This blog represents the thirteenth entry in a blog series – Peabody 25 – that will delve into the history of the Peabody Institute through objects in our collection.
If you travel on state routes through the Northeast this time of year, you will likely witness a continuous stream of hand-painted signs advertising sweet corn. On a recent road trip through Maine, the oft-repeating signs got me thinking about all the places I’ve seen corn cultivated: Washington State, Arizona, the Midwest cornbelt and New England. A quick search on the internet reveals that modern corn varieties can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3-11 (that’s just about everywhere!). Currently corn is an important crop for many economies across the globe (map of world corn production).
With corn seemingly grown nearly everywhere, you may wonder when and where did it first originate? This question has been the subject of debate among scientists for more than a century. Richard “Scotty” MacNeish, former director of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology and influential twentieth century archaeologist, played an important role in untangling maize’s history of domestication.
While a doctoral candidate in 1945, MacNeish was sent to Texas and northern Mexico to look for evidence supporting the theory that Mesoamerican migration into North America led to the development of mound building cultures. MacNeish found no link, but he did locate a series ruins, campsites, and dry caves that had the potential for long sequences of human occupation in Tamaulipas, a state in northern Mexico.
In 1948, MacNeish returned for a field season that included the excavation of three cave sites in the Sierra de Tamaulipas. The caves housed a surprising amount of very well preserved botanical remains. During the closing moment of the excavation in Tamaulipas, the crew had all but closed up shop and shipped off their specimens and equipment when three small maize (corn) cobs were recovered from La Perra cave. The excavations in Tamaulipas pushed the age of maize cultivation back to 2500 BC. The discovery of what was then the earliest evidence of domestication in the Americas would shape the direction of MacNeish’s archaeological research.
A little over a decade later, spurred by colleagues in botany, MacNeish would search farther south for earlier evidence of maize cultivation. In 1961, after years of survey in Central America and southern Mexico, MacNeish found promising dry caves in the Tehuacán valley of Mexico. There he led a multidisciplinary team in the excavation of six cave sites. Among the many discoveries were maize remains recovered from layers dating to 4,700 BC. Tehuacán was theorized as the ancient seat of maize domestication.
Radiocarbon dating techniques utilized by MacNeish in Tamaulipas and Tehuacán required large amounts of carbon, frequently charcoal, that would be destroyed during the dating process. The resulting age was then assigned to artifacts (corn, stone tools, bone, etc.) that were found in the same layer as the charcoal. Developments in radiocarbon made in the 1980s meant that much smaller samples were required, reducing the chance that sampled artifacts would be completely destroyed. When this direct method was applied to maize from Tehuacán and squash from Tamaulipas, the results were up to 2,500 years younger than previously thought.
The revisions resulted in prickly disputes about the age of domestication in the Americas. Eventually the dust up resulting from the new dating technique settled, due in part to new dates obtained from squash seeds that rooted domestication to an earlier date of 8,000 BC in Mexico.
MacNeish remained resolute that the dates he derived were accurate up until he passed in 2001. In 2012, Archaeologists returned to the cave sites in the Tehuacán Valley in search of maize remains. The team recovered new maize samples that corroborated the younger age for Tehuacán maize.
Recent research within the fields of microbiology and DNA have focused on the teosinte plant and the Balsas River as the probable ancestor and location for earliest cultivation of maize. Analysis of the DNA suggests that the plant was cultivated as early as 7,000 BC.
The fact that MacNeish did not locate the cradle of corn, shouldn’t take anything away from the massive effort he and his colleagues undertook during their search. As for the Tamaulipas maize, MacNeish himself credits his project in Tamaulipas for planting the seeds that would develop into the multidisciplinary approach he would adopt for much of his subsequent career.
Lately, the process of fully cataloging Adopt-A-Drawers has resulted in some interesting discoveries. The most recent of these comes from artifacts collected by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish in Tamaulipas, Mexico.
MacNeish went to Tamaulipas in 1945 hoping to find sites that predated the production of ceramics. In particular, he was searching for sites with long cultural sequences that he could use to tell the story of the development of human culture in Mesoamerica. During three field seasons, spanning ten years, MacNeish identified and excavated several village and cave sites in the Sierra de Tamaulipas and the Sierra Madre Oriental, two mountain ranges in Tamaulipas.
