Special Birthday Speaker: J. Drew Lanham August 22

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On August 22, we will be co-hosting J. Drew Lanham with the Nantucket Atheneum. Professor Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature as well as numerous articles, poetry, and research papers in peer reviewed journals. He is the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University. He will be speaking about his work in songbird ecology and his perspectives on the role of African Americans in natural resource conservation. His book is a must-read! His lecture will be FREE and run from 7-8PM. A book signing will follow. http://www.clemson.edu/cafls/faculty_staff/profiles/lanhamj

Please join us and celebrate Maria Mitchell’s 200th!

JNLF

JAM!

Back on June 16, after sitting to sell my wares at the Nantucket Book Festival’s Local Author Tent (my book The Daring Daughters of Nantucket), I headed out to Bartlett’s to pick some strawberries – they had just opened it up that morning. I was surprised at how little was yet ripe and also what was under ripe – but it’s been so darned cold so no real surprise. I picked two quarts quickly however, determined to make my son some strawberry bread.

My husband and I have read to him every night since he was tiny. Multiple books are in the offing and one of them was given to him by a dear friend and mentor of mine. It’s a book that she taught me about and how to use it with my students when I was also teaching on island. When Nolan was born, she found the book – long out of print – online and gave it to him with several other wonderful books. This books I still use today – it’s part of one of the Mitchell House Children’s Classes that we teach on occasion. The book is The Good Giants and the Bad Puckwudgies, written by Jean Fritz and illustrated by Tomie de Paola.

Part of the story describes Mashop – a Wampanoag giant – dislike for tending to tasks assigned by his wife, Quant, and his deep preference for smoking his pipe (now you know where fog comes from!) instead. One of the few ways Quant can lure him from his pipe and get him to focus on the task at hands is by making her much loved strawberry bread – and it’s what later lures him back home and out of the temptations of the mer-woman, Squant.

The bread came out wonderfully – I made it that afternoon. I left one quart in the garage and I have to say, the strawberries continued to ripen and from those I made refrigerator jam – super easy and delicious! I have an image here of it in my overcrowded-company-coming-to-dinner refrigerator. Now, I’ll be hunting for wild strawberries! Yum! (Update: birds and animals beat me to them!)

JNLF

The Iceman Cometh

I believe I may have posted this several years ago – I had originally written it for the now gone online Nantucket magazine, Nantucket Chronicle. But given the weather these past weeks, I think it helps to think cool.

The past few weeks have been very un-Nantucket as far as the heat and the extreme humidity. When I was a child and even a teenager, I remember that we always wore long pants and even sweaters in the summer evenings on island. This does not seem to be the norm any longer unfortunately. The heat also leads me to think about staying cool and what generations before us did to preserve food.

Long before modern refrigeration, ice was used for preserving foods. Although the use of ice brought an end to salting and drying fish for local markets, with railroad development and western expansion in the 1850s, salt fish was still being shipped to inland domestic markets as well as abroad. As the fishing industry grew on Nantucket and elsewhere, however, so did the need for ice to keep the catch fresh for market.

On Nantucket, when a hard freeze produced ice of the necessary thickness, blocks were cut from Maxcey’s and Washing Ponds and the North Head of Hummock Pond and stored in nearby icehouses. This was a fairly long and tricky process that took skill to make sure the ice was the right thickness and that one did not fall through the ice. Mainland icehouses typically used sawdust for insulation, but Nantucket ice was insulated with beach grass, seaweed, and eelgrass—sawdust not being readily available here. The iceman would drive his cart around the streets with usually a gaggle of children trailing behind – or hitching a secretive ride on the back of the cart – hoping for a piece of ice to suck on and cool off with – back when something that simple was a pure delicacy.

When electricity was introduced on Nantucket in 1889, cutting pond ice was no longer necessary. Captain John “Jack” Killen built the first ice-making plant, on Straight Wharf, opening it on May 5, 1902. Several other plants, including that of the Island Service Company, followed—all operating until the Great Depression. Nantucket’s early ice-making plants were established primarily for packing fish and shellfish, which were shipped in barrels or fish boxes layered with ice. Fishermen both on and off-island would stock up on ice before going out on long trips, and it is said that island ice was of a much higher quality than that from plants off-island—perhaps because of the purity of Nantucket’s water.

Some people still cut ice. My parents had an elderly friend and his family owns a camp of cottages from the 19th century up in Vermont. In the winter, the entire family shows up to harvest ice and store it in the icehouse. The ice is then used in each of the cottages during the summer since they have no electricity or plumbing. It is an art that is almost gone but happily there are still a few who have passed down the knowledge and skill for harvesting ice.

