Among the Artifacts: The Licensed Newsboy Badge

My fingers first brushed across the small metallic oval a few weeks ago. It was right next to Officer Lee's Lowell PD badge.  This very different badge was light, too old to be plastic.  I figured it was probably aluminum.   As I slid out the drawer at the Lowell Historical Society's archive, the flourescent…Read more Among the Artifacts: The Licensed Newsboy Badge

From the Curator’s Desk: Odd Old Things – The Box of Cinders

At the Lowell Historical Society, we sometimes get the question:  "Hey, what's the strangest thing you have in your collection?" That's a tough question to answer. The Lowell Historical Society has been around for a long time. I'm reminded of this each time I visit our archive. Just this morning, I found a book, one…Read more From the Curator’s Desk: Odd Old Things – The Box of Cinders

Yesterday’s Telephone Numbers: GLenview, MOntrose, and ULysses

In those long ago days before cellphones, speed dialing, and stored numbers, folks like Tommy Tutone telephoned girls like 'Jenny' by actually dialing 867-5309.  If he was a modern type, he may have even punched the number into the telephone's touchtone keypad, an innovation that was several years old by the time the song was…Read more Yesterday’s Telephone Numbers: GLenview, MOntrose, and ULysses

Dating Old Photographs – The Clues that Tintypes Hold, 1890

Most family historians have THAT box.  The box always looks roughly the same.  It's the box that belonged to the toaster your mother had three toasters ago.  Or, maybe it's a shoebox for a pair of long-lost boat shoes from Thom McAn or a gift box from Anderson Little (remember them?).  Maybe it's a bag…Read more Dating Old Photographs – The Clues that Tintypes Hold, 1890

Understanding Crime in Edwardian-Era Massachusetts – Arrests in Lowell, 1904

So, say you're writing a scene about Edwardian-era police officers in New England, or researching the life and times of a police officer ancestor.  Or, perhaps you're trying to get an idea of how people got into trouble with the law in the first years of the twentieth century.  You'll need to know why Edwardian-era…Read more Understanding Crime in Edwardian-Era Massachusetts – Arrests in Lowell, 1904

If you were to walk . . . or race a sleigh through Downtown Lowell’s Streets – 1906

Did you know that Jingle Bells was composed by James Lord Pierpoint in Medford, Massachusetts in 1850?  It's claimed that the town's 19th century sleigh races inspired the song, and that it was originally written as a Thanksgiving, not Christmas song.  Why "jingle bells"?  Music historian James Fuld informs that the horse-drawn sleighs of the…Read more If you were to walk . . . or race a sleigh through Downtown Lowell’s Streets – 1906

A Window into the Past: Ancestors’ Letters as Genealogical Records

So, say you've inherited a large stack of family photographs showing ancestors who are far up your family tree - such as great-grandparents, or their siblings, cousins, or close family friends.  As you stare into the moment in time captured in that cabinet card or tin type photograph, do you ever wonder what their voices…Read more A Window into the Past: Ancestors’ Letters as Genealogical Records

If you were to walk . . . Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, 1886

If you were to walk . . . Boston's Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market 125 years ago, on the afternoon before Thanksgiving, you would encounter a large assortment of the city's vegetable and meat merchants, selling their wares from the many wagons crowding the scene.  Today, although these merchants have long since moved on to…Read more If you were to walk . . . Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, 1886

Turkey Drovers – Traditions from Thanksgiving Days Past

It turns out that wild turkeys are incredibly difficult to move across long distances.  In the days before refrigerated travel, a national roadway system, and even railroads, driving turkeys across long stretches of land was the province of men called turkey drovers.  From 1790 to about 1830, turkey drovers walked turkeys to market, literally, at a…Read more Turkey Drovers – Traditions from Thanksgiving Days Past

Slice of Victorian Life: Skunking with a Ten-Foot Pole

Sometimes, when researching a column or even a post, a view into a slice of life from the past will emerge.  Today's 'slice of life' comes to us from late 19th-century Bath, Maine.  As November wore on in 1895, skunking became popular in town.  Being a card player, 'skunking' makes me think of cribbage -…Read more Slice of Victorian Life: Skunking with a Ten-Foot Pole