MacNeish recovered a wide variety of items from the well-preserved cave deposits in Tamaulipas. Of these were two fragmentary bear canine-shaped pendants recovered from Armadillo Cave in the Sierra de Tamaulipas. They appear to have been burnt and MacNeish believed that they were fashioned from sandstone. When compared with real canines from a bear and unknown canid, it is clear that they are an imitation. For example, the Tamaulipas pendants have no enamel and they lack the same degree of detail. However, they do approximate the shape very effectively.
One of the pendants was fractured below a possible enamel layer so they were both inspected under magnification. Surprisingly, they show signs of very thin layering more reminiscent of the annuli of shell. I asked our Director, Dr. Ryan Wheeler to take a look at them. Among those who work here at the Peabody, he is the resident expert on shell artifacts. Dr. Wheeler agreed they were shell.
The fact that the pendants were made of shell led us to think about a possible connection with the Hopewell Culture. Several shell imitations of bear canines have been recovered from Hopewell mound sites. Additionally, the Hopewell developed a very large interaction sphere, traveling far and wide for trade materials. The Hopewell procured copper from Lake Superior, silver from Canada, obsidian from Wyoming, mica from the Blue Ridge Mountains and shell from the Gulf of Mexico.
We wondered if these pendants could have been a Hopewell trade object. Fortunately, the Peabody archives include MacNeish’s Tamaulipas excavation paperwork (digitized here). The first step to establishing a possible link was to determine the items’ age. Using charcoal from distinct layers excavated from the cave deposits, MacNeish was able to radiocarbon date the deposits. The layer containing the shell pendants dates to the Almagre Phase, roughly 2,200 to 1800BCE. This correlates to the Archaic period in the Ohio valley, about 2,000 years before the Hopewell developed. The Hopewell connection was out.
I also searched for bear remains found in northern Mexican archaeological contexts. A very quick review of available resources indicated that bear remains are not all that common in the region. The only positive return came in the form of bear long bones found at Casas Grandes in Chihuahua, Mexico. This was interesting, because the historical range of both Mexican grizzly and black bears include much of northern Mexico, including Tamaulipas state. It is very likely that humans and bear interacted in the past.
At Dr. Wheeler’s suggestion I reached out to Dr. Brad Lepper, Senior Archaeologist with the Ohio History Connection and José Luis Aguilar Guajardo, archaeologist in Tamaulipas, Mexico. They both responded with helpful information. Dr. Lepper was interested in the presence of the shell pendant and was unaware of anything similar coming from Archaic sites. He suggested consulting Cheryl Claassen’s book Beliefs and Rituals in Archaic Eastern North America for possible archaic examples, which I haven’t yet had a chance to read.
Dr. Lepper provided several examples from the Ohio History Connection’s collection of Middle Woodland Hopewell bear canine pendants (here and here) and their imitations (here and here). Some of the canines were split, or contained fresh water pearls from the Ohio River. Imitations were made from mica, copper, shell, bone, ceramic and stone.
José Luis Aguilar Guajardo was also very interested in the bear canine-shaped pendants. He was unaware of anything similar coming from sites in the Sierra de Tamaulipas mountains. He indicated that shell was a semi-precious material used for making ornamentation by the Indigenous people in the area. The Sierra de Tamaulipas mountains are quite close to the Gulf of Mexico, a source for shell materials.
José was clear that black bears can still be found in the Sierra de Tamaulipas, and supported the possibility that they were bear-shaped. However, he suggested the possibility that they were inspired by the jaguar instead. According to José, jaguar were abundant in the area and were revered by the Indigenous people.
How to assign an animal label to the pendants becomes an interesting problem. Bear and jaguar canines can look similar in size and appearance. Understanding what the maker of the pendants intended them to represent is difficult when they cannot be asked about them directly. Both animals’ habitats overlapped in northern Mexico.
Though they don’t provide a definitive answer, some helpful articles, and their authors, that explore the importance of bear and jaguar imagery in north and Mesoamerica include: Bear Imagery and Ritual in Northeast North America, Thomas E. Berres, David M. Stothers and David Mather; Predators of Culture: Jaguar Symbolism and Mesoamerican Elites, Nicolas J. Saunders; and Rohonas and Spotted Lions: The Historical and Cultural Occurrence of the Jaguar, Panthera onca, among the Native Tribes of the American Southwest, Steve Pavlik. There are probably many, many others.
