The Mount Creates “Backstairs” Tour to Illuminate the Lives of Early 20th-Century Servants
Taking a Backstairs Tour will allow families to learn about the story of the home and Edith Wharton’s place in literary history; more importantly, however, it will shed light on the class divisions that existed during the Gilded Age in the United States. Students can ponder the ethics of keeping servants, and can think about fair working conditions and wages when they consider the servants’ employment. Older students can also consider the current debate over raising minimum wage in our state when they think about the servants’ working conditions – how does the service industry today compare to its early 20th century equivalent?
The Mount, former summer home of Edith Wharton, is one of the Berkshires’ many beautiful, historic homes. From the sculpture garden and woodlands to the ornately decorated interior, the house embodies all that was high society during the early part of the 20th century. But how was Wharton’s lavish lifestyle sustainable? Who kept the house clean, cooked meals, and orchestrated parties and other social gatherings?
Families can learn about the “behind the scenes” workers of The Mount on a special new tour. Titled the Backstairs Tour, the new addition to the estate’s regularly scheduled tours and events is exactly what the name implies. The Backstairs Tour takes visitors to the otherwise unseen parts of the home – literally to the backstairs, as well as the servants’ quarters in the main house, stable, and gatehouse. Visitors will learn about the role of Wharton’s staff who, in addition to cooking and cleaning, were responsible for driving, extensive gardening, secretary tasks, and other household jobs… Read the rest of this entry »
New Filmmakers Series at Historic Northampton
Sunday, November 10th
The challenges of parenting are not unique to any particular culture or geographical location. Raising children (and being raised) includes some of the same obstacles no matter where you live, and these challenges cross cultures, continents, and generations. However, it is in approaching these obstacles that we perhaps learn the most about ourselves, our children, our parents, and our relationships with one another.
Historic Northampton is hosting a screening of two films that address this idea in two very different ways. Fast Forward: New Filmmakers at Historic Northampton includes work by Masami Kawai and Sasha Hsuczyk, women whose films examine their own relationships with their mother’s. Held on Sunday, November 10th at 3pm, the screening addresses themes of immigration, migrant labor, and mother-daughter relationships…
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, invites families to “Wendell Minor’s America,” a special exhibition featuring more than 150 original artworks, artifacts, and references from illustrator Wendell Minor’s distinguished portfolio.
The award-winning illustrator drew his way through childhood in Aurora, Illinois, inspired by the richly illustrated magazines that were so much a part of American life during the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition celebrates his many cover illustrations and his 25th anniversary illustrating children’s books, each of which has been inspired by Minor’s love of history, art, science, and the natural world…
While old maps are interesting on their own, they provide an excellent entry point for studies of local history. The state department of education includes local history in their frameworks for third grade social studies, but local history is a topic that can be learned about at varying depths by students of all ages…
Maps can say a lot about a place. Not only are they useful for navigating webs of city streets and miles of bumpy country roads, but they offer a perspective not otherwise often seen or accurately conceptualized (except with the help of airplanes, of course). Seeing your community from a birds eye view can put a lot of things into perspective. What might seem like a small village might actually be a good sized town, while a maze of suburban streets might really be only short stretch of populated roads surrounded by more wild space than you had imagined.
Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture.
Dig up some local history at Historic Deerfield’s Archaeology Day on Saturday, October 19th! Families with children of all ages can learn about the role that archaeology has played in explorations of local history at this free event, which features special exhibits, tours, lectures, and hands-on activities.
Held from 10:30am-4pm, Archaeology Day is hosted by Historic Deerfield in conjunction with the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and the University of Massachusetts. Families can learn about local history and local archaeological digs by taking part in an archaeological tour of the historic village, searching for artifacts in a mock dig site, attending a lecture on digs that have taken place at the former site of the Pocumtuck Fort, or visiting a display of artifacts that have been recovered from two local sites – Sanford Tavern and Taylor’s Fort.
The event presents a unique opportunity for students to learn about the role of archaeology in piecing together history. The context in which students most often learn about archaeology is in studies of prehistoric beasts and primitive cultures, but archaeology is used in order to learn more about the plants, animals, and people who lived during nearly any time period in history and in any part of the world. Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture…
Museum Volunteer’s Research Results in Commemorative Civil War Exhibition at Wistariahurst
Artifacts featured are from the Museum Archive Collection and include a period carte-de-visite portrait of George H. Smith, who later became a well known local physician and held municipal positions in the city of Holyoke. On display through Oct 31, 2013.
Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, commemorates the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War with a new display of artifacts from the Museum’s Archive Collection, entitled “Holyoke Remembers the Civil War.”
One hundred and fifty years ago, Holyoke residents left their homes and families in Massachusetts to join in the fight for the Union. Visitors can look at these brave civilians’ belongings on display now at Wistariahurst – a carte-de-viste portrait of George H. Smith, a well-known figure in Holyoke’s history, as well as a Bible dating back to the 1860s that Smith carried during his war experience that contains a personal note, in addition to uniforms, newspapers and other documents dating from the period, and veterans’ medals – and immerse themselves in the rich history of the time period. This exhibition is the result of research compiled by James Ubertalli, an archive volunteer at Wistariahurst with a particular passion for Civil War history.
