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May 2011

New England Cuisine at the Museum

Don't break out your lobster bibs quite yet! No, we are not offering a grand buffet of New England cooking classics. However, we have the next best thing in store for you.

Fitzgerald&Stavely On Saturday, May 28, at 2 PM there will be a really fun Lowell Lecture that you won't want to miss. Kathleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely will relate the tale of "Pressed Heads, Pottages, and Pippin Tarts: The Surprising Story Behind a Typical Diner Meal." Authors of Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England (2011) and America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking (2004), Stavely and Fitzgerald will treat us to a culinary tour that traces the precursors of franks and beans and apple pie, as well as other traditional New England foods. Their talk will be illustrated with images of some of the foods they have prepared and served in their home.

The author team has a wealth of experience as speakers, having presented at international conferences, at numerous historical societies, libraries, and museums, and to a variety of community and professional groups. Through lively presentations and sprightly give-and-take with their audiences, they bring the hidden history of New England foodways to light, along the way showing how a region's food practices can illuminate its broader social and cultural history.

Nothern-hospitality-210 Stavely is a writer and scholar whose interest in the Puritan influence on American and English culture has resulted in a number of critically-esteemed books and articles. He has been a Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Societies fellow and a winner of the Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars. Fitzgerald worked for five years as a college chaplain and for eight years as a coordinator of a soup kitchen. Except for one brief stint in an academic library in Ohio, she has worked for over twenty years as a public librarian in urban settings in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She is currently a librarian at the Newport Public Library.

This free public lecture is funded by the Lowell Institute and complements the exhibition Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf. After the lecture, please join us for a book signing. Copies of both Northern Hospitality and America’s Founding Food will be available for purchase, thanks to a collaboration with an independent bookshop in Winchester, Book Ends.

Please call the Museum at 781-861-6559 if you have questions about this public program.


Courtesy of Katheleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely

Courtesy of Katheleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely and the University of Massachusetts Press

"We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours": Perry's Victory on Lake Erie

Perry, 74_3_2DI1 This print depicts a signal moment in the career of Oliver Hazard Perry (1785–1819), the commander of the U.S. naval fleet on Lake Erie during the War of 1812, a conflict which ended in 1815. On the morning of September 10, 1813, British Naval Commander Robert Barclay fired the first shots of what would become one of the most important naval battles in the war. The confrontation took place on the western end of Lake Erie, near what is now Sandusky, Ohio. You can see a map of its location here. After hours of fighting, Perry abandoned his badly damaged flagship, the USS Lawrence, and took command of a relatively unscathed vessel, the Niagara, from her less-experienced commander, Lieutenant Jesse Elliott. The battle began anew, and the British ships—whose senior officers had been wounded or killed—soon surrendered. Perry informed U.S. General William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) of the victory with the now-famous words, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” This strategic triumph ensured American control of the Great Lakes and secured Perry the name, “The Hero of Lake Erie.”

Although publishers Kurz and Allison did not identify the original painting that inspired this print, two monumental paintings by William Henry Powell (1823–1879) clearly served as a jumping-off point for the engraver. The legislature in Ohio, Powell’s home state, commissioned one in 1857. Completed in 1865, it now hangs in rotunda of the State House. The U.S. Senate's Joint Committee on the Library commissioned the other, larger version in the months after the first painting went on view. It has hung in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol since 1873.

GW Crossing the Delaware, 74_2_13DI1 Like many historic prints, this image reflects the era in which it was made as much as the event it depicts. For example, both Perry’s heroic stance in the boat and the flag behind him recall Emanuel Leutze's iconic 1851 painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware, an image that a far-reaching audience found familiar, thanks to a widely available 1853 print. In addition, although a number of the sailors in Perry’s fleet were African American, Powell may have included the black sailor in his 1857 painting to highlight the issues of slavery and race during the years leading up to the Civil War. Several decades later, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, Kurz and Allison followed suit when making their copy of the image.

You can see both Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie and Washington Crossing the Delaware in the exhibition, “The Art of American History: Prints from the Collection,” now on view in the Museum’s newly renovated lobby area.


Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie, late 1800s. Kurz and Allison (1880–1903), publishers, Chicago, Illinois. Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.3.2.

Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1853. Emanuel Leutze (1816–1868), artist; Paul Girardet (1821–1893), engraver; M. Knoedler (1823–1878), publisher, New York, New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 74.2.13.

Riding the Rails: An adventure of a lifetime

I have been volunteering with the National Heritage Museum for just over 6 months as an Archivist and have had the opportunity to work with the collection donated by Errol Lincoln Uys; a history of teenage hoboes in America during the Great Depression.  My time has been devoted to preserving the collection for future use (removing and photocopying post-it’s and notes, photocopying deteriorating pages and removing staples and metal paperclips along with safely storing the papers).

