An Elegant Address: Henry Knox and the Tontine Crescent

Henry Knox, 1947.0002
Our Revolutionary Characters exhibit explores the lives of Bostonians by using artifacts from the Society's collections to highlight the daily lives, relationships, and aspirations of colonial subjects as they navigated a city forever changed by the conflict with Britain. Visitors have the opportunity to view notable items made by the likes of Paul Revere and Lydia Hutchinson, and a special document case also allows me to select an item from our archival collection that pertains to some of our Revolutionary Characters. By rotating the documents each month, I have the opportunity to share items associated with a number of Bostonians, from the famous to the lesser known.

MS0119/DC1355
I was recently able to display a document related to Henry Knox (1750-1806). Born and raised in Boston, Knox was a bookseller before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, during which he served as a military officer.  After the war, Knox was appointed the first Secretary of War in George Washington's cabinet.

The document from our collection is a deed from July 27, 1797, in which Knox deeded “a brick tenement situated at the easterly end of the Tontine buildings” to William Tudor for the sum of five dollars. This building was part of the Tontine Crescent, which was designed by architect Charles Bulfinch. Completed in 1794, it comprised 16 units arranged in a crescent shape and was Boston’s first row-house complex.  According to the deed, Knox owned building number one.  The crescent also included a central pavilion, flanked by eight units, that housed the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Boston Library Society. Arch Street, which is still a main thoroughfare in Downtown Crossing, ran through a central archway in the pavilion.

Bulfinch's design was influenced by architecture in England and France, and when it was completed it was praised as an example of modern elegance. The crescent, along with an oval-sized park and four double houses, was referred to as Franklin Place.

Tontine Crescent on Franklin Street, ca. 1853
The Tontine Crescent was demolished in 1858, but a few images from our collection capture what it looked like in the early 1850s.  To see more images, please search our photograph catalog and use "Tontine Crescent" as your search term.

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager


The Exchange: The Bostonian Society's Monthly Newsletter

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By signing up for The Exchange you'll learn about our upcoming events - including a beer tasting and pub quiz! You'll also find out information about our current exhibits - like the Elizabeth Bull wedding dress, an 18th century wedding gown that was recently conserved and is now on display. The Exchange also includes information about our educational programing for students and families.  Click here to read the May edition!

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A letter as old as Boston

John Winthrop (1980.6.2)
For the past month there has been a small and unassuming document on display in our special archival case in Representative's Hall.  Though it doesn't seem like much to examine at first, it is actually one of the most interesting items in our archival collection.  The document is a letter from a father to a son dated September 9, 1630, but what makes it notable is that the father is John Winthrop and the son is John Winthrop, Jr.  Though brief in content, this letter is important because it is one of the oldest items in our collection and includes the signature of a man remembered as a leading figure in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  John Winthrop served four terms as the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and his son John served as governor of the Connecticut Colony from 1657-1658, and from 1659 through his death in 1676.

Letter from John Winthrop to his son (MS0190, 04/14)
In the letter, Winthrop writes to his son asking him to pay Mr. Robert Parke a debt that the elder Winthrop owed. Transcribed in full, the letter reads:

Son John

I pray pay unto ye bearer Mr. Robert Parke or his assignee ye sum of forty one shillings which I owe unto him so I rest


Below the body of text, a column to the left includes a location and date of Charlestowne in N: England, Sept. 9 1630, and to the right is the closing and signature of yr [your] loving father Jo: Winthrop.  A notation at the very bottom of the letter, written in different handwriting, indicates that the bill was paid on January 28. It is especially interesting to note that this letter is dated September 9, 1630 - only two days after John Winthrop announced the founding of the city of Boston on September 7, 1630.  Learn more about the founding of Boston by checking out The Partnership of the Historic Bostons.

John Winthrop signature (MS0190, 02/54)
Our archival collection includes one other example of John Winthrop's signature, but in this instance the original document has been cut so all that remains is the line "Taken upon Oathe the 8th of the 6: mo: 1639.  Before Jo: Winthrop Gov-" The content of this letter remains a mystery, which makes us especially glad that we have a letter in our collection that includes both Winthrop's signature and his message.

According to the Proceedings of The Bostonian Society, Winthrop's letter to his son was donated in 1980 by Mr. and Mrs. William Osgood in commemoration of the 350th anniversary of the founding of Boston. William Osgood was a long-time President of the Bostonian Society, and he and his wife were both life members of the Society.  We continue to be grateful to the Osgood family for this generous donation to our collection.  When this rare and nearly 400 year old document is not on display, it is kept in a special enclosure in dark storage to preserve it for years to come. 

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

A Peek Into Storage

My name is Alli Rico, and I’m a graduate student in Harvard University’s Museum Studies program. Currently, I’m interning at the Bostonian Society where my project is to help Collections Manager Tricia Gilrein document, condition report, photograph, research, and otherwise process a portion of our collection that was, until recently, housed at the Charlestown Navy Yard. In November 2014, the offsite collection was moved from the Navy Yard to a new offsite storage facility that allows us to better access these materials.

More than 20 years ago portions of the museum collections were moved to buildings in the Navy Yard. The National Parks Service provided help in determining preservation measures for certain artifacts, as well as identifying items that would be most useful for interpretation in the museum galleries. They then assisted in moving items that fell outside these criteria to various facilities in Boston. The Bostonian Society continues to assess all the collections for their potential for exhibits and research. As such, it has been a major goal to revisit these artifacts.