Students of American history – and people of all ages hoping to learn more about Holyoke and Pioneer Valley history – will find this an enriching experience. Saturdays-Mondays, noon-4pm, through October 31, 2013. Holyoke, MA.
In addition to this exhibition, Wistariahurst offers house tours, and their calendar is full of other local history lectures and events happening this fall. For more information: www.wistariahurst.org. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot St. Holyoke, MA.
Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue Committee Offers Educational & Cultural Events to Support History Curriculum
A guided walking tour of African American and Abolition Era History takes place on Saturday, October 5th, 2013. Meet at the Sojourn Truth Memorial Statue at 10am (130 Pine Street, Florence, MA). Rain location at the David Ruggles Center (225 Nonotuck St., Florence, MA).
As an area rich with history, it is no surprise that the Pioneer Valley has deep connections to the movement that eventually lead to the ending of slavery in the United States. Sojourner Truth, an African-American woman famous for her anti-slavery and women’s rights activism, lived in Florence for nearly fifteen years during the mid-19th century. Born a slave and freed after more than 25 years of labor, Truth used her experiences as an enslaved woman to fuel her passion for speaking out for human rights.
Families can learn about Sojourner Truth’s important role in American history (as well as local history) and the details of her life in Florence by utilizing the many resources offered by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue Committee. Of these resources, the most easily accessible of them is a walking tour, which families with kids of all ages can take with the help of a downloadable map. Outlined on the committee’s website, the self-guided tour begins at the Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue, located at the corner of Pine and Park Streets, and follows the African-American Heritage Trail on an educational journey through town…
Behind the Scenes of Creating a Museum Exhibit
By Kathie Gow
Check out the opening of From House Calls to Hoaxes: The Changing Face of Health Care at the Hatfield Historical Museum on Sunday, October 6th from 11am-3pm during the Hatfield Fall Festival. (Free)
The most exciting thing about creating a museum exhibit is getting to learn about (or learn more about) a new subject. At the Hatfield Historical Museum, myself, as curator, and a handful of volunteers are putting up an exhibit on the history of medical care in our town, and it’s been quite a trip: From House Calls to Hoaxes: The Changing Face of Health Care in Hatfield.
We have been warmed by stories of house calls and dedicated doctors traveling by horse and sleigh through snow to attend their patients’ ills in their homes; as well as, fascinated, surprised and repulsed to learn what techniques and tools were considered standard in earlier times…
Maize is the largest production crop in the world and plays a central role in all of United States agriculture and food production. Explore the science of maize, one of the most significant crops to humankind for thousands of years, and why it continues to surprise us today.
For thousands of years, corn has been a staple in the diet of countless cultures. Today, corn is the largest produced crop in the world, and the United States is no exception – large scale agriculture in our country revolves around corn production. What’s so great about corn, though? How is it that the yellow, red, blue, and white kernels have persisted in their importance to humans?
Find an answer to this question (and many others!) at the Smith College Botanical Garden’s fall exhibit, Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain. Open through December 15th, 2013 at the garden’s Lyman Plant House, the exhibit features history and cultural significance of corn, as well as lots of information about changes that the grain has undergone – both naturally and as a result of genetic engineering.
While visiting the exhibit, families with younger students can focus on the history and use of corn throughout history…
“From Shtetl to Suburb: One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in the Valley”
Illustrates Jewish Experience in the Pioneer Valley at the Springfield Museums
Through March 2nd, 2014
“The story of Jewish immigrants and their work to develop a thriving community over the last century is a fascinating tale of courage, hard work, and perseverance,” states Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History. “Their story is unique, but also emblematic of the challenges faced by so many immigrant groups throughout America’s history.”
The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, in conjunction with several noted local organizations and guest curator Dr. Stuart Anfang, invites you to learn about the history of the Jewish community in Western Massachusetts from the late 19th century through the present. By combining artifacts, photos, film, and personal histories, the exhibition offers multidimensional insights into the experiences of Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Czarist Russia in the late 19th century. The exhibit also illustrates the growth of their community in the North End of Springfield, the eventual decline of such inner-city neighborhoods in the aftermath of World War II, and the 1960’s relocation of Springfield’s Jewish community and synagogues to Longmeadow and other parts of Western MA following a major urban renewal project in the North End…
The Black Man in Song
Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA
The Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert Series will conclude it 2013 season August 25th with a special concert in tribute to Lucy Terry Prince, Deerfield’s 18th century African American resident and America’s first African American poet who was also known for her singing and story telling.
This Sunday, August 25th, is the 267 anniversary of the last of the Indian raids which took place in Deerfield, MA. Known as the 1746 Bars Fight, the event helped to shape the community of 18th century Deerfield’s relationship with their Native American neighbors. The event is chronicled in the only surviving work of Lucy Terry Prince, a notable African-American poet, songwriter, and storyteller of early Deerfield. A former slave, Prince’s unusual life has become an important part of western Massachusetts folklore.
At this week’s Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert, Prince’s life and work will be celebrated in song, marking the first annual Lucy Prince Tribute. Titled The Black Man in Song, the concert will include both traditional and contemporary music, including a commissioned piece based on letters written by George Washington Carver. Songs will be performed by tenor Irwin Reese and pianist Julia Bady, and the concert will take place in the Victorian Music Room of the Memorial Hall Museum, allowing concertgoers to enjoy historic surroundings while celebrating the village’s past.
