Irving Taylor Barnes Maritime Journals

Alden Ludlow, contract archivist
May 2, 2019

For diversity and fun within a small family archive, it is hard to beat the Christine Barnes Family Collection. Last August we took a look at the Civil War letters of Daniel Stone, great-grandfather to Christine Barnes (1923-2015), the namesake of the collection. Today, let’s take a closer look at her father, Irving Taylor Barnes.

Irving Taylor Barnes (1894-1968) and Edith Perkins (Butman) Barnes (1898-1986) were married in Wellesley on October 26, 1921. Irving was from Waltham, Edith from Wellesley; he was an electrical draftsman, and papers in the collection reveal that he worked for the Marconi Company, and later Edison utilities.

Two items draw attention here, both relating to Irving’s life and work. Barnes was involved in electrical engineering and radio transmission, and two small books, a “Standard Diary” and a “Log Book,” reflect his interest in these topics. Barnes attended the Boston Radio Institute c.1913, and then went to work for the Marconi Company office in Boston, which assigned him to serve as a wireless radio operator on ships.

 Photos, L-R: Irving Taylor barnes aboard the SS Mascotte; the 1917 diary; the 1923 log book.

The “Standard Diary” in this collection starts out with hum-drum daily accounts of weather conditions and travel information… But on April 23 entry he abandons this method and opts for pages of personal narrative about his travels and work in what amounts to a mini-autobiography for the years 1913-1917.

His diary vividly recounts his maritime operations serving as a wireless radio operator aboard passenger and cargo ships travelling in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. His account tells of port calls in Havana, Key West, and Tampa, as well as other cities. This diary covers the years 1914-1917, with reminiscences of 1913, when he started working for the Marconi Company.

In a photo of Barnes, he is holding a life preserver carrying the livery of the Peninsular & Oriental (P&O) SS Mascotte. The Mascotte went into service in 1886, running a route from Tampa to Key West to Havana, and back. The steamship was in the P&O line from 1900 to 1923, allowing us to conclude this was one of the ships on which Barnes served when writing his diary.

The second item in this series is a “Log Book” dated 1923, mostly recording weather conditions and radio station reception; it is not clear whether this is a personal account, or a work-related project, or both. He records meticulous data, in a very neat hand, quite cryptic to the average reader… But to someone knowledgeable about the history of wireless radio, or weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico, it could well be a treasure-trove!

Even the smallest archival collections contain surprises. They offer a window into the past, as well as insight into the activities and interests of people as they went about their daily lives. At the time, the communication technology Barnes was working with was cutting edge, and that was just a century ago.

— Alden R. Ludlow, WHS archivist

Processing of the Christine Barnes Family Collection was made possible through a grant from the Wellesley Community Preservation Committee. The collection finding aid can be found at URL:

Introducing Eleanor Early

Alden Ludlow, contract archivist

March 21, 2019

In celebrating Women’s History Month, the Wellesley Historical Society acknowledges the contributions of generations of extraordinary women who have made Wellesley the town it is today. Their unparalleled community engagement resulted in a proliferation of social, civic, and arts organizations over the last century and a half which continue to be the lifeblood of the town.


This month we would like to highlight the life of Eleanor Mary Early (1895-1969), a noteworthy and independent Wellesleyite who, in her time, was an accomplished journalist, travel writer, and novelist. Though her brother James “Jack” Early is better known, Eleanor’s life was far more compelling.


Eleanor’s parents, James A. Early and Sarah Jane Dolan, were married at St. John’s Church, Wellesley, in 1891. They had seven children, six of whom survived until adulthood. Eleanor was the oldest. The family moved to the Wellesley area, buying a plot of land in Wellesley Hills in October 1904; they built the family home, which was at 93 Washington Street, and had a grocery business in Newton Lower Falls. All of the children attended Wellesley public schools.


Eleanor Mary Early born in Newton in 1895, and grew up in the family home in Wellesley. She attended Wellesley schools, and graduated from Wellesley High School; her notebooks and school papers reveal a thorough and diligent student who loved to write. When her brother, Jack, went off to fight in World War I, the two carried on an extensive correspondence that reveals her love and wit.


After graduating from Wellesley High School, she attended Wheelock College (then Miss Wheelock’s College), and graduated in 1917, certified to be a teacher. But she enjoyed writing above all, and almost immediately pursued a career as a writer and journalist in Boston. She wrote for the Boston Herald-Traveler, the Boston Post, the Record American, and the Boston Globe. In the late 1930s she left Boston to join the staff of the New York Times. She also lived for a time in Washington, D.C. She traveled extensively, and those experiences informed her writing, which extended beyond newspaper reporting; she also was a radio commentator and magazine columnist.


She wrote books on travel, cooking, and history, as well as novels. Some of her lauded works at the time include Adirondack Tales (1939), New England Cookbook(1954), Washington Holiday (1955), Behold the White Mountains (1935), and Boston Yesterday and Today (1939). Early in career she wrote a series of travel books, which included And this is Boston! (1930) as well as And this is Washington! (1934), among others. Most of her books were published by Houghton Mifflin Company.


Throughout her life Eleanor travelled the globe, reporting as a journalist, writing travel pieces, and working on her novels. Independent and adventurous, she never married; she returned to Boston just a few years before her death in 1969. Eleanor Early’s papers form a significant part of the Wellesley Historical Society’s Early Family Papers.


— Alden R. Ludlow, WHS archivist


The Early Family Papers were processed in March 2018 with generous grant support from the Wellesley Community Preservation Commission (CPC) and the Massachusetts’s State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB).