Per reader request, over the next few days I’ll be reposting mini chapter excerpts — primarily illustrations– from a longer read about the evolution of outhouses and public utilities specific to Gloucester, Massachusetts, Privy to Privy History, on Good Morning Gloucester June 6, 2021.
‘Gloucester Outhouses in American Paintings’ copied below is “Excerpt 1” (stay tuned for some more Cape Ann Museum additions); Excerpt 2 will focus on early 20th century photographs; future excerpts might highlight some of the history mentions such as the bathroom fixtures at the Crane estate; and so on.
Catherine Ryan, Aug. 2021
EDWARD HOPPER – gloucester outhouses
Edward Hopper included outhouses in numerous Gloucester vistas. Hopper depicted buildings and worked with watercolor and gouache long before his renowned first sell out show of Gloucester images in the 1920s.
Illustrations: Reminder- You can pinch and zoom to enlarge (and select “full size” image if that option shows)
The Whitney Museum of American Art has the largest collection of Edward Hopper art. This small watercolor study the museum dates circa 1900 contains germs of his later work. There is an elusive building, or nestled buildings, front and center. Strong shadows are emphasized. Is the shed attached or not? An entrance, a ticket booth, an outhouse? Is that a circus tent flag squiggle? The pencil line beyond the vertical street light (or railroad signal) might be a train track. Further right, there’s a red dab. Perhaps another structure. The window with yellow has a barn vibe. I did think about the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when Katherine Ross looks down from a hay loft to catch the ‘Paul Newman riding a bike for the Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’ show.
early Stuart Davis – Gloucester outhouses
Gloucester Outhouses in American Art
Selection of Gloucester scenes with outhouses by various artists: Dennis Miller Bunker; Charles Burchfield; James Jeffrey Grant; Emil Gruppe; Max Kuehne; William Lester Stevens; Paul Bough Travis; and Louise Woodroofe. Stay tuned for more.
1938 NYC – Masterful Mabel Dwight
Leave it to Mabel Dwight for a humorous and original take, Backyard, 1938 WPA/FAP lithograph.
Below – New York City images (collection, NYPL) for comparison of the flip view. More photographs featured in Excerpt 2.
Spread The GMG Love By Sharing With These Buttons:
A GMG reader describes area residents as “those on Cape Ann”*, compliments Joey and Good Morning Gloucester, and asks about outhouses:
“Hello Joe, nice to meet ya. I have a Cape Ann question that is a bit strange. When I was younger I used to go on digs to find old bottles on Cape Ann. Recently I saw an article that said in the days of outhouses people would throw their bottles down the hole in their outhouses. I began thinking where on my parents’ property an outhouse might have been located. Then it occurred to me: there isn’t anyplace on my parents’ property that you won’t hit ledge one or two feet down. So what did those on Cape Ann* do about digging outhouses back in the day? I said it was a strange question. All the best,
Bob Condon Jr., February 2021
Thank you for the great conversation topic, Bob. When did your parents live here and can you relay the neighborhood? The address could help describe the specific conditions at that property. Here you go!
TIMELINE: GLOUCESTER OUTHOUSES & Waste management
Outhouses were in use well into the 20th century locally. They were also referred to as: “necessaries”, privies, toilets, loos, thrones, backyard “escapes”, reading rooms, sheds, crappers, fly factories and the office. Newspaper and pages ripped from mail order catalogues worked as toilet paper. Usually they had no window, heat or light. Some were designed with access doors below seat level to clear out the contents.
Which of the following were factored into the history of local outhouse architecture?
The answer is ALL. Water and waste management are the heart of Gloucester’s city planning.
The variable terrain of Cape Ann impacted outhouse design. If one was a farmer or owned enough land with suitable soil, they might opt for a basic “dig, bury & move” or “slide & fill” solution, rotating the outhouse footprint after it filled –faster with a bigger family– like a handheld number slide puzzle.
When digging a deep enough pit latrine was not an option, or the property was solely ledge, mucking out with rake and spreading ashes (later lime) was necessary. Waste and refuse was portable. Compost could be used for backyard gardens. Whether collected from a vault hatch, pail & sawdust, custom cabinet drawer, bucket & lid sanitary ware, or chamber pot, it did not matter. Filth, euphemistically “night soil”, could be dropped off or conveyed (eventually with a license only, and off season dates) to designated collection sites near and far, sold, or even stolen (as late as 1915 – see below!). Those who could afford to hired help or contracted with a subscription company. Municipalities like Gloucester had line items in the budget for waste collection, incineration and plumbing inspectors: These were thriving businesses.
Prior to sanitary reform in Gloucester and all of Cape Ann, the surrounding streams, marsh and ocean were availed as unmitigated dumps. The natural topography of Gloucester — all that water! all those hills! – – was considered an enviable benefit for city infrastructure and street plans, and likely delayed the city’s modern sewer system. (When public water carriage lines were introduced they could flow downhill into the harbor from densely populated areas or directed into the sea anywhere along the coast, whether for public or private owners. Out of sight. Out of mind.) Dilution was the solution.
Efforts to improve municipal services– to manage public and private waste to keep it out of the water table– were increased. Separate water and sewer lines would be regulated; eventually outhouses were a thing of the past and (quality) food scrap or compost value from home garbage was reduced to nil. You have to skip ahead a full century to find the Gloucester Harbor Clean Harbor swim milestone.
Below is a chronology illustrated with famous vs. local American outhouses, and a **selection** of Gloucester’s sewer and sanitation milestones. I’ve written a fair amount about Gloucester art and public works so a few links are provided for those as well.
You have to love Public Works.
Those who were more prosperous had better privies and hired help for cleaning and carting. Everyone used a combination of chamber pot and outdoor toilet combo.
Outhouses for the well heeled – George Washington Mount Vernon
The octagonal outhouse at the George Washington Mount Vernon estate is an example of a high end family bathroom of its time. The custom fancy shape and finished interior convey an air of refinement. The museum describes the wood paneled, “large drawers for ease of cleaning.” (I don’t know if there’s evidence of dig and move pits as well.)
The smaller middle seat was designed for children. Martha Washington, a widower, had four children from her first marriage; two died prior to their union. Their step-grandchildren, the President’s first family, were born in the 1770s. Having suffered the loss of two little ones, and both then caring for her youngest, Patsy, who suffered torrents of seizures until her death at 17 in 1773, health concerns may have informed the bathroom layout. This opulent design could handle a potty queue when nature called family members at the same time, and adults could accompany a child in need of assistance. The museum estimates that there were four on the property.
The Mt. Vernon residence was originally built in 1734 by Washington’s father. Expansions to the main building and outbuildings were completed in the 1750s and 1770s. A century later, the historic property was rescued by a women’s preservation group. A century again, the property’s historic designation status was awarded in 1960. The exterior photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston dates from circa 1894. The interior photograph is 2018.
Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933)
Calvin Coolidge birthplace in Plymouth Notch, Vermont was a more modest farmhouse example.
Restored Western gold rush hotel outhouse
Gloucester | Cape Ann
Still standing – luxury outhouse
Driving around Grant Circle, you might have thought as I once did that the free standing out building on the Cape Ann Museum Babson Alling property was a shed. The fancy roof and architectural details inside and out give this tony privy much character. Years ago, Pru Fish and Peggy Flavin confirmed their hunch as to its original use. (Naturally, after hearing about this hidden history from Prudence Fish, I’ve dubbed this highly visible Mt. Vernon of Gloucester outhouses, “Pru and Peggy’s Privy”.)
Still standing – Rustic models
Whether restored, repurposed or replicated I’m not certain, but there are structures in Rockport and Gloucester that approximate the rough and modest models.
1870 debate about Gloucester owning its own water plant
1879 – “Sewers are a Necessity for Gloucester!”
Chairman of the City’s Highways Committee.
“It seems to me strange and very unfortunate for the city, that, by a general vote in 1877, an Independent Board of Health as authorized by the State Legislature should have been discarded. Our want of public sewerage has, in the most densely populated parts of the city, filled the soil with excrementitious matters and, in many places, covered the surface with drainage from sinks and cesspools. Some of our localities are filled with stenches that make the idea of repasts anything but agreeable…the shortest road to reform in this department is ample public sewerage, but if this be found impracticable, I would recommend that both should use all authority invested in it to eradicate or mitigate existing evils.”
Mayor Joseph Garland (1880) Mayor Franklin Dyer ( Civil War surgeon) died February 9, 1879
Word for the day: “Excrementitious”
1881 Gloucester Water Supply Co. contract
for fire services
1886-87 City sewerage options and well water analysis by harvard
“With the introduction of water into our city comes the perplexing problem of how to dispose of the waste. During the year 1887 the Committee on Highways have extended the main drain to Foster street at a cost of $5800. The public health demands that a system of sewerage be established and built and it can be no longer delayed without serious danger, particularly in those portion of our city in which there is not natural drainage. Our present drain or sewer should have an outlet, approved by the State Board of Health, and permits could then be granted to enter the same and an income derived from these rights, which would go far toward defraying the expense of construction.”
Mayor David Robinson, 1887
“The complaints from foul cesspools and imperfect drainage are increasing from year to year, and with the increased use of water, consequent upon a public water supply, such complaints must continue to increase until some method of sewage is devised. Offensive privy vaults, filthy cesspools and sink drains, stagnant water in cellars and upon the surface of the ground, and decaying vegetable and animal matter in yards and upon vacant lots, are a standing menace to the public health…The disposal of filth and sewage is one problem confronting the city. The connection between public cleanliness and the public heath cannot be too forcibly urged upon the attention of our people. Equally if not more important is the question of the quality of the water used for drinking and cooking purposes. indeed, one great danger, if not the principal danger arising from the privy and sink vaults with which our territory is so thickly strewn, is their contiguity to the wells which so many of our people depend upon for water for domestic uses. The danger is the greater from the fact that the water itself may convey no warning of the hidden germs of disease and death of which it may be the medium. It may be clear and colorless, agreeable to the taste and without objectionable odor, and yet be seriously polluted and dangerous to health.
“Realizing this, the board pursued a liberal policy in the way of obtaining a scientific analysis of the water from wells regarded by physicians and others as open to suspicion. In a few cases parties desiring the analysis have paid a portion of the expense, but where there were reasons to believe that the water was dangerous, such payment has not been insisted upon. The analysis have all been made by Dr. Harrington, of the Chemical laboratory of the Harvard Medical School…”
Board of Health
1888 – high end residential plumbing
Toilet design heyday hit during the Victorian age. Residential plumbing products were promoted in illustrated catalogues. (Kohler porcelain tubs were promoted as early as 1883.)
1889 Worcester built a model treatment plant
1892 Clean beaches, Burnham’s water lines & drains, and NIGHT SOIL
“Every person should have pride in keeping our beaches free from filth…We are especially favored in the matter of fine beaches, and during the summer our own people and visitors resort to them in large numbers for bathing and recreation…Nature has so wonderfully endowed our city in the way of beautiful scenery, that we should not spoil the effect by collections of material objectionable to the eye.”
