Celebrating Women’s History: Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project

On this day in October 1915, 15,000 enthusiastic supporters of women’s suffrage marched the streets of Boston. The parade began at the corner of Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue and concluded with a rally at Mechanics Hall. This massive event was held to encourage voters to support an amendment striking the word “male” from the Massachusetts State Constitution, thus garnering the women of this state the right to vote. Although the push for women’s suffrage failed in 1915, the 19th Amendment was ratified by Massachusetts in 1919, and women’s right to vote was secured in 1920 when the amendment became federal law.



Clippings featuring suffragettes c. 1918 from the Cambridge Chronicle, published September 24, 1970

The Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project continues this tradition of acknowledging women’s contributions to our community and history.


Initiated in 1996, this ongoing project aims “to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Cambridge women and women’s organizations to the life of the city, commonwealth, and nation from the foundation of Cambridge (Newtowne) in 1630 to the present.”


Quote of Charlotte Saunders Cushman, renowned stage actress.

The committee is focused on compiling a database of biographical, organizational, and subject entries to honor the accomplishments of Cambridge women. Each entry is ordered alphabetically, and those interested in groups or organizations can browse via occupation (scientists, dentists, factory workers) or subject (women’s clubs, feminist organizations). The Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project accepts nominations via their website, and welcomes volunteers for research, editing, and web design.


One of many Women’s History Walks available in the Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project files

The project’s physical files are housed at the Cambridge Historical Commission. Here, entries to be added can be studied, revised, and transcribed to ready these most deserving subjects for web presence. To date, the online database boasts nearly 150 entries with over 400 nominations queued for vetting. As stated on the project website, “This is our attempt to write women into history and honor their lives and recognize their many accomplishments.”


“Woman at Work” published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1983

The online Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project database is available at www.cambridgema.gov/cwhp.

The Cambridge Women’s Heritage Project would love your help! For those interested in volunteering or simply learning more, please contact:

Sarah Burks
Cambridge Historical Commission
831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd Fl.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Or fill out the form below:

Continue reading


New Images and Finding Aids

The Commission is happy to announce the availability of newly digitized images and updates to finding aids for four of our collections! Scroll down for descriptions and samples of images from the following collections: Inner Belt Scrapbook, Godinho Family Photograph Collection, Cambridge Manual Training School/ Rindge Manual Training School/
Rindge Technical School Collection, and the Curtis Mellen Photograph Collection.

Inner Belt Scrapbook
Proposed in the mid-1950s, the Inner Belt was once a planned highway that would have been Interstate 695. If built, this highway would have run a route through parts of Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, and Brookline. Many citizens protested the plan as it would have divided neighborhoods and displaced thousands of residents. This collection contains scrapbook pages detailing the saga of the Inner Belt campaign from 1960-1969.

Flyer: State House Rally

Flyer: State House Rally, Jamaica-Plain-Roxbury Expressway Committee, 1969


Clippings: Inner Belt Activities; Morning Union Leader, Christian Science Monitor, The Cambridge Chronicle; March 1966

View the finding aid for this collection here.

Additional pages from the Inner Belt Scrapbook can be viewed here.

Godinho Family Photograph Collection

Scrapbook page: Members of the Godinho Family

Scrapbook page: Members of the Godinho Family, c. 1920


This collection contains photographic materials and personal items of the Godinhos, a Portuguese family who lived in Cambridge from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century. Although little is known about the individuals depicted, including many of their identities, the collection contains photos of the Azores, a region in Portugal, indicating that this may be where the family originated. When whaling and fishing declined towards the end of the nineteenth century, many Portuguese immigrants, who had been whalers and fishermen in New Bedford, Massachusetts, moved to industrial towns near Boston, including Cambridge. The Portuguese Catholic population became large enough that in 1902 St. Anthony’s Church was opened in East Cambridge.

Unknown Boy: Gribal Godinho Family - First Holy Communion Portra

Unknown Boy: Gribal Godinho Family – First Holy Communion Portrait, c. 1915-1920

Joseph Godinho (left) and Unknown Man

Joseph Godinho (left) and Unknown Man, c. 1920

Additional images from the Godinho Family Photograph Collection can be viewed here.

View the finding aid for this collection here.

Cambridge Manual Training School/ Rindge Manual Training School/
Rindge Technical School Collection

The Cambridge Manual Training School for Boys was founded by Frederick Hastings Rindge in September 1888. The Cambridge School Committee renamed the school Rindge Manual Training School in 1899 in honor of Mr. Rindge after he retired. Considering its broadened offerings in technical education, the school was later renamed Rindge Technical School. In 1977, the Rindge Technical School merged with the Cambridge High and Latin School to form the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS).

