History Camp Boston 2019

I attended History Camp Boston on March 16th. This was my first History Camp, and I enjoyed myself quite a bit.

History Camp is a small conference that brings together people who have a passion for history, regardless of their background or academic achievements. Anyone can present; there are no stringent requirements for giving a presentation. There is no specific theme. It’s intended to be cost-efficient and unobtrusive.

I was impressed on two fronts: the content of the sessions I attended and the passion of all the participants.

Each of the six sessions I attended examined a small time period, but in captivating depth. The speakers were able to speak at length about their chosen topics during their prepared presentation and entertained questions from the audience with answers that truly revealed just how passionate and knowledgable they were about the subjects. Some of the sessions I attended covered topics that to a layperson looked like the minutiae of history. However, the presenters were mostly able to convincingly convey why the topic was so interesting and important. I was impressed with their pursuit of the topic, even though it may not have the flashiness or reach of more well-known historical topics.

I was delighted that gatekeeping was entirely avoided in all of the sessions and with all the participants I talked to. All were excited to be in attendance, sharing their genuine interest for history with the strangers around them. All interactions began with a smile and authentic pleasantries. All presentations began with an expectation of no prior knowledge. I really appreciated that the conference had such a welcoming tone and was so approachable for an amateur like me.

The passion of those in the crowd was obvious as well. Part of the History Camp tradition is for each audience member to introduce themselves and offer up a little information about their background or why they were attending. A majority of those in attendance were part of a historical preservation society, some as a paid employee but most in a volunteer role. There were a few local high school and university students. A small number like myself weren’t tied to an organization but here simply because we were amateur history observers.

I’ve attached the notes I took below.

Notes from History Camp Boston 2019

Sessions attended

  • Tales from Boston’s Pre-Revolutionary Newspaper Wars
  • “Suspense” and Sexism in Popular Radio Dramas After WWII
  • Salem’s Gallows Hill Project
  • More Than Names on a Wall: Bringing One Town’s Civil War Memorial to Life
  • When America Despised the Irish: The 19th Century’s Refugee Crisis
  • Searching For Black Confederates
  • One if by Landfill: Exploring Boston’s History through Maps

Tales from Boston’s Pre-Revolutionary Newspaper Wars

J.L. Bell www.boston1775.net

  • Boston has the oldest newspaper culture
  • First Newspaper: Public Occurrences
  • 1690
  • 4 pages long
  • Shut down after first printing
  • After 1754, all of Boston’s newspapers were independent companies, not by government officials
  • British Empire at some sense of Free Press being good
  • Printers did not need prior approval before printing things by this time
  • Still careful not to print “seditious libel”
  • Massachusetts Gazette
  • Boston Postboy (Mondays) and the Boston Weekly News-Letter (Thursdays)
  • Both got the contract for the Massachusetts province. However, separate editions and companies
  • Close to the provincial government
  • Boston Gazette was close to the town government, and always pushing back against the provincial government (Mondays)
  • Close to John Adams, Samuel Adams, they were writing essays out in the shop
  • Boston Evening-Post (Mondays)
  • tried to stay in the middle
  • Mostly just reprinting what people had already printed, some commentary afterward
  • Due to the fact that printers printed once a week, printers could not really be in the business of sharing “breaking” news
  • Stamp Act in 1775, newspapers became more heated
  • Made the paper it was printed in more expensive
  • Boston Evening-Post published a long letter that pushed for a boycott of British goods to pressure removal of the Stamp Act
  • Back and forth commentary about the boycott led to many back-and-forths via submissions to the newspaper under aliases, bringing in ad hominem and personal attacks about illegitimate children, personal favors, etc.
    • One side thought to be written by Samuel Waterhouse
  • “Look like discussions on internet forms”
    • Except, you have a week to think of your response
  • 1766 Parliament repealed the Stamp Act
  • Even the Post-Boy, a supporter of the government, ran an anti-Stamp
  • Boston Chronicle 1767 (twice a week)
  • Founded by John Mein from Scotland. Partner was John Fleming
  • Locals took suspicion due to them being foreigners
  • 1767
  • Attacked a friend of the Whigs (Pitt?)
  • Attacked Hancock as “Johnny Dupe, Esq.”
  • John Mein and other printer scuffle involving pistols and a shovel caused a mob to attack a custom sailor later that night, which was the first tar and feathering
  • Mein became public enemy #1
  • 1770 - Boston Chronicle goes out of business after John Mein did not pay back a British book printer, who the gave power of attorney to John Hancock to sue John Mein
  • The Massachusetts Spy 1770 (Tuesday, Thursdays, Saturdays)
  • Isiah Thomas
  • Only two pages
  • Wanted to not only attract merchants as customers, but factory owners and “mechanics”
  • Failed…, but restarted as a weekly published on Thursday
  • Set in the top floor of where the Union Oyster House is