While 18th century music may not be the typical favorite genre of most kids, the concert presents a unique musical lens to learn about American history. Older students who have some preexisting knowledge about early American history and the Revolutionary War can expand their learning with specific historical details through song, and will be able to broaden their understanding of artistic expression in early America…
Old Sturbridge Village ‘Redcoats & Rebels’
New England’s largest military reenactment in New England celebrates 10 years!
August 3rd & 4th, 2013
Forget history books with boring dates and dry facts. One of the best ways to learn about the Revolutionary War is to talk to a military reenactor. Most of the soldiers participating in the Redcoats & Rebels have meticulously researched the Revolutionary War history of the actual units they portray. These amateur historians can tell you what it feels like to fire a musket or cannon, what the food tasted like, what it sounds like in battle, and how hot the uniforms were. And they know lots of interesting, little-known facts about military life when our country was young.
The Redcoats are coming, the Redcoats are coming! Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will be transformed into a Revolutionary War-era military encampment on August 3rd and 4th, offering families a chance to learn about the soldiering life in the 18th century – up close and personal! Redcoats and Rebels is an annual event at OSV, and features reenactment groups representing both the British and American armies.
As the largest reenactment event in New England, Redcoats and Rebels offers a myriad of demonstrations, performances, and other educational events, all designed to completely immerse visitors in the culture, sights, and sounds of war-era early New England…
This year is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and although not much of the action took place in Western Massachusetts, there are plenty of online resources to help you learn about the war and commemorate its 150th anniversary.
The first of these is a Civil War EarthCam. The Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1-3, 1863, and EarthCam has a live webcam of a reenactment of Pickett’s Charge, Wednesday July 3 at 3pm. The Gettysburg EarthCam transports you to the site of this historic battle, which was a turning point in the Civil War.
Another great online resource is the Civil War Trust. They have interactive maps, photos, games, descriptions of battles, soldier biographies, and much more. The maps on the site are useful for understanding specific battles and how they went. Newer, animated maps show the course of battle and specific steps taken, complete with historical reenactment footage and narration.
In addition to these interesting online resources, there are a couple of events happening in the region that can help teach about and commemorate the Civil War:
Saturday, July 6 – 2pm – HISTORY: As part of their Civil War: 150 Years series, Western Gateway Heritage State Park is giving an illustrated lecture on Gettysburg – the site of the war’s pivotal battle and Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. Confederate General Robert E. Lee will “come to life” and share his story of how and why the Confederacy lost this battle and subsequently the war itself. 413-663-6312. 115 State Street #4. North Adams, MA.
Saturday, July 13 – 7pm – HISTORY/FILM: Ron Maxwell’s new Civil War era film Copperhead (PG-13) is screening at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. The film follows an Upstate New York family during the Civil War. Maxwell will be at the screening to answer questions and discuss the film. He has directed two Civil War films before this – Gettysburg (PG) and Gods and Generals (PG-13). Call ahead for tickets. 413-528-0100. 14 Castle Street. Great Barrington, MA. $
Kemp-McCarthy Museum: Historic Museum in the Hilltown Highlandss
Families can learn all about the history of life in the Hilltowns at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum, the town of Rowe’s fantastic resource for learning about local history! The Museum with be celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sunday, June 30th from 2-4pm!
A typical weeknight in a modern day Hilltown household might include driving to sports practice, using the internet to complete homework assignments, cooking dinner together on an electric stove in a well-lit kitchen, and searching for constellations in the night sky using a cell phone app. Nothing unusual – just some typical childhood activities and family downtime in a modern day society…
Rewind a full century. What would this typical weeknight have looked like during the early 20th century? Or what about fifty years earlier than that, even? Families in the Hilltowns during generations past similarly spent their evenings together at home, but their time was filled with very different activities. Instead of electricity- and technology-dependent pastimes, they played musical instruments together, did laborious household chores, and relied on woodstoves in order to do their cooking…
Irish Legacy Exhibit at Springfield Museums this Summer
Mother John Berchmans, left, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, whose secular family name was Somers, established Our Lady of the Elms College in 1928 with the Most Rev. Thomas O’Leary, diocesan bishop. Sister Mary Cecelia Lucey, an accomplished musician and diocesan music teacher, succeeded her at the Elms. This photo was taken in 1948 on the Elms campus. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield/Mont Marie Archives)
The Pioneer Valley’s history is deeply entwined with the stories of thousands of Irish immigrants. Local culture and industries were shaped in part by the growth in population that Irish immigration to the United States sparked along the Connecticut River. The influence of this can still be seen amongst communities throughout the Valley.
To honor the rich cultural, geographic, and economic history of Irish immigrants, the Springfield Museums are offering an exhibit titled, “The Irish Legacy: Immigration and Assimilation in the Connecticut Valley During the Industrial Revolution.” The exhibit, which will be open to visitors from June 11th through August 25th, blends historical information and data with photographs, books, and other artifacts including a St. Brigid cross, a traditional Celtic dance dress and shoes, and a bodhrán, and Irish instruments. The museum will also offer scheduled special events for games, stories, performances, and other family-friendly activities to help younger visitors to absorb and understand the information displayed within the exhibit.
