Boston: Looking Backward

An album of pictures from the days when the Kennedys were parvenus and workingmen demonstrated in derbies

That the photographs of G. Frank Radway were ever resurrected from the files of an old Boston newspaper was, in the beginning, simply a matter of luck. No one particularly remembered or was looking for Radway’s work, few people, then or now, recognized his name, and the paper for which he covered the Boston scene—the Boston Advertiser —is now defunct. Read more »

Bubble, Bubble No— Toil, No Trouble

The brisk little Italian immigrant promised you 100 per cent interest in ninety days. Some people actually got it

Seen from the high oval windows of Boston’s City Hall on that sultry June morning in 1920, the line of stiffbrimmed straw hats bobbing along School Street resembled a roiled, wheat-colored stream. Among the straws were dark blotches of cloth caps, women’s brighter hats, and even the official visors of the police. On the honky-tonk outskirts of Scollay Square the stream grew denser and contracted into the cleft of Pi Alley.Read more »

Lincoln Saves A Reformer

The Navy and contractor Smith accused each other of fraud. The Navy won—until the President took a hand

The way of the reformer is hard. The way ofthat idealistic David who slings his polished stones at the Goliath of military bureaucracy is trebly hard. He needs a firm heart and strong friends. Franklin W. Smith, the principal in a celebrated naval court-martial during the Civil War, found one such just and farseeing advocate in Abraham Lincoln. Read more »

Boston Painters, Boston Ladies

Its venerable Museum of Fine Arts revives an era of forgotten beauty in a very proper Bohemia

Oscar Wilde, who had something clever to say on almost any subject, visited Boston about 1880, attended a debutante ball, and is supposed to have found the state of feminine beauty so low that he now understood why the city’s artists were reduced to “painting only Niagara Falls and millionaires.” It has been thought sophisticated to slur Boston girls ever since. Of course, it is all nonsense. Read more »

The Spies Who Went Out In The Cold

In late February, 1775, three men in what they thought was Yankee farmers’ dress, “brown cloaths and reddish handkerchiefs round our necks,” boarded the ferry at the foot of Prince Street in Boston, bound for Charlestown, a half mile across the Charles River.Read more »

Men Of The Revolution: 1. Dr. Joseph Warren

Warren took the lead in creating the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Refusing to leave Boston like the other radical leaders, he died in the fighting on Breed's Hill in 1775

Personal charm and affability are traits not commonly issociated with revolutionaries, and rarely has an agent of social upheaval been held in such universal esteem by his contemporaries as was Dr. Joseph Warren. He seems to have been a man nearly everyone liked, and his qualities come down to us in those dignified adjectives of the eighteenth century—gentle, noble, generous. So it is difficult to know if it was because of these characteristics or in spite of them that he was one of a handful of provincials most feared by British officialdom.

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Voices Of Lexington And Concord

What was it like to actually be there in April, 1775?
This is how the participants, American and British, remembered it

“When the regulars had arrived within eighty or one hundred rods, they, hearing our drum beat, halted, charged their guns, and doubled their ranks, and marched up at quick step.”

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The Medium Had The Message:

Mrs. Piper and the Professors

“If I may be allowed the language of the professional logic shop, a universal proposition can be made untrue by a particular instance. If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black you must not seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white. My own white crow is Mrs. Piper. In the trances of this medium I cannot resist the conviction that knowledge appears which she has never gained by the ordinary waking use of her eyes and ears and Wits.” Read more »

148 Charles Street

The Literary Lights Were Always Bright at

Everyone wanted to be invited to 148 Charles Street, where Charles Dickens mixed the punch and taught the guests parlor games, John Greenleaf Whittier and Harriet Beecher Stowe vied in telling ghost stories, and Nathaniel Hawthorne paced the bedroom floor one unhappy night in the final miserable year of his life.Read more »

The Last Of The Bosses

Part hero, part rogue, Boston’s Jim Curley triumphed over the Brahmins in his heyday, but became in the end a figure of pity.

For the first half of this century and beyond, James Michael Curley was the most flamboyant and durable figure on Boston’s political scene. Mayor off and on for a total of sixteen years, he spent four terms in Congress and two in jail, and for two depression years he was governor of Massachusetts. At his death he lay in state for two days in the State House Hall of Flags, the fourth person in the history of the Commonwealth to be so honored.