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.

IMG_7865

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

New Exhibition Open!

June 27, 2014

HOME: The Longfellow House and the Emergence of Portland opened last night to a crowd of MHS members and friends, all eager to see the much-anticipated new show that explores the evolution of the Longfellow House and our beloved city.

This exhibition uses the House as a prism to explore how Portland has grown and changed over more than 230 years. When Peleg Wadsworth built the House on Back Street in 1785, it was on the rural outskirts of Portland. By the early 1800s, the House was at the center of a bustling, modern New England city. Since then, Portland has boomed, burned, boomed again, busted, and reemerged as a vibrant, forward-looking city. Through it all, the Wadsworth-Longfellow House has been a constant, and witness to the life of an emerging community.

Here are some images from the opening, taken by MHS Creative Manager Dani Fazio:

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Learn how you can participate in the display “Your Home, Past & Present” here.

Happy Birthday Henry and a Night for Poetry in Maine

By Steve Bromage, MHS Executive Director

Last week I had the chance to attend the reading by inaugural poet Richard Blanco at the Merrill Auditorium. Wow—it was an incredible evening.

Photo: Derek Davis, Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald

Photo: Derek Davis, Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald

Photo: Derek Davis, Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald

Photo: Derek Davis, Staff Photographer, Portland Press Herald

It’s been quite something the past several weeks to hear from colleagues, friends, and other folks hustling to find a ticket to a poetry reading. (Or, more often, lamenting the fact that they had struck out.) Tickets were free but limited to the 1,800 person capacity of the Merrill. A big thanks goes out to Creative Portland and the Quimby Family Foundation for their generosity in conceiving and supporting this special event.

Prior to the reading there was a reception for the poet at City Hall during which Mayor Brennan gave Mr. Blanco a key to the city. Thanks to the generosity of State Historian Earle Shettleworth, Jr., I had the opportunity to present Mr. Blanco with a print of Longfellow in his Cambridge study—a gift to him from Earle’s personal collection. (Read more about the reception and reading in this Portland Press Herald article.)

How appropriate to welcome Richard Blanco to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Portland.

Longfellow—whose birthday was the day after the reading at Merrill—was deeply committed to the public role that poetry can play. Maine honors this tradition by appointing a Poet Laureate—the wonderful Wes McNair currently serves in that role, and he introduced last week’s reading. The tradition of asking a poet to commemorate the inauguration of the President by writing and reading a new poem for the occasion is actually relatively new. (Robert Frost, who recited “The Gift Outright” at JFK’s inauguration, was the first.)

Richard Blanco’s reading of his poem, One Today, at the inauguration in January has captivated many across the country. As Longfellow did in so much of his poetry, Mr. Blanco reminded us, as Americans, of our roots, and what we have in common. That seems to be something that many of us are hungry for these days.

It strikes me that one of the things that Richard Blanco has done is to spark new audiences to the pleasures of poetry. We are very lucky in in Maine: we’ve got incredible poets all around us. Go read one!

Fender Bender

Depending how heavy Santa is this Christmas, he might cause today’s mystery artifact some stress when he lands in the fireplace after his slide down the chimney.

Yes, you clever guessers, this is a fireplace fender, the often decorative, but primarily practical unit that sits along the outside edge of the fireplace to establish a border between the fire and the room it sits in. The hot coals stay inside the hearth where they belong. (That’s the idea anyway.)

This fender is presumed to have been owned by the Longfellow Family, which would date it to the early-to-mid 19th century. A dog and possibly a turtle or lizard are featured on the centerpiece; two end pieces fit over the center and are adjustable.

Here are a slew of antique fireplace fenders if you’re considering adding something historic to your hearth.

TLC for the Longfellow House

Photo by John Ewing for the Portland Press Herald

It’s been nearly a decade since the Wadsworth-Longfellow House restoration was completed. Maintaining the house is a ongoing undertaking. This fall, the house had some much-needed work done: the brickwork on the front (Congress Street) side was re-pointed, and all woodwork on that side was repainted.

In the coming weeks, the front columns of the house will be replaced. This is all a good thing: with more than 60 cruise ships visiting Portland, 6,000+ people visited the house between June-October, one of the busiest periods we’ve ever seen.

The portico, bathed in fall morning light and shadow, after the installation of the new colunms and a paint job.

The Portland Press Herald recently featured a photograph of the work. A special thanks to the craftsmen who work with such skill and care: painter Mark Drew of Cape Neddick, carpenter Caleb Hemphill of Falmouth, and masons Richard Irons of Restoration Masons and his son Rick Irons, both of Limerick.

And an extra special thanks to MHS members — this work wouldn’t be possible without you. We think the Wadsworth and Longfellow families would be tickled to see know how much you care, and to see how well the first wholly brick dwelling in Portland has withstood the tests of time.

This story was featured in the 11/7/11 edition of e-Connection.

Little Women Makes a Big Splash

Lithograph of "Emiment Women" in 1884. Louisa May Alcott is seated in the center.

The first of two volumes of Little Women hit the bookshelves on September 30, 1868. The 2,000 copies in the first printing sold out quickly, and the publisher had trouble meeting demand. Thankfully, Alcott delivered the manuscript for the second volume to her publisher only three months later to whet the appetites of all those waiting with bated breath to find out what was to become of the March girls.

Although a great deal of the book is autobiographical, and the character of “Jo” is identified with Alcott herself, the author’s life was far more complex and darker than the book implies. National Public Radio aired a feature on Louisa May Alcott back in December of 2009 titled, aptly, “Not the Little Woman You Thought She Was”, which was written in conjunction with a new documentary on Alcott at the time that ran on PBS.

Much of the complexities of the Alcott household resulted from Louisa May’s father, Bronson Alcott, who was also, of course, a great thinker of the age, if not always a consistent provider for his family. Bronson Alcott was good friends with a number of important literary figures of the day, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. A few items relating to both Alcotts can be found in MHS’s museum collection.