Now Open: Cogswell Collection

This post was authored by our Simmons 438 Archives intern, Elise Riley.

At the turn of the 19th century Cambridge’s built environment entered into a period of flux. New buildings and streets were added as the city developed. Neighborhoods expanded as houses were built into the burgeoning urban landscape. Beginning in 1910, the neighborhood of Shady Hill saw the addition of several streets including Irving Street, Bryant Street, and Francis Avenue.

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Top Left: “E” – Bryant St. from corner of Irving St., May 3, 1912. Top Right: View from Irving Street. Bottom Left: View from same point as above, September 1920. Bottom Right: View from same point as above, September 2, 1916.

The Charles N. Cogswell Collection (P014) consists of a scrapbook and loose photographs that depict these changes to the built environment in Cambridge, as well as daily life, in the late 19th century. Charles N. Cogswell, a Cambridge resident and Boston architect, lived at 61 Kirkland Street from 1882 until his death in 1941, aged 76.

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Charles’s brother George Cogswell on a penny-farthing.

Cogswell attended Harvard University and went on to study architecture at M.I.T. and at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, Paris. While the bulk of his professional work took place in Boston, Cogswell dedicated his free time to capturing the changing architectural landscape of his Cambridge neighborhood.

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Top right: April 30, 1910. The beginning of the extension of Francis Avenue through to Museum Street, before the Andover Seminary Building was constructed. Bottom left: 61 Kirkland Street. Bottom right: [Francis Ave.] View from same point on September 2, 1916 [Professor Chas H. Haskins-House in distance]

Shady Hill is located east of Harvard Yard, right next to what is now the Harvard Divinity School. The Cogswell Collection is unique because it captures the in-between moments of growth in Cambridge and shows what the city looked like as construction was happening.

 

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Cogswell’s neighborhood was also home to several notable Cambridge residents. While Cogswell lived on Kirkland Street, around the block on Irving Street lived Harvard professors William James and Josiah Royce.

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Views from Irving Street, 1891.

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Aerial view of Irving Street, 1888.

E.E. Cummings and Julia Child would later live on this same block of Irving Street, the Childs in Royce’s former home at 103 Irving Street (above).

In his scrapbook, Cogswell also included snapshots of daily life and events in and around Cambridge.

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Cyanotype photographs of a regatta on the Charles River, 1887 or 1888.

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Family dog, Kinch, on the Cambridge Common.

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Top: View of Holmes Field, 1886 or 1887. Bottom: Shaw Barn on Kirkland Road after the fire, April 7, 1886 (owned by Prof. G.M. Lane).

The finding aid will soon be available on our website. To view photographs from the collection, check out our Flickr page, or email histcomm@cambridgema.gov to make an in-person research appointment. The Cambridge Historical Commission also holds files on 61 Kirkland Street and the other addresses mentioned in this scrapbook.

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Baking Powder and Vikings

Today’s blog post comes to you from our guest author, CHC volunteer Michael Kenney.

“Was there a city of Norumbega” on the Charles River just upstream from Cambridge? That was the rhetorical question posed in 1891 by Eben Norton Horsford, a chemistry professor at Harvard and developer of Rumford Baking Powder. And he was certain of the affirmative answer.

Horsford’s brook-no-doubt answer is to be found  in his Defenses of Norumbega, now in the library of the Cambridge Historical Commission. It is an answer he proves to his satisfaction with a series of 16th century maps and the journals of an 18th century seaman, with the name itself derived from the Algonquin word for “a quiet place between the rapids.”

As for the “habit of ear” which was a key element of his researches, Horsford notes in an aside that he had spent his childhood among Indians as the son of missionaries.

It is a densely-argued thesis, with excursions into the accounts of voyages from those of Leif Ericsson to Samuel de Champlain, along with the narratives of explorers and merchants who visited the “city of Norumbega.”norumbega006

Should one wonder what remains, Horsford offers, by way of an answer, speculative maps including the one reproduced here (above), as well as the curious photograph (below) of what he describes as “the dam, docks and wharves of the ancient city of Norumbega,” sitting alongside the Charles River at Weston.

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And the still-curious will find, tucked into the farthest southwest corner of Cambridge, a collection of Horsford-themed streets — Thingvalla Avenue (named for a kettle-hole which Horsford thought was a Norse amphitheater), Ericsson Street, Norman Street, Norumbega Street, and Vineyard Street.

