Monday, August 31, 2009

Strange Monuments of Mount Auburn

Mount Auburn is full of elaborate monuments, so it's hard for any individual monument to stand out. Regular old angels and marble lace won't cut it.

What will draw attention? A 25-foot edifice embellished with a man-sized urn, giant mastiff, and marble relief panels depicting mail delivery.

This is the grave of William F. Harnden, founder of one of America's first private express companies. In 1839, when Harnden sent his first package, the United States was expanding tremendously, both geographically and economically. Many historians have pointed toward twin revolutions in transportation and communications to explain this growth. Harnden brought both together in his express company — he shipped packages via railroad and steamship. He died in 1845 at age 31.

In order to commemorate Harnden's important work, his family depicted elements of his business on his memorial.
Here we have well-dressed man handing a package to a woman. He seems to have driven to her door in a wagon — the wheel is behind him and she is hatless, suggesting that she is not dressed to leave the house. I find this image a bit surprising because historians generally emphasize the role of mail and railroads in expanding political connections and business opportunities between men. With a slight clothing change, this could be an image of me accepting a UPS package containing a book from Amazon. Did Harnden envision his business as customer-oriented rather than business-oriented? And did he envision his average customer as a woman?

The other relief is a bit more difficult to decipher, but no less interesting:
Here we have a woman (possibly the same woman) indoors, holding a baby and caring for a toddler. Behind her, a man stares out the window. There is a stove on one side of the room and an object in the foreground that might be a little cart (?). The man is resting his hand on a stack of lumpy objects that might be packages.

Is this image meant to show the interior of a house? Of a store? Is our female customer struggling to drag her offspring to the local post office to retrieve her package? Or is the man in the background her husband, waiting wistfully for someone to come and carry his packages away? Is the woman Harnden's wife, harassed by daily cares while he daydreams about deliveries? I don't know, but I'd appreciate any insight you might have. It's worth noting that the woman is still the focus of the image.

In addition to these panels, the monument has several other striking features.
The canopy is emblazoned with four virtues: hope, charity, faith, and justice. These are illustrated with icons — a dove, a cup, a cross, and a wide, staring eye. The eye is a bit jarring. I confess that I was expecting scales.

This dog reminds me of my childhood trips to Civil War battlefields. My parents would encourage us to look for animals on the monuments to keep our interest when we were very young. My sister had a special love for the 11th Pennsylvania's mascot, Sallie, and demanded to visit her statue on every visit.

Brighid and Sallie:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Three Fishers

One of the ideas I'm entertaining for my dissertation has something to do with maritime cemeteries and death at sea. As part of the initial research, I'm looking at 19th-century songs about shipwrecks and listening to modern recordings of these songs when I can find them.

My most recent discovery is a poem/song called "Three Fishers," which was written by Charles Kingsley in 1851. It is truly the most depressing song I have ever heard.

Three fishers went sailing away to the West,
Away to the West as the sun went down;
Each thought on the woman who loved him the best,
And the children stood watching them out of the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And there's little to earn, and many to keep,
Though the harbour bar be moaning.

Three wives sat up in the lighthouse tower,
And they trimmed the lamps as the sun went down;
They looked at the squall, and they looked at the shower,
And the night-rack came rolling up ragged and brown.
But men must work, and women must weep,
Though storms be sudden, and waters deep,
And the harbour bar be moaning.

Three corpses lay out on the shining sands
In the morning gleam as the tide went down,
And the women are weeping and wringing their hands
For those who will never come home to the town;
For men must work, and women must weep,
And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep;
And good-bye to the bar and its moaning.

The first time I heard "Three Fishers" was on Stan Rogers' For the Family. I like Stan Rogers, but his version has an annoying fiddle interlude by Garnet Rogers. In hopes that I might avoid listening to this overwrought instrumental section ever again, I bought several other versions on iTunes.