Different perspectives have also arisen regarding collections care, for instance: deaccessioning. Deaccessioning artifacts means that the museum will assess our needs against those in Boston’s museum community and heritage sector. Some of these items might better serve the missions of neighboring organizations. We’ve maintained that one of our project goals will be to contribute to our colleague’s goals as well as our own.

A look inside the cornerstone box
Between hands-on observations at the new storage facility and research based on the collections records back at the Old State House, I’ve found some pretty fascinating stuff! We came across a cornerstone box from the old Post Office building, which was given to the Society by the U.S. Sub-Treasury in 1932; it will be brought to the Bostonian Society Archives so that Library and Archives Manager, Elizabeth Roscio, can take a look at it and tell us what’s inside (a future blog post to follow!).

U.S.S. Maine plaque
We also came across quite a few plaques from around the Boston area. One of them is a duplicate of the plaque currently mounted to the anchor at the USS Maine memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. After talking to the cemetery’s Command Historian (they are a military cemetery, after all), we determined that the anchor at the memorial came from the Boston Navy Yard, and so the plaque must have been made here as well and we ended up with a duplicate. It’s a fascinating piece of history and took some detective work to piece together!

Already, we’ve found new homes for several headstones at the Historic Burial Grounds Initiative: a city initiative that deals in conservation and repatriation. A few historic water pipes from Boston’s first water systems were transferred back to the city via its archives where they will inform the study of early Boston infrastructure and public works. While the process will take a while, we are hopeful that by the end of the year, we will be well acquainted with this collection and its interesting and surprising connections to our fine city.

This project will take place over a year, meaning we have plenty of time to become familiar with the collection. Undoubtedly, we’ll find some pretty interesting objects and facts along the way – stay tuned!

By Alli Rico, Collections Intern

Off the bookshelf: a look at a favorite item from the library

April 12-18 is National Library Week! The library at the Bostonian Society was founded in 1881, and since then we have collected, preserved, and made accessible for research a wide range of materials relating to Boston. Highlights of our library collection include sources on Boston and New England history, colonial history and the American Revolution, city directories, and Massachusetts Revolutionary War military records. We actively acquire recent publications, but some of the books in our collection date to the early 1800s.

F73.3.T54 title page
I use our library collection to help researchers on-site and with reference questions that are sent to me. From all of the time that I spend back in the stacks, I've found that I have a few favorite library items. I love our almanacs, many dating to the late 1700s, and I use our run of Boston city directories, dating from 1789 through the 1980s, on a frequent basis. My favorite source in the library, though, is Annie H. Thwing's The Crooked and Narrow Streets of the Town of Boston, 1630 - 1822.

Annie Thwing (1851-1940) was an author and historian. In addition to her research into Boston's streets and built environment, she also wrote a re-telling of the children's book Chicken Little with illustrations by Nelly Littlehale Umbstaetter.  And while I don't use Chicken Little for reference very often, I do often find myself reaching for The Crooked and Narrow Streets. The streets of Boston have changed a good deal over the last 385 years, and I frequently receive reference questions about the history of specific streets, some of which are no longer in existence. Thwing's book is one of my go-to sources for these questions, as it give a history of the street, an idea of its physical location, and information about the individuals who lived in or owned property on the street. This source also helps us to imagine the colonial streets that our Revolutionary Characters would have walked down, and the people they would have encountered along the way.

Spurred on by a desire to know where her ancestors lived, Thwing researched early Boston's streets and inhabitants by using a number of resources, including deeds, probate, church, and town records, and diaries. All of this information was indexed on 125,000 catalog cards, that were later donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society, before they were published as The Crooked and Narrow Streets of Boston. The MHS also has a collection of the Thwing Family Papers.

Celebrate National Library Week by finding some great sources at your local library, or by searching our catalog to find some in our collection!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

From our collection: Phillis Wheatley

1887.0052.000  
March is Women's History Month, and what better way to celebrate than to highlight an item from our collection that pertains to a remarkable woman - Phillis Wheatley. Our library holds a first edition copy of Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, and for the time being, this item is on display as part of our Revolutionary Characters exhibit.

Phillis was about seven or eight years old in 1761 when she was purchased by John Wheatley.  She was named Phillis after the slave ship that brought her from Africa, and was given the Wheatley surname.  Phillis was intended to be a servant for John's wife Susannah, but beginning at a young age, Phillis was tutored by Wheatley's children, Nathaniel and Mary. When she exhibited a literary talent the Wheatley family worked to foster her education by passing domestic duties on to other household slaves, though she was still required to complete light chores. Phillis studied the Bible and subjects like geography and history, but it was her exposure to British literature and classical poets led her to write her own poetry. With the support of the Wheatley family, Phillis became the first African-American female poet to publish a book when Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was published in London in 1773 by Archibald Bell. There are 39 poems in this collection, including "To the University of Cambridge in New England" which is thought to be the first poem she wrote.

PS 866 .W5 1773
The displayed book is currently open to the poem "Ode to Neptune" with a subtitle that it was written during Mrs. W--'s [Wheatley's] voyage to England. The book has been on exhibit for several months, and for preservation purposes, I turn the page occasionally to reduce the risk of light exposure to this 18th century book. Next month, the book will be taken off of display and returned to storage. In its place will go another item from our collection, the matted frontispiece from a different copy of Wheatley's book (pictured above). When the Society received this donation from member James Bugbee in 1887, the frontispiece had already been removed from the book. We feel lucky to have two items affiliated with Wheatley in our collection!

To learn more about Phillis Wheatley, please visit the Poetry Foundation site.

