The following is an excerpt from a letter written by John W. Stevens of South Danvers. He was an Orderly with the Fifth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers, Company C., under the command of Captain Robert S. Daniels, Jr. Stevens wrote this letter while stationed at Camp Pierson in Newbern, North Carolina. The letter is dated February 14th, 1863. In it Stevens talks of his daily routine at camp while waiting to be called to battle, but he also maintains an interest in the goings-on at home, such as his father’s business, and the welfare of a neighbor’s horse. Stevens survived the war and returned home to South Danvers. This letter was presented by Mrs. James Buxton of Peabody for the “Century Box,” a time capsule deposited in the Peabody Institute in 1902 and opened in 2002.

“Dear Father,

I was much pleased in receiving a letter from you and a good long one it was. I was glad to learn that you had to get to doing a little something in the yard again. I presume after you get started fairly you will not find any trouble in getting hides to tan or to buy some. Don’t it come hard to commence business again after laying by for so long a time! Don’t despair – a better day is coming. We must look ahead and hope for better times.

I understand that business is very good at home now. I should think that help would be scarce after so many have gone to war. Never mind, we will arrive in time to relieve some of our young men that are so very patriotic at home, and give them a chance to see the Elephant*, I think most of the boys that are here, will not be likely to take a second peep at him. It seems to be the general expression among officers and soldiers that after finishing their term of service will not again enlist. I presume it is the opinion of those at home that the soldiers here and other departments are very well contented with their lot.

I haven’t seen yet so hard times as I pictured in my imagination before enlisting although we have done our share since we came out here but are comfortably situated in camp now, and flatter ourselves that we shall not be called away from here again until our time expires. Yet we may be ordered away in a day for we don’t get much notice when we are wanted.

It is after taps now but I shall try to finish this letter tonight. Capt. Daniels is officer of the day and I am going the grand rounds with him tonight at 12-1/2 o’clock. As Sergt. of the same I go with him every time he is on. My duty is to answer the sentinel when he challenges us at 10 paces, and orders halt. “Who comes there.”! Answer: “Grand rounds advance Sergt. of the rounds and give the countersigned.” I advance to the point of his bayonet and whisper the countersign to him over the point of the bayonet. If correct, he says, “Advance rounds.”

Tell Mother that our Company is not in quite so bad a state of demoralization as is represented to her at home. There is some few who may be figuring pretty fine the days and hours of our time of service, but it doesn’t amount to anything. For one I would not accept of my discharge until our time has expired and go home honorably feeling that I have done all the government required of me.

I shall not be able to answer Charley’s letter this mail. Give my love to him and Susie. Also to Mother and Louisa and tell them to write often. Remember me to Uncle Ben and all inquiring friends. Tell Mr. Porter not to let the little mare get too lazy and too big a belly on her. Write often.

From your affectionate son,
John W. Stevens.”

* “Seeing the Elephant” was a euphemism for seeing active warfare and participating in a battle.

Portrait of unidentified soldier, c. 1861-1865. Collection of the Peabody Historical Society.


Today is National Quilting Day. How appropriate, then, that the Peabody Historical Society is holding an upcoming quilting exposition. Common Threads: A Celebration of Quilts and Community is a two- day event featuring antique quilts from our collection, many rarely exhibited, as well as modern quilts from several local quilting guilds. In addition, there will be quilt appraisals, scissor sharpening, and children’s activities. Vendors will also be on hand, offering quilting supplies and product demonstrations. Common Threads will be held at the Smith Barn, Brooksby Farms, at 38 Felton St. in Peabody on Saturday, April 2 from 10 am – 4 pm, and Sunday, April 3 from 12 pm – 4 pm. Admission is $5.00, $2.50 for quilting guild members, and free for children under 12. For more information please visit www.peabodyhistorical.org

James Daugherty

D-204. Designed by James Daugherty, American. Ca. 1977-1980. Gift of Joan Needham, 1994

This dress of red crepe polyester, circa 1977-1980, has an air of elegance that evokes the sophistication of gowns of the Fifties and early Sixties while still remaining contemporary. It was designed by James Daugherty. Daugherty was an African-American fashion designer based in New York. His fashions were featured often in Ebony and Jet magazines. Eunice Walker Johnson, co-founder and publisher of Ebony and Jet, founded the Ebony Fashion Fair in 1956. The Fashion Fair was an annual traveling fashion show held as a fundraiser to benefit charities. It used only African American models wearing haute couture clothing from many of the great American and European designers. Walker was the first African American to import designer clothing from Europe. The last Fashion Fair was scheduled for 2009 but was abruptly cancelled due to the poor economy. Walker died in 2010 at the age of 93.