Burnham’s Field was a vegetable garden, doctor’s pond on Mt. Vernon, and Harbor Swamp
The condition of the region on and bordering Burnham’s Field and Harbor Swamp became such in the summer, that an effort was made to secure better drainage by removing obstructions from the brook which courses through these fields, and which has in Doctor’s Pond, on Mount Vernon Hill. The Board of health personally superintended this work, and when finished, a notable improvement was manifest; …Old residents refer to the time when Burnham’s Field was under cultivation and produced vegetables of marvelous size and sweetness, but the owner died and the field went to waste. In those old days the proprietor personally drained his land by means of trenches and, in the summer time, his vegetables thrived because of the natural dampness of the soil. But the question of placing houses on the field at that time would have been a difficult problem, for the water then was present in sufficient quantity to make fair skating for the children. For building purposes this land could be filled in, but it would seem to be a farce to fill in land so high above the ocean and so near to it; yet each year sees new houses going up on the edges, and last year a tract of the swamp itself was built over, which last caused the immediate appearance of the Board of Health, who immediately ordered the lots filled up, as water had accumulated in the yards and cellars in a manner dangerous to health.
The fact is that this region is highly advantageous from central location for houses or factories, and if it could be drained would doubtless be immediately covered with buildings which would bring into the city taxes to a large amount. There is more water entering the field than in the old days, because the use of city water has added to the amount which formerly was there. If it is dangerous to have vaults full, then it must be so in this region, for water stands in the vaults full, then it must be so in this region, for water stands in the vaults here unless the land is built up above the field.
Various plans have been suggested to improve this region. The extension of the Washington street main drain into this field would be a good idea. It has been suggested that a drain could be built from Burnham’s field to the wharves, through Marchant street, which is a short distance. Other plans have been talked of, but it is sufficient for our purpose to urge the need of looking into the subject. It would be a great deal better to do something permanent than to appropriate money for temporary purposes in sums which would soon amount to more than the cost of a radical improvement.
Board of Health
Night Soil – Ward Two
“Another year has passed, and the question of the disposal of night soil is more serious than ever before. By hook or by crook the contents of the vaults have been disposed of; objections have been made by those near the places used as dumps, and a discontinuance of the practice in ordered in one or two instances. Where will our night soil and sink waste go next year? At present, a farm in Ward Two offers the only available chance; as last year, other places may be used until the objections become too numerous, but what would we do in case of cholera appearing near enough to frighten us? Would anybody want this material which would be suspicioned anywhere near them? There will be difficulty without the cholera, but with it we can only say that something would have to be done.”
As to these methods, the dumping on land accommodates many by the discomfort of others.
The scow system is very cheap, and could probably be rendered available here. The cremating process for night soil could hardly be given intelligent discussion just now, and cremation finds its largest use in the disposal of garbage. Sewerage would drain the central and thickly settled parts of our community and, of course, would do that well, and it is probably only a question of time, when sewerage will be introduced here.
GARBAGE – PIGS – SWILL- NIGHT SOIL: Board of Health argues for SCOWS FOR OCEAN DUMPING
The practice of throwing garbage on vacant lots and dumps still continues, but most of the swill is collected at the houses and fed to swine. Considerable material is of little value for this latter purpose, and this finds its way into the stove or to some vacant land. In view of the tendency to discuss the subject of cremating garbage, it seems wise, for all, to inquire how much garbage there is to be disposed of. If a crematory were established, it would by no means indicate that all table and cook-room waste, or even all provisions, fruit and grocery store waste, would be cremated, for then, as now, pigs would be kept in some out of the way places, as there is some profit in it, and it is not to be supposed that sentiment can soon rise to a point where prohibition of the feeding of swill to pigs, or the absolute prohibition of keeping pigs, will be ordered. This, then, leaves only a portion of the garbage of the city to be disposed of, and this could very conveniently be placed in a scow, which being absolutely tight and covered, would not cause an objectionable odor, even though it were mainly used for night soil. If a scow is of advantage for this purpose, then there is no place on the coast so favorably situated for using it as our city. Certainly the cheapness of the method and probable reduction in price per load for removing vault contents would commend it.
1892 Gloucester Board of Health – Murrow, Thurston and Dennen
Boston scenes by Leslie Jones, collection Boston Public Library [tug pulling garbage scow) 1956; and boats and garbage, no date (circa 1917-1934)]
1893 Ocean proximity deemed great for Sewer Plans. Also, Drain Burnham’s Field!
“There is no question in the minds of any of us, but that our city needs a system of sewerage. The proper disposal of sewage is one of the great questions of our age. Our city is favorably situated, being so near the ocean, for sewage disposal. It has already been surveyed for the introduction of some system, and the plans are on file and will be available whenever the action of, or financial condition of the city, will warrant such proceedings. My attention has been called to the necessity of draining Burnham’s Field and vicinity, as a sanitary measure. I would recommend that, if practical, the drain leading there from be cleared from obstruction and the natural outlet to the sea be utilized for that purpose.”
Mayor Benjamin Cook, 1893
1893 Disposal of Night Soil and Sink Waste. Burnham Field Development as one option proposed.
“The Board of Health is often obliged to order the discontinuance of dumping in certain places when too great a nuisance has been caused, while the owners of the land sometimes do the same for various reasons. It seemed in the spring as if there was no available place, and the Board appealed to the City Council, which appropriated two hundred dollars, to be used in relieving the difficulty (no pun intended). None of this money was expended for that purpose, as places were secured without the interference of the Board of health. There is a great deal of objection made to the dumping of night soil on land, and wherever it is done it generally annoys somebody. If sewerage is not soon adopted, the city must resort to some method less objectionable than the present method of disposing of night soil and sink waste…”Burnham’s Field and Harbor Swamp: It seems that there has been some disposition to investigate this region during the past year, on the part of the City Council. The presence of such a large tract of swamp land in the heart of a city must be a menace to health. Buildings are being put up all around it and even in it, and this fact must cause some attention to be given, as it increases the amount of filth which finds its way into it. Objection to acting on the score of the land being private property, would hardly seem to be altogether reasonable, as the benefit arising would be shared by the whole city. To deepen the “brook” which flows through it, or to continue the “main drain” into the district, while it would not probably be a complete system of drainage, would furnish an outlet which could be utilized by the abutters at some expense, for the purpose of draining their land. At present there are two ledges in the course of the “brook” which should be removed by the Boston & Maine Railroad Company or in some other way. The water in the swamp will not fall much below the level of these ledges. After their removal the “brook” might be deepened. The people of this region should have some way of relieving their premises from the natural fall of water and the volumes of “City water,” which must find its way into it from the surrounding houses. At present no sink or privy vault can be dug in this region.”
Charles H. Morrow, S.S. Thurston, and Wm. H. Dennen, BoH 1893
1895 residents vote to buy gloucester water supply but it’s not a done deal
$1,500,000 for “22 miles of cement lined pipes, pumping station, reservoirs and their property acquired for storage and distribution throughout the city.”
$1,500,000 for “22 miles of cement lined pipes, pumping station, reservoirs and their property acquired for storage and distribution throughout the city.”
“Percy Blake places the cost of the entire plant at not over $269, 977. He further states that the average length of satisfactory life of this kind of pipes is from 15 to 20 years, and that Somerville, Manchester NH, Fitchburg and Worcester and other places have for some time been replacing the same kind of pipe with cast iron…”
“We must undertake a system of sewerage, but a full consideration of the matter must be deferred until a settlement of the water question. We can, however, begin in a small way…
excerpts, Mayor Robinson
1895 Gloucester Ordinance – waste management
House drains, water closets, cesspools, and grease traps
“An ordinance relative to the licensing of Plumbers and the Supervision of the Business of Plumbing”
House Drains. The portion of the house-drain which is outside of the building and more than four feet from the foundation walls shall be constructed of extra heavy cast iron pipe or of the best quality vitrified drain pipe; that portion of the house drain which is within four feet of the foundation walls, under the buildings or inside the walls, shall be constructed of iron pipe and shall have a fall of at least one-fourth of an inch to the foot; shall be securely fastened to the cellar wall or suspended from the floor in iron hangers; but when a portion is necessarily laid beneath the basement or cellar floor, that portion shall be construed of extra heavy cast iron pipe and shall be laid in a trench having brick or stone walls, of sufficient width and otherwise so arranged as to give free access to all joints.
The house drain shall have a hand hole for convenience in cleaning; if the trap be inside the cellar wall, the hand hole shall be on the house side of the trap (at discretion of Board of Health)…
When a water closet or other fixture is to be placed in a house, the house drain shall be changed to conform…
No cesspool shall be within twenty feet of any cellar wall except at discretion of the Board of Health
Suitable Grease Traps shall be constructed under sink of every hotel, eating house, restaurant or other public eating place so arranged as to be easily accessible and with suitable provision for its proper cleaning…
Sect. 15 WATER CLOSET SUPPLY
“That the regulations of governing plumbing are in the interest of public health, no better exemplification can be given than by calling your attention to the large number of jobs of plumbing and house drainage found defective by your inspector. Having examined some 200 houses where there had been contagious diseases, I found 90 percent without traps or ventilation, the gases from cesspools, escaping into the house, through the sink wastes, some houses with leaky waste pipes passing directly over cisterns, containing drinking water; and in one case all sewage matter deposited into a brick cesspool (formerly a rain water cistern), placed directly under dining room. The water closets located in cellar directly under parlor without flush of water wand all deposits on ground with very imperfect ventilation. This was was in an outlying district. In my experience of some 35 years, I never saw a case in a more unsanitary condition…”
Plumbing Inspector for the City of Gloucester, 1895
Late 1890s – Thai delegates
From Gloucester archives – Thai delegates summer in Gloucester as early as the late 1890s. (Skip to 1916 and 1921 for more about Prince Mahidol , “Mr. Songkla”) – research by City Archives members
Gloucester – Victorian Age outhouses
Gloucester housing stock (and hotels) included luxury homes with bathrooms and water closets as well as modest solutions. Rough outhouses were common, too. Can you spot the outhouses downtown and in East Gloucester? (Reminder: you can pinch and zoom to enlarge and right click for descriptions. Some media offers option “increase file size”.)
1900 Board of Health is frustrated about the city’s sewer managment
“Sewerage is a much mooted question, which the Board of Health have tried to bring to the attention of the city council, but so far have been unsuccessful in calling their attention to a much wanted service to the city.”
Budget appropriations include two additional contractors:
J.A. Dennen, cleaning sewer
George A. Reed & Son, sewer gratings
“Dikes’ Meadow and Wallace Pond reservoirs are the only sources of supply now used…”
“Average daily use is 900,000 more than two reservoirs can supply…”
“New water plant necessary…there is water enough in West Gloucester. To supply the city a hundred years….go to Chebacco lakes and (Dikes , Wallace Lily Pond and pumping station become worthless, money thrown away)—a new pumping station at lakes (would be an) arrangement satisfactory to town of Essex…”
“As far as purity of water all agree Haskell’s Pond stands first…” – Haskell dam to come.
1902 haskell dam construction
For a deep dive into Gloucester’s water utilities, read about Haskell Dam history here
1905 Board of health presses its case
“…menaced, by contagious diseases which threaten to become epidemic…resources at the command of this board, very largely inadequate, would be materially strengthened by a suitable building for the detention and isolation of contagious diseases*, such as diphtheria, scarletina and measles…
Very many nuisances have been investigated and abated during the year and the number has been augmented by the foul odors arising from catch basins along our principal streets. After thorough investigation by its Agent, it is the opinion of the Board of Health that such foul odors arise from the contents of sink and privy vaults which empty into said basins. This condition, deplorable indeed, is unavoidable so long as the present unsanitary condition, due to lack of sewerage, obtains.
And again the Board repeats its annual recommendation to the City Council to take immediate steps to remedy this condition and thus thwart the danger with the absence of a proper system of sewerage in a city approximating 28,000 inhabitants persistently presents…”
The Mayor lobbies for dredging Annisquam and for more playgrounds for children.
