boston, MA.  (above, right) Their detailed card also promised “stimulation without intoxication.”  Playing off the theme of the House that Jack Built, the card has charming artwork, attractive lettering and tells a complete story.

In time, radio ads were a more modern means to reach a larger audience and trade cards fell out of fashion. Larger companies still produced catalogs and smaller enterprises converted to smaller business cards and matchbooks.

To see the complete collection of 19th Century American Trade Cards, begin here.

Cocoanut Grove Entrance
Cocoanut Grove Entrance, from the Brearley Collection

This month’s total items added is 6,077. That includes a couple of substantial collections: The Boston Public Library’s Press Photography from the Brearley Collection at 1,138 items and the Historical Society of Old Newbury’s Snow Historical Photograph Collection at 1,279 items.

Dennis Brearley collected the works of Boston photojournalists from the 1920s-1970s.  A representative photo is the Cocoanut Grove entrance photo. (Left)  What’s been added from the Snow Historical Photograph Collection is only a fraction of what the Historical Society holds.  The Moulton Castle photo (Below right) is one to whet our appetite for more.

Digital Commonwealth also has re-harvested over 1,700 items from the City of Boston Archives, but sometimes the smaller collections contain gems, too.  The Thayer Memorial Library added a history of Lancaster and the Milford Town Library added 200 photos from the Paul E. Curran Historical Collection, including one of the largest piece of granite ever quarried in Milford. (Below center)) That’s a big rock.

Boston Public Library

Moulton Castle, Newburyport
Moulton Castle, Newburyport, from the The Snow Photograph Collection


Childe Hassam (1859-1935). Prints and Drawings  – 97 items
English Caricature and Political Satire, 18th and 19th Centuries – 97 items added to existing collection
James Gillray (1756-1815). Prints and Drawings – 164 items
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 672 items added to existing collection
Press Photography from the Brearley Collection – 1,138 items
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827). Prints and Drawings – 641 items

City of Boston Archives

7 collections – 1,785 items re-harvested

Historical Society of Old Newbury

Snow Historical Photograph Collection – 1,279 items

Milford Town Library

Paul E. Curran Historical Collection – 200 items

Thayer Memorial Library 

Lancaster, Massachusetts. History 1643-1879 – 4 items

Largest piece of granite from Milford, MA
Largest piece of granite from Milford, MA, from Paul E Curran Historical Collection

 

by Mary Bell, Assistant Director
Wilbraham Public Library

Pageant at Glendale, 150th anniversary of Wilbraham
Pageant at Glendale, 150th anniversary of Wilbraham from the Glendale Collection

This unassuming photograph of a couple in a horse-drawn carriage and two men standing outside is the best proof I have of Wilbraham’s involvement in the Underground Railroad.

Handwriting on the photograph describes this scene as part of a pageant during Wilbraham’s 150th anniversary in 1913, and identifies the couple in the carriage as Elsie Farr and C.E. Edson. The Springfield Union, Friday evening edition of June 20, 1913, describes the celebration in the language of the day as follows: “The children sang ‘The Prison Cell’ and as they were closing, the audience was surprised to see coming down the hill, pursued by men, old-time slaves, who, just as they were about to be seized by their masters, were rescued by Glendale people and borne away to safety. This was intended to typify just such scenes as occurred in the North 60 years ago when Glendale was a famous underground railroad station.” Elsie and C.E. were playing Lucia and John Calkins, abolitionists who – rumor has it – were early conductors on the railroad.

The photograph was taken on June 20, 1913, the third day of the Sesquicentennial celebration of Wilbraham’s incorporation. The bulk of the day’s events was the unveiling of a boulder at Glendale Cemetery honoring the town’s veterans, especially American Civil War veterans who were present at the ceremony. The photograph is fascinating as a celebratory moment in time – and what would have been considered an acceptable pageant a century ago – in addition to a hint of the past.

In the Civil War period, the Glendale section of Wilbraham would have included what are now two towns, Wilbraham and Hampden. The people of Glendale established a Methodist church and an abolitionist movement, which included a few neighborhood families – notably the Ames and Calkins families – who are said by local historians to have been conductors on the Underground Railroad. When this photograph was taken sixty years after the fact, several people were still around who could have contradicted the story of John and Lucia Calkins as told in the pageant but did not. While the evidence is circumstantial at best and may not convince the skeptic, this photograph reveals an early story in Wilbraham history about involvement in the Underground Railroad.

by Mary Bell, Assistant Director
Wilbraham Public Library

Allyn Delos Seaver and Cassius Benedict
A. Delos Seaver and Cassius Benedict from the Glendale Collection

The Glendale Collection is a treasure-trove of local history and genealogy, and is the newest in the Wilbraham Public Library’s collections in the Digital Commonwealth.

The collection was in an unlabeled box of miscellaneous photographs found among our uncatalogued collections. We gave it the name Glendale Collection because several of the people and places featured were from that section of town, up the mountain on Glendale and Monson roads.

Genealogists especially would be interested in the portrait photographs of families that lived in that area. Seavers, Bennetts and Benedicts are among those featured. This one of Allyn Delos Seaver and his brother-in-law Cassius Benedict is one of the oldest in our collection, as Cassius died in 1872. They were both trustees of Glendale Methodist Church. In addition to the men’s dapper dress, I love the detail of the patterned floor they’re standing on.

