History Camp Boston 2018

Saturday, July 7, 2018
Suffolk University Law School

Now in its fifth year, History Camp Boston 2018 was held Saturday, July 7 at Suffolk University Law School—just across the street from the Old Granary Burying Ground and a short walk from Boston Common. On Sunday, July 8, there will be additional programming by local historic sites and history organizations. And to really make the most of your trip, arrive early and spend the Fourth in Boston!

History Camp brings together people from all walks of life who are passionate about history. 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.”


Tour Buddy Historic Tours App—Bring your history alive in the Tour Buddy Historic Tours App or your own app. A collection of high quality audio walking and driving tours. Learn more about how Tour Buddy helps historic sites and history organizationsThank you to Tour Buddy for helping to underwrite History Camp Boston 2018. If your organization is interested in participating, please contact Lee Wright.

History Camp Boston 2018—Sessions

The Founding Fathers and Covert Operations

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

View video of session

George Washington once said that “there are some secrets, on the keeping of which so, depends, oftentimes, the salvation of an Army: secrets which cannot, at least ought not to, be entrusted to paper; nay, which none but the Commander-in-Chief at the time, should be acquainted with.” Washington was not only the father of his country, he was America’s first intelligence director. Significantly, Washington’s first major expenditure after taking command of the Continental Army was the payment of $333.33 to send an agent “into the town of Boston to establish secret correspondence.”

Following the ratification of the Constitution, President Washington requested a “secret service fund” in his first annual message to Congress. This appropriation of $40,000 allowed the president to conduct sensitive operations without providing an accounting of those expenditures to Congress. Building on this foundation, Thomas Jefferson authorized the first American mission to overthrow a foreign head of state, used private citizens for intelligence operations, proposed burning down St. Paul’s Cathedral in retaliation for the burning of the White House, and used covert operations as a centerpiece of his policy toward Native Americans.

In the 41 years between the time that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence to when James Madison left the White House, the nascent US government authorized an astounding number of covert operations. These covert actions included kidnapping, bribing foreign leaders, using clergy and media for intelligence purposes, overthrowing a foreign government, and assisting various insurgencies.


The April 19, 1775 Evacuation of Lexington and Concord

Alexander Cain, Author, We Stood Our Ground: Lexington in the First Year of the American Revolution and I See Nothing but the Horrors of a Civil War. (mcalpin77@gmail.com, https://historicalnerdery01.blogspot.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.


The Salem Witchcraft Trials and Ergot, the “Moldy Bread” Hypothesis

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

View video of session

On April 2, 1976, Science Magazine published an article by Linnda R. Caporeal which posited that during the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, the visions of specters and painful physical sensations described by the girls who claimed to be afflicted by witches could have been caused, instead, from eating bread made with flour tainted by ergot, a naturally occurring fungal hallucinogen that grows on rye grain under certain growing conditions. It was debunked immediately and soundly by experts because the historical and medical data used to support the hypothesis was cherry-picked.

More than four decades later, however, this interpretation is still pervasive. In this session you’ll learn where this explanation of a lurid chapter in American history was born and how it became cemented in the public imagination. It’s a case study in how people come to believe myths about historical events.


Behind the Devil’s Shield: Counter-Magic in Early New England

View video of session

Alyssa G. A. Conary, MA history candidate (alyssagaconary@gmail.com) at Salem State University and President & co-founder of the Salem Historical Society

Early New England ministers took a hard line against the practice of magic. All magic, whether harmful or beneficial in intention, was believed to be demonic. The archaeological, architectural, and documentary records show us that things weren’t so black and white for their congregations. This lecture will explore evidence for the practice of protective counter-magic in seventeenth and eighteenth-century New England, including witch bottles, deliberate concealments, and ritual marks on historic timber.


James Madison Reflects on Efforts and Circumstances Surrounding the Ratification of the US Constitution in its Anniversary “30th year” of 1818

Kyle Jenks (kyle@greatlittlemadison.com) is a professional interpreter of Pres. James Madison (greatlittlemadison.com and facebook.com/PresidentMadison) and a member of the League of Most Interesting Gentlemen.

Pres. James Madison will take you back to July 7, 1788, after Virginia ratified the U.S. Constitution and before New York had done so. Madison, who was involved in both processes, will reveal the anonymous identity of Publius, the three co-authors of the Federalist essays, provide a synopsis of the Federalist essay campaign, explain the reason for anonymity, describe the tenuous nature of the ratification process, and offer his perspectives on the events.


Robert Smalls, From Slave to American Civil War Hero

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.

View video of session

In May 1862, Robert Smalls, an enslaved ship’s pilot in Charleston, South Carolina, crafted a daring plan to steal the steamship Planter and deliver it, along with the crew and their families, to the Union blockade. After risking his life to escape slavery, Robert faced an even more difficult challenge: convincing Abraham Lincoln to enlist black troops. He returned to serve the Union on many missions (including the Battle of Charleston) as a ship’s pilot. In this session, Patrick will relate the powerful and inspirational story of a young man who became the first black captain of a US military ship, while struggling to navigate a path to freedom for himself, his family, and his people.