Bike Tours of Holyoke Mills & Canals and Mansions: June 1st & 8th
Teens & adults can take to the streets via bike and join Wistariahurst Museum for two historical bicycle tours around Holyoke. Tours will be led by historian Craig Della Penna who will share his insights of historical buildings, landmarks along Holyoke’s streets.
The Wistariahurst Museum is holding two bicycle tours around the city of Holyoke, one exploring the city’s mills and canals, and the other exploring the mansions of the Fairfield Avenue Historic District. Teens and their parents can spend quality time together while learning local history and developing a greater sense of place by becoming better acquainted with the history and current landscape of this first planned industrial community in the U.S.
The first ride, taking place from 11am-12:30pm on Saturday, June 1st, leads cyclists along the many mills and canals of Holyoke. Local historian Craig Della Penna will be there to teach you about the history of these waterways, as well as the historic buildings built along them. The ride begins and ends at Holyoke Heritage State Park (221 Appleton Street).
The second ride is on Saturday, June 8th from 11am-12:30pm. Cyclists will ride around the Holyoke Highlands and Fairfield Avenue Historic District while learning about the architecture of the area’s Victorian mansions, as well as the architects, builders, and families connected to them. This tour begins at Kennedy Park (Waldo Street) and ends at Jones Park (Oxford Road).
Hilltown Family Variety Show
History Through Stories & Songs Episode
Guest DJ, David Grover
Listen to Podcast:
David Grover is our Guest DJ with a History through Stories & Songs Episode. David puts together an eclectic mix of favorite folk songwriters and singers that highlights the history of our country. – www.davidgrover.com
Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am May 25th & 26th, 2013 WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio Northampton, MA
Storrowton Village Host Interactive Tour: Civil War
West Springfield, May 28th
The storytelling tour at Storrowton Village in West Springfield, MA recognizes the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War on Tuesday evening, May 28th. Those who are intrigued and fascinated by Civil War history and want to learn more about life during this period, are urged to attend this unique and educational learning experience. Storrowton Village plans to present four such programs each year.
Storrowton Village will present an interactive, educational tour titled Storrowton and the Civil War, Tuesday, May 28, from 6-7pm, offering an inside look at how folks in the Northeast coped with the Civil War and the absence of our men who were called to duty or joined the patriotic fervor.
Participants will meet “townspeople” and hear their personal stories and points of view regarding the Civil War. Storrowton Village volunteers will be portraying the characters of the time as visitors travel through the Village’s historic buildings meeting residents, shopkeepers, farmers, family members, and tradesmen along the way, all with information and their own experiences to share.
Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum Opens for 2013 Season
The rooms in the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum remain as they were arranged by members of the family to accommodate the procession of folks who crossed the house’s threshold. From farmers and businessmen, to religious leaders and social workers, to servants and slaves, the stories of many men, women, and children spanning 250 years of American History are told within the house.
The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, an historic house museum dating to 1752 in Hadley, MA opens today (Wednesday, May 15) for its 64th season, and will continue their summer music engagement series, Wednesday Folk Traditionsand A Perfect Spot of Tea this summer.
Known as Forty Acres, the museum is an 18th-century farm on the banks of the Connecticut River that today interprets life in rural New England over three centuries. Through the words, spaces and possessions of the women and men who lived there, the Museum portrays the activities of a prosperous and productive 18th-century farmstead.
Plainfield Historical Society Unveils Website Full of Local History
“In 2003 the Plainfield Historical Society acquired a 1.5 acre parcel along the Mill Brook in Plainfield where there’s a story waiting to be told. The Plainfield mill site contains remnants of three mill foundations that date from the early 19th century through the first decade of the 20th century Thanks to the Historical Society’s conservation effort, the public will soon be able to visit the trio of mill site remains, which illustrate the technological innovation and basic evolution of early water-powered industry in Massachusetts.” – Source: Plainfield Massachusetts Historical Society
Bring local history to life as you plan family activities for the summer! Thanks to Plainfield resident, Lori Austion, The Plainfield Historical Society has recently unveiled their new website (plainfieldmahistory.org). Although a work in progress, it’s filled with a rich amount of information on local historical sites and homes, notable former community members in the Hilltowns, and self-guided historical tours that history buffs of all ages can participate in!
Studying local history can be an incredibly enriching and experience for students of all ages that nurtures a sense of place. For younger students, a look at community history provides learning opportunities where kids can physically experience the historical places that they learn about. Older students can benefit from such studies, too, as it will help them to put broad knowledge of American and world history into a local context – they will learn how larger scale changes and events affected their own community and physical surroundings. Read the rest of this entry »
The remnants of the Pioneer Valley’s silk trade are still around – one can find the iconic Silk Mill, visit Silk City (Florence), and gaze up into the branches of mulberry trees all over Northampton. All of these things are representations of the city’s long-ago to silk production and the silk trade in China and Japan.
During the first half of the 19th century, Northampton was a huge producer of silk. Mulberry leaves fed the hungry silk worms, and women worked in factories, helping to spin the silk onto spools in order to be woven into beautiful fabric. Eventually, the demand for silk became too much for the town’s supply of silk worms, and manufacturers began outsourcing to China. However, Chinese silk production methods proved incompatible with mechanical production, and Japan replaced China as the valley’s silk provider until the industry collapsed during America’s Great Depression.
