1881 Lawrence High School football team
1881 Lawrence High School football team from Lawrence Public Library


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…





Boston College

1 new collection; 84 new items re-harvested

Boston Public Library

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Prints and Drawings – 9 items added to existing collection
Press Photography from the Brearley Collection – 753 items added to existing collection
Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee – 1873 items added to existing collection

Lawrence Public Library

A.W. Stearns – 1 item
Americanization Poster – 1 item
Antebellum Citations – 5 items
Civil War Women, Summer Institute 2008 – 3 items
Donovan Park – 1 item
Franklin Associates – 22 items
Lawrence High School Athletic Department – 132 items
Lawrence High School Classes – 2 items
Lawrence State Armory – 1 item
Lawrence, Mass. Board of Health, Records – 10 items
Lawrence, Mass. Engineering Department – 7 items
Lawrence, Mass. Flood of 1936 – 76 items
Lawrence, Mass. Glass Plate Negatives – 14 items
Lawrence, Mass. Textile Strike of 1912 – 13 items
Leonard Bernstein Poster – 2 items
Massachusetts Mayors’ Club – 1 item
New Deal Seminar, April 2008 – 3 items
Religion in Massachusetts Seminar, May 2008 – 12 items
Revolutionary War, Summer Institute 2008 – 1 item
Schenk Family – 1 item
Southern Slavery Seminar, November 2008 – 7 items

Taunton Post Office
Taunton Post Office from Taunton Public Library A.L. Ward Photographs


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 grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world
The grand panorama of a whaling voyage ‘round the world from the New Bedford Whaling Museum

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.                                                                                                       

Boston Public Library
John Copley (1875-1950). Lithographs – 297 items
Rocco Paoletta Collection – 480 items

Harvard Law School Library
Sacco-Vanzetti Collections – 468 items added to existing collection

Medford Historical Society & Museum
The Medford Historical Society Civil War Photograph Collection – 273 items added to existing collection

New Bedford Whaling Museum
New Bedford Whaling Museum Panoramas – 1 item

Sharon Public Library
Sharon Public Library Image Collection – 146 items added to existing collection
Sharon Public Library Map Collection – 5 items

University of Massachusetts Lowell Libraries
No new items, re-harvested to add new URLs

Wayland Town Clerk
Wayland Massachusetts Historical Town Records – 24 items

Greetings from Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Greetings from Lebanon, Penna. from BPL Tichnor Brothers Collection

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.



Bagpipe Performance 1988
Bagpipe Performance 1988 from Gebbie Archives Image Collection


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.


Boston Public Library
American Artists – 23 items added to existing collection
Frank W. Benson (1862-1951). Prints and Drawings – 677 items
Joseph Pennell (1857-1926). Prints and Drawings – 529 items

Harvard Forest Archives
The Harvard Forest Map Collection – 648 items

Holyoke Community College
Frank N. Fowler Postcard Collection – 24 items

Wheaton College
Marion B. Gebbie Archives Image Collection – 1,230 items harvested

Harper's for April
Harper’s for April
The modern poster
The modern poster
Arabella and Araminta stories
Arabella and Araminta stories
Harper's weekly, Christmas
Harper’s weekly, Christmas













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.


Frank Lewis with baleen bundles
Frank Lewis with baleen bundles from New Bedford Free Public Library


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.






Bass River Windmill
Bass River Windmill from Cape Cod Community College


Boston Public Library
Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection
869 items added to existing collection

Cape Cod Community College
Barnstable Patriot Photograph Collection, 1931-1978 – 624 items

Coast Guard Heritage Museum
Coast Guard Heritage Museum General Collection – 20 items
Dalton Collection – 3 items

Holyoke Public Library
Milan P. Warner Photograph Collection – 339 items added to existing collection

New Bedford Free Public Library
Photograph Collection – 84 items added to existing collection
Rotogravure Collection – 433 items added to existing collection
Earle D. Wilson Collection – 337 items
Joseph G. Tirrell Photograph Collection – 99 items
Gilbert D. Kingman Photograph Collection – 54 items
Oliveira Photograph Collection – 37 items

Truro Historical Society
Truro Massachusetts U.S. Coast Guard and Life Saving Service Collection – 4 items added to existing collection

Leslie Jones with camera in tarp at Fenway
Leslie Jones with Graflex in tarp at Fenway Leslie Jones Collection, BPL

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.

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.