Category: HISTORY

WWI Letters from the Front

January 8, 2018

One of the current projects being undertaken at the Wellesley Historical Society is the processing and updating of the Early Family Papers. The papers contain much correspondence relating to World War I as John “Jack” Early served as a Lieutenant in the United States Army during the Great War. One letter, to Jack from his close friend Herbert “Bert” E. Bancroft, has many interesting features. Bancroft’s eight-page letter, written on Cunard Steamship company letterhead and dated August 4, 1917, is a riveting account of transatlantic travel during World War I. Bancroft writes, “We are now one of a fleet which is nosing cautiously nearer and nearer the dreaded war zone. Safety, however, is given by a suitable convoy.”

The letter was mailed from London, the envelope bearing the Strand Hotel monogram and three Penny Post stamps featuring the likeness of King George V; at the time, Bancroft was on his way to join Army forces in France. Early was not the only one to have read the letter, however. A tag on the envelope notes that it was “Opened by censor 3392,” and the letter shows clear signs of censorship: content has been excised with a pair of scissors or a knife. Soon after receiving this letter, Jack Early would follow Bancroft to France to join U.S. military forces in the war. During his time overseas Early wrote frequently to his family in Wellesley about his experiences.

This collection is being processed with generous grant support from the Wellesley Community Preservation Commission (CPC) and the Massachusetts’s State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB).

To learn more about the Early family of Wellesley, check out our archival finding aid here.

Alden Ludlow, grant-funded Archivist

No Glasses Needed to View This Solar Eclipse!


August 15, 2017

With an upcoming solar eclipse on August 21st, I was inspired to pull out the Denton collection of lantern slides. The first is of a solar eclipse and the second is a more rare, “orrery” mechanical lantern slide. The orrery lantern slide shows the movement of the solar system when rotated with a hand crank. The image on the left shows the entire slide while the image on the right is a close up with light coming through.

These lantern slides were used by Wellesley resident William Denton (1823-1883) to illustrate his many scientific lectures.  These lantern slides are composed of images on glass encased in a wooden frame. The slides were used with magic lanterns, an early form of a slide projector, first invented in the 17th century.  Popularized in the 19th century, they were used for both entertainment and educational purposes (see image below).

William Denton was a geologist and writer who traveled extensively in the 1870s through the early 1880s giving lectures with the visual aid of his magic lantern projector.  Denton’s lectures and published works focused on science, religion, spiritualism and politics. The Wellesley Historical Society has Denton’s magic lantern, hundreds of lantern slides, and lecture notes with titles such as “Our Planet,” “Is Darwin Right?” and “Where does Beauty Dwell?”

William Denton was the father of William D. and Robert W. Denton, internationally known for their stunning butterfly specimens, innovative mounts and jewelry. Established in 1895, The Denton Brothers company was located in a barn on Denton Road near the family homestead.

Kathleen Fahey, Curator

The Malden Trinopticon illustrated in The Magic Lantern Manual by W.J. Chadwick, published in 1878, is almost identical to William Denton’s magic lantern found in the collection of the Wellesley Historical Society.  This model features three lenses instead of the more common single or double lens construction.  Multiple lenses provided dissolving views, allowing one image to fade away as the next began to appear.