Amherst History Museum

Amherst History Museum Our mission is to connect people to the Town of Amherst, its history and its culture.

For five generations, Amherst residents have donated pieces of their lives to the Historical Society. We hold these pieces in trust, and aim to discover the heart of Amherst's history. In order to reinterpret the past, the "old documents and objects" need to be preserved and made available for study. We do that for Amherst. Understanding community history fosters civic pride and this valued institution serves us all. We depend entirely on private donations and volunteer efforts for maintenance of our extensive collections, the Simeon Strong House (c. 1750, one of the oldest in Amherst) and its grounds, and for support of our educational and outreach activities. Our mission is to connect you to the town of Amherst, its history and its culture. To fulfill our mission, we need your help.

Come explore our new exhibit, “Dressing Up: Women’s Fashion Through the Guilded Age”, curated by Hampshire College...
05/10/2019

Come explore our new exhibit, “Dressing Up: Women’s Fashion Through the Guilded Age”, curated by Hampshire College thesis student Molly O'Donnell! This exhibit examines the dichotomy of public/private presentation through an exploration of women’s ‘house’ and ‘street’ clothes throughout the 19th century. This is your chance to see a beautifully curated collected of dresses from our clothing collection all on display at once, and learn about the evolution of women’s fashion in 19th century America.

Interested in learning more about the history of silk in the valley?  Come to the Jones Library tomorrow at 12:45pm for ...
05/09/2019

Interested in learning more about the history of silk in the valley? Come to the Jones Library tomorrow at 12:45pm for '100 Years of Silk in the Valley', a talk presented by Marjorie Senechal! Straight from AHS archives, Amherst College student Thomas S Russell offhandedly mentions the silk industry to his parents in an 1839 letter, showing how ubiquitous the industry was in the 1830s! In fact, in the late 1830s, the Amherst economy was somewhat in decline due to the "mulberry craze"- mulberry trees were planted in hopes of silkworms and a silk industry that did not ultimately prove viable.

The illustration is a view of Amherst drawn Van Lennep in 1839, Van Lennep graduated Amherst College in 1837, and went on to create this piece for Amherst professor Edward Hitchcock's Geology of Massachusetts, where it appears as "Plate #6, Valleys of Erosion on Mt. Holyoke". This illustration can be viewed at the Amherst Historical Society and Museum, and can also be accessed through Amherst College Special Collections, where this digital version was accessed.

Are you ready for #ArtWeekMA?  We're ready to spring into the season and celebrate Artweekwith three exciting events!  O...
04/05/2019

Are you ready for #ArtWeekMA? We're ready to spring into the season and celebrate Artweekwith three exciting events!

On Sunday, April 28th we will be hosting an Artist's Supply and Studio Sale on the lawn of the Historical Society, from 11pm-3pm! Local artists will be selling and swapping art materials, as well as exhibiting pieces from their workshops!

On the same day, join fiber artist Flo Rosenstock from 1-3pm for a hands-on felted soap workshop for the whole family! Make and bring home your own felted soap! This event has a materials fee of $1 per person.

Then, to cap off our ArtWeek events, bring your family heirlooms and historical items to The Art of Evaluation on
Thursday, May 2nd, from 5:30-8pm, when historian and conservator Lynne Bassett will date and identify materials for your family photographs and portrait paintings, as well as identify costumes, quilts, and other textile artifacts. No monetary values will be provided. Don’t have an item? Please join us as part of the audience and learn about other people’s cherished possessions. Each evaluation slot will be $10, and you can reserve your slots here https://amhersthistory.org/the-art-of-evaluation/

We are part of ArtWeek – a unique annual celebration of arts, culture and creativity. Curious people of all ages will get creative at 500+ unique events across the state – and
many are FREE! Join us April 26 – May 5. Get the full festival schedule at artweekma.org.

We had a wonderful presentation today by Cinda Jones from the Cowls Home Farm, who shares photos and historical informat...
03/29/2019

We had a wonderful presentation today by Cinda Jones from the Cowls Home Farm, who shares photos and historical information about the history of the Jones family in the area and the Mill District!

Come back on Friday, April 12th at 12:15 for our next talk, The Jewish Community of Amherst: The Formative Years, presented by local author and founding member Irving Seidman!

