Sometimes marketing the Historical Society's events and activities is about writing press releases and sending them to local press outlets. Sometimes, it's about creating content for our social media platforms and building engagement on those accounts. Sometimes, it's a whole other animal.
In early June, I noticed that the Special Collections Department at Occidental College had a photo on their Instagram feed showing temporary tattoos of their college seal! I loved it and immediately decided we had to do something similar.
After boring the rest of the staff with different ideas, I settled on pulling the icons from our logo and creating a tattoo for each one (see the photos at the top of this post). In the future, we may roll out different versions of the tattoos based on our activities and events. A la Oprah, YOU GET A TRICORN HAT, YOU GET A MID-CENTURY MODERN HOUSE, EVERYBODY GETS A HAMILTUNES SILHOUETTE!
We've ordered a test run of 200 tattoos and plan to launch them at this Wednesday's 4th of July event. In the future, we will make them available at Patriot's Day, Discovery Day, etc. Pick your favorite (vote below!), keep an eye out, and grab one for yourself!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
If you’ve driven through downtown Lexington in the last six weeks, you’ve probably noticed an abundance of yellow school buses parked along the Battle Green and slightly longer wait times at pedestrian crosswalks as students shuffle to and from the several historic sites located in Lexington. May and June have become synonymous with “School Group Season” here at Lexington Historical Society and this year’s season has proven to be one of our busiest seasons yet. So far this season we’ve welcomed groups from twenty-four different schools and three home-school collaborative groups. All six public elementary schools from Lexington have visited us for a morning of fun, but we’ve seen interest from other school districts in the local area start to grow as well. In fact, this season we’ve welcomed groups from as far away as California and even a group from Melbourne, Australia!
While a tour of one of our historic houses is always a fun option and one that 629 students have chosen this season, our programs designed for school children are becoming an increasingly popular option. The Historical Society offers a variety of programs that allow students to not only learn the importance of Lexington, but to also experience the history of the town during their time with us. Every program that we offer students is designed around the use of primary sources and allows students to use these unique materials to help them accomplish a task associated with the program. Whether students are studying Reverend Jonas Clarke’s diary entries to help create a meal for his family or using sworn depositions from Captain Parker’s militia to try and determine who fired the first shots on Lexington Green, students are getting the chance to be proactive in their learning. They can turn on their minds and be creative in these programs. Of the close to 1800 students who have visited Lexington Historical Society this season, nearly 1200 have participated in one of our school programs.
Although this year’s School Group season is slowly winding down, I am looking forward to next year as we are planning to introduce several new initiatives that will be sure to be of interest to young minds. We’re planning to add a new “Simple Machines” program that will teach students to prototype simple machines designed to assist with chores done in Colonial times. We’ve also partnered with Lexington's EMPOW Studios to offer STEM themed school programs where students will learn about the rich history of Lexington. Then they will apply their newfound knowledge by creating stop motion animation projects as well as 3-D building projects (photos above). Finally, we are going to be expanding our home-school opportunities this fall as we look to expand the ways in which Lexington’s rich history can be accessed. So while the school year is over, we’ve already begun preparations to make next year’s “School Group Season” an even better one.
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
On April 19, 1776, Reverend Jonas Clarke gave a sermon “to commemorate the murder, blood-shed and Commencement of Hostilities, between Great-Britain and America” begun at the Battle of Lexington exactly one year before. Could he possibly have known, or even imagined, the importance that we would place on the handwritten manuscript of this sermon nearly 250 years later?
In 1846, a daguerreotype, the earliest form of photography, was taken of the first steam train traveling from Lexington to Boston. Would this photographer have realized the rarity of this image, or the historical significance that this steam train would come to have on the town of Lexington and the region as a whole?
Loring Muzzey, a lifelong Lexington resident, created an extensive scrapbook of his experiences in the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. Would he have appreciated that this would be an invaluable resource to future generations?
Though the individuals referenced above likely did not recognize the importance of their creations, the fact remains that these items, and others like them, have an intrinsic value to historians, scholars, and residents of Lexington and the nation. Thus, the manuscript, daguerreotype, and scrapbook mentioned above are just a few of the items that Lexington Historical Society has made a concerted effort to conserve, preserve, and restore for future generations.
