Art of Body
STREETSCAPE SARAH WYMAN WHITMAN’S
WINTER 2021 • Vol. 21 • No. 3
historic NEw england From the Chair
History is o"en about challenge and change. Sometimes this means reassessing existing records to determine what information may have been inadvertently missed or purposely omi!ed, or discovering documents about which we were unaware. Current events can also prompt us to engage with history to look for parallels and lessons from the past. The result might be a stark reckoning, or at the very least, a reflection on whose stories are being told and how, as well as by whom. Some of the articles in this issue are the result of a reevaluation of historical memory. We look at slavery in New England, which is typically depicted as a Southern practice, and explore how colonists first held Indigenous peoples in bondage. We also look at how Native nations of the Wabanaki Confederacy countered European encroachment upon their homeland and their culture. Another article discusses how a colonial family’s wealth, amassed in part through the slave trade and forced labor, benefited subsequent generations. The pandemic brought on by COVID-19 has brought about an awareness of the everyday ways in which each of us participates in making what will become history. A photo essay about Historic New England’s A Time to Remember collection project shares some of the ways people are documenting their experiences so that future researchers will have ready access to a wealth of material telling the stories of this unprecedented time. Another photographic documentation project captures streetscapes of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, a historic area that appears to be losing ground to gentrification. This issue also recognizes National Deaf History Month—celebrated mid-March through mid-April—with an article about the early education of deaf students and the founding in 1817 of the American School for the Deaf, still operating in Connecticut. When we explore the past, we can be challenged to modify long accepted and sometimes unquestioned interpretations of people’s lives and events. Such critical thinking helps us make more accurate and meaningful connections between the past and the present and ultimately inform the future.
David A. Martland Chair, Board of Trustees
At-Home Getaways Deliver Regional History
Change and Continuity in Boston’s Chinatown Streetscape
What Traditions Are Worth Preserving?
A New Lease on Residential Life
Art In Memoriam
Creating Bodies of Art
When the Settlers Came
The Libertys of Tattooing
Slavery in New England
A Sophisticated Palette
Bonds of Family, Bonds of Chattel
HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND magazine is a benefit of membership. To become a member, visit HistoricNewEngland.org or call 617-994-5910. Comments? Email Info@HistoricNewEngland.org. Historic New England is funded in part by the Massachuse!s Cultural Council. President and CEO: Vin Cipolla Executive Editor: Diane Viera Editor: Dorothy A. Clark Editorial Review Team: Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections; Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives; Leigh Schoberth, Senior Preservation Services Manager Design: Julie Kelly Design COVER!!Ward Clark Hallings, ta!ooed by Richard L. Beck. Photograph postcard (1920-1925), Newport, Rhode Island.
Historic New England 141 Cambridge Street Boston MA 02114-2702 617-227-3956 © 2021 Historic New England. Except where noted, all historic photographs and ephemera are from Historic New England’s Library and Archives.
DELIVER Regional History
by !PETER!GITTLEMAN Team Leader for Visitor Experience
F"YOU’RE"FEELING"STUCK inside your house, Historic New England has the perfect getaway for you: Why not pay a virtual visit from the comfort of your home? We’ve got six new online experiences that share the varied, o"en emotional, and always inspiring stories of New Englanders. Thanks to a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Historic New England staﬀ combined resources in our archival collection with striking new photography, videos, and oral histories to tell new stories at five of our properties and two neighborhoods in Vermont.
Historic New England first used the technology that drives these new websites in 2017 with the opening of the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachuse!s. We developed the platform to provide an engaging, interactive, and intuitive digital experience that shares the social history, architecture, and decorative arts of the Eustis Estate and its connection to contemporary civic, economic, and cultural life (experience it at Eustis.Estate). With the success of that pilot project, Historic New England expanded to Gropius House in Lincoln, Massachuse!s, in 2019 (experience it at Gropius. House). With the addition of the six new interactive experiences we are
introducing 360-degree interior photography that allows for virtual walkthroughs of the properties. From your computer or mobile device, you can navigate through buildings and landscapes and view spaces that aren’t included on in-person tours, such as a!ics, basements, unrestored rooms, and outbuildings, including two nineteenth-century privies. Each of these websites gives a depth and breadth of information on a variety of topics designed to keep you engaged for hours. We invite you to explore. w Casey Farm in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, established in 1702, is an active, working organic farm with a c. 1750 farmhouse at its core. When
ABOVE At Otis House in Boston, Historic New England installed this salvaged French scenic wallpaper in Sally Otis’s bedroom in the 1960s. It shows idealized views of the Pacific Islands as described by British explorer Captain James Cook. Years later it was covered with a protective material and an era-accurate reproduction wallpaper based on a sample found in Otis House.
The pet cemetery at Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Inset shows a gravestone for a dog named Argus. It is one of ten graves commemorating the lives of Rundlet-May pets, which included a canary.
you visit Casey.Farm online, you’ll find among the featured resources the history of Indigenous peoples of the area and farming in southern New England as well as newly digitized Casey family photographs and documents. w Sarah Orne Jewe( House in South Berwick, Maine, built in 1774, is where author Sarah Orne Jewe! used her family home and community as inspiration for her writing. Featured resources include audio recordings of excerpts from Jewe!’s writings that tell stories of life in rural Maine at the turn of the twentieth century and describe her deep romantic relationship with writer and editor Annie Fields. Visit Jewe(.House to experience it. w Otis House in Boston, constructed in 1796, is an elegant brick mansion at the foot of Beacon Hill, with later uses as a multifamily residence, a homeopathic 2
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clinic, and a boarding house. Featured resources include a world-class collection of Boston-made furniture as well as maps and photographs of the city’s ever-changing West End neighborhood, which had become home to thousands of immigrant families by the turn of the twentieth century. Take the virtual trip at Otis.House. w Rundlet-May House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was built in 1807. Technology drives the story of this expansive urban estate that was home to four generations of the Rundlet family. Featured resources include a nearly intact 1807 state-ofthe-art Rumford kitchen and original invoices for household equipment and furnishings. Visit RundletMay.House to experience this property. w Roseland Co(age in Woodstock, Connecticut, built in 1846, is a Victorian gem and a landmark example of Gothic Revival architecture, as well as the
home of a political family with strong antislavery sentiments. Featured resources include original architectural drawings and photographs of unusual outbuildings— including an icehouse and an aviary. Experience it at RoselandCo(age.org. w The website for Vermont contains materials that Historic New England is collecting for a partnership project called More than a Market: Finding Community in Local Markets of Burlington and Winooski, Vermont, that explores the role of food markets for immigrants in those communities since the late nineteenth century. This online experience includes contemporary and archival photographs complemented by oral histories and an overview of local immigration history. Visit MoreThanAMarket.org for this special experience.
Historic New England’s A Time to Remember is an ongoing initiative to collect materials that record the extraordinary occurrences of 2020 and beyond. Our members, friends, and staff have contributed photographs, journal entries, and objects that convey the life-altering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, some of which we are sharing here. We encourage readers to submit items that tell their stories at HistoricNewEngland.org/historic-new-england-launches-projectto-document-home-life-during-covid-19/.
Historic New England staff member Elliot Isen photographed this fence at the Boston Common where demonstrators displayed their Black Lives Matter placards after a protest in late May.
Another Historic New England staff member, Kenneth C. Turino, took this picture while shopping at Richland Convenience Store in Nahant, Massachusetts, after it reopened with COVID-19 protocols in place.
“At the end of February 2020,
China, I was mildly aware of a virus that had hit Wuhan, being isolated hard. ... Through March and April, my reality of There were enough and having limited mobility was suﬃcient for me. only over the last few projects for me to do around the house. ... It was is having on my well-being. weeks that I have started to feel the eﬀect the virus hands o#en shake. ... There is no I find myself feeling chest pains from anxiety. My tually things will get be$er and cure for the virus. ... I still hold on to hope that even be able to hug my Mom again. that we will get back to a sense of normal. ... I will again. ... In the meantime, I I will be able to laugh at my Dad’s jokes to his face to hold on to hope.” will try to focus on the good. ... And I will continue
Excerpts from a journal entry submitted by Tracy Natale, formerly of Douglas, Massachusetts, now of New Jersey.
COUNTERCLOCKWISE﹐!TOP!RIGHT!!A sign in Somali and English at Mawuhi African Market in Burlington, Vermont, photographed by Mary Rizos. A worker wearing a superhero cape at Tockwotton on the Waterfront, a senior living community in East Providence, Rhode Island. The Walpole Clarion publisher Ray Boas encouraged readers to document “sightings” of pink flamingos in the Walpole, New Hampshire, area. Stephen Desroches contributed this photograph of a wedding couple in Provincetown, Massachusetts. U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) in a portrait made by photojournalist Katherine Taylor. 4
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© 2020 Katherine Taylor
ng Bodies i t a e r C
of A R T
Tattooers mark their place in early twentieth-century New England The recipient of Historic New England's 2020 Prize for Collecting Works on Paper for his collection that documents the history of ta!ooing in America, Derin Bray is a collector and independent scholar of historic ta!oo material. He and Margaret Hodges are coauthors of the new book, Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors: The Liberty Boys & the History of Ta(ooing in Boston (2020), available at www.rakehouse.com. Follow him on Instagram @derinbray.
ew England’s first electric ta!oo artists were as colorful as the designs they etched on human skin. Through wit, talent, and force of personality, they found success plying needle-and-ink in rowdy arcades, shooting galleries, dime museums, and street shops in the gri!iest part of town. They followed the fleet—sailors were a reliable clientele, a"er all—or crisscrossed the country with traveling sideshows and carnivals, all the while perfecting their spiel as scantily clad ta!ooed a!ractions. Documenting the lives of these o"en-transient figures can be diﬃcult. A set of 1920s postcards recently purchased by Historic New England, however, helps shine a light on a group of prominent ta!oo artists whose careers intersected in Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston in the early twentieth century. The best ta!oo artists had a nose for opportunity, and Richard L. Beck was no exception. He learned the needle game in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, and eventually set up shop upstate in Rochester, where, for a stretch, he ta!ooed in the dime museum of showman and entrepreneur Ra!lesnake Pete. By 1915, Ward Clark Hallings, tattooed by Richard L. Beck, photograph postcard, 1920-1925. Newport, Rhode Island. HistoricNewEngland.org
TOP﹕ Tattoo design by Frank Howard, Boston, 1905-1915. Ink and watercolor on paper, 5¼ x 8 inches. BOTTOM﹕ Price list of Ed Smith and Frank Howard tattoo supplies, c. 1905. Both images from the collection of Derin Bray.
