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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

See you in 2010 ....

Taking the week off. Thank you for the pleasure of your company in 2009. See you in 2010....

Friday, December 25, 2009

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear in Weston, Mass.

“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” was written by a Unitarian minister from Weston, Massachusetts in 1849. It was an age when ministers, and lawyers, and educated men, and gentlewomen, wrote poetry both as a means of entertaining others, and to improve themselves. Poems were written privately, in quiet, thoughtful, intellectually intimate moments, and then shared with everybody else in the parlor.

In this case, Dr. Edmund Spears, the minister poet, might be surprised to discover that his poem has become one of the most popular and well-known carols of the Christmas season a century and a half later.

The tune most commonly used in America was composed by Richard Storrs Willis the following year of 1850. (A melody more popular in the U.K. was written by Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame.) Willis was originally from Boston, later a Yale graduate, but had studied composition in Germany, a friend of composer Felix Mendelssohn. Dr. Spears had published his poem in the Christian Register, and it is likely that this is where Mr. Willis discovered it, and thought it suitable to his melody.

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”

The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Last Minute Gifts

Not done shopping yet? Here’s a couple more ideas. Running down the clock to Christmas, here we have a 1950s-era ad for Forbes and Wallace of Springfield, Mass. Ladies hosiery solid in a toy drum box with a sprig of holly on top, three pairs for $2.85. See main floor.

And for the gents, shaving soap and lotion for $2 over at Steiger’s as show in this 1950 ad. Also, see main floor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Enough Rum to Build a Meeting House - Northampton, 1737

In 1737, some fellows building a new meeting house in Northampton in the western part of the Massachusetts colony, consumed 69 gallons of rum, 36 pounds of sugar, and several barrels of beer and cider in one week, presumably on their union-mandated breaks and lunchtime. Okay, no union. Not yet.

This likely would have been the Third Meeting House in Northampton, the Congregational Church under Reverend Jonathan Edwards at the time, just a few years away from his famous and frightening sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.

After listening to that, it’s likely one would have needed a drink. Hopefully, they had some left.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You Are Here: Rt 1, Northern Maine

You are here:  Route 1, in northern Maine, just up the road apiece from Key West, Florida. No palm trees. Not a lot of traffic. Watch for moose.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gerhardt's Civil War Memorial - Brooklyn, CT

From World War II battleships, we move to one of the common representations of the Civil War memorial, a lone soldier standing picket duty. This one is located in Brooklyn, Connecticut, sculpted by Karl Gerhardt.

The bronze figure stands atop a gray granite pedestal, approximately 30 feet in height, and was manufactured by the Ames Bronze Company of Chicopee, Mass. See this previous post on the Ames Manufacturing Company and its resident family of bronze founders, the Mosmans.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument was dedicated June 14, 1888, the same day as the General Putnam statue in Brooklyn, as described in this previous post. It was a gift to the town from Thomas Smith Marlor, who had moved to Brooklyn, CT from New York City in 1870.

The sculptor, Gerhardt, who lived in Hartford, was a protégé of Mark Twain, and was 24 years old when he created this sculpture.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

USS Massachusetts - Fall River

Stepping onto wooden deck on the USS Massachusetts, crowned by the jumble of steel tower, a maze of lower decks lined with seemly ended rows of canvas “racks”, and narrow ladders, and overall topped by a brass ship’s bell, you seem to step back in time. But step carefully.

The battleship was launched in September 1941, just a few months before Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Empire and the United States formally entered World War II. It was built in Quincy, Mass. at the Fore River Shipyard. “Big Mamie” went into action in November 1942 off Casablanca.

Now, her lower decks containing displays of artifacts and memorabilia, and she lies as part of a smaller museum fleet here in Fall River, Mass., at Battleship Cove, along with the submarine Lionfish, and ships from the Cold War including the USS Joseph P. Kennedy.

For more on the history of the USS Massachusetts, and the displays at Battleship Cove, have a look at this website.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bennington Moosefest

This painted moose greets you in Bennington, Vermont. He has several friends. All over town. Painted in all kinds of silly and beautiful designs.

The Bennington Moosefest is unlike any old home day you’ve probably been to, and I regret that I did not report on it in October when the Moosefest was in full swing. However, the moose are seen here and about all over the Bennington area, so if you’re looking for a pleasant drive with a series of most unusual photo ops, Bennington is the place for you.