At the Society, we have a long list of items that meet the necessary criteria for conservation work by specialists, and we make every effort to make this a priority. To that end, we have introduced an annual Conservation Evening, where members of the community are asked to donate toward specific items that we have designated as in need of immediate attention. This year, we raised money towards the conservation of four tavern ledgers and day books dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries from Buckman and Munroe Taverns. Through the generous donations of many patrons, we have raised enough funds to complete the work on the two most costly books and are continuing to raise money to conserve the remaining two. If you are interested in helping us achieve this goal, or if you’re simply interested in learning about the other conservation projects that we have undertaken in the last several years, you can do so by visiting this section of our website.
The conservation of the ledgers will be completed by Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, MA, and the Society works with them quite often, as they specialize exclusively in treating paper-based collections, such as maps, photographs, books, and manuscripts. They also have a wonderful Imaging Services department, which provides us with high resolution digital images of documents that might be difficult to photograph or scan. The Society only works with premier conservators for all our conservation needs, including: Carmichael Art Conservation in Bedford, MA for treating works of fine art; EverPresent in Newton, MA for digitizing audio and visual media; Trefler’s in Needham, MA for full service restoration of wooden furniture, porcelain, ceramics, silver, and other fine collectibles; and Windsor Conservation in Dover, MA for textile conservation.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Are you looking for that perfect piece of furniture, china to blend with your set, or a wall hanging for that empty space? Or are you into antique jewelry, glassware, or other objets d'art? You'll be surprised at the incredible deals you can find at our annual Relinquished Treasures Sale.
This event is truly a one-of-a-kind sale of antiques, vintage and retro housewares, decorative items, and fashion pieces. Through the hard work of volunteers and staff, the Depot transforms from a messy room full of boxes to a neat and appealing retail space. By the Members' Reception on Friday evening, all will be calm, but today, the phrase that springs to mind is "chaos and candlesticks!"
All proceeds from this annual fundraiser - the fourteenth annual, to be exact - benefit the work and programs of Historical Society. The event takes place at the same time as Lexington's annual Discovery Day street fair, so it's a busy and fun day in Lexington!
We are still accepting gently used small furniture, artwork, silver, china, linens, and housewares. Please call 781-862-1703 to arrange for drop-off at the Depot (or possible pickup for heavy or large items). Donations will be accepted through Wednesday May 23.
Members’ Preview: Friday, May 25, 7-9 PM at the Depot
Public Sale: Saturday, May 26, 9 AM-3 PM at the Depot
Saturday sale free and open to the public!
Recently, we heard from Lexington tavern-keeper David Comee, who was assaulted by a customer who was trying to steal a lemon. A few people noticed the irony that in the 18th century, lemons were generally used to make punch. It seems like poor David Comee received several!
But a strong punch really was one of the more popular drinks in 18th century taverns. In fact, we still have a surviving lemon juicer from Munroe Tavern. While the Munroe punch recipes don’t survive, we know generally what would have gone into them: a mixture of fruit juice, water, sugar, alcohol, and spices. This was considered a gentleman’s drink due to its expensive ingredients, although a few bowls of punch would lead men to become anything but gentlemanly, as William Hogarth brilliantly illustrated in his painting, A Midnight Modern Conversation.
This past weekend, we tried some of this authentic punch at the LHS Colonial Singers’ performance of The Beggar’s Opera, a satirical British musical from 1728. The characters in the show are decidedly low-class, but their nefarious activities could bring in enough money to allow them to indulge a bit! The recipe we served our guests was taken from a 1723 cookbook called The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary; Or, The Accomplish'd Housewife’s Companion. Originally called “Punch for Chamber-Maids”, it includes lemon, lime, and orange juice, sugar water, white wine, and brandy. While not in the original recipe, a sprinkling of nutmeg, the 18th century’s favorite flavoring, rounded out the drink nicely. Not all 18th century recipes suit the modern palate, but this punch ended up being quite a treat just the way it was written. We are hoping to have a revival of The Beggar’s Opera sometime in the future, but in the meantime, give this punch a try for yourself at home!
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
After two years, many hurdles, and lots of persistence, we finally have the green light to build our new archives center at Munroe Tavern!
The new archives center will be a barn-like structure built onto the back of Munroe Tavern, and will have three floors of usable space. The main floor will serve as exhibit space and a reading room, while the basement and upstairs will serve as storage space.
