The Sanctity of Archives

By Steve Bromage, MHS Executive Director

You may have heard about a controversy that has emerged this week surrounding the National Archives and Records Administration: NARA, which refers to itself as the “country’s record keeper,” has been taken to task for altering historic images used to promote its exhibit celebrating the centennial of the women’s suffrage movement. Images of the 2017 Women’s March were blurred to obscure references to “Trump” and female anatomy, drawing criticism from historians, the museum field, and many others (including those who participated in the March).

You can read about the controversy in this New York Times article.

History is messy and complex (and wonderful and an incredibly important resource). This controversy strikes a chord: it raises questions about how institutions like Maine Historical Society go about our work at a time when the concepts of “facts, ” “knowledge,” and “truth” are under siege.

At MHS, our mission is to preserve and share Maine’s story. Central to our work is caring for and providing access to documents and other historical items that serve as the foundation of the historical record. We strive to provide broad access to our collections and work closely with partners throughout the state to develop exhibits, public programs, publications, and online resources that provide context for issues that Mainers are focused on today.

A core tenet articulated in our strategic plan states that MHS is “committed to rigorous scholarship, freedom of inquiry, confronting all aspects of the historical record, and advocates the use of history to support planning for the future.” We take this very seriously.

This means that we are meticulous in how we approach, think about, and present the historical record: we do not alter images, manipulate them for effect, sanitize them, or attempt to put aspects of Maine’s story in a more favorable light.

Our staff engages in constant discussion internally and with partners throughout Maine to identify topics of interest and relevance to the community, to include diverse perspectives, and to present multiple viewpoints.

There are inherent biases in all history—based on what records survive, what materials have been valued and collected, the era in which the history is written, and the background and perspective of the historian and institution. We work hard to identify, acknowledge, and address those biases.

I could cite many examples of MHS’s work in recent years that reflect these commitments: exhibitions on immigration in Maine, the paper industry, and Maine’s food culture and economy.

Our current exhibition, Holding Up the Sky, offers a case in point. As the State of Maine commemorates its Bicentennial this year, we felt that it was essential to first place 200 years of Statehood into the context of 13,000 years of Maine history. The exhibition explores the experience and leadership of the Wabanaki, Maine’s first people, who have lived here and been stewards of the place we now know as Maine for thousands of years.

Holding Up The Sky logo 1 NEW

The exhibit revisits historic documents, like treaties, from the Wabanaki perspective and acknowledges that early Maine leaders, like the Longfellow family (near and dear to MHS), acted in deeply disturbing ways (e.g. by offering scalping bounties). The story is complex, tragic, moving, inspiring, and many other things. It is a story that people who care about Maine need to know, good and bad. Information, awareness, and open dialog is the foundation for moving forward together on this and every other topic of contemporary interest and concern.

I hope you’ll have the chance to visit Holding Up the Sky before it closes on February 1.

Exhibitions are one important way for the public to encounter and explore history. Each story, fact, object, label, panel, and graphic plays a role in establishing knowledge, understanding, and trust. It is essential that each is presented with honesty, accuracy, and transparency.

We are fortunate: Maine has an incredible historical community. Scholars, professors, graduate students, and local historians are dedicated to these principles, as are museums, archives, local historical societies, libraries, and many other organizations throughout the state.

These individuals and institutions are an invaluable resource and source of information. You can be confident in their vigilance and commitment to providing information that supports civic dialog.

We deeply appreciate the support of MHS members and donors who make this work possible.

Books in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House | Part 2: Sitting Room Library

Notes from the Archives by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

IMG_7877The sitting room once held Stephen Longfellow’s law office. Stephen (1776-1849), the father of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, used a sideboard-bookcase, which had a center drawer that folded down to form a writing space. It was the books in this bookcase that I cataloged this winter. I assumed they would be dry and dull law books, but to my delight and surprise I found more books associated with the family, which give more insight into the Longfellows.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and family, Italy, 1869. Collections of Maine Historical Society.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and family, Italy, 1869. Collections of Maine Historical Society.

