Stay engaged with the MHS this year.

“John is as thick as he is long, has out grown his cloaths. you we cannot button his coats, and we are oblig’d to take out the Sleaves of his Shirts to lengthen the arm holes— I say to him often, John do not eat so hearty. Grandmam, I stuff like a pig. well John I am writing to your Mamma what shall I say. please to say duty to Mamma, and John’s a good Boy. Who says so? Grandmamma.”
–Abigail Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, 17 Dec. 1805
Featured Item from the MHS Collection
Automaton drawing of Cupid, 29 April 1835

Among the artwork in the Minot family papers is a drawing of Cupid practicing archery. Dated 29 April 1835, it would be entirely unremarkable if rendered by a human hand. Amazingly, it was drawn by an automaton machine, a clockwork boy capable of tracing out various pictures and poems. At the time, this automaton was known as Maelzel’s Juvenile Artist.

Automata are mechanical devices capable of performing specific tasks without human guidance. They have existed since antiquity, but the quality and genius of many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century machines captivated the scientific imaginations of Americans. Audiences at automata exhibitions consisted of both the young and the old, and men and women alike. Read more about Johann Nepomuk Maelzel and his automata.
This Weeks Online Programs

On Tuesday, 9 February, at 6:00 PM, join us for the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize Ceremony and a conversation between Kerri Greenidge, Tufts University, and Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard University. During this special evening in which historian Kerri Greenidge will receive the 2020 Gomes Prize for Black Radical: The Life and Times of William Monroe Trotter, Greenidge and Gordon-Reed will discuss Trotter’s pursuit of radical equality and Black self-determination, as well as the multilayered world of Black Boston that was not simply an abolitionist haven for former slaves but a segregated world with limited opportunity for even a Harvard-educated man like Trotter. Click here to watch this evening's program (e-mail if you have any issues accessing the program).

On Thursday, 11 February, at 5:30 PM, James Oakes, The Graduate Center, CUNY, and Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School, present The Crooked Path to Abolition: Abraham Lincoln & the Antislavery Constitution. Some celebrate Lincoln for freeing the slaves; others fault him for a long-standing conservatism on abolition and race. James Oakes provides another exploration of Lincoln and the end of slavery. Through the unforeseen challenges of the Civil War crisis, Lincoln and the Republican Party adhered to a clear anti-slavery strategy founded on the Constitution itself. Lincoln and the Republicans claimed strong constitutional tools for federal action against slavery, and they used those tools consistently to undermine slavery, prevent its expansion, and pressure the slave states into abolition. This antislavery Constitution guided Lincoln and his allies as they navigated the sectional crisis and the Civil War. When the states finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery on 6 December 1865, it was a confirmation of a long-held vision. Register for this online program.
Upcoming February Programs
On Tuesday, 16 February, at 5:15 PM, Trysh Travis, University of Florida, presents Boston Women on Drugs with comment by Elizabeth Lunbeck, Harvard University.

On Thursday, 18 February, at 6:00 PM, Nicole Maskiell, University of South Carolina; Elon Cook Lee, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and moderator Jared Hardesty, Western Washington University, present Confronting Racial Injustice: Slavery, Wealth Creation, & Intergenerational Wealth.

On Tuesday, 23 February, at 5:15 PM, Sean Fraga, University of Southern California, presents A Portal to the Pacific Ocean: Puget Sound, the Transcontinental Railroads, & Transpacific Trade, 1869–1914 with comment by David Armitage, Harvard University.

On Wednesday, 24 February, at 5:30 PM, Julia Rose Kraut presents Threat of Dissent: A History of Ideological Exclusion & Deportation in the United States.

On Thursday, 25 February, at 5:30 PM, Stephen Kantrowitz, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Crystal Feimster, Yale University; Chad Williams, Brandeis University; and Hasan Jeffries, Ohio State University, present Protest & Citizenship: Revisited.

Visit for more information and to register for programs.
Interested in Viewing Past Programs?
If you missed a program or would like to revisit the material presented, please visit or our YouTube channel. A selection of past programs is just a click away.
Share Your COVID-19 Experience(s)

The MHS invites you to contribute your COVID-19 experience(s) to our collection. Record your experiences on a daily, weekly, or intermittent basis. You can contribute your thoughts and images online. Visit our COVID-19 web display to learn more and to share your thoughts. Or you can keep a journal and donate it to the MHS. Contact for more information.  
Thank you to everyone who has shared so far. If you have not yet done so or would like to contribute again, please visit You can also read what others have shared.

Our Members are the heart of the MHS community and an integral part of the MHS story. Become a Member to help make possible the Society’s mission to promote the study of American history. Receive benefits including invitations to enhanced Member-only events; free or discounted admission to special programs; and access to publications such as our calendar of events, newsletter, and Annual Report. Learn more at