While working on the preservation of the materials I have been encouraged to read and explore theA2004_26_1mansmokingDS1  collection.  The first 32 boxes of the collection are mainly comprised of firsthand accounts (hand written and typed) of thousands of experiences riding the rails during the Great Depression.  Through my reading I have come across many common themes.  Initially the hobo experience appears to be one of adventure; seeing the country from atop a train, traveling when and where one wanted and having no ties to daily responsibilities.  However, reading between the lines of each account, the experience was also one of loneliness, hunger, fear and poverty.  Many teenagers left home to alleviate the burden to the family.  The life found on the road was no more secure then the life left behind, but it was surely an adventure of a lifetime.  Whether dodging railroad bulls or local police, begging for scraps for a mulligan stew or riding precariously atop a train these experiences contributed to the American  determination of ‘pulling one’s self up by their bootstraps’.                       

Each firsthand account details the trials and tribulations of riding the rails, bringing to life the themes and chapters of American history text books.  A wealth of resources and history is housed within the collection, detailing the everyday experiences that create American history.  I look forward to stepping back in time once a week during my time at the museum, reliving the experiences of the teenage hobo, hearing the whistle of the train and piecing together the daily struggle and adventure of the Great Depression.


Man smoking in train yard, ca. 1930. Unidentified photographer. Courtesy of Library of Congress. 




American Flag Lecture Series Starts at the Museum

95_021T1-1 The American flag what symbol is more visible, more a part of our daily lives? Flags of all sizes flutter above us in the breeze, images of the flag adorn signs of all kinds and even appear on commercial products, and flags hang solemnly in our public buildings. How often do we stop to think about what the American flag means to us? Have we ever noticed that its personal meaning may change throughout the course of our lives?

If we started to list all the changes the twentieth century brought to America, we might still be scribbling hours later. If our nation has undergone immeasurable change over the last century, what impact has that had on our understanding of that ultimate national symbol, the American flag? Scot Guenter, professor of American Studies at San Jose State University, will guide us on an exploration of just that question. He will join us on Saturday, May 14, at 2 PM, to speak about "Contested Meanings of the Twentieth-Century Flag: Sacred Symbol, Symbolic Speech." His talk will explore how the increasing civic use of our flag during the first half of the 1900s contrasted with Americans’ varying interpretations of the flag during the century’s later decades. In other words, he will tell the story of how our flag gained symbolic power and its meaning became a bone of contention among Americans engaging in the great public debates of the twentieth century.

InasuitWeb Professor Guenter comes to us with a deep understanding of American culture and its symbols. He has taught a dizzying array of topics in twentieth-century American history. As if this weren't enough, he is also one of the world's leading vexillologists. His expertise in the study of flags has earned him two of the highest awards in the field and his consulting services have been called upon by the Smithsonian Institution. We sincerely hope that you will join us in welcoming Professor Guenter for what promises to be a fascinating and engaging afternoon. This free public lecture, sponsored by Ruby W. Linn, is part of new series celebrating the National Heritage Museum’s treasured 15-star flag.

Please call the Museum at 781-861-6559 if you have questions about this public program. For families with children who would like to learn more about our flag, please consider joining us on the afternoon of Saturday, June 11 for an opportunity to "Get to Know Our Flag." For school and Scout groups, the Museum also offers an educational flag program, "From Union Jack to Old Glory."

Image credits:

15-Star Flag, 1794-1818. National Heritage Museum, gift of John E. Craver, 95.021. Photo by David Bohl.

Photo courtesy of Scot Guenter.

The Conflagration of the Pennsylvania Masonic Hall in 1819

79_42_2T1 The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania secured its first building in 1802. Located on Filbert Street in Philadelphia, members dedicated it on St. John’s Day (December 27) in 1802. However, membership in Freemasonry grew at such a rate over the succeeding years that the building soon was too small.  By 1807, the search was on for new quarters. Later that year, the Grand Lodge purchased a vacant lot on Chestnut Street and began building according to a plan that architect William Strickland (1787-1854) submitted to their design competition. The new Masonic Hall was completed in 1809.

Unfortunately, the Grand Lodge would experience a relatively short tenure in this building. On March 9, 1819, a chimney fire spread rapidly, consuming the building. An engraving from the National Heritage Museum's collection, entitled The Conflagration of the Masonic Hall, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and created by John Lewis Krimmel (1786-1821) and John Hill (1770-1850), depicts the scene. The Grand Lodge history explains that “so great was the interest taken by the general public in this great calamity which overtook the Brethren,” that a painting was done “for the purpose of having an engraving made of the conflagration.”

According to the Franklin Gazette, the fire could be seen from New Castle, Delaware, thirty-two miles away. Washington Lodge No. 59 was meeting in the building at the time, but all the men in attendance were able to get out without any deaths or injuries. The print provides an accurate depiction of the fire companies.  It also shows the Secretary of Washington Lodge No. 59 carrying some of the Lodge’s property to safety – its Bible and the key to the hall.

