When Charles Dickens was twelve, his feckless father was imprisoned for three months in Marshalsea Prison in London for debt. The boy had to leave school and work in a boot blackening factory to support the family, a humiliation he never forgot. Nevertheless, Dickens rose to fame quickly as a young novelist becoming “an international celebrity, famous for humor, satire, and keen observation of character and society.”
Retired (sorta), English teacher, big nonfiction reader, often write about the history of Lynnfield, Essex County, and somewhat beyond. Love London and Dublin.
Proud member of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Colonial Society of Massachusetts
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 […]
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.
The Scotch celebrate Hogmanay on January 1 with family celebrations, street festivals, fireworks and customs going back hundreds of years. Believed to originate with Viking rituals, the traditions inspire hope for health, prosperity, and new beginnings in the New Year.
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 […]
Italians celebrate Christmas for a full month from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Although some regional differences exist, the month basically is devoted to religious observances and spending time with family and friends.
“Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it.” So wrote Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), reflecting back on his life’s work.
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. […]
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, […]
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, […]
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
John Adams died quietly at six o’clock on the evening of July 4, 1826 at the age of 91. His last words were: “Jefferson survives.” He did not know that on the same day in Monticello, Virginia, his long-time rival Thomas Jefferson had breathed his last at the age of 82.
*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 […]
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 […]
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, […]
The Glen Magna Estate is now managed as a non-profit by the Danvers Historical Society. Photo courtesy North of Boston magazine 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 […]