1910 – a better year for the city’s waste management. Centennial dump plans
”Wherever a vacant lot is found, it is liable to be used by the neighborhood for a dumping ground for rubbish, tin cans and other unsightly objects and sometimes animal and vegetable refuse; the owners of these lots are often unable to prevent such use of the property. The Board of Health has paid especial attention to these places and a great improvement has been made. If Gloucester could establish a reputation for cleanliness, we believe it would be of great financial value to the city. The city dump on Centennial Avenue is available for all kinds of ashes and rubbish and is well cared for; in time this land will be available for public use, but large quantities of good filling material will be needed; however, satisfactory progress has been made and a large quantity of material has been already deposited.”- Board of Health
Walter Cressy’s land on Bond’s Hill was taken for a new reservoir.
1911 Sewage outfall report
1911 Modern plumbing catalogue
1912 Richard T. Crane, Jr. builds a summer cottage in ipswich
(see 1925 – Crane Jr. expanded his family’s industrial frim, booming throughout the Gilded Age, into a global powerhouse by the 1920s. They manufactured ironworks, cooking stoves, bathroom fixtures product lines.)
1915 – water commissioners report- hotel & Summer resident impact (more bacon)
Gloucester population was estimated to be 24,478 in 1916 and to increase up to 36,000 in summer. The estimate of residents on the city’s pipe line, “including summer takers”, was 35,000 and water consumption 46.2 gallons per inhabitant (479,370,834 gallons total per day).
One city budget line item for 1916 that became obsolete was (extra) waste removal help.
Union Water meter company- waste stops (like bus stops)
Arthur G,. Osboro – oil and waste
Royal Mfg. Co. – waste
Lewis E. Tracy Co, – waste
“DUMPS: The practice of using the nearest vacant lot for the dumping of paper and filth continues; this is often done at night to prevent detection. People should place such materials in barrels or other receptacles and have them removed, as it would prevent a good deal of ill feeling in neighborhoods.
“VAULTS (night soil): Neglect to clean out privy and sink vaults is a common cause of complaint. It is unfortunate that owners of them cannot enter suitable drains, but it not excusable to neglect them until they overflow or emit a foul odor, which vaults are apt to do in the summer months.
Summer residents increased concerns.
“SWILL: “The large quantity of house waste in summer due to the influx of summer population at hotels and the relatively small quantity in winter creates trouble. If all swine could be slaughtered at the end of the vacation season, much trouble would be saved; but, as it is, swill is often not collected in the center of the city in summer and so numerous are the collectors in winter that complaints of swill stealing are frequent. The Board of Health has little power to correct these conditions, as only under a contract system can the collection of house waste be controllable.”
As of 1916, Gloucester residents were still encouraged to fill the public dump on Centennial for a future playground. (A generation later, this repurposed transformation would receive national recognition as a WPA project. See 1930s.) The City’s Plumbing inspector lobbied for a modern sewer. DPW was praised.
Appropriations detail that the Union Water Meter company made waste stops and Arthur G,. Osboro oil and waste; Royal Mfg. Co. waste; Lewis E. Tracy Co, waste
1916 boston globe prince mahidol
Prince Mahidol of Siam enrolls at Harvard to study public health.
“The Prince, or “Mr. Songkia,” he prefers to be known in this country, has been staying at Gloucester for some weeks.”
While studying in Cambridge he stayed in the house where “Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, was living when the news of his father’s assassination was broken to him.” The Prince continued to spend his breaks and summers in Gloucester (Bass Rocks) which inspired his public health thesis.
1917 Art studios
Scattered throughout Cape Ann, converted outbuildings for art studios likely included outhouses.
“One day we were motoring through Gloucester and, always interested in art, were going from studio to studio to see what the artists were doing and to purchase some pictures for our home on Chebacco Island. We found many of the artists tucked away in dark little lofts, old outhouses, chicken coops, stables, tiny rooms, poorly-lighted and unattractive makeshift places such as one might find in an old-time fishing village–little spaces that had been discarded by the fishermen. We were inconvenienced by the difficulty of seeing the pictures and thought others might be. We felt in this active summer colony there might be many like ourselves who would welcome an opportunity to see what the artists were doing. Here was our chance — beautiful pictures, a leisure public anxious to see them. We would provide the place.’ ”
Emmeline Atwood quote, 1917 Boston Herald article by Gustav Kobbe – about Atwood’s Gallery on the Moors published on the occasion of its 2nd annual season
1916+ Outhouses in early Stuart Davis
US Public Health Service illustration example
1919 City Sewerage Plan
“The most important matter that this city faces in the immediate future is the question of sewerage. The action of one of the leading fishing firms of the city, who own a large part of the business water front, in notifying all persons who have had the privilege of the use of their docks for sewerage, that such privileges will cease within five years, will undoubtedly be followed by similar action by the owners of every other dock in the city. This action was to be expected, and the wonder is that it has not been taken before. But such action brings to a head the question of what Gloucester and its inhabitants who have had such privileges so long, will do, and that question can only be answered by saying that Gloucester will now have to do something that it can no longer delay. Five years will quickly pass, and before that time something tangible will have to happen. It is a big question, the question that involves the expenditure of a large amount of money, and requires far-sighted action.”
1920 Sewerage Question is a matter of public heatlh
“We must meet this sewerage question this year. I recommend that an entrance fee of $1 per front foot on all property on the line of any public sewer be collected and used for the extension of sewerage, or for the payment of the interest on a sewer loan. This should give us perhaps $15,000 for this purpose this year. But no sewerage plan which does not provide for the cleaning of the dead water of our inner harbor should be considered. This is a growing menace to our health, and to our future as as summer resort, for in July and August our inner harbor is filthy. I am glad to say that one of our summer residents, a man of great wealth and knowledge, has written me a fine letter of congratulations on my election and offered his assistance in working out a plan without much cost to the city. I have great hopes of something good from this. ”
1921 – Sanitary Survey of the City of Gloucester, Massachusetts
“Sanitary Survey of the City of Gloucester, Massachusetts”, 1921 by M. Songkla | Prince Mahidol
He concluded the city’s sewer management and all those outhouses very much still in use were the primary source of disease, not summer residents and tourists.
See Sarah Dunlap’s research, Gloucester Archives, to learn more about Prince Mahidol.
“He himself went to many schools to survey their heating, food, health and toilet facilities, — he went to the Lane, Sawyer, Collins, Western Avenue (Parsons) schools and the High School at the time (the brick building just across the street), and he went to the Haskell Reservoir in West Gloucester. He also brought in his personal knowledge from staying in East Gloucester hotels and the Sherman and Way cottages in East Gloucester…
“He had photographs of the sewer outfalls into the ocean, including one from the Bass Rocks Hotels that flowed into the ocean just below the Sherman and Way cottages, where the Siamese legation often stayed. In downtown, outfalls were at docks in the inner harbor. And he not only described the existing system and numerous problems in public health, but he had recommendations for solutions to each problem.”
1924 East Gloucester residents PUSH FOR sluiceway at smith cove – THE FISHING INDUSTRY IS DEAD
“PLAN FOR CLEANSING WATER MEETS OPPOSTION
The Municipal Council was well filled last night by persons from the East Gloucester section interested in the hearing relative to the petition of John L. Lorie and others that a tide runway be cut from Smith’s Cove at Rocky Neck, connecting with the outer harbor at Wonson’s Cove. Mr. Lowrie, in advocacy of the project said that the matter was one which had agitated the people of the locality for many years. they thought if the proposed cut were made it would cleanse the stagnant waters and materially clean up the waters which had become polluted by fish offal and sewage. Since the fish business had left the locality the place had become a Summer colony and something should be done to remedy the situation. In response to his request about a dozen people arose who favored the proposition. Carle T. Tucker, Nathan McLeod, Capt. David F. Mehlman, assistant city marshal, and others, property owners on the other side, opposed the plan. Mr. Tucker said that in the event of such a sluiceway being constructed the sewage and offal would run into the outer harbor and be deposited on the rocks where the summer residents congregate and spoil the place for bathing purposes. It was the only beach in the locality and should be preserved in a cleanly condition. Capt. Mehlman said he had rowed to and fro on the place through the harbor on his way to the Police Station for 40 years and thought he had a a knowledge of conditions. He strongly opposed the proposition which would convert the only white sand beach in the locality used for bathing into a muck deposit. Deputy collector of Customs Albert H. McKenazie, a property owner in the locality, Mr. Brown, whose wife owns a tea house, and Nathan McLeod, owner of a summer hotel, opposed the proposition. A letter was received from George O. Stacy strongly condemning the plan and stating that if it were undertaken he would oppose it by litigation…”
Boston Globe, 1924
1925 Sewer not fish “Odor drives summer residents away” – bill for state funding
Dr. Kelly Blames Gloucester sewage.
“It is the odor caused by poor sewerage, not the odor of fish that drives summer residents from Gloucester,” said Dr. Eugene R. Kelley, State Commissioner of Public Health (For more about Kelley see 1918 Flu Pandemic), before the Legislative Committee on Public Health, appearing for his department relative to the question of the disposal of the sewage of Gloucester. “This is purely a local matter and a matter which must be attended to immediately,” he added. Dr. Kelley said that Gloucester had the worst waterfront conditions of any city or town in the Commonwealth. “Gloucester is a great food center advertises cleanliness,” he said. “how can Gloucester continue such advertising with sanitary conditions as they are?” N.N. Goodnough, chief engineer of the State Department of Public Health, said that tests had been made of the currents and tides about Gloucester Harbor and conditions were found to be satisfactory. He added that he felt this was an immediate necessity and would cost about $331,000. Alden Roberts, official representative of Gloucester; Carl Philips, President of the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce; William J. McGinnis, ex-Mayor; Alderman Smith and Representative John Thomas also spoke in favor of the bill. There was no opposition.”
1925 Crane estate – plumbing magnate Richard T. Crane, Jr. builds a new Castle Hill mansion.
Richard Crane (1832-1912) was born in New Jersey and working at the age of 10 to support his family after his father died. In his twenties, he made his way to an uncle in Chicago and set up a small contracting outfit. His younger brother joined him and they cofounded Crane Bros. They manufactured plumbing fittings, expanding the product line and reincorporating as they grew into a major American company. The estate and business was passed to Richard’s heirs, the two sons, Charles and Richard, who fought over the helm. The Trustees attempted to settle the matter by voting the eldest to lead, Charles, who agreed. Richard did not. The litigation that ensued was not drawn out. Within a couple of years, the younger brother bought the older one out.
Richard Crane, Jr., took the company global. Florence Higinbotham and Richard Jr. were married in 1904. (Her father cofounded Marshall Field & Co.) Legend “blames” Florence for the stunning Crane estate we see today, designed by architect David Adler. Florence, so the story goes, loathed the presumably equally stunning 60 room Italianate style of the first mansion. Her husband promised to rebuild it for her if she felt the same way in 10 years. Conveniently for the global leader in convenience designs, she did. The new one featured Crane’s modern bathroom and systems designs.
