Saturday, April 30, 2016

Buried Treasures Revealed: The Helen Leadbeater Collection

Guest curator, Diana Bell, created this display of just a tiny bit of Helen Leadbeater's extensive Mount Washington Valley archaeological collection.

Helen Leadbeater of Fryeburg, Maine was a prominent figure in the Mount Washington Valley in the 20th century. Helen was first and foremost an educator. That was her passion. She was also Fryeburg town librarian, Board member of the Conway Library and the Conway Historical Society, and a dedicated historian.

Helen Leadbeater was a groundbreaking female researcher at a time when the field was dominated by men. As strange as that sounds now, there were many fields of science that were closed to women in the last half of the 20th century. Like a lot of strong women, Helen Leadbeater did not let that perception stop her.

After losing her husband, she found herself with some free time in her life. Helen worked with her friends to conduct professional-style archaeological research in the Mt Washington Valley.

While teaching herself the scientific method, Helen used historical materials and carefully researched every scrap of information available on the prehistory of the Valley.

Here you can see a small sample of the hundreds of boxes, each carefully labeled and tied to maps and detailed records in notebooks.

Dozens of pottery shards were examined and carefully pieced together like a puzzle ...

... to get a sense of the size and shape of bowls and pots that were both functional and beautifully decorated from thousands of years ago.

Other items displayed include artifacts of bone and stone, fashioned into atlatl weights, fishing tools, needles and so on.

These items are displayed with sketches and diagrams to help understand how we think these tools were used in the past.

Coincidentally, the current issue of Scientific American magazine features an article on tool making may have actually physically shaped our brains and led the way to how we think today.

Comment us for more links and details.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Snow on the Mountain

As seen from Conway, the Presidential Range is still crowned in white. However, things are afoot to prepare for another summer of exploration and adventure there according to the website of the Mount Washington Auto Road. The history section of their website and the historical displays at their base museum and at the summit provide a great introduction and overview to any visit there.

Another "uncovering" in our collection of Bemis papers is this letter.  It was referenced in an article about Joseph Seavey Hall posted on the White Mountain History website. Here you can see it in all its detail. (click on the images to enlarge them).

The letter is written in brown ink on light blue wove paper with no watermark. It is written in a clear consistent hand and addressed to Dr. S. A. Bemis Boston. Written upside down in pencil on page 2 is Rec'd April 20. It is interesting to think of the different ways that structures were conceived during the period, including the use of "Indian rubber."

According to Kilbourne’s Chronicles of the White Mountains, p. 230, Joseph S. Hall was one of three men how directed the building of the “Summit House” the first hotel on Mount Washington, that was built and opened to the public in 1852. See this link for details.

We are happy to provide digital access to the entire letter and as time goes on, many more papers in this vast archives. If you are interested in volunteering to help scan and share this collection, please comment us below.

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 1916

On to our continuing coverage of the "home front" during World War One in Conway. The first page of each issue of the Reporter newspaper included a regular column on Conway with the subtitle “What the people are doing in busy Conway” (click on the image to enlarge it).


The local news in this column included short tweet like bits of miscellaneous information such as “The robins have arrived and can be heard every morning” and “Moses Thurston has sold his farm to Fred Kennison of Snowville."
One column was an appeal for the North Conway Athletic Club. A YMCA been organized and they were developing programs for basketball and baseball. They wanted "club rooms, a magazine and reading room, a pool table, perhaps, a small gymnasium where boxing, wrestling, and tumbling can be indulged in ..."

Among the benefits listed of such a program, "It keeps this younger generation off the street corners..." It seems some things never change.
We will see that the focus of the YMCA changes as the war progresses and the Conway home front  becomes more concerned of the war ranging in Europe.

At this point, there was in fact, more ink and column inches on cows and used cars than the war raging in Europe. Here is an example in the news from Wonalancet.  


Finally, on page 4, there was a short reference in the editorial section on the war.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Tax Man Cometh

Want to know about Conway taxes in 1916? We have you covered at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.

Here you can find a remarkable set of one hundred year old records. They are large, heavy, unwieldy books 15 x 17 inches and almost three inches thick. They are truly a pleasure to behold. The leather bound binding is a work of art in itself. 


They are finely embossed and engraved with red Moroccan leather corners, gilt lettering, marbled end papers and so on. Each page is a pre-printed two page spreadsheet with columns that document taxable property. The details are hand written in an elegant script.  

Reading from left to right the column headings are designed to record the following: names, land, buildings, horses, mules, oxen, cows, sheep, hogs, fowl, vehicles including automobiles, portable mills, boats and launches, and other details. There are many interesting facts that can be seen from studying these records.

Please comment if you would like to learn more.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bemis and the little red book

No, we are not talking about Chairman Mao's. Instead we are talking about "Baedekers."

German publisher Karl Baedeker began printing tourist guidebooks in the 1830s. Soon they became famous throughout the world and were the model for other guidebooks including a series of guides to the White Mountains.

During the late 19th century a number of these tourist guide books were published. Many of them were around the same size (4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches x 1 1/2 inches thick) and had a red cover with gold lettering.


 Here is the preface and some of the pages about visiting Conway NH from the 1876 edition of Osgood's guidebook edited by M.F. Sweetser in the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room collection.



An online version of this 1876 edition can be found on Google books at this link and the text can be searched by word or phrase.

Earlier this week, our long-laboring guest archivist, Craig Evans uncovered the following letter in the Bemis papers. (You can click on the images to enlarge them). Basically, the December 1875 letter is from M.F. Sweetser in Boston to Dr. S.A. Bemis in Crawford Notch with Sweetser asking to "trespass upon your courtesy to seek information about certain points near Hart's Location, with regard to which my notes are deficient." He then goes on to ask five specific questions.

Sweetser apparently also included his business card with the letter as it was found with the papers.

 In the letter he mentions that "The people in Boston are now organizing an American Alpine Club..." This became the Appalachian Mountain Club, whose guidebooks we also actively collect for their historical documentation of now lost trails.
 To see if Bemis answered the questions, or to just enjoy and explore our collection, comment below or visit us at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room.