Stay tuned for a future blog post on the interesting Mr. Horsford and Rumford Baking Powder.

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New! Lunch Carts and Dining Cars of Cambridge, Mass.

The CHC is proud to present a new GIS Story Map created by our own Sarah Burks, Preservation Planner, available here! This fun Story Map focuses on the long-gone lunch carts and dining cars in Cambridge.

“From the earliest horse-drawn lunch carts to the streamlined stainless steel cars, diners were once plentiful in Cambridge. But where did they all go? Some diners moved into brick and mortar locations and others relocated to other towns. The recent Food Truck trend appears to be a revival of the portable dining car, but they don’t offer the seating and table service of yesterday.”

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Take a tour of Cambridge diner photos and share your diner memories with us at histcomm@cambridgema.gov. Have you been to any of these diners?

Now Open: The Simplex Pennant Collection

This post was authored by our Simmons 438 Archives intern, Elise Riley

Until the mid-20th century, the Simplex Wire & Cable Company on Sidney Street was one of the largest manufacturers in Cambridge. Founded in Boston in 1840, Simplex moved to Cambridge in 1916 and manufactured electrical appliances and wire in a multi-building complex near Lafayette Square. MIT bought the property after the company moved to New Hampshire in 1970; University Park now occupies the site.

This collection holds 18 issues from 1945 of the Simplex Pennant, the company’s employee newsletter that gives us an authentic glimpse into daily life in Cambridge during the 1940s.

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Scores from company bowling league and trivia section.

Dedicated to manufacturing wires and cables for electrical use, Simplex Wire & Cable rose in the industry as an innovator, developing a submarine cable with a significantly longer lifespan. This invention came in handy as war broke out once again in 1939. Simplex became a main supplier of telecommunications cable to the US Army and Navy.

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A thank you note to Simplex Wire & Cable Company from US War Department.

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Simplex awarded its Fourth Gold Star from the US Maritime Commission.

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Simplex Pennant masthead showing US War Department awards.

1945 was a pivotal year in World War II from Hitler’s defeat to VE Day. Woven into the Pennant’s committee reports are hints as to what was going on in the wider world.

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Entries honoring Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

As the war raged on, The Pennant was there to capture the goings-on of domestic life and the war effort. The newsletter included birthday and wedding anniversary announcements as well as updates on enlisted employees or relatives.

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An employee’s letter from his son who had been released from a German P.O.W. camp.

It also featured cartoon reminders of attendance and safety precautions to keep morale and productivity up.

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A newsletter cartoon joking about attendance.

Come take a step back in time and explore the Simplex Pennant Collection! View the collection finding aid here. You can also take a look at selected pages from issues of the Simplex Pennant, digitized and available on our Flickr page.

Now Open: Xonnabel Clark Collection

This post was authored by our Simmons 438 Archives intern, Jacky Martin.

You may have heard of the Clarks before.  Emory J. Clark Square sits at Fern Street and Concord Avenue.  Emory’s Pharmacy was the first Black-owned and operated pharmacy in Cambridge.

But this collection is about Xonnabel.

Xonnabel Clark was a teacher and counselor for various area schools over the years.  She received a Masters of Education from Harvard University.  She raised five children.  She was a very active member of her church, Grace Vision United Methodist.  And I think  – because I’ve not met her – that she is curious and passionate about learning and likes piecing puzzles together.

It’s the last two sentences that are important for this collection.

Clark became the unofficial historian for her church back in the 2000s, when the congregation needed to find the official deed for the church building.  She traveled to the Cambridge Registry of Deeds and successfully located the document.  That adventure sparked an interest in records and the history of her church that led to her working with the CHC to make the church into a historical landmark, and writing a report called The History of Grace Vision United Methodist 1871-2009: 138 Years of Christian Service (yes, we have a copy and yes, I’ve read it).

After spending two weeks with this collection, I understand her interest.

Grace M.E. Church Postcard

A colored postcard of the church

The Grace Vision United Methodist Church was built in 1887.  Its original congregation was an outgrowth of a Sunday School-type program called the Sabbath School, which was run by Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist churches including the Harvard Street Church.  The original congregation was called the Cottage Street Methodist Episcopal Church, due to its location on Cottage Street, before it moved to the Magazine Street building and renamed itself Grace Methodist Episcopal Church.  Since then it’s gone through four name changes (from Grace M.E. to Grace Methodist to Grace United to finally Grace Vision United).  That’s five different names for one enduring congregation.

