Frozen  fountain on the Common, from the Stereo Slide Collection of the Lawrence Public Library
Frozen fountain on the Common from the Stereo Slide Collection of the Lawrence Public Library

Admit it.  You took it easy last month.  After exams or while planning office parties, you let some things slide.  The digitization team working on the Lawrence Public Library collections added twenty three collections in December: 23.  No slackers there.  Take the Stereo Slide Collection for example.  It contains 108 items, including the Frozen Fountain on the Common slide (Left).  Is it too soon after our own deep freeze to appreciate this icy monument?

Maybe you would find the variety of the Hamilton Historical Society’s collection of photos of parades, historic houses, town celebrations and prominent citizens cozier.  For Civil War students, we have letters from the Jubb brothers courtesy of the J. V. Fletcher Library in Westford.  As always, we have maps.  December saw the Leventhal Map Center add yet more to their collection while the Wilbraham Library’s Maps Collection included the Hampden and Hampshire highway map below.

Boston Public Library

Norman B. Leventhal Map Center Collection – 233 items added to existing collection

Hamilton Historical Society

Hamilton Historical Society Collection – 2,408 items

 J. V. Fletcher Library

Jubb Brothers Civil War Letters – 83 items

Lawrence Public Library

Advertisements – 10 items
Aerial Photograph – 1 item
Arlington Mills – 8 items
Art Work of Lawrence and Vicinity Photograph Collection – 19 items
Boston Bridge Works – 8 items
David Burke – 1 item
Forrest C. Hinckley Photograph Collection – 11 items
Gary Keating – 1 item
George H. Farrell Photograph – 1 item

Highway map, Hampden and Hampshire counties, Mass. from the Wilbraham Library Maps Collection
Highway map, Hampden and Hampshire counties, Mass. from the Wilbraham Library Maps Collection

John Deacy Photograph – 1 item
John J. Murphy – 1 item
John McCann Photograph Collection – 5 items
Kenneth Kerwin Photographs – 2 items
Lawrence City Mission – 1 item
Lawrence, Mass. School Committee – 1 item
Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States – 1 item
Massachusetts Legislature 1888 25th Anniversary Reunion – 1 item
Massachusetts National Guard – 1 item
Ora Beal Photographs – 3 items
Rendle Homestead – 1 item
St. Patrick’s School Class of 1931 – 1 item
Stereo Slide Collection – 108 items
United Textile Workers of America, Local 1113, Arlington Mills – 16 items

Wilbraham Public Library

Wilbraham Library Maps Collection – 21 items

USS Constitution Museum

War of 1812 Collection – 87 items added to existing collection

This post was written by Mary Bell, Adult Services Librarian at Wilbraham Public Library.

Maybe it’s because I’m interested in family history and genealogy, but my favorite photographs in Wilbraham Library’s local history collection are of people. Knowing about people, seeing their faces and learning their stories, can make history’s potentially dry dates and facts come alive.

"James and Hannah Bennett ," 1910-1916, from Wilbraham Public Library.
“James and Hannah Bennett,” from Wilbraham Public Library.

Take, for instance, this photograph of James Addison and Hannah (Butler) Bennett. The Bennett family was one of the earliest families in the Town of Wilbraham, moving in sometime before 1790 when their son Ralph was born here in town. As a side note, I have many photographs relating to this branch of the family that would be a treasure trove for any genealogist. But this particular picture of James Bennett and Hannah Butler is full of character. There’s the old-fashioned stove, a “Riverside Park” sign and this older couple staring stoically at the photographer. Riverside was the name of the amusement park in Agawam, Massachusetts before Six Flags purchased it, and would have been operative at the time of this photograph. I have to wonder if this couple or their children were the enthusiasts. James died in 1919, and the calendar on the wall is dated December 1916, so I know the date it was taken within a few years as well.

"Mrs. Dewitt Mowry," from Wilbraham Public Library
“Mrs. Dewitt Mowry,” from Wilbraham Public Library

One of my other favorites is this photograph simply labeled “Mrs. DeWitt Mowry.” With a little help from the person who donated the photographic collection and some research on Ancestry Library Edition, I was able to identify the woman – whom I affectionately think of as the knitting lady – as Sarah Emiline “Emma” Collins. She was born in Wilbraham in 1856, married DeWitt Mowry, and had three children. Her son Harold died of typhoid in 1906 at the age of 19, and her daughters grew up and stayed close by after they married. By 1912, Emma was a widow. She was a contemporary of the Bennetts, and a photo of the family tombstone in the local cemetery indicates she died in 1922, so this photograph was most likely taken around the same time as that of James and Hannah. But her whole countenance could not be more different, smiling when many people were straight-faced for cameras and just exuding joy. Don’t you want to sit down with her and have a cup of tea and a conversation?

History fascinates me: not the bare bones facts, but the people who lived it. Here are three individuals who lived and died in Wilbraham, raising a family, and living through the first World War. Seeing their faces and getting a taste for their personalities bring that history to life. These are some of the people who lived in my hometown 100 years ago. What else – who else – might you discover in our history collection? I can’t wait to find out!

This September, Digital Commonwealth added many new collections that you can now search for on the website! These collections consist of many type of materials including photographs, personal paper, maps, and even a scrapbook! Make sure you check them out!

Page from Westborough World War II memorial scrapbook" [ca. 1940-1976]. From the Westborough Public Library.
Page from Westborough World War II memorial scrapbook” [ca. 1940-1976]. From the Westborough Public Library.

Harvest Forest Archives

Harvard Forest Martha’s Vineyard Collection – 457 items added to an existing collection

Lawrence Public Library

Lawrence Public Library Map Collection – 15 items

Lincoln Public Library

Joshua Child Collection – 56 items

Wilbraham Public Library

Stella Greene Farr Collection – 19 items

Westborough Public Library

Records of the State Reform School [Lyman School], 1847-1959 – 1 item

World War II Memorial Scrapbook, 1942-1948 – 1 item

Westborough Map Collection – 2 items