“Unto the Least of These”: Animal Welfare in the 1930s

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist 

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) was founded in March 1868 by George Thorndike Angell. (You might recognize his name from the Angell Animal Medical Center.) That same year, he and his prominent backer Emily (Warren) Appleton were instrumental in getting the first anti-animal cruelty law passed in Massachusetts.

The MHS holds a number of printed items related to the MSPCA, but today I’d like to focus on a small manuscript volume we acquired a few years ago: the records of the Winchester (Mass.) Women’s Auxiliary of the MSPCA. What’s interesting about this volume is how we can see the mission of the state organization applied to local issues.

Records of the Winchester Women’s Auxiliary, MSPCA

The Winchester Auxiliary was founded in 1931, and these records document its first seven-plus years. The organization’s work consisted of fundraising via fairs, food sales, and other events; support for animal facilities and services; education on the humane treatment of animals, including Be Kind to Animals Week every spring; and lobbying for animal-friendly legislation.

Most meetings were held at the home of Marion Munroe (Rice) Taylor, the group’s founder and president, at 137 Mount Vernon Street. Her sister Carolyn B. Rice served on the Work Committee. Sometimes there were guest speakers, among them Edith Washburn Clarke and Francis H. Rowley, and members routinely spent time during meetings preparing surgical dressings for veterinary hospitals.

Local concerns addressed by the group included: the lack of an animal clinic or qualified veterinarian in town, conditions at the dog pound, and the summer watering of horses. One member successfully appealed to Eugenia Parker, scion of the wealthy Parker family of Winchester, to allow drivers to water their horses on her property at 60 Lloyd Street during the hot summer months.

Speaking of horses, the auxiliary also participated in the annual MSPCA Horses’ Christmas. Every holiday season, the MSPCA collected and distributed free food to working horses in Boston. One year, Winchester residents donated “fifteen and a half bushels of grain, about four bushels of carrots, several pounds of loaf sugar and many bags, large and small, of apples.” As the secretary wrote, “although the number of horses in the State is now so much smaller than before the days of the automobile, the records show that of the cases of cruelty handled by the Society in the past three months, 50% were for cruelty to horses.”

The organization also advocated for legislation that ran the gamut, from laws against steel traps, animal experimentation, and exploitative and abusive roadside zoos and pet shows, to the protection of coastal waterfowl from pollution by oil-burning ships. In particular, the auxiliary fought for a ban on “setting up” horses’ tails, a practice which, as expert Sandra Tozzini explains, included removing or cutting bones, muscles, or tendons for purely cosmetic purposes.

I was impressed with the initiative and the ingenuity of these women and the variety of their activities. Wherever they saw a need, they took action. At the end of one meeting, the chairperson quoted from Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”

As word got out, membership in and donations to the group increased. Marion Taylor became the go-to person for complaints about animal abuse or neglect in Winchester. She offered advice, referred matters to the authorities, and even took animals into her home. In one ten-month period, she “personally cared for 78 cats, 4 pigeons, 5 baby squirrels, 2 baby owls, and 9 dogs.”

Mrs. Taylor wasn’t the only person celebrated by the Women’s Auxiliary. Also recognized were “the brave Winchester girl, Miss Dorothy Goodhue, who jumped into the icy water of the Aberjona River to save her dog,” as well as “the lineman who, while working recently in Winthrop, rescued two tiny puppies from an ashcan where they had been abandoned.”

Lighting Strikes on the Longitude: John Adams and Lodestones

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Manager

In 1780–1784, John Adams was in Amsterdam negotiating loans from the Dutch Republic so that the United States could be more independent from France. On 1 June 1783, Adams wrote in his diary what he knew about lodestones, and what experiments he thought scientists should do to learn more about them.

“The Loadstone is in Possession of the most remarkable, wonderfull and misterious Property in Nature. This Substance is in the Secret of the whole Globe. It must have a Sympathy with the whole Globe. It is governed by a Law and influenced by some active Principle that pervades and operates from Pole to pole, and from the Surface to the Center and the Antipodes. It is found in all Parts of the Earth. Break the Stone to Pieces, and each Morcel retains two Poles, a north and a south Pole, and does not loose its Virtue. The Magnetic Effluvia are too subtle, to be seen by a Microscope, yet they have great Activity and Strength. Iron has a Sympathy with Magnatism and Electricity, which should be examined by every Experiment, which Ingenuity can devise.

Has it been tryed whether the Magnet looses any of its Force in Vacuo? in a Bottle charged with Electrical Fire? &c. This Metal called Iron may one day reveal the Secrets of Nature. The primary Springs of Nature may be too subtle for all our Senses and Faculties. I should think however that no Subject deserved more the Attention of Philosophers or was more proper for Experiments than the Sympathy between Iron and the magnetical and Electrical Fluid.