Having been assembled from multiple sources, items in this collection are related to the school and range from the 1880s to 1940s. Formats include photographs, documents, correspondence, and objects. Photographic subjects include events and classes at the Rindge School and Camp Rindge, as well as fire brigade practice operations.


Chemistry classroom, c. 1920s


Fire brigade operations, c. 1910

The bulk of this collection includes photographs of sports teams and individual players at Rindge Technical School. Many images depict the football team, but also include crew, hockey, track, swimming, and baseball.


D. Allen, Baseball Captain, 1922

View the finding aid for this collection here.

Curtis Mellen Photograph Collection
The Mellens were a very prominent family in Cambridge, and their soap business, Curtis Davis & Co., became the American branch of Lever Brothers, the largest soap manufacturer in the world at the time.

Interior View: Curtis Davis and Co., 180 Broadway

Interior View: Curtis Davis and Co., 180 Broadway

This collection includes family photographs as well as photographs of both the interior and exterior of Mellen family homes in Cambridge. Depicted are homes on Broadway, Chauncy, Forest, Linnean, and Hampshire streets. Many of the photographs have been attributed to Edwin D. Mellen and depict lavish interiors with intricate fixtures and furnishings.

Interior View: 33 Washington Avenue

Interior View: 33 Washington Avenue, c. 1880s

Interior View: Unknown address

Interior View: Unknown address, c. 1880s-1890s

Additional images from the Curtis Mellen Photograph Collection can be viewed here.

View the finding aid for this collection here.

To schedule an appointment for in-person research, please contact the Cambridge Historical Commission today at 617.349.4683 or e-mail our Archivist, Emily at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov.


Free Workshop Series: Researching the History of Your House with the City of Cambridge


Close-up of architectural inventory form for an address on Hampshire Street, CHC

Join staff members from the Cambridge Historical Commission, the City of Cambridge Department of Public Works and the Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library for a three-week series on researching the history of your house or building.

Registration is mandatory, though you do not have to attend all three sessions (though we highly recommend it!). For your convenience, each department will offer two days of the same session – one in the evening and one in the afternoon.

To register, please check out the schedule below and contact the person listed. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Session 1: The Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library
This hour-long, hands-on workshop will guide you through a variety of online resources that will help you research your home from the comfort of your home. Discover when your building was built and by who.  Find out who lived in your house and how your neighborhood has changed.  We will provide laptops. Registration is mandatory.

Monday, October 16
6:00 – 7:00 PM
Location: Community Room, Cambridge Public Library

Max. 16 participants


Wednesday, October 18
3:00 – 4:00 PM
Location: Beech Room, Cambridge Public Library

Max. 13 participants

Led by Alyssa Pacy, Archivist at the Cambridge Public Library.  To register, email: apacy@cambridgema.gov or call 617-349-7757

Session 2: Cambridge Historical Commission
The Commission’s research collection is founded on an architectural inventory that contains survey forms, photographs, and documentation on all 13,000+ buildings in the City. Participants will learn how individual homes can be researched using these inventory files, as well as the Commission’s collection of city directories, atlases, maps, photographs, books on the City’s different neighborhoods, and some deed, tax, and building permit records.

Monday, October 23

6:00 – 7:00 PM

Location: Cambridge Historical Commission, 831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor

Max. 12 participants


Wednesday, October 25

2:00 – 3:00 PM

Location: Cambridge Historical Commission, 831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2nd floor

Max. 12 participants

Led by Cambridge Historical Commission staff.  To register, email: egonzalez@cambridgema.gov or call: 617-349-4070

Session 3: Cambridge Department of Public Works
The public works collection is primarily focused on sewer & drain utility drawings and plans showing the boundaries of the public rights of way. But many of these and other records, which go as far back as 1840, also include interesting historical facts such as previous building, street, and water body configurations as well as ancient industries, property owner names and assessment values. Participants will learn how individual locations can be researched with geographic, database, and online indexes and they’ll see how those indexes have evolved.

Monday, October 30
6:00 – 7:00  PM

Location: Department of Public Works, 147 Hampshire Street

Max. 12 participants


Wednesday, November 1
2:00 – 3:00 PM

Location: Department of Public Works, 147 Hampshire Street

Max. 12 participants

Led by George Stylianopoulos, City of Cambridge Department of Public Works.  To register, email: sgeorge@cambridgema.gov

General questions about the series? Call 617-349-4683.

