The Perkins School for the Blind Archives recently added four new collections to the Digital Commonwealth Repository. These collections are important primary resources including photographs of Helen Keller, from childhood through adulthood, correspondence from Anne Sullivan (including her first letter describing her arrival in Tuscumbia, AL when she first met Helen Keller), and a look at deafblind education from the perspective of another Perkins student, Carmela Otero, whose life remained out of the public eye as Keller’s was.
Some notable items include:
A letter from Perkins Director Michael Anagnos to Arthur Keller, Helen Keller’s father, recommending Anne Sullivan as teacher for Helen
It’s summer, which means it’s time for fun! There are many pictures in the Digital Commonwealth showing how people celebrated summer in Massachusetts in the past. Amusement parks were popular with people of all ages, offering rides and attractions from the Merry-Go-Round for the young and faint of heart to the Roller Coaster for the brave, and Massachusetts had several amusement parks in different parts of the state, often located or or near the waterfront.
“Amusement Center, Salisbury Beach, Mass.”
Salisbury Beach developed a thriving entertainment center in the early 20th century, with hotels, a carousel and roller coasters as well as the Dodgem (bumper car) ride seen in this postcard. The amusement business declined after the 1960s, and the last roller coaster was pulled down in 1976.
One hundred years ago, Booker T. Washington, the African-American educator, author, orator, and adviser to presidents of the United States, spoke at the Fiftieth Anniversary Commencement of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Washington delivered an address on the transformation which had occurred since 1865, when the passage of the 13th Amendment ended slavery.
Booker T. Washington was born into slavery in Virginia in 1856. After his family was freed in 1865 they moved to West Virginia, where, at the age of nine, the young Washington went to work in a salt factory. Eventually he worked his way through Hampton Institute, one of the first all-black schools in America, and he began teaching. In 1881 he became the head the new Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama, an institution that had a commitment to combining academic subjects with vocational training. Washington’s 1901 autobiography, “Up from Slavery,” became a bestselling and influential book. However, during the first decade of the 1900’s, many African American leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois rejected Washington’s emphasis on vocational education and economic development in favor of classical education and political action.
Just a few month’s after his appearance in Worcester, Booker T. Washington collapsed in New York and was taken back to Tuskegee, where he died on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday sometimes known as the Festival of Lights. It’s an eight day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. This year, Hanukkah is observed from sunset December 16th to nightfall December 24th.
The Digital Commonwealth includes photographs of a Brookline family celebrating Hanukkah in 1971 taken by photographer Spencer Grant and included in the Spencer Grant Collection of the Boston Public Library.
On December 9, 1884, Levant M. Richardson was issued a patent for the use of steel ball bearings in skate wheels, reducing friction and increasing speed, ushering in the modern age of roller skating. This photograph by Leslie Jones shows three children roller skating on Boston Common circa 1939.
The general route we now know as the Mohawk Trail was once a rough footpath used by the Wampanoags, Nipmucs, Mahicans, Mohawks and Pocumtucks for hunting and trading. Early European settlers used this path as a travel route between Boston and Albany, and as a military route during the French and Indian Wars and the Revolution. In 1814, it became a stagecoach route when service began between Greenfield and Troy, New York.
But the ancient footpath received its name and fame one hundred years ago, in October, 1914, when the Mohawk Trail was dedicated and designated as a scenic highway by the Massachusetts General Court. The road had been engineered and graded for automobile travel at a time when the automobile was becoming an affordable means of transportation. It was unpaved and only 15 feet wide, still an adventurous journey for the early automobile tourist, but gas stations, restaurants, guest houses and souvenir shops soon opened to provide services to the new auto tourists, and the route became famous for its scenic beauty. Continue reading →
On the afternoon of September 21, 1938, a Category 3 hurricane struck Long Island and southern New England with little warning, causing over 600 deaths, and great damage to property and the environment. Winds of 121 mph, with gusts close to 200 mph, were recorded at the Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, but it was the flooding that caused the most damage. All along the coast, boats sank or were tossed ashore — even “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, was ripped from its moorings in Boston Navy Yard. According to a WPA report, the New Bedford Yacht Club “was plucked bodily from its foundation and scattered in broken wreckage on the surface of the New Bedford-Fairhaven bridge.” There was also water damage inland — in Southbridge, for example, a dam burst and “the flood crashed down upon the town’s center, ripping up roads, tearing bridges.” Continue reading →
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a national holiday honoring the contributions workers have made to the prosperity and well-being of the country. The first Labor Day observance was organized by the Central Labor Union in New York in 1882, with an estimated 20,000 workers marching in support of labor law reforms including the eight-hour work day. Labor organizations in other cites held similar events the following year, and a handful of states made Labor Day an official state holiday, including Massachusetts in 1888. Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894.
This year the Digital Commonwealth has been celebrating Labor Day by posting photographs of Massachusetts workers on the Digital Commonwealth Facebook Page. These images include cranberry pickers, bakers, construction workers, clerical workers and more from around the Commonwealth, and you’ll find many more photographs of workers in the Digital Commonwealth collections. Continue reading →