Here is a website with more detail on the Moosefest, and be sure to mark your calendars for next year.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Pilgrims and the Printing Press

Before we leave Thanksgiving behind us for another year, let’s recall that one of the items brought to the New World on the Mayflower we believe was a printing press, a large iron piece of which was used to shore up a splitting beam on the voyage.

The Mayflower Compact was handwritten, but this replica of the 1669 printed copy shows the printing press was just as instrumental at founding, and preserving, an equitable nation as the bonds of commonwealth established by the Mayflower Compact.

This 1723 printing of the Thanksgiving proclamation by the Lieutnant Governour and His Majesty’s representative in Massachusetts Bay boldly ends with the typical flourish GOD Save the King. While the Pilgrims may not have quite gone along with that, they might have been still more amazed at the level of freedom which a free press achieved, and would continue to thrive in a democracy the likes of which they never conceived.

Here is the Massachusetts Spy out of Worcester in 1775, only a few weeks after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, when “God Save the King” was replaced by “Liberty or Death!”

Here we have a less incendiary newspaper from Northampton, Mass. in more placid times of 1826, and from Holyoke, Mass. in 1882, when we see the dawn of the 20th Century brought advertising to a more prominent place in the media. The Holyoke Transcript, later the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram, has followed the path of many newspapers of the last twenty years and is now defunct.

Today we are losing our newspapers with alarming rapidity, but communication continues in its myriad forms. Keeping an open mind rather than choosing to read only news which pleasures but does not challenge, and opinion in which we are already in agreement is the worst form of tyranny, because it is self imposed. We seem to need to re-learn that every once in a while through the centuries.

These printing press photos are from Sturbridge Village. Go have a look at the printer plying his trade.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pilgrim Monument, Plymouth, Mass.

Before there was Thanksgiving, and before there was Plymouth, Mass., there was this thin, curling, arm of sand upon which the Pilgrims landed before looking for more hospitable and more promising land to choose for new home.

This is the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, at the very tip of Cape Cod. The tower, perched on High Pole Hill, rises 350 feet above sea level. The tallest all-granite tower in the U.S., it was constructed from 1907 to 1910, when President William Howard Taft came to dedicate the tower, a campanile in the design of Torre Del Mangia in Sienna, Italy. Next year in 2010, the monument celebrates its centennial.

The view from the top is spectacular, for there is nothing as tall as this for miles. The curve of the Cape can be seen (more clearly on some days than others when the fog and mist set in), and the cozy town of below, the wharves stretching outward, are all indications that Provincetown would not continue to be so bleak of prospects as the Pilgrims had imagined.

Looking eastward, we see the beginning of the Cape Cod National Seashore, with its natural setting, its dunes that are only some inches to some feet high and yet with a curious trick of perspective, seem like great hills. This part of Provincetown is likely how the Pilgrims saw the place when they first landed here, and how fortunate it is that has been preserved.

When they arrived on the Mayflower, sailing from Plymouth, England some 67 days before, the 102 passengers moored here for some five weeks while small parties explored the windswept, barren land. They composed and signed the Mayflower Compact, which they acknowledged and vowed that they were “straightly tied to all care of each other’s good and of the whole by everyone.”

You'll note that though the Pilgrims found on the tip of the Cape what they considered to be barren land, there was at least ample free parking.

Then it was a brief sail across Cape Cod Bay to a new “Plimoth”, and a new adventure.

For more on the Pilgrim Monument of Provincetown, Mass., have a look at this website.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bridge of Flowers - Shelburne Falls, Mass.

One last look at one last flower before the snow falls. This bloom resides, or did reside, on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. You can see through the rail another bridge opposite on which a car is passing. That other bridge is still in use for motor vehicles, but this bridge is active only for pedestrians and plants.

It had been a trolley bridge in 1908, curving over the Deerfield River, uniting one section of town with the other on the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Street Railway. This company went out of business in 1928. The following year, the abandoned trolley bridge was turned into this Bridge of Flowers by some ingenuity and perhaps a desire to not see such a practical piece of infrastructure go to waste.

Volunteers, and donations from the public, and a paid gardener, keep the bridge this way, season after season. For more on the Shelburne Falls Bridge of Flowers, have at look at this website, and this one.