Henry Wilson: Natick Cobbler to Vice-President

Joe Weisse (tvconversations@yahoo.com), Natick Historical Society

Henry Wilson was born February 16, 1812, in Farmington, New Hampshire, as Jeramiah Jones Colbath. From a poor family, he was indentured to a nearby farmer for 11 years. At the age of 21, he changed his name to Henry Wilson and walked to live the rest of his life as a resident of Natick Massachusetts. He learned and manufactured shoes with his 10-foot shop still standing in Natick. Wilson served in both houses of the State Legislature and was a Colonel in the Army 22nd first artillery Brigade Massachusetts. A Senator from Massachusetts (1855-1873) he was known as the Natick cobbler. Wilson was Vice-President to Ulysses S. Grant, March 4, 1873 to his death just off the Senate floor on November 22, 1875. A longtime abolitionist and supporter of rights for every individual, he stood for principle not party.


Heroic Souls: Puritan Women as the First American Individuals

Lori Stokes, Ph.D. (lori.stokes@comcast.net)

View video of session

“…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 gave in her Puritan church in Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay Colony in the late 1630s. These spiritual autobiographies, or relations, as they were called, were required of any person wishing to join the church as a full member. Minister Thomas Shepard recorded the relations of 31 women in his congregation between 1638 and 1649.

In these women’s relations, 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 gave relations in the Shepard church 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.


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 Chautauqua Movement in New England and the Now Forgotten Framingham Chautauqua

Anita Danker, Author and Lecturer, adanker@assumption.edu and danker54@rcn.com

View video of session

A century and a half ago Framingham was a destination vacation venue where thousands of middle-class folk relaxed and recharged in a bucolic setting replete with ponds, woodlands, and gingerbread cottages.  Now largely forgotten, the New England Chautauqua was well-known and widely written about.  Thousands attended from throughout New England.  We’ll take a look at the fascinating history of the chautauqua movement, how the Framingham Chautauqua came into being, how it grew, who attended, what people experienced, and why this major summer event here in Massachusetts ended while it continues in New York.


The Founding Fathers and the Electoral College

Tara Ross, Author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule; We Elect a President: The Story of our Electoral College; and, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State. (FacebookTwitterInstagramwebsite, and Amazon Author Page)

View video of session

This session will explore the true history of the Electoral College. What were the delegates to the Constitutional Convention trying to accomplish? Were they concerned about 18th-century travel and communication difficulties or did they have other considerations in mind? What other alternatives did they consider?  What (if anything) did they really say about the institution of slavery during their debates about presidential selection? Did the Founders expect electors to vote in accordance with the states’ popular votes? What surprising expectation did they have about the back-up presidential election procedure in the House of Representatives? Tara will address all these questions—and more.


At Home with Louis Comfort Tiffany: When Tiffany Came to Boston

Jeanne Pelletier, Preservation Advisor, The Campaign for the Ayer Mansion, Inc.

View video of session

While known today primarily for his elaborate lamps, favrile vases, and magnificent stained glass, Louis Comfort Tiffany was in his day also a sought-after interior designer, pioneering the concept of the house and home as an artistic masterwork. An amazingly versatile artist with an equally powerful ego, Tiffany applied his design skills successfully to a wide range of media, including metalwork, mosaic, plaster, woodwork, furniture, and architecture, as well as stained glass.

Entrepreneur and art-collector Frederick Ayer and his second wife, Ellen Banning Ayer, scandalized Boston society by bringing this innovative New Yorker to Boston to design their exotic new residence. Preservationist Jeanne Pelletier explores Tiffany’s ground-breaking interior and architectural work using images of his lost designs as well as his sole surviving residential commission, Boston’s Ayer Mansion, built in 1899-1902.


George Washington and the Separation of Church and State in the Early Days of the Republic

Tara Ross, Author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule; We Elect a President: The Story of our Electoral College; and, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State. (FacebookTwitterInstagramwebsite, and Amazon Author Page)

The founding generation rejected the “wall of separation between Church & State” when it was initially proposed by Jefferson. The prevailing view was closer to Washington’s, who faced questions about this repeatedly, from his days as a young officer in the Virginia Regiment, to colonial legislator, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, head of the Constitutional Convention, and president of the United States. This session will discuss the questions that confronted Washington during his lifetime, how his views evolved, and the way in which his approach to this fundamental issue remains important today.


Great History Podcasts: How to Find Them and How to Create Your Own

Edward T. O’Donnell, Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College host of the popular American history podcast, In The Past Lane (www.InThePastLane.com). He is the author of Visions of America: A History of the United States, and other books. www.EdwardTODonnell.com

History podcasts range from engaging history storytelling (The Memory Palace) to long form history narratives (Hard Core History), from entertaining history myth busting (Professor Buzzkill) to serious academic history (Ben Franklin’s World). While it’s easy to start a podcast, it’s quite challenging to create a successful podcast that attracts a following.

