Those of you who know the Cambridge Room well will notice there’s someone new in the office (and behind the blog) these days. My name is Christine Di Bella, and I’m here temporarily filling in for the regular Cambridge Room archivist, Alyssa Pacy, who will be back in a few months. Alyssa left me an archives that’s in an amazingly well organized state and wonderfully detailed instructions so though I’ve only been on the job a few days I feel at home already.

While I’ve worked as an archivist for a number of years in a variety of academic and non-profit settings, and have even worked in Cambridge before, I’ve never before worked as an archivist devoted primarily to Cambridge history. But since one of the many things I’ve always really enjoyed about being an archivist is that it gives me a chance to explore so many different areas that I might not have naturally found on my own, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be here digging into the Cambridge Room’s wonderful collections, and even more excited to have already met and corresponded with a number of people needing help from our collections. Every question helps me learn more, and helps me help all of you in a better and more informed way. (And even though it won’t work for every question, I always love an excuse to delve more into our wonderful Historic Cambridge Newspapers Collection; inevitably I’ll come across something fun like the short article and illustration below.)



From Cambridge Tribune, Volume XLV, Number 23, 5 August 1922, available through the Cambridge Room’s Historic Cambridge Newspapers collection

I don’t expect to know everything about Cambridge history by the time I leave here, but I’m really looking forward to knowing much more than I do now. Your questions will really help me reach that goal, and hopefully help you in the process. So please keep those questions coming! If you have suggestions for me of Cambridge-related resources that I should be sure to check out, please let me know in the comments here or by emailing me at cdibella@cambridgema.gov. (You can also stop by the Cambridge Room’s regular hours or call the regular Cambridge Room number too.) I look forward to hearing from you.

Trip to Castle Island, 1915, from the East End Union Collection (023) , Cambridge Public Library Archives and Special Collections.

Cambridge’s East End Union is one of the oldest settlement houses in the Boston area.  The East End Union, founded in 1875, promoted outdoor activities like Fresh Air Week where their members – most of whom were recent immigrants – could take a respite from city living and working to enjoy the country.  Picnics were held in Newton (then considered rural) as were outings to Castle Island in Boston.  The photo above features some of the East End Union’s younger members enjoying an afternoon at the beach.

The East End Union is now called the East End House and is still very active in Cambridge.

A leaf from an Italian breviary manuscript, rubricated on both sides and dating from about 1450.  The 3 inch tall page has five rubricated initials.   

Miniature Book Exhibition

Exhibition Location: Entrance and 2nd Floor, Glass Building

The definition of a miniature book depends on who is asked.  In the United States, many collectors feel that a miniature book is usually considered to be one which is no more than three inches (7.5 cm) in height, width, or thickness.  Some aficionados collect slightly larger books while others specialize in even smaller sizes.  Outside of the United States, books up to four inches are considered miniature by many.  The Library of Congress determined a miniature book to be one smaller than 4 inches (10 cm) in spine height.

The books in this exhibit represent a variety of sizes.  From 4 inches to one of the smallest in the world at .0394 inches (1 mm).  All of the books on display are “real” books, with pages that turn and with text and images on the pages, or sample pages from real books.

The categories of miniature books are:

Macro-Mini (between 4 and 3 inches tall)
Miniature (between 3 and 2 inches tall)
Micro-Miniature (between 2 and 1 inches tall)
Ultra Micro-Mini (less than 1 inch tall)

This exhibition is on loan from Joseph Curran, former President of the Miniature Book Society of America, and is in honor of the 2014 Book Fair of the Miniature Book Society, which is free and open to the public on Sunday, August 17th from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Taj Boston Hotel.

Actor Tony Curtis, 1965, Associated Press.

To answer last week’s challenge, the customers at Simeone’s must have been thrilled to be dining in the midst of Tony Curtis, who signed the place mat below.

Enlarged image of Tony Curtis’ signature on Simeone’s Italian American Restaurant Place Mat.  

See the original here.


George Fowler, from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918. 

The Cambridge Room in collaboration with Digital Commonwealth has digitized and made available a collection of memorial plaques depicting World War I soldiers from Cambridge who died.  The plaques were dedicated in 1928 by Edward W. Quinn, Mayor (1918-1929) and put on display in the War Memorial Athletic Facility in Cambridge, Mass. Each plaque bears an image of the solider on a copper alloy plate, a name plate (also copper alloy), the date of the year s/he died, and the following text: “In grateful remembrance of her War Dead, Presented by the Cambridge City Government, 1928, Edward W. Quinn, Mayor.” A memorial plaque to the soldiers was dedicated on May 30, 1936, by Edward W. Quinn and John D. Lynch, Mayor (1936-1937). The plaques were made by Imperishable Arts, Inc. in New York City. Also included with the collection is a temporary charter granted by the American Legion under Enos Sawyer on June 10, 1919.

Search the Cambridge World War I Memorial Plaques here.

Lena M. Sylvester, from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918. 

James W. Mahan, from Cambridge, died in World War I, 1918. 

Simeone’s Italian American Restaurant Place Mat from a recent Cambridge Room acquisition.

Simeone’s Italian American Restaurant was located at 21-29 Brookline Street in Cambridge.  The restaurant was known for drawing a celebrity or two.  The Kennedy family (both John and Ted) stopped by Simeone’s while on the campaign trail.  This recent acquisition features a place mat from the restaurant signed by a famous American actor.  Can anyone decipher whose signature it belongs to (upper right hand corner in pencil)?  Hint:  he’s not from Cambridge.  Bonus points for anyone who ordered a Simeone’s Venetian Sling.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Native American Arrowhead, made of Cambridge slate or Argillite, found at Fresh Pond by Charles Walcott, 1966 from the Charles F. Walcott Archaeological Collection (029).  

The Charles F. Walcott Archaeological Collection

Exhibition Location: Entrance and 2nd Floor, Glass Building

Cambridge native Charles F. Walcott (1904-1989) spent his days as a physician at Mount Auburn Hospital. In his spare time, Dr. Walcott had two passions: birding and archaeology. As a member of the Massachusetts Archeology Society, he spent years discovering and collecting flint stone pieces. He was particularly fond of inspecting newly plowed fields in Concord, Massachusetts for Native American arrowheads.   He also searched the banks of Fresh Pond for archaeological finds.

Dr. Walcott donated his archaeological collection to the Cambridge Public Library some time in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These items were on display for a time at the library’s former Observatory Hill Branch on Huron Avenue.


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