Granted, many of these books did belong to Stephen, and had to do with law, and his work as a legislator. But other Longfellow family members make their appearance, by signing some of the books. These include…

Stephen Longfellow, Portland, ca. 1845. Collections of Maine Historical Society.
Stephen Longfellow, Portland, ca. 1845. Collections of Maine Historical Society.

Henry’s siblings:

-Stephen Longfellow (1805-1850). A teenaged Stephen doodled men’s profiles, ships, and a dog in ink on the endpages of The Elements of Greek Grammar.

-Elizabeth Wadsworth Longfellow (1808-1829). Elizabeth died at the age of 20, so it’s wonderful to have evidence of her life, with some of her textbooks in the house.

-Anne Longfellow Pierce (1810-1901). Although most of Anne’s books are in her bedroom, a few of them are also in this book case. They include poetry, fiction, and devotional writings.

Alexander Longfellow, Portland, 1880
Alexander Longfellow, Portland, 1880

-Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (1814-1901). Elements of Chemistry by Edward Turner (1830) has an inscription by Alexander, dated 1831, when he was acting as secretary for his uncle Alexander during a tour of duty in the Pacific, off the coast of Chile. He later became a surveyor, and worked for the U.S. Coast Survey.

-Mary Longfellow Greenleaf (1816-1902). Mary signed several of the books, including textbooks, probably used by her at the Portland Female Academy.

-Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892). Samuel gave his sister Mary Yarrow Revisited: And Other Poems (1835) by William Wordsworth.

Henry’s wives:

-Mary Potter Longfellow (1812-1835). One of the most poignant books in the house is Mary Potter’s Bible. It was given to her in 1819 by her cousin George Chase, three days before his death, “as a memento of his affectionate love.” Mary was 7 years old. In between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the Potter family genealogy. Mary’s husband, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, added the dates of their marriage in 1831 and her death in 1835. Mary died in Rotterdam from a miscarriage, when she and Henry were touring Europe.

W-L 365 Mary Potter's Bible
W-L 365 Mary Potter’s Bible

-Fanny Appleton Longfellow (1817-1861). Gems of Sacred Poetry (1841) is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce 1845, from her sister Fanny, with much love.” Fanny Appleton Longfellow was the second wife of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, therefore, Fanny’s “sister-in-law.”

Other relatives:

-Anne Sophia Longfellow Balkam (born in 1818). Anne Sophia, gave her cousins Mary and Anne Longfellow books as gifts. She was the only child of Captain Samuel Longfellow (1789-1818), Stephen Longfellow’s (1776-1849) younger brother. She inherited part of the estate of her grandfather Stephen Longfellow (1750-1824). Although she lived outside of Portland during most of her girlhood, she corresponded with and visited her Portland cousins. She was a bridesmaid at Mary Longfellow’s wedding to James Greenleaf in 1839.

-Mary King Longfellow (1852-1945). Mary, the daughter of Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry’s brother, owned The Child’s Matins and Vespers (1853).

-Henry’s great grandfather, Stephen Longfellow (1728-1790). Stephen owned a book called Essays Upon Field-Husbandry in New-England, which is inscribed on the front: “This book belonged to Stephen Longfellow the School Master, see his autograph on outer cover.” Stephen Longfellow was Falmouth’s first schoolmaster and filled many important civic offices.

-George Wadsworth. George is the lone “Wadsworth” in this group. He was possibly Henry’s uncle, the brother of Henry’s mother Zilpah. George may have owned a French dictionary in the book case, which was later owned by his brother-in-law Stephen, and niece Mary.

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Another Wadsworth, however, can be found in this collection, by association. Abel Bowen’s The Naval Monument (1816) is inscribed: “Reuben Goff, Charlestown, Mass.” Reuben Goff was in the navy yard in Charlestown more than forty years. He made models, including one of the bridge from Charlestown to Boston. He was considered one of the finest workmen in wood, and when he died was at the head in one of the departments in the yard. What’s the connection to the Wadsworth and Longfellow families?