This session will cover: Reasons to start a history podcast; How to create a history podcast, from concept and format to equipment and software; and How to market your podcast and expand your audience.


The History Podcaster Panel

Edward T. O’Donnell, In The Past Lane ( www.InThePastLane.com), Jake Sconyers, HUB History(www.HUBhistory.com), Liz Covart, Ben Franklin’s World (www.BenFranklinsWorld.com), Mick Sullivan, The Past and the Curious (www.thepastandthecurious.com), and Tracy V. Wilson, Stuff You Missed in History Class (www.missedinhistory.com) each describe how they got started, what it took to get where they are today, and some of the lessons they’ve learned along the way. After short presentations from each of the panelists there will be a time for questions from the audience.

View video of session


How to Use Images to Teach History: An introduction to the SIGHT Method

Edward T. O’Donnell, Associate Professor of History at Holy Cross College host of the popular American history podcast, In The Past Lane (www.InThePastLane.com). He is the author of Visions of America: A History of the United States, and other books. (www.EdwardTODonnell.com)

The SIGHT© method is a program developed during two decades of conducting teacher workshops and teaching students. The session includes 50+ vintage photographs, etchings, maps, cartoons, and historical documents.

Parents, teachers, interpreters, and guides can use the SIGHT method to bring to life a topic’s essential content, draw out the critical questions, concepts, and ideas of a given historical era, find and use visual primary sources on their own, develop simulations, projects, and debates based on historical images, and improve their student’s writing skills by fashioning assignments based on historical images. Those in the audience or in the classroom gain visual literacy, retain better essential historical concepts and content, enhance their skills in critical analysis and interpretation, make links between written and visual primary sources, develop an appreciation for the complexity of history, and develop historical empathy and resist present-mindedness.


From Pride to Protest to Rebellion: Tea in the American Colonies, From the Seven Years War Through the Revolutionary War

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

The Townshend Acts in 1767 put taxes on a wide variety of goods including tea, cloth, paint, paper, and glass. The tax on tea would later lead to the event we know as the Boston Tea Party when 90,000 pounds of tea were dumped in Boston Harbor. But why was tea the commodity that created the most protests? And was more than just tea being thrown overboard that night in Boston?

This session begins with the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 when tea and tea sets were becoming exciting commodities for British colonists to purchase and to show off to family and neighbors alike. By the 1770s, however, tea and tea sets had become a touchstone for the arrival of the American Revolution, something to be publicly avoided, if not downright destroyed. Through the use of paintings, newspaper articles, and the leaves of Samuel Johnson’s “fascinating plant,” this session will explore these changes and what they can tell us about tea drinking and its changing role in the lives of British North America colonists.


The Real Story Behind the Hollywood Afghan War Epic, Twelve Strong: The True Declassified Story of the Horse Soldiers

Brian Glyn Williams (bwilliams@umassd.edu and http://www.brianglynwilliams.com), Professor of History, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, and author, The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warrior who Led US Special Forces to Topple the Taliban Regime

For four summers Professor Brian Glyn Williams roamed the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan retracing a covert operation that saw U.S. Green Beret Special Forces unite with ancient Mongol Uzbek horse warriors to fight the common Taliban foe in 2001. The result of his fieldwork and embed was his book, The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warrior who Led US Special Forces to Topple the Taliban Regime.

Dr. Williams, who has worked extensively in Afghanistan for the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center and US Army’s Information Operations, will describe the story behind the events covered in his book and discuss working with a major Hollywood producer (Jerry Bruckheimer) and studio (Warner Bros.) to bring his historical account to the screen.


Meriwether Lewis’s Survey at Cumberland Gap: or What’s up with the 36-30 Line of North Latitude between Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee?

Lorna Hainesworth (lornament@comcast.net), Ambassador and National Traveler, Lifetime member of the Surveyors Historical Society and the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, founding member of the Lewis and Clark Trust, associate member of the Department of the Geographer and the District of Columbia Association of Land Surveyors.

View video of session

Why is the line between these four states so crooked? What are the reasons for so many anomalies? Where was the line supposed to be? Who is responsible for the dividing line? When did all this happen? Were there controversies or problems with the location of the line? If so, what resolutions were enacted? Given the technology we have today, why haven’t steps been taken to straighten the line? This session will present a talk on the dividing line between Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, which will describe all the involved issues and will answer the above questions plus describe a little known survey conducted by Meriwether Lewis in November 1806 near present-day Cumberland Gap.


