The magic of old photographs

The magic of old photographs

Pictured above: Mr. & Mrs. Spencer Miller and Spencer Miller, Jr. 1895

There is a charm in finding an old photograph; in seeing an image of a place you know, but taken when it was a hundred years younger. The trees are smaller, the neighboring buildings are different, and of course the people in the photo are wearing the clothes of a past time.

Recently I was going through some boxes of old papers at the Strong House, and I found this print of a family group in the front yard, taken in 1895, when the house was still a private residence…

Henry Wilson

Henry Wilson

Our September 23 History Bites presentation is now online. Lincoln Annibali, a student at Hofstra University, shared with us his enthusiasm for Henry Wilson. You may view the presentation here

Born in 1812, Henry Wilson was an American general, senator, and later vice president who played a key role in the political lead-up to the Civil War, handled military affairs during the war, and fought for civil rights for all Americans during Reconstruction. Born into abject poverty and sold by his family into indentured servitude until the age of 21, he was central in forming the Free Soil Party in 1848 to fight slavery’s expansion. Wilson was elected to the US Senate in 1855 at age 43, and remained a senator until he was elected as Ulysses S Grant’s Vice President in 1872; his help was central to the passage of the 13th14th, and 15th amendments.

Amherst Historical Society Year in Review

Amherst Historical Society Year in Review

With the passing of the old year, we at the Amherst Historical Society can take a moment to review the events of the past twelve months… 

We brought on Diana Lempel as a temporary curator, to work with our collection and plan new exhibits. 

We continued our History Bites lecture series, with lectures from Blair Kamin on Amherst College architectureDiana Lempel, gave us her insights on the Museum’s collection, and Erik Riordan spoke about tracing the history of New England’s fresh-water fisheries.

The Museum participated in Amherst’s 2022 Juneteenth celebration, and hosted an exhibition by Ancestral Bridges on the history of the Black community in Amherst. We once again hosted a summer Sunday afternoon concert series on our patio and garden. 

And we should also take a moment to mark the closing of one of Amherst’s oldest and most beloved businesses — Hastings closed their doors in July, after 108 years in business.  

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

This Christmas season, we are once again looking at Stephen Nissenbaum’s 1996 book The Battle for Christmas. This readable scholarly analysis of our modern celebration of Christmas makes a detailed case for the idea that it is a 19th-century creation, and a deliberate reformation and taming of a holiday with wilder origins.  Indeed, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony so feared the day’s association with pagan winter solstice revels, replete with public drunkenness, licentiousness and violence, that they banned Christmas celebrations altogether…

Stephen Nissenbaum is an emeritus professor of history at UMass/Amherst. In 1991-1992, he was granted an American Antiquarian Society – National Endowment for the Humanities Long-Term Fellowship to pursue research on the history of Christmas in New England in relation to popular culture and the printed word; The Battle for Christmas was first published in 1996.

The Storm and the War that Changed Amherst

The Storm and the War that Changed Amherst

On September 9 we hosted a Zoom lecture by Blair Kamin, entitled The Storm and the War that Changed Amherst

In his lecture he describes the effects of the hurricane of 1938, which uprooted many trees on the Amherst College campus, facilitating a redesign of much of the campus landscape. Then, after World War II, the question of where and how to place a memorial to honor Amherst’s war dead led to the design and location of the iconic war memorial on Memorial Outlook.

Mr Kamin (BA, Amherst College 1979) was the architectural critic for the Chicago Tribune from 1998 to 2021, and won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1999. He brings a depth of architectural and historical insight and detail to his lecture, which is now available online here

History Bites: antique glass bottles

History Bites: antique glass bottles

Until the late 19th century, glass bottles were hand-blown, so each one was unique. The bottle’s shape, the color of the glass, the presence of embossing, are all clues as to its age and provenance. Collectors of the bottles are latter-day seekers after buried treasure — they dig through old wells and midden-heaps in search of their prizes.

Amherst resident Jim Thomas is a past president of the Berkshire Antique Bottle Association. He has been collecting bottles since he was ten years old, and has dug for them on hilltops, in bogs, and everywhere in between.

Join us at noon on Friday, December 2, in the Woodbury Room. Mr Thomas will tell stories and bring in samples from his extensive collection — bring in an antique bottle or two of your own for Mr Thomas to evaluate!

Remember that Santa will visit the Strong House, on Friday evening between 6 and 7 PM, to chat and have his photograph taken with children. We have decorated the gallery and parlor to welcome him.