Affiliate notice

Affiliate links may be included in posts, as on sidebar ads, for which compensation may be received.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After-Christmas Sales - 1901

This ad from December 28, 1901 shows us that after-Christmas sales are nothing new.  They may not have featured shoppers pummeling each other to get to the markdowns on the furs listed in this advertisement in this Holyoke, Massachusetts store.  Or even at Johnson's Bookstore below in Springfield (well known to generations of western Massachusetts shoppers) for their marked down books.

But for 4-cent children's books -- it might just be well worth knocking your fellow shoppers to the floor.

Nah.  I guess not.

We know there was less disposable income in those days for the average folk.  Perhaps that bred civility.  Let's hope it may do the same for us in the long run.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” first appeared in print as a poem in the Boston Christian Register, a few days after Christmas in 1849. Edmund Sears, pastor of the Unitarian, First Parish Church in Wayland, Massachusetts wrote it.

Sears was originally from the western Massachusetts town of Sandisfield. The following year, 1850, composter Richard Storrs Willis wrote the tune that is most often played to this song in the US. (The United Kingdom has another melody to this song.)

Here is the poem Mr. Sears wrote that became one of most popular traditional Christmas carols:

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, goodwill 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 o'er 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.

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow,

Look now! for glad and golden hours

come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road,

And hear the angels sing!

For lo!, the days are hastening on,

By prophet bards foretold,

When with the ever-circling years

Comes round the age of gold

When peace shall over all the earth

Its ancient splendors fling,

And the whole world give back the song

Which now the angels sing.

For more on the First Parish Church in Wayland, established in 1640, have a look at this website.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Melzar Mosman - Soldier, Sculptor, and Craftsman

Grant Monument, Lincoln Park, Chicago - JTLynch Photo

This is an excerpt of a speech I recently made to the Chicopee Historical Society about sculptor and bronze foundryman Melzar Mosman. I’m currently working on a book about this 19th century craftsman, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has more information. Please either leave a comment, or send me an email at:

One of the most famous founders of bronze statuary in the United States, Melzar Mosman, unique among foundrymen, was a sculptor as well.

These views are from 19th century postcards and show a different world in which the bronze statues are not yet corroded to green, and in which they are showcases in city parks and village greens. At the time they were more than memorials to fallen soldiers; they were art. Art for the community, and paid for by towns, and social and civic groups, and sometimes individuals to show their community pride.

We have the statute of General Ulysses S. Grant in Brooklyn, sculpted by William Ordway Partridge, a noted artist in his day, and cast by Melzar Mosman. This was done in 1895 in his shop called Chicopee Bronze Works in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

Here is the Civil War monument Middletown, Connecticut, done in 1874, sculpted by Melzar and founded by him while Mosman was still working at the Ames Manufacturing Company.

The Ames Company, which we discussed in this previous post, is noted of course for its enormous contribution to the Mexican War and to the Civil War producing swords and armaments, light and heavy artillery. But in 1853, Ames is credited with being the first foundry in the United States to cast bronze statuary. Ames had been producing bronze cannon since the 1830s, and in the politically turbulent years of the mid-19th century, cannon took precedence over statues.

Melzar was the grandson of Silas Mosman, also called Deacon Silas, who came from Rhode Island in 1829 to find work for himself and his sons in the burgeoning factory town of Chicopee. His son, Silas, Jr. would come to superintendent the Ames foundry and became noted as a skilled caster in bronze of statuary. The highlight of his career was being asked to cast in bronze the ornamental doors to the Senate wing of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., desgined by Thomas Crawford.

Melzar was born in 1843, and when he graduated from Chicopee High School, he went to work at the Ames Manufacturing Company under the supervision of his father in the foundry. In 1862 he quit to join the Union Army.

Melzar was a private attached to Company D and served at New Bern, North Carolina. His unit clashed with the enemy in skirmishes in the Goldsboro, Kinston areas. His unit was sent to Baltimore, and Harper’s Ferry, and helped in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee when the Confederates retreated from Gettysburg. Later that month, July of 1863, Mosman’s unit was sent home and mustered out. Melzar went back to the foundry at the Ames Company and made more cannon.

After the war in 1867, he went to Europe, as most young artists and craftsmen did, to study. He went to Italy and France, worked in foundries and learned the art of casting bronze statuary. He also learned to speak Italian and French.

The Minuteman, Concord, Mass. JT Lynch Photo

He returned to the Ames foundry to work alongside his father on statuary. In 1874, they produced “The Minuteman” statue of Concord, Massachusetts. The sculptor was Daniel Chester French. Melzar gradually took over the Ames foundry from his father, and Silas, Jr. died in 1883, having retired in 1880. At the time of his death, Melzar was his only surviving child, and Melzar was destined to completely crawl out from underneath his father’s famous shadow, not only as the most sought-after foundryman in the United States, but as a sculptor in his own right.