All images are form the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association and are island images.

JNLF

Happy 200th, Maria Mitchell!

August 1, 2018 Marks Miss Mitchell’s 200th Birthday!

We have been celebrating all year, but August 1 will be her birthday party open house that we have had just about every year since our founding.

From 1-4PM all the MMA sites will be open free to the public – Mitchell House, Hinchman House Natural Science Museum, the Aquarium, and the Vestal Street Observatory. We will have period-inspired and period music, a falconer, a children’s books author, lots of demonstrations and activities, and punch and cookies!

We will kick off the day with a children’s parade from the Atheneum – where Maria was the first librarian – to Vestal Street. Call 228.9198 for details and to register for the parade – children must be accompanied by an adult.

Join us and help celebrate Maria Mitchell and her legacy!

JNLF

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Friday, July 31. {1857}They say that we shall see the coast of Ireland tomorrow, and every heart rejoices, for tho’ the passage has been very fine, we are weary of our close quarters and long for the sight of green fields, and indeed of any objects of any kind to look upon . . .

Maria was onboard the Steamer Arabia, crossing the Atlantic to reach Europe. They started on the 22nd and on August 1 land was spotted. They arrived in Liverpool the next day, August 2. Imagine crossing the Atlantic on a steamer! Whole it took almost a dozen days, imagine how much faster I was than a ship under sail as Maria’s paternal grandfather used when a whaling captain! For some, especially whalemen, it must have felt like a speedy trip! This was the strt of Maria’s trip to Europe – a trip that would serve as an education and one that opened doors to greater knowledge and friendships with Europe’s scientists and others.

JNLF

Noted Author Dava Sobel to Speak for Maria Mitchell’s 200th Birthday Year

On July 25, starting at 7PM at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum, we will welcome noted author, Dava Sobel. Sobel is the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, as well as numerous other books and articles. Her newest book, The Glass Universe, looks at the women of the Harvard College Observatory and their work as star catalogers – an almost all female group. The MMA has a unique tie to the Harvard College Observatory – Maria played a small role in this program, Harvard Observatory’s helped the MMA to develop its Astronomy Department back in the early 1900s. and we had several ties to the women who were Harvard’s star catalogers, including our first astronomy director, Margaret Harwood. It’s a wonderful book and we hope you will join us. Tickets can be purchased via the NHA at 508.228.1894 or www.nha.org for $25.00. A book signing and a special reception with the author will follow this lecture. http://www.davasobel.com/

JNLF

J

What’s New in Mitchell House? Peleg Jr.’s China!

We have some new artifacts over here at the Mitchell House! We recently acquired Peleg Mitchell Junior’s (Maria Mitchell’s uncle) blue and white Ridgway china set as a generous gift from his descendants. All in all, there are thirty-seven pieces in this set and they have gone on quite the journey!

Based on their color and pattern, we believe the china dates to around the 1830s. According to the family, the china originally belonged to Mary Ann Whippey, who was Peleg Mitchell Jr’s first wife. The china stayed with the Mitchell family, even after Mary’s death in 1836. In fact, the china came to the Mitchell House in 1837 when Maria’s father sold the house to his youngest brother, Peleg Jr, so Maria’s family could move to the apartment above the Pacific Bank. Peleg Jr had recently married again to another Mary (just to keep things confusing), known by the full name of Mary Swain Russell. After Peleg Jr died, Mary Russell still spent the summers here on Nantucket, but the rest of the year she spent time in Philadelphia visiting her daughter, Lydia. At some point, the china made its way down to Philly and later to Gladwyne, PA, with Lydia’s daughter (Mary and Peleg Jr’s granddaughter). The china continued moving with the family’s descendants, some of it going to Delaware and the rest of it taking a trip to Vermont. Now, it’s all back together at its original home – the Mitchell House!

The china we have is the Asiatic Palaces pattern, which was produced by Ridgway Potteries. In the full image, you can see a scene that takes place along a river, with the focus on two people standing by an ornate gate and a large pagoda. In the background, there is a bridge, a boat, and some other pagoda-style buildings along the riverbank.

But if you look closely at our set, you might notice that the small ladle and one of the plates have a different blue and white pattern, as if trying to blend in with the rest. The plate still says Asiatic Palaces on the bottom, but instead of focusing on the people by the pagoda, this plate’s scene is a close-up of the bridge and the boat. The small ladle, on the other hand, has nothing to do with Asiatic Palaces and is actually a completely different pattern! Though still blue and white, this ladle has an image of a windmill. According to the family, this ladle has been used with the rest of this set for as long as they can remember!