Perhaps, as José Luis Aguilar Guajardo has suggested in personal communications, Sierra de Tamaulipas falls into an area in which jaguars were strongly revered. In a very simplistic summary of the above articles, cranial remains of bears in archaeological contexts in North America have been considered a sign of bear ceremonialism. They don’t appear in MacNeish’s Tamaulipas excavations. Jaguar hides were an element of Aztec royal clothing and one of the accoutrements used by Aztec shamans. A small fragment of possible jaguar hide was recovered from the Sierra Madre excavations in Tamaulipas.
Future excavations in the area will likely bring more evidence to bear on the ritual and symbolic practices of the people of Tamaulipas.
Archaic Bear Tooth Pendants and other related artifacts
Donaldson, William S. and Stanley Wortner
1995 The Hind Site and the Glacial Kame Burial Complex in Ontario. Ontario Archaeology 59:5-95.
Bear Imagery and Ritual
Berres, Thomas E., David M. Strothers and David Mather
2004 Bear Imagery and Ritual in Northeast North America: An Update and Assessment of A. Irving Hallowell’s Work.Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 29(1):5-42.
Jaguar Imagery and Ritual
2003 Rohonas and Spotted Lions: The Historical and Cultural Occurrence of the Jaguar, Panthera onca, among the Native Tribes of the American Southwest. Wicazo Sa Review 18(1):157-175.
Saunders, J. Nicolas
1994 Predators of Culture: Jaguar Symbolism and Mesoamerican Elites. World Archaeology 26(1):104-117.
Recently, an unusual item was found while processing one of our adopted drawers. The Adopt-A-Drawer program lets donors support the full cataloging of artifacts housed at the Peabody. Every time a drawer is adopted we measure, weigh, photograph, and house the contents in archival storage. Beyond documentation and storage, adopted drawers represent a chance to dig deeper into the stories of the items held here at the Peabody.
The item in question was one of two bone flutes stored in the adopted drawer (figure 2). According to our catalog, they were both from Pecos Pueblo, a site in New Mexico situated in the Upper Pecos Valley east of Santa Fe. One of the flutes is labeled with a number that indicates that it was previously uncataloged and found with material from Pecos. At some point in the past, it had become separated from its provenience information.
When comparing the two flutes they are similar in most ways. They are both made from bird bones with the ends removed to make a hollow tube (sound chamber) that is open on both ends. They also share the same configuration of holes. There is a larger hole near the proximal end of the bone and three smaller holes at regular intervals near the distal end of the bone.
Where they differ is that the uncataloged flute’s sound chamber is plugged at the proximal end by a dark material with a vitreous luster. It immediately brought to mind resin, an Indigenous adhesive material that I knew of but had never seen in a decade of working as an archaeologist. The position of the plug suggested that this instrument was played like a transverse flute, which was eye opening.
I looked for information on other flutes from Pecos and fairly quickly came across an article authored by Richard W. Payne for Kiva, an archaeological journal published by the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society. Mr. Payne was a trained medical professional with a lifelong interest in Native American flute music. You can find more information about him here and a bibliography of his writings on native flute traditions here. He is considered one of the driving forces behind the rejuvenation of the Native American (or Plains) flute, which is its own fascinating story (Conlon 2002).
Payne’s article is fairly technical, being written from the perspective of a person with years of flute playing and experience with musical theory. Neither of these subjects are in my wheelhouse. On the first read, the most interesting points concerned his visual analysis of bone flutes from Puebloan sites. Among other suppositions, he suggests that the sound window shape can determine how the instrument was played (figure 3). Round holes could serve as the embouchure of a transverse flute or as tone holes of for an end blown flute. Notched holes could be played from either end. Triangle or square holes suggest ducted flutes. (Payne 1991)
In discussing the bird bone flutes of Pecos, Payne notes that the site was occupied until the nineteenth century and that bone flutes from later contexts show evidence of European influence. Frustratingly, the claim isn’t supported with examples. Further, he mentions an article by Charles Peabody, the first director of the Peabody, wherein a flute from Pecos produced musical tones equivalent to a tabor pipe, again suggesting Western influence (Payne 1991).