1920s-1926 City’s Modern Sanitation system construction Completed
1927 Stacy Boulevard pumping station
1928 – sewer concerns bubble up related to controvertial cottage Development on Eastern Point
Eastern Point: Smith Cottage Sewer Plan Menace to Health | Complaint by Archbishop Against Site Near St. Peter’s Chapel
GLOUCESTER, March 29- The controversy that arose last Fall between the Eastern Point Summer colony and Arthur W. and Herbert E. Smith who seek to build 45 small cottages on their property at Eastern Point came up today before Starr Parsons of Lynn, appointed by the court as master. This case, fought out in the Municipal Council last Fall, involving personages of prominence, attracted widespread notice. The bill of complaint was filed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston against the Smith brothers to prevent the building of the camps and to cause the removal of a tea house, dance hall and roadside stand already erected under a permit from the Municipal Council. Dist. Atty. Fred H. Tarr and Henry V. Cunningham of Boston were the lead counsel assembled for the objectors and Carlton H. Parsons and Dist. Atty. William G. Clark Jr. appeared for the Smith brothers.
The morning was spent in an inspection of the premises at Eastern Point. The first witness of the afternoon was Arthur W. Smith, who testified as to the general construction of the camps and especially the method of sewage disposal, either by septic tanks or cesspools.
Prof. George E. Russell of MIT testified that the terrain at Eastern Point is rocky and ledgy, covered with pulverized and rotten granite with a slight topping of humus, and that neither septic tanks nor any forms of underground sewage disposal were feasible by nature of the soil but would create a menace to health.
A regular water-flushed sewerage system to the sea would be prohibitive in cost, from $10,000-$100,000.
Prof. M.P. Harwood of MIT corroborated Prof. Russell’s testimony.
Margaret Ruth Brady Farrell (1872–1944) was not in Gloucester in 1928, in case you’re wondering why her philanthropy and voice were missing. Margaret married James Charles Farrell. Their primary residence was Albany. Her famous financier father, Anthony N. Brady, was born in France to Irish parents, “practically penniless”. At the time of his death in 1913 the magnate had amassed a great fortune estimated to be worth 100 million, “one of the few men in New York State whose fortune was discovered to have been much greater than the estimates made of his riches when he was alive.” Their philanthropy in Gloucester may have been greater but tragedy kept them away. Although the estate was split equally, some of her siblings fought bitterly and long. Margaret likely had no energy or inclination for objections, nor held the reins. The year before her father died, four of their family died in a train wreck, burned alive. Her sister. Her sister-in-law. Two aunts. Her husband died in 1918.
1931 Babson Reservoir and Sanctuary
There are examples of land preservation, but featuring a watershed in 1931? Isn’t it wonderful!
1930s New Deal Sewer work
By 1938, W.P.A. workers (Massachusetts) laid close to 200 miles of new water mains and even more miles of new sewers. They built 15 new sewage disposal plants, thousands of manholes and culverts, tens of thousands of roadside ditches & culverts, and miles of curbing.
1933 crane (plumbing) company – a sponsor and featured at Chicago World’s Fair
excerpt from the official guide book to “A Century of Progress International Exposition in 1934, the World’s Fair at Chicago” The guide book
“contains the fullest and most accurate information possible for the purpose of directing our visitors how to find everything in the Exposition and how to make use of the Exposition’s facilities for their comfort and convenience.
“Crane Co. Station 134 had its own pavilion Display of bathroom fixtures and plumbing, also the “World’s Largest Shower”—Crane Co. Station. Home and Industrial Arts Group.
“A 45-FOOT SHOWER bath is a refreshing attraction. The shower is a giant reproduction of the company’s shower bath equipment. At the base of the tower is seen, in contrast, a bathroom used in 1893. Here, also, is seen a modern, de luxe bathroom. Display of antique and historical plumbing fixtures includes a “chaise longue” French bath tub of 100 years ago, a French lavatory 150 years old, a bath tub shaped like a hat that was in vogue in this country after the war between the states, and a bath tub of the type used by Queen Victoria in England.”
“Home and Industrial Arts Group. The NEW possibilities of the ideal small house are demonstrated at the Exposition in the Home and Industrial Arts section , by a group of completely finished, furnished and equipped homes, ready to live in. The new methods of building with new materials and with prefabricated units for rapidity and economy of construction are shown.”
1933-34 “Century of Progress” Chicago World’s Fair
gLOUCESTER OUTHOUSEs in American PAINTINGS
Selection of Gloucester scenes with outhouses by various artists: Dennis Miller Bunker; Charles Burchfield; Stuart Davis; James Jeffrey Grant; Emil Gruppe; Edward Hopper; Max Kuehne; William Lester Stevens; Paul Bough Travis; Louise Woodroofe.
Artists and photographers cropped outhouses out.
Let me know if there’s a favorite you’d like to add. Once you notice them, you’ll find more.
Reminder: You can pinch and zoom to enlarge (and select “full size” image if that option shows)
EDWARD HOPPER – gloucester outhouses
Edward Hopper included outhouses in numerous Gloucester vistas. Hopper depicted buildings and worked with watercolor and gouache long before his renowned first sell out show of Gloucester images in the 1920s.
The Whitney Museum of American Art has the largest collection of Edward Hopper art. This small watercolor study the museum dates circa 1900 contains germs of his later work. There is an elusive building, or nestled buildings, front and center. Strong shadows are emphasized. Is the shed attached or not? An entrance, a ticket booth, an outhouse? Is that a circus tent flag squiggle? The pencil line beyond the vertical street light (or railroad signal) might be a train track. Further right, there’s a red dab. Perhaps another structure. The window with yellow has a barn vibe. I did think about the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when Katherine Ross looks down from a hay loft to catch the Paul Newman riding a bike for the Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head show.
1930 – 1941 American outhouses – cross county photos
photographs outhouses across America – Library of Congress
Cincinnati row houses with backyard outhouses, 1930s
privy plant pre cast base, Missouri, by Lee Russell, 1938
Placing concrete in form for privy slab, MN, by Shipman, 1941, Library of Congress (collection FSA Office of War Info)
South family’s shaker style privy, Harvard, Worcester County, MA 1930s
General Israel Putnam Privy, Brooklyn, CT after storm
Arlington, MA, Walker Evans 1930s
Privy Monterey, Delaware, circa 847
Washington DC “slum” privy, Carl Mydans, 1935
“old six hole privy, Wiggins Tavern”, Northampton, MA, Lee Russell, 1939
photographs Indoor bathrooms residential and public – New York Public Library
1938 NYC – Masterful Mabel Dwight
Leave it to Mabel Dwight for a humorous and original take, Backyard, 1938 WPA/FAP lithograph. Outhouses were shared; doors were left open. Rear window… (last pun!)
1963 North Shore Sewage a threat to beaches
Boston Globe North Shore News- “Town Sewage Problems Pose Threat to Beaches” by Anthony Romano –
“Is pollution posing a threat to the recreational facilities of the North Shore’s coastal communities? Local officials from Marblehead to Gloucester thinks so–as evidenced by the closing of beaches at various times during the past few years because of sewage carried shoreward by winds and tides. The possible corrective solution rests with the Legislature which has been asked for an appropriation of $15,000 to investigate and study the pollution problems in the affected harbors and tributaries. There is considerable anxiety among North Shore officials who point out that conditions will worsen with each passing year because of the increasing influx of industries and new residents.”
1981-1984 New sewerage treatment plant construction
Dedicated to George P. Riley
2019 – Bacon grease, “flushable” wipes and fatbergs – NOT Gloucester
In 2019, Mike Hale, Director of Public Works, explained that this diaper wipe fatberg issue was not a crisis here as it was in the municipalities featured in the viral London video.
During the pandemic, stories increased about sewers clogged by even more wipes, protective wear and disposable masks. Again that was not overly remarkable here.
My grandparents never wanted a dishwasher. They collected the food scraps (all the wet garbage) by the sink until they tossed it outdoors in the backyard garbage pail. A metal bin was inlaid underground roughly in line with a flagstone path. The heavy cover was raised with firm stomp on a foot pedal, a novel chore for us because our home did not have one. I don’t remember it smelling, but it was just the two of them. The garbage collectors took care of pick ups from there. My husband’s grandparents raised pigs, so it was direct deposit there.
2021 Water pollution Control
Author Note related to original question from GMG reader
*What’s in a name? I’m perplexed about a convivial nickname for “those on Cape Ann” myself. Cape Anners, Cape Ann-ites, other capers? Nope. Nope. Nope. I’m told Cape Cod natives may say “islanders”, though I’ve never heard that from my relations there. Maybe it’s Massachusetts? Massachusetts-ite is so awkward. Bay Stater- a marketing stretch too far. Bostonian works!
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A Wall Street Journal article published March 23, 2021, “The Staying Inside Guide: Big-Deal Art in Plain-Spoken Venues” by Judith H. Dobrzynski, celebrates New Deal works of art across the country.
The reporter highlights Coit Tower in San Francisco as one renowned example.
“The New Deal murals inside Coit Tower in San Francisco are also well-known. Painted by some two-dozen artists in 1934, they are social realist panels about life in California during the Depression, with titles like “Banking and Law” and “Meat Industry.” Their story, with a detailed layout, is available in a San Francisco Recreation and Park Department brochure.”
Judith H. Dobrzynski for WSJ
The reverse ratio is evident here: Gloucester selected four artists who completed scores of masterworks* for specific public buildings. Monumental stunning mural cycles were commissioned under the auspices of Federal Arts PWAP and WPA-era programs from 1935-42 for Sawyer Free Library, City Hall, the High School on Dale Ave (now Central Grammar apartments), Hovey, Maplewood, and Forbes elementary schools. As schools were closed, disposed, or repurposed, murals were rescued and resited within City Hall and later O’Maley.
The City of Gloucester artists were significant muralists and painters. In truth, venerated. They captured stories of Gloucester and became a celebrated part of our history and artistry. When considered as a whole, the Gloucester murals rival WPA era collections completed in big cities. The density of murals are as concentrated as any found in larger cities, like Coit Tower in San Francisco, though spread out among buildings rather than one tower, or one structure, as with Harlem Hospital. Gloucester’s post office nearly landed a commission, but fate intervened. I’ll save that for the Part 2 post.
Gloucester and greater Cape Ann artists were commissioned for murals beyond Gloucester and Massachusetts and served key roles on selection panels and planning.
In recent years thanks to a CPA award, the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, established in 1978 to help museums with conservation, evaluated the condition of the city’s historic Depression era collection to help with important restoration. Gloucester’s impressive collection itself is the museum and the city a work of art that continues to inspire generations of artists.
*The quantity of murals is 68 if one includes the five O’Toole murals from the 1940s. Note: because the Gloucester murals are multi-piece or series, the sections tally up to a whopping 75-90 count.
Selection of some murals on view (when open).
Gloucester’s murals at Sawyer Free
Within Sawyer Free Library are the city’s only New Deal works painted directly on plaster walls. Frederick Stoddard’s designs throughout the Saunders house encompass the first floor entryway, two story stairwell, and 2nd story wrap around stairwell hall. He described this two-story “decoration” above wainscotting upstairs and down as “a conventionalized treatment of the Gloucester region”. Familiar scenes include Dogtown “Moors”.
Marine scenes wrap around the former children’s space on the top floor.
A Gloucester Daily Times article from 1934 mentions a trifecta opening honoring the architectural overhaul for the building, new murals, and Rachel Webber’s retirement:
“July 25, 1934- “The public reception at the Sawyer Free Library yesterday afternoon was for three purposes: to observe the 50th anniversary of the occupancy of the present building, to give a public showing to the mural decorations recently completed by Fredercik L. Stoddard and to the entirely restored and renovated building, and to recognize 44 years of service by Miss Rachel S. Webber, librarian who is to retire in the fall…The building has been completely repaired and largely restored. The three story tower which had been built on the front of the building has been removed*, as has the old porch which extended across the front of the house, leaving only an entrance porch. A bay window facing Dale avenue which the architects decided spoiled the character of the building has been sliced off. Everything has been painted and repaired and new lights have been installed.”
