Header from Captain Clarke’s letter dated November 28, 1773 (from the NHS collections).
Capt. Peleg Clarke (1734-1803) of Newport spent the better part of 1773 on the ship Fletcher sailing from Newport to Africa, then to Jamaica, then to London, and was on the final leg of his triangular voyage back to New England. Loaded with a cargo of molasses, hemp, canvas and a few crates of tea, Clarke innocently sailed into Boston Harbor on 27 November 1773 during the riots that preceded the Boston Tea Party. His letter to his London agent John Fletcher vividly describes the sacking of East India Company agent Richard Clarke’s house and the promise of additional bloodshed if his cargos of tea were allowed to land. Peleg Clarke did managed to unload his own tea, at a loss, and sailed to Newport on 16 December.
Excerpts from Clarke’s letter (from the NHS collections).
A 1939 photograph of the von Trapp Family, image from the Library of Congress.
Singer Carrie Underwood will be leading a live performance of The Sound of Music on television next month which reminds us that the von Trapp family has several ties to Newport County. Baroness Maria von Trapp and her family emigrated to Pennsylvania and later established The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Maria frequently visited her publisher in Jamestown during summers in the early 1950s and her step son Rupert von Trapp moved to the Adamsville section of Little Compton. Elizabeth von Trapp followed in the family tradition as a professional singer, and has performed at Rosecliff.
Celebrate National Beard Month by remembering the legacy of General Ambrose Burnside, whose name was corrupted to sideburns as a way to describe his unique facial ornamentation. Burnside (1824-1881) was a hero of the Civil War and later served as Governor of Rhode Island and United States Senator.
Photograph and autograph letter signed by Governor Ambrose Burnside in 1867. Collections of the Newport Historical Society.
An ad for Popple's Shoes from the 1978 City Directory.
Shoes have been on the radar screen at the Newport Historical Society as we note the closure of Rhode Island Shoe Repair after 66 years in business. We also celebrate the discovery of a pair of shoes under the floorboards of the Colony House last week. Shoe and boot making has been an enduring industry in Newport often passed down for generations. Readers may recall the George Popple’s Shoe Store at 132 Thames Street, which had an unbroken chain of ownership through three generations of Popples, from Benjamin Marsh, from Marsh & Gould, and from Quaker shoemaker and tailor James Gould (1711-1748). After Popple’s closed, the building was occupied by the House of Scrimshaw and was destroyed by fire in 2007.
Jane Stuart dressed in a gorilla costume, from the NHS collections.
One of the more colorful people in 19th century Newport was Jane Stuart (1812-1888), portraitist and youngest daughter of artist Gilbert Stuart. With limited means in Boston, Jane supported herself by completing her father’s unfinished portraits while studying art under her brother Charles and other instructors. She moved to Newport in 1862 and permanently settled at 86 Mill Street. Financially strapped, she struggled to maintain an air of dignity among the trappings of Newport’s Gilded Age by painting and exhibiting her father’s works to by- passers. All the while, she was brilliant, witty, playful, loved charades and dressing in costume.
The John Stevens Shop slate memorial tablet that is mounted at the Newport Historical Society's headquarters.
Before the days of FTD bouquets and Starbuck’s gift cards, folks found alternative ways to honor the lives of deceased relatives. In 1939, William Congdon Fry commissioned John Howard Benson and the John Stevens Shop to produce a slate memorial tablet in memory of his uncle Alfred Brooks Fry, a civil engineer from New York and one time Mayor of Coronado, California. The Vermont slate stone has approximately 1000 capital Roman letters, hand cut by Benson and inlaid with gold leaf. As directed by the donor, it was mounted on the wall of the Newport Historical Society stairwell leading to the former Marine Museum, which used to occupy the basement. This masterpiece of carving can still be seen from our entrance lobby.
Australian crew members celebrate on their way back to Newport Harbor, image from the NHS collections.
In 1983, Newport was all about Australia. In January the song Down Under by Men at Work reached # 1 on the Billboard 100. During the summer, several local ballads played with Waltzing Matilda endlessly on Rhode Island radio stations. It was all a lead up to the America’s Cup Race and the Australian victory on 26 September.
Courage Draught Beer had been imported from Australia for every race since 1974.
William Engs workbook showing the geometric calculations of a sphere. This item is featured in the new exhibit "The Children's Hour" at the Museum of Newport History.
One of the early school masters in Newport was Capt. William Engs (1720-1800), who moved from Boston to Newport as a master mariner with experience as a book keeper and clerk. In 1772 he established a school, and took on boarders, to study navigation, astronomy, astrology, geography, geometry, double entry accounting and penmanship. The school lasted through the Revolution until 1797 leaving a record of students, subjects and tuition payments (made by parents or wealthy patrons).
Chicken City, image courtesy "The Newport Daily News".
Rhode Islanders have always been fond of using local landmarks while giving driving directions, regardless of whether or not the landmark exists. The most enduring local reference site is the Chicken City restaurant, with its colossal sign, conveniently located at the intersection of East and West Main Roads at Two Mile Corner. It doesn’t matter that the business closed in 1992, everyone is supposed to know where it used to be. Simply mentioning Walgreens’ Drug Store is not sufficient. (Almacs on Bellevue Avenue is a close second.)
Sen. Kennedy and Jackie at Hammersmith Farm, courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library, Toni Frissell, photographer.
September 12, 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the wedding of Senator John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Spring Street. A reception followed at Hammersmith Farm, the summer home of Jackie’s mother and step father. The wedding was covered by fashion and celebrity photographer Antionette “Toni” Frissell (1907-1988), whose family used to spend summers at “Vedimar” on Harrison Avenue and are interred at St. Columba’s Chapel in Middletown.
The Kennedys returned to Hammersmith Farm for the last time on their 10th anniversary in 1963.
The Kennedy's wedding invitation, from the NHS collections.