Boston

History Camp Boston 2019

March 16, 2019
Suffolk University Law School

Register | Sessions | Special Events


Updated January 14

  • We have more than 175 people registered. To register, scroll to the bottom of the page.
  • We asked which 2018 sessions people wanted to see presented again in 2019, and based on those responses, I contacted several presenters. Those sessions have now been added. The current session list, which continues to grow, is below.

If you have questions that aren’t answered below, please send them my way.

— Lee Wright  |  Founder  |  The History List  |  History Camp


History Camp Boston 2019 will take place on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Suffolk University Law School, across from the Old Granary Burying Ground in downtown Boston.  There will also be events Saturday evening, including a special performance, and on Sunday.

→ To register, scroll to the bottom of the page.

  • If you’ve not attended a History Camp before and would like to get an idea of what you can expect, browse 2018 and 2017  (and other years). More in the next section below.
  • Sign up to receive updates about History Camp Boston 2019. (If you have already registered, you will receive the updates automatically.).
  • Want to present?  Send me a session description similar in style and content to what you see in the listings for prior History Camp Bostons. (I’ll do the final edit, but please get it as close as you can to the style we use every year.) See below for important additional information before you submit.
  • Would your organization like to offer a special program or tour Sunday or discounted admission to your site? Please send me a description with details similar to what you see at the bottom of last year’s page and I will add it below, include it in the session guide, and announce it at the beginning and end of History Camp.

— Lee Wright  |  Founder  |  The History List  |  History Camp


What is History Camp?

History Camp brings together people from all walks of life who are passionate about history.  Last year people came from throughout the Northeast and beyond, including from Maryland, Texas, Michigan, Colorado, South Carolina, and other regions.

Here’s what one participant said:

“I’ve been to dozens of official academic conferences with big names where all submissions are thoroughly vetted by panels of experts, and none of those conferences were as fun and informative as History Camp. It really was the best set of speakers I’ve seen at a conference: relaxed and informed and direct.”

Gary Gregory, Master Printer at Edes & Gill, presenting at History Camp Boston 2018

[ Gary Gregory, Master Printer and Founder of Edes & Gill, the print shop at Faneuil Hall, presenting at History Camp Boston 2018 ]


This is a good overview, and especially helpful if you are curious about what makes History Camp different than any other conference or gathering you’ve ever attended. And if you’re still wondering if you should attend, we published this list of reasons last year.In addition to History Camp during the day Saturday, that evening there will be a musical offered immediately following the wrap up, and we’ll gather at a very nice restaurant and bar nearby for more socializing. Sunday there will be additional programming by local historic sites and history organizations.We hope you’ll join us this year. I’m confident that if you do you’ll see why we say, “Spend a Saturday with some of the most interesting people in history.”→ To register, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Lunch is optional—and really good

If you attended in 2018 and enjoyed the lunch, then you’re not alone.  We heard that from several people, so will have the same menu, a hot buffet with these choices:

  • Pistachio Crusted Chicken topped with Apple Compote and Sweet Potato Frites
  • Grilled Salmon with Citrus Glaze
  • Pear and Walnut Salad
  • Oven Roasted Red Bliss and Sweet Potatoes
  • Fresh Market House Salad
  • Chef’s Choice of Seasonal Vegetable
  • Fresh Baked Dinner Rolls and Butter
  • Assortment of Cookies, Brownies & Dessert Bars

If you’re interested in lunch, select a registration option that includes lunch.


Sessions

Sessions are added to the bottom of this list as they are submitted. Subscribe for occasional updates. (Infrequent now; more frequent as we get closer to March 16.)

We had 49 sessions at History Camp 2018, and as a result, folks had six sessions to choose from in nearly every time slot. (View the History Camp 2018 schedule and browse the list of sessions, with speakers and session descriptions, here.)

Want to present?  Great!  Two things to know up front: First, we will endeavor to record all sessions, including the slides shown, and to post them online. Sharing this information as broadly and openly as possible is one of the fundamental principles of History Camp. If you have things that you don’t want to appear online (on YouTube or elsewhere), don’t include them in your slides or consider a different presentation. Second, speakers will need to register, just like everyone else.

If History Camp still sounds like it’s for you, and I hope it does,  send me a session description (your information, session title and description) similar in style and content to what you see in the listings for prior History Camp Bostons. (I may edit what you send for clarity.)

Missed a session last year? Vote for 2018 sessions you missed that you’d like to see presented at History Camp Boston 2019.

Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, The Most Amazing Engineer You Never Heard Of

Eric Peterson, (Peterson@waterworksmuseum.org) Director of Operations, Metropolitan Waterworks Museum. www.waterworksmuseum.org

Sure, everybody knows about the 19th century achievements of Tesla, Eiffel and Edison. But did you know that Erasmus Darwin Leavitt, a native son of Lowell, was equally famous in his day? And that his achievements had a direct impact on the growth of the city of Boston? This self-taught steam engineer designed and built the biggest and most powerful pumping engines the world had ever seen: one delivered water to a thirsty city that had experienced explosive growth in the latter part of the 1800’s. Another blasted the accumulated sewage of tens of thousands of these new residents out into the Bay!