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Oliver Holden and The Winter's Sun

"The Winter's Sun" MS0190, 1/44
Each month, I have the opportunity to select an item from our archival collection to display in Representatives' Hall at the Old State House.  This month, I've chosen to embrace the time of year by selecting a musical score by Oliver Holden titled "The Winter's Sun." This score dates to 1830 and the music and lyrics are handwritten.  Written in December, "The Winter’s Sun" comments on the lack of daylight and the feebleness of the sun's rays, but it ends with a hope of spring, repeating the line “yet know we when it sinks away it rises, it rises on a land of spring.”

Oliver Holden (1765-1844) was born in Shirley, Massachusetts. As a young man, he served as a marine during the Revolutionary War, and afterward settled in Charlestown and helped to rebuild it from damage sustained during the war.  A carpenter and real estate dealer by trade, Holden also served as a town officer and a representative to the Massachusetts State Legislature between 1818 and 1833

Oliver Holden, 1899.0034.001
Though he wore many hats, Holden is best remembered as a Boston clergyman and a prolific composer who specialized in hymns.  Most of his work dates to the late 18th century, but he continued to publish sporadically into the 19th century.  From 1792 to 1807, he taught singing, composed over 245 works, and compiled more than a dozen anthologies.  During George Washington's visit to Boston in 1789, Holden led the chorus in "Ode to Columbia's Favorite Son," which was sung in front of the Old State House. Holden also provided the music for Washington's memorial service in 1800.  A portrait of Holden by Ethan Allen Greenwood (pictured at the left) and his pipe organ and accompanying wooden stool are part of our museum collection. Our archival collection includes manuscript scores and tune-books composed by Holden that date to 1798, 1830, and 1844.  Though the bulk of Holden's music in our collection is of a sacred nature, there are some romantic songs, such as "He's stole my Heart from me" and "What tho' 'tis true I've talk'd of Love."  Of all of these pieces, my favorite is "The Winter's Sun" because I believe it reflects that Bostonians past and present rely on the thought of spring to help get through the cold and dark days of winter.

Boston is blanketed in a layer of snow right now, but we should remember that in just a few short weeks we'll turn the clocks forward to enjoy more sunlight each day - eventually saying goodbye to the winter's sun and welcoming the spring's sun.

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Time Capsule Items on Display! (Part IV)

The last day to view the exhibit of items from our 1901 time capsule is this Sunday, January 31 and this post marks our last examination of the displayed artifacts! If you'd like to read about all of the other items on display, please be sure to check out the previous posts.

S.D. Rogers, courtesy of Heidi Grundhauser
A few items in the time capsule were related to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). The G.A.R. was a fraternal organization for Union veterans of the Civil War. When this time capsule was assembled in 1901 the Civil War was still in recent memory, having ended only 36 years prior. Many of the men who were involved in the restoration of the Old State House may have been veterans themselves, or at least had family members who served. One of these men was Samuel D. Rogers, who included the Roster for Boston Post No. 200, of which he was a member, in the time capsule. Heidi Grundhauser, a descendant of Rogers who first notified us of the possibility of the time capsule in the lion's head, has done research into his Civil War service and she was kind enough to provide us with a picture of him in his Civil War uniform.

The time capsule also included photographs and autographs of many G.A.R. officials, and we choose to display the business card and lapel pin belonging to Edward P. Preble, who served as the Assistant-Adjutant General of the Department of Massachusetts G.A.R. I have not had a chance to do much research into Preble yet, but I have found a letter that was likely written by him during his Civil War service.

Edward Preble G.A.R. lapel pin and business card (front)
(back)
One of the most striking items in the time capsule was the Grand Army Badge, made of captured cannon metal and dating to 1886. This is an official badge of the G.A.R., and includes the seal which shows a handshake between two former adversaries. The badge was wrapped in its original packaging, which listed instructions for use.

G.A.R. Badge packaging
G.A.R. Badge
I hope you have enjoyed learning more about this selection of items from the time capsule. Once the exhibit closes, the items will be moved to our archives where they will be preserved for future generations.

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Time Capsule Items on Display! (Part III)

Moses Gulesian cabinet card
The time capsule exhibit will be up for just one more week, so now is the time to visit the Old State House to check it out! If you can't make it into Boston to see these artifacts, I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the displayed items through our blog posts. In this post, I'll showcase the displayed items that pertain to the 1901 restoration of the Old State House, which includes paraphenalia from city officials and skilled tradesmen who worked on the restoration.

In two of the earliest entries on our blog, guest author Donald J. Tellalian shared some of his research on Moses Gulesian, who was the manufacturer of the lion and unicorn statues that were placed on the Old State House in 1901. Back in July, we did not have an image of Gulesian to include with the blog entries, so imagine our happy surprise when we opened up the time capsule and found this well-preserved cabinet card depicting Gulesian. It was a treat to include a photograph of the man who was so important to the restoration of the lion and unicorn in the exhibit.

We also choose to display a photograph that depicts the key individuals connected to the Old State House's restoration project. The group photograph was taken on Waltham Street in Boston on February 18, 1901. When we assembled the new time capsule in November 2014, we made sure to continue this tradition by including photographs of current restoration work teams from Commodore Builders and Skylight Studios, and the Old State Restoration Project team. Also on display are the business card for John A.W. Silver, the Deputy Superintendent of Public Buildings for the City of Boston, and the business card for Samuel D. Rogers, head of S.D. Rogers and Company Carpenters and Builders. There were other personal items related to these two men in the time capsule, so we believe that it is likely that they were instrumental in assembling the contents of the time capsule.

