Notes On Discovery: Brief Archival Thoughts From A Recent Intern

As a Simmons student, one of the requirements for the Library & Information Sciences program, regardless of where you fall on the dual-major spectrum, is a minimum 60-hour internship at an archival institution located either in or around Boston, Mass.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I was assigned a post at the Cambridge Historical Commission: although I’ve been living in the Cambridge area for a little over a year, I have to admit that I don’t necessarily know much about the actual history of it beyond some superficial knowledge. I’m from Western New York! Cambridge, to me, was where Harvard and MIT had their campuses, the backdrop of The Handmaid’s Tale, and literally nothing beyond that. What could Cambridge possibly have in their local history archives that could interest me at all?

The answer? A whole lot.

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Address Highlight: Michael J. Lombardi Municipal Building, 831 Massachusetts Avenue (formerly the Brusch Medical Center)

The CHC shares space at 831 Massachusetts Avenue at the corner of Bigelow Street in Cambridge with other city departments. Our neighbors include the IT Department, Inspectional Services, License Commission, and Weights and Measures, among others. However, this building was not built to house offices for the City of Cambridge.

In fact, the early history of this property indicates it was well-suited to medical professionals. It was originally the site of two Mansard houses; number 825, on the corner of Bigelow Street, built by soap manufacturer Franklin Brazier in 1869, and 837, built by Rev. Joseph W. Eaton in 1871. Both men had died by about 1875, and their houses soon proved attractive to medical doctors.

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Before the Brusch Medical Building was constructed two Mansard houses occupied the site. 825 Massachusetts Avenue stood on the corner of Bigelow Street and 837 Massachusetts Avenue was next door.  Photo ca. 1925.

Dr. Augustus Clarke, an 1860 graduate of Brown University who served as a surgeon in the Civil War and was a pioneer in antiseptic surgery, occupied the corner house until his death in 1925. His daughters, Drs. Genevieve Clarke and Inez Louise Clarke, both Tufts Medical School graduates and gynecologists who practiced with him, remained in the house. After Genevieve died in 1930 Inez became a recluse. She allowed the building to decay, and died alone in 1942; her house was demolished in 1944.

Next door, 837 Massachusetts Avenue was the home and office of Canadian-born physician Dr. Joseph S. Lockhart. For a brief period, a relative of Dr. Lockhart’s, Dr. James Proctor Lockhart, a dentist and 1902 graduate of Tufts College, also lived and practiced in the house.

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View of Massachusetts Avenue and City Hall. 837 Mass Ave can be seen in the background. Photo ca. 1940

Joseph Lockhart continued his medical practice at 837 Massachusetts Avenue until his death on March 1st, 1927. Soon after, Dr. William C. Archibald moved into the house and opened his own practice. Dr. Archibald had also relocated to Cambridge from Canada just a few years prior and soon shared his office with Dr. Ralph Gross, a local dentist. The house was demolished in 1949 to make way for a brand-new medical facility.

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Proposed layout of Drs. J&C Brusch Medical Clinic, Drawn by Don Tibbetts, scale app. 1/16” = 1’ – 0 (30 October 1949)

Construction for the two-story cast stone building to be known as The Brusch Medical Center was commissioned by Dr. Joseph A. and Dr. Charles A. Brusch. Charles was John F. Kennedy’s doctor while he was a Massachusetts senator.

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Basement Floor Plan (2 February 1950)

In the first week of October 1950, the Cambridge Chronicle reported that ground had been broken for the new center with final costs estimated at over $400,000. As you can see from the basement floor plan, there were rooms for physical therapy, soaking, cystoscopy, and radiography, among others.

Drs. Brusch were known for incorporating treatments that were thought of as revolutionary for the time such as prescribing herbal remedies and providing acupuncture. Dental offices were housed on the first floor, along with a fountain centerpiece.

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First Floor Plan (2 February 1950)

In addition to several offices, treatment suites, and exam rooms, architect Edward T.P. Graham made plans for a pharmacy to be included on the first floor. The Medical Arts pharmacy was considered “outstanding” by some residents as it offered comfortable waiting room accommodations, such as rocking chairs and air conditioning.

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Clipping from Cambridge Chronicle, July 10th, 1952

The Brusch Medical Center closed in 1980 and the family sold the building to the Catholic Foreign Missionary Society of America (better known as the Maryknoll Fathers), which used it as a residence. The City of Cambridge acquired the building, along with the adjoining house at 8 Bigelow Street, in 1987 and renovated it for municipal offices. When it opened in 1988 it was named the Michael J. Lombardi Municipal Building after the former state representative who died in 1988.