The Conflagration of the Masonic Hall, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, 1819, John Hill, engraver, S. Kennedy and S.S. West, publishers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, National Heritage Museum collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.42.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Impostor! Or, Sea Captain, Bigamist, Forger, Confidence-Man, Thief

MasonicImposter_Boothby_smaller Our blog turns three years old this month and, in keeping with years past, it seems like a fine time to return to the subject of Masonic impostors. If you need to get caught up on the subject of Masonic impostors, be sure to check out our three previous posts on the subject.

Pictured here, from the Album of Masonic Impostors, is Hubert Boothby, a Mason who, according the 1900 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Montana was expelled from Butte Lodge No. 22. The caption below Boothby's photo in the Album is a sort of novel in miniature (or, perhaps, a business card waiting to be made): Sea Captain, Bigamist, Forger, Confidence-Man, Thief.

The subject of Masonic impostors lends itself to over-the-top descriptions of con artists like Hubert Boothby. But at its heart, the story of Masonic impostors is really a story of Masonic charity.

Without the goodwill of Masons helping others, there would be no target for the imposition of those fraudulently posing as Masons. In the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection, we have a number of different types of material produced by Masonic Relief Boards. These Boards were often located in big cities and existed to help the down-on-his-luck Mason (or wife or children) by way of centralizing relief. In most cases, the relief board would give relief (cash, meals, a place to stay, etc.) and then get reimbursed by the Masonic lodge that the recipient belonged to. The Masonic Board of Relief in Syracuse, NY published a small annual report that described various different cases brought to them during the year. These ranged from "Worthy Cases Reimbursed" (i.e. legitimate cases in which they assisted Masons and were reimbursed by the Mason's home lodge) to "Worthy Cases Not Reimbursed (i.e. the same as above, but not yet reimbursed by the home lodge). A read through some of the "Fraud" cases, while occasionally amusing, suggests that many of these cases may have involved men who were alcoholics. Both the "Worthy" and "Fraud" cases are oftentimes touching vignettes of hard times. In other cases, like that of Barnet Lebner (below), we get a glimpse at what is more likely the case of a classic con man, spinning tales.

Below are a few examples of both "Worthy Cases" and "Frauds." In an attempt to expose those found to be making fraudulent claims, the Relief Board published their names, while those found "Worthy" were kept anonymous, presumably to guard against any embarrassment or shame that might be felt by those seeking relief.

Worthy Cases
No. 612. Widow of member of King Solomon's Lodge, No. 91, Troy, N.Y. Husband died in 1896. Is ill and lives with daughter, who works for a hotel, and they were about to be ejected for non-payment of rent from their home, and we became responsible. Also belonged to Apollo Commandery. The Commandery assisted $50 through us.
(From "Worthy Cases Reimbursed" in the Twenty-Fourth Annual Report of the Masonic Board of Relief of Syracuse, N.Y., 1917.)

No. 478. Member of Central City Lodge here. We paid funeral expenses of $89 by authority of the Lodge.
No. 504. Member of Central City Lodge here. By authority of Lodge we paid one month's rent.
(Both from "Worthy Cases Reimbursed" in the Twenty-First Annual Report of the Masonic Board of Relief of Syracuse, N.Y., 1914)

F.E. Lanphere, a fraud of the first water, or rather whiskey without water, applied for relief claiming to be starving. He was furnished a meal in a restaurant at expense of fifty cents, but tried in our absence to trade the meal for intoxicating liquor, and when refused, left without eating, and never came back to our protecting arms.
(From "Frauds" in the First, Second, and Third Annual Report of the Masonic Board of Relief of Syracuse, N.Y., 1894, 1895, and 1896)

No. 512. George Barnes, Golden Fleece Lodge, Lynn, Mass. Age 42; machinist and book agent; resides here; was drunk; had no papers; wanted $1. The Secretary [i.e. of Golden Fleece Lodge] wired that he was not known there.
(From "Frauds" in the Twenty-Second Annual Report of the Masonic Board of Relief of Syracuse, N.Y., 1915)

No. 387. Barnet Lebner, Monroe Lodge, No. 242, Berlin, Germany. First claimed also to be a Shriner, Chapter, Knight Templar, but later admitted that he was only a third degree member. Wanted to go to Chicago and then to Worcester, Mass. Told one member of the Board that he had a position in Worcester if he could get there next morning at 11 A.M. Claimed to be a rabbi. When questioned sent to the Jervis House for his trunk and left town.
(From "Frauds" in the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Masonic Board of Relief of Syracuse, N.Y., 1912)


Suggestions for Further Reading
General Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada. Album of Masonic Impostors. New York : Press of Eclipse Printing Co., 1903.
Call number: 19.78 .A345 1903

Croteau, Jeffrey. "Brotherly Deception." Cabinet, Spring 2009 (Issue 33). Brooklyn NY: Immaterial, Inc., 2009.

Halleran, Michael. "Be on the Qui Vive—Cowans, Swindlers, and Con Men, Then and Now." Scottish Rite Journal, May/June 2009. Washington, DC: Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of the Southern Jurisdiction, 2009.

In addition, the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives also has many issues of the Annual Report of the Masonic Board of Relief of Syracuse, N.Y. Call number: 43 .S995 1894-.