Beck had migrated to Newport to open a second shop with local mechanic Leonard G. Williams. During World War I, Newport’s waterfront was flooded with recruits a!ending the Naval Training Station. For Beck and other ta!oo artists eager to turn a profit, this meant a steady stream of young men with unmarked skin and money in their pockets. The following year Beck teamed up with veteran ta!ooer Ed Smith. Smith had begun his career in the late nineteenth century, quickly gaining a reputation for beautiful handpainted ta!oo designs, known today as “flash” art, and expertly cra"ed machines. For more than three decades he worked in Boston, alone and in partnerships with the city’s other leading practitioners. Notable among them was Professor Frank Howard, the former illustrated man with Barnum & Bailey. Smith and Howard worked in Scollay Square, operating one of the era’s most successful ta!oo supply companies. They sold hard-to-find designs, pigments, stencils, machines, photographs, and a host of other ta!oo equipment. Smith and Beck continued their partnership for several years while simultaneously running ta!oo shops 6
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in Boston and Rochester. Eventually Smith se!led in Massachuse!s. Beck stayed in Newport, working through the early 1930s at the Long Wharf ta!ooing and barber shop of Alfred Copse!a, a jack-of-all-trades who also bred dogs and horses and managed local boxing talent. Over the years a number of other ta!oo artists came and went in Newport. Perhaps in an eﬀort to separate himself from some fierce competition, Beck printed and sold a series of striking photograph postcards promoting his Newport location and one of his greatest ta!ooing achievements: the suit of neckto-ankle designs covering the body of Ward Clark Hallings. Although such cards were common among ta!oo artists and ta!ooed performers, who sold them as souvenirs to carnival and circus goers, they are relatively scarce today. The views of Hallings succeed in documenting Beck's considerable talent, but they suggest that Beck was a poor marketer. He relied on an amateur photographer and backdrop—a rosebush trellis in someone’s backyard—rather than the professional studios his competitors o"en used. Later in life, Hallings told a newspaper reporter that he received his first ta!oos—Native American chiefs on each shoulder—in Detroit, Michigan, around 1916. Within a few years he had an array of classic imagery, including a chariot on his stomach and fighting eagles on his back. For most of this work, Hallings turned to Beck. Although both men called Rochester home, it is unclear whether the work was completed there or in Smith and Beck’s Newport shop. Beck probably also instructed Hallings in the art of ta!ooing. Hallings began identifying himself as a ta!oo artist as early as 1920 and briefly operated shops in Sea!le, Washington, and Charleston, South Carolina. From 1925 to 1935, he trouped with some of the era’s largest sideshows, including Hagenbeck-Wallace, Walter L. Main, and Cole Bros. & Clyde Bea!y. He performed alongside a roster of human curiosities, boosting his earnings by ta!ooing spectators between shows and hawking photographs of himself. Hallings married and se!led in Binghamton, New York, in 1935. His show days were behind him but he continued to ta!oo near an Army camp in Watertown, New York. He became the area’s premier ta!oo artist a"er Beck’s untimely death in 1937.
The Libertys of Tattooing
s a collector of historic ta!oo material, I love discovering vintage photographs of ta!ooed performers, dog-eared business cards with patriotic graphics, and hand-painted “flash” art designs that once hung on the walls of smoke-filled shops. Each of these items contains valuable clues about the elusive art of ta!ooing and the fiercely independent men and women who practiced it. For the past several years, I have dedicated my eﬀorts to collecting works that document Boston’s pioneering ta!oo artists. These bits of colorful ephemera and photographica, along with material I’ve discovered in other private collections, are the basis for Loud, Naked, & in Three Colors: The Liberty Boys & the History of Ta$ooing in Boston, a new book I coauthored with Margaret Hodges. From the 1910s until 1962, when Massachuse!s banned ta!ooing, Edward “Dad" Liberty and his sons Frank, Ted, and Harold held a near-monopoly on the Boston ta!oo scene from their shops in Scollay Square, Boston’s gri!y entertainment district. Fortunately for historians, a trove of printed ephemera documenting their various shops survives. The walls of Frank’s shop were lined with stunning, hand-painted
designs from which worked in a Lowell scrapyard, patrons could choose. breaking up engines and The Liberty brothers locomotives. In 1928 he moved learned the trade under to Tarrytown, New York, where the watchful eye of he took a job manufacturing auto their father, who was bodies for Fisher Body, a division known in the business of General Motors. Harold worked as Dad. He began ta!ooing his way up through the ranks to in his hometown of Lowell, company foreman, contributing Massachuse!s, purportedly a"er new designs and manufacturing an itinerant ta!ooer abandoned innovations. his post—and his equipment—at In 1946, forty-year-old Harold the family’s shooting gallery. Dad returned home to work with his was a natural. By 1919 he had father. He adopted the nickname taken his talents to Boston, where Le"y and took over Frank’s old he quickly established himself shop at 49 Scollay Square. This as an exceptional mechanic and location, directly above The competent ta!ooer. His heyday, Tasty, a popular burger joint, was considered the golden era by many a landmark until 1962 when the ta!oo artists, was World War II, Boston Redevelopment Authority when sailors packed into his shop razed Scollay Square to make night and day. way for Government Center. Ted Liberty was the family That same year, Massachuse!s outcast. Between repeated run-ins outlawed ta!ooing. Harold, the with the police, constant bickering last man standing in Boston’s with his father and brother, and beleaguered ta!oo mecca, packed botched partnerships, he o"en his equipment and moved to Salem, found himself unwelcome wherever New Hampshire. He worried that he went. Ted ta!ooed between his clients wouldn’t find him there, Lowell, Portland, Maine, and Boston but they did; he was soon bringing through the early 1950s, but a"er in more money than he ever had in a fire damaged his shop above the Boston. Rialto Theater in Scollay Square, he Derin Bray fled to Baltimore, Maryland. Ted didn’t last long there, however. In 1952 his new shop was shut down for weeks a"er several servicemen contracted hepatitis due to his unhygienic practices. Ted eventually made his way to Canada, bouncing from shop to shop until se!ling in Vancouver, British Columbia. Demurring a career in the Ted Liberty’s shop sign, painted by Eddie Levin, family trade, Harold initially
Baltimore, Maryland, c.1950. Oil-based enamel on board, 18 x 22 inches. Collection of Derin Bray. HistoricNewEngland.org
for saving what we treasure most about New England so all of us can enjoy it!
This past year has been a testament to the New England spirit of innovation and adaptability, and to our shared commitment to celebrating what makes this region special. As we look forward to spring and anticipate welcoming you into more of our historic homes, we thank you for your generosity and for making all we do possible. Your support—through membership, contributions, taking a socially distanced tour, or participating in a virtual event—means so much. We hope we are providing some comfort and escape for you this winter and that you’ll join us for much more to come as we broaden the perspective through which we tell New England’s stories. As many of us have spent more time at home of late than we may ever have expected, the concept of home has taken on expanded and different meanings. We have connected with you in different ways and your passion for preservation, conservation, and storytelling is shining through.
Everyone at Historic New England thanks you for treasuring New England.
Our fiscal year ends on March 31, so if you haven’t had a chance to make a gift or renew your membership, it’s not too late to make a difference. Please make your gift today. To make a gift or for more information, call our Development Office at 617-994-5951 or give online at HistoricNewEngland.org and click “Give.” You can also mail your donation to:
Historic New England 151 Essex Street Haverhill, MA 01832 The Pine Kitchen, with redware, at Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House, in Gloucester, Massachusetts. 8
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Text by !WING-KAI!TO Photographs by !JOHN!D#!WOOLF
HANGE and ONTINUITY
in Boston’s Chinatown Streetscape
OSTON’S"CHINATOWN"IS"A"RESILIENT" community with a long history of se!lement and development dating to the 1870s. Its historical streetscape, adjacent to downtown and highways, distinguishes it as one of the more enduring Chinatowns in the United States. Since the 1990s the Chinatown neighborhood has experienced a renaissance a"er a long period of neglect, discrimination, and gentrification. The 2020 Boston Chinatown Master Plan—a document dra"ed every ten years in a community-led eﬀort—seeks to develop and maximize aﬀordable housing, improve community health and quality of life, and preserve the community as a historical and cultural district. The state government and the community have worked together to adopt zoning protection of traditional row houses and preserve historical buildings for aﬀordable rentals in the community. Influxes of Chinese international students and new residents in the neighborhood have also patronized restaurants and shops in the business core.
Then COVID-19 suddenly dealt a severe blow to the vitality and livelihood of Boston’s Chinatown communities. The news of coronavirus in China as early as January of last year led to rising anti-Chinese sentiment targeting local Chinese and Asian Americans. The “China virus” label created a negative perception of Chinatown, insinuating that it was unsafe. Since the pandemic hit in mid-March of 2020, local restaurants, retail, and small businesses were, and continue to be, devastated. While the shutdown aﬀected everyone in Boston, Chinatown was particularly hard hit since the narrow sidewalks and small storefronts make outdoor dining hazardous, if not impossible. In 2017 photographer John D. Woolf documented storefronts and street scenes. His original intention was to highlight threats to the neighborhood from gentrification and development. The following pages illustrate some of the more popular restaurants and buildings in the neighborhood reflecting changes in the community. HistoricNewEngland.org
At the corner of Beach and Oxford streets one can see a striking contrast between the modern highrise building in the background and the historical row houses in the heart of Chinatown. Across from the new Chinatown Park, behind the traditional architecture, stands the One Lincoln Center building for financial services. Beach Street has long been the business core connecting the Chinatown Gate on one end and Washington Street on the other. Businesses have lined both sides for more than a century. Wings Live Poultry, which sold fresh chicken, ducks, and geese for customers to bring home, from its opening in the 1910s until it closed a few years ago, was among the butcher shops that catered to older Chinese who did not like to consume frozen chicken purchased in supermarkets. Because a wet market was believed to have been one of the first places where the city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province in Central China, detected the novel coronavirus, the fear of live poultry as carriers of disease could terminate the practice of buying freshly butchered chicken and ducks in Boston’s Chinatown.