Group photograph of 1900-1901 restoration team
S.D. Rogers and John Silver business cards











Lastly, the display includes a piece of the wooden lion statue that was removed from the Old State House in 1900. The wooden lion and unicorn statues were placed atop the Old State House in 1882, and within less than 20 years they needed to be replaced by the copper ones made by Gulesian and his team.  We do not know where the wooden statues ended up, so we feel lucky that a piece of the unicorn was included in the time capsule.

Piece of wooden lion statue, removed from the Old State House in 1901
Check back next week to learn about the last group of items on display!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

242 years ago this month: a speech by Governor Thomas Hutchinson (Part II)

Last week we began an examination of a speech that Governor Thomas Hutchinson made here in the Old State House in January 1773.  In today's post, we'll learn more about the response to his speech.

Despite Governor Hutchinson’s fears regarding independent colonial governments, his speech acknowledged that governments make mistakes; no one governing entity is perfect. As a result, he felt that to question policies that came out of one’s government was healthy as long as it was done through channels that were considered constitutional. Hutchinson felt that the rioting and questioning of the superiority of the mother country’s government was unconstitutional. He argued before the legislative branch that he would be willing to hear their arguments, whether he shared their sentiments or not, and was willing to be convinced by them, in a peaceful manner, to understand their cause:
“I have no desire, gentlemen, by anything I have said, to preclude you from seeking relief, in a constitutional way, of any cases in which you have heretofore, or may hereafter suppose that you are aggrieved; and, although I should not concur with you in sentiment, I will, notwithstanding, do nothing to lessen the weight which your representations may deserve.”
In making this speech, Governor Hutchinson hoped to adopt a middle ground between Parliament and the colonists: acknowledging to Parliament that they still had control over the colonies while also acknowledging the right of the colonists to question policies when they felt their government was in error.

Engraving by Paul Revere
Unfortunately for Governor Hutchinson, his speech was too little too late. Though the House of Representatives agreed that political peace should be restored, they felt that they could hardly blame the current upheaval on the people. To them, the people had done nothing unconstitutional. They had only responded to Parliament “assuming and exercising a power inconsistent with the freedom of the constitution,” and therefore it was Parliament who was acting outside of the powers given to them by the constitution. The people of Massachusetts were only protecting their constitutional rights as British subjects, equal to those subjects in the mother country of Great Britain.

Hutchinson’s speech was also poorly received by Parliament. Parliament had adopted a belief that if they ignored the upheaval in the colonies it would eventually blow over, and therefore, had also ignored all of Hutchinson’s letters asking for instructions on how to address the growing disorder. By not responding to Hutchinson’s letters, they had left him to assume the proper course of action as the royal governor and representative of their political body. As a result, when Parliament heard of Governor Hutchinson’s speech, they condemned him for bringing the problem to the forefront of the minds of the colonists when they had hoped it would die away. Governor Hutchinson’s speech was received in the opposite spirit in which it was intended, only resulting in his being alienated from both the colonial government and the government of the mother country.

By Roberta DeCenzo, Education Associate

242 years ago this month: a speech by Governor Thomas Hutchinson (Part I)

Thomas Hutchinson
Many debates and arguments were made within the rooms of the Old State House prior to the American Revolution when it was used as the seat of colonial government, housing both the House of Representatives and the office of the Royal Governor. Although the debates were held by patriots and loyalists, one pivotal speech made by the last civilian royal governor stands out amongst the political upheaval leading up to the outbreak of the war.

On January 6, 1773, the House of Representatives returned to the seat of government for the new year. Governor Thomas Hutchinson opened the new session with a speech acknowledging his awareness of the political disorder caused by new policies coming from the British Parliament without consent from the colonies. He hoped the violence and upheaval within the colony would subside on its own, but it had become clear the problem needed to be addressed to be resolved. Hutchinson felt that by moving from the mother country to the colonies, they never escaped the laws and policies applied to the entire empire. By accepting the protection of the mother country, the colonists agreed to adhere to the laws and governance issued from Parliament regardless of representation and distance.

Hutchinson also feared by offering the mother country an ultimatum to allow colonists representation or to self-govern would estrange the mother country from its colonies, creating a new and separate government from the British Empire:

“I know of no line that can be drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies: it is impossible there should be two independent Legislatures in one and the same state; for, although there may be but one head, the King, yet the two Legislative bodies will make two governments as distinct as the kingdoms of England and Scotland…”

If the colonies operated as separate and independent governments, they would lose the protection of a strong and stable country and could easily be over taken by Spain or France. The colonists would then lose their rights as Englishmen altogether, and would have to adapt to the stricter rules and regulations of the new superior government. Even within one empire, Hutchinson felt that subjects of different provinces could not access the same rights and policies as the subjects in other provinces. In the democratic nature of election of representatives, the colonists agreed to give up some rights to the person elected; whether they voted for that individual or not. The people gave up their rights to the one man who they elected to act as the group voice for them. Not every man elected had the same ideas and motives, so each colony would have different laws and ideas of rights. Therefore, what one colony may have the right or privilege to do may not be the same as other colonies within the empire, and in extension, what the subjects in the mother country had the rights and privileges to do, did not have to be the same rights and privileges that were extended to the colonies.

Check back next week to hear the continuation of this story and the response within the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the British Empire to Hutchinson’s appeal for the return of political peace.