Glendale Memorial Boulder dedication
Glendale Memorial Boulder dedication from the Glendale Collection

Most of the photographs in the collection are from the early 1900s. Several feature the ceremony on June 20, 1913, unveiling a memorial boulder for Wilbraham veterans at Glendale Cemetery, an event that served as the third day of festivities during Wilbraham’s 150th celebration. Though unnamed, the men in this photograph were veterans of the Civil War, and were honored in the ceremonies that day.

These are just a few highlights that can be found in these and other photographs in Wilbraham’s local history collection. We only digitized photographs we were reasonably sure were in the public domain, so if you’re interested in seeing more come to the Wilbraham Library during our regular hours and we’d be happy to give you access to the full collection.

Broadway in Lawrence sewer map
Broadway, from Lawrence, Mass. Engineering Dept. City Sewers

It’s the quirky collections that will delight you if you give them a chance.  Not that there isn’t incredible value in six collections added by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Canton Public Library’s Canton Historical Commission Photos or the Boston Public Library’s Thaxter/Fields correspondence.  Some people will be so pleased yet more nautical charts have been added by the Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society or yet more Sacco-Vanzetti materials – this time from the Harvard Law School Library.

For my money, though, there’s a certain fascination with the Lawrence Public Library’s 724 items from that city’s Engineering Department on city sewers.  It sounds ridiculous and then you look at them.  They’re maps of the sewer system.  (See left.) You get to see the city’s streets at a micro level.  They even show where the manholes [sic] are!  They’re hand drawn with lovely, legible script.  There are notes on why the sewer was laid on this street, at this elevation.  What a wealth of detail.  File it under things you never knew you wanted to know.

Now, I don’t want to leave you down in the dumps, so let’s welcome the South Hadley Public Library to the Digital Commonwealth by highlighting their two new collections: Canal Park Committee Collection and Scott Family Photographs.  While the latter is a pretty traditional, but still wonderful collection of 19th century photos, the former is a collection of slides the Canal Park Committee used for talks on the history of the Canal and related sites and institutions.  The images cover a range of historical eras and subjects.  In addition to locks and gates, power plants and buildings, there are some lovely landscapes.  Let us leave the industrial behind and spend a few moments with nature. Ah, the flowering crab – much more attractive than its name suggests. (See below.)

Atwood House Museum of the Chatham Historical Society
Nautical Chart Collection of the Chatham Historical Society – 39 items added to existing collection

Boston Public Library
Celia Thaxter correspondence with Annie Fields, 1869-1893 – 289 items

Canton Public Library
Canton Historical Commission Photos of Canton – 170 items

Harvard Law School Library
Sacco-Vanzetti Collections – Harvard Law School Library – 80 items added to existing collection

Flowering crab along canal
Flowering crab, from Canal Park Committee Records

Lawrence Public Library
Engineering Department. City Sewers – 724 items

Malden Public Library
Local History Digital Collection – 2 items

New England Historic Genealogical Society
6 collections – 469 items harvested

South Hadley Public Library
Canal Park Committee Collection – 295 items
Scott Family Photographs – 86 items

Two small birds on a bough
Two Small Birds on a Bough Stow Wengenroth (1906-1978). Prints and Drawings

Although summer slips away too quickly for some of us, those of us who wilt in the heat and humidity are happy to see the end of July.  If you’re not, don’t fret.  August is promising more of the same.

The Boston Public Library was busy this month, adding to the Leslie Jones Collection as well as adding over 100 items of Thomas Wentworth Higginson Correspondence.  Fans of the 2013 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Anders Zorn exhibit will be happy to see the BPL’s Zorn etchings.  Allow me to draw your attention to the Stow Wengenroth Prints and Drawings, though.  The exquisite Two Small Birds on a Bough (left) is from this collection, which includes other bird drawings and some lovely Maine scenes.

Medford Historical Society & Museum has added significantly to its already impressive Civil War Photograph Collection.  The Lawrence Public Library has also added more photographs plus a new collection of World War I-related items.  The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library began the harvesting season early with 64 new items to their collections.

The heavy hitters this month are the Massachusetts Historical Society (4,161) and Springfield College Archives and Special Collections (5,181), who re-harvested 4 new collections.  I’m not sure that the Arthur and Madeline Slicer Turnvereine Stein Collection is one of the newly-harvested collections, but I offer the jovial barrel-shaped character stein image below because we all need a cool drink of something during the dog days of August.

Boston Public Library
Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Etchings and Other Works – 204 items
Leslie Jones Collection – 6 items added to existing collection
Stow Wengenroth (1906-1978). Prints and Drawings – 372 items
Thomas Wentworth Higginson Correspondence – 156 items

A barrel shaped character stein
A barrel shaped character stein A. and M. Slicer Turnvereine Stein Collection

Lawrence Public Library
Art Work of Lawrence and Vicinity Photograph Collection – 64 items added to existing collection
James Regan – 9 items

Massachusetts Historical Society
 1 new collection – 4,161 new items re-harvested

Medford Historical Society & Museum
Medford Historical Society Civil War Photograph Collection – 826 items added to existing collection

Springfield College Archives and Special Collections
3 new collections – 5,181 new items re-harvested

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Library
64 new items re-harvested