And by all accounts, the congregation’s focus on community and outreach that started with the Sabbath School didn’t change.  The church sponsored Scout Troops, ran arts programs, and remained an active part of the community.  From the original Sabbath School to Grace Academy, the Grace Vision UMC strove to always contribute to the local community.

Grace U.M.C. Scout Troop 17

One of the many Boy Scout Troops the church sponsored

The collection itself is an interesting mix of official documents and informal photographs.

Grace Church Herald, October 1903

An old church newsletter; note the baseball statistics

The largest part of the collection (aside from the History) are the church programs that Clark kept over the years.  From Martin Luther King Day celebrations to joint Easter Sunday services with other churches to Anniversary services and banquets, these programs run the gamut of the various events that are a constant part of a church’s life.

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One of the multiple programs for Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations

More interesting – to me at least –  are the newsletters and correspondence in the collection.  Much of the collection consists of formal minutes from the multiple inter-church organizations that Grace United Methodist was a part of, but the rest includes church newsletters and messages to the congregation.  My favorite is the “Cakeless Cake Sale” letter, which is written almost entirely in rhyme.

Grace U.M.C. Cakeless Cake Sale

A Cakeless Cake Sale, a novel new way to do bake sales

The collection is a unique snapshot of the life of a church, taken by someone who clearly cares greatly for this church and its history.

Grace U.M.C. Service

A photograph of Sunday service

View the finding aid for this collection here. If you would like to learn more about this collection, please call us at 617.349.4683 or e-mail our archivist, Emily, at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov to make a research appointment.

“Douglass Day” Transcribe-a-Thon at Northeastern

If you are in the Boston-Cambridge Metro area, consider attending this “Transcribe-a-thon” on February 14 at Northeastern University, in celebration of Frederick Douglass’s 200th birthday. Archives staff members at the CHC will be participating online, which you can do, too. Click here for more information on participating online.

Details on the Northeastern event below:

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Please join us this Valentine’s Day for a transcribe-a-thon in celebration of Frederick Douglass! In partnership with the library’s Open Access programming, the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks and the Women Writers Project, Northeastern University’s Digital Scholarship Group will be hosting a local event at Northeastern’s Snell Library, as part of a much larger celebration organized by the Colored Conventions Project, the Smithsonian Transcription Center and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Although Douglass was born into bondage, and never knew his birthdate, he chose to celebrate every year on February 14. We will commemorate his birthday by creating Black history together, transcribing at our library while streaming online with the national event. Pizza and snacks will be served!

Participants should bring their own laptops, if possible, but no previous experience is required. This event is free and open to the public. RSVP here:  https://northeastern.libcal.com/event/3916854. 

Ring in the New Year with Genealogy Workshops (CPL/CCTV)

Happy New Year! We here at the CHC hope everyone had a lovely and restful holiday season. To kick off the new year, we’d like to share a fun event series hosted by our friends over at the Cambridge Public Library (original post at the Cambridge Room’s blog):

Are you looking for something fun to do in the new year?  Join the Cambridge Public Library for our popular 4-week beginner’s genealogy workshop series.   Classes will be held at CCTV, located at 438 Massachusetts Avenue.

Wednesdays, 6-8 PM
January 10, 17, 24, & 31
Instructors:  Alyssa Pacy, Archivist, and Drew Griffin, Senior Librarian
Location:  CCTV computer classroom, 438 Massachusetts Avenue

Join us for a 4-week, beginner’s genealogy workshop. For two hours each week, we will demystify the overwhelming process of sorting through online records as well as give tips for how best to make use of research visits to local repositories. We will help you find ancestors, organize your research, and start a family tree. Come with a new question every week and leave with an answer and something tangible to bring home, such as a copy of a birth certificate. By taking this class, you will be automatically eligible to enroll in a FREE, two-part course on digital storytelling taught by CCTV. Learn how to make a digital film about your family’s history based on your genealogical research. Create a treasured digital keepsake to pass on to family members. Registration is mandatory for the series.  To register, please contact Keaton Fox at keaton@cctvcambridge.org.

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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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.