It would be worth while to grind the Magnet to Powder and see if the Dust still retained the Virtue. Steep the Stone or the Dust in Wine, Spirits, Oyl and other fluids to see if the Virtue is affected, increased or diminished.

Is there no Chimical Proscess, that can be formed upon the Stone or the Dust to discover, what it is that the magnetic Virtue resides in.

Whether boiling or burning the Stone destroys or diminishes the Virtue.

See whether Earth, Air, Water or Fire any wise applied affects it, and how.”

Diary of John Adams, vol. 3, 1 June 1783

A lodestone is a type of rock found naturally magnetized and usually near the earth’s surface. The current theory (pun intended) is that the stone, called magnetite or Fe₃0₄, is not magnetized by the poles of the earth, which would be too weak to magnetize rock so far from them, but by magnetic fields surrounding lightning bolts. The lodestone had been used for more than a millennium for seafaring navigation because of its property to point towards the north and south poles anywhere on the globe, and because of its availability in North and South America and Europe.

Searching the internet to see if anyone has performed the tasks suggested by Adams on a lodestone, I came up with the following items: an article that confirms “garlic breath” has no effect on lodestones; a book published in 1600, De Magnete by William Gilbert (1544?–1603); and a letter written byPetrus Peregrinus The Magnet (1269). All these sources discuss experiments conducted on lodestones.

In 1787, while John Adams served as the first U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, he received a letter from Pelatiah Webster (1726–1795), dated 7 June 1787. Webster’s letter recommended Mr. John Churchman of Philadelphia, Penn., who had discovered a way to decipher the longitude of any place on the earth on any day using a magnetized lodestone. (Latitude lines are the same distance from each other and therefore easier to determine than longitude lines, which grow closer together as they reach the poles.) This excerpt is from Webster’s letter:

“Viz that the Magnectic needle has two poles one 13.°56′ from the N. Pole of the Earth the other South, abt. 18.o from the S. Pole of the Earth, Which Poles have a Constant Rotation from West to East, & form their Revolutions in 463 Years, & 344 days i.e. abt. 47′ Minutes of a degree in a Year, that the True place of these poles may be Ascertain’d, & Tables of the Same calculated for Every Given Minute of Time, & of Course that the line or point of no Variation for Any place & the Time, may be Easily found, & of Course the Angle of Variation & Radius will always be Attainable, & the Difference of Latitude of the place of observation & that of the Magnetic Pole will be one Side of the Triangle Necessary to be found.”

Churchman also corresponded with Thomas Jefferson and wrote this letter on 6 June 1787, transcribing his pamphlet and explaining his theory a bit more.

From Churchman’s research he created this map:

Color photograph of a printed map on paper discolored with age. The main image is a globe with longitude and latitude lines with the continents colored in and labeled. The view is from the north pole down with the pole in the center and the globe sliced into 6 longitude sections all the way around. In the bottom right corner is black ink printed text that is written in cursive and print which reads, “To George Washington President of the United States of America This Magnetic Atlas or Variation Chart is humbly inscribed by John Churchman.” With two blue stamps that read “Harvard College Library.”
“An explanation of the magnetic atlas, or variation chart, hereunto annexed; projected on a plan entirely new, by which the magnetic variation on any part of the globe may be precisely determined for any time, past, present, or future: and the variation and latitude being accurately known, the longitude is of consequence truly determined,” John Churchman, 1790. Courtesy Harvard Library.

The way to decipher longitude had not been discovered by 1714 when Great Britain’s Parliament created a large monetary prize for the person who presents the solution to the newly formed Board of Longitude. Churchman took his theory to the board for 17 years from 1787 to 1804, convinced he had the solution; however, the Board never approved it. See their record of correspondence with Churchman’s many letters.  He also applied to the American Philosophical Society for recognition of his theory in 1787, where it was also declined.

Preservation Practices in the Early American Kitchen

By Emma Moesswilde, Georgetown University

Spring in New England seems, finally, to be just around the corner, with the promise of fresh food and sunshine after a long winter. Yet, with snow on the ground, it isn’t too hard to remember that late winter and early spring were historically periods of extreme leanness for European settlers living in Maine and Massachusetts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The gap between the dwindling of winter stores and the advent of spring vegetable and dairy produce could be a daunting time for early modern cooks facing a scant larder.

