Archive for the ‘The Cambridge Room’ Category

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. 

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Cambridge has many institutions.  Some have survived, others have fallen by the wayside. There’s a few I would not mind bringing back. One being, The Cambridge Club’s Ladies’ Night.

The Cambridge Club was formed in October of 1879 and sought “to promote literary and social culture among its members”.  The groups meetings spanned such topics as “The Car Problem in Harvard Square” (1887) to “The Worth of Women’s Education” (1901) to “My Winter in North Greenland” a 1925 presentation by Donald B. MacMillan, an American explorer. In fact, (at least according to the Cambridge Club’s view of history) it was a discussion at the Cambridge Club on the needs of the Cambridge Public Library that convinced Frederick H. Rindge to build the structure that still stands today.


Young’s Hotel, 1910 via wikimedia.org

Unfortunately, like so many of the institutions of that time period however, somehow those goals did not regularly include women. However, the last spring meeting of each year was Ladies’ Night. This included a huge dinner at Young’s Hotel in Boston as well as a lecture or perhaps music. In 1917 the Ladies’ Night included a talk and lantern-slide show on poor housing conditions in Boston and Cambridge while in 1898 it was a female soloist and a male “humorist”, known nowadays as a comedian.

The Cambridge Chronicle of 1893 stated that the hotel’s “large dining hall was none too large” since the guests that year included 75 male members almost all with a lady.

Young's Hotel Dining Room, 1910 via wikimedia.org

Young’s Hotel Dining Room, 1910 via wikimedia.org

In 1886, those tables were arrayed with foods from mock turtle soup, Roast Philadelphia Capon, Croquettes of lobster a la Cardinal and Banana Fritters, oh and Charlotte Russe, which lo and behold is a dessert in addition to a junior-sized clothing store. Below is the  menu for the 1886 Ladies’ Night from the Cambridge History Room’s Collection.

Sweets and Desserts?!?! Count me in.

Sweets and Desserts?!?! Count me in.

An menu from the Ladies’ Night in 1889 held by the NYPL shows roughly the same food but it seems that when the men dined alone they were a little more (by their standards) reserved. This undated menu someone has placed on Flickr shows a slightly less robust menu both food wise and decoration.

But the men of Victorian Cambridge had other means of entertainment. Read about an annual Cambridge City Council tradition from the time.

For more information check out The Cambridge Club, 1879 – 1939 at the Cambridge History Room or search the Cambridge Newspapers from the era online at Cambridge Public Library’s Historic Cambridge Newspaper Collection.

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ImageAs both current workers in this archives are vegetarians, it is a little odd to be writing a post about “The Romance in Meat” but that is the subtitle of this nifty little 1950s history of John P. Squire and Company, a slaughterhouse and meatpacker of Boston pork and ham from 1850 to the 1950s. Until its demise it had the distinction of being the oldest meatpacker in America.

Though lovers of Mad Men might consider the 1960s the pinnacle of American advertising, “Romance in Meat” is no slacker. The cardboard cover is made to look like wood and the whole little book is full of delightful little illustrations.


The travels and travails of the pigs from their pens to the buyer’s market is lovingly described, perhaps to break the stereotype of the Chicago slaughterhouse vis-a-vis Upton Sinclair.

On arrival at the Squire packing plant the hogs are unloaded from the cars and conducted to the company’s porker hotel – which “accommodates” 12,000. Here they rest from their journey for from 24 to 48 hours, in peaceful and quiet surroundings. They are carefully tended, fed and watered.

The book also explains some of the other uses of hogs other than eating the meat…

Hair goes into the manufacture of brushes and mattresses; some hides into leather;bones to fertilizer; glands for medicinal uses, and so on through innumerable fields.


Unfortunately John P. Squire and Company is no longer in business and even their abandoned factories burned down in 1963. A company that used to spread out over 20 acres in Cambridge. But just in case this post has gotten you hungy…feast your eyes on the fresh pork goodies Squire once served.


If you are interested in learning more about John P. Squire and Company take a look at a summary of their history at Cambridgehistory.org or come to the Cambridge History Room and check out such books as The Cambridge of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety Six.

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Jack Langstaff


Hi, Jessi here! I’m the summer intern at the Cambridge History Room. As an archives student at Simmons College’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, I was able to spend my summer working with the papers of John Langstaff, creator of the Cambridge Revels, at the Cambridge History Room.

If you have ever seen the Christmas Revels you are already one step ahead of where I was when I started two months ago. I had never heard of Morris Dancing and being from Philadelphia originally, my idea of a Mummer’s Play was a bunch of men in neon colored suits with feathers.

But the Mummer’s plays, folks songs and Morris dancing that John Langstaff often showcased in his Revel’s programs has a long tradition in English folk society as a celebration of the Winter Solstice. Mummer’s Play are a tradition where costumed people used to go from door to door and perform sort of like carolers. St. George and the Dragon is a popular Mummer’s play and one that Langstaff used a lot, even turning it into a children’s book.

Mummer Stamp A British Stamp showcasing Medieval Mummers

Morris Dancing is another tradition that is showcased in the Revels. Just last week groups of Morris Dancers from across the states and even some groups from England performed in the Boston Common before the Shakespeare on the Common.

John Langstaff took many of these traditions and fashioned them into annual performances for first the Cambridge area, and then around the United States as associate Revels organizations began everywhere from New York to San Francisco. The Revels in Cambridge perform their annual Christmas Revels as well as Spring Revels, a Sea Revels on the Boston Harbor and many other performances.

