100 years ago – The Spanish Flu epidemic raged in Massachusetts in 1918

by Helen Breen "John F. Boland, Jr., was born in Lynn and attended Cobbet Grammar School. While in school he was active in athletics and played football and baseball on the school teams. He was a leather sorter by trade, working at times for Stephenson & Osborne, a cut sole house, Hilliard & Merrill, Brown … Continue reading 100 years ago – The Spanish Flu epidemic raged in Massachusetts in 1918

“In the Good Old Summer Time” – Swampscott Estates

In the 19th Century, wealthy professionals and businessmen who chose to construct lavish summer homes in Swampscott for themselves and their families to enjoy its sea breezes and ocean views.

Vermont Country Store Christmas Catalogue

The Vermont Country Store catalogue evokes Christmas nostalgia

by Helen Breen “Purveyors of the Practical and Hard-to-Find since 1946” reads the masthead on the Vermont Country Store catalogue mailed to thousands of American homes regularly. BEGINNINGS Although founders Vrest and Mildred Orton opened their store in Weston, Vermont right after World War II, the firm’s origins had a strong family history in the … Continue reading The Vermont Country Store catalogue evokes Christmas nostalgia

Norman Rock well Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Depicted an Idealized Version of American Thanksgiving

By Helen Breen "Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn't the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it wasn't an ideal world, it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it." So wrote Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), American painter extraordinaire, reflecting back on … Continue reading Norman Rockwell Depicted an Idealized Version of American Thanksgiving

Daniel Low, Salem

Daniel Low’s Silver “Witch Spoons” among Salem’s First Souvenirs

By Helen Breen Daniel Low & Co. started on the bottom floor of the First Church, Unitarian, 231 Essex Street at the corner of Washington Street in Salem. The jewelry company purchased the church in 1923, elegantly refitting the structure as an appropriate setting for its luxurious merchandise. THE BUSINESS Daniel Low & Co. jewelry … Continue reading Daniel Low’s Silver “Witch Spoons” among Salem’s First Souvenirs

Boston Irish Long Remembered the 1834 Charlestown Convent Fire

Featured image: Woodcut image of the 1834 burning of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Catholics and fair minded Bostonians were dismayed by the tragedy. by Helen Breen This week marks the 183th anniversary of the burning and ransacking of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts on August 11, 1834. The outrage would smolder in the … Continue reading Boston Irish Long Remembered the 1834 Charlestown Convent Fire

Henry David Thoreau;s cabin

Thoreau July Bicentennial Celebrated in Concord and Around the World

by Helen Breen. Featured image: replica of Thoreau's cabin, Wikipedia “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” (Walden, … Continue reading Thoreau July Bicentennial Celebrated in Concord and Around the World

JFK was greeted enthusiastically throughout Ireland during his 1963 visit.

A St. Patrick’s Day Reflection

Homecoming: JFK in Ireland, June 1963 by Helen Breen DUBLIN Two years ago while in Dublin, I took a tour of Leinster House, a magnificent ducal residence now the seat of the Irish Parliament. At the end of our visit we were guided up an impressive marble staircase. There hung a beautiful green silk ceremonial … Continue reading A St. Patrick’s Day Reflection

Martin Luther King

An MLK Day Reflection – “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

by Helen Breen Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was first established as a national holiday by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. THE LAST SPEECH On April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., flew into Memphis, Tennessee to support striking African American sanitation workers in the midst of a bitter strike. Rumors of death … Continue reading An MLK Day Reflection – “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim

“A Christmas Carol” – the Back Story

Featured image: Bob Cratchit and his son Tiny Tim represented the London poor with whom Charles Dickens sympathized. (painting by Jessie Wilcox Smith) by Helen Breen LONDON  1843 “Marley was dead to begin with,” the opening line of “A Christmas Carol,” was conceived by Charles Dickens as he walked the cold, damp streets of Manchester after … Continue reading “A Christmas Carol” – the Back Story