My research on seasonal variability and rural life in the British Northern Atlantic world has led me to examine the recipes that these cooks might have employed through the winter and early spring. Looking at manuscripts from the MHS collections has revealed a rich array of culinary knowledge recorded in the few published cookbooks of early America and the many manuscript recipe collections which maintained culinary knowledge across communities and generations.

One of the most important ways in which early American cooks prepared for leaner seasons was through preservation practices. Even in periods of abundance, when the produce of fields, forests, oceans, and livestock filled the pot and the plate, those who worked in the kitchen looked towards leaner times by ensuring this bounty would be available to eat months in the future. My research in the MHS collections has found diverse recipes for preserving all kinds of rural produce. Walnuts, for instance, could be picked “about Midsummer, when a pin will pass through them,” and soaked in a mixture of vinegar, dill, ginger, mace, nutmeg, pepper, garlic, cloves, and mustard. According to an anonymous recipe book from around 1800 (Ms. S-835), the walnuts must be kept “under the pickel they are first Steep’t in or they lose their Colour” and could add interest to dishes throughout the winter as a “rellish with fish, fowl or Frigasy [fricassee, i.e., stew].”

Pickled walnut recipe from anonymous recipe book, ca. 1800 (Ms. S-835)

The development of preservation recipes preoccupied early American cooks and agricultural thinkers facing the challenge of food availability. Among the Vaughan family papers is a document entitled “Recipe for Preserving Butter” (Box 22, Ms. N-83, Oversize) which exemplifies the development of preservation techniques. Cooks interested in preserving butter (presumably for a season in which cows had run dry and were not producing milk) were instructed to beat sugar, salt, and saltpeter into butter “thoroughly cleansed from the milk” which could be topped with salt as a brine and “kept in pots of ten or twelve pounds.” “It requires then only to be covered from dust,” the instructions conclude. Yet below this recipe, more ruminations follow in the same handwriting: “If to be preserved several months — would it not be effectually secured from the air by pouring melted butter on the top so as to form a perfect crust?” The multifold methods for preservation ensured that cooks could put food by through a variety of methods, and for even longer periods of time.

Preservation recipes also abound for meats such as bacon, fruit preparations such as preserves and vinegars, and the preparation of drinks such as cider, to name just a few. Recipes from the period are also rife with references to dried goods such as peas, beans, and salted fish whose storage was detailed in farming manuals like that of Samuel Deane (22450 Evans fiche). The broad expertise required to stock the early American larder is preserved in household manuscripts such as the recipe books of the Karolik-Codman family, which contain multiple types of handwriting and interleaved recipes that reference the knowledge of others, as in the case of “Mrs. Englishes receipt for Preserving Pears” (Box 4, Ms. N-2164). Such recipes provide insight into what may have stocked the pantries of early American cooks and ensured that, at least for most of the winter and early spring, some produce was still available. By the time fruit trees blossomed and fields thawed in April and May, bare shelves awaited another cycle of preservation practices.

Journey to the South Pole with John Quincy Adams & Charles Francis Adams, Part 3

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Manager

In part 2 of Journey to the South Pole, Jeremiah N. Reynolds (1799–1858), petitioned the US Congress to fund an expedition to the South Pole to prove a theory that there was an opening there that led to an inhabitable hollow inside the earth. He was successful in his petitions, until John Quincy Adams (JQA, 1767–1848) lost the 1829 election, and President Andrew Jackson removed the funding. The voyage still took place, with Reynolds on board the ship. His expedition reached Antarctica, but turned back, mutinied in Chile, and abandoned Reynolds there. He remained in Chile for two years until picked up by the US frigate Potomac and eventually brought home. Most would assume his adventure with the South Pole ended there, but as it turned out, Reynolds was not ready to give up!

When Reynolds returned to New York, he studied to become a lawyer and wrote a book about his years traveling the seas on the Potomac, Voyage of the United States frigate Potomac, under the command of Commodore John Downes, during the circumnavigation of the globe, in the years 1831, 1832, 1833, and 1834, and a tale about an elusive white whale hunted off the coast of Chile that Herman Melville (1819–1891) cited as one of the inspirations for his novel Moby Dick, Mocha Dick: Or The White Whale of the Pacific: A Leaf from a Manuscript Journal, published in 1839 in The Knickerbocker.

By 1836, Reynolds was back in Washington lecturing and petitioning Congress for another venture to the South Pole. On 2 April 1836, JQA, now a Massachusetts representative in Congress, attended a lecture and wrote about it: “In the Evening I went to the Capitol, and heard a Lecture two hours and a half long from Mr Reynolds in support of his old project of a scientific naval expedition to the South Pole and pacific Ocean.” On 10 May 1836, JQA wrote about a few resolutions in the House of Representatives, one of which approves the new South Pole expedition: “The Committee rose, and in the House an amendment by the Senate to the exploring expedition section of the Navy Appropriation Bill was sharply debated, by Graves of Kentucky—and me— The amendment was finally agreed to by yeas and nays 80 to 65—I met Reynolds and told him the result—He said he could now die content.” After this last, it seems JQA and Reynolds no longer met, or at least, JQA never mentioned him again in his diaries.