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Farther down Beach Street lies Tyler Street, with its concentration of traditional buildings and restaurants dating to the early twentieth century. The most elaborate example of traditional Chinese style is the Lee Association Building. Originally designed in 1928 as a mixture of Spanish Colonial Revival and Chinese motifs, the building is adorned with a cast iron balcony and traditional roof next to other row houses. For decades, the Ho Yuen Bakery, a small storefront and unassuming store on Beach Street, has served customers authentic Hong Kong food such as roast pork buns, custard buns, coconut buns, egg tarts, and sponge cake. Farther down on Harrison Avenue is the favorite Hong Kong Eatery. Since its opening three decades ago it has been the go-to place for barbecued duck, pork, and chicken; wonton noodle soup; stir-fried beef noodles; and other famous lunch dishes. Boston's Chinatown has long been the hub of Chinese food and culture, providing Cantonese dim sum for families and grocery shopping for the community. The Empire Garden restaurant and C Mart supermarket, located in a traditional theater building, have served the community for decades. Will these traditions disappear in a shrinking Chinatown due to parking woes and safety concerns? HistoricNewEngland.org
A broader spectrum of customers has contributed to the popularity of dumplings as a main staple of Chinatown restaurants. Among all the restaurants, Gourmet Dumpling House is the most popular. There is always a long line of customers waiting outside to try the Shanghai xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), fried pot stickers, and other regional dumplings. The development of luxury condominiums and the downtown business district on Washington Street has threatened the existence of the historical neighborhood. Some older stores, such as the Super 99 market and My-Tan Fashion, have closed; a handful of restaurants serving southeast Asian cuisine, such as Dumpling Cafe and Penang, are still standing. More than a century ago, the Chinese Masonic Lodge was founded as a mutual aid society for earlier immigrants. Many other family associations, native-place associations, and language schools serve the community as well.
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Chinese immigrants still use traditional herbal medicines carried by stores like Nam Bac Hong, which has been in existence since the 1960s. Here, older Chinese residents can find herbal medicine prescriptions by scale as well as other over-the-counter preparations commonly used in mainland China and Hong Kong. The arrival of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s brought eateries serving delicious pho noodles and Vietnamese bread. More recently other cuisines such as Chinese hotpot, Japanese sushi, Korean barbecue, and Taiwanese bubble tea have also become popular in the neighborhood. Immediately north of the boundaries of Chinatown is a proliferation of trendy cafes, world-class hotels, and theater buildings used by Suﬀolk University and Emerson College. Will Chinatown gradually be absorbed into a modern redevelopment area for middle-class tourists or will it be able to maintain its historical traditions?
A few years ago, the WCVB-TV show Chronicle named the Chinatown Gate, erected in the 1980s, one of the new icons in Boston. In 2021 we need to make every eﬀort to rebuild the community and small businesses a"er the economic devastation of the pandemic. In January, a report published in The Boston Globe lamented the end of the city’s bustling restaurant scene due to the COVID-19 restrictions, an evening curfew, and limitations for outdoor dining in Chinatown. As we enter the Year of the Ox according to the Chinese calendar, Chinatown is enduring its darkest winter while trying to maintain hope with public art installations and virtual cultural programs for the community. With an uncertain future of economic recovery and the year-end election of a new Boston mayor, our struggles for the survival, perseverance, and rejuvenation of Chinatown will be entering a critical period in the next two years. If history provides any answer, Chinatown will endure and thrive again as a vibrant historical and cultural district a"er its inception about 150 years ago. Wing-kai To is assistant provost for global engagement and professor of history at Bridgewater State University. As a public historian, he served as vice president of the Chinese Historical Society of New England from 2012-2018. To’s research focuses on the history of Chinese and Japanese in New England 14
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during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as contemporary Asian American communities in New England. He is the author of Chinese in Boston, 1870-1965 (Arcadia Press, 2008) and other studies of Asian and Asian American history. John D. Woolf has worked as a photographer and studio manager at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for forty years and has been the digital systems manager of the Department of Intellectual Property for the past two decades. In about 2016, having seen how much the city was changing because of a building boom and gentrification, Woolf began documenting Boston's neighborhoods before much of their historic architecture was razed. Chinatown, he saw, was changing especially rapidly: growing up around it, and spreading into it, were expensive condominium and oﬃce skyscrapers. In 2017 he began photographing the storefronts, restaurants, and small businesses that still existed. He donated some of these images to Historic New England in 2020. Learn more about his work on Wednesday, March 10, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the online exploration and discussion Documenting Twenty-first Century Boston: A Conversation with Photographer John D. Woolf. Register for this event at my.historicnewengland. org/6800/woolf.
A New Lease
on Residential Life by !JENNIFER!ROBINSON Preservation Services Manager, Southern New England
Community preservation efforts bring endangered house back from the brink
riving along scenic Salem End Road in Framingham, Massachuse!s, travelers might catch a glimpse of a rambling white farmhouse perched beside a stone wall and a large swath of grass, all overseen by two grazing goats. The picturesque scene belies a complex past, however—one that in recent times nearly meant the demise of the house because of longtime abandonment and an exceedingly complex legal history. Despite those hardships, Brewer House, one of the latest additions to Historic New England’s Preservation Easement Program, rose above it all and stands as a
testament to the devotion, care, and hard work of a network of local preservationists. The varied gables, windows, and ells of Brewer House reveal a structure that has been adapted to meet the needs of its many residents across centuries. Research indicates that components of the main house probably date to the late 1770s, concurrent with Colonel David Brewer’s purchase of the property. Subsequent owners constructed several additions over the next 200 years. Brewer House is known locally as the Clayes House because of its association with Sarah Clayes, a seventeenth-century Salem, Massachuse!s, resident
who was jailed during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692–1693. Sarah and her husband, Peter, rese!led in present-day Framingham in 1693 with other Salem refugees. Local tradition holds that Brewer House may have been built on the foundation of the Clayes House. Architectural historians have been investigating the evolution of Brewer House’s construction, including its foundation; to date, none has found conclusive evidence to suggest the presence of a seventeenth-century residence. Those studies further the understanding of the house and its surroundings, which have been an integral part of Framingham’s landscape for generations. The HistoricNewEngland.org
house provides a touchstone to Knowing that something needed Despite all of the tedious work the past for the community, and to be done expeditiously, she and and looming deadlines, there as it gradually slid into disrepair her husband, Edward, partnered were always small reminders in the early 2000s, neighbors and with Elizabeth Owens and her of why the project was special. passersby became increasingly husband, Robert, to become direct Annie recalled finding shoes alarmed. Vacant and in the midst investors in the restoration of behind the cupboards of the of a complex dispute regarding the house. They had been active hearth in the earliest part of the ownership, invasive vegetation earlier as part of the Sarah Clayes house [concealed footwear has slowly engulfed the property House Trust, and each couple frequently been found in colonial and years of neglect damaged provided $500,000, to be repaid structures and is thought to it. As any preservationist knows, when the house was sold a"er the have been a practice to guard that can quickly spell disaster; an restoration was complete. against evil]—a tangible reminder uninhabited house falls victim not By July 2017 the project was of past residents. Elizabeth only to the elements, but also to fully underway. Edward Murphy, Owens was particularly gratified vandals and curious trespassers, a contractor with experience by the work of the experts who which rapidly intensifies and working on historic homes, put his assessed parts of the house using perpetuates degradation. expertise to work. The restoration dendrochronology (a process Luckily, a passion for this local was painstaking, with significant used to date the age of the wood asset catalyzed a coalition of structural repairs required to framing) and paint analysis. Each devoted community members to secure the original framing. When discovery added another layer of take action. In 2006 Preservation asked about lessons learned understanding, as well as opened Massachuse!s, the statewide during the restoration, Annie up new questions about the lives nonprofit organization dedicated Murphy oﬀered this observation: lived in each room over time. to preserving the Commonwealth’s “Any preservation project will be Annie cited the involvement of historic and cultural heritage, longer, more expensive, and more as many people in the community placed Brewer House on its “Top involved than you can imagine.” as possible in the early stages 10 Most Endangered Properties” list. Around BELOW Brewer House owners Healan Gaston and Andrew Jewett keep two goats—Schran (left) and Axel—on the property to help keep invasive vegetation at bay. PAGE!9: Much of the same time, a the hearth, located in the earliest part of Brewer House, is contained behind a wall. During community group, the the restoration project, old shoes were found behind the cupboards. Hidden footwear, found Sarah Clayes House Trust, frequently in colonial buildings, may have been used to ward off evil. formed to organize eﬀorts to secure the future of the property. Community members led cleanups of the landscape, boarded the windows, raised funds, and even held vigils on Halloween to protect the house from trespassers. The status of Brewer House reached a tipping point in 2017 when Annie Murphy, current director of the Framingham History Center, believed that its structural elements could not survive another winter. 16
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as a key element of the project’s success; and it was indeed a broad coalition of Framingham supporters and preservationists that spurred this stunning transformation. In addition to grassroots organizational eﬀorts, there were other important factors at play that brought a!ention to the property and eventually garnered the critical mass needed to move the final restoration project forward. In 2008, the Framingham Historic District Commission listed the house as a single-property Historic District, ensuring that potential developers could not alter it in a manner that diminished its essential character when viewed from public vantage points. Furthermore, the assistance of nonprofit groups such as the Land Conservation Advocacy Trust and the Foundation for Metrowest ensured that tax-deductible gi"s could be accepted in the years leading up to restoration. Perhaps most importantly, the state a!orney general’s Abandoned Housing Initiative (AHI) provided the extra momentum the project needed in 2014. The AHI allows for the appointment of a receiver to move forward with restoration projects for qualifying abandoned properties, enabling communities to take charge of empty and decaying buildings in their neighborhoods. In the case of Brewer House, A!orney General Maura Healey’s oﬃce assisted in identifying and communicating with the mortgage holder a"er the 2008 financial crisis, then a huge roadblock to moving ahead. The mortgage holder subsequently
donated the property to the Land Conservation Advocacy Trust, finally freeing the house a"er years of uncertain ownership. In the final chapter of its restoration, Brewer House advocates knew that its unique features demanded the additional protections aﬀorded by a preservation easement. This would assure that a high standard of preservation could be maintained for exterior features and distinctive interior details, even a"er it was sold and as ownership changed over time. Historic New England was the ideal partner, having one of the nation’s oldest and most recognized easement programs. Finalized in 2019, Brewer House is among 116 privately owned properties protected under the Historic New England Preservation Easement Program. Brewer House has found ideal stewards in Healan Gaston and Andrew Jewe!, the first owners
since its restoration. Both have a keen sense of the history that surrounds them, and Gaston’s work as a lecturer in American Religious History and Ethics at Harvard Divinity School dovetails with studying Framingham’s rich and complex past. She plans to engage her class in local research, and she and Jewe! will continue to research the structure and site. Gaston and Jewe! are facing the remaining challenge of landscape management with enthusiasm and creativity. They have recruited their two children to look a"er a pair of goats acquired to help tame the invasive vegetation. It is this type of dedicated work, and that of hundreds of volunteers, donors, government agencies, and passionate community members, that has assured that Brewer House will remain an essential part of the Framingham community and landscape. HistoricNewEngland.org
From the Study Center at the Eustis Estate Historic New England launched the Study Center at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachuse$s, in early 2020. Designed to explore research areas that are new to Historic New England, it is commi$ed to furthering knowledge and understanding of the region’s past and supporting our eﬀorts to share everyone's history. The Study Center connects with the academic realm by building relationships with higher education institutions in related graduate programs. The following articles address the topic of historical accountability, which has given rise to the term “diﬃcult” or “hard” history. They deconstruct long-told narratives that obscure or omit the centrality and persistence of racism and white supremacy in American culture.