Leavitt’s reticent personality no doubt contributed to his having been forgotten, but in his time, he was an international celebrity. Follow his life from Cambridge to the copper mines of Michigan, from Annapolis to Essen, Germany. Learn how the forgotten legacy of one of a select group of incredibly competent and driven individuals who propelled the nation forward into modernity, lives on in Chestnut Hill.

Eleanor Roosevelt – The First Lady of The World

Sheryl Faye is a professional actor member of SAG/AFTRA.  sherylfaye.comfacebook.com/SherylFayePresentsyoutu.be/RtEk8uyJOsM

After suffering through an unhappy childhood, including losing her parents and one of her brothers. Eleanor figured out where she fit in and make a difference. She grew up and became an American politician, the longest-serving First Lady of the United States. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Asian Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees. She became one of the first delegates to The United Nations and was one of the ten most admired people of the 20th century. “…as individuals we live cooperatively, and, to the best of our ability, serve the community in which we live…our own success, to be real, must contribute.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This performance is done in a multi media fashion all from first person, starting with Roosevelt as an adult, going to back to her childhood, and then back to an adult again.  With the help of slides, sounds, costumes and props, you will be immersed in her world.

Fugitive Slave Laws and Sanctuary Cities: What Does Lowell’s Pre-Civil War History Tell Us?

Robert Forrant (Robert_Forrant@uml.edu), professor of history, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Without cotton from the slave-holding South there’d be no Lowell mills. On the eve of the Civil War, its mills consumed 405 tons of cotton a week. Women mill workers and other women formed a female anti-slavery society in the 1830s. Lowell’s Sarah Bagley, editor of the Voice of Industry, wrote that the paper stood for “the abolition of Mental, Moral and Physical Servitude, in all their complicated forms.” Abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass spoke in Lowell numerous times.

The city’s anti-slavery advocates counseled people to disobey the Fugitive Slave Law while its churches offered sanctuary. After the Law’s passage, several fugitives fled Lowell to Canada. An October 1850 article in the Lowell Advertiser reported on a meeting held to discuss this situation. Pledges to defy the federal government rang out. “No complicity with slavery!” became a rallying cry.

Puritans and Pilgrims – What’s the Difference?

Francis J. Bremer (francis.bremer@millersville.edu), professor emeritus, Millersville University, author and coordinator, New England Beginnings ( www.newenglandbeginnings.org)

Who were the Pilgrims, and if they were different from the puritans, then how were they distinct?  Did the puritans see America as a city on a hill that would be a model for all the world?  What did the puritans see as their obligation to the broader society?  How did congregational church government contribute to democracy?  Why did the puritans care so much about education?

Almost a hundred years ago the distinguished Harvard historian wrote an essay on “Those Misunderstood Puritans” in which he bemoaned that despite the extensive programs tied to the 1930 Tercentenary of the founding of Massachusetts the old Victorian stereotypes of New England puritans founding fathers still held their grip on the public.  Decades later, as we approach the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 and the Arbella in 1630, the situation is little changed.  Decades of historical and literary scholarship had failed to dislodge the stereotype of the early colonists as repressed, bigoted killjoys with little fashion sense who persecuted dissenters and executed witches.  We will draw on that scholarship to answer these basic questions about the English men and women who first settled the region and explore why the old stereotypes persist.

The Confederate Monument in Boston Harbor: An exploration of one of Massachusetts’ only markers dedicated to the Confederacy

Shawn P. Quigley (shawn_p_quigley@nps.gov), National Park Ranger, Boston African American National Historic Site

In late May of 1963, members of the Civil War centennial commission gathered on Georges Island to witness the unveiling of a new monument. Described by historian Edward Rowe Snow as “one of the most important services ever held at Fort Warren” this was not a marker dedicated to soldiers who fought for the Union, but rather to the Confederate prisoners who died on the island. Though largely forgotten, what is believed to be one of Massachusetts only monuments dedicated to the Confederacy, received substantial attention in the summer of 2017 as a part of the national conversation on monuments to the Lost Cause. This program will explore the history of that marker, the organization who erected it, and the broader national dialogue about how we remember the American Civil War.

The April 19-21, 1775 Evacuations of Middlesex and Essex Counties

Alexander Cain (mcalpin77@gmail.com), Author, We Stood Our Ground: Lexington in the First Year of the American Revolution and I See Nothing but the Horrors of a Civil Warhistoricalnerdery.com

When Lexington’s alarm bell rang, panic set in. A hostile military force was marching directly towards the town. Plunder and destruction were feared. The Reverend William Gordon of Roxbury reported, “the inhabitants had quitted their houses in the general area upon the road, leaving almost everything behind them, and thinking themselves well off in escaping with their lives.” Some took a few belongings. Others hid or buried valuables. The roads were clogged with “women and children weeping.” Residents escaped to woods and fields or to nearby towns. While much attention has been paid to the shots fired that day, we’ll take a close look at what happened to those who weren’t engaged in combat.