Ironically, Reynolds was excluded from the expedition, known as the US Exploring Expedition, or sometimes, the Wilkes Expedition, which left in 1838 and returned in 1842. In his fervor to create the expedition, he made himself unwelcome. He felt deeply insulted and mostly retreated from public life after that, although he continued to write and publish articles such as Mocha Dick. His influence in popular culture is another interesting corner of history to research. Information on the internet reveals a connection between Reynolds and Edgar Allan Poe (EAP, 1809–1849). It’s especially fascinating because EAP called out “Reynolds!” several times on his deathbed. There’s much speculation on the internet as to which Reynolds EAP meant. Reynolds fell ill and died while traveling in Canada in 1858.

On 10 December 1836, JQA noted in his diary: “Mr Pickering came again this morning; but I had not found Ira Hill’s Theory of the Earth—Mr Pickering thinks he has made very wonderful discoveries in Geography, and among the rest that the Poles of the Earth have changed their position, from East and West to North and South – He said that Ira Hill had made the same discoveries.” I couldn’t find much information on Ira Hill, the author of An Abstract of a New Theory of the Formation of the Earth, but likely this is the book to which JQA is referring. I was able to find more information on Charles Pickering (1805–1875). He was a naturalist, curator, author, and physician, as well as one of the scientists on Wilkes’ expedition toward the South Pole in 1838–1842. Charles Wilkes (1798–1877), the leader of the expedition, used Pickering’s journal as an influence for his Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, which he published in 1845. From 1842–1843, Pickering was the curator of the collection brought back to the United States from the Wilkes expedition which became a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection. Although Pickering did not publish his theory of Pole changes, current scientific research, at least from 2020, shows that the last pole shift happened millions of years ago, which makes me wonder if Pickering was having the same findings, but could not prove it at the time.

Images of flora brought back from the Wilkes Expedition and available online at the Smithsonian Institution. From left to right: Iridaea mertensiana Postels & Rupr., Ulva latissimi, Gigartina skottsbegii, and Quercus garryana Douglas ex Hook.

Thank you for joining me on this expedition to the South Pole through the diaries of John Quincy Adams and Charles Francis Adams. Although our travels end here, I hope you will take time to read a few of the (free online) books linked throughout these three blog posts, and that you are inspired to look through the online Adams Family Papers for more interesting stories like these.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Archives Revealed: Conservation at the MHS

By Samantha Couture, MHS Nora Saltonstall Conservator & Preservation Librarian, and Lauren Gray, Reference Librarian 

Welcome to part 1 of a blog series about the preservation and conservation of the MHS collections.

Part of our mission at the MHS is to preserve and protect rare and important historical materials and to make collections available for research, which requires us to have a robust preservation and conservation effort. Preservation refers to the environment, storage, and handling of items, and has a significant impact on the long-term safety of our collections. Conservation encompasses the cleaning, repair, and chemical treatment of items. Without the ability to improve the physical conditions of our books, manuscripts, photographs, and art on paper, many of these materials would become unusable by researchers and lost to the historic record. Diligent preservation and conservation measures ensure that the individual items that tell the story of Massachusetts and the early history of the United States will be available for generations.

Librarians and archivists have been concerned with the deterioration of books and paper for as long as there have been libraries and archives. Preservation techniques have evolved over time as technology changes. Over the following months, we will introduce you to the importance of sound preservation and conservation practices, the history of how items have been conserved, and how the MHS approaches conservation today. Along the way, we will discuss why paper-based collections deteriorate and how to care for your own collections at home. 

To begin our discussion on preservation, we will first look to the past. In 1881, bibliophile William Blades published the second edition of his book on preservation, titled The Enemies of Books, which we hold in the MHS collections. Blades lists many factors that affect the condition of books and paper: fire, water, dust & neglect, the bookworm, bookbinders, and book collectors (which is ironic, considering Blades was an avid collector of the printed word). Many of these dangers continue to threaten paper collections, like those at the MHS, but as our understanding of the medium has evolved, new threats to paper collections must be assessed.