Pothole Pictures presents “Root Hog or Die”
May 17th & 18th in Shelburne Falls, MA
“Root Hog or Die” captures the lives and stories of the old time horse farmers in Franklin County in their own voices, faces, ingenious technology and well-tended land. According to Pothole Pictures coordinator, Fred DeVecca, “Rawn Fulton’s film provides a vibrant and down-to-earth historical context for the resurgence of local agriculture, CSAs and micro-farming in Franklin County today…It connects us to our neighbors, our history, the land and the farms we depend on and gives us all an opportunity to show our support for local agriculture.”
Nearly forty years after its first release, “Root Hog or Die,” the Franklin County documentary film on the last of the old time horse farmers in Western Massachusetts, re-appears on the big screen in Shelburne Falls. On Friday and Saturday, May 17th & 18th at 7:30pm, Pothole Pictures presents two screenings of “Root Hog or Die” in historic Memorial Hall Theater in downtown Shelburne Falls.
On Saturday, May 18, the film’s director, Rawn Fulton will present the recently re-mastered digital version of the original 56-minute film made in 1974, and will lead a community conversation about farming then and now together with a panel of local farmers. They include farmers and local families whose experience stretches back for generations and who are connected to many of the farmers featured in “Root Hog or Die” – Jim Wholey and the Dole family of Shelburne, and Al Pieropan of Ashfield.
Contemporary farmers with long family roots in Franklin County also include Faith and Peter Williams representing the Our Family Farms dairy cooperative and John and Carolyn Wheeler of Wheelview Farm. Newer arrivals to Franklin County farming include Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippenstein of Side Hill Farm in Hawley and David Fisher and Anna Maclay of Natural Roots CSA in Conway. New Roots brings the horse-powered farming tradition back to Franklin County in a new form – community supported agriculture. Recent Mohawk High School graduate will represent the new generation of young farmers revitalizing agriculture in Franklin County.
Greenfield’s Lost Museum: Dexter Marsh and the Dinosaur Tracks
The town of Greenfield was once home to a world famous museum – it drew a stunning 3,000 visitors in just 7 years! The museum, opened during the mid-19th century by a local jack-of-all-trades named Dexter Marsh, was home to the first ever dinosaur tracks to receive a thorough and official scientific examination. What happened to the tracks? And what happened to the museum? Find out more about this fascinating piece of Pioneer Valley past at Greenfield Community College’s Sloan Theater on Wednesday, May 8th at 7pm. Presented by the Pioneer Valley Institute. 1 College Drive. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)
Many local people know that Dexter Marsh (1806-1853), quarrier — stonemason, janitor, handyman, and jack-of-all-trades in 19th-century Greenfield, MA — was among the first to discover dinosaur footprints, but how many know that he opened one of the first dinosaur museums in the country? In 1835, when he first saw the prints, he thought they had been left by very large birds — and professional geologists agreed with him. These became the first known tracks in the world ever to receive a thorough scientific examination, performed by a professor at Amherst College named Edward Hitchcock.
In the following years, the largely self-educated Marsh learned about paleontology and built an extra room onto his house to exhibit his collection. From 1846 to 1853, an astonishing 3,000 people signed the visitors’ register of his house-museum, including such famous Americans as Oliver Wendell Holmes and even travelers from Europe and the Near East. At his early death in 1853, Marsh’s museum was dispersed at public auction, split mostly between Amherst College and what is today the Boston Museum of Science.
By looking into his daybooks and visitors’ registry in the archives at Amherst College, Dr. Robert Herbert has given Dexter Marsh the most thorough examination to date, bringing the man and his museum from obscurity back into the light. On Wednesday, May 8th at 7pm, using maps, photographs, and illustrations, Dr. Herbert will give a lively talk about this brilliant day laborer whose curiosity moved him into another world. It is our great good fortune that Dr. Herbert, formerly an art historian at Yale University and later Mount Holyoke College, has long been interested in the history of geology. In recent years, he has written about Edward Hitchcock and Orra White Hitchcock and continues to delve into the history of dinosaur footprints in the Connecticut River Valley.
Dr. Herbert’s talk will take place at Greenfield Community College, Main Campus, Sloan Theater (Main Building, South Wing). For more info contact Cynthia Herbert at email@example.com
Submitted by Cynthia Herbert. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Greenfield.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
History of Transportation in the Pioneer Valley
One of the best ways to learn about the changes that historical events and innovative inventions create is by studying local history. By learning about broad concepts and eras within history, we can gain an understanding of how things changed on a large scale. However, to really understand how these changes were played out on a smaller scale, we must examine the effect that they had on our own communities.
The Wistariahurst Museum is offering a series of lectures this spring on the history of transportation in the Pioneer Valley. Titled, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Transportation in the Pioneer Valley,” the series aims to teach the community about how changes in technology, industry, and politics played out in they way that we get from place to place. Some of the topics addressed in the lectures will include:
Westover Field’s role in our country’s involvement in the Cold War
The short history of rail travel and transport in the Pioneer Valley, and its place in our future
Travel by foot or on bike, as supported by the many hiking trails and bike paths in the valley
The systems we’ve implemented in our waterways in order to accommodate changing energy needs and the upstream travel of fish
Best for older students, the lectures will explain lots of important local history and will focus on 20th century history (though a few of the topics deal with late 19th century history, as well). Each event will take place at 6pm in the museum’s carriage house, and they will take place on Monday evenings from March 4th-May 13th, 2013. The museum asks a small donation to attend the lectures. Wistariahurst is located at 238 Cabot Street in Holyoke, and can be contacted at 413-322-5660.