Yogi, Bugs, and Bullwinkle: Saturday Morning Cartoons and Big Business in the 1960s

Margo Burns (margoburns@gmail.com), Project Manager and Associate Editor, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt (Cambridge, 2009)

Many adults over forty think back fondly to the time they spent on Saturday mornings sitting in front of the tv with a bowl of Captain Crunch or Frosted Flakes, watching several hours of cartoons starring the likes of Yogi Bear, Bugs Bunny, and Rocky & Bullwinkle. The advent of television in the late 1950s had a major impact on the movie industry and especially on cartoons. From the 1920s on, animated shorts by Disney, the Fleischer Brothers, several major motion picture studios were paired with newsreels that screened before feature films for adult audiences. The advent of television in the 1950s changed all that.

By 1954, half the households in America had a tv, and 95% did by 1969. Live evening news flourished and the newsreels vanished. The storehouse of existing theatrical shorts—live action and animated—were repackaged for syndication to fill airtime on television. Animators retooled to respond to the growing demand for new cartoons and more quickly. New studios, led by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera of Tom & Jerry fame, produced adult-themed sitcoms such as The Flintstones for adult tv audiences in the evening. The industry shifted, however, as Madison Avenue leveraged the Saturday-morning time-slot to target children for their advertisements for sugary cereals and plastic toys. We will be watching clips from a wide array of classic favorites while getting a peek behind the tv screen.

When the Irish Invaded Canada: It’s No Blarney

Christopher Klein (chris@christopherklein.com) is the author of When the Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom, released by Doubleday on March 12, 2019. www.christopherklein.com. twitter.com/historyauthor

Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. These former foes, however, had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they fought side by side to undertake one of the most fantastical missions in military history: to seize the British province of Canada and hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.

What better way to get ready for St. Patrick’s Day than to learn the outlandish, little-known story of the self-proclaimed Irish Republican Army that carried out five attacks on Canada—known collectively as the Fenian Raids—between 1866 and 1871. With the tacit support of the U.S. government, this motley group—including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral—managed to seize a piece of America’s northern neighbor, if only for a matter of days.

How the National Road Became the National Pike

Lorna Hainesworth (lornament@comcast.net), ambassador and national traveler.  Search for “Lorna Hainesworth” on www.academia.edu.

President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation for the creation of the National Road on March 29, 1806. It was an act to regulate laying out and making a road from Cumberland, in the state of Maryland, to the state of Ohio. The aim was to form a portage between the Potomac and Ohio Rivers that would span the Allegheny Mountains.

Called “the Road that Built America,” it was the nation’s first federally-funded road and the country’s first interstate highway. Surveying finished in 1811 and construction was completed in 1818.  The road traversed the western part of Maryland, crossed over the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, and spanned the panhandle of what was then Virginia (now West Virginia).

But what was the point of having such a road if nobody could get to it? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have the road start at one of the cities on the eastern seaboard? Was there any way to connect this inland road to the Atlantic Coast?

This is the story of how the road came into existence, the means and methods used to make this road meet the standards of 1806 legislation, and why more than six decades elapsed in making this road a reality. This is the Story of National Pike.

When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis

Christopher Klein (chris@christopherklein.com) is the author of several books, including When the Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom, to be released by Doubleday on March 12, 2019. www.christopherklein.com and twitter.com/historyauthor

More than 150 years ago, tens of thousands of poor, disease-ridden refugees sought haven in the United States. They threatened to take jobs away from Americans and strain welfare budgets. They practiced an alien religion and pledged allegiance to a foreign leader. They were accused of being criminals. And, worst of all to many Americans, these undesirables were Irish. Explore this era of scorn the Irish initially encountered and find out how they became part of the American mainstream.

Heroic Souls: Puritan Women as the First American Individuals

Lori Rogers-Stokes, PhD. (lori.stokes@comcast.net) is an independent scholar studying puritan New England with a focus on women’s roles and its place in the development of American democracy.

“…to go back, I would not.” This confident statement was made by a woman known to us only as “Katherine, Mrs. Russel’s maid”; it was part of the spiritual autobiography she related in a session with her pastor and perhaps a few friends and fellow-seekers in her Puritan church in Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay Colony in the late 1630s. Her minister, Thomas Shepard, recorded the sessions of 31 women in his congregation between 1638 and 1649.

In these women’s sessions, we hear uncanny echoes of the modern hero: a sole individual, relying on her unique powers, suffering through many failures and dangers to complete an epic personal quest. This type of narrative is wholly uncharacteristic of the 17th century, anticipating the modern hero by over 200 years. The individual in this relation is not anchored in family, class, location, religious tradition, history, marriage, or motherhood. What we read in these relations are narratives of the heroic soul, struggling alone against cosmic forces, rejected by and rejecting of all others, ultimately acting in a theater reduced to two players: the seeker and the Lord.