Friday, November 20, 2009

1918 Influenza Epidemic in New England

We had touched upon the Influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England blog last week. With the H1N1 flu and the regular flu season upon us, references are inevitably made to that mysterious pandemic which killed over 50 million people around the world. That flu likely had its origins at a Kansas military base in the spring of 1918, but by the autumn, Boston had noticed beginnings of the epidemic.

Navy physician Lt. (jg) J.J. Keegan was one of he earliest doctors puzzled by the new illness in August, 1918. Stationed at the Chelsea Naval Hospital, he began to see the wards filled with sailors of the First Naval District. The illness spread with frightening speed, and moved quickly beyond the service personnel into the civilian population by September. More than 1,000 died in Boston by the end of that month.

Navy personnel reported the first cases in New London, Connecticut on September 11th. By the end of October, there were over 180,000 cases in Connecticut. Boston’s situation was so severe, that an urgent plea was made for Connecticut doctors and nurses to come help. Similarly in Maine, naval ports of call such as Eastport and Portland were the first to receive reports of the illness.

New Hampshire suffered less than the other New England states, with more deaths occurring in the cities of Manchester and Nashua than in rural areas. Vermont, though similarly predominantly rural, suffered a greater outbreak of the illness. Rhode Island suffered about 50 days per day from September through November.

People nationwide were starting to die by the thousands. According to the excellent material here on the National Archives website on the epidemic, one-quarter of the U.S. population caught that flu, and the national life expectancy dropped 12 years. More information, including individual stories, is here on the website of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (including photos such as the one taken at Ft. Devens, Mass. above).

The epidemic, also called The Spanish Flu, killed more people than died in World War I. A strange and horrific finale to that war, this major disaster seemed to have been omitted from the study of popular history for decades, at least until new threats of the past few years with swine flu and avian flu made the old specter raise its head. We learned then, and need to remember now, that the best way to fight the flu is to take care not to spread it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fisherman Statue - Eastport, Maine

Eastport, Maine, the nation’s easternmost city, is the home of this easternmost whimsical statue. We’ve covered whimsical statues before, like the Samantha statue in Salem, Mass. and the Frog Bridge in Willimantic, Connecticut. But the silly fisherman standing on the wharf here, though perhaps less dignified and celebrated than the Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, Mass., has its own poignant story to tell of tragedy and dignity.

Back in 2000, Eastport, and neighboring Lubec, were chosen as the site for the filming of a Fox television reality miniseries. It was called “Murder in Small Town X” and the scenario was a kind of whodunit contest. This 12-foot tall fiberglass cartoonish fisherman (without the pedestal), created by Jeff Poss, was a prop to represent the fictional town.

When the filming ended in 2001, the statue remained and became a curiosity, a photo-op for tourists, and, unexpectedly, a memorial.

The winner of that short-lived reality series contest was a man named Angel Juarbe, a firefighter from New York. The show’s finale aired September 4, 2001. One week later, firefighter Angel Juarbe was killed on September 11th at the World Trade Center.

The goofy statue, intended to be temporary was kept as a tribute. It was refurbished after some deterioration when the town raised a special fund for that purpose. It was put back, its colors restored, for the July 4th festivities in 2005. Independence Day is a huge celebration in Eastport, where U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships make a port call and conduct tours.

The setting of the wharf is extraordinarily lovely, and the statue, a heart-tugging combination of silly and sad, makes remembrance bittersweet. For a better view of the refurbished statue, have a look at this website.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mount Battie Memorial Tower - Camden, Maine

Continuing our look at World War memorials, we move from the traditional town honor roll to this Memorial Tower on the top of Mount Battie in Camden, Maine.

A previous post on the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay in Camden mentioned that the lovely view from the top of Mount Battie inspired her poem “Renascence”. This tower was constructed in 1921, three years after Millay’s famous poem. It was built partly using stones from the foundation of the Mount Battie Club House, a tourist destination which had previously stood here and was destroyed by fire.

The tower’s tablet honors the “men and women of Camden in the World War” and the hope to provide “an enduring memorial.”