Blogging the Days in the Life of William Cobbett Skinner
1888 Journal is posted online as the year unfolds.
William Cobbett Skinner (1857 – 1947) 1888 Journal
In 1888, William Cobbett Skinner was 31 years old, working under his father’s guidance at Skinner and Sons Manufacturing in Holyoke, MA. Wistariahurst Museum’s blog entries will track Will’s 1888 journal. Each week new entries will be transcribed and uploaded to the Wistariahurst Museum website for interested readers to follow.
“The journal entries will unfold like a mystery” remarked Penni Martorell. “It is all new material to us. We’ve never had the time to transcribe this journal and we thought we would share the discoveries as they happen along in the year.”
Follow along as Will’s journal lends insights into his business dealings, family relationships and social life.
Dale Platenik, a select volunteer with skills at deciphering handwriting has stepped up to take on this time consuming and yet intriguing process. “I love the challenge of decoding Will’s handwriting and I am learning all sorts of things about Will and the Skinner Family. It is quite fun.”
Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines
The Roots of Valentine’s Day Traditions
Old Sturbridge Village: Feb. 9th & 10th
Historians at Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate the history of Valentines in America and demonstrate old-fashioned chocolate-making with “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines,” a weekend program set for Saturday and Sunday Feb. 9-10, 2013. – UPDATE: Due to the impending storm, the Village will be closed, Friday, February 8 and Saturday, February 9.
[02/08/13 UPDATE: OSV will be closed Sat., Feb. 9th and opened Sun. Feb. 10th]
The tradition of having chocolate on Valentine’s Day is a longstanding one – it has been around since the early days of New England, even! Today’s Valentine’s traditions tend not to involve a lot of homemade chocolate or laborious preparations, however – usually we buy our chocolates at the grocery store or, in the most thoughtful of cases, from a local candy shop. However, early Americans spent a lot of time preparing their delicious chocolate foods – a tradition that families can learn about this weekend at Old Sturbridge Village!
The village’s annual Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines offers families a chance to learn about the history of chocolate – how it was prepared, where it came from, and how it was eaten. Cacao beans were processed and ground by early New Englanders in order to create things like a spicy hot chocolate-style drink or a chocolate cake – with a surprising secret ingredient! There will be both displays and demonstrations from which families can learn about 19th century chocolate-making techniques. Do you know where the first Americans were supplied their chocolate from? Before visiting, watch a video on the history of chocolate to learn some useful background information on the process of acquiring and preparing cocoa beans!
Along with chocolate, Valentine’s Day brings the sharing of valentine cards! Since the roots of this tradition are local, the village will have special educational programs and hands-on activities on this topic, too! Families can learn about the Worcester resident whose humble handmade card business blossomed into a large card-making company and, eventually, the huge tradition of Valentine’s Day cards that we have today. Then, make your own valentines to share – inspired by images of antique cards shared by villages in the 1800’s.
Families can use a visit to the village to make this Valentine’s Day an educational one, rather than a commercialized one! Students can exerience the roots of some of the traditions that they participate in, and will learn to better understand early American culture. The village is open from 9:30am-4pm on both Saturday, February 9th and Sunday, February 10th. More information and a complete schedule of events is available on the village’s website. www.osv.org
Did You Know?
Spanish conquistadors brought chocolate from Central America back to Spain in the 16th century. From there, it traveled through Europe, to England, and back to America.
Early versions of “chocolate cake” do not actually contain any chocolate. The name means that the cake was intended to be enjoyed with a cup of chocolate, just as “coffee cake” today is meant to be served with coffee.
Boston pharmacists advertised chocolate as a medicinal remedy as early as 1712, and by the late 1700s, there were hundreds of chocolate vendors in the city.
Chocolate was drunk as a medicine during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and by California Gold Rush miners, but later in the 19th century, with the addition of milk and more sugar, chocolate was preferred more as a confection than as a health tonic.
New manufacturing processes developed during the Industrial Revolution transformed chocolate from an expensive drink into an inexpensive food. By the late 1800s, chocolate was widely advertised to women and children through colorful posters and trade cards, and its iconic status as the world’s preferred candy was secured.
The best known legend about St. Valentine has that he was a Roman martyr killed for his faith on February 14, 269 A.D. He may have been a priest who married couples in spite of the Emperor’s ban.
Valentine’s Day, like Christmas and many other Christian holidays, was originally an attempt to Christianize popular pagan festivals. In pagan Rome, February 14 was dedicated to the goddess Juno (Hera in Greek mythology), wife of Jupiter (Zeus) and patroness of women and marriage.
Few New Englanders marked Valentine’s Day before its rise in the increasingly sentimental and economically prosperous 1840s.
As with other holidays, those who made money from Valentine’s Day encouraged its observance. In the 1840s when printing technology improved, sending handwritten notes and printed cards became even more popular. Enterprising shopkeepers encouraged the exchange of gloves, books, candy, and other gifts among a growing middle class.