Freeing Fayza: A Professor’s Journey to ISIS-Controlled Iraq to Help Free a “Pagan” Slave Girl

Brian Glyn Williams (bwilliams@umassd.edu and http://www.brianglynwilliams.com), Professor of History, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, and author, The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warrior who Led US Special Forces to Topple the Taliban Regime

In the summer of 2016, Professor Brian Glyn Williams returned to war-torn Iraq to visit the Yazidis, a dying race whose lands were brutally conquered by ISIS fanatics in 2014. There he visited Yazidi refugee camps and met with members of this ancient race who worship Mesopotamian gods forgotten over the centuries. But his real goal was to help free on one of the thousands of Yazidi slave girls captured by ISIS and taken to Mosul.

As Mosul fell to fury of US bombs and Iraqi troops, Dr. Williams had an urgent mission to free one girl by buying her from her ISIS captor who was negotiating to sell her to arrange his own escape from the doomed city. On this visit and a previous journey to this land, Professor Williams had the rare opportunity to visit the Yazidis’ ancient stone temple overlooking the battlefield where Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire and met with their high priest. He also did an embed on the frontlines with Kurdish Peshmerga (“Those Who Face Death”) fighters facing off against ISIS. There he had the pleasure of meeting Kurdish female snipers and the Kurds’ legendary general Shirwan Barzani, the “Black Tiger.”


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

Lori Lyn Price (BridgingThePast@gmail.com and BridgingThePast.com), 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.


The Corpse in the Cellar: or, the Posthumous Adventures of Sheriff George Corwin

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. She has also contributed to the definitive collection of court documents, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt.

View video of session

Among his other activities in 1692, Sheriff George Corwin conducted several controversial confiscations of the accused’s goods, including over £1,180-worth belonging to merchant Philip English.  Jailed on a witchcraft charge, Philip and Mary English, the richest couple in Salem, escaped to New York until the panic ended. When they returned to find both house and warehouse picked clean, English sued Corwin for debt, but Corwin died. Tradition claims English then stole the late sheriff’s dead body as collateral until the debt was paid. Can there be any truth to this story, or is it just fake news?


The Lost Mill Towns of South County

Mark Kenneth Gardner (gardner.mark.k@gmail.com) Public historian, public educator, and archivist for the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society. @HistoryGardner and LinkedIn Page

Mills are essential elements of the New England’s historical landscape. The birth of the Industrial Revolution at Slater’s Mill in Pawtucket Rhode Island and the rapid industrialization and urbanization along the state’s larger rivers is a well-known story. But in southern Rhode Island, the rivers were smaller, and industrialization did not support the growth of large urban centers. To this day, most of Washington County’s 563 square miles (or as most residents call it, South County) are still characteristically rural. However the Wood, Pawcatuck, and Saugatucket Rivers of South County supported a robust industrial economy that emerged from pre-industrial mill seats and existed hand-in-hand with local farms well into the twentieth century. Some of the mill towns that emerged were sizable, with manufactories several stories high and employing upwards of one hundred people or more. Meanwhile smaller, so-called “shoddy mills” were the industrial nexus of numerous villages that dotted the agrarian landscape from the western border with Connecticut to Narragansett Bay.

South County’s local mill economy ended after the Second World War. At many sites, an abandoned factory or a stone dam surrounded by some number of mill houses tell the tale of past industrial aspirations and factory closures, while little if anything remains at the site of many of the small mill villages. But across the region some mills and former mill buildings continue to breathe life into the economy, re-purposed in a variety of ways. Some have continued manufacturing, relying on a combination of workers, computers and automation; others have become community working spaces and still others have become living museums or artist communes. This presentation seeks to detail both what has been lost to the sands of time and how some mills and communities have persevered in South County’s largely rural but certainly post-industrial landscape.


The Redcoats Have Come: Getting to Know the British Soldiers Who Arrived in Boston in 1768

J. L. Bell is the author of The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War and Boston 1775 (boston1775.net)

View video of session

In October 1768, 250 years ago, two British army regiments disembarked on Boston’s Long Wharf, sent by the London government to protect the customs service. A few weeks later, two more regiments arrived. Some of those soldiers brought their wives and children. After that major influx of people, Boston contained one armed soldier for every two local white men. People on both sides were soon complaining about violence and crime. But soldiers also found jobs in local shops and married in Boston churches. American histories often treat those redcoats as a faceless mass, but they were individuals, and we can glimpse some of their stories through period sources.


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.


Ghosts and Graffiti: Superstition and Belief in the Fairbanks House

Daniel Neff (curatordaniel@fairbankshouse.org), Curator, The Fairbanks House

View video of session

The Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA is the oldest wooden structure still standing in all of North America – the Fairbanks family lived there for eight generations over 267 years. That’s plenty of time for the family to develop some very strongly held convictions. Many ideas that today we consider superstitious or fanciful they thought of as very really and potentially very dangerous. Someone in the family, probably multiple generations, had a really strong belief in the power of folk magic—they may have also thought a family member was possessed. Throughout the house there are hex marks (ritual carvings designed to protect the house and its occupants from evil) and evidence of spiritual middens (piles of special objects, often hidden in the walls, meant to ward off spirits). There are also numbers, tally marks, and even names written on and carved into the walls. We’ll take a look at all the marks and objects hidden throughout the house and the beliefs behind them.