By Roberta DeCenzo, Education Associate

Time Capsule Items on Display! (Part II)

Did you have a chance to visit the Old State House over the holidays and the exhibit of items from our 1901 time capsule?  It will be up through the end of January, but if you can't make it in, then please follow along on our blog to learn more about the displayed items!

Thomas Hart cabinet card
As I wrote in a previous post, the contents could be organized into four categories.  This post will focus on the items that are related to local and federal government.  There were many items that fell into this category, but we chose to exhibit some of the best preserved and most visually interesting pieces. 

W. Murray Crane cabinet card


The time capsule included a significant number of cabinet cards, which was a style of portraiture that was popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Cabinet cards were usually 4" x 6" and were a thin photograph mounted on a cardboard backing. We chose to display the cabinet cards depicting W. Murray Crane, who served as the Governor of Massachusetts from 1900-1903, and the card depicting Thomas Hart, the Mayor of Boston from 1889-1890, and then again from 1900-1902. Both of these men were in office at the time that the capsule contents were assembled in 1901.

McKinley/Roosevelt campaign button
There were also a few campaign buttons included in the time capsule. The first was a button for the William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt 1900 Presidential campaign, against William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson. McKinley was running for a second term, but this was the first time that he and Roosevelt were on the ticket together; they were victorious, though McKinley was assassinated in September 1901 and Roosevelt was sworn in as President. This campaign button is small, but the colors are so vivid that you can even make out McKinley's and Roosevelt's rosy cheeks.

Samuel L. Powers campaign button
The other two campaign buttons were for Samuel L. Powers for Congress and John D. Long for Vice-President, both from 1900 elections.  Powers was a U.S. Representative for the 11th and 12th districts of Massachusetts from March 1901 through March 1905. He was a resident of nearby Newton, Massachusetts.  Long's campaign button dates to the 1900
John D. Long campaign button
Republican National Convention, when he ran for Vice-President but lost to Theodore Roosevelt. He had previously served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1880-1883, and was also the Secretary of the Navy from 1897-1902. These men were both accomplished Bay Staters, and we are excited to have their campaign buttons as part of our collection!

I'll be posting about the other items on display in the coming weeks, please be sure to check back or sign up to follow our blog by email!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Time Capsule Items on Display! (Part I)

While Boston's "New" State House recently unearthed a time capsule from 1795, we at the Old State
House just began displaying some of the items that were included in the 1901 time capsule that was found in our lion statue earlier this fall.  Due to the sensitive nature of these materials, the temporary exhibit will only run through the end of January. 

The contents of the time capsule fall into four categories: Boston newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic paraphernalia, government photographs and ephemera, and artifacts associated with the Old State House restoration in 1901.  In addition to the copper capsule and the red book, I selected 17 other items from these categories to display.  In the coming weeks, I'll use our blog to provide some additional information and photographs of these items for history fans who can't make it to the Old State House to see this display in person. The first category that I'll feature is Boston newspapers.

A few years ago our library staff found a reference in the February 24, 1901 edition of the Boston Daily Globe that listed the items deposited in the time capsule to be placed in the head of the lion atop the Old State House.  Given that much of the information we knew about the contents of the time capsule prior to opening it came from this newspaper article, it was only fitting that we found a number of items pertaining to Boston newspapers in the capsule.

The items that we selected to display are the February 19, 1901 edition of the Boston Transcript, donated by Edw. G. Richardson, City Hall Representative; the Boston Herald "Herald Boy" electrotype; an envelope labeled "A Message to Posterity from the Daily Newspapers at City Hall"; and "The Outlook for the Twentieth Century," a letter written by George Litchfield, Business Manager of the Boston Traveler. I've written about the Litchfield letter and the message to posterity envelope in a previous post, but I've included some larger pictures of them below, and have also provided some additional information about the other two items on display.

When opened, this sealed envelope was discovered to be empty - perhaps a joke from journalists in 1901!

George Litchfield outlines his thoughts for the future, touching on technology, communication, and travel.

The February 19, 1901 Boston Transcript was one of five newspapers included in the time capsule, but this was the only one that was labeled and folded; given the space constraints of our display case, this made it the perfect size to include.  One of my concerns about newspapers in the time capsule was that they would be in poor condition.  Have you ever tried to save an important newspaper article, only to find out that after a few weeks it has yellowed and become brittle?  We were lucky that the time capsule was airtight and watertight, meaning that the capsule contents didn't have interaction with oxygen or moisture and thus they remained in surprisingly good condition.  Note that this newspaper is only slightly yellowed, but beyond that it is in good condition and does not look like it is 113 years old.  At this point, we don't know very much about the newspaper donor, Edw. [Edward] G. Richardson, who is listed as "City Hall Representative."  The 1900 and 1901 Boston city directories have only one entry for Edward G. Richardson, and list him as a reporter with a business address of 324 Washington Street, which was the headquarters of the Boston Transcript.  It seems likely that Richardson was one of the reporters detailed to City Hall in 1901.


Also on display is an electrotype of the Boston Herald's "Herald Boy."  There were a few items related to the Boston Herald in the time capsule, including business cards, a newspaper from February 21, 1901, and a die cut for printing of the Herald building at 255 Washington, but this electrotype was the most visually stunning.  The headline on the newspaper that the Herald Boy is holding reads, "The Boston Herald Circulation Nov. 9, 1892, 533,140."  Electrotyping was used in printing beginning in the 1830s and its usage continued until the late 1900s.  Some newspapers in the early 1900s had entire electrotyping departments.