Having listened to every available recording of "Three Fishers," I am ready to render my professional opinion:

If you are looking for a song about economic privation and drowning/freezing to death in the North Atlantic, you'll never do better than Stan Rogers.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


As of 4:30 this afternoon, I can add ABD to my email signature (though I probably won't).

I don't think I passed my oral exams elegantly or with flying colors, but I did pass. I'm fairly certain that one of my examiners passed me just to be rid of me.
I celebrated by going to Mount Auburn for the first time all summer. This monument caught my eye, perhaps because she reminded me of Dumbledore and his Pensieve. Since I don't have a pensieve, I'll have to empty my mind with a long weekend of ice cream and video games.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Civil War Wives?

This morning, I received an email from Amazon urging me to purchase Carol Berkin's new book, Civil War Wives: The Life and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant.

I suppose that "Civil War Wives" is an apt phrase for the place that Varina Davis and Julia Grant occupy in my mind. But Angelina Grimke? I don't think "wife of Theodore Weld" is among the first things I'd say about her.

Though, I suppose Berkin might investigate the limitations of gender equality within the abolitionist movement, making Grimke-Weld's position as a wife relevant.

It's just a bit of a jarring title.

Dorothea Dix

I am very fond of Dorothea Dix's gravestone at Mount Auburn.

It looks like this:

Everything else at Mount Auburn looks like this:

or this:

When I was in high school, I spent some time transcribing various bits of Dix's Civil War era correspondence in the collections of the University of Connecticut. It was a chore — she had the handwriting of someone who was too busy to bother with the niceties of legibility. I've read many 19th-century letters by women, and they have generally been tidy, pristine exemplars of impeccable penmanship. Dix's letters are blotched with ink and the individual letters are scrawled so large that she can only fit 1/4 of the usual text on a page. That's ok, though, because her correspondence is terse and businesslike — it's very rare that she sticks in any of the usual blandishments or runs over to a second page.

I love her gravestone because it is so like her letters: terse, to the point, and unconcerned with the fripperies of Victorian convention. It stands out at Mount Auburn.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Cat is Famous in France

Someone found this old picture of my cat on Pete's Flickr account and used it for the header of some online book reviews. The cat likes to attack me when I am reading, which is all the time.

I wish I were reading something more dignified than "Anne's House of Dreams."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Study Weekend

I have five days until my exam, so I probably won't post much (if anything) until then.

In the meantime, I recommend
Back to the books.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Name o' the Day

Candy Lovin Welborn,

grandmother of historian Glenda Gilmore. Gilmore's much-read book, Gender and Jim Crow, is dedicated to Candy's memory.

I love the balance of whimsy and dignity in this name. You can't get much cuter than "Candy Lovin," but the "Welborn" reminds you to mind your manners.

Monday, August 17, 2009


I wonder . . .

If I were to invent a pompous title and author name and slip them into the 250+ items on my Seventeenth-Century England general exam list, would anyone notice?

Chesterthorpe, P.R. "Surplices and Sectarians: Harbottle Grimston and the Demise of Antinomianism." Journal of British Studies, 37:2 (1996), 264-89.

Totally plausible.

Sharing a Grave

Usually, when a gravestone is dedicated to more than one person, the people are related. They may be spouses, siblings, or parents with their children.

Very rarely, I come across gravestones where the people are not obviously related. They tend to be young people of the same sex.

In some cases, I think they might be cousins. For example, Elizabeth Titcomb (d. 1781, age 20) and Elizabeth Dummer (d. 1779, age 22) of Newburyport, MA may have been cousins. According to the Newbury Vital Records, Hannah Titcomb married John Dummer in 1755 — she may have been a sister of Elizabeth Titcomb's father, Samuel. I can't tell for sure — all of these North Shore families are entangled and there are multiple Elizabeths, Samuels, Hannahs, and Johns in each generation.
to the Memory
TITCOMB Daughter
of Capt. SAMUEL
TITCOMB and Mrs.
ANNA his wife who
Departed this Life
May 29th 1781 In ye
20th Year of her age
to the Memory
DUMMER Daughter
Esqr. and Mrs.
HANNAH his wife who
Departed this Life
April 19th 1779 In ye
22d Year of her age