WhEn ThE SeTtLeRs CaMe: The Wabanaki Confederacy’s Sense of Agency by FAHIM!RAHMAN The recipient of a joint bachelor’s degree in history and government from William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Fahim Rahman is pursuing a master’s in history at Northeastern University in Boston.
cholars often use the term “settler colonialism” to describe the practice of conquering a place and exploiting the native inhabitants as well as the land. In the context of early American history, the term can be used to define the expansion of European nations into the “frontier” of North America to acquire valuable natural resources. However, framing settler colonialism—also called settler encroachment and white encroachment—as a purely territorial phenomenon presents a narrow perspective of the region’s history and fails to convey the heterogeneity of the early American past. While colonialism had widespread impacts on Native lands, that perspective does not accurately depict settler-Indigenous relations. It incorrectly conveys the spatial history of how Europeans “discovered” the Americas and marginalizes or dismisses altogether the existing Native history. A complex sociopolitical network of Indigenous nations, alliances, and rivalries had long existed in North
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America when Europeans arrived. Colonists did not “discover” or “settle” the land; they entangled themselves in a well-established framework of Indigenous relations. It would be a precarious endeavor to make discrete conclusions about Indigenous peoples as a whole, given that each nation had variable relationships with one another as well as with the Europeans. One lens through which to look at colonial-Indigenous relationships is the history of the Wabanaki Confederacy. Examining how the Wabanaki experienced and responded to colonial exploitation might foster a more thorough understanding of their history and the multifaceted nature of settler encroachment. Although territorial expansion was an integral aspect of encroachment, it was also a geopolitical, economic, cultural, and social phenomenon. The Wabanaki Confederacy, located in what is now known as Maine and the Canadian Maritimes, is composed of five predominant nations: the Penobscot, the Passamaquoddy, the Mi’kmaq (Micmac), the Maliseet, and
the Abenaki. Early Wabanaki people were hunters and gatherers who relied upon native resources to craft goods and form cultural traditions. They had an established social structure and a rich history long before the Europeans arrived. England began colonizing this region of North America in the seventeenth century to extract natural resources and broaden its economic capabilities—economic growth was at the crux of colonial imperialism. Anglican colonies were established to exert control over Native lands and diminish Indigenous resistance to future settlements. However, colonialism had broader effects than spatial consumption and domination. Settlers regarded Indigenous peoples as “savages” and “wild beasts”; the English thought of them as uncivilized, holding that Anglican culture was superior. With the impetus of gradually reforming and Christianizing Indigenous peoples, the Reverend John Eliot, a Puritan missionary, established fourteen “praying towns” in New England. Missionaries in these
communities attempted to transform Indigenous identity by imposing Protestantism, and its associated lifestyle, on Natives. The conflict between colonists and Native peoples was always a cultural affair, where the exchange of English dress, norms, ideas, and goods countered traditional ways of life. The Wabanaki Confederacy exercised agency when faced with the adversities that settler encroachment imposed. As coastal peoples, Wabanakis used their capabilities to hinder colonial industries and retain their autonomy. Wabanaki seafarers used their maritime prowess to prey upon colonists, decimating commercial ships, commandeering sailing vessels, and sinking fishing boats to sustain their command of the North Atlantic. Yet, violence was not their preferred means of resistance; they strategized diplomatic maneuvers based on cultural concerns and imperatives. The Kennebec Wabanaki, for example, formed a Protestant church to obtain access to the colonial market
while maintaining their traditions, appropriating Christianity in such a way that it did not come at the expense of their cultural norms. By continuing to participate in traditional practices, the Wabanaki resisted assimilation into colonial culture while concurrently using Protestantism as an entry point into the Atlantic market. Thus, they were able to manipulate Anglican culture to their advantage. For instance, the leader of a Wabanaki crew purposefully donned English sea fashion as a costume to elevate his standing when he encountered Englishmen. This was a symbolic leverage of Anglican culture to bolster his diplomatic legitimacy. While these are only a few of many instances of Wabanaki resistance, their diverse methods exhibit their historical agency. Although white encroachment resulted in the widespread decimation of Indigenous populations, with causes ranging from disease to the brutality of enslavement, the Wabanaki people were dynamic historical actors. They
wove resistance into diplomacy, trade, and culture to meet the Anglican hegemony that was ingrained in every facet of colonial society. The Wabanaki Confederacy “has taken many forms in its efforts to adapt to external pressures,” anthropologist Willard Walker wrote in a 1998 article in the journal Maine History, but has survived concerted efforts on its integrity by continuing to embody its core values and traditions. Even though their territory was largely taken away from them by imperialists, the Wabanaki mounted a comprehensive strategy of resistance that facilitated the preservation of their identity. Still present today, the Wabanaki Confederacy is an authentic example of a sovereign Indigenous nation. For more information visit the websites of the Abbe Museum (abbemuseum.org) in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the Portland, Maine-based Wabanaki Alliance (wabanakialliance. com).
LEFT Map of Wabanaki homeland in northern Maine and Canada (mainestatemuseum.org). BELOW Wabanaki Confederacy design (www. legendsofamerica.com).
Before American slavery came to be defined as the plight solely of African-descended peoples, European se"lers enslaved Indigenous peoples. Historians are giving this obscured colonial practice greater a"ention, revealing that white encroachment included the traﬃcking of Native peoples across the Atlantic. Some scholarship aims to deflate the idealized view of the North as the bastion of liberty for people of color.
AN OVERLOOKED HISTORY: SLAVERY IN NEW ENGLAND by JULIA!WOHLFORTH!AND!MEGAN!WATTS Julia Wohlforth is a graduate student in history and museum studies at Tu$s University in Medford, Massachuse%s, and Megan Wa%s is a master’s degree candidate in history at Simmons University in Boston.
“I doe not see how wee can thrive until we ge$ into a stock of slaves suﬃtient to doe all our busines.” –Emanuel Downing, August 1645
ith 1619 documented as the year that the first kidnapped Africans were brought to the British se!lement of Jamestown, Virginia, a statement such as Emanuel Downing’s may not seem out of the ordinary. However, it may surprise even those who are well-informed about the colonial period to learn that Downing, a British immigrant a!orney who lived in Salem, Massachuse!s, made his observation in a le!er to John Winthrop, his brother-in-law and the chief Puritan leader in New England; that he was referring to using slaves in New England, not the South; and that he was talking about capturing Indigenous people to trade for Africans. Slavery in the United States is primarily associated with the kidnapping of people from western Africa and forcing them to work on Southern plantations. American
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collective memory relates the Northeast with abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, and the fierce fight for African American legal and social freedoms. New England, however, was a slave society for centuries, from the colonists’ earliest interactions with Indigenous communities. The thriving colonies of the region were built upon that practice, and the acceptance of human bondage is implicitly wri!en into many of the cultural moments that New Englanders celebrate today. The enslavement of Indigenous people in New England was initially more common than the enslavement of Africans. In many ways, Indigenous enslavement laid the groundwork for the enslavement of Africans, which would become standard practice by the start of the 1700s. From the Europeans’ earliest explorations of New England, they took Indigenous
people captive, to be used as guides or displayed as curiosities back in England. Patuxet tribe member Tisquantum (o"en called Squanto), who brokered peaceful relations for the Pilgrims, was initially kidnapped by English explorer Thomas Hunt and sold in Spain. He made his way to London and lived there for several years before he was able to return to New England. The scale of enslavement grew throughout the seventeenth century. During the Pequot War of 1636-1637 hundreds of women and children were taken as slaves. Winthrop authorized the sale of some to Bermuda and other locales in the Caribbean, while many others remained in New England to supplement the shortage of female laborers. The Massachuse!s Bay Colony enacted the first slavery law in the English Atlantic World in 1641 with a statute called The Body of
An image published in 1890 depicting European colonizers with Indigenous people they had captured as slaves. Wallach Division Picture Collection, New York Public Library.