The article by Charles Peabody, a talented flautist and ethnomusicologist, among other things, was written in 1917. In it, he describes asking Alfred Kidder for permission to experiment with a bone flute that was recovered while visiting Pecos during the 1916 season’s excavations. Permissions secured, those experimentations included inserting a plug of modeling clay in the proximal end of the flute. Prior to the insertion, the instrument played tones that were “excessively shrill.” After the insertion, the flute played several tones within the C sharp scale. A figure of the flute is included in Charles Peabody’s article (Peabody 1917).
When a comparison is made of the flute in Peabody’s article and the flute in question, it is clear that they are indeed one-and-the-same. The most likely scenario is that Charles Peabody acquired the flute at Pecos before it was cataloged. Eventually, it made its way back to the Peabody and was returned to the collection. By the time it was found with other materials from Pecos, all institutional knowledge of the item had been lost. Fortunately in this case, there was some record of its history.
With the story of the flute’s provenience resolved, there seems, to me, to be other questions left unanswered. These are the references to Western influence in both the musical tones and the flutes themselves suggested by Richard Payne and to a lesser degree, Charles Peabody. I’ll address those in a follow up blog.
2002 The Native American Flute: Convergence and Collaboration as Exemplified by R. Carlos Nakai. The World of Music 44(1): 61-7
Payne, Richard W.
1991 Bone Flutesof the Anasazi. Kiva 56(2): 165-177
1917 A Prehistoric Wind-Instrument from Pecos. American Anthropologist n.s 19: 30-33
The arrival of COVID in March 2020 brought abrupt changes to the Peabody. Suddenly, we were working from home. We also canceled our volunteer program, and stopped hosting researchers, classes and work duty students. Gradually, a few staff started coming back in to the museum to continue (and finish!) the important collections inventory and rehousing project. To keep safe, we each had a floor to ourselves.
Vaccinations meant the return of our remaining staff and last summer we had volunteers and researchers back. This year’s fall term saw a return to nearly normal with classes and work duty students returning.
The return of students has been the single greatest change since we pulled back at the start of the pandemic. The building is periodically alive with the sounds of students again. Apparently, a place where students could gather and learn about archaeology were two of the conditions purportedly laid out by Robert S. Peabody when he founded the institution (source: Glory, Trouble, and Renaissance at the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology, page 4). In addition to our regular collections work, there is much more bustle as we pull items for classes and prepare for work duty students.
This year we have welcomed 16 work duty students back into the fold at the Peabody. They are currently engaged in several important projects, including revisiting items from the earliest stage of the inventory project. The students are adding a greater degree of detail to their descriptions, documenting additional notes and rehousing items per our updated standards. Others are learning how to write condition reports for the items pulled from collections for class lessons. Finally, work duty students have uploaded to our database nearly two-thousand slides from Copeland Marks’s travels that were digitized during our work-from-home phase.
We appreciate the help we receive from Andover students and are grateful that circumstances and planning have allowed them to return to us at the Peabody.
Over Thanksgiving break, I was catching up on some news and saw an article that caught my eye – Smithsonian African American Museum Launches Online Interactive Access. First, a headline like that will always catch my attention. Second, it stirred a memory of an email exchange that I had with a registrar from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) back in July.
The Peabody Institute is proud to have a handful of items on loan to the NMAAHC to tell the story of Lucy Foster, a free Black woman who lived here in Andover from 1771-1845. Lucy’s story is part of the Slavery and Freedom exhibition. This loan has been active since 2019 and will continue until at least early 2023 (and may be extended!).
A few months ago, a registrar from the NMAAHC asked for permission to include the items on loan from the Peabody in their new digital initiative, the Searchable Museum. The Searchable Museum offers rich interactive, digital experiences based on the NMAAHC’s inaugural exhibitions, historical collections, narratives, and educational resources. The Slavery and Freedom exhibition was the first to be developed as a digital experience. I gladly granted permission to include Lucy Foster and her story.