Interested in seeing funny and/or intriguing snippets from the letters of 19th century Amherst College student Thomas S ...
03/15/2019

Interested in seeing funny and/or intriguing snippets from the letters of 19th century Amherst College student Thomas S Russell? Follow along on twitter as we post the best snippets from our ongoing transcription project! https://twitter.com/tsr1838

The Spring History Bites Lunchtime Lecture schedule is here!  Join us for another year learning about Amherst!https://am...
02/16/2019

The Spring History Bites Lunchtime Lecture schedule is here! Join us for another year learning about Amherst!

https://amhersthistory.org/history-bites-lunchtime-lecture-series/

History Bites is a series of thirty minute lectures to inform and entertain, covering various aspects of the history of Amherst and the lives of those who once lived here.

Bring your lunch, and we provide coffee, tea and cider for you as you listen to the presentations. The programs begin promptly at 12:15 with seating and beverages ready just before noon. The lectures are free and everyone is welcome to attend.

Drum roll please... the winner of the upcycled Adirondack Chair, from our 3rd Annual Ski & Winter Gear Sale Raffle, is W...
02/16/2019

Drum roll please... the winner of the upcycled Adirondack Chair, from our 3rd Annual Ski & Winter Gear Sale Raffle, is Woody Sherman. Congratulations Woody! Looks like you will be doing lots of skiing even when you are not on the slopes.

We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to Nancy Meagher, who lent us this beautiful painting of the Dell, Mabel Loomis T...
02/15/2019

We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to Nancy Meagher, who lent us this beautiful painting of the Dell, Mabel Loomis Todd's Amherst home. Of the painting, Meagher writes:

A toll folding screen showcasing stalks of wildflowers in the Simeon Strong House because my official introduction to Amherst’s Renaissance woman, Mabel Loomis Todd.

Seeking more information about the luminous work which stood alone in the cavernous exhibit space, I was directed to a small room across from the reception desk. On display, I found photos of camel caravans in the desert, and worn photographs of a striking woman with memorable eyes in a fashionable dress.

However, it was a small wooden paint box holding tiny, squeezed and capped tubes of oil paint, which felt the greatest adventure to me.

My journey from a tall folding screen to stained art supplies and skinny brushes led me to a mesmerizing Mint Green Victorian mansion, eventually circling round to the poems of Emily Dickinson.

Color Preference fascinates me. I have pulled out dusty canvases from my art school days to find that I am still choosing the exact same palette.

Driving past the Mint Green of Mabel’s house, the Buttery Yellow of Emily’s, and the Peachy Salmon of Austin and Susan’s spectacular “Madeline” style home make each day for me a sensory treat.

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To see more of Nancy Meagher's art, visit https://nancymeagherart.com/

We are pleased to present this year's Conch Shell Award to Julie Dobrow for her authorship of After Emily:  Two Remarkab...
02/01/2019

We are pleased to present this year's Conch Shell Award to Julie Dobrow for her authorship of After Emily: Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America’s Greatest Poet. It has been our pleasure to see her in-depth research into the lives of Mabel Loomis Todd and Millicent Todd Bingham grow into this book longlisted for both the Plutarch Award (Biographers International Organization honoring the best biography published in 2018) and the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography. Julie has been generous with her research and perceptions and has assisted the Amherst History Museum with exhibitions, lectures and tours on themes related to Mabel Loomis Todd. She has opened our eyes to a better understanding of Mabel Loomis Todd’s significant role in the life of Amherst and how Emily Dickinson became known to the wider world.

The Conch Shell Award was established in 2007 to honor those who have made a significant contribution to the culture and/or history of Amherst.

If you're interesting in checking out After Emily, you can buy it here https://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?id=4294996767&LangType=1033 or check it out from our friends at the Jones Library!

"Merit goes not unrewarded."  This notice to the employees of G. B. Burnett & Son (c. 1895) was likely posted on the wal...
12/11/2018

"Merit goes not unrewarded." This notice to the employees of G. B. Burnett & Son (c. 1895) was likely posted on the walls of the hat mill to remind employees of the code of conduct. The reminder to "Be energetic, be faithful, be honest, be saving, be diligent," hung over the employees as they bleached, split, and dyed palm leaves to turn into braid that was then woven into hats and hoods sold across New England. At the time, Massachussetts was the "only state in the Union" to where palm leaf hats were constructed. In 1865, this mill, at that point still belonging to its founding family the Hills, went through 120 pounds of palm leaf from Cuba (valued at $20,000 dollars) and produced 50,000 dozen hats and 30,000 dozen hoods, all with the work of 55 employees. That's a lot of hats per employee!