IMG_7868Some of the books have a connection to Henry himself, some from his student days at Portland Academy and Bowdoin College, as well as his professor days at Bowdoin. And not only Henry, but his brothers Stephen and Alexander, who also attended, and his father Stephen, an overseer and trustee of Bowdoin College. Henry used a Latin dictionary at the age of 13 when a student at Portland Academy. Apparently this dictionary was also used by Samuel, his brother.

Most charming is a book written in Spanish and inscribed by Henry to his brother Alexander: “Alex. W. Longfellow, de la hermano, Enrique, Brunswick, Me. 1830.” Alexander attended Bowdoin College in 1829, and for a while stayed with his brother Henry and his first wife Mary Storer Potter. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a professor of modern languages at Bowdoin – during his years teaching at the college, he translated textbooks in French, Italian and Spanish; his first published book was in 1833, a translation of the poetry of medieval Spanish poet Jorge Manrique. This book, by Garcilasco de la Vega, a Spanish poet, may have been inscribed by Henry (“Enrique”) to his brother Alexander.

W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega cover
W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega cover
W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega title page
W-L 286: Obras de Garcilaso de la Vega title page

Several of the books, including textbooks, were signed by “T. G. Kimball.” Thomas G. Kimball of Monmouth was a student at Bowdoin around 1835, and possibly a student of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

IMG_7876There is also a pamphlet entitled Acts Relative to Bowdoin College and the Standing Rules and Orders of the Overseers of the College, printed in 1826, which is inscribed: “S. Longfellow, 1831.” This may have been Stephen, father of Henry, as he was an overseer of the college from 1811-1817, and a trustee from 1817-1836.

One of the oddest finds is a book printed in 1830, which has the inscription: “Presented to his Majesty Louis Philippe, King of the French, by the Editor.” It is also inscribed, in different and later handwriting: “From the family of A. W. Longfellow.” This may have been Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow, brother of Henry. Louis Philippe (1773-1850) was the French King from 1830 to 1848 as the leader of the Orleanist party. He was sworn in as King Louis-Philippe I on August 9, 1830. The book, The Debates, Resolutions, and Other Proceedings, in Convention, on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution…was collected by Jonathan Elliot. One can only surmise at the connections.

Scherenschnitte
Scherenschnitte

The most exciting find of the project was to come across a “Scherenschnitte,” or scissor-cutting, by Martha Honeywell, lying loosely in Gems of Sacred Literature (1841). The book is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce from her brother Henry, Jan. 1, 1845.” Martha Ann Honeywell, (about 1787-after 1848), was an itinerant silhouette artist who was born without hands and had only three toes on one foot. She cut paper for her silhouettes and profiles by holding the scissors in her teeth, using her toes for steadiness and guidance. The cutting is signed by Martha Honeywell and may have been collected by Anne from a performance by Honeywell who appeared at one time in Portland and in Boston. The scissor-cutting is now housed in the museum.

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To learn more about these books you can search our Minerva catalog (Dewey Call Number Search) for W-L. This will bring up all the books in the Wadsworth Longfellow House, including the books in Anne Longfellow Pierce’s bedroom (see blog Part 1), and the sitting room. It also includes books that originally were in the house but are now located in the Brown Research Library.

Books in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House | Part I: Anne Longfellow Pierce’s Library

Notes from the Archives by Nancy Noble, MHS Archivist & Cataloger

ALP_books1
Anne Longfellow Pierce’s library in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

In the rear second floor bedroom of the Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a small bookshelf filled with books that belonged to Anne Longfellow Pierce, the sister of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Anne grew up in the family home on Congress Street in Portland, and lived there for 87 of her 90 years. Anne eventually became the sole owner of the house, bequeathing it to the Maine Historical Society when she died in 1901.