Photography and Finding the Ancient and Medieval in New England [Cancelled due to illness]

Kisha G. Tracy (ktracy3@fitchburgstate.edu), Associate Professor, English Studies, Fitchburg State University; Project Leader, Cultural Heritage through Image; @kosho22, Facebook group, and website

View the slides for the presentation

Cultural heritage is all around us—in our historical and religious sites, our museums, our monuments, our cemeteries, our traditions. What we do not often think about is how and why heritage has been created, protected, and preserved throughout history. In this interactive session, we will take a photo journey through New England that will reveal how ancient to medieval heritage connects to the local, how the stories of the more distant past are echoed in the more recent. This deeper understanding will enrich your future travels throughout New England, providing a new way to look at history and heritage. Attendees will participate in the Cultural Heritage through Image digital community exhibition (http://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net).


Mad For Glory: the 1813 Origins of American Nation-Building and Imperialism

Robert Booth (bodjo71@gmail.com), author, Mad For Glory (Tilbury House, 2015)

In 1813, during the confusion of the War of 1812, two charismatic Americans played out a Pacific drama of nation-building and imperialism—the first instances of these pursuits by Americans.

Without authorization, Capt. David Porter, USN, took the 32-gun Navy frigate Essex into the Pacific—then not a theatre of the war in the conflict with Great Britain—on a cruise that would turn into the longest and strangest naval adventure in our history, with the Essex and its 300 men fighting a separate war of privateering among British whalers and foreign conquest in Polynesia.

In Chile, U.S. Consul General Joel Roberts Poinsett met Captain Porter in the seaport of Valparaiso on the eve of revolution. Cut off from Washington by the high wall of the Andes, Poinsett, chief advisor to Chile’s rebel president, had drafted an American-style constitution and agreed to lead the Chilean nationalist army against the forces of the Spanish king. Poinsett believed that President Madison had sent the Essex to bring about an independent Chile and initiate the liberation of all of South America; but Porter sailed off over the horizon, bent on his own purposes, leaving Poinsett without naval support. In the end, Porter (returning later to Chile) and Poinsett—one of them brilliantly deceitful and the other dangerously idealistic—had to rely on each other to keep the British from achieving their imperial goals in Chile and the larger Pacific world.


The Marblehead Women’s Takeover of Their Town in the mid-19th Century

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)

Marblehead began the 1800s in poverty and so it remained for decades, mired in a no-growth death-trip maritime culture that was finally transformed not by the town fathers but by the town’s mothers. Dolly Churchill, who survived sexual shaming in Salem, moved to Marblehead and used the new sect of Methodism to bring about an uprising against the male establishment, followed by Debbie Millett, daughter of a poor fisherman, who left a memoir of her experiences.

Starting in the 1820s and invoking the principle of women-power introduced by Churchill and Millett, hundreds of working-class Marblehead women applied the means of production of the industrial revolution to reframe the town’s economy, saving many men and boys from the lethal (and unprofitable) business of deep-sea fishing and bringing themselves into the workforce and their daughters into the public schools. Their achievement was forgotten—or suppressed—by later historians. This is believed to be the first instance of women as the chief actors in effecting permanent cultural and economic change in a Massachusetts town.


The Forgotten Philanthropist

Erik Bauer (Bauer@noblnet.org and @hipster818) archivist, Peabody Institute Library

When we think of philanthropist names like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates & Melinda Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Solomon R. Guggenheim and J. Paul Getty come to mind among many others. One name that often gets over looked is George Peabody who by many is considered “the father of modern philanthropy.” Peabody’s legacy has been lost to time and is generally only remember in New England and England. This session looks to at who George Peabody was and what his legacy is and look at why his name has been forgotten to United States history.


The New England Lighthouse Storm

John Horrigan (johnhorrigan@hotmail.com), five-time Boston/New England Emmy Award-winning folklorist and historian. www.usfolklore.com

On April 16th, 1851, a fierce nor’easter tore into Cape Cod Bay and brought the highest tides ever seen in this region up to that the time, easily exceeding the legendary high tides of 1723. That evening, the newly-constructed Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse, off the coast of Cohasset, was pounded by gale force winds and torrential rain, which weakened the tower’s iron support stanchions and eventually caused the edifice to topple into the boiling surf. The lighthouse keeper (John Bennett) had been in Boston at the time of the storm and had left two assistants, Joseph Wilson and Joseph Antoine, to mind the tower during his absence. At dawn the following day, as Bennett gazed out at the ledge, he could only see bent iron pilings where the lighthouse once stood. It was a tragic yet heroic story, as his two assistants managed to keep the lighthouse lamp burning as late as 10:00 PM, and somehow managed to ring the fog bell one last time, before they were swept away in the breakers.