Title Page of The Enemies of Books by William Blades, 1881

While Blades’ text covers many well-known preservation concerns, there is a particularly pressing ‘Enemy’ that he does not mention: acid. Acid reacts in the presence of water in a process called acid hydrolysis. During hydrolysis, acid breaks the long, flexible cellulose fibers of paper, causing the paper to yellow and eventually become brittle. Brittleness cannot be reversed, and leaves books and documents in a very fragile state. If you’ve ever held an old book or newspaper and found it flaking apart in your hands, you may have experienced this first-hand. Acid can be introduced into paper in three ways.

An example of acid migration from newspaper clippings. You can see the outline of the shapes on the opposite page.

Acids can migrate from one material to another, so documents stored in acidic containers will absorb some of those acids. Acids are often in the material used to make or process paper. Inks, especially writing ink called ‘iron gall ink’ contain a form of iron that will oxidize and break down paper fibers similarly to acid.

Example of iron gall ink corrosion on correspondence in the George Rogers Hall Papers

Why don’t acids and iron feature as dangers to books in Blades’ text? In 1881, acid hydrolysis as it relates to paper was not well understood. Before 1850, paper in the west was made from linen and cotton rags, which do not naturally contain acids. After 1850, wood pulp was discovered to be a plentiful and cheaper source of paper fibers. It took until about 1950 for the paper industry to produce stable papers using wood pulp for book and document production. It can take years or decades for this kind of ‘inherent vice’ to cause breakage and discoloration, so the paper in his own Enemies of Books would have been white and flexible long past his death in 1890. Ironically, Blades’ volume contains the acids which are slowly destroying it, as you can see below where the first page is breaking.

Cracking first page of The Enemies of Books

At the MHS, the majority of our manuscript collections contain iron gall ink, and many documents and books contain wood pulp paper. Luckily, there is a lot we can do to prolong the useful life of our unique and rare items. We’ll continue to talk about how we conserve our collections in part 2 of this series. Check back soon!

Archivist as Detective: Hello, Newman

By Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist 

After a long hiatus, I’m happy to return to my sporadic series about manuscript mysteries! As I’ve written in previous posts, sometimes the work of an archivist is like that of a detective: we follow clues, narrow searches, evaluate sources, and make educated inferences that hopefully lead us to an answer. Sometimes we’re waylaid and have to backtrack, and sometimes we come up empty, but I for one always enjoy a chance to don my deerstalker cap.

This time, I was looking for the man who wrote a letter, recently acquired by the MHS, dated 5 August 1856 and sent from Buffalo, N.Y. to Leominster, Mass. The text of the letter is interesting, if somewhat verbose. Among other things, it discusses the 1856 presidential election, a three-way race between James Buchanan, John C. Frémont, and Millard Fillmore.

The letter in question

Actually, I started on first base with this one, because I did know the man’s name: William Newman. He signed the letter “Yr devoted Brother Wm” and addressed it to Miss Anna B. Newman.

I could have left it at that, but I was determined to find out which William Newman he was, who Anna was, anything specific to help researchers that may be interested in this letter. After all, the MHS already had three different William Newmans in our online catalog ABIGAIL. The Library of Congress lists over 50 of them.

My first step was to gather clues. The last paragraph of a letter is a good place to look for specific names. A correspondent will often use this space to ask after family members or mutual friends. Besides William and Anna, I found a Luke (cousin), Margaret (possibly sister), and Caroline (no idea). William also mentioned a wife, as well as a son named William Henry who was apparently home for school vacation.

Unfortunately these names were too common for me to find a family genealogy at any of my go-to online sources: Internet Archive, Google Books, Ancestry.com, and Findagrave.com. Anna may have married and changed her surname. And the connection to Leominster was too tenuous; I couldn’t be sure if the Newman family hailed from there. Better to stick with what I knew.

I got my first break from a series of strategic online searches using Newman’s name, Buffalo, and 1856. And not for the first time, it was other archivists that came to my rescue. I found the Henry Newman family papers at the University of Michigan Library. Henry, originally from Boston, had a son named William who settled in Buffalo in the 1820s and established a business there. In our letter, William mentions buying some real estate.

I couldn’t be 100% sure yet, but the Michigan collection gave me a few crucial details. Their William married Lydia Scrafford (a much more distinctive name) and died in 1860. So I tried another search for confirmation. By adding his wife’s name to my keywords, I finally uncovered published records of a very messy court case related to the settlement of William’s will.

This was definitely my guy: died 4 April 1860, wife Lydia Scrafford, son William Henry Harrison Newman born in 1846. The records also included the names of siblings Henry, Jr., Margaret, Caroline, Anna, and Susan. (Interestingly, William was the only one to marry and have children.) The clincher was a passage referring to property on Clinton Street in Buffalo—property William mentioned in his letter.

