A pervasive stereotype about history is the inherent seriousness of our ancestors. Look at an old painting or photograph and you'll see: unsmiling Victorians glare out at us, seemingly in eternal judgement of our frivolous modern ways. So stiff are many of these people that entire corners of the internet have been dedicated to poring over old images to confirm that the people in them are, in fact, still alive.
In reality, people a hundred or more years ago were just as colorful as today, even if they had different ideas about what made a good family photo. And archives like ours can be a treasure trove of spontaneity. We have been looking through ours to find some of the best. Each week during the museum closure, we will feature a new find.
Among these are a series of photos of one J. Chester Hutchinson. Born in 1883, Chester spent his teenage years playing in the Lexington Drum Corps and doing bike tricks, which have been memorialized in our archives (there are at least four photos of Chester posing on a bicycle). The lack of activity in downtown Lexington at the moment seems surreal, but in 1900 you could actually have a photoshoot in the middle of Massachusetts Avenue and not worry about being run over. The following photograph shows Chester showing off at the corner of Mass Ave and Depot Square (notice the Depot in the background).
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
"What should we call our quarantine content?" was not a question I was expecting to ask in the museum staff group chat this month, but we are all adjusting to new circumstances!
In a time when group gatherings are restricted to no more than 10, non-essential businesses are closed to the public, and millions are staying home, Historical Society staff have been brainstorming ways to bring the museum to you!
We will be compiling all of our digital content in one place, but I wanted to focus specifically on our exhibits in today's blog post. Read on to see some of your options for digital exhibits.
We have had an online exhibits page for more than 7 years, but it hasn't gotten a lot of traffic in the past. Now is the page's time to shine! You will find three years of past CVS exhibits and exhibits on Hancock–Clarke House archaeology, Lexington trade signs, Loring Muzzey's Civil War diary, and much more.
Something Must Be Done: Bold Women of Lexington opened on March 8 with a wonderful (and now illegal) preview event. It was open until March 12, then we unfortunately had to close this brand-new exhibit. In the interim, we will be working to populate the exhibit page with documents, photos, audio, and a batch of videos taken last week!
#Alarmed: 18th Century Social Media closed in December, but through the magic of 3D filming, it is available on our recently-released Buckman Tavern virtual tour.
Stay tuned for more content coming online in the next week or two. Happy Virtual Explorations!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
We have been having an unseasonably warm winter this year, but 250 years ago, in 1770, there were feet of snow on the ground. The citizens of Lexington were tucked away in their farms, spinning flax by the fire, waiting for spring, and wondering what the next political upheaval might be. Just six months earlier, they had staged a spinning match on the town common to protest British imports, and had been boycotting tea since April.
Bostonians, a more politically diverse lot, were still coming to blows over which shops were selling imports and which were not. On February 22nd, a Loyalist from Woburn
named Samuel Richardson, who would have been well-known to many Lexingtonians, fired his musket into a crowd of protesters, killing ten-year-old Christopher Seider. Some would consider his death the first real casualty of the American Revolution. Then, less than two weeks later, a group of civilians got into an altercation with British soldiers, who fired into the crowd, killing five, in what became known as the Boston Massacre.
We do not have any surviving records of what Lexingtonians thought of these events when the news made it out here, but the reaction in general was swift, as copies of Paul Revere’s print of the Massacre began to circulate. One of these was put on display in the Wright Tavern in Concord, and John Buckman may have done the same in his establishment.
250 years later, however, the Boston Massacre is remembered as one of the most pivotal events leading up to the outbreak of war in 1775. Revolutionary Spaces, the new partnership between the Bostonian Society and Old South Meeting House in Boston, put together an incredible program on March 7 to commemorate the anniversary of this event. Over 100 reenactors spread out between the sites, showcasing a variety of daily activities in pre-Revolutionary Boston, such as a town selectmen’s meeting, a football game, and a ladies’ tea party.
As is often the case, I spent the day as a professional turncoat – for the afternoon portion of the program, I interacted with the public as Mary Saunders, the wife of a British soldier in the 14th regiment, introducing people to the Loyalist perspective. During the evening reenactment, I was Mary Cathcart, one of the many townspeople who scuffled with the soldiers, offering a distinctly different point of view.
This has definitely gotten me in the spirit for our upcoming 250th celebration in 2025 – not that far away now! The reenactors are already thinking ahead - doing research, making new clothing, and recruiting new soldiers into the ranks. Each Patriots’ Day morning is a uniquely moving experience, as the drumbeats of the British soldiers get closer and closer to the Green, but I imagine that the reenactment five years from now will be one not to forget.
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.