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks to learn about the time capsule items on display!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Continuing an 18th century walk in the South End

Today we'll be concluding the walk down Washington Street that we began in the last post


We have just reached the edge of Marlbrough Street and now the street veers to the left, becoming Newbury Street (the Back Bay’s current boutique boulevard of the same name is unrelated). Here at the corner of Essex Street stands the majestic Liberty Tree. The space beneath the boughs of this ancient elm is called “Liberty Hall” by locals; it is a gathering place of the popular voice in Boston politics. The Loyal Nine, the earliest incarnation of the Sons of Liberty, organized many of these protests from a small counting room in Chase and Speakman’s distillery “near the Liberty Tree.” Several other shops advertised their proximity to it as well: a pair of Scottish glovers, a wine cellar promising “Old Sterling Madeira… and other wines all in their original purity,” and the White Horse Tavern (where Perez Morton grew up).

1958.0004.004
Continuing past the Liberty Tree on what is now Orange Street, you might become aware that the land is now narrowing toward the isthmus called Boston Neck. The land here is even more scarcely populated and the shoreline is dotted with far fewer wharves. Before long the cross streets disappear. The narrow row-houses of Boston give way to free-standing structures, between which you can glimpse the nearby shoreline. Without warning, the crowded bustle of Boston has given way to what looks like a small country town.

You might have noticed a standing stone here, beside one of the taverns for out-of-towners, which said, “From here to the Townhouse, 1 mile.” This indicated the distance, specifically to the northwest corner of the Old State House, which was reckoned as point zero for the mile markers along the colonial roads all the way to New York City and beyond. Many of these markers still stand today, unnoticed in the midst of modern residential neighborhoods.

And then you come upon the town wall. Boston is a well-fortified town because of this narrow neck. All it took was a small wall at the narrowest point to make the town virtually unassailable. Outside this gate, just outside the perimeter of the town, the old wooden gallows stand. The hanging of criminals outside the town signifies communal rejection and served as a warning to anyone entering the town. I should also note that convicts were hung by the neck at Boston Neck, which is probably an intentional bit of gallows humor.

That brings us to the end of our tour. If there are any other Boston neighborhoods you’d like to visit in the 18th century, please let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

By Daud Alzayer, Revolutionary Characters Manager

An 18th century walk in the South End

In a previous post we described the experience of walking down King Street in the center of 18th century Boston. This time, let’s explore the South End.


We begin our journey at the door of the Old State House on Cornhill Street (now Washington Street). Again, you hear the clatter of cart wheels and horse shoes on the pebblestone street. This is the only street into the town and on market days you will find it busy with farmers hauling bushels of crops, country shopkeepers with empty carts to collect new shipments from the wharves, and public coaches departing from King Street carry paying passengers on the Post Road down to New York City.

1913.0031.002
Across from the Old State House is the “Old Brick Meetinghouse,” pictured to the right, which stood in that spot until its demolition in 1808. It was the last Boston church built in the old puritan style with a square shaped hall and centered cupola.

Walking another hundred yards down Cornhill brings you to another large brick church (and Boston’s largest building), the Old South Meetinghouse. This religious and political giant often hosts meetings attended by thousands. On Sundays the bell towers of Old South and Old Brick toll in slow counterpoint to the background chorus of bells singing from fifteen other churches that stand in the town.

The Meetinghouse marks the end of Cornhill Street and here things grow quieter at the beginning of Marlbrough Street. Here we come to a building well-known to Bostonians, the Province House, which is the official residence of the Royal Governor. It is an impressive house, gated and set back from the street surrounded with stately trees and topped with an iconic weathervane made by the same craftsman who made the weathervanes that top Faneuil Hall and the Old State House.

A number of other mansions stood off of Marlbrough. Samuel Adams lived in a three-story house on Winter Street. John Rowe, the merchant, had an estate on Pond Street and Royal Sherriff Stephen Greenleaf lived in a fine property on the end of West Street. These were straight-laced Georgian townhouses with brick facades and fragrant gardens. Unlike the crowded streets of the North End, here in the South End people could keep their neighbors at a distance.

In our next post, we will finish our journey by walking to the very edge of town.

By Daud Alzayer, Revolutionary Characters Manager


Restoration work is nearly complete!

It’s been a while since the last project update, so here we go. As many of you have been following the time capsule story, the restoration project that led to its discovery has been moving towards completion.

By the end of October the masonry restoration on the west façade was finished, deteriorated wood at the windows and door surround was replaced, and painting was completed. At the start of November the scaffolding came down to reveal a newly pointed and painted façade, although the average person walking by would likely not notice the work done. That is our goal during restoration projects, to make the necessary repairs and replacements without it appearing that we did anything.

The work on the east façade continued as well. The balcony balustrade and moldings were repaired and reinstalled. A late October storm caused damage to the window below the clock, so repairing that window was added to the project, and it has since returned with a new frame that exactly matches the previous one. Replacement of the balcony doors is being worked on as we speak, with new doors being fabricated due to the deterioration found on the old ones after removal and striping of the paint. Painting of the wood work on the east façade is in progress.

Most recently, the Lion and Unicorn statues were returned to the building after slightly more than two months away for restoration. Skylight Studios repaired and regilded the statues, the Lion in gold and the Unicorn in palladium. The new time capsule fabricated and donated by John F. Shea Co. could be seen from below as the crane from Marr Rigging lifted the Lion up to be secured in place by the crew from NER Building Restoration. All the while our general contractor Commodore Builders ensured a smooth day.

As the project comes to substantial completion, the Society needs a few more days of good weather and continued good work from all involved in the project.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation

A time capsule for 2114!