This weekend! Cambridge Discovery Day

Don’t miss this year’s Cambridge Discovery Day — tomorrow, Saturday, September 16!

Discover Cambridge during a day of free tours and events celebrating the city’s history. Enjoy special tours by the Rangers at Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site and the Fresh Pond Reservation, experience the Revolution from a child’s perspective, and discover the secret history of Cambridge saloons and speakeasies. Explore James Russell Lowell’s Brattle Street, be inspired by stained glass windows at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, and delight in the architectural gems of Avon Hill.

View the complete schedule here.


Time Travel Tuesday: Stereographs

Welcome to the inaugural episode of Time Travel Tuesday! This series will focus on aspects of history illustrated by objects in our collections. In today’s post, we’ll be talking about stereographs.

Have you ever watched a movie in 3D or spent hours staring at a Magic Eye image hoping to see whatever was hidden in all the abstract colors? 3D imaging is somewhat of a novelty, even today, but the impulse to create two dimensional images that look 3D has been around a lot longer than you might think. In the early decades of the 19th century, inventors began devising ways to create the illusion of a three dimensional view, even before advances in photographic technology made it possible to quickly and inexpensively create direct representations of the world.

Early 3D photographs (and drawings) were called stereographs or stereograms. Stereoscopy, the technique used to create stereographs, works because our eyes see at slightly different angles from each other. When your eyes work together, in stereo, you perceive a three dimensional view of your surroundings. Close one eye and the world flattens. By placing a slightly different image to be viewed by each eye independent of the other, your mind is tricked into seeing a three dimensional scene.

The first stereoscope was invented by a man called Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1838. Wheatstone’s original apparatus employed a system of mirrors to reflect two slightly different images to the eyes. Six years later, David Brewster improved on Wheatstone’s design, doing away with the mirrors and instead using prisms in a closed case. Stereoscopy became all the rage in Victorian England. Even Queen Victoria was bitten by the stereo bug. The Great Exhibition of 1851 brought the stereoscope to an international audience and around 1860 Cambridge native Oliver Wendell Holmes invented his own version of the stereoscope.

The Holmes Stereopticon, also known as the American stereoscope, was incredibly popular. In the years following its invention, which Holmes declined to patent, thousands upon thousands of stereoscopic images, also known as stereographs, were produced for viewing through a stereoscope. They were cheap and readily available, making them a truly democratic amusement.

The CHC has a number of stereographs as part of the Postcards and Stereographs Collection, depicting historical monuments, notable residences, churches, Harvard University, and landscape views.


Washington’s Headquarters (Prof. Longfellow’s Residence), Cambridge. Not dated. Produced by American Stereoscopic Views.


The Washington Elm. “Under this tree Washington first took command of the American Army. July 3rd 1775.” Not dated. Produced by A.E. Alden, Boston.



Vicinity of Boston. Park and Garden Series. Not Dated. Produced by C. Seaver, Jr. Photographer. Labeled on reverse “Residence near Mt. Auburn.” This is the only color stereograph in our collection.

Stereographs were mass produced as souvenirs. People visiting Cambridge could purchase these cards and bring them home with them to relive their trip. This is evidenced by the frequent inclusion of historical information on the back of the cards.


Elmwood, Birthplace of James Russell Lowell, Cambridge Mass. Not dated. Produced by Underwood & Underwood Publishers.


[Reverse] Elmwood, Birthplace of James Russell Lowell, Cambridge Mass. Not dated. Produced by Underwood & Underwood Publishers.

Especially interesting in this example is the inclusion of multiple languages at the bottom of the card. Visitors who spoke French, German, Spanish, Swedish, or Russian could read for themselves what was depicted in the stereograph.


Reverse of a stereograph card of Hollis Hall dormitories. Several cards with this historical description pasted to the back are present in our collection, and indication of just how common these types of cards were.

Other cards included a list of other available stereograph images. This card depicting a scene in Mount Auburn Cemetery is an example.


While difficult to make out, the design to either side included the description “Rural Cemeteries, United States.”  Based on information on the reverse, we know this is Mount Auburn Cemetery. Not dated. Publisher not specified.


Reverse of above. Someone, perhaps the original owner of this card, underlined “12. Lawn and Chapel” under Mount Auburn, Cambridge, indicating the subject of the photograph.

Unfortunately, many cards do not include any information at all to identify them. However, occasionally the original purchaser chose to identify the subject themselves, perhaps to help them remember their visit.


Memorial Hall, Harvard University. No identifying information is present on the front of this card.