Charles & Mary Wild: A 19th Century Brookline Family and the World in Which They Lived

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

Dr. Charles Wild, a Harvard-educated homeopathic physician, and his wife Mary Johanna Wild, built a home at the foot of Brookline’s Aspinwall Hill in 1822. Their son, Edward Augustus Wild, also a doctor, served as a medical officer in the army of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War and, during the American Civil War, commanded Union troops made up of freed slaves in North Carolina. The house, still standing and recently restored, remained in the family until 1868. The Wilds’ life in Brookline—their family and social relations, the clothes they made and the food they ate, the books they read and the concerts and lectures they attended—and the world of the 19th century emerges through their letters, the doctor’s ledger book, and diaries. The 1851-1865 diary of Mary Johanna Wild was recently digitized by Boston College and transcribed and annotated by Brookline Historical Society head Ken Liss.


War, Espionage, and Intrigue—Dr. Warren on the Eve of Revolution

Dr. Sam Forman (@DrSamForman), is the author of Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty and 21 Heroes. http://www.drjosephwarren.com/

View video of session

Warren was a dynamic Boston Patriot leader early in the American Revolution. Lionized in his day as a politician, public speaker, physician, mason, soldier, and ladies’ man, his legacy has been experiencing resurgence in recent years. Join Dr. Warren’s biographer n revisiting a dynamic life from the Founding era. On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of History Camp, this is a reprise of a popular talk from History Camp’s first year.


Revolutionary Reformers: Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement

Barbara F. Berenson (barbara.f.berenson@gmail.com, http://barbarafberenson.com/) is the author of Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement: Revolutionary Reformers and a Senior Attorney at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

There is much more to the woman suffrage campaign than Seneca Falls, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Learn about Massachusetts’ role at the center of the national struggle for women’s right to vote. Long before the Civil War, Lucy Stone and other local abolitionists opposed women’s exclusion from political life. They launched the organized movement at the first National Women’s Rights Convention, held in Worcester in 1850. After the war, state activists founded the Boston-based American Woman Suffrage Association and Woman’s Journal to lead campaigns across the country. Their activities laid the foundation for the next generation of suffragists to triumph over tradition. The talk will also cover the battle over race and historical memory that has long obscured the state’s leading role.


The Really Wild West of 1789: An Epic Pioneer Adventure across Racial and Geographic Frontiers of the American Revolutionary Era

Dr. Sam Forman (@DrSamForman), is the author of Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty and 21 Heroes. http://www.drjosephwarren.com/

In 1789, General “Black David” Forman, George Washington’s prickly eyes, ears, and bullying strong arm in the Northern New Jersey guerilla war against Loyalists, becomes disenchanted with post-Revolutionary War America. He determines to send his sixty slaves west and south to Spanish West Florida. It is during the Northwest Indian War, when Natives have the upper hand. Complications ensue, including the imperious general himself embarking on a round trip to Natchez in the Mississippi Territory, only to return dead and pickled in a barrel of rum.

This talk is based on research for the author’s next book, Red, White, Brown, and Black: an Epic Pioneer Adventure across Racial and Geographic Frontiers of Revolutionary America. It is the recovery of a little-known travel diary, retold for modern readers with added African-American, Native American, and Latino colonial perspectives. In this true American origin tale, North becomes South, by choice of some, compulsion of others, over fierce Indian resistance, and with Spanish encouragement.


Side by Side, Women in a Changing Fitchburg

Susan Navarre, Executive Director, Fitchburg Historical Society

View video of session

Women’s lives in Fitchburg in the decades around 1900 are examined in a talk that compares the experiences of middle class, native-born women and the lives of French-Canadian and Italian immigrants in a city that was quickly growing and transforming during this period. You’ll hear anecdotes from the life stories, memoirs, letters and other resources discovered in the Society’s archives while also building upon recent research from the region.


Woman, the Bicycle and the Vote

Colleen Janz (colleen.e.janz@gmail.com), previously Executive Director of the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum

As the dynamics of citizenship and civic duty were changing, women embraced the mobility with the 2 level wheeled bicycle. Susan B. Anthony once said, “I think bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world”; Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaimed, “Woman is riding to Suffrage on the bicycle”; and Frances Willard promoted the use of the wheel by saying, “She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.” Woman on a bicycle became symbolic of woman propelling herself forward to suffrage. This presentation will expand on the impact of this technological advancement in everyday lives and participation in reform.


Vikings in New York and Delaware

Tara ManciniCalicos, Camelots and Swords (17thcenturynewyork.blogspot.com)

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.


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

Tara ManciniCalicos, Camelots and Swords (17thcenturynewyork.blogspot.com)

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.


Celebrating America’s 250th

Jon Grabelle Herman, executive director of USA250, and Bob Allison, Chair of Revolution 250, the Massachusetts organizing committee discuss their organizations, visions, plans, and planning processes in the lead up to 2026.


The Filling of Boston’s Back Bay

Will Holton, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Northeastern University.

View video of session

The land mass that makes up the city of Boston is today many times larger 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.


