Collections from Massachusetts National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Massachusetts. We invite you to explore museum collections from Adams National Historical Park, Boston National Historical Park, Cape Cod National Seashore, Frederick Law Olmstead National Historic Site, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Longfellow National Historic Site, Lowell National Historical Park, Minute Man National Historical Park, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

This is an American embroidered memorial wreath presented to Louisa Catherine Adams upon the death of her father in law, President John Adams. Red, white, and blue silk embroidered flowers create a wreath of color on a black silk background, housed in a gilded wood shadow box frame.The lettering in the center of the wreath reads, “Presented to Mrs. Adams, Lady of the President of the United States of America by the Pupils of the Seminary for Female Education at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1826/A.B.”The wreath is significant to the “Old House,” home of the Adams Presidents, on many levels, and its history resonates throughout all generations associated with the house. The piece itself is an extraordinary example of 19th century American art. It honors the contributions of Adams women. It was presented to the First Lady during John Quincy Adams’ Presidency, signifying the father-son presidential connection. As a member of the Continental Congress, John Adams visited the Seminary for Female Education and witnessed for himself their fine embroidery skills. John wrote to his daughter about his visit to the school and noted it was a “remarkable Institution for the education of young ladies…” Brilliantly, the symbolic colors of the wreath highlight the date, July 4, 1826 when John Adams died.

Adams National Historic Park, ADAM 628

Frank Simon of the Publications and Printing Services Office, 1st Naval District, prepared this print for consideration as a Christmas card for US Navy Admiral Benson's use in 1967. The subject is the Charlestown Navy Yard Commandant's House. Completed in 1805, the Commandant's House is the oldest extant building in the Navy Yard. It served as both a private home for commandants of the Navy Yard and 1st Naval District and as a place for official.

Boston National Historical Park, BOST 1119

Scrimshaw pieces were made on board whaling vessels to pass the time. The brig PACIFIC commemorated on this tooth was built in 1842 and left Provincetown, MA on April 12 of the same year for the Atlantic whaling grounds. It returned June 26, 1843 with 253 barrels of sperm oil and 50 barrels of whale oil. Written on the tooth is the following: “Taken on Board of/the Brig Pacific of/Provincetown August/the.13th. 1842/Stephen Cook/Master.”The majority of Cape Cod National Seashore’s scrimshaw collection, including this piece, was donated to the Seashore by the late Col. Eugene S. Clark Jr. of Sandwich, MA. An avid collector, Clark collected over 500 pieces of scrimshaw in the early 20th Century and later became a Seashore supporter, oftentimes presenting programs to the public on whaling and utilizing his collection for props. He died in 1982, leaving his collection to the Seashore. Although this piece is presently in storage, a large number of pieces, including pie crimpers and decorated walrus tusks, are on display at the Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center.The majority of Cape Cod National Seashore’s scrimshaw collection, including this piece, was donated to the Seashore by the late Col. Eugene S. Clark Jr. of Sandwich, MA. An avid collector, Clark collected over 500 pieces of scrimshaw in the early 20th Century and later became a Seashore supporter, oftentimes presenting programs to the public on whaling and utilizing his collection for props. He died in 1982, leaving his collection to the Seashore. Although this piece is presently in storage, a large number of pieces, including pie crimpers and decorated walrus tusks, are on display at the Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center.

Cape Cod National Seashore, CACO 4045

Olmsted NHS manages a collection of over 139,000 oversized documents in its Plans & Drawings collection, which is only a portion of its more than million archival items related to the firm’s history as parkmakers and landscape architects (Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was instrumental in the drafting of the NPS’ Organic Act). For decades, thousands of researchers from across the country and around the world have visited the archives to study, preserve, protect and advocate for the historic landscapes designed by the firm. In an increasingly digital world, however, Olmsted NHS is expanding to a more online and on-demand process to make these materials even more available to a wider audience of users. This plan, #718-z1, “Topographical Map of the Proposed South Park and lands adjacent thereto in the City of Buffalo …” (January, 1888; July 1888) is a typical example of the collection, some as small as 3”x5” sketches while some extend to over twenty feet long. Encompassing blueprints, inks on draft cloth, pencils on trace paper, watercolors, color pencils and crayons, lithographs, transfer prints on mylar, this collection spans the life of the firm, roughly 1880-1980. Other landscape design records include the firm’s collection of project photo albums, latter-half 20th-century correspondence, business records and ephemera collections. The Olmsted firm’s Master List of projects and the park’s project-related records (as well as the Olmsted firm records located at the Library of Congress) can be searched at the web-based dataset, the Olmsted Research Guide Online (ORGO).

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Archives Collection #2001.001/01.00718#718-z1; item within FRLA 00718

Joseph P. Kennedy's parents gave this christening gown to their son and his wife Rose, and it was worn by all of their children at their respective christenings. It was made by Franciscan nuns in East Boston, and is decorated with stitching in the form of lilies-of-the-valley and a scalloped hem. Born on May 29, 1917 at the family home on Beals Street in Brookline, Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy was christened a few weeks later at the nearby St. Aidan's Church. He was the first of three children born in the Beals Street house and was followed by sisters Rosemary and Kathleen. Family tradition states that the gown was used not only by the Kennedy siblings but also by President Kennedy's son John F. Kennedy Jr. at his own christening in 1960.A replica of the gown is kept on display in the nursery at the John F. Kennedy National Historic Site. The original is placed in storage for preservation reasons.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site, JOFI 765

