April was a dark and gloomy month weather-wise. Maybe that accounts for there only being three contributors this month. The Boston Public Library added 1873 items to the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee collection, bringing that collection up to over 5,000 items. Boston College re-harvested over 80 items. Lawrence Public Library contributed many small collections and one large one. The latter is the Lawrence High School Athletic Department collection of over 130 team photographs. You can see a very solemn 1881 football team on the left. Maybe it’s because they appear to have been forced to pose in their long underwear and watch caps. And that football looks more like a basketball. How things have changed…
Earlier this month, the Taunton Daily Gazette began a new, occasional series called Taunton: Then and Now. The Gazette is providing all the Now photos, but the Then photos come courtesy of Digital Commonwealth. I leave it up to you to decide if the no difference public library photos are more remarkable than the totally different post office buildings.
If you’ve been taking photos of your home town, try to find some Then photos of your town on Digital Commonwealth to match your Now photos. Don’t let Taunton have all the fun.
The best, totally unique item added to the Digital Commonwealth in March was the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world. The section above does not do it justice. The full panorama is divided into four sections. To get the full affect, you need to click on each section and then click on the image again to enlarge and use your cursor to travel the entire panorama. Believe me, the effort is worth it. It’s easy to understand why it was a popular exhibition when it toured the country from 1849-1851.
But, if whaling voyages aren’t your thing, there are more of those wonderful Medford Historical Society & Museum Civil War photos, pre-presidential photos of John F. Kennedy from the Rocco Paoletta Collection at the Boston Public Library, photos and maps from the Sharon Public Library and historical town records from the Wayland Town Clerk. As always, a little something for every taste.
LebTown, an independent media organization in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, has discovered Digital Commonwealth – big time! In a posting entitled, Wish You Were Here: Lebanon County postcards of decades past, LebTown uses over 20 postcards from the Boston Public Library’s Tichnor Brothers Collection. This collection includes approximately 25,000 office proof postcards from across the United States. LebTown, naturally, has extracted many postcards of interest to residents of Lebanon County. They advise any viewers to go to “Massachusetts Digital Commonwealth” for postcards for the rest of Pennsylvania and “other states”.
If you need a little inspiration for planning your vacation this summer, Tichnor Brothers concentrated on views of vacation spots. Take a look at California, the Grand Canyon, or Vacationland itself, Maine.
In February, the Boston Public Library was in an artistic frame of mind, adding to the American Artists collection as well as adding two new collections: Frank W. Benson (1862-1951) Prints and Drawings and Joseph Pennell (1857-1926) Prints and Drawings.
If you’re not in an artistic mood, the Harvard Forest Archives has added hundreds of maps. Holyoke Community College has uploaded the Frank N. Fowler Postcard Collection. The largest addition this month was the harvest of 1,230 items from Wheaton College’s Marion B. Gebbie Archives Image Collection, including the bagpipers at left.
Parade season is right around the corner. Time to get your kilts from the dry cleaners.
American companies took notice when French art posters became extremely popular in the 1880’s. A new lithography process had made economical printing of large editions of posters possible. American companies commissioned prominent illustrators like Edward Penfield, Will Bradley, Ethel Reed and Maxfield Parrish to create posters. There is no denying the purpose of the posters was to advertise performances, exhibits, magazines, books and other products to a growing middle class. If it also brought art to everyday life, so much the better. And so the American Art Poster entered its golden age, 1890-1920.
Edward Penfield’s poster advertising the April 1893 Harper’s magazine (above, far left) is generally credited as starting an American poster revolution. Unlike previous American posters, this one advertised intellectual – not commercial – product. It also was much more restrained and simpler than the French posters of the time. Penfield included his monogram on this poster. Later, Penfield and the other illustrators would sign their full names and printers would add their company names. Penfield’s posters also set the precedent of doubling as magazine (or book) covers.
Will Bradley’s beautiful Art Nouveau peacock (above, center left) is a change from his frequent depictions of women in windblown gowns. However, it demonstrates the color intensity and textural effects possible with the new lithographic process. This image also demonstrates the influence of Japanese block printing on the Boston-born Bradley.
The always fascinating Ethel Reed was born in Newburyport, studied art in Boston and became a leading poster artist before leaving for London. While still in Boston, she did illustrations for the local newspapers and a guide to Boston as well as book covers, like the Arabella and Araminta stories. (above, center right)
Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak painting would go on to become the most popular art print of the 20th century. In contrast to the saturated colors of his paintings, Parrish started out with black and white commercial art. Some of those ads and Harper’s Weekly covers are here. The charmingly domestic Harper’s Weekly Christmas cover (above, far right) includes a color background for its black and white image.
With over 500 images, the Boston Public Library’s American Art Posters 1890-1920 is a collection you can visit and revisit, discovering new favorites each time.
January was a busy month for Digital Commonwealth, in no small part due to the New Bedford Public Library adding 4 new collections and substantially increasing two existing collections. All six include photographs that depict New Bedford’s varied history. The photo of Frank Lewis with baleen bundles (left) from the Earl D. Wilson Collection Photographs speaks to New Bedford’s whaling history.
Another substantial collection is the Barnstable Patriot Photograph Collection from Cape Cod Community College. This collection spans nearly 50 years of Barnstable and nearby Cape towns. The charming windmill (below) is one of many Cape views you can find in this collection.
The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA) headlined its A GOOD AGE column on January 21, 2019, “Discovering a 20th Century Boston ‘camera man’“. The ‘camera man’ is Leslie Ronald Jones of Digital Commonwealth’s extremely popular Leslie Jones Collection from the Boston Public Library. The Patriot Ledger highlights photos of interest to their readership, like shipbuilding in Quincy. But even they could not resist one of Jones’ more humorous Fenway Park photos – Jones himself with camera emerging from a tarp rolled up on the field. There really wasn’t anyplace he wouldn’t go for a good photo!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.