Attempts by the royal authorities to prosecute sedition

  • Dr. Joesph Warren (anonymously?) published a letter about royal governor Berner(?) in the Boston-Gazette
  • Berner wanted to prosecute the printer and the writer of the letter
  • Could not get any branch of the government to support shutting down the newspaper
  • In 1774, British troops come back to Boston
  • Eves (Boston Gazette), Gill, and Thomas were mentioned to the British troops as “seditious printers”
  • Thomas 1775, leaves Boston to Worcester
  • Eves leaves for Watertown prior to the revolution
  • During revolution
  • Boston Evening-Post shut down - wanted to be in political middle, but now there was no political middle
  • Boston Post-Boy didn’t have enough paper or business
  • Boston News-Letter was the only remaining newspaper. Was loyalist, so left during the war


  • How do you know how many people are reading newspapers at this time?
  • Only self-reported by printers. But printers would not be completely accurate with their numbers
  • Send copies to printers outside of boston. Put them in taverns.
  • New England probably had the highest literacy rate of the British Empire

Lori Rogers-Stokes

  • New England’s Hidden History
  • Listened to old radio shows while doing transcription

Suspense as a program

  • Before WWII, 25% of women in the U.S. worked outside the home (14m)
  • During WWII, grew to 36%
  • Salaries for women dropped 26% as men returned from the war
  • Polls in 1945 shows that 75% of employed women wanted to keep working
  • July 22nd, 1940 - first episode

The theory

  • Early 1946, a concerted effort is made by the government for women to leave work so that men could return to work
  • Big policies have to be played out in every day life, including with radio shows
Them Man in Black - 1942-45
  • Very neutral - the audience he speaks to is not defined
  • Most wartime messages were directed toward women, persuade young women to join nurse programs or other wartime efforts
Elsa Maxwell: home makes us Americas - November 21, 1944
  • After D-Day, bug push about the homefront
  • Any family can enjoy Roma
  • “It can be served with any kid of food”, “No special glasses”, “when friends come to dinner, or everyday meals”
We’re all in this together at home
  • Episode advertisements were all about underlining the fact that domestic life was the reward for winning the war
  • Roma was the big advertiser at this time
The Sponsor of Suspense changed
  • From Roma to Autolite spark plugs
  • Extreme changes in the message
  • “If we had to sit around at that hen party your mother’s giving…”
  • “We leave the house because she’s got the house full of women, and so far there aren’t anything but women in tonight’s AutoLite show”
  • “Anything but invite a woman’s bridge party in on Thursday night”
Content changes as well
  • While the advertisements, intros and outros change, the content is changing as well
  • “Men who dwell in this land of mixed emotions, loving deeply and fiercely and yet, at the same time, hating venomously and murderously…I wish she would die so I wouldn’t depend on her for the affection I’m always so hungry for”
  • Married men and women about killing their spouses
  • Suspense! is no longer for women
  • When it’s on, the house sounds “just like this service station”
  • Women are not portrayed as smart, savvy homemakers as they were with Roma as the sponsor
  • Episode #288 - “Celebration” - an insane women is “cured” when her husband shoots her in the head
  • Arlo Wilcox is a huge mansplainer
  • “Holiday story”: a husband buries his nagging wife in his basement
  • “The Bullet”
  • Husband went to jail (the service) and women took over the business
  • “I’m back in the business and you can go back to taking care of the house. Cooking…keeping things looking nice.”
  • “He’s going to kill me - he said so!”
  • “Kill you? Why he’s in love with you - crazy about you!”
  • To get her to stop working, he has an empty gun and keeps firing at her to scare her
Can we try to understand it?
  • Such a compressed time frame of the shift
  • Deliberateness of the shift
  • Openness of the shift: “The intensity of the men’s anger toward women in these programs cannot be overemphasized. And because it’s not visual, the violence could often be far more explicit”

Salem’s Gallows Hill Project: The search to locate and commemorate the true site of the 1692 Salem With Trial Executions

Marilynne K. Roach

The city of Salem dedicated a memorial in 1992 to the 20 innocent lives killed as “witches”.