Printing and Revolution: The role of printers in Revolutionary Boston

Gary Gregory, founder and proprietor of Edes & Gill and Lessons on Liberty

Printers played a critical role in both reporting what was happening in Boston and elsewhere in the colonies, and in fomenting Revolution. In this session, Gary Gregory, who has recreated Edes & Gill, one of the most consequential print shops in Revolutionary Boston, takes us through the history of printing in the colonies and the role that notable printers played from before the Revolution through the adoption of the Constitution. Gary will also discuss his most recent project, which was a five-year-long effort to find and reproduce broadside of the Constitution that was distributed in Boston prior to ratification.


Alexander Twilight: The Unfamiliar African American Who Hid His Race For Life

Gabrielle Anzalone and Esme Kimber (alexandertwilightgirls@gmail.com )

Alexander Twilight was born on September 23, 1795 in Corinth, Vermont into a mixed race family. He became the first African American to graduate from an American college and the first to join a state legislature. He was a dedicated principal and educator, who ran his own school called Orleans County Grammar School. You can still visit the school today in Brownington, Vermont. From the day he was born to the end of his life, he faced many challenges, but none so big as his race.

Twilight’s conflicts turned out to be much more complex. Alexander changed the course of history but wasn’t recognized until long after he had died. Ironically, he had to pose as a white man to become the first African American college graduate and state legislator. We can guess that his race must have been a hard secret to keep, but it likely enabled him to do many other things that an African American would never dream of at that time. For his own safety and to allow him to reach his goals, he decided to give up his family’s race, trading it for a white man’s life. Alexander Twilight rose above all of the conflicts he had to face in life, and decided locking his race up in a box was worth it.

This talk is based on our exhibit, which was awarded first place in the Junior Group at this year’s Vermont History Day.


The British Boston Garrison, 1774-1776

Don N. Hagist (dhagist@mail.com), Editor, Journal of the American Revolution and author of British Soldiers, American War (Westholme, 2012)

By the end of 1775, there were some ten thousand British soldiers in Boston. Who were these men? Where did they come from, what did they do before joining the army, how long did they serve? What became of them? Using a combination of statistical information and personal stories, this presentation will give an overview of the types of men who wore red coats, encamped on Boston Common, and went on to fight an eight-year war.


Using the Hancock Door to Unlock Unheard Historical Voices

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

View video of session

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.

There were be a special presentation Sunday for History Camp, but registration is required and the number of spots is very limited. See below for details.


Why We Need Open Digital Heritage

Amy Barlow, Assistant Professor and Librarian, Rhode Island College, and Taylor M. Polites, Community Practitioner in Residence, Swearer Center, Brown University. (abarlow@ric.edu and taylor_polites@brown.edu)

The emergence of digital resources that anyone can use media for their own projects is an exciting development, but not all digital collections are open and accessible. How do researchers navigate the opportunities and constraints of digital heritage while also recognizing the limits imposed by intellectual property and the commodification of digital sources? Two panelists will offer their perspectives on the creation of open digital resources in view of their current projects. Taylor Polites will discuss the Pond Street Project, a historic site investigation that proposes a comprehensive digital archive focused on a Providence neighborhood that was drastically altered by redevelopment programs of the mid-20th century. Amy Barlow will discuss Opening Act, a Rhode Island Council for the Humanities-sponsored project that will make a local family’s vaudeville archive accessible to the public through digitization and contributions to Wikipedia.


Board to Death: The Hidden Leadership Crisis in Public History and What We Do About It

Discussion leader: Emerson W. Baker (@EmersonWBaker) is a Professor of History at Salem State University and the author of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience.

Originally scheduled: Taylor Stoermer (@TaylorStoermer) Lecturer in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Adviser to the Walt Disney Companies—Unable to attend due to illness

Original session description: An evaluation and discussion of recent case studies in heritage site management that have resulted in controversy and crisis, as well as several success stories that illustrate the central point: Misguided directors and ill-informed boards are undermining the efforts of front-line staff, who have never been better prepared or more engaged with current trends in the practice of public history. But not always. Particular sites that are likely to be discussed include the Peabody Essex Museum, the Old North Church, Orchard House, Old Sturbridge Village, the Henry Knox Museum, the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, and the Royall House and Slave Quarters.


How Could Placemaking Apply to Local History?

Gavin Kleespies, Director of Programs, Massachusetts Historical Society (gkleespies@masshist.org) and Nancy Heywood, Digital Projects Coordinator, Massachusetts Historical Society (nheywood@masshist.org)

“Placemaking” is a collaborative process by which people work together to improve and reinvent public spaces to strengthen communities.  The non-profit organization, Project for Public Spaces (PPS), has identified what makes a successful place: access & linkages, comfort & image; uses & activities; and sociability.   PPS has articulated key steps that put people on track to transform their public places:  identify the community stakeholders;  evaluate the space and identify issues; establish a place vision; short term experiments (including “lighter/quicker/cheaper” actions); and commit to  ongoing reevaluation.  How could history and/or historical places benefit from this people-centered approach to placemaking?  Please come explore and learn the concepts about Placemaking, see some examples, and participate in a brainstorming session. How could  approach could benefit specific historical areas in your communities?  What challenges to do you see if/when your community attempted to implement this technique of improving communities from the ground up.