Liberties. A provision in the section titled “Liberties of Foreigners and Strangers” defined the status of Native people held in bondage by authorizing the enslavement of “lawfull captives taken in just warres, and such strangers as willingly selle themselves or are sold to us.” The idea of “just war” ruled the semi-coded language of these practices. In war, New England colonial forces considered themselves civilized with their policy of slaughtering Pequot men and sparing the women for use as slaves. By the time Downing wrote to Winthrop in 1645, however, it had become fairly obvious that the enslavement of Native women was less of a solution to colonists’ labor shortages than they had hoped. These women knew the geography of the area be!er than their captors and they knew the cultures of surrounding tribes. Indigenous slaves who ran away were far more successful in their frequent escape a!empts than the completely
displaced African slaves. This had become a nuisance to New England slave owners. Downing noted in his le!er that “if upon a just warre the lord should deliver them into our hands, wee might easily have men women and children enough to exchange for Moores” [Africans]. For this reason, “a warr with the Narraganset is verie considerable to this plantation,” he wrote, referring to his 300-acre North Shore property. Enslaving Indigenous people was proving to be unprofitable in New England, but that didn’t mean the colonists would stop exploiting them. War, Downing proposed, would allow for the capture of Indigenous people who could be exchanged for the more profitable African slaves. This practice of exchange became fairly popular among New England colonists and they smoothly transferred their slave labor system from Indigenous people to Africans. The population of Black slaves
in America would not exceed Indigenous numbers until the turn of the eighteenth century. Between 1619 and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, millions of African and African-descended people were forced to be slaves. Though most were confined in the South, the Massachuse!s Body of Liberties, originally intended to define the status of Native slaves, informed the legal definitions of Africans held in bondage. This demonstrates again how Indigenous slavery set the precedent for Black enslavement. Slavery ended in New England before it did in the South, though in many instances not very long before. In Massachuse!s, the Quock Walker cases of 17811783 successfully challenged the institution using language in the state constitution (the constitution itself does not prohibit slavery), which had been passed in 1780. Vermont first prohibited it in 1777. Because of unenforced or complex laws, legalized slavery lasted longer elsewhere in the region; it did not legally end until 1843 in Rhode Island, 1848 in Connecticut, and 1857 in New Hampshire. Maine’s timeline is somewhat unique, as what is considered modernday Maine was territory held by French se!lers and was part of Massachuse!s and New Hampshire at diﬀerent points. It a!ained statehood in 1820 as a free state. However, the pre-statehood occupiers of that land practiced slavery. It is important to note HistoricNewEngland.org
When Massachusetts adopted The Body of Liberties in December 1641, it became the first colony to legalize slavery. The document codified the enslavement of Indigenous people and was later used as the basis for extending slavery to those of African heritage.
that even when a state prohibited slavery it could still be in eﬀect. Travelers from other areas could bring enslaved people with them. In addition, it is highly likely that slavery operated in households illegally in some areas a"er it was abolished. Slavery is ubiquitous in New England’s past but is o"en omi!ed from the most cherished historical stories. One example is Paul Revere’s account of his “Midnight Ride,” a hallmark in American history, national myth, and collective memory. Revere wrote: “A"er I had passed Charlestown Neck, & got nearly opposite where Mark was hung in chains, I saw two men on Horseback, under a Tree.” Mark, the subject of Revere’s casual geographic reference, was a Black man executed in 1755 a"er being convicted as an accessory in the poisoning death of his master, John Codman I [the grandfather 22
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of John Codman III, of Historic New England’s Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachuse!s. See article on page 23]. Mark was hanged and his tarred body displayed in an iron gibbet in a public place for more than two decades. Intended as a warning to anyone who contemplated defying white supremacy, Mark’s remains became a waymark. Enslaved Black individuals made up a substantial segment of the workforce in North America, and they contributed greatly to New England’s economy. While images presented today of slavery o"en focus on largescale plantation labor, Black slaves in New England generally did diﬀerent kinds of work. A large majority performed domestic labor in private households. Many were highly skilled and worked at shops (general and printing), on ships and in shipyards, and at marketplaces. As with Indigenous enslavement practices, Black children were o"en used for certain tasks, with some white families procuring them as companions or as playmates for their youngsters. Northeasterners also used goods and products that were produced elsewhere by slave labor, and the New England region prospered from them. Black people enslaved on plantations in the West Indies produced huge amounts of sugar, mahogany goods, rum, and molasses. New Englanders’ consumption of these goods fueled a demand that supported the continued enslavement and
exploitation of Black people in the Atlantic World. While New England’s labor needs were diﬀerent from those of the South, there were few regional diﬀerences in the restriction of rights, discrimination, and horrific abuse. Mental, emotional, physical, and sex abuses were commi!ed against enslaved people, no ma!er the time and place in the Americas. Accounts of the violence and terrorism are o"en given in firstperson narratives, such as those of civil rights activist and orator Frederick Douglass. Born a slave in about 1818 in Maryland, Douglass escaped in 1838. In his 1845 memoir Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the first of several autobiographical books, Douglass tells of both witnessing and experiencing the brutalities that whites inflicted upon Black people. Despite the United States’ near-complete abolition of slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in December 1865, it contains a condition under which enslavement is sanctioned today), its legacy of torments and damaging eﬀects was not eliminated. Laws enacted throughout the United States either established de facto slavery or severely circumscribed the very existence of Native and African Americans. Such legislation is a part of the systemic racism that continues to uphold social, economic, and political disparities and injustices that impact Indigenous and Black people while benefiting much of the white majority population.
by !WENDY!HUBBARD& Site Manager, Lincoln, Massachuse%s, and DOROTHY!A#!CLARK&!Editor
Bonds of Family, Bonds of Chattel
The Codman Estate’s legacy of “the peculiar institution”
he two-story Georgian mansion and expansive farm that Charles Chambers built between 1730 and 1741 in what then was part of Concord, Massachusetts, was situated high on a man-made hill where its size and placement were meant to impress, serving as a daily reminder of the owner’s mastery over land and people. That mastery included his ownership of people of African heritage. The slave trade was an important system of wealth accumulation for many prominent New England families, enabling the amassing of fortunes that would be passed down to their descendants for centuries. One of these families was the Chambers-Russell-Codman clan, whose interfamilial and multigenerational ties of mutual interests, money, and inherited property—the Codman Estate in Lincoln, Massachusetts—grew upon a foundation that included slavery. In stark contrast to the continuity of this family’s history, the enslaved did not have lucrative or illustrious legacies to pass down. Considered commodities, they were separated and scattered by their owners’ bequests, purchase or sale, payment of debts, and other transfers or exchanges. The names of some are listed as property in family account books, wills, probate records, and inventories, or in public notices, pamphlets, and publications, much of which is
in Historic New England’s Library and Archives. Their personal possessions and spaces were not preserved. Nothing associated with them was passed down for posterity. Still, the geographies where and in which their lives were spent remain. The subjugation of people of color underpinned colonial commerce and systems of wealth acquisition. Indeed, New England’s prosperity was funded directly and indirectly by the slave trade with investments in shipping, shipbuilding, rum distilling, exports, raw materials, and finished goods through trade with Caribbean plantations. As prominent landowners of European descent, the Chambers, Russell, and Codman men helped to uphold these systems, occupying positions of authority in government and the courts to better secure their vested interests. Charles Chambers (1660-1743), a British immigrant, was the progenitor of the Chambers-Russell-Codman clan. The multiple intersections among the Chamberses, Russells, and Codmans over four generations began in 1708 when Chambers was appointed guardian of orphaned John Codman I (1698-1755) of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A sea captain in Antigua, Chambers maintained investments in more than sixteen vessels, some of which worked out of Barbados. No longer active at sea by 1708, the Charlestown resident purchased 275 acres in Concord [now a part of Lincoln, which became a separate town in 1754]. Over time HistoricNewEngland.org
he purchased another 400 acres. He had long held Black people as slaves. Among them were Lincoln, Caesar, Jack, and Chloris. Little is known about Lincoln, Caesar, Jack, and Chloris. Jack and Chloris married in 1697. Jack purchased the couple’s freedom in 1706, Chambers having set a price of sixty pounds; Jack paid him in twentypound installments. The purchase agreement indemnified Chambers from any bond or support of the couple. Upon Chambers’s death, his grandson Chambers Russell (17131767) inherited the estate, which included the enslaved man Lincoln. Lincoln married a woman named Zilpah, whom the Russells owned. Their five children were born into slavery on what had become the Chambers-Russell family property—
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the vast farm with the Georgian mansion. Russell was appointed a judge in Middlesex County in 1745. A decade later, the judge—a slave owner—presided over the trial of the poisoning death of John Codman I, who as mentioned above, had been the ward of Russell’s grandfather. Three enslaved Black people—Mark, Phoebe, and Phyllis—were convicted. Russell ordered the grisly executions of Mark and Phyllis and banished Phoebe to the West Indies, where to be enslaved was so brutal it was a death sentence. In 1754, Massachusetts Governor William Shirley ordered all towns to conduct a census of enslaved people over the age of sixteen. The town of Lincoln documented sixteen males and seven females. At this time, slavery in New England, apart from work required on the docks, was largely a household economy. The enslaved performed the tasks of running colonial households and farms. Some were highly skilled and worked as carpenters, shipwrights, sail makers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, weavers, bakers, coopers, and tailors. If their owners loaned them out, some enslaved people earned wages—a portion of which their owners felt they were entitled to—with which they could meagerly augment their existence. The violence of family separation was an ever-present threat to the vulnerable and powerless enslaved population. Lincoln and Zilpah’s five children were Bilhah, Peter, Ishmael, Zilpah, and Brister. Born about 1744, Brister may have either been sold or given to a Lincoln selectman and housewright; the Massachusetts Vital Records Project lists the child as “Negro boy of Mr. Timothy Wesson”
and having been baptized on January 14, 1753. Brister would become the property of Wesson’s daughter Abigail and her husband, John Cumings, a wealthy doctor and land speculator, who wed about three weeks after the child’s baptism. The Cumingses owned at least one other slave, Jem. In 1777, Cumings, a militia colonel, enlisted his slave to serve with him in the Revolutionary War. Cumings would eventually give up his claim of ownership of Brister and Jem. (Cumings, who died in 1788 at the age of sixty, made a provision in his will for the establishment of a small fund, managed by the selectmen, to care for Brister and Jem so that if they required assistance, it would not have to be paid from the town coffers.) By 1779, Brister had taken Freeman as his surname. Brister Freeman returned to Concord and married a woman named Fenda. After more than three decades a slave, he became the second former slave to own land in Concord, which he co-purchased with another onetime slave near Walden Woods. Brister worked as a day laborer and Fenda was reportedly a fortuneteller. The couple had three children. Fenda died in 1811 and Brister in 1822. Henry David Thoreau wrote about the Freemans as well as other once-enslaved Black people in Walden (1854). Among them was Brister Freeman’s sister Zilpah White. Zilpah and another brother, Peter, were free, having been abandoned when Charles Russell, a Loyalist who in 1767 inherited the Lincoln estate (property that included their siblings Bilhah and Ishmael), fled to his inlaws’ plantation on Antigua with his family during the Revolution. Another significant intersection of ChambersRussell-Codman owners and their slaves occurred in 1768 when Charles
PAGE!<= Portrait of John Codman III (c. 1800 by John Singleton Copley), a successful merchant in the late eighteenth century who sold enslaved Africans. LEFT Sarah and Ogden Codman Sr. purchased the Codman Estate in 1862 after it had been out of the family’s ownership for six decades.