Esther Howland, of Worcester, Mass. began designing fancy Valentine cards in 1848, and hired girls to help cut and paste together these small works of art. By 1850 she was advertising her cards in the newspaper, and by 1860 she was selling between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of Valentines annually.
The Kimball-Salisbury Women: Chicago to Tor Court
Local History & Fashion from the Gilded Age
Arrowhead in Pittsfield, MA
The Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead offers a glimpse of Pittsfield’s Gilded Age with an exhibit of exquisite fashions and photographs from Tor Court’s Kimball-Salisbury family. The exhibit highlights the gowns worn by four different Kimball women, all of whom spent summers at Tor Court, one of the Berkshire Cottages in Pittsfield. These “cottages” were actually mansions built by some of America’s wealthiest families in and around Lenox, Stockbridge and Pittsfield during the Gilded Age. These aristocratic manor houses came to be known as Berkshire Cottages.
Learn about the Gilded Age’s local influence at the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead! The historical society is hosting an exhibit of items and artifacts from the lavish time period, including exquisite gowns worn by and photographs of the Kimball-Salisbury family, owners of one of the many Gilded Age “cottages” found in the Berkshires.
Though called cottages, the homes were really anything but – they were colossal, exquisite mansions built as summer homes in the Berkshires for families who lived in the city. The fashions included in the exhibition illustrate the changes in style that took place between 1910 and the mid-1920’s, as they change from beautiful gowns to sassy flapper dresses, illustrating the cultural changes that also took place at that time.
The exhibit illustrates history through fashion, and will help students learning about American history put their learning into a local context.
The Kimball-Salisbury Women: Chicago to Tor Court is open from Thursday-Sunday from 11am-3pm, from February 10th to March 31st, 2013. Arrowhead is located at 780 Holmes Road in Pittsfield. For more information call 413-442-1793 or visit www.mobydick.org.
Celebratory Opening Benefit Brunch happens on February 9, from 11am-1pm at Salisbury Estates Community House in Pittsfield, MA. Cost of brunch includes ticket to exhibit. For more information and to order your brunch tickets, call 413-442-1793 x10.
Our friends at the Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) put together a special program all about the Underground Railroad. Our songs “Underground Railroad” and “Henry Box Brown” are on it. So are great versions of traditional songs by Taj Mahal and Bill Harley, a story read by Morgan Freeman and much more. Listen to it right now:
And listen carefully. That’s the only way you’ll pass the quiz we made up related to the show. The quiz is for 4th grade and up (or advanced readers of any age) and may require some extra research in addition to listening to the HFVS podcast. Post your answers on a blog or Facebook page or public Google doc and share your link here.
Try to avoid using Wikipedia. Searching songbooks, history books, Bibles, and other tomes you hopefully have on your family’s shelves — or in your local library — will be a much more enjoyable way to find the information you don’t know already (Western MA resources available here).
In our song “Underground Railroad,” what is the secret password needed to board? It’s actually three words.
Name three cities or towns that were part of the Underground Railroad — and that we mention in our song about it.
What is the “drinking gourd” described in the story read by Morgan Freeman and sung about by Taj Mahal?
In the traditional song “Wade In the Water,” (Bill Harley’s version can be heard on the podcast) who, as the lyrics ask, are “these children all dressed in red” and “that young girl dressed in white?” There isn’t one right answer — tell us what you’ve read and what you think. (Hint: Many spirituals and Underground Railroad songs contained coded lyrics and secret messages)
Henry “Box” Brown mailed himself to freedom in a box. In which city did he finally climb out of his box a free man?
A state and a musical instrument are mentioned in “Nelly Grey” (Phil Rosenthal sings the version you hear on the podcast). Which state? Which instrument?
Why was “Nelly Grey” written (Another question without one answer. We want your opinions as well as the results of your research)?
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Leadbelly and a choir close out the podcast with their version) describes a trip to heaven — or to freedom — in a real or metaphorical chariot. Which prophet left life on this Earth in a chariot according to the Old Testament?
When did decorating a Christmas tree become a holiday tradition? Where did the practice of giving gifts originate? The Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA writes, “During the Victorian Era, Christmas bloomed into a season full of tradition when a London newspaper published a drawing depicting the royal family of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert adorning a Christmas tree with lighted candles, tinsel, ribbon, and paper chains.”
The holiday season is full of opportunities to teach your kids about the origins of holiday traditions, getting a glimpse into history and cultures. The Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village offer opportunities throughout December for holiday history lessons that are fun and engaging!
HISTORIC DEERFIELD: Heritage Holiday
Historical Deerfield has a month long series of traditional festive activities for families to enjoy in December. Visitors can learn about open hearth cooking, holiday traditions, take a horse-drawn wagon ride, and make simple gifts to take home.
Last weekend, silhouette artist and historical actress Lauren Muney was at Historic Deerfield in period dress cutting portraits out of paper. The art of silhouettes was very popular in the 1800′s, and Lauren’s interpretation of the work of itinerant artists from the past, who cut likenesses of people from black paper using just scissors, was an engaging way to explore the history of folk art.