All of the people, male and female, who met with Shepard exhibit this oddly modern individuality. But it is most remarkable to find it in the women’s narratives, since women’s identities were usually so completely folded into men’s, and so completely confined to the roles of daughter, wife, and mother. A personal narrative unshaped by sex is unexpected at any moment in history; women’s narratives with none of the traditional markers of female identity even more so. We will explore these heroic narratives and hear these women speak for themselves, as they did over 370 years ago.

More Than Names on a Wall: Bringing One Town’s Civil War Memorial to Life

Ken Liss (kliss@brooklinehistoricalsociety.org), President, Brookline Historical Society and author of the blog Muddy River Musings.

  • A young officer who scrawled a farewell letter to his mother, stained with his own blood, as he lay dying on the battlefield of Antietam
  • Three young tradesmen — two blacksmiths and a shoemaker — who enlisted together, were taken prisoner together, and died in the infamous Confederate prison at Andersonville.
  • One of five Massachusetts brothers whose mother received a famous letter of sympathy — “the Bixby Letter” — from Abraham Lincoln.
  • A son of a slaveholding Texas family who died fighting for the Union while his older brother fought and died for the Confederacy.

These are just some of the men whose names appear on the memorial that Brookline, like many towns North and South, erected to honor its Civil War dead. The Brookline memorial, installed in the 1873 Town Hall, lost its prominence when the building was torn down in the 1960s. It was stored in a basement, then placed outside in a badly-designed, poorly-maintained concrete enclosure where it remained, little-noticed, for nearly half-a-century.

The Brookline memorial, seven slabs of pink Tennessee marble, was restored and rededicated in the lobby of the current Town Hall on Memorial Day, 2011. Research on one of the solders, prepared for the rededication ceremony, has since been expanded to cover all 72 of the men. Brookline Historical Society President Ken Liss will share the stories of some of these men, of the effort to bring their stories to life, and of what their stories tell about the impact of the war on one Massachusetts town.

Loyalists and the Birth of Libraries in New England: The Marriage of Martin and Abigail Howard

Abby Chandler (abigail_chandler@uml.edu), Associate Professor of Early American History University of Massachusetts Lowell

Martin Howard was a Revolutionary War era Loyalist whose life spanned the Anglo-American Atlantic world, while Abigail Greenleaf was the daughter of Stephen Greenleaf, the last Suffolk County, Massachusetts sheriff to receive a royal appointment for his position.

Their marriage in the summer of 1767 brought together the political interests of two Loyalist-leaning families on the eve of the American Revolution. It also brought together a couple with a shared interest in community libraries.

Martin Howard served as librarian for the newly formed Redwood Library in his native Newport, Rhode Island, in the early 1750s. After Howard’s death in London, Abigail Greenleaf Howard returned to her native Boston in 1781. A decade later, she purchased a home in the newly created Franklin Place where she helped found the Boston Library Society in 1794, an organization which later merged with the Boston Athenaeum. Abigail Howard’s 1801 will left the Boston Library Society most of the books from the shared personal library created by the Howards during their years together.

Given their shared commitment to libraries, it seems likely that she saw the bequest as a living memorial for a man otherwise considered a disgraced Loyalist by many of her Boston neighbors. This session explores both the marriage of Martin and Abigail Howard and the emergence of community libraries in New England in the late eighteenth century.

Tranquility Grove: The Great Abolitionist Picnic of 1844

Martha Reardon Bewick (marbewick@verizon.net), author, Tranquility Grove: The Great Abolitionist Picnic of 1844 (November, 2018). 

The largest anti-slavery rally the US had ever seen took place 175 years ago in Hingham. Attended by 8,000 – 10,000 people—Frederick Douglass was there and former President and Congressman John Quincy Adams sent a long letter—the picnic marked the tenth anniversary of the end of slavery  in the British West Indies and the freeing of 800,000 enslaved persons there.

The presentation will also describe other abolitionist memorials and suggest ways in which Tranquility Grove could be better maintained and interpreted as a significant nineteenth-century historic site.  Original banners hung in the grove in 1844 and a copy of the original Anti-Slavery Melodies songbook will be available for inspection.

Martha developed this project for the Hingham Historical Commission and will be signing books on the first floor. 

James and Dolley: Opposites Attract

Kyle Jenks and Judith Kalaora perform scenes from the play, James and Dolley: Opposites Attract, that reveal the tension, uncertainty, and fear during the invasion of Washington by British troops on August 1814. For two days the president and Mrs. Madison searched for each another amidst the chaos and destruction going on in Washington.

They will continue the performance with thoughts and feelings expressed to each other and the audience, recollecting their marriage in a way that only a truly devoted and loving couple could, and then will take questions from the audience.

Judith Kalaora is a professional educator, actress, and living historian. She founded History At Play™ in 2010 to provide educational entertainment, chronicling the lives of influential and often forgotten women.

Kyle Jenks is a professional interpreter of James Madison (greatlittlemadison.com), and is the writer, producer, and director of James and Dolley: Opposites Attract and Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama by Walter D. Edmonds.

“Suspense” and Sexism in Popular Radio Dramas After WWII

Lori Rogers-Stokes, PhD. (lori.stokes@comcast.net) is an independent scholar studying puritan New England with a focus on women’s roles and its place in the development of American democracy. She is also an avid fan of 20th-century American radio.