If you’re on Facebook, you can send that special someone a vintage Valentine with our Peabody Historical Society Vintage Valentine App. There are several to choose from, such as the one pictured above which dates from the 1920s. With all of the snow we’ve had during the past couple of months, we thought we’d show you a relaxing beach scene to put you in the frame of mind for warmer weather. It can’t come soon enough.

Seventies Style

D-199 Gift of Anne Warner, 1994

Clothing from the Seventies, to paraphrase a famous comedian, gets no respect. When one thinks of clothing from that decade, images of flared trousers, large pointed collars, and a plethora of polyester immediately come to mind. But there were moments of brilliance amidst the hippies and the disco divas of the era. Think Halston and his halter-top dress, or Diane Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. Both have become iconic symbols of the Seventies that have transcended the decade to become fashion classics.

This dress from 1979 is on the cusp of a new decade. Disco was not yet dead, but this dress eschews the deliberately suggestive styles of that time (designed to attract the opposite sex on the dance floor) in favor of a simple yet elegant sophistication, with elements of romantic innocence such as its vivid floral print, large sleeve ruffles, and lace trim. I imagine this dress being worn by the new breed of woman that emerged from the “Women’s Lib” movement of the early Seventies — a woman who smoked Eve cigarettes and wore Charlie perfume and who could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. And when she entertained at home (her dinner parties possibly including a fondue set and DuBonnet), this hostess-with-the-mostess would have been the center of attention in this dress. Perhaps a little outside of Mary Tyler Moore’s comfort zone, but Rhoda Morgenstern would have been in her element wearing this.

2011 that is. But we thought we’d share a beautiful New Year’s postcard from our collection from exactly one hundred years ago. Wishing all of you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Here We Snow Again

This weekend’s massive snowstorm reminded us of other snowstorms to hit Peabody in the past. Of course, there was the Blizzard of ’78 – a storm so devastating that it has become the benchmark for all subsequent snowstorms. But Peabody has witnessed many significant snowstorms over the years. We’re fortunate to have many photographs in our archives, donated by our members and friends, that preserve for posterity the city of Peabody as it looked under several feet of snow.

Circa 1901-1902

An electric trolley car stuck in the snow, circa 1901-1902. From the Century Chest, a collection of photographs donated by the people of Peabody and put into a chest that was stored at the Peabody Institute until it was opened one hundred years later in 2002.

The Peabody Happenings section of The Salem Evening News for February 6, 1901 reported that “This morning the snow packed in on the Lynn street track, in front of Rockdale park, so that the cars could not get through….The two vestibule cars were linked together and run to Peabody Square that way….All the country lines were blocked with the drifting snow quite badly and the cars had hard work getting through.”

But some Peabody residents still managed to have a little fun in the snow, such as Fred, Carl, and Berry Goldthwaite outside their home on Central Street (below).

Washington Street, Peabody, 1901


The record-breaking Blizzard of 1969 was the worst snowstorm to hit Peabody until the Blizzard of ’78. Two severe snowstorms in February 1969 dumped 41.3 inches of snow on the Boston area. The first storm hit on Sunday, February 9th. People were stranded in their cars on highways, and about four hundred of the city’s weekend visitors were forced to spend the night in City Hall, sleeping on army cots in the basement. The second storm hit on Monday, February 24th that left 32 inches of snow, with wind drifts creating snow banks as high as 51 inches. At the time, Peabody didn’t have enough equipment to remove such a large amount of snow, so snow-removal equipment was hired from as far away as Long Island, New York, to help dig out Peabody.

Photos from the Blizzard of 1969, from longtime Peabody Historical Society member Ruth O'Keefe.