Reverse of above. “Memorial Hall” “Harvard” Cambridge Mass. June 1874. A. F. F.

Interest in stereoscopy has continued to the present day. Tutorials on creating your own stereoscopic images are available online. So if you live in Cambridge and want to experience a little bit of time travel for yourself, give it a try and show us what you come up with!


Victoria and Albert Museum

American Antiquarian Society



The new Cambridge Archives site is live!

Cambridge is a city rich with so much history, so many museums, libraries, and schools, that it can be hard to know where exactly to go for specific historical materials. The new Cambridge Archives website aims to help researchers, history lovers and curious citizens figure out which Cambridge archive holds what kinds of materials.

The new Cambridge Archives site was created with the generosity of the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati (Anderson House), and through a collaboration with the Cambridge Historical Society, the Cambridge Historical Commission and the Cambridge Room of the Cambridge Public Library.   Check it out, and watch for more updates over the next couple of months as we add more archives and collecting institutions to the site (add yours, too!).

Address Highlight: 9 Forest Street

Among the oversize materials in our flat files, the CHC holds architectural drawings and specifications of a house to be built for Lyman A. Belknap in Cambridge.


Front elevation of a home to be built at 9 Forest Street. The house was never constructed.

Mr. Belknap purchased a lot at 9 Forest Street in North Cambridge on March 31, 1871 but despite the elegant mansard design by architect G. F. Meacham, Belknap sold the property later that same year to William Frost, Jr. At this time, the land was still undeveloped. In 1872, Frost built a large, three-story mansard house on the lot for James M. Hilton, who rented the home to tenants.


Architectural survey form for 9 Forest Street.

Residents of 9 Forest Street

In early 1983, a descendant of Edwin Davis Mellen gifted the CHC with several family photographs taken in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many are interior and exterior shots of homes, with a number known to be located in Cambridge. Among the photographs are two taken at 9 Forest Street.

Mellen (1861-1918), an 1884 M.I.T. graduate, was a talented amateur photographer. By profession a chemist, he became a partner in the Cambridge soap manufacturer Curtis, Davis & Co. He and his wife, Adele Jeanne, nee Lods, initially lived on Essex Street, not far from the factory, but in 1892-98 they rented the house at 9 Forest Street. In 1897 the British firm of Lever Brothers purchased an interest in Mellen’s firm, and he built a new home at 1590 Massachusetts Avenue (now demolished). With him were his wife, and a daughter, Lucile Christina.


The Mellen family at 9 Forest Street: Lucile Mellen and an unknown boy sit on tricycles. Adele can be seen sitting on the front steps. The photograph was taken by Edwin, ca. 1893-1898.


An unknown boy, Lucile Mellen, and an unknown girl on the steps of 9 Forest Street, ca. 1893-1898.

This house was also once the home of Dr. Lucy A. “Sleeping Lucy” Cooke. Lucy’s foresight and restorative powers appeared when she was a young girl in Vermont. Lucy honed her talents and was known in her time as a psychic healer. Although she had no formal medical training, patients called her Dr. Cooke, and she was said to invent prescriptions and even heal broken bones, all while under a trance or hypnosis. Lucy also ran a mail-order prescription business. In addition to her medical talents, Lucy aided police with unsolved cases and helped discover missing items while in state of trance.


Portrait of Lucy Cooke (b. 1819 – d. 1895) by an unknown artist. Oil on canvas, c. 1850. Vermont Historical Society. In 1916 Lucy’s husband bequeathed $1,000 and the portrait to Mount Auburn Hospital on the condition that it be hung in a public area. The hospital declined the bequest, and it went to the Montpelier Public Library instead.

Lucy moved to Boston in 1876 with her secretary and soon-to-be second husband, Everett W. Raddin. In June of 1887, she purchased the three-story mansard home at 9 Forest Street. In 1891 Mr. Raddin converted the carriage house to a residence (at left in the photo above), and it is likely that the couple moved there so they could rent out the main house. Lucy ran her practice at this address, and continued to live there until she died in 1895 at age 76.


Article on “Sleeping Lucy” from 1966.

Lucy’s talents were said to be known worldwide, and many clients would line up outside her door for consultation and cures. One of Lucy’s most famous clients was Mary Baker Eddy, known as the founder of Christian Science. Lucy treated Mrs. Eddy and her children while living in Cavendish, Vermont. Both women are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.


Forest St 9 DSC_1027

9 Forest Street in 2009.

Today, the large house sits on the corner of Forest Street and Newport Road, and looks much as it did in the late nineteenth century. Many more photographs exist in the collection donated by the Mellens, with detailed home interiors and the family engaged in activities of the day. This collection is open for research on-site at the Cambridge Historical Commission.