*all work near murals!
Howard Curtis assisted Stoddard with some repair work as a result (and was brought back again in 1953, 1974, and 1976-1980). In 1935, Curtis was busy completing his original “The Creation of Light” commission for the Methodist Episcopal Church on Prospect Street (now apartments).
Within O’Maley Innovation Middle School are a complete though out of order Frederick Mulhaupt series (originally at Maplewood); a partial and crucial section from a 2nd immersive series (originally at the High School); and “Our Daily Bread” by Frederick Stoddard, cropped. There are important works by Larry O’Toole commissioned by Ben Pine for the Gloucester Fishermen Institute and YMCA that were painted in the 1940s. Ron Gilson, Gloucester native, author and local historian, helped with the attribution and remembered the completed art being carried out the door. Gilson was great friends with Ben Pine, his first boss, and knew O’Toole.
above: sections from Mulhaupt’s fantastical “Landing of the Viking Thorwald in Vinland” 1935; and central panel “Gloucester harbor” 1936 | below: DPW inspecting the O’Toole 1940s murals (photo 2015)
Within City Hall, there are 10 monumental New Deal murals by four artists: Charles Allan Winter, Frederick Stoddard, Frederick Mulhaupt, and Oscar Anderson. Three are multi panels so the collection in this building seems much greater than 10 murals. The Winters in the lobby and Kyrouz were site-specific for City Hall.
One is a small Stoddard panel from a triptych spanning 65 feet for Eastern Avenue School!
I’ll follow up with posts detailing more biographical information about the artists.
Does a pair of Gloucester Forbes school murals jog your recall?
The City of Gloucester murals have the potential to be listed among the nation’s most concentrated holdings of New Deal art from the 1930s and 40s on public view anywhere today. However, they are not all on view. Historic murals not on display await further conservation treatment.
Frederick Stoddard set up a studio in an unused room of the Point Primary School in East Gloucester to paint a variety of panels for the Forbes school. African animals by a waterhole, “the only liberty was animals all close to each other and peaceful,” accompany scenes of wild animals & birds and domestic animals. An underwater scene of local fish and vegetation is missing. I imagine every child and adult found it impossible to settle on just one favorite animal.
The largest composition stretched almost 20 feet. Joseph Nunes helped Stoddard with the installation.
This pair from the series were set over the doorways leading to classrooms. Each measures 5′ x 5′, so tall ceilings. Do they look familiar?
Did you attend or are you related to someone who was enrolled at the Forbes elementary school in 1935? Perhaps you visited one of the special viewing days set aside for the public. Fun fact: There have been seven Forbes school locations if we include the two modulars from the 1920s.
Oscar Anderson painted seven soft hued and dreamy murals for Hovey School including three panoramas. Four smaller works from this school are missing since ca.1972 or later. Does seeing a few of them together help you picture the Hovey school interior?
WPA District Briefs – 1930s
Beyond art, Gloucester benefited from multiple New Deal projects big and small. The Jodrey State Fish Pier was a Public Works Administration (PWA) biggie. Emergency funds allocated through the Treasury department paid for new public buildings like Gloucester’s post office.
The WPA helped Gloucester finally cap off the new track and field on Centennial. For years Gloucester residents were asked to dump their trash to build up landfill. The recreation space (now New Balance Field at Newell Stadium) was recognized nationally and dubbed, “Gloucester WPA Centennial Avenue Athletic Field”.
“The benefits of men working has changed unsightly, unhealthy Gloucester dumping ground into a modern fully equipped athletic and recreation field.”
Super complimentary letter from Colorado in response to the Gloucester story:
GHS Football players- recognize anyone?
The field also gained coverage with other WPA football projects
Stage Fort Park
WPA salvage work helped to build a new seawall at Stage Fort Park for flood and erosion control – “More than 3500 tons of stone set in cement were required in the construction of this 1100 foot WPA sea wall at Stage Fort Park, Cressey Beach, Gloucester. The wall preserves the beach area by preventing water and driven sand from flooding the park property.”
“At City Home, Gloucester, WPA razed a dilapidated wooden structure and built an all-stone garage and storage shed. These buildings will be used jointly by the City Home and the Welfare Department.”
Contributions in support of murals needing treatment can be sent to the “City of Gloucester”, note for mural conservation, City Hall, 9 Dale Avenue, Gloucester, MA 01930
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“…an around-town stroll to the many houses and scenes painted by Edward Hopper on his five extended painting journeys here. They’re captivating, and in one case, crushing: The spectacular mansard-roofed captain’s house perched high on a Rocky Neck cliff that Hopper painted in 1924 now shares its view of Gloucester Harbor with a sprawling McMansion next door whose aesthetic might best be described as haute Florida strip mall.”
Register for Cape Ann Museum upcoming walks like Feb. 20 (Spiritual history) and Feb. 27 (Edward Hopper) HERE
Happy to see the Cape Ann Museum guided walking tours featured!
Not to worry! The historic house on Clarendon is gorgeous. Edward Hopper customized his take on Gloucester vistas, as did artists before him.
Here is the Gardner Wonson home (built circa 1873) in horse and buggy days, a scene cropped for commercial keepsake photographs published by the Procter Brothers who were flying high in the 1870s [collection New York Public Library].
This home was an architectural attraction Hopper may have seen before he stepped foot off the train for his first visit to Gloucester.
In 1846 entrepreneurial publishing dynamos and developers, brothers Francis with George H. Procter, set up a book and printing shop. By 1850 they moved to Main Street. As the business grew, their news dispatch morphed from “Procter’s Able Sheet” to “Gloucester Advertiser” to “Cape Ann Advertiser”, and then in 1888 to “Gloucester Daily Times”. By 1892 the printing press for the newspaper branch alone could churn out 4000 papers, eight pages long, every hour (see Pringle). Any small business operating for decades and successive generations will suffer its share of adversity. Procter Brothers was leveled not once but twice by fire, and rebuilt. They published or were the go to printers for all manner of media: books, periodicals, photographs, lithographs, even a circulating library from their headquarters in 1874; building back and then some after that 2nd conflagration. The Wonson home was featured in a tourist photograph series, “Cape Ann Scenery”.
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Happy New Year’s day! While thinking about 2021, I was looking back. 1900 seemed as good as any to share a fresh new chapter “then” story.
Let’s just say fasten your seat belts; reading about Mayor Merchant’s term is a bumpy ride for the entire year as reported in the Boston Globe. Heated exchanges dominate. Smaller items about conservation and deed issues related to Dogtown, Good Harbor Beach, and Briar Neck real estate development are detailed. I knew some details about Mayor French’s terms but did not run into Mayor Merchant before. I recognize the surname Merchant/Marchant as Gloucester history. Prior to this post I mostly associated Merchant with the street that was one of so many in Gloucester to inspire work by American artist, Edward Hopper.
On some lists of Gloucester Mayors, he’s (conspicuously) not there. (Biographical details unroll at the end. Also, photographs of all the Mayor portraits.)
All heads south immediately following the swearing in, and I mean immediately. The Mayor address advanced to the paper is standard, rosy and prickly, not uncommon.
New Year’s Day, 1900 – Mayor Merchant of Gloucester
Gloucester, Jan. 1- Establishment of a City Workhouse, and Investigation of Assessing and Fire Alarm Systems Urged
The inauguration exercises of the city government for 1900 took place this morning in city hall. As usual, a large number were in attendance, the especial point of interest being the reading of the inaugural. Those who expected to hear a plain and straightforward statement of certain facts were not disappointed, as the inaugural certainly treated certain matters in a trenchant manner.
The chapters in relation to the administration of highways, the debt of the city, revaluation, the need of better discipline in the police force, recommendations in regard to an equitable reduction of water rates were received with especial favor. The inaugural made a distinctly favorable impression.
In considering the finances, he said that the city’s liabilities were $829,243.72. The net debt is $368,211.04, an increase of $77,713.72. The reserve amount which the city now can borrow is $22,496.78.
The following recommendations were made: The appointment of a special committee to investigate and report to the city council as to the present system of valuation of the city by the assessors, and what action, if any, is needed to secure more equitable taxation; an investigation and report by the committee on fire department as to the needs of an improved fire alarm service and the probable cost; the abolishment of the public library fund, a special committee to consider carefully the question of the scale of the poor farm property, and what may be done toward the establishment of a city workhouse, which would be such in fact as well as in name; the appointment of a joint special committee upon water, to act with the water commissioners upon all matters relating to the purchase of the work, the improvement of sources of supply, and to suggest in what manner an equitable adjustment of the rates may be made; that no claim made against the city be paid without first having had a reference to the proper department and report thereon in accordance with the advice of the law department, and the appointment of a special committee of the city council to investigate all matters relating to the collection of taxes, and to suggest how best a way may be found for better service in this connection.
The mayor advocated a gradual revaluation of the city, saying he believed it to be the duties of the assessors to look carefully into the matter. Under the subject of highways, the mayor took occasion to criticize adversely those having them in charge the past year, while those officials who were brought in close contact with the work performed were roundly scored. The schools, fire department and trust funds were kindly criticized in the interest of advanced ideas and business judgement. Regarding the police and the matter of license, the mayor emphasized the statement that while not looking for any difficulty in this line the police must do as they were bidden and observe discipline.
City clerk Somes administered the oath to the Mayor elect Merchant, after which the keys of office were delivered to him by Mayor French. Mayor Merchant administered the oath to the following aldermen: Ward 1 Alphonso Davis; ward 2 Osborne Knowles; ward 3 Levi J. Hotchkiss; ward 4 Edward H. Quigley; ward 5 Albert H. McKenzie; ward 6, William J. Sleep; ward 7, William L. Allen; ward 8, James W. Ingersoll.
The following members of the common council were also sworn in: Ward 1, Austin F. Coombs, Addison W. Bailey, John W. Gaskell; ward 2, John F. Riley, Samuel J. Somers, Melvin Parsons; ward 3, John J. Cunningham, Frank W. Lothrop, John A. Stoddart; ward 4, Ernest S. Parsons, John J. Sullivan, Ray S. Friend; ward 5, James E. Tolman, Samuel W. McQuinn, Thomas Hodge; ward 6, Addison G. Stanwood, Samuel P. Favor, James A. Lawrence; ward 7, William Stephens, Charles C. Smith, Thomas F. Wherty; ward 8, Ephraim R. Andrews, James M. Chadbourne, Howard T. Bray.
After the reading of the inaugural the boards proceeded to their respective chambers for organization.”
– From “For Year 1900: Recommendations Made by Bay State Mayors. How Government of Cities Can Be Improved. Necessity of Practicing Economy Where It Can be Done Without Detriment to the Public Good. Questions of Finances, Schools, Water. Lighting and Sewage in Various Municipalities of the Commonwealth.” , Boston Globe, New Year’s Day, 1900
MUNICIPALITIES INCLUDED IN THE ARTICLE: SOMERVILLE. HAVERHILL. LAWRENCE. EVERETT. MEDFORD. SALEM. GLOUCESTER. FITCHBURG. BROCKTON. LYNN. BEVERLY. MARLBORO. WOBURN. NORTHAMPTON. SPRINGFIELD. NORTH ADAMS. NEW BEDFORD. QUINCY. WALTHAM. HOLYOKE. PITTSFIELD. TAUNTON. MALDEN. WORCESTER. BEVERLY CITY FATHERS. FOR THE SECOND TIME.