This #givingtuesday donate to the Amherst History Museum and become a part of connecting the people to the town of Amher...
11/27/2018

This #givingtuesday donate to the Amherst History Museum and become a part of connecting the people to the town of Amherst, its history and its culture! https://givingtuesday.mightycause.com/organization/Amherst-Historical-Society-1

Blow the kunk! #givingtuesday, November 27th, approaches! This year, please consider donating to the Amherst History Museum at: https://givingtuesday.mightycause.com/organization/Amherst-Historical-Society-1
With your donation, you become part of the preservation of and education about Amherst's history! Funds raised during Giving Tuesday will go towards collections care, which means bringing in trained conservators to develop conservation-treatment plans for the repair and preservation of items in our collection. With proper care, these important pieces of Amherst’s history will be preserved not only for our generation, but for generations to come.

The Emily Dickinson Museum
11/20/2018

The Emily Dickinson Museum

On Sunday, December 2nd author Julie Dobrow gives a reading and book signing from her brand new work entitled, After Emily [W. W. Norton & Company; October 30, 2018]. You don’t want to miss it! Find out more here: https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/Dobrow

“Dobrow chronicles the lives of two of Emily Dickinson’s earliest champions and editors. . . . Impeccably researched using more than 700 boxes of the Todds’ personal documents, Dobrow’s narrative gives a fascinating glimpse into the lives of two tireless advocates for Dickinson’s work, demonstrating how poet and editors alike were ‘all women pushing up against the boundaries of their times.’”—Publishers Weekly
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#emilydickinson #emilydickinsonmuseum

Blow the kunk!  #givingtuesday, November 27th, approaches!  This year, please consider donating to the Amherst History M...
11/13/2018

Blow the kunk! #givingtuesday, November 27th, approaches! This year, please consider donating to the Amherst History Museum at: https://givingtuesday.mightycause.com/organization/Amherst-Historical-Society-1
With your donation, you become part of the preservation of and education about Amherst's history! Funds raised during Giving Tuesday will go towards collections care, which means bringing in trained conservators to develop conservation-treatment plans for the repair and preservation of items in our collection. With proper care, these important pieces of Amherst’s history will be preserved not only for our generation, but for generations to come.

We at the Amherst Historical Society and Museum are excited to participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fue...
11/02/2018

We at the Amherst Historical Society and Museum are excited to participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. This year, we will be focusing on collections care. With your donation, you can be a part of preserving the history of Amherst for this generation and generations to come!

Funds raised during Giving Tuesday will go towards bringing in trained conservators to develop conservation-treatment plans for the repair and preservation of our collection.

With the support of the Amherst community, we hope we can reach our goal of raising $1000 for museum collections care.

Mark your calendars! Starting November 13th, you can donate to the AHS #GivingTuesday fund at https://givingtuesday.mightycause.com/organization/Amherst-Historical-Society-1

This little baby cap, lovingly crafted for tiny young heads, is interestingly enough the oldest textile in our collectio...
10/30/2018

This little baby cap, lovingly crafted for tiny young heads, is interestingly enough the oldest textile in our collection!

Created in around 1700 (possibly slightly earlier) this linen cap features a crown and aide stripe constructed of bobbin lace, a type of lace created by braiding and twisting thread held in place with pins set into a lace pillow.

Take a look at the fine lacework- at the time, even the clothing of infants and small children often featured beautiful, delicate lacework.

It was sewed to last- a piece of clothing like this would be passed down and reused over multiple generations of children.

“Old home week in good earnest and the streets are thronged.  Received over 200 people in the historical society rooms...
10/09/2018

“Old home week in good earnest and the streets are thronged. Received over 200 people in the historical society rooms. Our fruit-punch bowl was filled nine times,” our founder Mabel Loomis Todd wrote during the Old Home Week celebrations of July of 1903. Characteristically, she was in the thick of the organizing for the event. The next day she wrote of her float in the parade “Mrs. Churchill and I got on board after some arranging and fusing in the order of the parade we finally got started and rode through the streets of our town in grab calculated to excite attention- Puritan maidens in high caps industriously spinning.”