William was apparently born in 1799 or 1800, assuming his tombstone is correct and he was sixty when he died. I identified his parents, Henry and Deborah (Cushing) Newman, and his wife Sarah Elizabeth née Cole, but found very little about his siblings. Henry, Jr. died in 1861, Susan in 1862, Margaret in 1866, and Anna in 1883.

These are just the dates of which I’m relatively confident. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much conflicting information about a family I was researching! It goes to show how fallible the historical record can be and how important it is to find trustworthy sources.

William Newmans in the MHS catalog

The Double Life of James Wilkinson

By Sarah Hume, Editorial Assistant 

In 1797, a Kentucky merchant named Elijah Waters came forward with an important, yet extreme, claim: Gen. James Wilkinson, second in command in the Northwest Territory, was a spy. He was trading secrets to Spain.

Waters wasn’t the only one to make such allegations. For years, rumors had circulated about Wilkinson’s connection to Spain. Even Gen. Anthony Wayne, his commanding officer, accused Wilkinson of spying and led an investigation against him. Allegations were so widespread that John Adams wrote, “scarcely any Man arrives from that neighbourhood, who does not bring the report along with him.” (John Adams to James Wilkinson, 4 February 1798).

When General Wayne died on 15 December 1796, it seemed time for Wilkinson to escape suspicion. And yet rumors of treason continued and Wilkinson refused to lay low. Instead, he asked John Adams to continue the investigation.

“Prosecution is in the grave with General Wayne,” Wilkinson wrote in his 26 December 1797 letter, “but the Door is still open to investigation, & I most earnestly wish an enquiry into my Conduct Military & political, indeed the vindication of my own aspersed reputation.”

An excerpt from James Wilkinson’s letter to John Adams, 26 December 1797. The Adams Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Adams replied to Wilkinson on 4 February 1798, saying he did not believe either Waters’s claim or other allegations.

“We may be nearer than we suspect to another tryal of our Spirits; I doubt not yours will be found faithful,” Adams wrote. “I shall give no Countenance to any Imputations unless accusations should come, and then you will have Room to justify yourself; But I assure you I do not Expect that any Charge will be seriously made.”

Wilkinson never received an indictment from Adams. He went on to be trusted by the next two presidential administrations and died in 1825 having never been confirmed a spy. Only later would historians uncover his treasonous activities.

Like much of Adams’s correspondence in the Papers of John Adams, this brief exchange captures a moment of dangerous precipice. Had Wilkinson been more successful, he may have forever changed the American narrative. Exchanges between Wilkinson and Adams highlight the advantage we have as scholars: we know the end of the story. Reading correspondence allows us to see from an eighteenth-century vantage point instead. And though Elijah Waters may be only a passing reference in correspondence, history ultimately proves him right in the case of General James Wilkinson.

The correspondence between James Wilkinson and President John Adams will be included in the forthcoming volume 22 of the Papers of John Adams to be published Fall 2024.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding for the Papers of John Adams is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and the Packard Humanities Institute.

Journey to the South Pole with John Quincy Adams & Charles Francis Adams, Part 2

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Manager

Part 1 of Journey to the South Pole includes an incomplete timeline of pole travel and looks at the diaries of Charles Francis Adams (CFA, 1807–1886), who was reading a book in 1831 about the southern-most expedition toward the South Pole at that time. It also covers John Quincy Adams’ (JQA, 1767–1848) diary mention of James Byers’ application to Congress for funding of an expedition to settle the South Shetland Islands. These are two typical stories of South Pole expeditions. This next story is unusual.

In 1820, a book was published called Symzonia: Voyage of Discovery, by Captain Adam Seaborn, probably a pseudonym. This sci-fi story is about a journey to the poles, and the discovery that they are an opening into the Earth, which is hollow, and inhabitable. Explorer Jeremiah N. Reynolds (1799–1858) heard about the book’s theory from John Cleves Symmes (1780–1829), who is considered to be the real author of the book. Reynolds then made numerous petitions to Congress for funding an expedition to the South Pole, according to The Maritime Studies Program of Williams College & Mystic Seaport, although he and Symmes parted ways soon after his petitions began.  

Sectional View of the Earth Showing the Opening at the Poles from the sci-fi story Symzonia.

CFA notes that he met with Reynolds on 21 April 1827, while Reynolds was in Washington lecturing and lobbying for the expedition to the South Pole: “In the evening, Reynolds, the expedition man, called to see me and drew me out of myself for an hour.” CFA wrote about him again a few days later on 29 April 1827: “Particularly in reading some papers of Mr. Reynolds upon the subject of his expedition. I think him very clever, but without polish to make it tell as it ought.” He did not have faith in Reynolds abilities to convince Congress.

On 22 February 1828, President JQA wrote a note about a ball he attended that evening, at which he met Reynolds: “I met at the Ball, besides other Strangers, Mr Reynolds the projector of an expedition to the South-Pole.” On 13 June 1828, JQA notes that “Mr Reynolds the projector of an Expedition to the South Pole was here— A Bill for that purpose was reported by the Naval Committee to the House of Representatives at their last Session, but the House could not reach it in Season—A Resolution of the House did pass however recommending that one of the Public Vessels should be employed on an exploring Expedition to the South-Sea— Reynolds says that a Merchant brig, will be sent with her upon Speculation.” Following up on this, in JQA’s diary on 17 November 1828, he wrote: “Southard Saml. L. The South Pole Expedition— Jones to command—Instruments to be purchased.” Reynolds’ petition was successful; however, the funding disappeared when JQA lost the presidential election to Andrew Jackson in 1829.

Reynolds then succeeded in gaining private funding for the expedition which started in 1829, with Reynolds aboard the ship. The voyage reached the Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica, but then turned back. When the ship reached Chile, the crew mutinied and left Reynolds behind. He spent two years in Chile until the US frigate Potomac brought him back to the United States.

Reynold’s tale does not end here. Watch for Journey to the South Pole, Part 3, where Reynolds tale will end and JQA meets a man with a scientific theory about the pole’s magnetism. Further reading: Tales of a Hollow Earth: Tracing the Legacy of John Cleves Symmes in Antarctic Exploration and Fiction, by L. I. Chaplow, 2011, a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Masters of Antarctic Studies at the University of Canterbury.

Journey to the South Pole with John Quincy Adams & Charles Francis Adams, Part 1

By Heather Rockwood, Communications Manager

John Quincy Adams (JQA, 1767–1848), world traveler that he was, never visited either of the Earth’s poles, nor did his son, Charles Francis Adams (CFA, 1807–1886). In their diaries, they noted reading books about such travels, meeting people who journeyed there, and speaking to others who had scientific theories about the poles. Come with me on an expedition through JQA’s and CFA’s diaries to find out what the poles meant to early 19th century thinkers.

Map of the Southern Pole from 1606, courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, Boston Public Library. Note that Antarctica’s coastline had not yet been charted. Such mapping would begin in the 1800s.

First, an incomplete timeline of US pole expeditions:

  • 1819–1823: Several voyages by seal hunters
  • 1829–1831: James Eights and the Palmer-Pendleton Expedition
  • 1838–1842: US Exploring Expedition (also known as Wilke’s Expedition)
  • 1928: Admiral Richard Byrd’s Expedition

From 1822 to 1824, James Weddell (1787–1834) was on his third seal hunting voyage in the South Orkneys and South Shetland Islands. Because hunting had been disappointing, Weddell turned his ship south toward the South Pole. The season was unusually mild, and on 20 February 1823, his ship reached 532 miles farther south than any other ship previously. Although a few icebergs could be seen, no land was in sight. He turned the ship around and sheltered at South Georgia. Because he had gone slightly farther south than James Cook in 1773–1774, Weddell wrote a book about the journey. The first edition of A voyage towards the South Pole: performed in the years 1822–24, containing an examination of the Antarctic Sea… was published in 1825, but was enlarged in 1827 with new information from the companion ship on the voyage. On 1 April 1831, CFA was reading this book, “began Weddel’s Voyage to the South Pole. He went farther than any body and says he saw a clear Sea, which is extraordinary enough.” He finished it that weekend on Sunday, 3 April 1831, “Finished Weddell’s Voyage. It is the Account of a Man not much versed in Science who made a daring Voyage in pursuit of Commercial Speculation. He gives An Account of the South Seas somewhat varying from that of his predecessor Cook. And he says he penetrated to 74 degrees South with a clear Sea. I see no reason to disbelieve him. If so however, the question of land might easily be settled.”

On 20 September 1820, General Daniel Parker (1782–1846), then the Inspector General of the US Army, spoke with JQA about a seal expedition application he had received when serving as Secretary of State to President James Monroe. The application was from the New York ship owner James Byers. JQA wrote in his diary: “General Parker came with a new application from Mr Byers of New-York, for a public vessel to protect their Sealing Settlement expedition to the South-Pole—I told him of Homans’s objections but promised to mention the affair again to the President.” Byers wanted the US government to fund a settlement in the South Shetland Islands, off the coast of Antarctica, and for the US to send a warship with the settlers to take possession of the area. His application was denied, but the trip and settlement still happened. The settlers built dwellings and were visited mainly by seal hunters from Britain, New England, and New York. The settlement’s peninsula was named Byers Peninsula in 1958.