During the fall of 2014 I catalogued these books, and along the way gleaned a little information about Anne and her family and community. Anne was a devoted member of the First Parish Church (Unitarian) just down the street from her home, and many of these books were given to the church by Anne, only to be returned many years later to the Maine Historical Society. Many contain a bookplate from the “Minister’s Library” at First Parish.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1880. Anne Longfellow Pierce, the poet's sister, gave the building to the Maine Historical Society in 1901.
Wadsworth-Longfellow House, Portland, ca. 1880. Anne Longfellow Pierce, the poet’s sister, gave the building to the Maine Historical Society in 1901.

Beyond the association with the church are associations with Anne’s family. Many of the books were given to her by her younger brother Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892), a minister and hymn writer. Hymns and Meditations is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce with love & good wishes from her brother S., Jan. 1st, 1864.” Anne’s sister Mary Longfellow Greenleaf presented to her Seven Voices of Sympathy: From the Writings of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the work of their famous brother. Lucia Wadsworth, Anne’s aunt, gave her a Bible dated 1833, when Anne was in her early 20s. A five-volume series of The Works by Jeremy Taylor belonged to Anne’s husband George Washington Pierce, a classmate and close friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who studied law in Stephen (Henry and Anne’s father) Longfellow’s office. Sadly George Washington Pierce died a year after inscribing into these volumes: “Geo. W. Pierce, Oct. 1834.”He was 29, having been married to Anne only three years.

ALP_books2
Anne Longfellow Pierce’s library in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.

There are presentation copies from friends, such as Life in the Sick-Room by Harriet Martineau, which is inscribed: “Anne L. Pierce from her friend, P. C. Jones [?], June 6th, 1844.” The may possibly be Paulina Cony Jones (1809-1845), who must have had sympathy for Anne who was caring for her father Stephen, who died in 1849, and her mother Zilpah, who died in 1851.

Anne Longfellow Pierce, Portland, 1830
Anne Longfellow Pierce, Portland, 1830

One book contained newspaper clippings about geraniums and potatoes, and a manuscript envelope with list of countries on it, from which one could glean more insight into the thoughts of Anne Longfellow Pierce.

Apart from Anne’s imprints on these books, many were owned by Nathaniel F. Deering. A few were used in the pews of the First Parish Church, such as A Collection of Psalms and Hymns for Christian Worship which is inscribed at the top of the title page: “John J. Brown [?], Pew 96.”

Given the connection to the First Parish Church, most of these books are religious in nature, but occasionally there are a few glimpses of life beyond the spiritual realm. The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither by Isabella L. Bird is a surprising find. Isabella Lucy Bird was a nineteenth-century English explorer, writer, photographer and naturalist; she was the first woman to be elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The golden Chersonese is about Bird’s travels to Malay and China. There are also a few books of poetry, a book about Lord Lyttleton, and a book about Edward the Sixth.

To learn more about these books you can search our Minerva catalog (Dewey Call Number Search) for W-L 600 through W-L 641.


COMING SOON: Books in the Wadsworth-Longfellow House | Part II: Stephen Longfellow’s Library

Local History Local Schools: Small School

On Thursday, March 5, Small School from South Portland visited our campus to celebrate the completion of their Local History Local Schools study. Fourth grade students from Mr. Stoner’s and Ms. Cloutier’s classes gave presentations and shared their work with fellow classmates, parents, and MHS staff. Their projects will continue to be on display in the Student Gallery, we invite you to come check them out!

Enjoy this slideshow of images from the event:

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13 Amazing Facts About Henry Wadsworth Longfellow You Probably Didn’t Know

At Maine Historical Society, we are preparing for the 208th birthday celebration of America’s beloved poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (born in Portland on February 27, 1807). Join us on Saturday, February 28 at 2:00pm to for his birthday party, eat cake, make hats, and hear his works read by local celebrities! In the meantime, please enjoy these 13 incredible facts about good ol’ Henry. Share your reactions in the comments section or on our Facebook page.