Jan 1 Day one whiplash- Council upends Mayor’s first day.
At the organization of the government today there were two unusual incidents.
“Mayor Merchant read a communication from ——-, protesting against administering the oath of office to Councilman elect Thomas Whearty, announcing that Chairman should contest the election. Mayor Merchant decided that there was nothing for him to do but take the returns of the election as they were rendered to him, and accordingly swore Mr. Whearty in.
“This had an important bearing on the contest of the presidency of the common council. When that body proceeded to elect as president James E. Tolman, who was a candidate for re-election offered an order that Mr. Whearty be not allowed to take part in the deliberations of the board until his case was finally settled. After several points of order had been made it was decided, to sustain chairman Lawrence, in adding Mr. Tolman’s order out of order. Councilman William Stephens was elected president of the council…In the afternoon Mayor Merchant announced his committees…
“Immediately on their announcement Alderman Sleep moved that the communication of the mayor be laid on the table. Mayor Merchant made no reply. Alderman Sleep insisted that his motion be put. Mayor Merchant contended that the committed announcement was simply a communication from the Mayor.
“Alderman Sleep produced the rules that urged that the aldermen by the rules could elect their own committees. Alderman Hotchkiss offered and order, if the mayor would entertain it, that the whole matter be referred to the city solicitor for his opinion as to the right of the aldermen to appoint the committees.
“Alderman McKenzie said there were committees to which he was appointed on which he did not care to serve.
“Mayor Merchant, after asking for further business, stated that he did not care to appear in the light of bulldozing the aldermen and should give them every opportunity to act except in the illegal expenditure of money, and then he should interfere. He therefore withdrew his nominations, and an order previously introduced by Alderman Hotchkiss that the aldermen reassemble at 7:30 in the evening and ballot for committees was passed.
“The mayor stated that the appointment of the committees had always been a prerogative of the mayor and he had proceeded in the matter as did former mayors.
“This is the first time in the history of the city that a mayor’s committee appointments have been protested or withdrawn. The incident caused somewhat of a sensation, and resulted in some animated conversation after the board adjourned.
“At 7:30 all the aldermen but Allen were in their seats. Mayor Merchant not putting in an appearance, President Sleep presided.
After the adjournment a conference was held, and a committee list satisfactory to the aldermen was arranged. The aldermen then, for the first time in the history of the city, proceeded to elect their own committees…Alderman Knowles offered an order that the city solicitor give his opinion in regard to the legality of the action of the aldermen in electing committees after the mayor had announced the appointment of committees. This was not seconded.”
Apparently this balking at Mayoral appointments was trending as Haverhill was in the same boat. Unsurprisingly, by the ides of March the Mayor and council are
by March 17 At Loggerheads
Gloucester Aldermen on their Mettle. Render Useless Several Vetoes of Mayor Merchant. Mr. Sleep Proves a Sharp Critic of His Honor.
“The session of the board of aldermen this evening was one of the most sensational for some time. The old feud between Mayor Merchant and Alderman Sleep again broke out.
The mayor when “communications from the mayor” was reached, resigned the position of presiding officer to chairman Sleep and departed from the chamber. The chairman then proceeded to read the three vetoes to the aldermen and two presented in the council, which came up for action.”
Boston Globe March 17, 1900 excerpt
VETO TOPIC 1- conflicts of interest and spite
“The order adopted in relation to the payment to Sleep Bros. for certain services on Beacon Street was vetoed by the mayor on the ground of illegality and that it was work done on private land…Mr .Sleep said that despite the veto, the mayor had paid the bill of W.R. Cheves for stone and E.H. Griffin for cement, but objected to that of Sleep Bros. for labor ($97.50) on the same job because the members of the firm were unfortunate enough to bear the same name as the speaker…the action of the mayor was simply a matter of spite against him for certain matters which had occurred on inauguration day…The order to pay the money was carried…”
Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
Veto topic 2- PROTECTING GOOD HARBOR BEACH
“Some sharpshooting occurred on the veto of the mayor of the order that signs be placed at Good Harbor Beach by the committee on police and that all persons be prohibited from taking sand and ballast from the beach. The mayor informed the board that the proper way to proceed in this matter was for the committee on public property…Sleep denied there was any politics in this measure, and said the committee on public property attended to its work, but as it received no pay it was not its duty to lay around Good Harbor beach all the time and protect the property.”
Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
VETO TOPIC 3 – Protecting Dogtown
The order that the mayor and city register the land known as Dogtown commons, under the provision s of the Torrens law, was vetoed by the mayor on the ground that it was not the duty of the mayor but of the committee on public property.
Boston Globe March 16, 1900 excerpt
Veto topic 4- pay Raise for Firemen
“…The mayor vetoed the order for an increase in the salaries of firemen because he said that the city was not in a financial condition to make the raise…Sleep stated that some of the business men are raising money to put through the defeated charter which the mayor favors and which provides for salaried commissioners and clerks. Money for their friends was all right, but when it came down to the firemen it was a decidedly different matter…”
Governor Crane named ex-Mayor French to Gloucester Police Court
september 1900 Briar’s neck free for all origin story continues
And the Mayor is in the story.
“Gloucester has had a little Oklahoma boom. The place in question where this excitement has occurred is at Briar neck. The strip of land has for many years been vacant, with the exception of one (shack)…although it is claimed by two capitalists, who assert that they have deeds…
“Early in the season an attorney inserted a small item in a local paper to the effect that there was no valid title, and that anyone who settled down on the property could hold it. Mayor Merchant was the first one to squat down on the property and his example was followed by others, and there was a veritable rush for the place for several days. All the available sites were staked out and the names of those who had located claims were written on the stakes. There was a rumor circulated that the mere staking of the land was unavailing and that nothing less than the erection of a building of some sort would hold the land. A nondescript settlement immediately sprung up, and the sound of the hammer and saw was loud for several days…”Seashore Boomers“
“There has been a great hunting up of old deeds and a revamping of family genealogies, …The Parsons of Joppa do not believe that the present squatters can hold the land, but eventually will be ousted. Mayor Merchant, by the way, claims descent from the Parsons.” Two capitalists of the city, George R. Bradford and George J. Tarr assert ownership of the tract, and have taken measures to protect their property…”
-excerpts from wild story about Briar Neck origins in the Boston Globe (Thacher is spelled Thatcher’s Island in this one)
Assuming its veracity, how did this Briar Neck business sort out? Two years earlier, a Boston Globe report stated Mayor Davis had plans for Briar:
Long standing Briar Neck controversy –
The controversy as to the ownership of Briar Neck property, between the street railway company and Mayor Davis, resulting in the company acknowledging the city’s rights in an old road there, has become further complicated. Today two of Gloucester’s wealthiest capitalists, George R. Bradford and George J. Tarr, entered the fight, and served papers on the street railway company. The plaintiffs claim that they own 36 acres of land at Briar Neck, which extends from the stone wall to the beach, including the fresh water pond, lowlands and uplands traversed by the street railway company. Meanwhile Mayor Davis has something up his sleeve in regard to ownership of the property which will be developed later.
The Mayor was limiting the amount of the council’s loan request.
“A long and tedious period of silence, lasting over 40 minutes, followed. Mayor Marchant holding his chair through fear that his seat might be usurped by Alderman Sleep, who is president of the board. In the meantime two of the aldermen had gone out in search of legal advice…”
“…Alderman McKenzie: “Since the mayor refuses to entertain my appeal, I appeal to you.” Mr. Sleep put the motion and Mr. McKenzie was sustained by the unanimous vote of the board…the portion of the loan not approved by the mayor was then passed over his veto by a unanimous vote…Having accomplished their purpose the board adjourned.”
Boston Globe October 24, 1900
Mayor French is back in the saddle. (The prior November, ex-Mayors Cook and French, Alderman Hotchkiss and ex-Alderman Barrett vied for the nomination.)
1899 New Year’s message for the Boston Globe by Mayor William French — who was back in as Mayor for 1901.
and his 1902 address published in the Gloucester Daily Times. I had read about French before.
photo caption: Gloucester Daily Times archives retrieved at Sawyer Free November 2018. Read more about 1902 and Haskell Dam in my prior post here on GMG, .
Honorable George E. Merchant Fast Facts
He was described as a modest man from a well known and well regarded “old Cape Ann family”, and endearing accounts about his enthusiasm at reaching his 50th wedding anniversary milestone suggest a loving one, too. (Gloucester Daily Times obit)
Prior to serving as Mayor, he served a term as an alderman 1886-87 (and many appointments/commissions before. Waterways after Mayor).
Adult – Printer/printing since 1870 when he began his career at John S.E. Rogers, owner and printer Gloucester Telegraph, various newspaper jobs. And printing press from his home at advanced age after retirement. Boyhood 1870 census- 16 years old, working as a fisherman (family lore he was the cook on father’s boat; father in business with his sons) giving it a go for 8 years like generations of his family. Education unknown, presumed self-taught. Prior to Mayor-1886-87 served as city councilor (overlapping with his father) and more since 1870s. After Mayor, appointments, too. Master gardener. Family historian-writer. Photography.
George Merchant Master mariner, fisherman, owner; founded seine net repair business 1873; fisheries advisor; served years as city councilor Ward 1 Affinity & skill for art- studied painting with FH Lane; fisheries display models, etc. (And his father was an incredible violinist.) Full & busy life, family man. 31 Main Street family residence See Shute & Merchant
Mary Douglass Merchant (1832-1923) Oak Grove Cemetery
Siblings Parents had 9 kids
Mary Jane 1851 – 1944 George Edward 1853 – 1929 Orlando 1856 – 1930 Flora Estelle died at 2 1858 – 1860 Eugene Howard died at 2 1861 – 1863 Robert Clifford 1864 – 1936 Joseph Carleton 1867 – 1961 unnamed son 1870 – 1870 Percy Washburn
Charlotte E. Lufkin (1857-1945)
twins died at 8 days and 9 days Ernest H (16 years old when his father was Mayor; GHS 1904) –buried in Santa Barbara– George E. Jr. (14 years old when his father was Mayor; GHS)
1900 33 Eastern Avenue family compounded variously split up before/after eventually 31 Eastern Ave where Charlotte remains
Obit both “well known member of old Cape Ann family”
George E. Merchant, Gloucester, Mass.
George Merchant, Gloucester, Mass.
George Merchant, grandfather, fisherman and accomplished violinist
Such creative, multi-talented family members! George E.’s photograph and family historian piece on the occasion of his grandfather’s 90th birthday was published in the Boston Globe
Portraits of many Gloucester Mayors are exhibited in Gloucester City Hall. These are photographs of (most of the) Mayor portraits I took back in 2017, after another inauguration. Paintings, photographs and drawings of Mayors have been commissioned or gifted then installed after the term(s) years of service.
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Clarence Manning Falt (1861-1912) was a Gloucester poet and photographer, a son of a Canadian immigrant & fisherman and a Gloucester mother & homemaker (born and raised in a fisherman generations family herself). They had seven children. The Falt family eventually purchased 172 East Main Street; Clarence and his surviving siblings continued to live there as adults. It’s a huge home.
photo caption: 172 East Main Street, Gloucester, Mass. An Edward Hopper drawing of this Gloucester house, which I identified, was gifted to the Minneapolis Art Institute and included in a travel exhibition highlighting major drawings from this famous repository.
Clarence Manning Falt clerked for various businesses on Main Street to support his art practice.
By the 1900 census, clerk was dropped from the “occupation” category, “Author” stood alone.
