Handwritten postcard from Thomas Wentworth Higginson to Etta Russell, June 1, 1897, from the Thomas Wentworth Higginson Papers, 1850-1907.

The  Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Thomas Wentworth Higginson Papers, 1850-1907 are now available to research.

Thomas Wentworth Higginson was a writer, minister, colonel, abolitionist, and activist. He was born on December 23, 1823 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Louisa Storrow Higginson and Stephen Higginson Jr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson graduated from Harvard College in 1841 and from Harvard Divinity School in 1847. He then served as a preacher, first in Newburyport, where he was deemed too radical, and later at the Free Church in Worcester, Massachusetts. During this time, Higginson became increasingly active in abolitionist activity. He wrote and preached against slavery in the years leading up to the Civil War and was active in the Boston Vigilance Committee and the Underground Railroad. After supporting abolitionist settlers in Kansas following the Kansas-Nebraska Act, he provided financial support to John Brown’s raid of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. During the Civil War, Higginson led the Higginson, Thomas Wentworth (Thomas Wentworth Higginson Papers, 1850-1907) Union’s first African-American regiment. He described his military service in the memoir Army Life in a Black Regiment.

After the Civil War, Higginson focused on writing, editing, and activism, living in Newport, Rhode Island, for about two decades before returning to Cambridge. As a writer, he published fiction, memoirs, and essays, working with publications such as the Atlantic Monthly and the Woman’s Journal. He wrote on issues such as women’s suffrage, temperance, and Reconstruction. Higginson was also an editor; he corresponded with Emily Dickinson and co-edited her poetry for publication after her death. Higginson served as a trustee of the Cambridge Public Library and was instrumental in establishing the collections of the Cambridge Room, the library’s archives and special collections. Higginson married Mary Channing in 1847. After her death in 1877, he married Mary Thacher in 1879. They had two daughters, Louisa, who died in infancy in 1880, and Margaret, born in 1881. Higginson died on May 9, 1911 in Cambridge and was buried in Cambridge Cemetery.

Collection Overview
This collection comprises letters written to and by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a manuscript of a portion of his book Cheerful Yesterdays, and pamphlets written by Higginson. The letters include discussion of Higginson’s time in England and work with the Cambridge Public Library. The manuscript contains the second chapter of Higginson’s memoir, Cheerful Yesterdays, “A Child of the College.” The pamphlets include speeches, sermons, reminiscences, and essays; topics covered include slavery and women’s suffrage.

Broadside by Michael Shaprio with poem by Mary Buchinger from the Michael Shapiro Papers, 1981-2016 (042).

The Cambridge Room is pleased to announce that the Michael Shapiro Papers, 1981-2016 are now available to research.

Michael Shapiro was born in 1948 in New York City and grew up in Woodside, Queens. He earned a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1983, a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1988, and a M.E. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 2000.  Shapiro grew up in a leftist Jewish household and came of age during the 1960s, participating in the counter culture revolution.  He has lived for many years in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  His is married to Mary Kerins.

Collection Overview
This collection contains the broadsides, cartoons, publications, and poetry of Michael Shapiro. His particular interest is American Yiddish poets from the early twentieth century.  These poets include Anna Margolin (b. Rosa Lebensboym), Rachel Korn, Celia Dropkin, and Moishe-Leib Halpern.  English translations of the poets are included with the artwork.  “Don’t Think I’ve Changed,” by Margolin is from Drunk From the Bitter Truth, translated by Shirley Kumove.  “On the Other Side of the Poem,” by Rachel Korn is from An Anthology of Modern Yiddish Poetry, bilingual edition, selected and translated by Ruth Whitman, originally published by Workmen’s Circle and later by Wayne State University Press. Shapiro translated “Who Is?,” “Evening,” and “A Shikse by the Sea” by Halpern, “To Lucifer” and “My Hands” by Dropkin, and “Darkened Room” and “Slowly and Luminously” by Anna Margolin.  On the Halpern broadside, the drawing of the man is based on a self-portrait by Halpern.

Shapiro has collaborated with local, national, and international poets to create signed, limited edition broadsides.  These broadsides were created for poetry festivals as well as readings, many of which took place at the Cambridge Public Library.  The poem “Romance of the Romances,” is by Cambridge Public Library employee Daniel Wuenschel, inspired by his shelving of romance novels. Shapiro collaborated with Wuenschel on the chapbook, Leviathan, in the collection under publications.

Included in the collection is Shapiro’s illustration of the Ern Malley poems. Ernest Lalor “Ern” Malley was a fictitious poet and the central figure in Australia’s most celebrated literary hoax. Malley and his entire body of work were created in one day in 1943 by writers James McAuley and Harold Stewart to prank Max Harris and Angry Penguins, the modernist magazine Harris had founded and edited.

The collection includes three of Shapiro’s plays. The 1981 “A Set of Skits and Songs for Street Theatre” comes with instructions for production.   Shapiro wrote the skit, Milton Friedman as Witch Doctor, for “Perverse, Immoral, and Profane” (1981) performed by the Newbury Street Theater.  Shapiro was also in the play.  “I Tell you These Things are Real,” was performed off Broadway at the Producers Club in New York City on March 22 and 23, 2002.