Russell married Elizabeth Vassall of Cambridge (17421802). The couple inherited two slaves, Robin and Luck, from Elizabeth’s mother, Penelope Royall Vassall (17241800). Penelope’s father was Isaac Royall (1672-1739), who had traded in sugar, rum, and enslaved people, which made him extremely rich. Zilpah White, like her mother, worked as a spinner in the Chambers-Russell household. After Charles Russell and his family fled the country, she settled in a squatters’ community at Walden Woods. She lived in a one-room house on the common land that bordered Walden Road and made her living spinning flax into linen fibers. Thoreau wrote that her living conditions were “somewhat inhumane.” Yet her ability to provide for herself at a time when few, if any, Concord women lived alone was a phenomenal accomplishment. In 1781, John Codman III (1755-1803), grandson of John Codman I, married Margaret Russell (1757-1789), the niece of Judge Chambers Russell and the sister of Dr. Charles Russell. She had inherited the Lincoln property along with family wealth acquired in shipping and trade. Codman III was born in Charlestown. A conservative
Boston aristocrat, he was a successful merchant. His business, Codman and Smith, owned a number of ships and traded with European countries and in the Caribbean. A 1785 business document titled “Prices Current” lists values of Jamaican and American produce, liquors, and “New negroes as in quality $50-68 per head.” The couple’s son, Charles Russell Codman (1784-1852), was five years old when his mother died; he inherited the estate and his father served as steward. In 1799, Codman III undertook the largest expansion of the property. Many features of Grandfather Codman’s mansion and landscape are visible today. In 1807, Charles Russell Codman took control of the Codman Estate. He sold the house and its several hundred acres incrementally to finance his extensive European travel. It would remain outside the family for fifty-five years, until Ogden Codman Sr.—Charles’s son—and his wife, Sarah Fletcher Bradlee, embarked on their “Lincoln plan” to reclaim it. Codman Sr., orphaned at age 12, saw the estate as a symbol of family continuity and ancestral heritage. Marriage into the Bradlee family, whose wealth came largely from the Old China Trade, created the first big infusion of cash since Grandfather Codman’s time. The couple purchased the estate in 1862, christened it The Grange to evoke the image of a gentleman’s country estate, and set about preserving the property as Grandfather Codman had envisioned it. The last Codmans to live on the estate were Ogden Jr. (an architect and notable interior designer), Alice, Tom, Hugh, and Dorothy. In 1968 Dorothy, the surviving sibling, bequeathed the Codman house, collections, family papers, and a parcel of land surrounding the perimeter of the mansion to Historic New England. Many historic sites have sidestepped presenting interpretations of the indivisible ties between slavery, white supremacy, and racism. Historic New England is working to recast its interpretations, including that of the Codman Estate. The life stories of Lincoln, Zilpah White, Mark, Brister Freeman, Robin, Bilhah, Peter, Ishmael, Phyllis, Phoebe, Scipio, Luck, Zilpah, Jack, Chloris, Caesar—and no doubt nameless others—will never be fully known. But their footfalls continue to echo through the Codman Estate’s halls and barns and leave impressions in its fields, forests, and across time. HistoricNewEngland.org
Addendum In addition to Historic New England’s archives and collections database, the resources listed below were consulted in the writing of “Bonds of Family, Bonds of Chattel: The Codman Estate’s legacy of ‘the peculiar institution’.” Balgooy, Max van, and Lonnie G. Bunch. Interpreting African American History and Culture at Museums and Historic Sites. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Blancke, Shirley Imogen Booth, Dena Ferran Dincauze, and Barbara Robinson. From Musketaquid to Concord: the Native and European Experience. Concord, Mass.: Concord Antiquarian Museum, 1985. Brooks, Paul. Trial by Fire: Lincoln, Massachusetts, and the War of Independence. Lincoln, Mass.: Lincoln 1975 Bicentennial Commission, 1975. Chapin, R. Curtis. “The Early History and Federalization of the Codman House.” Old-Time New England71, no. 258 (1981): 24–46. Doyle, David D. “‘A Very Proper Bostonian’: Rediscovering Ogden Codman and His Late-NineteenthCentury Queer World.” Journal of the History of Sexuality13, no. 4 (2004): 446–476. Ferentinos, Susan. Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2015. Gallas, Kris, and James DeWolf Perry. Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Gates, Henry Louis. Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008. New York, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. Lemire, Elise. Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts. Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009. MacLean, John C. A Rich Harvest: the History, Buildings, and People of Lincoln, Massachusetts. Lincoln Center, Mass.: Lincoln Historical Society, 1987. Martin, Margaret Mutchler. The Chambers-Russell-Codman House and Family in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Lincoln, MA: Lincoln Historical Society, 1996. Piersen, William D. From Africa to America: African American History from the Colonial Era to the Early Republic, 1526-1790. New York, N.Y.: Twayne Publishers, 1997. Shinto, Jeanne. “Family Pictures: The Codman Collection.” Fine Arts Connoisseur, 2016. Slaughter, John. Vital Records of Lincoln, MA - 1754 to 1850. https://mavitalrecords.org/MA/Middlesex/Lincoln/.
Historic New England preservation carpenter Natasha Klemek removing a sheathing board from the 1785 Rocky Hill Meeting House in Amesbury, Massachusetts.
Are Worth Preserving? by !CHRIS!PIENTA Pienta is a small business owner of an antique coin shop in the Boston area. Pienta has a studio art degree from Oberlin College and has done much volunteer work over the years in construction and carpentry and recently built a banjo. Pienta will be a%ending the North Bennet Street School in Boston in September and pursuing a degree in preservation carpentry. Pienta is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
n the construction trades, there’s tradition, and then there’s Tradition. One concerns the specialized skills and techniques that are particular to preserving the historic built environment. The other concerns gender diversity in an industry that has always been dominated by white, ostensibly heterosexual males. There has been a sharp decline
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in recent years in the number of skilled preservation trades workers, according to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency that promotes the preservation, enhancement, and sustainable use of historic resources throughout the nation. The result is that there is a shortage of practitioners in the traditional, or preservation, building
trades, so called because they consist of practices and techniques that are hundreds of years old. Among these trades are carpentry, masonry, timber framing, roofing, plasterwork, and painting. This lack of qualified preservationists presents a great opportunity for those with marginalized identities, including women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) folks, and members of the LGBTQ+ community, to learn the muchneeded skills that will reinvigorate this fading profession and make a solid living. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, women represent 10.3 percent of the total construction industry workforce. That percentage isn’t broken down by race or ethnicity, however. Also, there is no data available on LGBTQ+ persons working in the industry, nor any empirical or anecdotal evidence a!esting to their experiences. The struggle to be accepted and seen as an equal is compounded when someone shares multiple or intersecting identities such as BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks. This is a part of the industry where tradition needs to change. Increasingly, construction industry leaders are acknowledging the need to diversify the labor demographics to address the declining workforce and to foster gender equity. I had the pleasure of talking with Jodi Black, Christina Potwakta, and Natasha Klemek, three women who work in preservation as part of Historic New England’s property care team. With thirty-
seven historic house museums and landscapes to maintain, the organization requires a well-trained staﬀ of architectural conservation and preservation specialists. Headed by Benjamin Haavik, the team includes three carpenters (one female, two males) and six project managers (four females, two males). As supervising preservation manager, Black handles tasks from project management to assessing and resolving emergencies that arise at the properties she oversees in Maine, New Hampshire, and on the North Shore of Massachuse!s. Having worked in several capacities on the property care team since August 2008, Black was promoted to her current position last November. Black also supervises Pokwatka, who in November was promoted to preservation manager, North Shore. She started at Historic New England two years earlier as preservation manager, Cape Ann. “Our role as preservation managers is less hands-on, although if there's an emergency or if there's something that needs to be triaged, we will take that role in making things safe or doing something that will temporarily help us get through until we can do a larger project,” Black said. And those emergencies can include “answering fire or security alarm calls, weatherrelated issues such as downed trees and power outages, and plumbing ma!ers,” Pokwatka said. As a preservation carpenter, Klemek engages daily and directly in a traditional building trade. She started at Historic New England in September 2018 as a one-year Americana Foundation fellow in architectural conservation/
preservation carpentry and was hired full time last June. Black, Pokwatka, and Klemek each came to their preservation careers at diﬀerent entry points and stages of their working years. For Black, it was a longtime love of architecture, in which she received her undergraduate degree. During an architectural history course, she learned about the field of historic preservation and decided that it was the career she wanted to pursue. She went on to obtain a master of science degree in historic preservation. Black got a job with a woman-owned architectural firm in Chicago and helped launch its historic preservation division. Klemek was a project manager before becoming a preservation technician. “I was being a project manager and I didn't feel like I had a good enough understanding of what the technicians were doing,” she said. “Even though I had been working in the field, I hadn't done enough of the ni!y-gri!y stuﬀ.” Klemek, who earned a master of science degree in architectural conservation at the University of Edinburgh, also has a specialty in masonry. “When the opportunity came up at Historic New England to do carpentry—and just do historic restoration work—I jumped on it and I sort of stepped away from the project manager career track.” For Pokwatka, it was the love of history in high school that led to her decision to major in the subject in college. There, she learned about historic preservation and declared a double major. Historic preservation prevailed and Pokwatka studied that in graduate school. “I knew I wanted to do historic preservation rather than history because of
the hands-on aspect,” she said. Pokwatka interned as a monuments conservation technician at the Central Park Conservancy in New York City and went on to work as a conservation technician/laborer with an Ohio-based restoration company. As in most lines of work, there are dues to pay, especially at the outset of a career. Gender dynamics frequently come into play—regardless of age—when workers don’t fit notions of the type of individual who should be performing a certain kind of work, adding the challenge of countering assumptions and stereotypes. Black, Pokwatka, and Klemek have extensive experience and education—the same if not more than many men in the field—yet in some regards they have to work harder than their male counterparts to prove their competency. This additional weight on employees who don’t adhere to sociocultural stereotypes of identity expression requires extra perseverance and confidence to push back against old ways of thinking. Pokwatka was once the only female in a workforce of twenty to thirty men. Being young and female, her colleagues didn’t initially see her as a capable work equal. She had to advocate for herself, strongly and constantly. When instructed to “go organize” something that didn’t require heavy li"ing, Pokwatka protested, telling male colleagues, “‘I want to do something else, like, ‘I can carry a fi"y-pound sack of material just as well as anyone else here can. Let me do that.’ Slowly but surely they introduced me to power tools and things like that.” HistoricNewEngland.org