You can carry on some of the tradition of Old Home Week by attending our annual Amherst House Tour on November 10th (tickets can be purchased at amhersthistory.org or at AJ Hastings!) or coming to learn more about Mabel and her impact on Amherst at the musuem with our exhibit ‘The Spectular Mabel Loomis Todd.”

The photo of the Old Home Week parade is used in our exhibits courtesy of the Todd-Bingham Picture Collection, Manuscripts, and Archives, Yale University.

"The alarm was given about 5 o’clock A. M. which instantly awoke me- I arose, merely threw on my pantaloons and overco...
09/28/2018

"The alarm was given about 5 o’clock A. M. which instantly awoke me- I arose, merely threw on my pantaloons and overcoat (as I supposed one of the colleges was on fire) and rushed down three flights of stairs of almost as many bounds. As soon as I reached the College yard, I was happily disappointed. Such a scene I never saw before. Two or three deep toned bells were ringing, cries of Fire! Fire!"

In March of 1838, Thomas R Russell, a student at Amherst College, sat down to wrote a letter home to his parents. Along with details of his recent trips, family gossip, and Amherst College going-ons, he included a first-hand account of the fire that ravaged the center of Amherst, demolishing the building depicted in the center of this illustration. Recently, a collection of Russell's original letters made its way into our collection through anonymous donation, just in time for our Historical Fires of Amherst exhibit! The collection is a fascinating look at college life in the early 19th century, and we'll be posting more of it soon.

"You have probably read of the appalling fire which took place in our village a few weeks since," Russell begins. "It laid in ashes the largest block in town. The alarm was given about 5 o’clock A. M. which instantly awoke me- I arose, merely threw on my pantaloons and overcoat (as I supposed one of the colleges was on fire) and rushed down three flights of stairs of almost as many bounds. As soon as I reached the College yard, I was happily disappointed. Such a scene I never saw before. Two or three deep toned bells were ringing, cries of Fire! Fire! were proceeding from a hundred Stentorian lungs, and the flames were furiously bursting from the lower windows of a large three story brick block- constituting the business part of the village. The students poured out en masse, and “rushed to the rescue” They, indeed, saved pretty much all there was saved, as they rose much earlier than the townsmen, and consequently, were on the ground before the fire had made much progress. But the efforts of students, villagers, and all in the extinguishing or arresting the devouring element were of no avail. In spite of their exertions, an adjoining store was soon wrapt in flames, then a large and elegant tavern- nothing was preserved beside the gavels and furniture, and that with great difficulty and danger.

Continuing in the theme of tiny objects, this porcelain doll’s teaset is from the early 19th century, belonged to Sara...
09/21/2018

Continuing in the theme of tiny objects, this porcelain doll’s teaset is from the early 19th century, belonged to Sara Dickerman of New Haven, Connecticut. Like much of our collection, it was given to the Amherst History Museum by family- her granddaughter donated the teaset in 1975. Think about how many generations of little kids might have played with this set! Do you have any family heirlooms with interesting stories?

Who doesn’t love tiny hats? This miniature straw hat (c. December 17th, 1907) was created by the Hills Hat Factory in ...
09/14/2018

Who doesn’t love tiny hats? This miniature straw hat (c. December 17th, 1907) was created by the Hills Hat Factory in Amherst, MA, as a show piece for display to prospective customers. It is marked with the initials of Fannie Marilla (Davis) Pierce.

Is this Rudge High Wheel Cycle hazardous to your health?  If you were a young man in the late 19th century, doctors cert...
09/07/2018

Is this Rudge High Wheel Cycle hazardous to your health? If you were a young man in the late 19th century, doctors certainly thought so!

High wheel cycles were popular with young, middle-class men of the era for their speed- the bigger the wheel, the faster the cycle could go. A high wheel of this size could reach nearly 30 mph! High wheels were considered dangerous both because their instability (even a small rock or bump could cause the rider to fly over the handlebars and suffer a ‘header’) and physicians’ worry that the jarring of the hard rubber tires on unpaved roads would damage male organs.

This particular cycle was a gift from Amherst mechanic Edward Thompson to his son Herbert in 1881. Rudge High Cycles were manufactured from 1870-1888.

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67 Amity St
Amherst, MA
01002

PVTA bus stop at front door

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