In other cases, the deceased do not seem to be relatives. Instead, they are buried together because they died together. For example, Paul Harrington (age 19) and John Ball (age 17) of Waltham, MA drowned together on June 24, 1771:
Here lie ye Remains
Son to Mr. Benjamin
Harrington, &
Mrs. Elizabeth
his Wife.
Aged 19 Years.
Here lie ye Remains
of JOHN BALL, son
to Mr. John Ball
Decd, & Mrs. Anna
his Wife.
Aged 17
These Young Men were both drowned
on the 24th day of June 1771.
"Great God! how awful and how Just
"Thy law that turns our Flesh to Dust!
"O let me learn how frail am I
"And all my life Prepare to die.

This stone is quite beautiful — the carver made the two faces distinctive, though I do not know whether they truly resemble the boys. If they do, that would imply that the carver knew them, that he had portraits of them, or that he was in close enough consultation with the families to get a general description.

Paul Harrington:

John Ball:

Have you ever seen a stone like these?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

101 Ways, Part 100: Bid Adieu to Earthly Scenes

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.

Goodhue Children
Sarah (d. 1819), David (d. 1797), Mary (d. 1800)
Grove Hill Cemetery, Waltham, MA

In testimony of par-
ental affection & en
dearing recollection
of Miss Sarah Patter
son, who bid adieu to
earthly scenes, Jan 31,
1819 AEt. 18, & David, who 
died March 6, 1797 AEt.
2 yrs. & Mary, who died
Sept. 22, 1800, AEt. 19 M.
Children of Mr. Saml. and Mrs.
Lydia Goodhue, He was son of 
Mr. John Goodhue, son of Dr. 
Saml. Goodhue, son of Dr. Joseph 
Goodhue, son of Dr. Wm. Good
hue, who came from Engl. & 
settled at Ipswich 1645.

Fellow tapholphile spotboslow has a clearer pic on Flickr.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Gems of the Bible

Onesiphorus Tileston
Boston, MA
Granary Burying Ground
set in wall behind Paul Revere monument

Dear Broadsheet,

For most of recorded human history, women have given birth surrounded by neighbors, friends, mothers, sisters, in-laws, etc.

Communal childbirth is not a "trendlet." In fact, it is more in line with historical norms than the 20th-century idea that birth should be "private." The major difference between modern communal childbirth and historical communal childbirth is that modern fathers are usually expected to participate (though other male relatives often aren't).

Anyway, congrats to Sara and Ev — don't let the historical amnesiacs who rule the Mommy Wars get you down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

101 Ways, Part 99: "Translated to His Masters Joy"

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.

Robert Ward
Wenham, MA

JANry ye 25th 1721 AND AFTER
ye 19th 1732 AGED NEAR 38 YEARS

For a related entry, see Part 80: Translation to the Temple Above.


Monday, August 10, 2009

101 Ways, Part 98: "Remanded"

For a brief intro to the "101 Ways to Say 'Died'" series, click here.

I always prefer to get my own pics rather than poaching from the Farber Collection, especially in cases like the Polly Howard stone where the epitaph is not fully visible in the Farber photo.

Unfortunately, Brockton, MA has several 18th-c graveyards and I have been unable to find this stone in any of them. It is possible that it is no longer standing. I haven't yet checked every cemetery in Brockton, so I am not without hope that I will find it someday. If I do, I'll update this post.

Polly Howard's stone characterizes the little girl as a gift given and recalled by heaven:
The daughter of Mr. Danl.
& Mrs. Vesta Howard.
A Boon received Jany. 25
1778. Remanded by the . . .
[d. 1784]

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Experience Tarbox

First of all, awesome name.