Workplace gender dynamics can either promote inequality—in ways that range from being addressed with diminutives to pe!y sexist slights and double standards to larger discriminatory acts—or help to dismantle it. “I'm in a unique position where I'm doing the hiring, so I have learned to kind of group myself with contractors that I know wouldn't have any problem with the Jodi Black, a supervising fact that I'm a woman or not try to steer preservation manager at Historic New England, assessing conditions me in a direction that I wouldn't want to and the scope of a window necessarily go, as far as the project was project at Beauport, the Sleeperrelated,” Black said. “I've definitely had McCann House, in Gloucester, those moments where I say if I hear a Massachusetts. ‘Hon’ or a ‘Dear,’ they don't get the job.” However, Black said, things are slowly however, there is still some curiosity based on gender changing and such experiences are becoming more stereotypes, they added. the exception than the norm, depending on the “When I say what I do to someone that's not in company and even the geographical area. Still, there construction, they're like, ‘Oh, is that strange being is the need to cultivate confidence in one’s abilities. a female in construction’ or ‘How is it being a female Having seen women commanding top posts early in her in construction?’ I don't necessarily see that as much career helped her realize her own capabilities. “I was within the (preservation) industry,” Black said. Klemek very fortunate in the first ten years of my kind of job is aware, through her contacts in the preservation experience to have a couple of very confident strong trades, that “there seems to be a lot of support for female bosses. One of my bosses, all of her direct women, or a more diverse pool of tradespeople to reports were men and they respected her so well. be supported and coming into preservation trades. There was never a discussion of her being a female. I think part of it is because it is so niche and it is so That wasn't even an underlying thing,” Black said. artistic. There's a strong focus on the artistry and “I think that was very useful for me moving forward the cra"spersonship. So I think it tends to a!ract with my career. You do gain that sort of confidence in interesting and diverse people.” yourself, that you're not just a female in construction To increase diversity and remedy the shortage of work and you know you're a good project manager.” workers in the preservation trades, groups such as Klemek has experienced that, too. “In my previous the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (www. job I worked with mostly women. The other project achp.gov) and the Preservation Trades Network (ptn. managers and a lot of the technicians were women,” org) advocate greater outreach and access to training she said. However, she remembers how employees programs. It is important that employers consciously of other companies working with them on the same seek to diversify hiring and not make assumptions project would look at this group of women with intrigue based on who historically dominates the field. and judgment, though they would not have secondPreservation work is about knowledge of cra", guessed a team of men. a!ention to detail, artistry, and understanding of Once a project is completed, is the gender, race, materials, which can be done by anyone with the skills or sexual orientation of who worked on it apparent? regardless of race, gender, and sexuality. Seeing equal Should the gender, race, or sexuality of workers in representation and diversity in positions of leadership construction ma!er or are we stuck in unconscious will a!ract more folks to the preservation trades, as biases about who is able to excel in certain industries? well as change the way the industry is seen. Black, Within the preservation industry, the presence of Potwatka, and Klemek are prime examples of women women is perceived less and less as a novelty, say who excel in the field and are pushing the preservation Black, Pokwatka and Klemek. Beyond the industry, trades forward. 28
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Book cover and stained glass designer Sarah Wyman Whitman paid tribute to the departed in stone by STUART!WALKER
In Memoriam This three-part headstone marks the graves of Arthur, Francis, and John Lodge. The three brothers, who died in childhood, are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The book conservator for the Boston Public Library from 1982 to 2013, Walker is a collector of book covers designed by Sarah Wyman Whitman. He curated an exhibition of Whitman’s covers, paintings, and stained glass at the library in 2004, the centennial of her death. He is the author of Mrs. Whitman At Home, the catalogue of a Whitman exhibition of books at the Club of Odd Volumes in Boston, to be published in 2021.
HERE"IS"A"MUTE"PATHOS" to the headstone in the Lodge burial plot at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachuse!s, for three brothers who died at the ages of two months, three, and four years. The marker creates an image of the boys standing shoulder to shoulder; across their shared bodies is inscribed “Suﬀer the li!le children to come unto me,” ending with a line of intertwined flowers. The gravestone is one of several that Boston artist Sarah Wyman Whitman (1842–1904) designed. Whitman is celebrated for the book covers she created for Houghton, Miﬄin from 1884 to 1900 and for
several stained glass windows, such as the Brimmer Memorial window at Harvard University’s Memorial Hall. That she also designed gravestones for friends and family members, as well as memorial plaques, historical monuments, and a water fountain, is generally unknown. The headstone for Arthur, Francis, and John Lodge is one of three that Whitman created for the family a"er the death of her friend Mary Greenwood Lodge; the third marker is for Lodge’s husband, James. Lodge’s sons and husband died in the 1860s and she died in December 1889; the stones were installed in December 1891.
Whitman was especially fond of the nieces of her friend Martin Brimmer, the president of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston— Sara and Minna Timmins. When Sara, the youngest, died in 1890 at age twenty-seven, Whitman designed what nearly amounts to a stained glass window in marble—a seven-foot, finely proportioned slab depicting the Lamb of God below a cross fleury [the former a biblical reference to Jesus, the la!er a heraldic cross adorned at the points with flowers], bordered with lines from Dante. Next to it is a small stone marking the grave of Sara’s niece Minna Timmins, who lived barely six months a"er HistoricNewEngland.org
This group of twenty-eight headstones stands in a plot owned by Boston’s Trinity Church in Mount Hope Cemetery in the Mattapan section of the city. Photograph by Nicolas Hyacinthe. PAGE!>9 This memorial fountain in Athol, Massachusetts, is a notable departure from Sarah Wyman Whitman’s style. Undated photograph postcard by Allen Young, Millers River Publishing Company.
her birth in May 1895. Whitman also designed the gravestone for Sara’s sister, also named Minna, who married the essayist John Jay Chapman in 1889. She died in 1897 at the age of thirty-five and is buried in the Jay family plot in Bedford, New York. Whitman created seven gravestones in 1898 for the Presco! family a"er the 1897 death of her friend Josephine Augusta (Peabody) Presco!. Made of “Iowa marble,” they are in a variety of styles. A tall, marble, Celtic-style cross with the name Presco! may also be the work of Whitman, as its design elements, which are not those of a traditional Celtic cross, are similar to examples found in her stained glass and book designs. Whitman frequently used the same decorative elements in her book cover, stained glass, and monument designs. One of the finest of Whitman’s funerary monuments, and one of the most personal, was erected in 1889 for her aunt, Sarah Adams Wyman, who was sixteen when she died in 1841. Made of a so", rose-colored stone, it is decorated with a central cross flanked by massed leaves above calligraphic le!ering. The a!ention given the design and choice of stone indicate that this is a memorial to one who was dearly cherished and it supports the suggestion that Whitman, born the next year, may have been named for her. Whitman’s mother, father, and two of her young siblings are buried in the Wyman plot, too, but her parents’ graves are unmarked. Another headstone collection memorializes several women in Mount Hope Cemetery in Boston, which the city bought in 1857 for use as its first rural cemetery. Around 1892, Trinity Church in Boston purchased a plot on Oakland Avenue. It contains the graves of twenty-eight single and widowed women buried 30
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between that year and 1914, with one exception: Charlo!e Davenport, who died in 1870 and was probably reinterred there when the church purchased the plot. Davenport was the grandniece of Trinity’s first rector, Addington Davenport, who served from 1740 to 1746. The le!ering on her stone suggests that it was designed by Whitman, an active member of the church and designer of the large Phillips Brooks Memorial window in the Parish House. Whitman also designed a tall, rugged central monument of rough granite “in memory of many parishoners” [sic] “who labor and are heavy laden.” Many of these women were from poorer parts of the city with large immigrant populations, such as the West End, and some had been residents of Trinity Home for the Aged. In 1905 Trinity Church installed a memorial tablet to Levere! Bradley (1846–1902), Brooks’s first assistant minister in the 1870s. Made of white Carrara marble, the tablet was the gi" of his widow. In 1884 Bradley became rector of Christ Church in Andover, Massachuse!s, and was probably instrumental in selecting Whitman to design the stained glass and other interior decoration there. For King’s Chapel in Boston, Whitman designed a stately marble tablet installed in 1895 in memory of her friend and chapel member Oliver Wendell Holmes, who died the year before. She had created the covers of several of his books (she considered her design for The One Hoss Shay to be among her most successful). Corinthian columns flank the inscription above three carved wreaths and the whole is surmounted by an entablature bearing the words Miscuit Utile Dulce, a “mixture of the useful and the sweet.” Two other monuments a!ributed to Whitman could not diﬀer more in their appearance or function. One was commissioned in 1898 by Edith Presco! Wolco!, the wife of Massachuse!s Governor Roger Wolco!. Also that year, Whitman had designed gravestones for the Presco! family, including Mrs. Wolco!’s mother. It is a large exedra—a curved seat that invites conversation
and reflection—dedicated to Colonel William Presco! and the men of Pepperell, Massachuse!s, who marched to ba!le at Bunker Hill in Charlestown during the Revolutionary War. It contains a bronze plaque listing the men who died there, surmounted by carved granite powder horns; the names of all the men in the company are carved on the back. It was unveiled November 1, 1899; Edward Evere! Hale delivered an oration. The other is a stone and metal fountain in Athol, Massachuse!s. As reported in the March 19, 1898, edition of the Greenfield, Massachuse!s, Gaze$e and Courier, it was designed with “drinking sections for man, horses and dogs.” It was a gi" to Athol in memory of Ginery Twichell, a native of the town, from his wife and daughter. The fountain is at the northern end of the common at Athol Center near “the old tavern where he used to stop while driving stage between Bra!leboro [Vermont] and Boston.” Twichell went on to become a member of Congress, president of the Boston and Worcester Railroad, and president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. He died in Brookline, Massachuse!s, in 1883. Old postcard views of Athol Center show an a!ractive, leafy oasis, with a bandstand and the fountain as prominent features. Today the site wears an air of forlorn neglect, the fountain apparently no longer functional. It is an odd pastiche of styles, not easily recognizable as the work of Whitman—a rounded square of granite bu!ressed at the corners by leafy protrusions, decorated with bas-reliefs of wreaths and dolphin heads spouting water. These are surmounted by a spray of metal leaves designed to deliver water from the human fountain to the horse trough, while the dolphins supplied water below for dogs. Atop the whole is a seemingly unrelated decorative tangle of oxidized copper whorls and arabesques of leaves and flowers. The most clearly recognizable element of Whitman’s style is the le!ering on the dedicatory plate. The whole, in its disconnection from Whitman’s usual restrained elegance, suggests that she might have been working with a client whose idea of what was tasteful conflicted with her own. However, a possible design antecedent can be found in a book cover a!ributed to Whitman, In a Club Corner, by A. P.
