Happy Lafayette Day?

An 1824 advertisement in the aptly named Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot advertising souvenirs of the Marquis de Lafayette.

In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution for his support against the British, sat in seclusion in France. He had been at odds with the French establishment since Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1824,¬† the American Congress passed a resolution inviting then-President Monroe to invite Lafayette to tour the States. Lafayette first arrived in New York, but traveled throughout the country to great fanfare. In Boston, he was greeted on the Common in “an occasion of special splendor, with a military review followed by a dinner for 1200 people under a marquee erected for the event.”

Festivities on May 20th, Lafayette Day conclude with the annual decoration of the Lafayette Monument (1924, the centennial of his visit) on the Boston Common.

Dorchester’s New Year’s Resolution, 1927

A few years ago Peter Stevens spent some time with The Dorcester Beacon’s papers printed in and around the turn of 1926 to 1927, now 84 years gone. He published his finds in the Dorchester Reporter, among them a set of the New Year’s wishes published on New Year’s Day, 1927. The editors’ communal resolutions for the city for the new year included:

“That some of our advertisers have recovered from their writer’s cramp and can send us a check.

“That the Dorchester Board of Trade in 1927 will accomplish something that will benefit the community.

“That the Boston Elevated Railroad will someday be able to adjust its car service to the satisfaction of everyone, particularly at the Andrew Square Station, where things are getting worse.”That the police department will speedily cope with the so-called crime wave, which may exist in some places, but not in Dorchester.

“That motorists using Dorchester Avenue (which has been known as Death Avenue) will remember that little children will cross a street at anytime. The same thing holds true on all other Dorchester streets.

“That business conditions locally will improve, thus filling up the hundreds of vacant stores in the district.

“That our newly elected public officials will this year accomplish something worthwhile on Beacon Hill.¬†Even a graphaphone can say ‘Yes’ and ‘No.'”

Above: Ice Skaters on Jamaica Pond, 1930.

The God and Country Parade

Image: A child dressed as Massachusetts in the 1962 God and Country Parade in Lawrence. Photo via the Lawrence Public Library/Digital Commonwealth Project.

The original God and Country Parade took place on the Columbus Day following the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912, or the “Bread and Roses” strike (excellent summary here). The original strike at the end of the year was followed by months of unrest, with a mass demonstration walk-out at the end of September.

In a demonstration by members of the IWW, with the slogan “No God, No Master,” disgruntled workers had trampled an American flag. In response, Lawrence’s Mayor Scanlan began the God and Country campaign, with the parade as its centerpiece. Town leaders called for residents to wear flags in their button holes.

Bruce Watson asserts in his book Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream, that the strike went largely unmentioned for two generations, and says that newspaper accounts of the 1962 anniversary missed several of its most pro-striker details, telling the story as one about outside Communist agitators.

A candidate for Senate, one Edward Kennedy appeared in the 1962 Parade to campaign.

Nobody reads newspapers like people in Boston

The Boston Globe announced this week that it will launch separate paid and free editions on the web. I thought that in recent history, the paper’s parent company tried this strategy, and it didn’t work, but I guess that’s in the past.

Way back when, Boston was a print paper town.

Al Murphy, who grew up in Savin Hill, Dorchester, many years ago worked as a lawyer for the Boston Post. He recalls the newspapers of his hometown in Not So Long Ago: Oral Histories of Older Bostonians, collected by Lawrence Elle in 1980.

Nobody reads newspapers like people in Boston. I don’t care, you go to Hartford, Connecticut, you go to any city where they got a newspaper–if you asked “Where can I get a paper?” they’d say go to a hotel or go to the railroad station. But in Boston, tehy were everywhere: in front of Filene’s, in the streets in Dorchester, all over, the kids were yelling “Globe, Post, American!” Then there was the Christrian Science Monitor, right here in Boston, probably one of the greatest newspapers in the world. All of these newspapers were in Boston. People in Boston read newspapers. That’s why I think this is the most educated city in the country. You could meet somebody on Dover street and they’d mention something and say, “I read it in the paper today.” You can’t say that about any other town. You go anyplace, they don’t read newspapers. That’s why Boston had those, how many did I say, those five papers in 1928. They had the Journal-American, they had the Globe, the Traveller, the Monitor and the leading paper was the Boston Post. And they all made money.

Now the Post was the “official” newspaper. Every birth, death an’ marriage at that time had to be recorded in a newspaper. You couldn’t get married unless it was listed. I guess that’s been done away with, but it was a pleasure to work as a lawyer for the Post because it had the covered. We broke the Ponzi case and we had Eddie Dunn, probably the best newspaperman in the City of Boston. That’s why the Post was so highly regarded. It was the fourth leading morning newspaper in the country. It was the breakfast paper. You’d get up in the morning and the first thing you did was “reach for the Boston Post.

After more than a hundred years, the Post folded in 1956.

Primary Primary Sources

letter reads my dear miss mitchell, will you take the job of drumming up votesInvitation to Volunteer for student Government. Simmons College Archives via Digital Commonwealth.

We’ve got all the reading you need to make it through primary day. Advice to vote by.

Eat well. I see absolutely no reason a history blog can’t dig into its own archives. And so, for primary day, you can eat cake, again, election day cake.

Vote wisely. The Smithsonian has a fantastic history of ballot technology (paper to touch screen) with some tremendous images in its online exhibition: Vote.

Think deeply. PhD Octopus has quite a historiography on a small town election — when Frederick Douglass ran for membership in the transcendentalist debate society strangely called the “Town and Country Club.”

Reflect piously. Wall Builders has the text of an election sermon preached by the Reverend Foster before his Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour, His Honor Sam Adams Lieutenant Governor, et cetera on election day, 1790. A site with an agenda, but what an interesting document.

Follow through thoroughly. And Digital Commonwealth has some fascinating old election legislation, including a choice 1961 document on what to do if your ballot box is full.

Tent City

As part of a massive program of urban renewal in Boston in the 1960s, one plot of houses in the South End was demolished and replaced with a parking lot. 100 families were displaced. The parking lot became a prime location for a protest against the large-scale displacement of primarily minority tenants by commercial developments. Weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, between 100 and 400 hundred occupied the lot. They lived there in temporary shelters for three days, playing music and grilling burgers, until they were finally disbanded by renewed police pressures.

However, their initiative bore belated fruit, won with a lot more effort. The organization, CAUSE which had led the effort, received renewed attention and funding to pursue equitable housing policy. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) showed signs of new interest in affordable housing and lead-organizer Mel King was elected to the Massachusetts House in 1972. The Task Force eventually became the Tent City Corporation, which finally completed this memorable, mixed-income housing development on the site on top of a parking lot. Notably, the project continues as a mixed-income development today.

More reading: The Corporation’s records reside at U-Mass Boston, ripe for dissertations. The Internet Archive also holds a collection of primary sources from the redevelopment. Helpful context here.

Arrested for Stealing Squashes

Found sandwiched between an obituary of a retired Watertown shipmaster and politician and a petition for a new railway in Dedham: a report on a man arrested for stealing squash from a Newton establishment.

The story appeared in the Boston Evening Transcript of September 23, 1898.

Michael Calnan, spotted at “Frank Brigg’s place” making off with “the squash he wanted” encountered a policeman walking away. He abandoned his sack in a culvert. Recovered, it was discovered Calnan was a repeat offender. The sack contained ‘a number of squashes.’ Also copper railroad joints.