Our archives are currently housed in the basement of the Hancock-Clarke House. While this space is climate controlled and safe for the archives, it’s not handicap accessible and is not an ideal location for staff, volunteers, visitors, and researchers. It’s also not big enough.
Lexington Historical Society cares for documents, photographs, diaries, and letters, all of which serve as a window into the community’s past. If we don’t move the archives to a new building, we’ll no longer be able to accept new archival donations because the Hancock-Clarke basement is nearly maxed out. The new building will allow us to house our archives in an even better space, while still leaving room for more accessions.
Earlier this month, a team of archaeologists dug in the ground where the building will be located, but found nothing of significance (that’s a good thing!). We are scheduled to break ground for construction in early May, and expect to complete the project in late fall of 2018. Moving the archives will take a bit longer, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
For more information on this project, please visit http://www.lexingtonhistory.org/new-archives-center.html, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
To support the archives center with a financial contribution, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (781) 862-1703.
-Erica Dumont, Executive Director
Last summer, while helping our Archives Manager Elizabeth do some organizing and accessioning (adding an item to our collection), I came across a document from 1737. The history nerd in me always loves reading documents that are nearly 300 years old, but this one in particular caught my eye. A much later transcription of the document is below, but the gist of the original document describes a fight over a lemon. Say what?
To wit, "David Comee of Lexington . . . Innholder . . . saith that on ye [the] twenty fourth day of May . . . one James Croseby of Billerica . . . was at ye dwelling house of ye Complainant . . . and did there and then with force & violence take a Lemon from ye Complainant and Refused to Return it and was going away upon which ye Compt [Complainant] followed him out of his house and ye Sd [said] James Crosbee without any just provocation took up a stone & struck the Complainant on ye side of his head with ye Stone: bruised ye flesh, broke ye skin, forthed blood & wounded him sorely on ye head."
I'm sure the experience was very unpleasant for David Comee, but I confess I (and other staff) have giggled about this document many times since its discovery. The question remains, though. Why in the world did James Croseby/Crosbee need a lemon so badly?
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Growing up in the lovely Pennsylvania countryside, spring was always my favorite season and I recall very fondly the wonderful memories of the first days of spring. Spring remains my favorite season, but since joining Lexington Historical Society in March 2015 my mind has now begun to associate spring with different, somewhat unique rituals.
When I think of spring, my mind instantly brings to the forefront the smell of gunpowder on an early (and I mean early) April morning instead of the smell of blooming wildflowers. The banter of schoolchildren as they discuss what the Clarke family might have been having for dinner in 1775 as they participate in our “What Did Rev. Clarke Eat?” school program now greets my ears in place of the cries of newborn calves and sheep. The creaking floorboards in Buckman Tavern as our first visitors of the day begin to explore the rich history of Lexington have replaced the crack of bats during Little League games. Instead of welcoming the final weeks of the school year, spring now welcomes Buckman Tavern, Hancock-Clarke House and Munroe Tavern back to life after a sleepy and quiet winter. All three properties will be open in April (Buckman already is!) and can be visited during these hours.
However, my new favorite ritual of spring has become the Children’s Reenactment of the Battle of Lexington. Through a wonderful partnership with the Lexington Minute Men, Her Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot, the Lexington Visitor Center, and Lexington Historical Society, children are given the opportunity to not only learn about this important battle, but to also actively participate in a re-creation of the battle. Participants are sorted into camps (Militia or British Regular) and are drilled in 18th century military tactics by our wonderful volunteer reenactors. After sufficient drilling, it is time for the reenactment to start. With the joy, theatrics, and enthusiasm only children can bring to events, the Battle of Lexington unfolds before your eyes! Not only is it great to see children enjoying history so much, but occasionally you’ll get acting gems such as Thaddeus Bowman, a militia scout who informed Captain Parker the British had entered town, come running to the door of Buckman Tavern shouting “Captain Parker, Captain Parker!! I forgot my lines!” After the battle concludes, participants and parents are encouraged to converse with the reenactors and to view a collection of artifacts from Lexington Historical Society’s collection on display at the Lexington Visitor Center.
This year’s reenactment will be held on Wednesday April 18th and will feature a morning session as well as an afternoon session. Spots still remain open for both sessions and more information on the event can be found on the Children’s Battle Reenactment page.