Russell (Houghton, Miﬄin, 1890). A rectangular panel frames a rococo jumble of satyrs, cornucopias, and leafy arabesques; it is possible that Twichell’s widow, Catherine M. (Burt) Vinal, admired the book design and wanted something similar in memory of her husband. Whitman’s own headstone in Mount Auburn Cemetery bears li!le of the artistry and distinctive le!ering that define so much of her work. It gives no clue to who is buried in this grave, being decorated only with a cross and the words Sursum corda (Li" up your hearts). In October 1889, Martin Brimmer concluded an address at Wellesley College with these words: “[If] I were to sum up in a word the most fruitful lesson of the past, it would be, Sursum corda! Hold high your hearts. Keep high your aims. Give of your best to the art you cherish, remembering its highest purposes, to reveal the secrets of nature and the aspirations of man, to interpret God’s work to the world.” Sarah Wyman Whitman, who gave of her best to the art she cherished, directed that those words be inscribed on her gravestone. Information on the gravestones at Mount Auburn Cemetery appeared last year in the Mount Auburn Friends’ magazine, Sweet Auburn. Walker was assisted in his research by Meg Winslow, curator of Historical Collections at Mount Auburn Cemetery; Stanley Cushing, curator emeritus of Special Collections at the Boston Athenaeum; and Mary L. Kwas, an independent researcher who informed him about the existence of the Athol Center fountain.
Revolutionary Learning A school opens doors for deaf people
by ALISSA!BUTLER Study Center Manager
N 1820, THE BARRETT family of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, sent thirteen-year-old Charles to boarding school. For most families who could afford this educational option, such a decision would not have been out of the ordinary or noteworthy. However, as he traveled the 111 miles to his new school in Hartford, Connecticut, little did Charles or his family know that he would become part of a group that would revolutionize the American educational system, create a new language, and form the foundation of a community that would impact the lives of millions of people in the decades to follow. Charles Barrett III embarked on this journey because he was deaf, having lost his hearing at the age of five due to an illness. The school he was going to attend, the first of its kind in the United States, is now known as the American School for the Deaf. Founded by three men who were passionate about educating deaf children, the school would develop American Sign Language and empower people whom society largely viewed as uneducable. Before the establishment of a schooling system for deaf individuals, hearing loss could mean social and intellectual isolation. Treatment of those who were deaf ranged from pity to outright hostility and was marked by oppression and bigotry. Some people believed that deafness in a child was a punishment by God and used this as a
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reason to ostracize entire families and bar them from religious and social life. The terms “deaf ” and “dumb” were used in tandem and demonstrated an ignorant view that deafness meant mental incapacity. With the prevalent view that deaf individuals were incapable of learning, few people attempted to educate them. The legal and civil rights of those who were deaf varied greatly depending on where they lived. Whether a deaf person could marry, own land, become a member of a church, hold a job, or receive aid was entirely at the discretion of state and local governments as well as church leaders. As a result some areas—for instance, the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, where deaf people were afforded many rights—attracted large numbers of deaf individuals.
Life was better for children of families that could afford private tutors or to send them to Europe to attend schools for deaf students. Yet this option had limitations. Many private tutors were not trained in educating deaf children and European schools for deaf individuals focused on oralism. This method emphasized conforming to the hearing world with techniques such as lip-reading and by requiring that deaf children use speech. Oralist teachers considered sign language to be an inferior mode of communication and worked to suppress its use. But receiving any education, even one that required adaptation in a world intolerant of deafness, enabled many to have a chance to try to integrate into the larger society. This greatly changed with the establishment of the American School
PAGE!>< A lithograph c. 1881 commemorating the sixty-fourth anniversary of the first successful American school founded to educate deaf students. The view of the exterior of the Hartford, Connecticut, institution is surrounded by key images associated with the school, including founder Thomas Gallaudet at the top center. LEFT This child’s sign language mug, now in Historic New England’s collection, belonged to Charles Barrett III.
for the Deaf in 1817. The idea for the school came about when minister and educator Thomas Gallaudet had an encounter with a girl named Alice Cogswell. After spending an afternoon teaching her how to spell, Gallaudet and Alice’s father, Mason Cogswell, were convinced that deaf children were as educable as anyone else. They wanted Alice and others like her to have access to a good education without having to travel to Europe. However, there was no model in the United States from which they could learn, so Gallaudet traveled to Europe where schools for deaf children had been well established for hundreds of years. He met Laurent Clerc, an accomplished French scholar and teacher who was deaf. Clerc accepted Gallaudet’s invitation to return with him to America, and with Cogswell they founded the American School for the Deaf. It was not the first attempt to create a national school for educating deaf people, but it was the first to succeed. Gallaudet, Cogswell, and Clerc triumphed where others failed mainly because of their views about deaf people and their educational philosophy. They believed that the only difference between deaf and hearing children lies in their communication needs. Otherwise, they should be educated in the same
manner as hearing children. This perspective informed the founders’ fundraising strategies, too. Operating and promoting the school as a conventional learning institution and not a charitable one, they were able to lobby for and receive ongoing state and federal funding, thus minimizing the dependency upon donors. What was most effective about their approach was the principle that signed language was on par with spoken language—the equivalent of English. Signed language was widely thought to be an inferior communication option—an interim tool used on the path to teaching deaf children to speak. Gallaudet was appalled by this notion and believed that education should develop the intellect, not force students to fit a cultural norm. The American School for the Deaf treated signed language as a legitimate, appropriate, and valued mode of communication in teaching, much to the students’ success. It was not just children who attended the school. The first cohort of students ranged in age from eight to fifty-one; the oldest was itinerant folk portrait painter John Brewster Jr. The American School for the Deaf not only established a healthy learning environment, it forged a community. These students were among their peers, probably for the first time in their lives. They shared the same experience, they shared a distinct language, and as boarders at the school, shared their lives. That was the culture that Charles Barrett III entered in 1820 and the culture that gave birth to American Sign Language.
Many graduates became teachers and opened schools around New England for deaf children. Others worked in business, law, and a host of other professions and trades. Barrett became the owner of several properties and in his thirties started a bookbinding business. While his inherited wealth enabled much of his success, Barrett’s education at the American School for the Deaf empowered him to use his wealth advantageously. In 1830, he wed Harriet Beals Hart; they had three children. In the 204 years since its founding, the American School for the Deaf has had a deep and lasting impact. American Sign Language is a thriving language and in recent years has been used as a cognitive development tool for infants and toddlers. Gallaudet’s legacy lives on through Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., (founded by his son in 1864) and the American School for the Deaf continues to flourish along with roughly ninety-one schools for deaf learners across the country. March 13 through April 15 is designated National Deaf History Month. To learn more, see these resources: A Deaf Child Listened: Thomas Gallaudet, Pioneer in American Education by Anne E. Neimark Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf by Oliver Sacks Through Deaf Eyes, a two-hour documentary produced by WETA Washington, D.C., and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, in association with Gallaudet University.
Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Boston, Massachusetts Permit No. 58621 141 Cambridge Street Boston, Mass. 02114-2702
by LORNA!CONDON Senior Curator of Library and Archives
f you lived in the area of Orwell, Vermont, in the late 1870s or early 1880s, you could have visited the store of E. M. Wright and Co. to get ideas for painting your house from this advertisement for the Wadsworth, Martinez & Longman Paint Company of
New York. “Specimens of House Painting” depicts eight lithographic vigne!es of the same Stick Style residence, each with a diﬀerent color scheme. The paint samples pasted under each vigne!e indicate colors for the body, trim, and roof of the house. According to the Philadelphia Athenaeum’s online exhibition, Color in a Can: Early Marketing of Paint in America, Daniel Wadsworth, Aristides Martinez, and Walter Longman founded their paint manufacturing company in Brooklyn, New York, in 1852. The company oﬀered its Pure Prepared Paints to the public as a semi-paste to which purchasers added their own linseed oil, which was a popular cost-saving measure. Flinn & Brenneman, a manufacturer and wholesale dealer of home furnishings in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a!ested to the quality of the paint in an 1883 newspaper advertisement: “We are the agents for Lancaster and vicinity of Wadsworth, Martinez, and Longman’s Pure Prepared Paints. And we claim that they are the best and cheapest paints in America. And we don’t make this assertion and leave it unsupported.” The ad promises that if customers are not satisfied, Flinn & Brenneman will repaint with another brand at its expense. This recent donation is now part of Historic New Framed advertisement for Pure Prepared Paints, manufactured by the England’s extensive collection of paint samples and Wadsworth, Martinez & Longman Paint Company, New York, c. 1880. other paint-related ephemera.
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