The underground publication, A House United Against Itself, is a zine founded by the Reverend Crowbar (also known as David Nestle and David Crowbar; his real name was David Molinar and has since become a woman and goes by Susan Poe), who also published Popular Reality one of the largest anarchist zines in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A House United Against Itself was published between 1988 and 1994 and was affiliated with other zines published at the time, which were referred to as the United Front Ministries and was connected to the Church of the SubGenius.  During this time, there was a subculture of people who took pseudonyms, gave themselves titles, purchased P.O. Boxes, and published zines, which they traded among themselves.  The catalyst for this trading was Factsheet Five, which was published as a zine directory.  Shapiro, whose pseudonym was the Rev. Etc. with the title Minister of Propaganda, later took over A House United Against.  Numbers and issues do not correlate to any real chronology of publication.  The number on the back of each publication corresponds to the order in which they were published.

Shapiro creates all his artwork digitally.

Kathryn Van Horn Leaving the White House after Receiving the Legion of Valor medal, from the Library of Congress Print & Photograph Online Collection.

Thanks to our colleagues in the CPL’s Teen Room, we recently learned all about Miss Van Horn:

Miss Kathryn Van Horn of White City, Ohio, leaving the White House just after President Roosevelt had presented her with the medal and the certificate for her brave act of saving two boys. Photo shows Miss Van Horn building the certificate and the Medal is pinned on her dress.  September 12, 1936.

Clara Kathryn Van Horn was the first person awarded the Legion of Valor medal.  According to the Chicago Tribune, twelve year old Clara “threw herself in front of a sled on which two boys were speeding helplessly into the path of an onrushing train.”Clara, an Ohio farm girl, was also given a scholarship to the Russell School in Cambridge, MA.

We did some research to trace Miss Van Horn’s life in Cambridge.  According to a Boston Globe article, published on 30 December 1936, Kathryn lived on Lexington Avenue with the Robart Family, Ralph W. Robart (Chairman of the State Division on the Necessities of Life), his wife (who is unnamed), Beatrice Robart (their 19 year-old daughter – a student at Framingham Teacher’s College), and the family dog Mitzi.  She attended the 7th Grade at the Russell School where her teachers were pleased with her work.  Kathryn planned to stay in Cambridge for another 9 months.

Unfortunately, the December 30th Globe article is where the trail ends.  Kathryn didn’t graduate from any of the Cambridge High Schools so she must have returned to Ohio at the end of the 8th Grade.

From the Glass Plate Negatives (002).

We recently came across a mystery in our photo collection.  The photograph above was described as the Inman House, although we were doubtful after comparing it to known images of the Inman House (see below).

From An Historic Guide to Cambridge, complied by members of the Hannah Winthrop chapter, National society, Daughters of the American revolution, opposite page 179.


So we asked Charles Sullivan, Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, to confirm that our photograph was mislabeled.  Charles got back to us immediately with the following information:

“The photo…is definitely not the Inman House; the only resemblance is the wrap-around porch.  I think the location is 1445 Cambridge Street, an 1839 house on the corner of Line Street that was razed in 1927.”

Charles then went on to detail his research path.  He forwarded me the 1900 Sanborn Atlas, noting that the atlas shows porches and foundation footprints, and that the three-sided wrap-around porch that stands out in the plan was rare for the time.  He continues, “Also, the topography matches, and the tree-decker at the extreme right is in the right position.”  He then goes on to astonish by finding articles that describe the house at 1445 Cambridge Street and its sale: Cambridge Tribune 10 March 1900 and 18 June 1904.

Thank you again, Mr. Sullivan, for your help.  We will be sure to send you more challenging questions soon.



The signature “CPL Red” was developed in the planning stages of the main library expansion project. The paint sample and interior design drawings are now part of the library’s archives and special collections. Paint Color Diagram, copyright William Rawn Associates Architects, Inc.

After 23 years as the Director of the Cambridge Public Library, Susan Flannery retires on April 1st, 2016.  During her tenure, Flannery has strongly upheld the librarian’s principals of free and open access to everyone, confidentiality, and customer service.  One of Flannery’s greatest accomplishments was her role envisioning, planning, and completion of the main library’s renovation, a 15 year-long project, that is the capstone to a career dedicated to public service.

Susan Flannery often wrote about equal access to library resources, freedom to information, and the protection of patron privacy in On & Off Broadway, a publication that had a 19 year print run.  In the July/August 2009 edition, Flannery wrote the following:

“Excellent customer service and responsiveness to the community are hallmarks of the Cambridge Public Library. We recognize that our mission extends beyond the provision of materials to a broader vision of the library that promotes free availability of information, the lively interaction of people and an open exchange of ideas that animate and extend our democratic aspirations.”

The Cambridge Room is looking forward to collecting and processing Susan’s 23-year history at the Cambridge Public Library.



Library Page in the former metal stacks of the pre renovated Cambridge Public Library, ca. 1970s-1980s, from the Cambridge Public Library Records (011)

The Cambridge Public Library Pages of 40 years past could be identified in the building by their bright orange or blue smocks.  We have two smocks on display right now on the second floor of the main library.


Cambridge City Hospital School of Nursing, Class of 1963, from the Mary Louise Apholt Turner Papers (026).

We are pleased to announce two new collections of photographs and ephemera from the Cambridge City Hospital School of Nursing are now available to researchers:

Elizabeth A’Hearn Dorety Conway Papers
Mary Louise Apholt Turner Papers

Search all collections here.


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