THE AMES MANUFACTURING COMPANY OF CHICOPEE, MASSACHUSETTS - A Northern Factory Town's Perspective on the Civil War

by Jacqueline T. Lynch

Available both in paperback and in eBook format from Amazon here, and many other online merchants.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Off Topic - Blog Tour

This is just a brief update on a blog tour I've undertaken this week for my novel, "Beside the Still Waters."

I have a guest post up here at "All the Days Of" blog.

And interviews here at: Blogcritics,

Review from Here,

The blog tour will continue this coming week.

Also, anyone who signs up for my mailing list this month - see the sidebar  on my Another Old Movie Blog - will receive a coupon code for a free copy of my ebook "Myths of the Modern Man" from Smashwords.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Operation Little Vittles - Chicopee, Massachusetts

An earlier version of the following essay appeared in “In Chicopee”, a publication of the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram in 1992.

In the spring of 1948 when the brittle division of wartime alliances left a new order, etching the map of with an “Iron Curtain”, the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin in the hope that the Allies would abandon it.

They did not. Within three days the Allies, headed by the United States, responded with Operation Vittles, a project which airlifted food, medicine, and fuel to the two million Berliners in the isolated French, British, and American sectors. It was more than a goodwill mission; it was a symbolic action during a bleak period of history when symbol and cant were weapons of the Cold War.

Chicopee, Massachusetts celebrated its centennial as a town that year, and found itself the center of this world event. Westover Air Force Base in the northwest section of town formed the gateway of the air bridge to Europe.

Westover pilot, 1st Lieutenant Gail S. Halversen of Utah was part of one of many crews which made round the clock flights for the relief of the desperate Berliners. Noticing the forlorn children outside the fence at Templehof Airport, Halvorsen offered them some gum, and came up with the idea that led to an unauthorized mission. He began to drop candy from his C-54 transport plane, and became known as the Candy Bomber.

In Chicopee, Mayor Edward Bourbeau and his secretary, Wilfred V. Thivierge adopted Halvorsen’s mission. Under Operation Little Vittles, Chicopee became a national clearinghouse for donations of candy to the children of Berlin.

The project, unlike Operation Vittles, was unofficial and voluntary. Personal involvement in the rescue of far-away people appealed as the most energetic and practical symbol there could be of a free people empathizing with the hardships of others, with whom they had nothing in common. Candy for the children added another dimension to the event.

The abandoned Company No. 4 firehouse on Grape and Springfield streets was cleaned up by volunteers and became the headquarters of the candy operation. Donations were sent to Chicopee from all over the country. These were gifts of candy from individuals and companies, and especially of men’s handkerchiefs which Halvorsen reported were always running low. The hankies were used as parachutes, and they floated down showers of chocolate and gum, and lollipops and Lifesavers to thousands of German kids.

Mary C. Connors, then a junior at the Our Lady of the Elms College in town, headed the committee of the Chicopee schoolchildren on making the parachutes at the firehouse. Every school in the city sent contributions and manpower, for this was mainly a project about children. There was some chest thumping about outsmarting the Reds, but most of the good will really was just good will.

In January 1949, Halvorsen visited his Candyland. He came in on the 12:30 train at the Union Station in Springfield, and Mayor Bourbeau and his staff welcomed him to Chicopee. A dinner was held for at the old Red Barn restaurant and tavern, and he spoke to the Chicopee High School students at assembly. He told Mayor Bourbeau that Chicopee had fine folks.

Superintendent of Schools John L. Fitzpatrick told Chicopee school kids that they were representatives of our democracy. Their part in representing our democracy to the children in Berlin ended after seven months of Little Vittles. The Soviet blockade of Berlin ended in May 1949.

Yesterday on my Another Old Movie Blog, I featured an essay on “The Big Lift” (1950) with Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas, which takes us on a mission of intrigue and romantic misadventure in Berlin during the Berlin Airlift.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Off Topic - Guest Blog Post

This is to announce I have a guest blog post up today at "All the Days of" - about novel writing and playwriting.  This is Stop 1 on my 10-part Blog Tour featuring my novel on the Quabbin Reservoir, "Beside the Still Waters."  

The rest of the schedule is up here at this site, Pump Up Your Book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mystery Covered Bridge

This covered bridge is in New Hampshire.  The photo was taken I believe in the early '90s.  I'm afraid that's all I know about it.  I'd like to know more.  If you recognize this bridge, please leave a comment, or send me an email to  Thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taftsville Covered Bridge - Woodstock, Vermont

The Taftsville Covered Bridge crosses the Ottauquechee River. We’re in Woodstock, Vermont.

Build in 1836, it’s one of the oldest covered bridges in Vermont.