While I was excited to see items from the Peabody as part of this incredible resource, I was also quickly drawn into the rest of the content. I especially enjoyed learning about the Point of Pines Slave Cabin. In 2013, a team from NMAAHC traveled to Edisto Island, South Carolina and began the meticulous process of dismantling and relocating a cabin that had been occupied by Black families from the 1850s until the 1980s. The cabin is a vehicle to tell the story of the people who lived there, the power of land ownership, the architecture of slavery, and modern housing discrimination.
The Searchable Museum is well organized and information is presented in clear terms – I strongly recommend that you all check it out!
We are pleased to announce that the Peabody has installed an interactive artwork by Jonny Yates (aka Jonny White Bull). Jonny is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and lives in McLaughlin, South Dakota. He is a talented jewelry maker, stylist, and chef, known for his own version of burger dogs, nachos with homemade chips, and other delicacies.
The piece, titled lalá, or grandfather, in the Lakota language, is a reference to Jonny’s ancestor Sitting Bull, who is depicted here. Jonny is the consummate “maker,” who loves creating carved and painted bone jewelry, drawings, and three-dimensional pieces made from cardboard, milk jugs, and other found materials.
Jonny invites everyone to spin his kinetic artwork and reflect on your own ancestors. You can find lalá in the Hornblower Gallery on the first floor of the Peabody.
CONTEMPORARY ART AT THE PEABODY
Jonny Yate’s piece joins a small but growing collection of contemporary Native art at the Peabody. When possible, the Peabody has purchased and commissioned artwork from Native artists with the support of donors and members of the Peabody Advisory Community. Artists with work in the collection include Dominique Toya, Maxine Toya, Bessie Yepa, Jeremy Frey, and Jason Garcia. These artists highlight some of the unique relationships that have developed between the Peabody and Native artists over the years. As an example, the Andover community has been fortunate to have several visits by Pueblo potters Dominique, Maxine, and Mia Toya over the years. During these visits, the Toyas share traditional pottery methods with students in Thayer Zaeder’s ceramics classes. They are very talented artists and quite passionate educators. You can read more about their most recent visit here.
Hanging Jonny’s kinetic artwork presented a unique challenge; how could we make the piece available for a hands-on experience for students and visitors while keeping it safely installed. Research institutions, such as the Peabody, do not normally put collections on display, so we carefully considered our options. We chose to use cleats to secure the piece to the wall and a makeshift security clip to keep the piece from sliding out of the cleat. In place of a detailed narrative of the installation process, here are a series of photos of how we chose to approach the process. We hope you come by sometime and experience it for yourself.
After I’ve spent nearly two years (minus five months of remote work) working to complete the inventory of the Peabody collection, we are so close to finishing! It has been a long process which wouldn’t have been possible without one thing: podcasts.
During those long hours cataloguing in the Peabody, it can get very quiet—and sometimes slightly creepy when you’re working alone in the basement of an old building which tends to make strange noises. Enter: podcasts, which not only help to pass the time but drown out any creepy noises or the sounds of disembodied footsteps coming from upstairs.
I had never listened to a podcast before working here, but now I can definitively say I am a podcast aficionado! I’ve spent the last two years listening to a wide variety of podcasts from beginning to end—some of which had six years’ worth of episodes to catch up on. I’d now like to share them with you in case anyone is in need of hundreds (possibly thousands, but I don’t want to do that math) of hours of listening material.
As a disclaimer, some of these podcasts do use explicit language so I have written an (E) next to each title which indicates that the podcast does use explicit language.
This podcast tells some of the darker stories from American history, from little known tales like the rainmaker who flooded San Diego to the only successful coup d’états to date. You’ll definitely learn some interesting stories that didn’t make it into our history books as kids.
Hosts Scott and Forrest investigate all things mysterious in this (sometimes very long) podcast. From strange disappearances to ghost stories to UFOs to Bigfoot and all things in between, they do incredibly deep dives to investigate evidence for and against these curious tales. The Peabody’s own Warren Moorehead was even mentioned in an episode exploring the legends of giants (if you haven’t already, check out the blog post I wrote about it). Two of my favorite topics they’ve covered are the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and the Dyatlov Pass incident.
This interview show features inanimate objects as guests, who tell their life stories and what it’s like to live like them. One of my favorite episodes is Lillian, a Song and Chioke, who was a grain of sand in his first episode, before being transformed into a pane of glass for his second episode.