It’s endured pretty well, and if you drive up the 800-foot summit, take a few more steps up the tower to enjoy the astonishing pleasure of that most uplifting scene of where the mountains meet the sea, and the little town below on Penobscot Bay. But hurry, the auto road is closed in winter.

If you can’t make it, have a look at this post on the film “Peyton Place” on my Another Old Movie Blog for a couple of pictures of the view from the top.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Enfield, Mass. Honor Roll

This Roll of Honor lists the names of some young men who served in World War I. It seems especially poignant because it represents the Town of Enfield, Massachusetts, which no longer exists.

Enfield, Mass. was incorporated in 1816, but the land thereabouts, originally called Quabbin Parish, was settled as far back as the late 1700s. Enfield had a decisive end to its existence when as April 27, 1938 struck midnight and became April 28th, Enfield and its nearby towns of Prescott, Greenwich, and Dana, were dissolved by legislation. All that land is now the Quabbin Reservoir. More on that another time. Here is a previous mention of the Quabbin winter sunset.

For now, with Veteran’s Day upon us tomorrow, which was of course originally Armistice Day commemorating the end of World War I, we have this simple town honor roll which stands in front of the Swift River Valley Historical Society in North New Salem, Massachusetts. There are honors rolls standing here for the other three towns of Prescott, Greenwich, and Dana as well.

You’ll note at the top, the servicemen are honored for their sacrifices in “the World War.” They did not know there would be another World War to follow in another generation, but these towns would not exist by that time. Enfield’s timeline came to an abrupt end at the stroke of one midnight many decades ago. So, there really would never be another war.

For more on the Swift River Valley Historical Society, an invaluable resource which contains a museum of artifacts from the valley towns, have a look at this website.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Shunpike - Charlemont, Mass.

Still lingering in Charlemont, Mass. (see Tuesday’s post on the Bissell Bridge), we come upon this historical marker for the “Shunpike.” You can read for yourself that it marks the spot on the colonial road (now called The Mohawk Trail by the tourism industry and called Rte 2 and Rte. 8A by the mapmakers), where 18th century travelers forded the Deerfield River rather than pay a toll to cross over the bridge.

This boycotting took place in 1797, and the movement it began led to the establishment of toll-free travel in Massachusetts by 1810. The 20th century brought us new tolls on the Mass. Pike, but that’s another story.

This Mohawk Trail was originally a footpath carved out of the woods by the natives, then hacked out into an ox road by the English settlers. While this historical marker might seem to reinforce the legend of Yankee tightfistedness, we might remember that so-called “shunpikes” (because you were shunning the turnpike toll), popped up in various other parts of the U.S. as well. This might have been the first, but was by no means the last.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bissell Covered Bridge - Charlemont, Mass.

This is the Bissell Covered Bridge in Charlemont, western Massachusetts. If you look through the trusses you can just about see the small open bridge behind it. It almost looks like a symbol of the feud between past and present, but it’s really emblematic of the future, the kind of future we choose.

The Bissell Covered Bridge, this one, was built in 1951. There had been an earlier bridge here built in 1880, but was condemned in the 1940s. When the town chose to replace the bridge, they decided to replace it not with a modern open bridge, but with another covered bridge. The wood is Douglas fir from Oregon, and shingles are cedar.

This bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1995, and would have been replaced by the state with a modern open bridge, except Charlemont said no thank you in no uncertain terms. A stalemate lasted some 14 years while the state built that temporary bridge in the background, and the town continued to push for the renovation of the covered bridge, in the foreground. The bridge in the foreground won.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the one-span Bissell Covered Bridge is a variation of a Long Truss style, 92 feet in length. It was re-opened to vehicular traffic only about six months ago after a two-year restoration. (In responding to a comment on covered bridges opened only to foot traffic in this post on the Arthur A. Smith bridge, I mistakenly referred to the Bissell as being currently open only to foot traffic. I also mistakenly referred to it as being in Conway. Never rely on memory.)

So, drive your car on over to Charlemont and over the bridge, but then walk back. It’s worth a closer look.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lizzie Borden House - Fall River, Mass.

Above we have the home of Lizzie Borden in Fall River, Massachusetts. It has become, since its transformation in the last decade from a private home to a museum and bed & breakfast, a major tourist attraction in Fall River.

The side door, from which Lizzie called for help upon discovering her father's murdered body.