Now, in addition to these two pieces with totally different designs, if you look reaaaally closely at the rest of the set, you might notice that the pagodas are different shapes and the people are wearing different clothing or standing in different places from piece to piece. This seems a bit unusual for transfer-ware, which is not hand-painted and is usually mass-produced.

You might also be wondering why there is a ruler in the pictures of the up-close china. That’s because these are the photos we took to put into our records as we process and accession each item. These pictures provide a great opportunity for you to catch a glimpse into what we’re working on behind-the-scenes at Mitchell House!

Stop by to check out this china set on display in the Mitchell House pantry!

Kelly Bernatzky, Mitchell House Intern 2018, Vassar College 2019

 

Join Us Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium October 2018

We are women studying together.”

Maria Mitchell

Please join us on October 5-6, 2018 at the Babson Executive Conference Center in Wellesley, MA for this important conference concerning women and girls in STEM. A different meeting, this will be a hands-on experience in which we are trying to develop real-world solutions. Dava Sobel, Jill Tarter, Meg Urry, Kate Kirby, Shirley Malcom and more!

Visit www.mmwiss.org for more information and to register. Early-bird registration until August 1, 2018. Scholarships for students and teachers.

JNLF

Women in STEM Symposium Flyer

Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

1881. Sunday, June 12. The eclipse at one o’clock this morning was beautiful. It had rained for a week and cleared off last evening . . . . I got out a little before 1 a.m. and went to bed at 2 {a.m.}. Roses are plenty.

This was not a solar eclipse as Maria would observe in 1831 (Nantucket at age 12 ½), Burlington, Iowa (1869), or Denver, Colorado (1878), but a lunar eclipse (note the time of day) viewed from the observatory at Vassar. School was still in session – yes, colleges did not get out in May – and her well-received and highly-anticipated Dome Party for the year would follow just six days later. This seems to have been a solitary observation – though two of her nieces via her youngest sister, Kate, may have at least been present in the Observatory as they had come a few days before to stay.

What I love even more is her note about the roses being in bloom. A naturalist as well, Maria’s journals are always at least peppered – if not written to great depth – with notations about things in nature. And June, is the time for roses!

JNLF

And please do not forget to join us this Wednesday, June 27 from 7-8 PM for a lecture and book signing at the Nantucket Atheneum with David Baron author of American Eclipse – a book in which Maria Mitchell is one of the featured astronomers. Baron drew on Mitchell’s papers housed here on island at the MMA to research and write his book.

Special Birthday Speakers for Maria’s 200th Birthday Year!

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I am very excited to highlight our three special birthday speakers for this summer whom I believe touch on the life of Maria Mitchell in special ways. And, I am very pleased that they have all agreed to come from some far distances to help celebrate Maria’s 200th!

Our first speaker will be on Wednesday, June 27 at the Nantucket Atheneum. David Baron’s most recent work is American Eclipse which came out last summer. He featured five astronomers – as well as other notables – and their trials and triumphs of observing and documenting the eclipse of August 1878 in Colorado. Maria is one of the featured astronomers as she travelled out west with several of her students – including her sister Phebe Mitchell Kendall – to observe and record the eclipse. Baron makes the event come alive in this book and notes the frustrations, challenges, and successes of observing in the late nineteenth century. It really is a must-read and we hope you will join us for this FREE lecture at 7PM on the 27th. A book signing will follow. You can learn more about David Baron on his website. http://www.american-eclipse.com

On July 25, starting at 7PM at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Whaling Museum, we will welcome noted author, Dava Sobel. Sobel is the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, as well as numerous other books and articles. Her newest book, The Glass Universe, looks at the women of the Harvard College Observatory and their work as star catalogers – an almost all female group. The MMA has a unique tie to the Harvard College Observatory – Maria played a small role in this program, Harvard Observatory’s helped the MMA to develop its Astronomy Department back in the early 1900s. and we had several ties to the women who were Harvard’s star catalogers, including our first astronomy director, Margaret Harwood. It’s a wonderful book and we hope you will join us. Tickets can be purchased via the NHA at 508.228.1894 for $25.00. A book signing and a special reception with the author will follow this lecture. http://www.davasobel.com/

And finally on August 22, at the Nantucket Atheneum we will be hosting J. Drew Lanham. Professor Lanham is the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature as well as numerous articles, poetry, and research papers in peer reviewed journals. He is the Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher and Certified Wildlife Biologist Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University. He will be speaking about his work in songbird ecology and his perspectives on the role African Americans in natural resource conservation. His book is a must-read! His picture will be FREE and run from 7-8PM. A book signing will follow. http://www.clemson.edu/cafls/faculty_staff/profiles/lanhamj

Please join us and celebrate Maria Mitchell’s 200th!

JNLF