Langstaff also was an educator, a host of a BBC children’s show on music and an author including the gorgeous, Frog Went A-Courtin’, that won the Caldecott Medal in 1956. The Cambridge Public Library currently is hosting an exhibit of items from John Langstaff’s collection. Come and see memorabilia from the earliest Revels, learn what famous actor once played the Dragon in a show and see how a children’s picture book, such as Langstaff’s, Hot Cross Buns.

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From sheldonbrown.com

St. George’s Dragon from sheldonbrown.com

John Langstaff and the Revels

The Christmas Revels is a Cambridge tradition that takes place each year in Sander’s Theatre. Join The Cambridge Room, the Library’s Archives and Special Collections in commemorating its creator, educator, director, singer and author John Langstaff. See memorabilia from the earliest Revels, learn what famous actor once played the Dragon in a show and see how a children’s picture book, such as Langstaff’s, Hot Cross Buns. Make sure to keep an eye out for QR codes to hear and see the musical production that is the Revels.

Exhibition Location: The Sakey Room on the first floor of the original Library building.

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On left:  The Secret of Question Nine:  How We Lost Rent Control by Bill Cunningham, 1996.  On right:  Don Leslie, world renowned sword swallower and native Cantabrigian.

The Best Books About Cambridge That You’ve Never Read

The Cambridge Room, the Library’s Archives and Special Collections, has a vast collection of books on every subject imaginable about Cambridge, Massachusetts.  We’ve selected a few of our favorites – featuring bohemians, activists, hippies, teetotalers, revelers, restaurateurs, writers, design gurus, and urban planners.

With titles like, Peaking through the hole of a Bagel, Lewd, and Baby Let me Follow you Down  – what’s not to love.  These books are rare gems – one of a kind – in our collection and touch on the vast and unusual history of Cambridge.  Stop by the Cambridge Room on the second floor for more recommendations.

Exhibition Location: The Sakey Room on the first floor of the original Library building.

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On left:  The Streets of Cambridge:  An Account of their Origins and History by Lewis M. Hastings, City Engineer, 1921.  On right:  Harvard, Urban Imperialist by the Anti Expansion Anti ROTC Strike Steering Committee, 1969.

Cambridge Streets:  Contested and Adored

From lovingly recreated maps of Cambridge circa 1700 to rioting students in the 1960s, and from proposed demolition of neighborhoods to detailed plans of the urban landscape, this exhibition displays documents that show the ways in which the streets of Cambridge have been both a cause of celebration as well as a place of political contest. 

Exhibition Location: 2nd Floor of the Main Library

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elephind (definition)

noun /elefind/

  1. Discovery of something valuable
    — Roberta found an interesting article about her great grandfather with an elephind.com search; the news was a real elephind.
  2. Something discovered to be useful or interesting in some way
    elephind.com is the best search tool since sliced bread; it’s a real elephind.

verb /elefind/

  1. Discover by chance or unexpectedly
    — Olga was searching for news about the Titanic; she elephinded thousands of articles.
  2. Become aware of
    — Many family historians elephind newspapers to be an excellent genealogical resource.
  3. Recognize or discover something to be present
    — News of any sort is elephinded in digital newspaper collections.

[origin: elephant + find = elephind (big find)]

The purpose of elephind.com is to make it possible to search all of the world’s digital newspapers from one place and at one time.  It is now possible to search digital newspaper collections from around the globe in the aggregate. elephind.com is much like Google, Bing, or other search engines but focused on only historical, digitized newspapers. By clicking on the search result that interests you, you’ll go directly to the newspaper collection which hosts that story.

Family historians will find elephind.com particularly useful, enabling them to search across many newspaper collections simultaneously rather than having to visit each collection separately. Many of the smaller newspaper collections are not well known and may be difficult to find with the usual search engines but are searchable from elephind.com.

All the Historic Cambridge Newspapers are fully searchable on elephind.com.  Search away!

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Chris Matthews, who served as a top aid to Speaker Tip O’Neill for six years, with O’Neill, 1986.

The Speaker Tip O’Neill Exhibit Opening & Family Reminiscence Panel
Members of the O’Neill family will take part in an enlightening conversation Tuesday, May 22, at 7 p.m., in Cambridge Public  Library’s Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway. The panel will be moderated by special guest Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, NBC’s The Chris Matthews Showand former Speaker O’Neill staffer. This panel is sure to be a fascinating view into the life and career of Speaker O’Neill and his close connection to the City of Cambridge as told by his family.

To coincide with this panel, The Cambridge Main Library’s archives and special collections in conjunction with the John J. Burns Library at Boston College and the O’Neill family will feature an exhibition of key documents and photographs from Speaker O’Neill’s storied political career and personal memorabilia related to Cambridge. The exhibit will be open to the public from May 15 to July 15 in the Sakey Room on the first floor of the original Library building.

Click here, for more information about the Centennial of Speaker of Neill, including events that are happening throughout the year.

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Postcards of Cambridge, an exhibition featuring historic postcards from the Cambridge Public Library Archives, is currently on view at the Cambridge Public Library’s Main building.  The postcards on display reflect diverse aspects of Cambridge life and history dating back to the 19th century, and represent subjects including Harvard University, the Longfellow House, the Washington Elm, Harvard Square, Central Square, Cambridge Common, and many more.

The exhibition is located on the second floor of Cambridge’s Main Library and is available for viewing during the library’s regular hours.

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