Receipt to Thomas Aspinwall for money paid for soldiersGuest Post by Anne Clark, Brookline Public Library

In 2015 the Brookline Public Library was able to have their manuscript collection digitized thanks to generosity of the Boston Public Library. Over 400 pages have now been added to the Digital Commonwealth website!

The Manuscript Collection consists of collections of papers related to the town of Brookline, including family papers, letters, deeds, wills, account books, political and military history, church and school documents and various miscellaneous articles.

murivianIn addition, The Murivian (short for Muddy River Annual), the Brookline High School Yearbook (1923-2014) was digitized and is available on the Internet Archive. The yearbooks look wonderful and we couldn’t be more thrilled. This was a project that was a long time coming, and well worth the wait!

What’s next? We hope to have our map collection and the Brookline High School newspaper (The Sagamore) join the yearbooks, photographs and manuscripts in digital form!

Here are two photographs from the Digital Commonwealth of special Christmas dinners for people who would not be home for Christmas.

This 1921 photograph by news photographer Leslie Jones and shows Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan loading his Christmas dinner onto the ship Bowdoin before sailing for the frozen North. It’s from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library.


This 1969 photograph of the Apollo VIII Christmas menu is from the Natick Soldier Systems Center Photographic Collection of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center.10869601_10152461357361722_859047187704865844_o

Collecting Scrap
During World War II, the United States government promoted scrap drives to reduce shortages in basic materials such as metal, rubber and paper. In September, 1942, the War Production Board announced that scrap metal was urgently needed, and promoted a National Scrap Metal Drive in October. For three Saturdays, there were local scrap drives were organized that involved the whole community, including children. The metal that was collected was not all scrap, but often involved personal or community sacrifice, including wrought iron fences that surrounded the Boston Common and the State House.

These scrap drives promoted a sense of patriotism and involvement in the war effort, and according to the War Production Board, the October drive brought in almost eighty-two pounds of scrap per American.

Collecting ScrapCollecting ScrapRemoving bronze plaque for war drive

Photographs from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library.

Philadelphia Phillies player examines his glassesAugust is National Eye Exam Month, which seemed like a good enough reason to go looking through the Digital Commonwealth for pictures of eyeglasses — and there’s a lot to see.

The photo on the left shows Philadelphia Phillies player Morrie Arnovich examines his glasses in front of the dugout at Braves Field. It was taken in 1939 by news photographer Leslie Jones and is from the Leslie Jones Collection of the Boston Public Library. There are some other eyeglass photos in the Leslie Jones Collection, including an undated woman with giant eyeglasses (perhaps from a trade show?), a 1932 photograph of Commandant Finlay, Quincy Yacht club, wearing new type of glasses (which look like a cross between eyeglasses and binoculars, a fish wearing glasses and smoking cigar and a dog playing piano wearing glasses.
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By Molly Stothert-Maurer

Examples of the Tadoma Method of deafblind communication from the Helen Keller and Carmela Otero Collections, Perkins School for the Blind, both ca. 1930. Tadoma is a system of tactile lip-reading where the fingers interpret the movement of the lips, jaw, and vibrations from the vocal chords.
Examples of the Tadoma Method of deafblind communication from the Helen Keller and Carmela Otero Collections, Perkins School for the Blind, both ca. 1930. Tadoma is a system of tactile lip-reading where the fingers interpret the movement of the lips, jaw, and vibrations from the vocal chords.

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

One of the earliest photographs of Helen Keller

A photograph of Anne Sullivan holding a dog while riding a horse in Hollywood

For more information please visit the Perkins School for the Blind Archives homepage:

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.

Here are pictures of some popular Massachusetts amusement parks from the Tichnor Brothers Postcard Collection of the Boston Public Library:

“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.

Amusement Center, Salisbury Beach, Mass.
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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 at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration of Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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.

Booker T. Washington walking in the academic procession at the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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.

Lensen family lights Hanukkah candles
Lensen family lights Hanukkah candles
Jewish boys light Hanukkah candles
Jewish boys light Hanukkah candles
Lensen family eats Hanukkah dinner, Brookline
Lensen family eats Hanukkah dinner
Jewish boys play with dreidel, Brookline
Jewish boys play with dreidel


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.

Greetings from Mohawk TrailThe 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.
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