Suspense was one of the longest-running radio shows in American history. It began its weekly programs on June 17, 1942 and ended on September 30, 1962, delivering 909 episodes of radio mystery and drama. As it progressed into the early post-war years, “Suspense” underwent a radical change in tone and content, shifting to male-centered episodes with lopsidedly throwaway or abrasive female characters, a definition of love that was explicitly connected to hate, and a focus on men murdering women—usually their wives. By July 1948, a new sponsor introduced a definitive male-only culture to a show that had previously been surprisingly egalitarian. In its small way, Suspense is a window into the campaign to drive women back to purely domestic roles after the war, and the relatively undisguised hostility that accompanied that campaign. You’ll listen to sound clips from the show “before” and “after” this switch.

Getting the Last Laugh: A year spent adding America’s forgotten burlesque and vaudeville comediennes to Wikipedia

Amy Barlow (abarlow@ric.edu), Assistant Professor and Librarian, Rhode Island College

Wikipedia’s gender bias is well documented. Fewer than 10% of Wikipedia editors are women and the disparity causes imbalanced subject coverage. This presentation will delve into Wikipedia’s gender gap problem. The presenter will draw on her experience, as an arts and culture researcher and Wikipedia editor, to demonstrate how the website’s policies complicate efforts to create new articles about women, even so-called notable women. She will share actionable steps that editors can take to test the policies and improve coverage of women, as well as other underrepresented groups. Attendees will be encouraged to share their insights as users of Wikipedia.

Creating “Escape Room” Experiences at Historic Sites of all Sizes

Kerry Sclafani (info@greaterhudson.org), Program Director, Greater Hudson Heritage Network

An “Escape Room” is an adventure game in which players are placed in a room and must solve a series of puzzles using clues, hints and strategy in order to “escape.” This same concept can be used by a historic site or history organization to highlight their collection and story and encourage visitor and community engagement.

While some sites are large enough and have the staff to manage a full “Escape Room,” to show how a site of any size and budget could adapt this approach, we created a portable game that that can be used on-site, in the community, or in a classroom.  It’s low-tech and made with inexpensive materials.

We will describe how we created the game and how it’s being received at Bard College/Montgomery Place and then will divide into teams and play “The Case of the Livingston Silver,” which uses reproductions of archival materials from Bard College/Montgomery Place. The game centers on the 1886 robbery of the Montgomery family’s silver, which has never been solved. Teams of players will take on the role of the thief’s son, and are charged with finding where the silver was hidden, all while racing against the clock and each other.

The Untold Story of Massasoit and the Colonists

Dr. David S. Weed (drweed@cox.net), Coordinator, Sowams Heritage Area Project

Few people know that a treaty in March of 1621 between Massasoit of the Pokanoket Tribe and the leaders of the Plymouth Colony set in place a fifty year period of peaceful relations. That treaty not only provided for mutual protection against known enemies, it also ensured that both parties prospered economically.

A breakdown in those relationships, however, followed Massasoit’s death in 1661 and led to the devastating two-year King Philip War and the eventual colonial domination of the land. The initiation and duration of the peace is unique among the colonial patterns of interaction across the New World, while the impact of this clash of cultures continues to this day.

Learn about current efforts to establish a Sowams Heritage Area in East Bay Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts that identifies over fifty locations that reveal the early history of Massasoit’s tribe, the locations where the King Philip War began and ended, and how the English nearly exterminated the native people who had lived in the area for over 10,000 years.

New England’s Hidden Histories: The Race to Rescue Our Earliest Manuscript Church Records

James F. Cooper, Jr. (jcooper@14beacon.org), Regents Distinguished Research Professor, Emeritus, Oklahoma State University, and Director, New England’s Hidden Histories, Congregational Library, Boston

In 1748, Hartford church records describe a meeting in which eight different pastors considered the following: “Whether a Member of a Church calling the Ministers of this land, Hivelings, greedy dogs, [along] with other Expressions of the like Nature, be not an offence, for which he ought to be called to an account in that Church to which he belongs?” The church records from Braintree note, seven years later, how the local pastor spotted, one afternoon, “a bush that seem’d to be much ruffled with the wind, and to move out of its place about three paces . . . and then to return to it’s place again.”

From the wrath of angry church members, to the mysterious movements of shrubbery, virtually nothing went on in colonial New England communities that didn’t pass through the doors of the local church. The most important decisions this culture faced followed (often rowdy) debates in local church meetings, where churchgoers not only discussed religious affairs, but also gathered regularly to discuss and police one another’s behavior. We can learn more about life in early New England from church records than from any other discrete set of sources.

But the region’s priceless manuscript church records are scattered all over New England, often in attics, closets and basements, and many are significantly endangered. This discussion will focus on the fascinating information we can find in church records, the region-wide treasure hunt to find and to save them, and the Congregational Library’s efforts to make them available to the public through digitization.