This 12-episode immersive podcast series follows the investigation of Ryan Bailey, who is accidentally thrust into the secret world of mythical faeries. Join her as she unearths more of their secrets and the agency that is supposedly charged with protecting them.
In this weekly podcast, host Jonathan Van Ness (one of the hosts of TV show Queer Eye) sits down with an expert to talk about anything and everything he is curious about. Topics include politics, animals, social justice, history, and pretty much anything else you could think of. My favorite episodes are the ones where he explores the ancient histories of the Mediterranean, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica. He has also done two very interesting episodes titled “How has the U.S. disrupted Native American food sources?” and “How are contemporary Native Americans thriving?”. With such a broad range of topics, there’s something for everyone and Jonathan’s hilarious quips and dynamic personality make it so fun to listen to.
This podcast tells the most entertaining and enraging stories from Greek and Roman mythology, told casually, sarcastically, and from a contemporary lens. Host Liv focuses on not only the wild things the Gods did, but also the rampant mistreatment of the women present in these stories. She also has very interesting conversations with authors and classicists to talk about their perceptions of the myths. Some of my favorite episodes are the series on Cupid and Psyche and the Medusa episodes.
In this bi-weekly podcast, host Aaron tells true-life scary stories. In these dark historical tales, he explores mysterious creatures, tragic events, and unusual happenings. Due to the success of the podcast, it was actually adapted into several books and a TV series!
From serial killers to disappearances, hosts John and Daryn break down these cases while Matt the Bartender mixes up drinks, making a heavy subject a little more palatable with their sense of humor. Unfortunately this podcast is no longer making new episodes, however there’s four years of weekly episodes for your listening pleasure!
This podcast features the stories of some of the most fascinating nobles and royals in history. Host Dana tells tales of tyrants, ill-fated love affairs, family drama, bad decisions, murder, and so much more. My favorite episode is titled “From Poland with Love” about noblewoman turned World War II spy, Krystyna Skarbek, but all of the episodes are incredibly interesting and paint a different picture of some royals than what you may have learned growing up.
In this weekly podcast, hosts Sara and Danny break down crimes of all kinds—murders, disappearances, cults, scams, and conspiracies—with a healthy dose of humor. My favorite episodes are the ones exploring cults, especially lesser-known cults, such as the Yellow Deli Cult and the Love Has Won Cult.
Hosts Katie and Nathan tell the stories of queens (and sometimes mistresses and other noblewomen) from history, from the well-known like Mary, Queen of Scots, to the lesser-known like Ranavalona. Their stories trace these women’s lives from birth to death, through tragedy and triumph, despite the unfortunate lack of information that was kept about some of these women. As a disclaimer, the first few episodes are actually very hard to listen to because of poor audio quality (they were still figuring things out!), so maybe skip ahead a few episodes if it bothers you. Some of the most interesting episodes in my opinion are on Sayyida Al Hurra, Boudica, and Victoria Woodhull.
In this true crime podcast, hosts John and Daryn (previously from Martinis and Murder) have rebranded and are back to tell more stories of disturbing crimes that leave us shaken, complete with their drinks and sense of humor.
Host Kate takes listeners on a time-travelling journey through history, one era at a time. She explores what life would have been like for women during these times, both the famous ones and the obscure. If you’ve ever wondered what ancient Romans ate for breakfast, what a day in the life of a Civil War nurse was like, or what the beauty routine of an ancient Egyptian was, then this is the podcast for you! I just finished all the episodes and am absolutely obsessed with it. I only wish there were more episodes for me to listen to!
In this immersive podcast experience set in a creepy old library, host Miranda Merrick and her dear friend Mr. Darling tell stories of the shadowy, mysterious, and macabre. From bog bodies to ancient books and curses, and from poison to demons, this podcast is perfect for anyone looking for something a little spooky.
In this eight-part series, host Anne travels to her hometown of Springfield, Missouri to follow up on an unsolved crime. On June 7, 1992, Sherrill Levitt, her daughter Suzie Streeter, and Suzie’s friend Stacy McCall all disappeared from Sherrill’s home, seemingly without a trace. Nearly thirty years later, there are still no answers for the women’s families. Follow Anne as she traces the stories of these women and how their disappearance changed this small town in the Ozarks forever.