When Legal Law Contradicts Moral Law: The Oberlin Riot of 1858

Robert Galante (www.historydr.com), award-winning teacher

When an anti-slavery mob attacked a federal marshal in Ohio in 1858 to free the escaped slave he had arrested, the union was tested to the breaking point. The Oberlin Riot further divided the nation’s sections and accelerated the slide to civil war. Revisit this pivotal moment in American history when legal law conflicted with moral law and cut to the core of the national soul. Join an award-winning history teacher to learn the facts, issues and historical significance of a searing event in the tension-filled decade of the 1850’s. War was on the horizon, and this story reveals a lot about why.


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.


Where We Are: Public History Through Maps

Jill Swan (jswan@leventhalmap.org) Gallery Coordinator, Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center, and Connie  Chin (cchin@leventhalmap.org) President, Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center.

As historians, we think we know how to use cartographic materials as valuable primary sources to learn about changing cultural perspectives, as well as geography. But how does the public approach maps? The Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center, set in a high traffic location in the Boston Public Library at Copley Square, offers bi-annual gallery exhibitions which draw 60,000 patrons per thematic show . Drawing on a decade of exhibitions, this session will explore how people engage with maps in a museum setting, and the ways any institution can use cartographic materials to tap into visitors’ curiosity. We’ll look through actual visitor responses to gather learning from our experience of using map exhibitions to illuminate the public’s perceptions of the past, present, and future.


Sunday History Camp


Wharf District Harborwalk

Two-hour walking tour of Boston’s historic wharves by Friends of the Harborwalk’s Liz Nelson Weaver. Meet at 9:30 a.m. on the 2nd floor of the Custom House at 3 McKinley Square. (It’s now a Marriott Hotel, but the 2nd floor is open to the public.) From there, we will stop on the Greenway before proceeding to Long, Central, India, and Rowes wharves to discover their rich history.


Boston’s Back Bay: The 19th Century’s Greatest Infrastructure Project

During the Victorian era, the Back Bay was transformed from a polluted salt marsh to the Grande Dame of Boston’s neighborhoods. Join us as we trace the social and civil engineering of the Back Bay on this stroll from Boston’s colonial coastline at the foot of Boston Common to the heart of the “new” neighborhood in Copley Square. This two-hour tour uses period maps and photos to illuminate the geography, immigration patterns, and technological advances that explain the history of the Back Bay.

Jake Sconyers, host of the Boston history podcast HUB History and former Back Bay tour guide, will be your guide on this two-hour walk that covers about a mile.  Meet at 10 am inside the gate of Boston Common at the corner of Beacon and Charles Streets. The cost is $15/person.


Founders Trail Walking Tour

Follow in the footsteps of early Bostonians on this 90 minute walking tour.  Hear the story of early leaders and visit the places where they lived, worshiped, and governed, including the Founders Memorial, the sites of the Great Spring and the First Meeting House, the Province House Steps, and more.  The tour begins in Boston Commons, ends at Faneuil Hall, and covers slightly more than one mile.


Performances and programs

Cato & Dolly: Special performance and discussion for History Camp attendees

12:30-1:30 p.m., Old State House at 206 Washington Street

The program is free to History Camp Boston participants, but there is a cap of 30 people. Cato & Dolly is an original 20-minute play written by Patrick Gabridge and directed by Courtney O’Connor that is performed at the historic Old State House. History Camp participants will have the opportunity to be among the first to see the play on its opening weekend. Attendees will then sit down for about 40 minutes with the playwright and director to discuss the historical background of this important work, which focuses on lesser-known members of the Hancock household: Cato, an enslaved man, and Dolly, Mrs. Dorothy Quincy Hancock.

The program is free to History Camp participants, and includes entry to the Old State House’s newest exhibition: Through the Keyhole: How the Objects We Save, Shape the Stories We Remember.


“Stuff You Missed in History Class” Live Podcast: John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams Abroad

2 – 3 pm, The Beale Estate Lawn, 181 Adams St. in Quincy

Hosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey from the “Stuff You Missed in History Class” podcast are recording a live podcast about the lives of John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams abroad. The event is free to all.


Historic Sites and Museums

The Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library at Copley Square

700 Boylston Street, Boston

Includes their new exhibit, Breathing Room: Mapping Boston’s Green Spaces, which explores the history of green and open spaces, including how and why they came to be. www.leventhalmap.org


The Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History on the Regis College campus in Weston

Mention you attended the History Camp Boston and get free admission Sunday or anytime this summer. The museum is open Thursday to Saturday, noon to 5:00. Plenty of history on stamps—but you don’t have to be a stamp collector to enjoy your visit. www.spellmanmuseum.org