Old Colony History Museum

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By William F. Hanna

On November 30, 1993, in the East Room of the White House, President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. As frail as she was, the 103-year old “Grande Dame of the Everglades” was able to rise from her wheelchair to accept the highest civilian honor that the nation can bestow. “Mrs. Douglas,” said Clinton, “the next time I hear someone mention the timeless wonders and powers of Mother Nature, I’ll be thinking of you.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas and President Bill Clinton at the White House, November 30, 1993

Since there was no opportunity for Mrs. Douglas to make extended remarks on that…


by Katie MacDonald

A common first question in Introduction To Museum Studies in graduate school is “What is a museum?”. It’s a classic opening question asked to encourage conversation among a group of people about to study together and develop their professional approaches to museum work. Of course, there is no right answer and the ensuing discussion ranges from the emotional (“a place of reflection and discovery”) to the practical (“a place where important things are stored and preserved”) to the aspirational (“not a place but a community that comes together around a central theme or mission”).

The variety of…


By William F. Hanna

Of all the men and women from this area who have participated in professional sports, among the least famous — but most successful — was Ralph Moody. Born and raised in Dighton, Massachusetts, Moody spent his life trying to make automobiles run faster. As a teenager in the mid-1930s, he rebuilt a Ford Model T and ran it at area race tracks on weekends. Not only was he interested in driving fast cars, but even as a young man he was captivated by the principles of physics and engineering that allowed competitive drivers to continuously push…


By William F. Hanna

A cold winter rain began after dark on Wednesday, February 9, 1886, and with the temperature hovering around the freezing point, it hit the ground and quickly turned to slush, coating muddy streets and placing added stress on telegraph and electric wires. All night and through the next day it poured, finally stopping on Friday afternoon when the storm moved away. We have no idea whether anyone thought to measure the rainfall but considering the crisis the storm caused we can be sure it was a deluge.

On Friday evening, not long after the rain subsided…


By William F. Hanna

One day in January 1976, Carol Scofield, of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, was driving along Winthrop Street about two miles west of the Taunton Green when she spotted an aging, deteriorating structure beside the busy road. It was a 40-foot high rendition of a wooden milk bottle that appeared long overdue for demolition. But while some might have looked upon it as an eyesore, Ms. Scofield was enchanted. She was a devotee of Coney Island architecture, also known as Roadside Pop. These are buildings, many constructed in the 1920s and ’30s, which were designed as advertisements for…


By William F. Hanna

In the spring of 1852, as Reverend Samuel Hopkins Emery was writing his two-volume church history of Taunton, he came upon a research problem that brought his project to a halt. A talented biographer, Emery was producing a chronological study of the local ministry when he came up short on information about one of its most illustrious members. After trying unsuccessfully to find someone locally who could answer his questions, Emery decided to look for help outside of Taunton.

Rev. Samuel Hopkins Emery

The cleric in question was Reverend Caleb Barnum, and just about everyone in town knew at least…


(1932–2000)

By William F. Hanna

In June 2000, ten teachers retired from the Taunton public school system, but only nine of them thought it was something to celebrate. The tenth was Hattie Williams Cunningham, a veteran teacher who, but for the illness that was stealing her life away, would have happily remained in her first-grade classroom for a much longer time. Her departure robbed not only her students but the whole community of a woman whose life was shaped by struggle, hard work, and hope for the future. …


By William F. Hanna

Here’s a story that describes two intersecting tragedies, and it shows yet again that despite the wonderful information-gathering power of the Internet, some historical events will always defy our efforts to fit them into a coherent narrative.

In June 1923 a young boy was found abandoned on a busy street corner in the Loop section of Chicago. When questioned by authorities he was dazed and uncommunicative, but he was able to say that his name was Arthur Tyne and that he was six-years-old. The boy’s left eye was crossed, and he labored under a speech impediment…


Thoughts on Christmas in Taunton, 1639–1856

by William F. Hanna

On Christmas Day 1856, J.W.D. Hall, editor of The American Whig, published in Taunton, sat down to write a Christmas message to his subscribers. Earlier in the year, the state of Massachusetts had finally recognized Christmas, along with Washington’s Birthday and the Fourth of July, as a public holiday and the editor wanted to extend the newspaper’s best wishes to its readers. …


By William F. Hanna

One Saturday morning in the winter of 1988, a tall, graying, good-natured man walked into the Old Colony History Museum with a few Reed & Barton silver-plated spoons in his hand. He was moving to Florida, he said, and wondered if the museum would accept his gift of the silverware. Lisa Compton, the executive director, expressed her appreciation but explained that the museum already had several spoons of that type and there really wasn’t room for more. The man took the news well, even jovially; perhaps he had expected as much. He said his good-byes but…

Old Colony History Museum

We are a local history museum in Taunton, MA and this is our blog! Visit us online at www.oldcolonyhistorymuseum.org to learn even more. Enjoy!

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