1692 and 1693

  • Over 160 people were at least suspected of witchcraft
  • 52 were tried
  • 30 were found guilty
  • 19 were hanged
  • Witchcraft was a felony

Finding the spot of the hangings

Detail from the death warrant of Bridget Bishop refers only to “the place provided for her execution” (July 10th, 1692). Usually capital offenses were tried in Boston, but due to the volume of cases the court moved to Salem

Two theories

Gallows Hill
  • Charles W. Upham
  • Ex-minister
  • Thought it was at the top of Gallows Hill
  • 1867: “The suffers of 1692 in grateful remembrance”
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Opposite political side of Upham
  • However, did think it was at the top of Gallows Hill
  • Grafton and Hanson St.
  • “Witch’s Square”: “On this square the execution of people accused of Witchcraft took place”
Proctor’s Ledge
  • Neighborhood had a continuing tradition that it was the site
Other places:
  • Ledge Hill, Mack Park
  • Was private land in 1692
  • Doesn’t really work logistically
  • Jail yard
  • Was at the corner of Federal and St. Petes (?)
  • Wasn’t big enough for the crowds
  • Said they were “taken there by car”, but if they were held at the jail there’s no need to move them
1892: How does Salem deal with anniversary?
  • Some people wanted to ignore the history and focus on the good parts of Salem
  • Some people liked history and wanted to erect a monument
  • Essex Institute
  • Monument proposed as a 30-ft watchtower, but was never built
1911: The Witch Square was removed from maps of Salem
  • Dr. Henry Wheatland owned the land
  • Some controversy of whether or not the monument would be on the right place, and whether Proctor’s ledge was the site of the hangings
  • Essex Institute will sponsor a walking tour
  • Will start at Proctor’s ledge, with explanation of why speaker (Perley?) thought that was the site
  • W.S. Nevins
  • Antiquarian
  • Of the top-of-the-hill persuasion
  • Writes a letter to the editor about “Yellow Antiquarianism” of the walking tour
  • Found another clue
  • Rebecca Eames
    • questioned in Salem August 19th, 1692
    • “She was ask if she was at the execution: she was at the house below the hill: she saw a few folk: the women of the house had a pin stuck into her foot: but she ‘d she did not doe it:”
What is known for certain
  • Executions took place on a hill
  • the approach was steep enough that the cart of prisoners stuck
  • the ground was rocky enough that the hasty, temporary graves were shallow
  • the executions were seen from the “house below the hill”

“Witch Memorial Land” purchased by City of Salem 1936, to “be held forever as a public park”

In 2010, the Gallows Hill group got together
  • Making sure that the site was not forgotten again
  • Geo-archaeological investigation of Proctor’s Hill
  • remote sensing
  • Ground penetrating radar & soil resistivity
  • Almost no dirt on Proctor’s Ledge
  • No evidence of any human remains
  • No evidence of a Gallows
  • Lots of investigation into sight lines based on contemporary accounts
Proctor’s Ledge site has always been endangered, even though it was purchased to be park forever
  • Proposed I-95 connector (1966-1967)
  • Plan to build condos, needed an access route (1982-1983)
  • Group worked behind the scenes to designate Proctor’s Ledge as the site
  • Proctor’s Ledge Memorial designed by Martha Lyon