Impact of the 1918 flu epidemic: A personal stories-based approach Records

Lori Lyn Price (BridgingThePast@gmail.com and Bridging the Past website), Independent Researcher

The 1918 flu pandemic killed up to 100 million people worldwide in less than a year, disproportionately taking healthy young adults. The personal impact was devastating and wide-reaching, including emigration, families split apart, and openings for women in the workforce. This talk draws on stories and newspaper articles to explore the multi-faceted ways the 1918 flu impacted families, sometimes for generations.

Using the Hancock Door to Unlock Unheard Historical Voices

Patrick Gabridge and Courtney O’Connor (playsinplace@gmail.com and Plays in Place, playwright, and director, Blood on the Snow (2016, 2017) and Cato & Dolly (2018)

The Hancock Mansion was erected in 1737 by Thomas Hancock, Boston’s richest merchant, atop Beacon Hill. His nephew, John Hancock, who was the first elected Governor of Massachusetts, inherited the House in 1764 and it served as a prominent meeting spot during the lead up to the Revolution and beyond. John Hancock was a popular benefactor and politician in Boston and was the first elected governor of Massachusetts. By the mid-1800s the Mansion had fallen out of style and the family struggled to maintain it, and 1863 it was torn down and some items were auctioned off.

The destruction of the House spurred the creation of the historical preservation movement in Boston, which helped save the Old State House, the Old South Meeting House, the Paul Revere House, and many other buildings.

The door from the Hancock Mansion is on display at the Old State House, and a new one-act play explores unheard voices from history and the Hancock household. This session will share the history of the house and Hancock household, as well as the process of creating site- and object-specific theatrical work.

Katharine Gibbs: Trailblazing Woman in Business

Rose A. Doherty (www.roseadoherty.com) is the author of Katharine Gibbs: Beyond White Gloves, the first history of this world-renowned institution.

Katharine Gibbs created her school from nothing.  She was a 46-year-old widow with no income, two sons to support, and only a high school education when she began her school in 1911.  She was CEO of three schools two years before women had the vote.  She was an entrepreneur who educated women for business when they were not welcome.

After her death, the family fostered the icon of Gibbs excellence worldwide and added campuses including Bermuda.  The last owners were large corporations who kept the core tradition of excellence. Multiple campuses, new programs of study, the introduction of degrees, and the return of male students remade Gibbs with adaptability reminiscent of the founder.

The Gibbs family motto ”Hold to Your Purpose” motivated graduates from 1911 to 2011. Graduates include a college president, US ambassador, CIA operatives, bank president, lawyers, writers, business executives and owners, graphic designers, and professionals in many fields.  Those who care about business history, education history, or women’s history will be interested in this illustrated talk.

The Filling of Boston’s Back Bay

Will Holton, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Northeastern University

The land mass that makes up the city of Boston is today many times larger than it was when the town was founded in 1630. One of the large additions came with filling in the “back bay” behind the town, along with other landfill projects over the years. After 1800 the annexation of several towns and cities added even more land area. An illustrated talk with images drawn from his co-authored 2006 book, Boston’s Back Bay: The Greatest 19th Century Landfill Project.

This presentation starts with a brief geology lesson that sets the stage by describing the soil and deep rock conditions below the Back Bay marsh, and the large deposits of glacial sand and gravel in some of the Boston suburbs. Three motivations for filling about 800 acres of tidal marsh after 1850 are explored: severe pollution of the shallow water after a long dam cut off tidal flooding twice a day that had cleansed the basin; crowding because large numbers of immigrants and migrants from rural New England were moving into the City of Boston on its 750 acre peninsula; and social tensions between the Protestant earlier settlers and tens of thousands of Irish Catholics.

Mechanical inventions and bold entrepreneurs facilitated moving massive amounts of material several miles from suburbs west and south of Boston into the Back Bay. A State Commission planned the project and devised an imaginative way of financing the work over a 20 year period, turning a polluted marsh into a most fashionable neighborhood that retains its elegant style today.

Park Street: A Mirror of Boston for Centuries

Rose A. Doherty (roseadoherty@aol.com) author of Katharine Gibbs: Beyond White Gloves, President Emerita of Partnership of Historic Bostons

Park Street has overlooked Boston Common, the country’s oldest public park, for almost four centuries.  This illustrated talk will show how Park Street changed to echo the people and architecture of each era.

The Granary, Almshouse, Workhouse, and Bridewell (jail) of the colonial period gave way to homes and Park Street Church in the 19th century.  Residents of Park Street included Dr. John Collins Warren, Fisher Ames, Christopher Gore, and General Lafayette on his return to Boston.

A hotel, TV news station studio, early women’s club, Union Club, small businesses, Catholic Information Center, and offices for Houghton Mifflin reflected the growth and diversity of Boston through the years.

Tales from Boston’s Pre-Revolutionary Newspaper Wars

J. L. Bell (boston1775@earthlink.net and http://www.boston1775.net) Author of The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War and Boston 1775

In the decade that led to the Revolutionary War, Boston’s newspapers were a major political battleground. The town’s journalism scene–the oldest and most active in colonial America–was roiled by new arrivals and old rivalries. Writers assailed each other in anonymous articles as nasty as any flame war. With the boundaries of a free press still under debate, printers were attacked on the streets and hauled into court. Hear the stories of that time, and consider what lessons they might hold for our public discourse and news media today.