Currently flanking the front entrance of our building are two lions that were carved by Cambridge sculptor Gaetano Schipilliti. According to our architectural inventory form for this address, the lions had previously been housed inside the building lobby.

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Lion statues and Brusch Medical Center sign at 831 Massachusetts Avenue, 2016

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Exterior of 831 Massachusetts Avenue, 1965

If you would like to learn more about our building or research other buildings around Cambridge, please call us at 617.349.4683 or e-mail our archivist, Emily, at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov to make a research appointment.

A big thanks to CHC Executive Director Charles Sullivan for aiding in the research and composition of this blog post.

Recap: American Archives Month

Yesterday marked the last official day of American Archives Month (October), and we wanted to thank everyone who participated in some of our own celebratory archives events here at the CHC.

In case you missed it (ICYMI):

  • On October 4, the CHC archivist – with the help of the City of Cambridge’s Director of Communications – took over the City of Cambridge Twitter account for Ask An Archivist Day. Anyone with questions about any and all aspects of archives – not just in Cambridge – could tweet to @CambMA and use the hashtag #AskAnArchivist to get a response. Check out some of the great questions and other interesting Cambridge history tidbits here!
  • We featured a couple of “behind the scenes” looks at some interesting collections in our archives via our Instagram.
  • Our new research series, “Researching the History of Your House in Cambridge”, took place from October 16 to today, November 1. This was a collaborative three-week event highlighting house history resources at the Cambridge Room (Cambridge Public Library), the Historical Commission, and the Department of Public Works.

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    Research series attendees browsing and learning at the CHC

If you missed this year’s research series, stay tuned, as we’ll be offering it again in a couple of months. And don’t forget, you can always make an appointment with us to research your building or house: histcomm@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-4683.

Time Travel Tuesday: Spooky Stories From Cambridge History

Welcome back to Time Travel Tuesday, a series focusing on Cambridge history illustrated with objects in our collections. In this episode, we’ll be discussing a few of the more peculiar legends of Cambridge. Are these terrible tales pure fiction or are they based in historical fact? Read on to find out!


Settled in 1630, Cambridge has had nearly 400 years to accumulate ghosts, some of whom continue to haunt the residents of Cambridge to this very day. And some gruesome chapters in Cambridge history, while they did not result in any reported ghost sightings, are enough to give even the most dauntless among us the heebie-jeebies.

Gallows Lot

In the early days of what would become the City of Cambridge, the smaller population included its fair share of criminals, and the criteria for capital punishment was not quite so stringent as it is today. It is unsurprising then that Cambridge had its own plot of land dedicated to executions. In the early 18th century, Cambridge Common was much more expansive. It was described by Lucius R. Paige in 1877:

Until 1720, the ‘Common’ extended to Linnaean Street, and including also a few acres, lying in a nearly square form, at the northwesterly corner of Linnaen Street and North Avenue [now Massachusetts Avenue]. This extreme point of the Common was set apart as a ‘Place of Execution,’ or ‘Gallows Lot,’ as it was more familiarly called.

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Detail of Sanborn Atlas map of Ward 5, Cambridge, 1873. Shows the location of Gallows Lot on the property of J. C. Wellington. Though  not yet in existed, Stone Court has been penciled in at the upper right of the property, beneath Dan’ W. Shaw’s property.

While the majority of executions carried out on this lot were by hanging, at least one execution by burning at the stake occurred there, that of an enslaved woman named Phillis, convicted of murdering her master, Captain Codman, with an enslaved man named Mark. The Boston Evening Post reported on the event on September 22, 1755:

…the fellow was hanged, and the woman burned at a stake about ten yards distant from the gallows. They both confessed themselves guilty of the crime for which they suffered, acknowledging the justice of their sentence and died very penitent.

Phillis was one of only a few people executed in that manner in Massachusetts history.

Christ Church

Several documented ghosts have taken up residence in Cambridge. Christ Church, founded in 1759, is home to the spirit of a British soldier who was buried under the church after he was thrown from a wagon and died.

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Reproduction of drawing, possibly a plate in a book, though the page is loose in our survey files. Unfortunately, no further bibliographic information is present.