This story-based podcast explores a new unexplained mystery each week, taking listeners on a journey through the strange and often eerie. Through bizarre tales of time-slips, mysterious disappearances, unexplained deaths, dabblings in the occult, and so much more, host Richard examines the nature of reality and the human condition. Some of the most interesting episodes in my opinion are “The Last Flight” about the disappearance of Frederick Valentich, and “When the Snow Melts” about the Dyatlov Pass incident (Astonishing Legends also did a deep dive on both of these topics in their podcast).
The Vanished (generally not explicit but some episodes do include explicit language)
This true crime podcast covers the stories of missing persons, generally lesser-known ones who may not have gotten much attention in the media. Going beyond conventional news reports, host Marissa dives into the story of each missing person, including interviews with family members, friends, and law enforcement. This podcast can be very sad to listen to but, like the host, I believe it’s important to keep the stories of these people alive so that hopefully one day their family can get closure.
Hosts Mike and Sarah reconsider past events or people that have been miscast or misrepresented in the public imagination and/or by the media, all with some sarcasm and a great sense of humor. This show has really changed my perception of so many things I thought I knew, from maligned women of the ‘90s to stranger danger. I love all of the episodes so it is very hard to pick any favorites, however some of the most interesting are “Human Trafficking”, “Tonya Harding”, “Political Correctness”, and the series on Princess Diana. I think this is probably my favorite podcast out of all I’ve listened to so I highly recommend it!
I hope that in sharing all of these with you, you can find something new and interesting to listen to and perhaps will learn some new things!
In these unprecedented times, we are adjusting to a “new normal” in our lives – whether that be working from home, wearing a mask and social distancing in public places, ordering more online, participating in video calls and Zoom meetings, or assisting students with schoolwork. As we persevere during this time, we are finding ways to safely connect with friends and family, get outside, exercise, and continue our lives while embracing new changes to keep everyone safe and healthy.
House projects have been a popular trend for many, especially with the warming weather. A few friends of the Peabody have used this time to revive and repurpose some of our old collection drawers.
Planting season is in full swing! This drawer is being used to sort out seeds for the Andover Community Garden. It is the perfect medium for organizing the seeds before they are packaged and distributed to those in the community looking to begin their planting season.
A little bit of sanding, wood stain, and cabinet handles can go a long way. Revive a drawer into a serving or decorative tray. Pair some bright flowers with that Rae Dunn piece you’ve always wanted and voilà! You have a decorative centerpiece for your kitchen table or coffee table.
The large drawers are great for holding large items or large quantities of smaller items. Add handles and they make a perfect storage feature for your household. These drawers are being used to store artwork. What a great way to stay organized with a little piece of history!
We love seeing our drawers revived and repurposed into new creations. Not only do the drawers provide great opportunities for organization, storage, décor, and material design, they provide a unique story and history to share with your family and friends. If you have repurposed some of the Peabody drawers, we would love to see and share your projects! Please share your photos with us at email@example.com. Stay tuned for our next blog update featuring more repurposed drawer ideas!
Nearly $345 million dollars is spent on chocolate for Valentine’s Day each year – that’s about 58 million pounds of chocolate! Holy cacao! Chocolate candy plays such a significant role for this romantic holiday, but did you ever think those very boxes would be used to store artifacts? Currently, I am cataloguing and rehousing artifacts from Tamaulipas, Mexico – a collection from Richard “Scotty” MacNeish’s 1948-1949 Tamaulipas Project. About halfway through the collection I found a sweet surprise – an old chocolate box from Cambridge, MA!
In the Inventory and Rehousing Project, it is common to come across artifacts stored in their original housing material from archaeological recovery in the field. Many of these materials are unique and there is always something new to find! Examples of some of these materials can be found here in an earlier article by Peabody Director, Ryan Wheeler. Like Forrest Gump would say about life being a box of chocolates (pun intended here), the same goes for the Peabody collection – you never know what you’re going to get!
Alongside the chocolate box, I also found a holiday gift box and a greeting card box with artifact information and excavation notes written on the outside cover. The chocolate box was the most intriguing to me, because the product and box were from Massachusetts. Upon looking up the company name on the box, “Handspun Chocolate Co, Cambridge, MA,” I came across Boston’s rich history of chocolate production.