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

Ken Liss - President of the Brookline Historical Society

There are always stories behind the names

Brookline’s Civil War memorial

  • People probably think of the soldiers monument outside of the library
  • Dedicated in 1915, 50 years after the end of the war
  • There’s actually another memorial that receives less attention
  • Has 72 names of soldiers and sailors that died in the war
  • Put together in 1883, placed in the Victorian town hall
  • They were forgotten about when the town hall was torn in the 1960
  • Recently found and put inside and dedicated the town hall in 2011
Wilder Dwight
  • Lawyer from a prominent family
  • Died on the battlefield of Antietum
  • Started a letter in the morning, but was badly wounded on the field. He took out the letter and finished the letter as he was bleeding
  • “All is well with those that have faith”
Howard Dwight
  • Killed in Louisiana
  • Surrendered, but was shot and killed
  • Brother of Wilder Dwight. Both buried in Forest Hills cemetery
  • April 20th, 1861, Brookline gathers to figure out the “disturbed state of affairs” and try to send men and/or money
  • More than 200 signed up for the initial drill list
Julius Phelps
  • Battle of Glendale, VA
  • First killed in battle
Charles Chandler
  • One of the officers that helped organize the Brookline men
  • Killed near Hanover Courthouse
Otis N. Harrington
  • Was a photographer, worked for J.W. Black
  • Washington, D.C.
  • A regimental history was written by a man named John D. Billings: “The History of the Tenth Massachusetts Battery of Light Artillery”
Daniel W. Atkinson
  • Killed near Hatcher’s Run, VA
  • The battery went through the same area five months later and marked the spot of this death for later recovery. The body was never recovered
Samuel Lamson
  • Son of the Baptist Church minister
  • Steamer Ruth caught fire and burned
  • Could not swim
  • Was given a window shutter to cling to
James A. Dale
  • Died of wounds in Louisville, Kentucky
  • Born in Texas - his mother had moved to Massachusetts from Belfast
  • Mother’s brother moved to Texas to fight in the war
  • Mother moved to be with brother
  • Was from a slave owning family
  • In 1855 Massachusetts Census in Woburn, likely sent back to Massachusetts for education purpose
  • Brother died serving in the Confederate Army
  • Died at the battle of Resaca
Oliver Cromwell Bixby
  • 1850 Census in Hopkinton, part of 8 siblings
  • Killed at Petersburg, VA
  • Mother had lost 5 sons in the war
  • Turns out, she only lost two sons
  • Abraham Lincoln wrote the “Bixby Letter” to the mother
  • This letter became very celebrated
  • Is read in Saving Private Ryan
Charles Webster
  • Missing in Action in Plymouth, NC
  • One of four brothers that died in the war
  • Came down from Kingston, NH to enlist with friends Moses M. Chase and Elbridge G. Collins
  • Likely followed the lead of Elihu French, also from Kingston, older man
    • Had been in the army before
  • All went into the same company
  • Plymouth was captured (the last Confederate victory)
Thomas Dillon
  • Buried in the catholic cemetery in Brookline
  • Killed in Antietam
  • His father was the first irish family in Brookline
John Lee
  • Presumably African-American
  • Killed on a boat on the way to Texas to protect the border after the war

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

Christopher Klein: Author of the book “When the Irish invaded Canada”

Dumping of stone

March 6th, 1854, heart of Washington D.C., Washington Monument being built. Group of men snuck in, proceeded to look for a block of marble that says “Rome to America”, and dumped the stone in the Potomac River.

This marble piece was donated by Pope Pious IX. Taken from a Roman ruin. Move was anti-Catholic. “Secret signal from the pope to start an uprising”. How do we get to this point?

George Washington

1780 Morristown NJ, George Washington gave a rare day off to this troops for St. Patricks day. Banned burning effigies of the pope on Guy Fawkes day.


  • Under British rule for 700 year
  • Oliver Cromwell exterminates tens of thousands of Catholics
  • Battle of the Boyne, King James II vs. William of Orange
  • Ushers in Scottish and British protestant setters to Northern Ireland.
  • 1695 Penal laws until 1829
  • Not allowed to vote, not allowed to hold public office
  • Could not pass land down, need to divide it across all sons
  • Except sons that converted to Protestant could be given all the land
  • Early 1800s, 4/5 of land owned by absentee Protestant landlords
  • Population rises from 4 million to 8 million
  • 1845 Fredrick Douglas in Ireland: “I see much here to remind me of my former condition”

The Great Hunger

  • The potato can grow in the small, rocky plots and the damp climate that you can subsist upon
  • 14 pounds a day per person
  • British government on 1846 don’t want to interfere with hands-off capitalism
  • British also think this is a good way to /deal with overpopulation/

Migration to US

  • Not regular passenger ships - just converted from slave ships, small boats
  • Average of 18 inches of bed space
  • “Coffin Ships”
  • A quarter of the passengers die in route to Canada and the US in 1847
  • Deer Island quarantine station


  • Founded by Puritans to escape the Catholic church
  • 1700 law is passed to band priests coming into Massachusetts
  • Guy Fawkes day capped with burning of the effigy of the pope
  • Broad Street riot in 1837
  • Philadelphia Bible Riots
  • 100,000 people during the start of the Great Hunger
  • Tens of thousands of Irish come to Boston

Irish in America

  • Most Irish were farmers, but as they settled in metropolitan areas, the life was unfamiliar and they were at the bottom of the economic ladder
  • Had not assimilated into the culture
  • Had survived 700 years of British rule by keeping their traditions and language

Mexican-American War

  • Some Irish-American’s fighting in the Mexican-American war defect due to
  • bigoted officers
  • more money on the Mexican side
  • shared religion with the Mexican side


  • Thomas Naste political drawings

Know-Nothings Party

  • Anti-Irish, Anti-Catholic
  • Wanted to
  • Limited public office to native-born Americans
  • 21-year waiting period before anyone can become a citizen
  • 1854 elections, more than 100 congressmen, 8 governors that are Know-Nothings
  • Massachusetts has an overwhelming slate of Know-Nothing election wins
  • Bloody Monday in Louisville
  • 1856 has a presidential candidate, Millard Fillmore
  • Gains more than 20% of the vote