In a way, it represents the gradual transformation over the last century of the story of Lizzie Borden from grisly homicide, to Victorian media scandal, to hushed community secret, to the object of bad jokes and morbid puns, to the never-ending fascination with unsolved mysteries.

The dining room, where Lizzie allegedly ironed while her stepmother was murdered in the room directly above her.

Very few of the furnishings and artifacts in the home are original to the period of when Lizzie Borden lived here, but the current owners have restored and refurbished the house to replicate photographs of the rooms, and have filled nearly every nook and cranny with items relative to the strange case of Lizzie Borden, from the “class reunion” photo in the dining room of the jury that acquitted her, to the photos of the family members and trial participants who were all characters in this most dramatic crime and ensuing trial. We are treated to what life was like not only in this house, but in Fall River toward the end of the 19th Century.

The sitting room, where Mr. Borden was murdered.

In 1892, Andrew Borden, a very wealthy man, lived with his second wife and his two grown daughters by his first marriage in a more modest section of Fall River. He bore the name of one of Fall River’s prominent families, and represented the eighth generation of Bordens living in the community. However wealthy they were, Andrew was not born to wealth in his branch of the family tree, but worked at a succession of careers until he fashioned himself a very wealthy banker. By all accounts a dour, miserly man, Andrew eschewed the company of the wealthier relatives who lived up The Hill in mansions with running water, toilets, gas lighting, etc., and continued to live in this ramshackle house on Second Avenue without any modern conveniences because he was not willing to pay for them, despite being quite rich.

The guest bedroom where Lizzie's Uncle John slept the night before (and after) the murders; the room where Mrs. Borden was killed.

Here, he and his wife, stepmother to his daughters Emma and Lizzie, were murdered one August morning. There has been much conjecture over the decades about who did it, how, and why, and some of the theories are quite fascinating, some outlandish. I won’t go into them here, but Lizzie was arrested for the crime, and held in jail awaiting trial for several months. Finally in the spring of the following year, she was tried for the murder of her father and stepmother. The jury found her not guilty.

Lizzie's bedroom.

That didn’t stop Fall River from ostracizing Lizzie shortly after the outcome, though she had been something of a hero and a martyr while she was imprisoned. The acquittal did not stop somebody from making up that now famous rhyme,

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks” etc.

A sketch of Lizzie and her lead attorney, George Robinson, in court, drawn on the spot by G. West Clinedinst (Libarary of Congress).

It didn’t stop anybody from writing a number of books, a couple of plays, a ballet, a Broadway review (“You can’t chop your papa up in Massachusetts…”) and a made for television movie which all inferred she was actually guilty.

Incidentally, a costume worn by the actress Elizabeth Montgomery who played Lizzie in “The Legend of Lizzie Borden” (1975), currently on loan from Paramount, is on display in the guest bedroom (where Mrs. Borden was murdered), along with a still photograph of Ms. Montgomery in the movie.

The parlor, where Lizzie was informed she was a suspect in the crime.

We see the kind of handkerchief Lizzie was allegedly ironing at the tabletop ironing board, flat iron at the ready, at the moment her stepmother was murdered. We see the kind of bedroom door key Andrew Borden placed on the mantle as he napped on the kind of couch he would have napped on when he was hatcheted to death in the sitting room. We see the kind of piece of wood he kept near the head of his bed as a weapon because he feared business enemies and irate tenants in his properties who might try to kill him in his sleep.

We see the replica hatchet in the wood box by the replica stove in the kitchen. Pay no attention to that. It’s just a prop. Don’t let it give you any ideas.

After her acquittal, Lizzie and Emma moved up The Hill to a nice house where the rich people lived, but Fall River continued to regard Lizzie and everything about her as an insult and embarrassment to the town. Lizzie, in what must have been a stubbornness that was a mixture of the comical and the tragic, thumbed her nose at the town in return, in part by simply not going away.

Here is a photo of the home she lived in the remainder of her life, which she christened “Maplecroft” and carved it, to the disgust of her disapproving neighbors, on the steps for everyone to see. If you visit Fall River in search of Lizzie Borden sites, please remember this home on French Street is privately owned. I imagine the owners must be sick of people driving by to glance at the house, but do not trespass.