This weekend visitors of Historic Deerfield can make their own simple gifts to give this holiday season, including woodland figures made from natural materials, paper quillwork ornaments, and spiced hot chocolate mix. There will also be horse-drawn wagon rides through the streets of Historic Deerfield.
Historic Deerfield’s program has a refreshing lack of the man in red! If you would prefer your family to take in some history without a distracting bearded figure, this is the museum for you. It is delightfully low key and fun, even for families with young children. The programs run from December 1st-30th, excluding December 24th and 25th, from 9:30am-4:30pm. Open Hearth Cooking starts at 10am, and gift-making starts at 12noon. December 15th-16th will be the final days for enjoying horse-drawn wagon rides. You can get all of the details at www.historic-deerfield.org.
OLD STURBRIDGE VILLAGE: Christmas by Candlelight
For an all-engaging sensory experience, check out the Old Sturbridge Village’s “Christmas by Candlelight.” The staff at Old Sturbridge goes all out to create magic for your family. There are carolers, horse-drawn carriages, dances, a bonfire, mulled cider, Santa Claus, a gift-making workshop… the list goes on! True to the mission of the museum, all of the fun is organized to help visitors understand New England in the early 1800s. Visitors will be able to learn about the origins of the Christmas Tree, Poinsettias, and fruit cake, among other things, and have the opportunity to create their own gifts and decorations. You can read more about it at Christmas by Candlelight.
For more learning opportunities this holiday season, check out Hilltown Families Friday column, Learn Local. Play Local.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Theresa Heary-Selah — Theresa is a teacher and a freelance writer, making her home in Greenfield, MA and Wright, NY with her family. She teaches at S.H.I.N.E. (Students at Home in New England), a social and academic support program for middle school students in the Pioneer Valley, and writes about home-schooling and technology. Theresa’s interests include home-schooling, gardening, cooking, hiking, and dancing.
Old Sturbridge Village hosts Christmas by Candlelight
Celebration of favorite holiday traditions, music & food
Nine evening events set for Dec. 7-9; 14-16; 21-23
The legend of Santa has complex origins, blending diverse tales of magical gift givers with Christian beliefs. Dutch settlers in 17th-century New Amsterdam (New York) brought with them the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaus), a 4th-century Christian saint from Turkey known for his generosity to children.
Take a break from the overwhelming wave of commercialized holiday “spirit” that the post-Thanksgiving season brings – visit Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight, which offers an incredibly wide variety of family-friendly holiday activities, performances, demonstrations, readings, crafts, and more! Villagers dressed in period costume will share holiday traditions from early New England – many of which formed the foundation upon which modern day holiday celebrations have been built! Families can learn about the roots of traditions such as yule logs, roasting chestnuts over a fire, building gingerbread houses, and even having a Christmas tree!
Friday-Sunday evenings from 4-9pm through December 23rd, the village will come alive with performances by Victorian carolers, Celtic music groups, handbell choirs, chorus groups and fife and drum corps. Visitors can view an exhibit of exquisite handmade gingerbread houses or see a miniature New England village decorated for the holiday, a model train show, or a 100+ piece nativity scene. There will be hands-on ornament making (using tin, and utilizing basic skills used by early New England metalworkers), as well as other holiday crafts.
A visit to the village can become a new holiday tradition for families, and is also a fantastic way for families to learn about history – hands-on! Each of the traditions being practiced and/or demonstrated throughout the village is specific to a particular period in American history, and families can work together to place each of their activities into a broader historical context. Visitors can actually see “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and hear why they were a favored treat in early New England. They can also learn the origins of candy canes, mistletoe, fruitcake and how poinsettias were introduced to this country.
For more information on Christmas by Candlelight, call Old Sturbridge Village at 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org. Admission includes a free second visit within a 10-day period and any guests of second-day visitors receive a 25% discount on their admission. You could also inquire with your local library to see if they have a museum pass to OSV to lend. Monson Free Library, Westfield Athenaeum Library and Wilbraham Public Library all have passes to lend. Check with the nearest library near you too.
Did You Know?
The old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel, made famous by the brothers Grimm, inspired many Germans in the early 1800s to create model witches’ houses from hard gingerbread. Building fanciful gingerbread houses at Christmastime spread to America by the late 1800s.
Most early New Englanders did not celebrate Christmas. They saw Christmas celebrations as dangerous foreign (pagan) perversions of pure Christianity and an excuse for sinful behavior.
Yule logs began as a pagan reminder of the light and warmth of the sun on cold mid-winter nights. The word “Yule” is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word “hweol,” which means “wheel” – a pagan symbol of the sun. The burning of a Yule log originated with the Druids, The modern practice of decorating trees and buildings with flashing electric lights seems to be a logical extension of the lighting of candles and bonfires at Christmas time.
Christmas trees were pretty much only a German tradition until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, gave her a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, and the custom began to catch on in the English-speaking world.
(Source of Facts & Photos: Old Sturbridge Village)
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The exhibit will be on display at the Forbes Library in Northampton for the month of February 2013, and at the City Hall Gallery in Easthampton from Sept 13-Dec 11, 2013. - We're currently booking shows for the Spring/Summer of 2013 and for 2014. Each exhibit is a unique showcase of images that correspond with the season and venue. Contact us to inquire about hosting this fundraising exhibit for Hilltown Families in your town/venue.