 

13. A one-cent stamp featuring a portrait of Longfellow was first issued on February 16, 1940. A stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of his birth was issued on March 15, 2007.

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12. The Portland Gazette published Henry’s first poem at the age of 13.

B_4141_HWLyoung 18272 

11. Henry was the first American to translate Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy.

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10. Henry was a major dog lover! The Longfellow family had many pets, but the “the last and greatest of all the dogs was Trap; Trap the Scotch Terrier, Trap the polite, the elegant, sometimes on account of his deportment called Turneydrop, sometimes Louis the Fourteenth” wrote Longfellow.

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9. The often quoted phrases “into every life some rain must fall” and “ships that pass in the night” are lines that originated in two of Henry’s poems.

rainmustfall

8. Henry is the only American to be honored with a bust in Westminster Abbey in London, England. His marble bust was placed in the Poet’s Corner in 1884, and stands among the monuments to other world-renowned authors and poets such as Dickens, Chaucer, and Browning.

Westminster Abbey

7. Henry graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825 in the same class as Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Hawthorne-Longfellow(portrait)

6. One of Henry’s students at Harvard University was Henry David Thoreau.

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5. Henry was a fluent speaker of eight different languages–quite the polyglot!

22499 4. Henry was a descendant of Mayflower passengers John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden. He made his ancestors household names with the publication of his poem The Courtship of Miles Standish in 1857.

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3. At his home in Cambridge, MA, in 1867, Henry hosted Charles Dickens for Thanksgiving dinner. He also wrote the poem, Thanksgiving.

craigie

2. When Henry’s daughter Frances was born on April 7, 1847, Dr. Nathan Cooley Keep administered ether to Henry’s wife, Fanny Appleton Longfellow; this was the first recorded use of obstetric anesthetic in the United States. She later wrote about her experience, “I am very sorry you all thought me so rash and naughty in trying the ether. Henry’s faith gave me courage…I feel proud to be the pioneer to less suffering for poor, weak womankind. This is certainly the greatest blessing of this age and I am glad to have lived at the time of its coming and in the country which gives it to the world…”

ether

1. Henry began growing a beard following the death of his second wife Fanny in 1861. Fanny died in a tragic fire and Henry was burned so badly trying to save her that he was left unable to shave his face for some time. He wore the beard the rest of his life.

1849: Henry W. Longfellow (1807-1882) and Frances Appleton Longfellow (1819-1861) with their two eldest children, Charles Appleton Longfellow (1844-1893) and Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow (1845-1921).
1849: Henry W. Longfellow (1807-1882) and Frances Appleton Longfellow (1819-1861) with their two eldest children, Charles Appleton Longfellow (1844-1893) and Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow (1845-1921).
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland, 1878
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland, 1878

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


To learn more about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visit the Maine Memory Network and HWLongfellow.org. Visitors can tour his boyhood home, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, and garden in Portland, Maine at the Maine Historical Society.

2014: It’s All History Now

Thanks from MHSHappy New Year! Can we just take a minute and say Thanks?! 2014 was an incredible year for MHS, much due to all the wonderful people who visited us for public programs, listened to our podcasts, became members, researched in our library, contributed to our collections, and engaged with us in person (throughout the state) and online.

We love creating programs and exhibitions for our diverse audiences (in Maine and around the world) and hope that if you haven’t had a chance to join the MHS community, 2015 will be your year to do it. Drop us a line if there’s something of particular interest that you’d like to see us doing in the new year–we welcome your feedback!

We’ve created 7 ways to look back on all that you’ve helped us accomplish in 2014–check out these posts compiled by our staff:

Part 1: Digital Engagement & Maine Memory Network

Part 2: Education 

Part 3: Brown Research Library & Collections

Part 4: Wadsworth-Longfellow House & Garden

Part 5: Institutional Advancement

Part 6: Gallery & Exhibitions

Part 7: Public Programs

We can’t wait to make history with you in 2015!