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
“And so you, too, have ‘signed up’, and Dad is today putting out a service flag, with two stars, infront [sic] of the house. Am I sorry? You are both sound and healthy, readily passing the examinations. Am I proud of you? Would I have you do differently? Does it pull hard? You know all the answers but you have acted on your own initiative. It is not amiss to say that moral strength comes to him who stands up to his duty – men are made that way.”
It is with these words that Clara Laycock Hill began a letter to her son, Stanley Hill, on October 31, 1917, less than six months after he joined the American Field Service and just one month after he enlisted in the American Ambulance Field Service as a driver. The Hill family lived in Lexington, where Stanley and his older brother, Converse, both graduated from high school. Stanley went on to attend Dartmouth College as part of the Class of 1918, where he was known for his positive outlook on life and infectiously cheerful nature.
As recognition for his service during World War I, Stanley received the French Croix de Guerre with palm, which is an honor awarded to those who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces. He was also awarded the Medaille Militaire, an award of the French Republic given for meritorious service and acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. His military records cite him as being “a driver of remarkable bravery who always greatly distinguished himself at the most exposed first-aid stations. Although seriously wounded while crossing a heavily bombarded village he had the courage to place his ambulance and its occupants under shelter, not leaving them until the arrival of assistance.”
The serious injury cited in this report refers to Stanley being wounded in the forehead by a shell while driving his ambulance in the second battle of the Marne. It was thought that he would make a full recovery, and his brother wrote a letter home stating so. Unfortunately, Stanley contracted meningitis and died on August 14, 1918 at La Veuve Hospital in France. He was the first of eight war casualties from Lexington and was buried at the military cemetery in La Veuve, Marne, France.
In the fall of 2017, Stanley’s niece (Converse Hill’s daughter), Shirley Stolz, made a very generous and precious contribution to the Collections and Archives at the Historical Society: a small collection of photographs and personal papers related to Stanley, as well as his military medals. The Society also retains records related to the Stanley Hill Post, an American Legion Post active between 1934 and 1986. Please click here to visit our online collections and see the Stanley Hill items donated by Shirley Stolz.
On November 11, 2018, Lexington Historical Society will join with other organizations in Lexington to remember the 100th anniversary of World War I and to honor those young men and women from Lexington who fought and died in the Great War. Stanley Hill will be the face of these activities. Please keep an eye out to learn more about the programming and events surrounding this commemoration.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
We are excited to announce that we have joined the North American Reciprocal Museum Association. The association, referred to as NARM, is one of the largest reciprocal membership programs in the world, with nearly 1,000 member institutions. These institutions span the entirety of North America, with members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, and even Bermuda!
Not only is there geographic diversity within NARM members, there is also a wide range of interests covered by these institutions, from historical societies, to science museums and art museums. This means that no matter your interests or where your travels might take you, there will always be something new to see thanks to NARM.
Reciprocal membership benefits through NARM include entrance fees at member rates for all participating institutions (which makes many of them free!) as well as reduced prices for event tickets and shop purchases. Access to these benefits comes with the purchase of a Lexington Historical Society Contributor ($125) membership or above.
In Lexington alone, there are three participating institutions - Lexington Historical Society, Lexington Arts & Crafts Society, and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum. If those are too close to home, how about considering a trip to Providence to see the Rhode Island Historical Society’s John Brown House, or the RISD Museum of Art?
Going on a trip soon? Take your NARM benefits with you! Maybe you’re heading to Miami for some warm weather. While you’re there, get the member rate for admission at the Institute of Contemporary Art or the HistoryMiami Museum. How about a sightseeing trip to Washington, DC? If you want to avoid the crowds, there are a dozen member institutions in the city that are worth a visit.
My favorite, and maybe most out of the way destination in the continental United States might be the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, Colorado. If you venture past the ski resorts and end up in the beautiful mountains surrounding Leadville, stop by the museum for free admission to learn about the history of mining in America and tour a historic 19th century mine owned by Horace "Silver King" and Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor.
We are excited to bring these wonderful NARM benefits to our members. We know that our members are curious, adventurous, and hungry for knowledge, and we are honored to support that passion. These additional benefits provide an amazing opportunity to experience some wonderful institutions for reduced admission all because you are members with us, and we hope you take full advantage of them!
-Lina Rosenberg, Operations Manager and Archivist