In Journey to the South Pole, Part 2, we will look at JQA’s and CFA’s interactions with a man obsessed with reaching the South Pole to prove a theory that the Earth is hollow.

MHS Undergraduate Library Residency

By Lauren Gray, MHS Reference Librarian, and Erin Olding, 2022-2023 MHS Undergraduate Library Resident

In September 2022 the MHS launched an undergraduate library residency program, aimed to introduce students who might not otherwise consider professional paths in public history or library science to the work of those fields.  Erin Olding, then a student at Cape Cod Community College, was one of the inaugural residents, working at the MHS from September 2022 through May 2023.  At the end of her tenure, Erin drafted this blog post to help spread the word about the program.  Knowing that we would be taking a year to evaluate and adjust the program, we held onto Erin’s draft.  Now that the call has gone out for our next pair of library residents, we share Erin’s words with you.  If you know anyone that could benefit from participating in this program, please share the link (wmtpjp.eraldo-simona.net/admin/uploads/MHS_Undergrad_Residency_Call_for_Applicants_6e7484cbd7.pdf). 


One semester, I volunteered at the little archive housed in the library of the small community college I attended. Through this slow-going but very insightful work, I gained firsthand experience processing and creating a finding aid for a collection. While I was working there, the archivist saw a posting for a pilot undergraduate library residency program at the Massachusetts Historical Society and forwarded it my way. The prospect of working at such a storied archive and library—not to mention having a paid internship – enticed me to apply. 

After making a successful application, I prepared for the interview. I scoured the Society’s website, finding as many articles, videos, and other resources as possible. Discovering more about the historically rich collections housed in the MHS was like finding diamonds in a goldmine. I most enjoyed stumbling upon a beautifully painted WWI propaganda poster featuring Joan of Arc, encouraging patriotic women to buy war bonds. 

Receiving news that I landed the job made me ecstatic.  I found the prospect of working in a professional environment after my previous employments in retail and fast food very exciting. But admittedly, that meant I also felt out of my element. From the first second of my first shift, all my coworkers, including fellow library resident CJ, acted generously and graciously. They understood that working just a few shifts a week meant that I wouldn’t get the hang of things as quickly as the other staff and offered much support.   

Retrieving items from the stacks felt familiar. I had stocked new merchandise and pulled old merchandise when working retail. The motor functions are the same. Working in the stacks, slowly committing call numbers and locations to memory, and the sense of accomplishment that came with recalling both left a deep impression on me in my first handful of shifts. Sitting behind the circulation desk, however, felt like an alternate reality. A lifelong lover of libraries, I had spent so much time on the patron side of the circulation desk; now I sat on the other side of the desk.   

Readings and field trips supervised by Senior Reference Librarian Anna Clutterbuck-Cook differentiated the residency from a part-time staff position. During the first semester of the residency, Anna brought CJ and I to various archival and historical institutions in the Boston area. Seeing different places, meeting different people, learning different practices, and listening to different stories— Boston is chock full of stories—provided deep insight into the library and information science (LIS) field. CJ and I also completed assigned readings, excerpts from books pertaining to the LIS field with topics from the MHS itself to the institutional biases within established LIS systems.  

In the second semester, CJ and I began work on special projects.  For these projects we each partnered with a non-library department at the MHS.  I worked with Cassandra Cloutier and Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai on the MHS’s podcast, The Object of History, producing an episode about medieval books in the Society’s collections. I examined the books in the reading room, drafted interview questions, conducted interviews with experts, and cut the raw interview audio. Being able to speak to three knowledgeable individuals (Curator of Art & Artifacts Anne Bentley, Stephen T. Riley Librarian Peter Drummey, and medievalist Agnieszka Rec) about medieval books and book collecting provided much insight. What a pleasure to learn history on the job! 

Completing the yearlong library residency at the Massachusetts Historical Society, working in both the Library and Research departments, was a wonderful experience. Through this residency, I’ve had the opportunity to constantly—and sometimes unexpectedly—learn about historical Boston, American, and even medieval life. I look forward to applying these learned lessons to my future. 

A note about Anna Clutterbuck-Cook 
The undergraduate residency program would not have been possible without the work and passion of Anna Clutterbuck-Cook. A few weeks after the first semester ended, Anna passed away after a long battle with cancer. I found Anna inspirational.  She taught me so much in a very short time. Her intelligence and activism bled into her work. I can only aspire to have a tenth of her spirit. With the anti-trans legislation passing in the United States, I hope to become an archivist for LGBTQ+ history, especially the history being made right now.