9 Forest Street. Architectural survey files, Cambridge Historical Commission.

Curtis Mellen Photograph Collection, Cambridge Historical Commission.

“Funeral of Dr. Lucy Cooke.” The Cambridge Chronicle, June 1, 1895. http://cambridge.dlconsulting.com/cgi-bin/cambridge?a=d&d=Chronicle18950601-01.2.49&e=——-en-20–1–txt-txIN——-.

“Lucy Ainsworth Cooke.” Vermont Historical Society. Accessed August 08, 2017. http://vermonthistory.org/research/museum-collections/faces-of-vermont/lucy-ainsworth-cooke.

Milmine, Georgine. The Life of Mary Baker Eddy and the History of Christian Science. New York: Doubleday, 1909.


Cambridge Open Archives 2017

This post is well overdue, but before the summer officially winds down (!), we wanted to share some photographs from this year’s Cambridge Open Archives event, which took place June 19-22.

This year, seven archives, special collections, and collecting institutions in Cambridge opened their doors to the public to showcase some of their most interesting materials.  The theme this year was “Living and Dying in Cambridge.”

Check out a brief slideshow below of some highlights from this year’s archives tours. Photos courtesy of attendees and archivists.

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A huge thanks to this year’s participants and their fabulous archivists, curators, librarians and staff:

Mount Auburn Cemetery, The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University, the Harvard Semitic Museum, Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters, The Cambridge Historical Society, the Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library, and the Harvard Art Museums Archives.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Cambridge Open Archives, so stay tuned for updates on what we’ll be planning!

CHC Research Library Catalog Progress

In addition to our archival collections, the CHC is home to a research library containing over 1000 volumes pertaining to Cambridge history, architecture, and residents. While plenty of these books are widely held in other libraries, many are rare volumes not found elsewhere. To increase the usability and accessibility of our collection, both for CHC staff and outside researchers, archives assistant Emily has spent the last several months creating a library catalog. This catalog will eventually be available online through an open source online catalog platform called TinyCat, so stay tuned for the announcement and read on to learn about Emily’s progress.


Part of the CHC Research Library collection.

This project started with a spreadsheet.

Several years ago, a previous CHC archivist started adding books to this spreadsheet. She included fields for the basic bibliographic data needed to identify a book: title, author, publisher, date of publication, etc. However, she left the CHC before this spreadsheet was complete. I took over the project in February, checking the list against the volumes on the shelves of the library, correcting or adding information as necessary, and adding volumes that had been added to the shelves in the period after the previous archivist left and before I started.

The spreadsheet has evolved since then. I added and removed fields, changed classification systems, added call numbers, removed call numbers, added subject headings, removed subject headings, changed collection headings, and color coded EVERYTHING. It’s a work in progress.

Currently, I am almost finished assigning call numbers to every volume on our shelves. (Many more will be added later, but one step at a time.) When this step is finished, it will be time for the Great Reorganization, an all-hands-on-deck event when we will be removing everything from the stacks and reordering the collection by call number. We will be making flags to place in each volume (all 1,000+!) so users can find what they’re looking for. And every volume will be added to our online catalog, available for anyone to use, from anywhere in the world. As an archivist committed to making all information as freely accessible as possible, I am really excited for this thing to go live.


Our front-facing online catalog. I’ve added a few volumes already to test it out. The book covers scroll by as a sort of slide show of the collection. It’s pretty neat.

*An Ode to Online Catalogs and the Library of Congress Classification System PDFs*

Many of the call numbers I’ve assigned to each volume were found in other online catalogs. The Library of Congress holds millions of volumes and must employ hordes of catalogers, so they are the definitive source for LC classification standards. WorldCat is a “global catalog of library collections” through which one can search the online catalogs of universities, public libraries, and archival collections all around the world. These sources were invaluable to me in this process. However, some of our materials are so rare they can’t be found in any other catalog. Many others were arranged in a way that didn’t make sense for our collection. For these items, I created call numbers from scratch using the Library of Congress classification schedules, basically guides to the LC Classification System, available as PDFs, that include almost any possible classification.


In the search results page, you can see the call numbers for the volumes I’ve already added. F74.C1 is the basic classification for anything about the history of Cambridge.

Are you as excited about all of this as I am? Do you want to know more about the Library of Congress Classification System and why it is vastly superior to the Dewey Decimal System? Let us know in the comments!