The Reinvention of Salem and the largest steam-powered cotton-sheeting factory in the United States

Robert Booth (bodjo71@gmail.com), author, The Women of Marblehead, A Women’s History of Marblehead, Mass., in the 19th Century and of the Marblehead Female Humane Society (Marblehead, 2016) and Amy E. Kellett

A preliminary study of the industrial project by which Salem re-invented itself as a manufacturing center after the collapse of its maritime commerce. In 1846 the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company built the largest steam-powered cotton-sheeting factory in the United States, with huge implications for Salem: in a matter of two years, its population increased by 600 factory workers and their families, almost all of them in-migrants and immigrants residing in a built-new industrial village. Overnight, the city’s largest and most profitable business changed the course of Salem for the rest of the century. We are studying the business itself (projectors, investors, engineers, overseers) as well as the civic impact of a massive population influx and the origins and experience of the people who built the factory and operated its machinery to produce cotton sheeting, much of it for export to African markets.

Alexander Hamilton: The Man, the Myths, the Musical

Stephen Knott (stephen.knott@usnwc.edu, @publius57 and Amazon author page) Professor, National Security Affairs Department, United States Naval War College.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway blockbuster Hamilton: An American Musical kept Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill and transformed this unlikely founding father into a Broadway celebrity. But while Hamilton is currently seen as a heroic figure, throughout much of the nation’s history he was seen as “un-American” — a closet monarchist who allegedly hated the people, the “great beast.” Many 20th century historians and biographers repeated distorted accounts first circulated by Thomas Jefferson and his lieutenants, all of whom were determined to ruin Hamilton’s reputation. Franklin Roosevelt repeated these Jeffersonian myths in the midst of his campaign to erect a memorial to the “Sage of Monticello” in the nation’s capital. While Lin-Manuel Miranda restored Hamilton to his proper standing as a key founder, he too has misrepresented the real Hamilton. The real Alexander Hamilton was devoted to the rule of law and to moderation and possessed a healthy aversion to Utopian schemes.

Benjamin Franklin, The Rabbi and the Freemasons

Dr. Michael Shire, (Mshire@hebrewcollege.edu) Chief Academic Officer and Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Hebrew College in Newton, MA.

Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography was first published in French in 1791 incorporating a method of moral improvement that he attempted on a daily basis during his life. So how did this method of moral improvement turn up in Eastern Europe in 1808 amongst the Orthodox Jewish community translated into Hebrew? What was the purpose of Rabbi Lefin in making Franklin’s method popular as an alternative to charismatic religion and why did he never reveal his source? How was it accepted as an authentic traditional Jewish practice known as “mussar” (Heb.-discernment) and became a tool in the emergence of Ashkenazi Jews into the European Enlightenment and their admission into civil society. A strange and unlikely story involving a Polish prince, his powerful wife and the worldwide connection of Friends known as Freemasons. There is even a final twist in the tale!

Four Yellow Love Drawers: An (Early) Modern Married Couple’s Wardrobe

Tara Mancini (17thcenturynewyork.blogspot.com) Author of Calicos, Camelots and Swords

Why would a good man need bright red drawers? Why are hers yellow? And what were love drawers? We’ll dive into the personal wardrobes and hampers of New Yorkers and explore the various types, colors and styles of underwear that were worn on the streets of 17th Century Manhattan.

Vikings in New York and Delaware

Tara Mancini (17thcenturynewyork.blogspot.com) Author of Calicos, Camelots and Swords

While the raiding of other peoples comes to an end in the 12th century, the Viking culture and material goods continues with their wadmal, knitwear and their decedents arriving in Manhattan during the 17th Century.

Bringing Early Boston History to Life: Creating and Growing the Partnership of the Historic Bostons

President Emeritus Will Holton and President John Morrison, Partnership of the Historic Bostons

The Partnership of the Historic Bostons was launched as an all-volunteer organization in 1999 when the Mayors of Boston, Lincolnshire, UK and Boston, Mass. signed an agreement linking our “Mother Town” and its “Daughter City”. In 2003, the Partnership assumed responsibility for the “Boston Charter Day” celebrations from the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Rappaport Foundation.

Our mission is promoting public history, and while many residents and tourists have some familiarity with Boston and the Revolution, other than the Mayflower, few know much about the founding and early years of our city. Over time, we broadened our mission from preserving the historical links with Boston, Lincolnshire to exploring how the 17th-century puritan founders of Boston and the Bay Colony helped shape the principles upon which the United States of America was established.

We’ll cover how the organization came into existence and the challenges and key initiatives at each stage of it’s growth. We’ll also tell you what we’ve discovered about attracting an audience and creating and offering public history programs to a broad audience, as well as how we measure our impact.

The Partnership of the Historic Bostons will have a table to discuss their upcoming programs as well as volunteer opportunities.