Falt photographed and wrote about Gloucester, where he was born and raised during the late 1800s. His work reflects his own personal experiences including the fishing industry of his parents’ world. The best ones connect readers to this world because of his talents and an insider’s careful observations. Some of the writing relies too much on tropes and can be a chore, though never as difficult as the jobs he portrays, and may stick with you just the same because he is successful in providing such accurate and detailed examples of the business of fishing and the beauty of Gloucester. Some poems rise to evoke a full and cinematic day at the docks and ideas to mull over.
POINTS OF INTEREST: GLOUCESTER IN SONG
Falt’s book of poems and photographs, Points of Interest Gloucester in Song, was published in 1894, the year after his mother died. He dedicated the volume to her. Examples of his original and stunning photographs are from the copy held in the collection of the Library of Congress which was digitized. The pairings aren’t always successful and one might long for more photos, as I have. A few appear to be source photos for vintage postcards.
“To those who have grown up from childhood amid the grandeur and solemnity of these scenes, to the stranger who has become familiar with them, may their hearts be quickened with a keener appreciation for, and a deeper sympathy with, all that has made Gloucester and its suburbs charming and historic.”
THE BLUETSIN mosses greenA charming scene,To me a sweet surprise,In bright arrayThis fair spring dayThe bluets greet my eyes.Each dainty cup,Is lifted upWith tints of heaven’s hue; Each budding gemA diademBespangled with the dew.Like tiny shieldsAmid the fields,On bodies, slim and frail,,They wave and bendAnd sweetly sendThe Welcome Spring’s All hail!Where bright sunshineBy one divineCan reach each fragile heart,They lovely gleamLike some sweet dreamAnd Joy’s sweet pulses start.My better self(The heart’s stored wealth)Enraptured at the sightOn each sweet faceSee’s Heaven’s graceAnd life, immortal, bright.On, tiny blooms,When waking tombsLie buried ‘neath the snow,And Death doth keepGuard o’er thy sleepAnd blust’ring winds they blow,Backward apaceMy heart will trace,And bring, begemmed with dew,‘Mid mosses green The charming sceneOf you, sweet buds of blue.-Clarence Manning Falt, 1894, in Gloucester, Ma.
Bluets, photo courtesy Justine Vitale
WHARF AND FLEET
Falt’s volume of poems and photographs, Wharf and Fleet: Ballads of the fishermen of Gloucester, was published in 1902. A copy of the book held at the University of California was digitized and uploaded in 2006.
“…Ever since 1713 Gloucester has been the peculiar home of the schooner, and this is now and long has been the unvarying rig of her unrivalled fleet of deep-sea fishermen. The first entry of a schooner in Boston’s commerce occurs in 1716, — “Mayflower,” Captain James Manson, from North Carolina. As Captain Andrew Robinson was a direct descendant of John Robinson who preached to the Pilgrims at Leyden, it is conjectured that this “Mayflower” was the fist schooner, the original Gloucester craft. Be this as it may, her useful successors are numbered by the thousands,…”
and re: the 100 days War with Spain:
“At the Gloucester recruiting station, in the early summer of 1898 , 76.5% of the men examined were accepted. At Boston the percent accepted was 14.5; at New York only 6. This means that in physique and intelligence the fishermen of New England are very much superior to the merchant sailors of the great seaports. So valuable a national resource as the deep-sea fisheries cannot be suffered to decline.”
*Winthrop Lippitt Marvin – U.S. journalist, and author; Civil Service Commissioner of Massachusetts; secretary of the Merchant Marine Commission
Back to Falt
Clarence Manning Falt was clearly proud of his parents and hometown and had a linguist’s ear and aptitude for the music of words. He studied public speaking and drama in Boston and New York. This book incorporates strongly stylized dialect deliberately, heavily.
More From his intro
Gloucester’s “population at the writing of this work is about 29,000. As a fishing-port, it is the largest in the world. Here can marine life be studied in all its phases. Here, lying at their moorings, will be found the up-to-date Gloucester fishing vessels, for the modern type of fishing vessel is t he pride and delight of a Gloucester skipper’s heart. He considers his stanch craft his ocean home. Indeed, these handsome vessels are as fine as the stately yachts that daily grace the harbor, for one would immediately note their fine sheer, perfectly fitting sails, clean decks, trim rig, and crews of able-bodied seamen, marking a wonderful and almost magical development from the primitive types of the quaint shallops, pinnaces, and pinkies of the olden days.
Gloucester harbor, like some might arena of old, is terraced with impregnable bastions of rugged hills and seared and time-furrowed cliffs…At night its beauty is unrivalled. Seaward its light-towers flash and gleam…the fleets glowing to port and windward, vying landward with the city’s brilliant reflections, sparkling with the shimmering glows of the wharf lights, the anchored fleets, and the inverted spangles of the stars of heaven… The wharf life has also developed marvelously. Every up-to-date method of prosecuting this industry is employed. This development has brought many new occupations and newer characteristics of the life. ”
Clarence Manning Falt, 1902 excerpt from his introduction Wharves and Fleet
A Matter of the Ear
“Packin’ Mack’r’l” — that does sound musical, and easily missed! How it makes me smile imagining Falt enlivened by the sights and sounds all about, fishing for just the right words and photographs; all the while diligently preserving a specificity of Gloucester’s fishermen’s dialect; a language all its own, encompassing many nationalities; one in which he was fluent and could translate and that he felt through his art. I wish that there was an audio recording of his reading aloud (or under his direction).
reminder comparable- post Civil War there was an uptick of slang dialects expressed in American writing, notably Tom Sawyer published 1876 and Huck Finn 1885(US)
Falt poem & photos- Gloucester sound and “see”scapes
SELECTION OF FALT’S POEMS
Many of the poems from Wharves and Fleet include vivid definitions tagged beneath which are delightful, personal and informative.
In building a wharf, the piles are first inserted into holes made in the dock, then after being carefully inserted and put in shape, they are driven down to a certain point by a heavy iron weight suspended from the top of the scow.
“Fly an’ spider”: figuratively used when the heavy iron weight (“th’ spider”) strikes the top of the pile (“th’ fly”). An old saying, long handed down by the fisher-folk**.
Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt
**have you heard this expression?
Ride stilts- “reflections of the piles at low tide. As the hawser lifts and drips and the crew hauls upon it, the phosper at night gleams most beautifully.
Notes from – Clarence Manning Falt
Dryin’ time after a heavy rain or spell of easterly weather, one of the most picturesque scenes of the harbor is the hanging of hoisted and half-hoisted sails from all sorts of crafts to dry in the coming forth of the sun.
Note about “Drying Time” – Clarence Manning Falt
Some of the poems I like most helped me learn about ancillary jobs and a bigger , tender portrait of this port.
GITTIN’ UNDERWAYIn th’ early dawn ere th’ doors unlock,Then it’s crick, crick, crick, an’ it’s crock, crock, crockAn’ it’s ho an’ hi fer th’ blocks ter talkIn th’ early dawn e’er th’ doors unlock.Then it’s ho na’ hi fer th’ dreams ter die,Fer th’ crews an’ th’ bunks ter say good-by,Fer th’ yawn an gape, fer th’ stretch an’ sigh,In th’ early dawn ere th’ cocks crow highThen it’s ho fer doublin’ th’ Woolsey smocks,An’ twicein’ th’ toes in th’ home-knit socks,An cuddlin’ th’ ears up under th’ locks,An’ haulin’ down tighter th’ souwes’ chocks.Then it’s ho fer housin’ th’ rubber boots,An’ firmin’ th’ heart in th’ stiff oil suits,W’ile the cuddies blaxe, an’ th’ coffee goots,An’ th’ windlass creaks, an’ th’ horn it hoots.Then it’s ho fer grubbin’ an’ hi fer drink,Then shadder th’ gangway an’ meet th’ brinkTer shape out th’ course an ter careful thinkIn th’ early dawn w’ile th’ stars still blink.
“Block ter talk”: the hoisting of the sails.
“Woolsey smocks”: flannel shirts.
“Souwes’ chocks”: the flannel-line lappets
that are attached to the sou’westers.
“Housin’ th’ rubber boots”: pulling them on.
“Windlass”: it is located forward the foremast,
and is used in weighing up the anchor.
“Horn”: the hand foghorn.
“Shape out th’ course”: making the grounds
by chart and compass.
“Sou’wester”: a broad-brimmed oil-cloth hat
with ear-lappets lined with flannel.
Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902, Gittin’ Underway, p. 37-38
TH’ NIPPERWOMANI SEE her black shawl mid th’ buttsClutched tight erpon her breast,I see her black cloud full uv rutsEr shamin’ off its best,I see her pinched an’ wrinkled faceEr quizzing uv th’ crew,An’ this ter-nigh is ole Mart Place,
That once wuz Marthay True.I see her lookin’ down th’ deckTer git some welcome nod,Or still perchance th’ courage beckTer put her feet erboard.I know her arms are tired outEr holdin’ uv th’ string,Fer ev’ry one is knitted stoughtTer pace th’ haddickin’. Oh, Marthay True uv long ergo,Could you have looked ter seeYer rosy cheeks an’ eyes erglow Come cryin’ back ter thee,Could you have looked ter see each braid Thin twisted stran’s uv snow,I know yer would ter God have prayed Fer ankrige long ergo.Oh, Marthay True that bird-like sang,An’ twined th’ red rose high,An bade my boyhood’s heart ter hang Er love-light in thine eye,Could you have known th’ years would flingYer, stranded wreck uv Time, Ter sell with ev’ry knitted ringEr dead heart’s silent chime,Er Nipper woman in th’ cold,Unnoticed an’ forlorn,Mid fisher faces sad an’ bold, With hearts bruised like yer own,I know yer would ter God have prayedFer ankrige long ere this,Than rather been by Fate errayed Er thing fer chance ter kiss.O, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo, An’ twine th’ red rose high,
An prate, an’ tell what we will do, With laughter in our eye;But way down in our hearts we know Time’s but er fickle thing,An’ ere life’s winds begin ter blow Come grief an’ sufferein’.Oh, Marthay True, we laugh an’ woo,An’ twine th’ red rose high,An prate, an’ tell what we will do,With laughter in our eye;But soon, too soon, our castles fall,Our gay ships drink th’ sea,An’ what should been joy’s merry callJest tears fer memory.Oh, Marthay True, God wot that thouMeet luck with all th’ fleet,An if er kind word will endowI’ll speak it quick an’ neat.I know er fisher’s tender spotIs ankered in his heart,Fer once with Christ they threw th’ lot,An’ hauled er goodly part.Oh, Marthay True, yer tale is told.Th’ hearts are tried an’ staunch,An, they have trawled er sum uv goldTer speed yer in joy’s launch.God wot that thou mayst happy be.Jest keep yer sad heart bright,An’ He will steer yer down Life’s seaTer find Hope’s port erlight.
Nipper woman: one of a class of women who knit
and sell to the crews of the fleet the woolen
nippers worn to prevent chafing of the fishing lines.
It is an industry pursued in the winter
and sold to the firms and the crews in the
early spring, at the fitting out or in the fall
at the “shifting of voyages.”
Nippers: when the trawl gets caught,
--“hung up,” in fishing vernacular,
--mittens are removed and the trawls
are hauled in with a pair of nippers,
bracelets of knitted wool or
cloth held in the palm of the hand,
creased to allow of a better hold of the line.
------Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet, 1902 Th’ Nipper woman, p. 37-38
Woolen nippers from Gloucester on view at the Smithsonian were exhibited in the 1883 International Fisheries Exhibition in London. I think of Falt’s poem, Th’ Nipper Woman, above, when I see this display, and find it all the more poignant now picturing the women & men working the dock and sea and seasons at port. Intimate and full. Gentle and rough.
