Acton in the City
The Society has a large collection of pictures that apparently came from an East Acton family. A few identified portraits were of people with surnames Flagg, Wetherbee, Robbins, and Rouillard or of classmates of Ernest Wetherbee (high school class of 1887); we expect that the pictures are of relations, friends and East Acton neighbors. (See the collection here; we need identification help.)
Some of the pictures in the collection seem to have been taken in Boston. One picture appears to be the public garden with a swan boat on the left.
One picture was of a float in a parade. Zooming in on the details shows a street sign on a building indicating that it was taken on Lexington Street in East Boston. Though East Boston had a number of parades, big ones were held on the 4th of July. The subject of the picture is a float with men in patriotic uniforms holding oars. It is likely that it was the tableau of Washington Crossing the Delaware that was mentioned in a July 2, 1895 Boston Post article (p. 2) as a feature of the upcoming parade. The participants were listed; we had hoped that the participants on the float were Acton men or relatives, but the names were not familiar. The sponsor of the float was Jewett Lumber.
If our hypothesis is correct, the historical significance of this picture is that the 1895 parade became infamous for rioting between nativists/Orangemen and Irish Catholics. Nativists (members of the American Protective Association) had entered the parade with a “little red schoolhouse” float that today seems innocuous but at the time was a symbol of anti-Catholic, anti-parochial school sentiment. The purpose seemed to be to provoke trouble with the Irish Catholic population of East Boston. Many stories, some conflicting, appeared in newspapers in the days that followed, but what is clear is that when the rioting was done, one man had been killed, others injured. We did not see any mention of Acton participants in either the parade or the melee.
Turning to other pictures in the East Acton collection, two of them were taken on a ship. Judging from the ladies’ sleeves, the pictures were probably taken in the 1890s, perhaps the middle years. In both pictures, a woman is holding a bouquet; one hypothesis is that it was an excursion on her special day.
In the top picture, writing on the ship’s bell appears to say “Yarmouth,” indicating that the people were on board the ship of that name, run by the Yarmouth Steamship Company to take passengers from Boston to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and back. In the second picture, a sign on a building says “Beach & Clarridge Co.” In the 1890s, Beach & Clarridge was located at 52-58 Eastern Avenue, meaning that the boat was in Boston Harbor, probably taking on passengers at Lewis Wharf. Ads from the mid-1890s confirm that the Yarmouth Steamship Company sailed from Lewis Wharf. (A photo of the deck of the SS Yarmouth in 1894 leaves little doubt that this is the same ship.
After identifying the ship, we were hopeful that we could find a local newspaper announcement of an East Acton family’s trip that might give us clues as to the identity of the people in our pictures. There were a surprising number of trips to Nova Scotia mentioned during the 1890s. Unfortunately, despite learning more about our pictures, we have not yet figured out who the people are; if you can help us, please contact us.
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