It’s stretches 189 feet over two spans, with a Multiple Kingpost truss. It was renovated in the 1950s, more repairs in the 1990s. Artists like to paint it. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

These pictures are from before.

In August this year, it was battered by rising floodwaters when the storm Irene made a rude and impromptu visit to New England. Though still standing, it’s unsafe for auto traffic now and closed. Here is a brief video clip showing the bridge standing up to the raging Ottauquechee. Before this, it was slated to undergo further renovation.

Plans at this point are for repairs next summer. Life goes on after storms, and sometimes, so do covered bridges.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hal Holbrook and Mark Twain Come Home to Holyoke

"Mark Twain Tonight", the one-man show created by actor Hal Holbrook is returning to Holyoke, Massachusetts where the actor got his start as a member of the Valley Players.  This one-night performance will benefit the renovation of Holyoke's Victory Theatre.

The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts acquired the property in 2009, and plans to renovate the old Victory, built in 1920, to present live theatre.   "Mark Twain Tonight" will be staged this Saturday, November 19th at 8 p.m. at the Holyoke High School Sears Auditorium.  Call 800-224-MIFA for ticket information, or go online at their website here.

Hal Holbrook's "Mark Twain Tonight" opened the 1957 season for Holyoke's Valley Players

Below is an article I posted originally on my Tragedy and Comedy in New England Blog and tells a bit more about the Valley Players, which  produced professional summer stock on the top of Mt. Tom -- the Mountain Park Casino Playhouse -- in the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts from 1941 to 1962. 


A fondly remembered summer theater company produced plays and musicals on the top of Mt. Tom in Holyoke, Massachusetts. An idyllic spot of picnic groves, restaurant, ballroom, dance pavilion, amusement park, and zoo, Mountain Park also featured a theater called the Casino. At one time, it was the home of what was reputed to be the largest summer theater in New England.

From 1941 through 1962, the Casino was home to The Valley Players, a theatre company which helped nurture, or even launch the careers of many young actors, Hal Holbrook among them, who first performed his famous one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight” here. Future Tony nominee and native of nearby Westfield Anne Pitoniak appeared here as well.

Mountain Park was created in the late 19th century when the first train and trolley and mountain tram cars made their way up Mt. Tom. An early vaudeville theater was built here, later replaced by the Casino. In 1911 the Casino Stock Company produced stage plays here, but folded after one season. Vaudeville acts and silent movies shown at the Casino drew in the crowds. Stage plays were attemped again in 1924, and a 1935 renovation of the Casino led to more plays here showcased by the Works Progress Administration (more on the WPA theatre project another time). One Depression-era member of the company was future film star Wendell Corey.

Carlton and Jean Guild created the Valley Players here in 1941. They had been involved in other New England summer theaters, and along with collegues Dorothy Crane, Lauren Gilbert and his wife Jackson Perkins, Walter Coy, Louise Mudgett and Joseph Foley, were looking for a site for a new company. All would function on the administrative staff or perform in many of the plays produced by the Valley Players, or both. Joseph Foley went on to do some live television, was Gabriel Gurney the principal for the first season of “Mr. Peepers”, until his untimely death in the summer of 1955 in Holyoke.

The Valley Players was an Equity stock company. During 1943 Mountain Park was closed due to the wartime gas rationing. The heyday for the Valley Players was throughout the 1950s (coinciding with what is generally perceived as the golden age of summer theatre in New England), but the dawn of the 1960s brought rising production costs, lower attendance, and the curtain was brought down in 1962 with Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”

Mountain Park closed in 1987.

Here are a few programs from The Valley Players. “Bell, Book & Candle” with Hal Holbrook was the final production of 1953. “Holiday” from July 1954 featured Si, (later billed as Simon) Oakland, later seen in many future film and TV productions. Hal Holbrook also appeared in “The Velvet Glove” July 1953, one of his earliest appearances with The Valley Players. The following month he had a part in “The Happiest Days of Your Life”.

Ralph Edwards, who at the time was the host of the “Truth or Consequences” gameshow on radio, and would also be the host when this show eventually moved to television, appeared in “Nothing But the Truth” in August 1942.

I’d love to hear from anyone who attended a show by The Valley Players, or was involved in any way in their productions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Halloween?

No trick or treaters last night for the first time in memory.  Too many downed trees, downed power lines.  Downright spooky.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hessians in North New Salem, Massachusetts

On this day, like the rock says, 1,000 Hessian mercenaries passed through the small village of North New Salem in central Massachusetts.   It was early days in the Revolutionary War, so any victory, such as their defeat and surrender at Saratoga, New York, was welcome news.   They were marched to Boston.   I wonder how many made it back to their homes in Europe, or lived to fight another day?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Berkshires - Hancock Shaker Village

Autumn in the Berkshires.  

The round barn at the Hancock Shaker Village.