If you’ve come this far, you might as well head on up to Oak Grove Cemetery, where the entire Borden clan is buried together. Arrows are painted on the winding cemetery drive to direct you to the Borden plot. I imagine it would have made Lizzie smile to find herself so famous as to require signposts to her grave.

Others in the cemetery might be turning over in theirs at the thought of it.

In the 1938 “WPA Guide to Massachusetts”, which gives us a wealth of detail on towns and cities in Massachusetts at the end of the Great Depression, the description of Fall River, its history and tourist attractions, discreetly makes no mention at all of Lizzie Borden, even then easily the town’s most famous citizen. Perhaps the town refused to talk. At the time this book was published, it had been some 11 years after her death. The Victorian sense of propriety which had made the murder and its acquitted accused such a scandal was beginning to fade. But not enough to where Lizzie Borden could be turned into a tourist attraction.

Fast forward to now. The garage behind the Lizzie Borden house, which was once the site of the infamous barn where Lizzie allegedly hunted for lead sinkers and ate pears while murder was being committed, is today the office and gift shop of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. You can buy souvenirs here, many of which seem to have a hatchet theme.

The guided tours last about 45 minutes and are conducted in the afternoons. After which, the overnight guests arrive and are treated to private tours. The house, despite Andrew Borden’s tightfistedness, is now equipped with modern conveniences, though appointed to look very 19th century.

The guide on the tour I took was young, very knowledgeable, and quite funny. She took a lot of the creepiness out of the whole experience. The house, though it is the scene of a ghastly double-murder, beyond that horrific tragedy represents a lot of what was present in Fall River as a wealthy 19th century New England community. At the time, it was among New England’s most renown cities for cotton manufacturing, rivaling Lowell and other mill towns.

The relocation of the manufacturing firms to the South, (and subsequently overseas), as well as the Great Depression finished off that era in Fall River’s timeline, and there is little left on this end of Second Street to illustrate what life was like on that August day in 1892 outside the Borden home. Time moves on, as it should.

But inside the house, that’s a different story. Victorian intrigue awaits, and the irresistibly intriguing realization that whoever committed this crime among the known persons involved in the cast of characters, including Lizzie, her visiting maternal uncle John Morse, Bridget the maid, or the disgruntled illegitimate son of Andrew Borden, or any of Mr. Borden’s supposed enemies, got away with it. The mystery has never been solved.

For more on the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, have a look at this website. For more on the story of Lizzie Borden, have a look at The Hatchet website for continuing investigation into the mystery.

And here, for the transcripts of the trial depositions. Also, the Fall River Historical Society is a valuable resource for information on the Lizzie Borden case.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Upcoming Events in New England

Upcoming events and activities in New England include:

At the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut:

October 31
Free admission 10 am to 1 pm
Spooky tales with storyteller Tom Lee, mask-making, costume parade, organ music and cemetery tours… Wear your costume if you dare! Presented in collaboration with Center Church and the Ancient Burying Ground. Stay for a FREE performance of the multimedia production DIRT at 2pm in the Aetna Theater.

The Dana Engstrom DeLoach Gallery Talk: Rembrandt's People
October 30, 12 noon.
Join Eric Zafran, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art for a discussion of our newly opened exhibition Rembrandt's People.

The Artful Tea: Rembrandt's Studio
Wednesday, November 4, 3:00-5:30 pm
Visit the exhibition and conservation lab as you explore Rembrandt’s studio practice and painting techniques with conservators Stephen Kornhauser and Ulrich Birkmaier. Program followed by discussion and afternoon tea.
Limited enrollment. Reservations required: 860.838.4046.
$25/$20 for Members

Fab or Faux?
Find out at the Expertise Clinic!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
1:00 - 2:00 pm
Hartford Courant Room
Free to the public, enter at Morgain Main Entrance on Main Street
Curators, Conservators, and Librarians will be on hand to provide oral and aesthetic evaluations for paintings and art objects. They will not discuss monetary values, but will comment on an object’s origin, subject matter, and condition.
There is a limit of two objects per person.
Please note the following are excluded: Pre-Columbian artifacts, Native American artifacts, Asian art and objects, coins, dolls, firearms, jewelry, photographs, or stamps.
For more information contact Erin Monroe at (860) 838-4093 or

At the Adams Gallery in Boston: An exhibit on the restoration of the Modern Theatre, which illustrates the connections between Boston and Hollywood. The Modern was the first theater to show the double feature, first in Boston to install Vitaphone for sounds, etc. The exhibit brings the story up to the present with clips of films shot in Massachusetts in recent years.