The new time capsule has been soldered shut and put back into the lion statue! Skylight Studios conservator Robert Shure placed the new time capsule inside the gilded scroll that forms the base of the statue (rather than the head, to make it more easily accessible in the future).

Items waiting to be placed in the time capsule.
After taking suggestions from the public, we selected over twenty items that represent Boston in 2014. The copper time capsule from 1901 was air-tight and water-tight and kept the materials inside in good condition for 113 years. John F. Shea & Co. in Mattapan, MA graciously donated the new time capsule, which is also made of copper. Each of the items in the time capsule were printed on acid-free paper or archival quality photograph paper and placed in either acid-free folders or tissue paper. We hope that these items cause excitement, and some intrigue, when the time capsule is opened by future Bostonians 100 years from now! Below is a list of all of the items that were included:

The new time capsule all packed up!
  • 2013 Boston Marathon medal and biography of donor Gregory Soutiea.
  • Letters from Boston journalists (Kiera Blessing, Boston Globe; Steve Annear, Boston Magazine; Brian Burns, Boston.com.)
  • Photograph of current Boston Mayor, Martin Walsh.
  • Photograph of former Boston Mayor, Thomas Menino.
  • Tickets from April 20, 2012 Fenway Park Centennial Boston Red Sox game, donated by Peter Loring.
  • David Ortiz limited-edition bobblehead, donated by the Boston Red Sox.
  • Apple iPhone 5, donated by Patrick LeTourneau.
  • Boston Globe newspaper, October 10, 2014, with story about discovery of 1901 time capsule.
  • Letter from British Consul Suzie Kitchens, on current United States/Great Britain relations.
  • Photograph of Governor Deval Patrick with Prime Minister of England David Cameron, at Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial, 2013.
  • Winning student essays from the 2013 Boston Duck Tour Essay contest.
  • Foreign Relations of the United States 1977-1980, Volume III, (bound in red, latest in a series represented by the 1896 volume found in the 1901 time capsule), with a letter from Davita Vance-Cooks, Public Printer of the United States, Government Printing Office.
  • Letter from Brian LeMay, Bostonian Society President and Executive Director.
  • Facsimile of a 1901 letter from George Litchfield, Business Manager of the Boston Traveler. This letter was included in the earlier time capsule that the Bostonian Society opened in October 2014.
  • Facsimile of a photograph of the team who worked on the 1901 Old State House restoration project. This photograph was included in the 1901 time capsule that the Bostonian Society recovered in 2014.
  • Photograph of the current restoration work teams – Commodore Builders and Skylight Studios.
  • Photograph of the current Old State Restoration Project team.
  • Old State House Lion & Unicorn: An Unfolding Story, an essay written by architect Donald Tellalian.
  • Box from Mike’s Pastry (with no canolis, unfortunately).
  • Letters from children participating in Greenovate Boston’s Community Summit 2014, and a Greenovate Boston button.
  • “Idahoan’s research uncovers time capsule,” facsimile of an article from Idaho Statesman, October 28, 2014.
  • Two 18th-century hand-wrought nails removed from the Old State House tower in 2008.
  • Two 19th-century cut nails removed from the tower in 2008
  • Fragment of a 1713 brick removed from Old State House during the 2014 west façade restoration project.
  • Menu from Legal Sea Foods restaurant, 2014.
  • Photographs of Boston’s central artery 2003, and Rose Kennedy Greenway, 2013 (before and after the Big Dig).
The Old State House restoration work is nearing completion. Stay tuned for updates!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Mystery letters: opening the sealed envelopes from the time capsule

When we opened up the time capsule earlier in October, we found five sealed letters.  Two were not labeled, one was labeled as from C.W. Ernst, Esq. Mayor's Private Secretary, one was in an envelope from the Boston Traveler, and the last one was in a thick envelope with "A Message to Posterity from the Daily Newspapers at City Hall" handwritten on the cover.  These letters caused a good deal of intrigue, but we couldn't slice into them for fear that we would accidentally damage the paper inside. 

I spent some time earlier this week slowly opening the letters using a bit of steam and a micro spatula.  The process was slow, but in the end each of the letters were removed from their envelopes with no damage.  Next came the fun part of finding out what was written and sealed 113 years ago.

S.D. Rogers and Mr. E.G. Priest
These two small sealed envelopes were packaged together along with the Fernald family history electrotype.  When opened, they were found to be beautifully handwritten letters  that provided short biographies of E.G. Priest, the clerk of the S.D. Roger & Company firm, and S.D. Rogers himself.  The S.D. Rogers Company was the firm that handled the restoration of the Old State House in 1901.



C.W. Ernst, Esq. Mayor's Private Secretary, Boston, Mass.

The letter in this sealed envelope was brief, and was written by C.W. Ernst on February 16, 1901.  Ernst was the private secretary to Mayor Thomas Hart, whose cabinet card was included in the time capsule.  The note that Ernst wrote and sealed states, "Nothing endures but wind.  The best contribution of New England to government is the town meeting."






Boston Traveler
Next, I opened an envelope from the Boston Traveler, 307 Washington Street.  Some of the ink from the letter had seeped through into the envelope, so I knew in advance that it was going to be a typewritten letter.  Opening it up, I found a two page legal-sized letter with the title "The Outlook for the Twentieth Century."  It was written by George A. Litchfield, the Business Manager of the Boston Traveler.  In the letter, he outlines his thoughts for the future, touching on technology, communication, and travel.  One of the lines that I found particularly interesting reads, "we shall fly; not merely navigate the air with cumbersome machinery sustained by bags of gas, but we shall step from our houses, an at our convenience or pleasure 'mount up on wings as eagles, run and not be weary, talk and not faint.'"