This armchair, presented to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on his 72nd birthday by the children of Cambridge, was constructed of wood taken from the “spreading chestnut-tree” immortalized in Longfellow's poem “The Village Blacksmith.” The tree was cut down in 1876 by the city of Cambridge as part of a project to widen Brattle Street. Contributions from local children paid for Boston-based cabinet maker H. Edgar Hartwell to make the chair. Hartwell created an ebonized Eastlake-style piece with low-relief carvings of chestnut tree leaves and blossoms, and incorporated the following lines from the poem around the seat rail:And children coming home from school Look in at the open door; ...And catch the burning sparks that fly Like chaff from a threshing-floor.Longfellow recorded the gift in a February 27, 1879 journal entry “My seventy-second birthday. A present from the children of Cambridge of a beautiful armchair, made from the wood of the Village Blacksmith's chestnut-tree.”Longfellow was so pleased by the chair that it inspired him to compose another poem, titled “From My Armchair”, in which he thanked the children for their gift. The chair was placed in Henry's study next to the fireplace, and family lore stated that Henry welcomed in any child who wished to view it. It remains there to this day, a tangible reminder of Longfellow's vast celebrity during his lifetime and of his reputation as a poet who wrote for all audiences.

Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, LONG 4469

The Lowell Offering, was a monthly periodical edited and published by Lowell “Factory Girls,” between 1840 and 1845. The Offering's contents were by turns serious and farcical. In the wake of labor unrest in the factories articles were published espousing the value of organizing.As one of the designers of the Offering cover Harriet Farley writes: “Our first idea was to have the design allegorical. To have an Altar of Literature, . . . with a bevy of girls bringing forward their Offering . . . We portray the New England girl - the school girl- for almost all our factory operatives are New England girls; the law requires that they must have been school girls, and the great majority are country girls.” The engraving depicts “the school girl, near her cottage home, with a bee-hive, as emblematical of industry and intelligence, and, in the background, the Yankee school-house, church and factory.”In his American Notes, Charles Dickens writes on the mill operatives endeavor: “they have got up among themselves a periodical called The Lowell Offering, ‘A repository of original articles, written exclusively by females actively employed in the mills,’ — which is duly printed, published, and sold; and whereof I brought away from Lowell four hundred good solid pages, which I have read from beginning to end.”

Lowell National Historical Park, LOWE 1257

The New England Chronicle or The Essex Gazette published the first American eyewitness accounts of the April 19, 1775 events relating to the battles of Lexington and Concord. The accounts are “Affidavits and depositions relative to the commencement of the hostilities in the province of Massachusetts- Bay.” Also in this issue Joseph Warren, President, Pro. Tem., of the Provincial Congress, published an editorial to the inhabitants of Great Britain describing the inhuman proceedings against its provincial citizens.

Minute Man National Historical Park, MIMA 10038

In the mid-17th century, this 500lb solid iron hammer head would have been mounted on a shaft raised by a water wheel. The enormous force of the hammer dropping on to an anvil would have been used to pound the cast iron “pigs” produced by the blast furnace at Saugus Iron Works into wrough iron bars that could then be sold to blacksmiths or slit into rods to make nails. This three-step process -- a blast furnace to extract the iron from locally dug bog ore, a forge to remove the impurities from the cast iron and create saleable “merchant bar” and finally a rolling and slitting mill to create flat slabs and nail rod -- made Saugus Iron Works the first integrated iron works in North America, and between 1646 and about 1670 it manufactured many tons of iron for use in the colonies and England.

Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, SAIR 2933

In 1825, the U.S. Customs officials in Salem paid Joseph True $50.00 to put the finishing touch on their new Custom House: A great carved eagle, sitting majestically on the roof of the building at the edge of the harbor to mark the Federal Government facility. Famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne, who spent three unhappy years working in the building, declared in the introduction to The Scarlet Letter that the eagle "appears, by the fierceness of her beak and eye, and the general truculency of her attitude, to threaten mischief upon the inoffensive community," but she would have been a welcome sight to mariners coming into Salem harbor after months or years away from home.

For over 170 years she was a landmark as she overlooked Derby Wharf and the changing harbor, weathering storms and even a dark paint job when German U-Boats were seen off the coast of Massachusetts during World War II. Finally in 2002, a replica was made and mounted on the roof, while Joseph True's eagle was conserved and placed on display inside the Custom House. Today, visitors by land and water can see the replica eagle shining in the sun on the roof of the Custom House, and inside admire the skill and delicacy of the carving on the original sculpture.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site, SAMA 31929

The first gunstock making machine installed at Springfield Armory by inventor Thomas Blanchard in 1822.Photograph by James Langone. Prolific inventor Thomas Blanchard installed this machine at Springfield Armory in 1822. Called an irregular lathe, it could automatically shape wooden musket stocks by following an iron pattern. This was the first machine of its kind, and had dramatic implications beyond Springfield Armory, enabling the rapid and consistent manufacture of items that had previously been slowly made by hand. More refined versions of this machine were quickly adopted by outside manufacturers who made a wide variety of products for the world market.By replacing hand manufacturing, this machine was an important step on the way towards the manufacture of interchangeable parts, an achievement which launched American industrialization in the 1800s.

Springfield Armory National Historic Site, SPAR 5550

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Adams National Historical Park, Boston National Historical Park, Cape Cod National Seashore, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Longfellow National Historic Site, Lowell National Historical Park, Minute Man National Historical Park, Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, and Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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