GAFFIN' FISHW’EN th’ tide is out er flirtin’,An’ fergits ter shut its door,An’ th’ happy clams are squirtin,Playin’ injine with the shore, An th’ kids are ripe fer junkin’,An’ fer skippin’ rocks an’ shells,An fer woodin’ an’ fer punkin’Bobbin’ bottles in th’ swells,An’ yer hear th’ rats er squalin’Frum th’ black cracks in th’ walls,An’ yer quiz th’ tomcats stealin’ Nearer, nearer ter th’ calls, An’ yer mark some ole trap histid,Like er giddy thing on cogs,With its body kind uv listidT’ward th’ black spiles an th’ logs,All togged up in robes uv coal tar,Yaller oaker, sash’s an’ bo’s,P’r’aps er crimson-pintid five-starSunburs’in’ its puggy nose,Like some poor, ole primay donnay Thet has wobbled all her say,Now shoved further ter th’ corner W’ile th’ daybute works her lay,P’r’aps er ole T.D. er puffin’ Frum er drollin’ mouth er stern, Use ter bluffin’, use ter cussin’, Use ter words I know yer’v hern,Then yer know time’s ripe fer gaffin’An’ fer puntin’ roun’ th’ docks,Fer it’s then th’ crews git chaffin’An’ er rattlin’ th’ pitchforks,Fer it’s then th’ strays go slippin’Frum th’ ole caps with er thud,An’ th’ guick gaffs raise ‘em drippin’Ter th’ sly punts frum th’ mud.Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ sneakin’Uv th’ puntin’ through th’ spiles,Oh, it’s art ter watch th’ peekin’Uv th’ gaffers an’ th’ wiles,Fer it’s thievin’ pure an simpleAn’ it’s skittish work at bes’,Though th’ cheek may wear th’ dimple,An th’ eye stan’ heaven’s tes’.Oh, it’s risky work er gaffin’, Full uv duckin’s, fights, an’ jaws,Full uv skuddin’, full uv chaffin’,Full uv haul-ups, full uv laws.Fer if caught, as sure as Moses,Yer’ll be chucked deep in th’ dump,W’ile th’ smells uv sweet June roses Won’t c’logne up th’ homeward slump.
When the trips are being taken out,
often many fish slip from the pitchforks
and sink to the docks. A class of young
men and boys then row around in little boats,
called punts, and gaff up the fish beneath
the wharves and sell them. It is an illegal
business, and if caught, they are subjected
to a fine and imprisonment.
It is operated at low tide.
“Ole trap histid”: the old-fashioned shore
boats that haul up on the dock flats for repairs.
"Pintid five-star”: an old-fashioned emblem
For decorating ends of bowsprits.
------Clarence Manning Falt, Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Gloucester Fishermen, 1902
Gaffin’ Fish, p.39-41
For me, this one is a compelling balance: he carries water for the skippers and (less) for the gray market hustlers. It’s messy. His dad’s guiding hand on this one. Scroll back up and look at the “Th’ spider an’ th’ fly” photograph, the pilings and surface of the water. The images and words flow and force, back and forth. The pairings aren’t so cut and dry.
Cpt. Walter M. Falt (b. Canada April 18, 1823- d. Glouc. 1904) emigrated in 1845; fish dealer aka fish merchant 1870 census; skipper; master fisherman 1880 census; day laborer 1900 census misspelled as “Fault”, Cpt and Master Sea Foam 1878
Mary Carlisle Robinson (b. Glouc. 1826 – d. Glouc. 1893) parents married Nov. 30, 1847 “keeping house”
Resided family home
172 East Main Street, he and his siblings with their parents Edward Hopper drawing of this house in the collection of the Minneapolis Art Inst.
clerk for downtown businesses (drugstores on Main)
studied oration and acting
“clerk” and “apothecary clerk” on earlier census “author” on 1900 census
dates on family headstone Marion, (1849 -1931) 1848? Walter P. (1851-1877) laborer 1870 census Julia Procter (1852-1924) Clarence M. (1861-1912) author 1900 census Austin C. (1866-1915) stevedore 1900 census Roland H. (1868-1870) Mary Taylor (1876-1917) 1874?
1894- Points of Interest: Gloucester in Song 1902- Wharf and Fleet: ballads of the Fishermen of Gloucester
family plot, Mt. Pleasant Cemetery
Under a Banner of Many Nations
Note from the author: Over the past week, I’ve shared Boston Globe Gloucester stories about immigrants: Swedish, Canadian, Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese , Irish, Scotch and so on. I thought of Falt’s books with each post.
Nations jump from the page when scanning vital stats documents, too- like this one from Gloucester birth registry 1868 – scroll over to the right through Occupation / place of Birth of Father/ place of Birth of Mother.
(To get the full experience, go big! The wordpress format reduces the size, however all photos in this post can be clicked, double clicked through, or pinch & zoomed to enlarge)
Captain Thomas Bohlin #3 “king pin among the halibut fishermen” (born in Sweden)
Captain Charles Harty tie for #2 mackerel “as a seiner his reputation has been made.”
Captain Solomon Jacobs #1 OG “widest known fisherman this country has ever produced…having started out as record beater, has had to live up to his reputation and has succeeded…” codfishery then mackerel seining – global expansion, lost everything & came back again “at the foot of the ladder. His old time luck had not forsaken him…” (born in England, brought to Newfoundland when a baby)
Captain Alex McEachern #7 high lines, particularly Grand bank codfisheries beat all records in 1897 (born Cape Breton)
Captain John W. McFarland tied for #2 “the only one to make two newfoundland herring trips, and marketed them in New York, on one season” (born in Maine)
Captain Andrew McKenzie #8 Iceland halibut and Newfoundland herring (born in PEI)
Captain Lemuel F. Spinney #5 “high line halibut catcher who is in the first flight of the “killers.” (born in Yarmouth, N.S.)
Captain Charles Young #6 halibut fleet -1895 record for most trips in one year (born in Copenhagen)
Captain Richard Wadding #4 halibut (born in England)
A June Morning – arch yes to my ear, and interesting catalogue of flora and fauna then
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A classic Edward Hopper inspired by Gloucester will be sold at Sotheby’s auction this morning*. Architectural and natural elements in the drawing remain recognizable today. The scene overlooks the same house on East Main, Capt. Joe & Sons, and Cripple Cove (see then/now comparison photos below). The Gorton’s factory building there burned down. Cripple Cove playground is the green on the right of the Hopper image.
The drawing last changed hands in 1989 when the Horchows purchased the drawing from Kennedy Galleries in New York. Will it land in another private collection or an institution?
Edward Hopper (1882-1967), Gloucester Factory and House, 1924, watercolor and pencil on paper, 14″ x 20″, from the Carolyn & Roger Horchow collection (Dallas,TX) They purchased the drawing in 1989 from Kennedy Galleries, NYC.
Lot 8 estimate $800,000-$1,200,00 currently at $600,000 bid before the auction opens
*Update- With just 56 lots to sell and two withdrawn ahead of sale, Lot 8 came up quickly with a few competing bids and a hammer price of $700,000 ($867,000 with fees), below estimate.
Many lots before and after were short of estimate or passed (unsold) including a Winslow Homer watercolor which was “reoffered” by pausing the bidding on the final lot #56 to return to Lot #16 (which sold for 2 million hammer price) before moving back to the final lot, an Edward Willis Refield (which sold for $250,000). That whoopsie “reoffer” is highly unusual**. The auction house scrambled to bring that phone bidder forward before the close of the sale. A second Homer watercolor passed at 850,000.
The Sotheby’s December 11, 2020 auction offered a variety of American art from various collections. The sale results were a mixed bag of purchases, passes, and pulled works. Only one work sold far above estimate, thanks to a bidding war, a western scene by John F. Clymer. Scroll below the Hopper and Gloucester images to see the Homer.
above photo: Catherine Ryan
above: page from Edward Hopper all around Gloucester by Catherine Ryan, 2010
above: Sotheby’s catalogue entry page
In 2017, Christies sold a Rockefeller Hopper painting, Cape Ann Granite, also in December, which I wrote about here: Bring it Home.
**December 11, 2020 Winslow Homer Lot 16 sold at Sotheby’s after passing first in the live sale and then “Reoffered” before the close of sale. For both the first and second offer window, the bid opened at 1.8 million. In the first round the bidding went back and forth, but “passed” at 2.2 million, presumably failing to meet reserve or presale estimate (2.5 – 3.5 million). Before the final lot of the sale, the auctioneer annouced a “re-offer” for Lot 16 after the audio went silent for a brief time. The drawing was sold to a buyer placing a phone bid for 2 million hammer price (2,440,000 after fees), less than the “pass” of the first time through. This move is nearly an aftersale during the sale. Perhaps the first time around the buyer was late to the call or there was confusion determining the “up to” amount, factoring in the fees.
Property from a Prominent Private Collection
1836 – 1910
Two Girls on the Beach, Tynemouth
signed Winslow Homer and dated 1881 (lower left)
watercolor and pencil on paper
14 1/8 by 20 inches
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Esteemed conservationist and bird and insect authority, Chris Leahy discussed recent multi-year surveys of Essex County islands for Mass Audubon and Mass Fish & Wildlife with humor and depth as only he can having resided on the North Shore, in Gloucester, and championed this Important Bird Area for some 50 years.
The islands range in size and offer different kinds of nesting habitat. There are great shoals for fishing. Islands include familiar names like Tinkers, Straitsmouth, Thacher, Children’s, Kettle, House, Eagle, Ram, Cormorant and Ten Pound. Leahy recalled visiting some in the 1960s-70s for the first ever field counts with Dorothy “Dottie” Addams Brown, Sarah Fraser Robbins & others, and readily compares data then and now.
Some of the bird species making the count: gulls, egrets, herons, cormorants, harlequin duck, geese, loon, coots, purple arctic sandpiper, common eiders, and snowy owls. There are not a lot of songbirds due to restricted habitat although so many song sparrows he quips, “it almost feels like they’re going to attack.” Predators do and did. Gulls and rats stuck in my mind, and our ruinous plume hat trade. At that time “Snowy egrets– in FLA and elsewhere south– were slaughtered for plumage developed solely at breeding time, leaving any young to die and rot.”
Climate is partly a factor and population dispersement in the birds they find. Sometimes there are great “fallout” of migratories which are unpredicatable and awesome. Various species are easier to count especially those perched amid low tree shrubs. Guess which ones? Forgot the burrowers! Forecasts are exciting. He predicts we might see Manx shearwters maybe nesting here in the coming years.
Kindness of organizations and people with boats helps make this happen. And one steel hulled sailboat that makes access to these rocky isles a bit more possible.
Chris Leahy presented Treasure Islands for Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library. Mary Weissblum has endeavored to host evenings for Leahy’s numerous publications and projects, so many that she’s lost count. “Always a treat to be educated and charmed by his incredible store of knowledge,” she writes. Look for Chris Leahy’s next talk.
Learn more about Thacher Island Association (Paul St Germain) here
We snapped a wiper scraping snow off our car windshield. I headed downtown to Consumer Auto Parts, Whistle Stop Way, Gloucester, Mass. for replacements. They were happy to re-attach them if I ran into trouble which was nice to hear. I especially enjoyed the view of St. Ann’s framed through the window at nearly the approximate orientation of vistas depicted in Gloucester works by artist, Edward Hopper.
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