A Message to Posterity from the Daily Newspapers at City Hall
This letter was by far one of the items in the time capsule that generated the most interest.  It was listed on our inventory as being written by journalists who were detailed to City Hall, and everyone on staff was curious about what journalists felt was important enough to share with posterity.  I slowly worked to open the envelope, looked inside, and found that it was empty!  As it turns out, journalists in 1901 might have been playing a joke on future Bostonians!

Some of these letters will be included in the display of time capsule contents at the Old State House.  Stay tuned for more information about that temporary exhibit!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

Contents of Time Capsule Revealed!

Yesterday I was excited for the opportunity to take materials out of the time capsule!  The capsule was full to the brim with documents, so the whole process of carefully removing materials took over two hours.  Each item was inventoried and photographed, and then placed in acid-free folders or boxes. The next step will be to scan the documents so that we'll have preservation copies and select items for a temporary exhibition.

The most striking thing about the contents of the time capsule was their amazing condition.  We knew that the capsule was air-tight and water-tight, so there was little worry about moisture or oxygen causing damage.  However, I was concerned about the high temperatures that the capsule would have been exposed to up in the Lion's head, as heat can speed up the chemical breakdown of paper.  However, the documents seem to be in great condition!  There was no little to no deterioration of paper quality, and some of the ink was so vivid it looked as if it had been written yesterday!

But what are the contents?  And what about that mysterious red book? 

The red book is a government publication, titled Papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, with the annual message of the President transmitted to Congress December 7, 1896, and the annual report of the Secretary of State. There are no inscriptions within the book, so we don't know if it holds any significance.  It's my guess, though, that it was placed on the top of the pile of documents as a space-filler.  I checked WorldCat to see if there are other copies of this book in the area, and it does look as though this is one of the few copies out there.

Letters that are sealed will need a little bit of preservation work before they are opened. Please follow along on our blog for updates, and enjoy reading the full list of time capsule contents below!
  • Foreign Relations of the United States, 1896 (hardback book)
  • Blank packing paper
  • Wood removed from the Old Lion age of same 21 years in 1900 (notation is written on a business card for American Painting & Decorating Co. and tacked onto the back of the piece of wood)
  • The Banker Tradesman – the financial, legal, real estate, and building information, vol xxix, n. 4, February 20, 1901
  • Blank piece of letterhead from M.H. Gulesian
  • Business cards for S.D. Rogers & Co (Carpenters and Builders), Mr. Edwin H. Woods (Publisher and Treasurer of the Boston Herald), G. Fred Richmond (Boston Herald), and John A. W. Silver (Deputy Superintendent of Public Buildings)
  • Boston Transcript of February 19, 1901 from Edw. G. Richardson, City Hall Representative
  • Pamphlet of the Organization of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1901
  • Cabinet card of Mayor A.P. Martin [mayor 1884] with inscription “Yours truly”
  • Card with inscription “Geo. G. Proctor, 665 Sixth St., South Boston, Mass”
  • Parchment role of employees of public buildings department, February 1901
  • Bill for tuition and one piece of music, January 1, 1901 signed by John A. Silver
  • Sealed letter from C.W. Ernest, Esq. Mayor’s Private Secretary, Boston, Mass.
  • Letter from A.J. Rodway, describing the heraldic seal of the Lion and Unicorn
  • Sealed letter from the Boston Traveler
  • Campaign button for John D. Long, Candidate for Vice-President
  • Nail from Old South Church and nail from Old State House
  • Group photograph of individuals who worked on restoration of the Old State House, February 19, 1901
  • Sealed letter inscribed “A message to posterity from the daily newspapers at City Hall”
  • Grand Army of the Republic lapel button
  • Grand Army of the Republic badge
  • Samuel L. Powers for Congress campaign button
  • Boston Journal, photograph showing the 5th Massachusetts regiment
  • Fernald Family History, possibly on electrotype
  • Cabinet card of Moses Gulesian
  • Veterans button, possibly Grand Army of the Republic
  • McKinley and Roosevelt campaign button
  • The Boston Herald, February 21, 1901, with leaflets of advertising rates
  • Electrotype of Boston Herald, Herald Boy
  • Miniature electrotype of Boston Herald from April 11, 1900
  • Photograph of Nathan Matthews, Junior [Mayor 1891-94]
  • Photograph of Josiah Quincy [Mayor 1896-1899]
  • Six photographs of GAR officials, these images are pages cut out of a publication
  • Photograph of Edwin Curtis [Mayor 1895]
  • Cabinet card of C.G. Davis, Sergeant at Arms
  • Cabinet card of W. Murray Crane, Governor
  • Cabinet card of John B. Smith, Governor’s Secretary
  • Cabinet card of William W. Campbell, Deputy Sheriff
  • The Boston Post, February 19, 1901 and February 21, 1901
  • Cabinet card of Thomas Hart, Mayor
  • Cabinet card of Milton C. Paige, Superintendent of Public Buildings
  • Cabinet card of John A. W. Silver, Deputy Superintendent of Public Buildings
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Department Directory, 1901
  • Die cut for printing of the Boston Herald building, 255 Washington Street
  • Letter from American Painting and Decorating Company about the work done on the Old State House, February 18, 1901
  • Boston Daily Globe, February 16, 1901 advertisement of circulation

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

All photographs by Amy Nelson, Finance and Administrative Assistant