George Washington and Family by Thomas Pritchard Rossiter, 1858-1860. Gift of Nanine Hilliard Greene

George Washington returns to Mount Vernon, Christmas Eve 1783

Featured image: George Washington and Family by Thomas Pritchard Rossiter, 1858-1860. by Helen Breen   General George Washington welcomed back to Mount Vernon on Christmas Eve 1783 at the end of the Revolutionary War (mountvernon.org) The dramatic painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" launching a surprise attack on the Hessian foe on December 25, 1776 is … Continue reading George Washington returns to Mount Vernon, Christmas Eve 1783

Traditional American Thanksgiving in Art and Song

by Helen Breen Among America’s most beloved 19th century renderings of Thanksgiving Day are Currier & Ives lithographs, Grandma Moses’s paintings, and Lydia Marie Child’s famous poem/song “Over the River and Through the Wood.” CURRIER & IVES Currier & Ives was a tremendously successful printmaking firm, based in New York, in the latter part of … Continue reading Traditional American Thanksgiving in Art and Song

Yankee Dictionary

Yankee dictionary; a compendium of useful and entertaining expressions indigenous to New England

by Helen Breen In perusing the early copies of the Lynnfield Historical Society’s bulletins, the reflections of one writer stand out for his graceful style, sense of humor, and genuine affection for the town “in the old days.” I said to myself, “I have to check this guy out.” So began my quest to learn … Continue reading Yankee dictionary; a compendium of useful and entertaining expressions indigenous to New England

Edgar Allen Poe statue Boston

Remembering Poe

Edgar Alan Poe Returns to Boston – A Halloween Reflection by Helen Breen Poe’s stories of horror and suspense, along with his melancholy poetry, are part of Halloween traditions in America. The writer, who was born in Boston in 1809, maintained a love/hate relationship with the city during his lifetime. But in 2014, Bostonians reclaimed … Continue reading Remembering Poe

Adams and Jefferson died on July 4, 1826

An Amazing Coincidence on July 4, 1826

by Helen Breen (Header photo courtesy: examiner.com) Regarding the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote from Philadelphia to his wife Abigail in Braintree, Massachusetts: "It ought to be celebrated as a day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty ... with pomp and parade, with shows, games, and sports, … Continue reading An Amazing Coincidence on July 4, 1826

A Nostalgic Glance at Harvard’s Early History

*From it's earliest days, the people of Ipswich made frequent contributions to Harvard College. William Hubbard of Ipswich, the son of the Rev.William Hubbard, in his twenty-first year, 'was one of that remarkable group of nine young men whom Harvard College sent forth in 1642, as the first specimens of high culture achieved in the woods of … Continue reading A Nostalgic Glance at Harvard’s Early History

A Heated Battle – Lodge vs. Curley 1936

by Helen Breen Some things never change. In the midst of the inflammatory rhetoric of the 2016 American Presidential campaign, let us pause and reflect on the simpler, but no less acrimonious, political days of yore. To wit - the Massachusetts US Senate race of 1936. In the ring - Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., a … Continue reading A Heated Battle – Lodge vs. Curley 1936

The Merchant Princes, Cyrus Wakefield and George Peabody

by Helen Breen Question: What Do Wakefield and Peabody Have In Common? Answer: Both renamed their Essex County towns in the mid 19th century to honor their "favorite sons" and benefactors - Cyrus Wakefield (1811-1873) and George Peabody (1795-1869). The 19th century "merchant princes" of Boston were ambitious, clever men who made their fortunes in … Continue reading The Merchant Princes, Cyrus Wakefield and George Peabody

Glen Magna

Glen Magna and the Joseph Peabody Family of Salem

Article by Helen Breen Before the advent of the modern transportation, affluent city dwellers often built their summer residences within a few miles of home. Such was the case when shipping magnate Joseph Peabody (1757-1844), "the richest man in Salem," chose Glen Magna in Danvers as his county seat during the War of 1812. Over … Continue reading Glen Magna and the Joseph Peabody Family of Salem