Greetings my fellow history lovers! The cloudy skies this morning will give way to some very warm temperatures, as the Easton area is expected to get close to 90 degrees this weekend. Summer is drawing near!
On Thursday the Museum welcomed Arielle Nathanson as a summer intern. Arielle is working towards her Masters of Information at Rutgers University (expected in 2022). An aspiring archivist, she has a love of history, explores many of the local roads, landmarks, and cemeteries, and her dream is to work at the Smithsonian. Her internship at our Museum will provide her with the necessary hours to meet course requirements, as well as give her hands-on experience working with collections in a small museum. She will focus on digitizing papers including a collection of letters sent to William Chaffin in the early 1900’s. Chaffin, who wrote the History of Easton, Mass. in 1886, wanted to publish a genealogical history of Easton. He sent letters out to various families for information on ancestry, but the letters have never been published. With this project, we hope to expand our catalog of genealogical materials and have them available for researchers through our website. Please feel free to stop by the Museum and welcome Arielle!
As we take one last look at the outstanding collection of postcards from the A. Frank Pratt collection, Arielle chose six cards to feature today. These cards are probably from the first series of postcards that featured Easton places. They are undivided back postcards, meaning they were produced prior to 1907. The images were printed in Germany using the rotograph process (a process using bromide to reproduce photographs on special paper; other companies printed by the gravure process which used copper etched plates to print) perfected by the Rotograph Company, N.Y., N.Y. These six cards are chosen from a broader selection of places around town, chosen by the publisher many years ago to represent the best of Easton. Were we to do this today, what might you choose to include?
First up is the original 1895 Oliver Ames High School, not yet ten years old when the photo was taken. Looking at the front facade from Lincoln Street, a well-established lawn frames a gravel walkway to the front entrance of the school. The lack of any mature landscaping indicates that this photo may have been taken as early as 1900! Just to the right is the former 1869 Easton High School building. It once stood on the same spot at the 1895 school, and had to be moved to make room for the new schoolhouse. The old schoolhouse was used as a grammar school until being torn down around 1930, when an addition was made to the 1895 high school to provide classrooms and a gymnasium.
Following that card is another great Easton landmark, the Oliver Ames Free Library on Main Street. Probably around 20 years old at this time, the site features mature landscaping and the beginnings of vines that would cover more of the exterior as the years went by. The crisp image, which can easily be blown up, retains remarkable clarity of the carvings and ornamentation on the building. A fine library is something to be proud of, and certainly deserves to be featured on an early postcard. The neighboring Oakes Ames Memorial Hall would also be prominently featured, given the monumental status of these Ames connected and Richardson designed buildings.
Next, we look at two very different residences, both however well-known landmarks. The stately home of Oliver Ames, known today as “Sheep Pasture” is one of several Ames mansions featured on the early postcards. This particular home would become one of the more photographed homes in Easton, and has been featured on a number of old postcards over the years. Easily seen from Main Street, and featuring landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted, the park-like setting of this 1893 home made for a very nice view for one to share with a pen pal.
The old Sampson House, also on Main Street and across from the Ames Free Library, may not live up to the same status as the Ames homes, but it is one of the oldest homes in North Easton (and Easton in general) dating to about 1750 or so. The house may have been built by John Randall, a direct descendent of one of our first settlers Robert Randall, as early as 1730! This simple antique cape already 150 years old when the card was printed, has remained a true landmark over the years, and is a nice example of the homes the earliest settlers would have found quite comfortable. Note the large center chimney and 12 over 12 pane windows, a good indication of the homes age. A small window in the roof was probably added to provide some ventilation as there were small bedrooms on a very low ceilinged second floor.
The next two cards feature familiar landscapes which were also important gathering places. A look at “The Square, North Easton,” takes us to the intersection of Main, Center, and Lincoln Streets. The Rockery is hiding in the center, completely covered by trees and other plantings. Only the stones on the street level and the flagpole in the center of the image give it away. Just in front of that are a group of boys, hanging out where the watering trough was located. It might look very out of pace in the middle of the intersection, but it harkens back to the time when watering places for horses and oxen was a much needed and welcomed site. You can see the old street lights that helped to illuminate Main Street for many years. The Sundell home, and just behind it the new bank and post-office building, can be seen at the extreme right.
Our last image is the Civil War Soldier’s Monument located at the intersection of Center Street with Depot Street. Once known as Monument Square, this area also was the location of the Easton Town Hall, the Easton Centre School, two churches, and the almshouse. It was also a short distance from the Easton Centre railroad station. When the Soldier’s Monument was dedicated in 1882, the Town began celebrating Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day at this location.
And finally, I have included a look at the reverse of the postcard. The back was only to be used for the name and address of the recipient, and no other writing was allowed. That meant that many of these cards had messages written across the front of the card wherever there might be space to get a few words in, making these pristine, unused postcards even more special.
Stay well, and until next week,
Curator: Frank Meninno