Add Experience Tarbox of Wenham, MA to the list of the "depated."
Wenham Cemetery gets its best light in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, I was there at 11 a.m. and couldn't hang around all day. I had a tiny mirror, so Pete helped me illuminate the relevant part of the inscription.

the BODY OF Mrs
the 2nd 1739 &
in the 85th YEaR

Notice the strange mix of upper- and lower-case letters and the crossed capital Is.

Other "depated" gravestones:

Friday, August 7, 2009

Boy or Girl? A Public Service Announcement

Until the middle of the 20th century, young children in Europe and the United States regularly wore dresses, regardless of sex. Many modern Americans are aware of this tidbit of sartorial history, but find it amusing or baffling. When I was looking for a digital image of this Winterhalter portrait of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their five oldest children, many of my Google hits contained comments along the lines of "Two of the kids are boys!?!?"

Yes, two of the children are boys. From left to right, this portrait shows Alfred (b. 1844), Edward (b. 1841), Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Alice (b. 1843), Helena (b. 1846), and Victoria (b. 1840). Before WWII, most European and Euro-American boys wore skirts until they were "breeched" around age 5-6 (sometimes as late as 7-8).

If you looked at Alfred and thought he was a girl, don't worry — lots of people have trouble telling. Luckily, my early years as a Civil War reenactor and historical costume enthusiast have armed me with some tips for deciphering mid-19th-century images and I am happy to pass them along to you.

The most reliable way of identifying the sex of a child in a mid-19th-c image (1840ish-1870ish) is the hairstyle. As a general rule, boys' hair is parted on the side or swept up in a topknot, while girls' hair is nearly always parted dead-center. Take another look at the portrait — the little princes have side parts, the princesses have center parts, and the baby doesn't have enough hair to tell.

Here are some examples from Harvard's Houghton Library:


Boy, Boy, Girl, Boy:

(Adorable) Boy, (Adorable) Girl:

Now that we've established a pattern, we can look at some ambiguous images:

Boy or Girl?
side part = boy

Boy or Girl?
center part = girl
Boy or Girl?
top knot = boy

Boy or Girl?
boy on left, girl on right

If you still can't tell the difference, don't feel bad — whoever catalogued these pictures for Houghton can't tell either. Nearly all of the boys under the age of five are misidentified as girls on Harvard's VIA site:

Yet, when we look at pictures with identified subjects, the pattern holds firm:

Ellen Tucker Emerson:

Alice Howe Gibbens James and Mary Sherwin Gibbens:

Tad Lincoln:

It's not a perfect method — for example, the Davis boys have wonky center parts — but it's a good starting point.

Other tips:
  • Props: Is the child holding a doll, needlework, or a flower? It's probably a girl. Is it holding a ball, whip, dog, or military accoutrement (drum, toy cannon, kepi)? It's probably a boy. A book? Could be either.
  • Accessories: Some types of jewelry can offer hints — earrings and brooches worn at the throat generally signify "female," but necklaces are tricky. Children of both sexes have worn coral necklaces as charms for centuries.
  • Color: Before the 1930s, Americans generally considered red/pink to be a masculine color (think Mars) and blue to be a feminine color (think Virgin Mary). That said, there was not hard and fast rule on the color issue and it won't help you much unless you're looking at a painting or an actual garment. The Valentine Museum in Richmond had a fabulous exhibit on this subject a few years ago.
  • Pattern: It would be a mistake to assume that only girls wore floral patterns in the 19th century. Still, if something is all-out floral and other signs point to girl, girl is a safe bet. On the flip side, little boys often wore tartans that evoked a martial style.
  • Tunics: Sometimes, young boys went through an intermediate stage of dress — neither dresses nor full-on pants. See Prince Edward in the first painting (red belted tunic). Tunics often had a military flair win the form of buttons, belts, and trim. Other types of jackets worn by boys also have military overtones, such as the zouave jackets that became popular during the Civil War.
boy in tartan tunic, side-parted hair
I'm sure that people who are familiar with images from other eras could offer similar tips. I imagine the general principles are the same — look at hair, props, cut, etc. — but the specifics are slightly different.
The Gore Children (1755)
John Singleton Copley
Sarah and Frances hold flowers and have loose, flowing hair. John wears child-sized clothes in the style worn by adult men. Samuel's hair is confined and styled differently from his sisters' hair. He is also wearing red/pink and has a dog to mark his masculinity.