New England candy was king of the American confectionary industry from colonial times through to the 1950s. In 1764, two men from Dorchester, MA named John Hannon and Dr. James Baker began importing cacao beans into the United States and producing chocolate in Dorchester Lower Mills. These two men were the chocolate meisters of Revolutionary America and are known today as the oldest producers of chocolate in the United States. In 1779, John Hannon had traveled to the West Indies and never returned. As a result, Dr. James Baker became the “King of Cocoa” with the Baker Chocolate Company.
As sugar refineries began to pop up throughout New England, the candy industry reached a new height with Oliver R. Chase’s machine invention of a chalk-like candy, known today as Necco wafers. White chocolate was later created by Frederick Herbert of Hebert Candies in Shrewsbury, MA. Another local creation occurred in 1930 at the Toll House Inn in Whiteman, MA. An accidental invention, Ruth Wakefield added cut up pieces of a semisweet, chocolate bar, in hopes of melting the chocolate into the dough of her baked cookies. The chocolate kept its shape and just like that – the chocolate chip cookie was born! (Fun Fact: The chocolate chip cookie is the official cookie of the State of Massachusetts.) Nestle began selling chocolate chips in 1939.
By the 1940s, candy companies began consolidating into two large companies – Daggett Chocolates and New England Confectionary Company (NECCO). The latter still survives today, but is no longer locally owned. As of 2018, NECCO was the oldest operating candy company, celebrating 153 years of their most popular “sweethearts” candy. However, by July 2018, the company closed and announced their plans to sell everything to the Spangler Candy Company in the fall. Spangler Candy produces Dum Dum lollipops, Necco Wafers, and Circus Peanuts. In 2019, Spangler announced it would not be producing conversation hearts, as there was not enough time to meet the demand of sweethearts for Valentine’s Day. Typically it took NECCO 11 months to produce 8 billion sweethearts just to be sold for 6 weeks out of the year for Valentine’s Day. Although they were gone for 2019, the sweethearts are back for Valentine’s Day 2020! They are in limited supply at select retailers and – believe it or not – many are missing their signature sayings due to equipment printing problems!
The Daggett Chocolate Company is the lesser known of the two candy companies. Fred L. Daggett began his business in 1892 with several factories located around the city of Boston. Daggett later concentrated his production plant in Cambridge in 1925. Daggett Chocolates produced more than 40 brands of chocolate as well as strawberry fillings for their chocolates. The company also made an impact in the soda and ice cream industries, supplying syrups and crushed fruit to manufacturers. As a result, ice cream and candy were connected and Boston became the first place to mix candy into ice cream.
Looking back at the chocolate box I had found in the Peabody collection, I had searched the company name and found that the company was bought out by Daggett Chocolates along with 30 other small chocolate companies by the 1950s.
The sugar industry reached its peak in the 1950s. By this time, the Boston metro area boasted over 140 confectionaries and factories, with the main street of Cambridge, MA as the epicenter for production – known as “Confectioners Row.” Some of our favorite candy treats including Necco wafers and sweethearts, Sugar Daddies, Charleston Chews, and Junior Mints were produced on this very street. For over a century, the smell of chocolate could be found along the streets of Boston. Chocolate was in the air – literally.
After the 1950s, the candy industry in Boston took a turn. As more candy companies such as Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars took to the world stage, smaller brands were left behind. The box chocolate dynasty was reaching an end as candy bars began to take over store shelves. The candy epicenter soon waned and Confectioner’s Row became an ordinary main street. Box chocolate giant, Schrafft’s also closed in Charlestown, MA (that’s right, the building you can see from I-93 entering Boston, bearing the Schrafft’s name in red along with a clock tower, was in fact an old chocolate factory.)
Although Boston is no longer candy land today, you can still find candy makers throughout New England sharing their old-fashioned homemade treats and iconic candy classics. One candy store still in operation today is the Spindler Confections shop in North Cambridge, MA. This shop continues to hand make all of their candy and chocolate on site. They even have a candy museum! Check it out here! As for my sweet find in the Peabody collection – how could a box of chocolates send me down a rabbit hole of Boston’s sweet-toothed past? I was surprised that a simple (and chocolate-less), chocolate box could do so much.
To explore more chocolate history click here, here, and here! Enjoy your sweet finds!