A delicate harvest still ripening on the windowsill, Hancock Shaker Village.   Have a look here at our previous post on the Hancock Shaker Village,  and here at the official website.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Massachusetts Old State House - Original and One Copy

A copy can sometimes tell its own original story. We mentioned the Avenue of States at the Eastern States Exposition a couple of weeks ago in this post. Above is the replica of the Old Massachusetts State House.

Here is the original. Built in 1713, it was the scene of the debate for Revolution by men such as John Hancock, James Otis, John Adams, and Sam Adams. Just outside its door one terrible night, the Boston Massacre roused a colony to rebel.

There had once been the figure of a lion atop the building’s façade, with a unicorn on the other side. These were symbols of the British monarchy. They’re not here now.

But you see them on the replica at the fairgrounds in West Springfield, which was built in 1919.

The Old Statehouse served until 1798, when the new one was built, and this building was turned over to a variety of uses, such as Boston’s city hall, a merchant exchange, and shops. Since 1881 when the Bostonian Society restored the building, it has served as a museum, one of the stops on the Freedom Trail.

The replica, back in western Mass., is noted for selling quantities of maple syrup during the fair, and for this unwieldy but impressive replica of The Mayflower.

No massacre occurred outside its door, but there are quite long lines during the fair. We may have a different sense of hardship in the 21st century.

For more on the Old Statehouse (the real one), have a look at this website.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lincoln Covered Bridge - Woodstock, Vermont

Here is the Lincoln Covered Bridge in Woodstock, Vermont. These photos were taken before Hurricane Irene, but the bridge is still safe and standing, as it has since it was built in 1877.

The bridge is open to auto traffic, one lane only, spanning the Ottauquechee River. Have a look here for more on the Lincoln Covered Bridge.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

William Gillette's Castle - East Haddam, Connecticut

Gillette’s Castle is a most unusual home belonging to, and built by, a most accomplished and unusual man. He was William Gillette, one of the leading actors of American theater in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His most famous portrayal was as Sherlock Holmes, and for a generation, Mr. Gillette was Sherlock to the public.

He also added a few touches to Sherlock that we now associate with the character, but that did not come from the author of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

William Gillette, 1895.  Photo in the public domain.

It was William Gillette who gave Sherlock the deerstalker hat after an original Strand illustration. Gillette came up with the meerschaum pipe, changing Sherlock’s originally written straight pipe. He also came up with the exclamation, “Elementary” as in “This is elementary, my dear fellow…” which was changed in the first Sherlock Holmes movie to “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

Gillette’s creativity as a playwright, and actor, director, a producer, a stage manager also led to his inventing some stage special effects, and a few patents for such, and other gadgets like a time stamp.

View from the ferry landing below the Castle.

But his most unusual creation, and his most lasting presence, is to be found here in East Haddam, Connecticut, perched atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. Here he built is 184-acre estate. The stone had to be moved up the hill by a tramway he devised. It is a 24-room mansion he designed himself, completed in 1919.

With ultimate stagecraft, he created rooms with built-in couches, secret entrances, and no door exactly the same, but all crafted handsomely in oak and stone. It looks medieval, but is constructed and appointed with amazingly functional simplicity.

Outside on the extensive grounds among handsome walking trails is a narrow gauge railroad he built.

William Gillette was born in Hartford, a descendant of the founder of Hartford, Thomas Hooker. His last performance was at the Bushnell Theater, in Hartford, in 1936. He died in 1937, and the State of Connecticut purchased the property in 1943. Gillette’s wife had died before him, and they had no children.

For more on the Gillette Castle State Park, have a look at this website.

View from the Castle terrace looking westward.  You can see the other ferry landing on the opposite side of the river.

The view from the terrace looking southward down the Connecticut River.

Below are a couple of short clips on William Gillette. (Don’t forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page to pause the music so you can hear the videos.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Big E - West Springfield, Massachusetts

For those of you who can't get to West Springfield, Massachusetts for the Eastern States Exposition (the "Big E"), here's a quick trip around the fair.

The Big E, for those of you beyond New England, is a state fair in which all six New England states participate.  An iconic signature of the fair is the Avenue of States, where replicas of the original statehouse buildings of each state are popular attractions.  Inside, information, local food (see lobster, chowder, maple syrup, pies, etc) and manufactured products are on display and for sale. 

Think of it as a kind of Epcot Center for New England, where you can travel all the six states in an hour or two.

There is also Storrowton, of course, another permanent attraction on the fairgrounds with actual 19th century buildings restored and re-created here as a New England village.

The rest of the fair is food and livestock, prize-winning vegetables, handicrafts, artwork, cooking demonstrations, and miracle mops.  Try to get here if you can, the fair runs until October 2nd this year.

For more on the Big E, have a look at this previous post, and at the official website here.

Now Available