1861: Civil War

  • Some Irish gain acceptance by fighting in the Civil War
  • Draft riots in 1863
  • Irish feel that the are cannon fodder

1870, 1871: the Orange riots

  • Protestants celebrating the Battle of the Boyne
  • 60 people killed in 1871

Irish invade Canada

  • US Irish Republic Army
  • Hope to use Canada to secure Ireland’s independence
  • John Boyle O’Reilly
  • 19 crimes wine
  • Crazy life
  • Fiasco at the Canadian border starts to temper his hope of militarism for Irish improvement
  • Pushed for Irish assimilation into American culture

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

Kevin M. Levin http://cwmemory.com/

Book coming out soon

“The North won the war but the South won the narrative”

  • Sergeant Andrew Chandler (44th Mississippi Infantry) and Silas Chandler
  • A famous image depicting a white boy and African-American man dressed in Confederate uniforms “armed to the teeth”
  • Silas Chandler is enslaved
  • We don’t know when this image was taken
  • Author takes this as picture taken in a studio with props

  • Silas is a personal body servant, or a camp slave
  • Confederacy suffers from a lack of resources
  • Confederacy has to mobilize as many bodies as possible
  • Lee’s army of 75,000 men into southern Penn would likely have included 10,000 slaves
  • Slaves used for labor, not for fighting

  • Lieutenant J. Wallace Comer (57th Alabama) and Camp Slave, Burrell
  • More typical picture - master seated and armed, slave at the side

  • Enslaved men might find themselves on the battlefield. There are a few accounts of enslaved men picking up rifles and shooting at Yankee soldiers
  • Accounts often written by owners, where the actions of slaves are seen to reflect their undying loyalty to their masters. Never get the perspective or motivation from slaves
  • After Gettysburg, slaves are sent back at a higher rate as they’re escaping more often

  • In 1864, the Confederacy goes through a public debate about including black soldiers
  • Why have the debate at all if they were already serving in the army?
  • Eventually, they are allowed to actual enlist
  • About 45 do, but they are housed in a jail in Richmond and likely never see battle

  • Both nations start on the same trajectory - no black soldiers before 1863
  • After 1865, Southerns start to spin the narrative on why the war was fought
  • “The Lost Cause”
  • Not due to Slavey, but State’s Rights!
  • Narrative is that slaves were loyal and part of the family

Confederate Monument at Arlington

  • There is a black woman taking a baby from a soldier to care for it
  • There is a uniformed black man, often thought to mean he was a soldier. However, in the dedication of the monument, it’s clear that this represented a camp slave

H.K. Edgerton

  • African-American that adopts the black confederate soldier narrative
  • Former president of the NC chapter of the NAACP

“Our Virginia Past and Presenter” (2011)

  • Masoff writes that :thousands of Southerner blacks fought in Confederate ranks, including two battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson”
  • Taught in Virginia 4th history textbooks

One if by landfill: Exploring Boston’s History Through Maps

Rachel Mead, Jill Swan on the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library

Leventhal Map & Education Center

200,000 maps and 5,000 atlases Adult & school group education programs

Lots of fill came from Needham - 6 days a week, 35 cars worth of material brought. Ran of material from Needham after 5 years, had to move south

  • 1630 - “Plan of Boston before modifying the coastline”
  • 1677 - first map of Boston printed in America
  • At times it was an island before colonial-era settlers
  • 1689 - map shows Boston coastline starting to be modified
  • 1708 - Plan showing wharves of Boston from Batterymarch Street to Fleet Street
  • Boston sold the rights to private owners and companies to spur development without public money
  • First major land creation project in Boston
  • 1723 - John Bonner map
  • 1777 - Map includes firing lines (Pelham, Henry, and Jukes)
  • 1814 - Hales, John Groves
  • Mill Pond is filled in
  • Public Garden area is filled in
  • Charles street originally along the Charles river
    • North Slope of Beacon Hill becomes one of the first black communities in Boston because trash was used to help fill in the land, causing smells and low rent rates
  • 1838 - Brandford, T. G.
  • South End filled in
  • Plans being made for Back Bay fill
  • 1850 - Bachmann, John, “Bird’s eye view of Boston”
  • 1874
  • Back Bay has been filled
  • 1877 - Bachmann, John, bird’s eye view
  • Focus on steam-powered trains
  • 1880 - Justin Winsor, original coastline vs. current state
  • Boston Proper is mostly filled in
  • 1895
  • Atlantic Avenue was originally the seawall across Town Cove
  • Boston shoreline composite - 1999 (very cool)