My grandfather, Benjamin Manfredo DeAngelis, 1921

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Future Corrected Edition in the Hands of a Higher Editor"

It's been days — DAYS! — since I posted a gravestone here. I'm entering panic mode because my exam is in exactly three weeks, so I haven't visited many graveyards lately.

This picture was taken by my parents on a recent trip to Washington, DC:
Thomas Mann, librarian, has a gravestone that looks like a Library of Congress catalogue card.
Mann, Thomas, 1948-
Librarian. Chicago: Charles H. and Margaret Mann, 1948.
Rev. ed. Baton Rouge, 1976; Washington, DC. 1980.
Future corrected edition in the hands of a Higher Editor.
1. Christian. 2.
Library of Congress
025.5 24  0221-1948
The call number Z710.M23 is The Oxford Guide to Library Research by Thomas Mann.

Clever readers will recognize the reference to Benjamin Franklin's mock epitaph:
The Body of
B. Franklin
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be whlly lost:
For it will, as he believ'd, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
He was born on January 6, 1706.
Died 17

Monday, August 3, 2009

Abe and Jeff, Brothers at Last

I have found ten black/biracial families with sons named Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis in the 1870 and 1880 census records. All of them lived in the ex-Confederate South.

I won't pretend to know why anyone would name brothers Abe and Jeff, but I will offer a few observations:
  • In most cases, the children were born after 1865, suggesting that parents, rather than slaveowners, may have chosen these names.
  • In those cases where one of the brothers was born during the war, it is always Jeff, not Abe.
  • This pattern does not seem to be peculiar to any particular state, but it does seem to be limited to newly freed slaves in the ex-Confederate South.
I am a firm believer in the proposition that names convey meaning, but I'm not sure what the message is here. Is this a case of two names that "go together" because of ubiquitous pairings in news items and popular songs?

I can only suggest one political motivation that makes some sense:
I remember once reading a WPA slave narrative (admittedly, not the very best source) in which an elderly ex-slave characterized Lincoln and Davis as partners in bringing about the war that brought on freedom. He didn't distinguish between their motives — he argued that their quarrel created the necessary conditions for emancipation. If that was a wide-spread idea, it might account for the Abe-Jeff pairs.


Moris, Jeff Davis (b. 1865) and Abe Lincoln (b. 1870)
St. Stephens, AL
(Abe Lincoln is on the top of the next page of the census)

Caffee, Jeff Davis (b. 1865) and Abe Lincoln (b. 1865) twins
Troy, Arkansas

Bush, Jefferson (b. 1867) and Abraham L. (b. 1869)
Noxubee Co., MS

North Carolina:
Powell, Jeff Davis (b. 1866) and Abraham L. (b. 1867)
Tarboro, NC

Mason, Jeff D. (b. 1869) and Abe L. (b. 1865)
Montgomery Co., TN

Walker, Jeff Davis (b. 1863) and Abe Lincoln (b. 1865)
Giles Co., TN, 1880 Census

Baylis, Jefferson D. (b. 1863) and Abe L. (b. 1867)
(brother Andrew J)
Marion, TX

Bolan, Jeff Davis (b. 1866) and Abraham L. (1866) twins
Colorado Co., TX

 Robinson, Jeff Davis (b. 1864) and Abe Lincoln (b. 1867)
Liberty Co., TX

Broadnax, Jeff D. (b. 1861) and Abraham L. (b. 1865)
Drewryville, VA