The exhibit runs through Nov. 30, 2009, and follows the rise of the Modern Theatre from a warehouse built after the Great Boston Fire through its heyday as the first Boston movie theater to show “talkies.”

The theater’s original owner, Jacob Lourie, introduced the “talkie” to Boston and came up with the concept of the double-feature – which soon had Hollywood studios churning out B movies to meet demand.

Present-day photos document Suffolk University’s ongoing restoration of the theater’s historic facade, which was taken apart stone by stone for repair and will be rebuilt on site as part of a theater/gallery/residence hall complex.

Video clips from films shot in Boston show that the Hollywood connection endures today, and an oral history video now in production will offer a taste of what entertainment was like in the days before television.

Adams Gallery, 120 Tremont Street, Boston
9 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily. For more on this exhibit, have a look at this website:

Send your information on upcoming events and activities in New England to:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trapp Family Singers in Springfield, Mass.

This is a program from one of the earliest public performances in the U.S. by the Trapp Family Singers, only weeks after they had arrived in the country as immigrants fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria.

Concert manager Charles L. Wagner (among whose famous clients was 1930s movie musical diva Jeannette MacDonald) brought them from Europe. They had to borrow the money to get here, and arrived with little more than the clothes they had on. Their home-grown family choir, under the direction of Reverend Franz Wasner, was their only means of support and their surprising eventual claim to fame.

But before they became Stowe, Vermont’s famous hoteliers, before Rogers and Hammerstein made them storybook icons with “The Sound of Music” on Broadway and in one of the most successful blockbuster films ever made, here they were, just a few weeks off the boat, performing on October 24, 1938 at Auditorium (later Symphony Hall), in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Most of their program was comprised of classical works, German leider and one bravely attempted American folksong they had learned in their uncertain and as yet heavily accented English. As a tribute to their new home, they embraced Stephen Foster and sang “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Pictured here are Maria Von Trapp (3rd from the right), and her seven stepchildren. Her two daughters with her husband, Georg Von Trapp, were too young to perform with them at this time. Maria was pregnant with their son, Johannes, who would be born in a couple of months.

By the 1940s, the farm in Stowe, Vermont would be their new permanent home and future career, the older boys would serve in the U.S. Army, and Maria would drop the European class conscious “von” from her name when she became a US citizen.

But right now, this moment in October, 1938, 71 years ago tomorrow, it was on with the show.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Arthur A. Smith Covered Bridge - Colrain, Mass.

The Arthur A. Smith Bridge, named for a Civil War Army captain, was first in one location over the North River, then moved further downstream to the Lyonsville Road spot about 1886. It would be moved again, not downstream or upstream, but over onto dry land.

At the time of the photo above, the Arthur A. Smith Bridge, as you can see, was dry docked, for a lack of a better word, in a crumbling state and left in the embarrassing position of rotting in a cornfield since 1991. It had been placed on the National Register of Historic Placed back in 1983, so it was hoped the bridge could one day be restored.

Eventually, in 2005, it was. For a look at the restored Arthur A. Smith Covered Bridge, back in its function as a bridge crossing the North River, have a look at this website. The bridge had been built originally in 1870 (replacing an earlier bridge), a Burr arch design 99 feet in length, originally meant for one lane of traffic (horse-drawn, that is). It was not originally covered, but the roof was added in the 1890s. Today it is used only for pedestrian traffic.

The 1938 WPA “Guide to Massachusetts” lists two covered bridges at this spot in Colrain. If anyone knows more about the second one, I’d love to know. (There had once been several more covered bridges in Colrain, and the Arthur A. Smith is the very last.)

It’s nice to see the photo of the restored bridge over the North River off Rt. 112 all painted red and tidy, but the above view of the bridge to nowhere has perhaps even more emotion to it. There is something haunted-looking about an historic site left abandoned. As it is, the restored bridge, now open only to pedestrian traffic, is little more than ornamental. Perhaps the restoration of this long dormant chunk of 19th century infrastructure says something about the power and the worth of even what is only ornamental.

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