Salem’s Gallows Hill Project

Marilynne K. Roach (MarilynneKRoach.com) the author of The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, and the biographical Six Women of Salem, among other titles. She has also contributed to the definitive collection of court documents, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt.

Willful forgetting, conflicting memories, and dueling antiquarians, plus new clues unearthed from old manuscripts – all led to the scientifically verified (re-)discovery of Procter’s Ledge as the actual site of the 1692 Salem witch trial hangings. Marilynne K. Roach, a member of the Gallows Hill Group, will present the highlights of a 300-year-old mystery hiding in plain site until properly memorialized to honor the nineteen innocent individuals executed there.

Madison vs. Hamilton: What is Money, Anyway?

Bil Lewis, previously a Computer Scientist at Stanford & Tufts, now a Madison Re-enactor and High School History Teacher.  (PresidentMadison.Weebly.com)

In the midst of crisis that was the founding of the United States, Alexander Hamilton published his “Report on Credit,” in which he elaborated on the necessity of having a private bank issue currency, something that was a complete anathema to Madison and Jefferson. Whereas they clearly saw money primarily in terms of Gold and Silver, Hamilton though of money as credit–a promise to pay. And the major reason people would trust that promise to pay is because it was “legal tender” — valid for paying taxes and debts (which the Continental was not).

In this presentation, Mr. Lewis, in the guise of James Madison, will lead a discussion on the nature of money as seen in 1790. He follows Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson as they consider the issues they face with debt, lack of taxes, and an unstable country.

A Kaleidoscopic Look at the Formation of American Identity through the Lens of Mount Auburn Cemetery

Patrick Gabridge (pat@gabridge.com) is the playwright of Blood on the Snow (recently staged at the Old State House) and many other historical plays, as well as the novel Steering to Freedom, about Robert Smalls.

Playwright Patrick Gabridge (Blood on the Snow, Cato & Dolly), will touch on a group of historic topics about which he’s writing new short plays for performance at Mount Auburn Cemetery—all related to American history and identity. The subjects include the formation of Mount Auburn Cemetery in 1831 and its important influence on cemeteries across the United States; Mount Auburn founders Jacob Bigelow and Joseph Story; Harriot Kezia Hunt, one of the first female physicians in the U.S. and Edmonia Lewis, the first black female American sculptor; Charlotte Cushman, famed actress of the 19th century, and Harriot Hosmer, a well-known sculptor and part of a community of independent women in Rome in the mid 1800s; and Armenian immigrants/refugees in the early 20th century. Patrick is the artist-in-residence at Mount Auburn Cemetery and has been actively wandering and researching the grounds and its residents for the past year.

The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife

Velya Jancz-Urban (teacher, author, history nut) and Ehris Urban (herbalist, holistic nutritionist) of Grounded Goodwife (groundedgoodwife.com)

Binge-watch Vikings, Turn, or Frontier, and you’ll see people being disemboweled, tortured, and decapitated – but you won’t see anything about menstruation, chamber pots, birth control, breastfeeding, or poopy babies. It’s 2019! Even though Google cars have been invented and women won the vote almost 100 years ago, these “unsanitary” subjects still make people uncomfortable. Perhaps women need to be reminded of how far we’ve come in order to see how far we still can go. Herstory unsanitized explores the engrossing “taboo” subjects that are omitted from history.

This presentation isn’t about spinning wheels or quilting bees. Velya’s gregarious personality and Ehris’ grounded energy enable this mother/daughter duo to connect with audiences. Funny and frank, their enthusiastic delivery invites audiences to laugh, grimace, and honor our foremothers’ journeys.

→ To register, scroll to the bottom of the page.

If you would like to present, please send me a session title and description, and your information, similar in style and content to what you see in the listings for prior History Camp Bostons, such as History Camp Boston 2018. I’ll do the final edit, but please get it as close as you can to the style we use every year.  —  Lee Wright  |  Founder  |  The History List  |  History Camp


Sites and museums to visit

Historic Newton maintains two museums – the Jackson Homestead and the Durant-Kenrick House. On Sunday, March 17 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. history camp attendees can visit either or both of our museums at the Newton resident rate- $5 for one site, $8 for both.

A documented stop on the Underground Railroad, The Jackson Homestead and Museum displays rotating and permanent exhibits about the history of Newton, Massachusetts, and the Underground Railroad.

At the Durant-Kenrick House and Grounds, you’ll find a 1734 farmhouse, restored and renovated in 2013 to present stories about colonial life, the Revolutionary War, slavery, abolitionism, the birth of American horticulture, and the historic preservation movement.
Both sites have ample parking and are accessible.


Special events and discounted admission Sunday

For the last two years individuals and local institutions have offered special tours, programs, and discounted admission for attendees. Each institution sets their own terms and collects fees in whatever manner they choose. If you have an event or program to offer, please contact me with details and I will add it here. (Browse the list at the bottom of this page for what was offered at History Camp Boston 2018.)


Register for History Camp Boston 2019

If the registration form doesn’t appear below, please register on our page on Eventbrite.