The congregation of the Church was split between Patriots and Loyalists and dispersed during the Revolution. Said the Rector of the Church at the time, Rev. Winwood Sarjeant, “[p]erhaps no church in the country was more completely broken up. Of all the persons who took part in its concerns, including the sixty-eight original subscribers for the building… and twenty original purchasers of pews, not a name appears on the records after the Revolution but those of John Pigeon, Esq., and Judge Joseph Lee,” a Patriot and a Loyalist, respectively. The church building, badly damaged during the war,

…was left for many years in a melancholy and desecrated condition, the doors shattered and all the windows broken out, exposed to rain and storms and every sort of depredation, its beauty gone, its statuary defiled, the wind howling through its deserted aisles and about its stained and decaying walls….

No services were held again until 1790.

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Christ Church from Old Burying Ground. Dated November 20, 1892. Original in the Henry Rand Collection, Southwest Harbor Public Library, Southwest Harbor, Maine.

First Baptist Church

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Carte de Visite depicting the original First Baptist Church building. Not dated. CHC Postcards and Stereographs Collection.

In the early days of the Massachusetts Colony, a young woman named Ann Hopkins waited for her lover to return from the French Indian War. He did not make it home. His rival brought the news of his untimely death to Ann, but she caught a glimpse of the ribbon she had given her lover as a token before he left for war. The truth of her lover’s death was brought shockingly into relief: the rival had murdered her lover and disguised the killing as a casualty of the war in the hope that Ann would instead choose him. Distraught and heartbroken, Ann scorned the company of men and grew old alone on the outskirts of town. When strange and supernatural events began to plague the town, Ann was accused of witchcraft, arrested, and burned at the stake. It is said that her final words as she succumbed to the flames was a curse. “The curse of fire shall be on this spot forever!”

 

Many years later, on that very plot of land, where Magazine Street meets Massachusetts Avenue, the First Baptist Church of Cambridge was founded. The church building was completed in December of 1817 and for nearly 50 years housed the congregation until in the early morning hours of January 22, 1866, the church burned to the ground. A new building was erected, completed in December of 1867, exactly 50 years since the first building was completed. This building burned in 1881. The Boston Globe reported on the ruins in March 27, 1881:

Strange sounds are heard at night by persons who pass the ruined building—low moans and cries of intense agony, that rise to weird shrieks and die away in long-drawn sighs.

These unearthly sounds increase in frequency as the work of clearing away the ruin progresses, and old residents remember that the same sounds were heard after the burning of the old church some sixteen years ago, beginning as soon as the work of rebuilding started, and increasing until the cornerstone was laid, when they ceased altogether.

Even stranger,

[a]s the stone was being lowered into place a spark of fire was struck out in some unaccountable way and communicated to the documents placed under the stone, but the block was quickly lowered to put the flames out. When the stone was raised the other day there was nothing under it but a little heap of ashes, and it is a curious coincidence that the same thing was noticed when the cornerstone of the old church was raised.

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The second First Baptist Church building under construction in 1866. CHC Survey Files

Could this have been the work of the ghost of Ann Hopkins? The author of this article hears the story from an old man, who heard the story from his grandfather, who heard the story from the generations before him. However, despite the few instances of executions by burning that occurred in the early days of the Massachusetts Colony, no accused witches were burned at the stake. This of course casts doubt on the rest of the story and the author of the Globe article expresses his own skepticism. “Do you think the ghost of Ann Hopkins stretched these telegraph wires overhead that are making all this weird moaning?” he asks the old man who related the tale of Ann Hopkins to him.      “[A]nd the old man arose and gazed upon me reproachfully.”


Sources:
Declaration of Faith and List of Members of the First Baptist Church, Cambridge. Cambridge: John Ford & Son, 1870. (CHC Research Library)
Lee, Wan. “A Haunted Church Site in Cambridge. An Old Man’s Story of the “Curse of Fire.” Strange Sounds by Night and Still Stranger Explanations,” Boston Globe (Boston, MA), March 27, 1881.
Paige, Lucius R., History of Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1630-1877. With a Genealogical Register. Boston: H. O. Houghton and Company, 1877. (CHC Research Library)
Postcards and Stereographs Collection. Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Survey Files. Cambridge Historical Commission, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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“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
617-349-4687
sburks@cambridgema.gov

Or fill out the form below:

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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

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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.

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Chemistry classroom, c. 1920s

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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.

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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

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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

or

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

or

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

Or

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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

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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. See below for more information.

Updated: It was recently pointed out to us by an eagle-eyed commenter that the above image is, in fact, a house formerly in Roxbury. This house appears in a painting of Roxbury in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, below: 

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.

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

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[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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

Sources:

Victoria and Albert Museum

American Antiquarian Society