William S. (William Sidney) Rossiter.

Days and ways in old Boston online

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Drawings by Malcolm Fraser and
Jacques Reich* of the Art Staff of
the Century Magazine, New York




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R. H. Stearns and Company '


25 1914 '^

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Impressed with the interesting changes that
had taken place in Boston and its business methods
within the last two generations, we began some
time since the preparation of a brief pamphlet
calling attention to some of these changes which
had occurred during the business life of Mr. R. H.
Stearns, who founded this business in 1847 and died
in 1909. It was our intention to distribute gratui-
tously this pamphlet (partly advertising and
partly historical) among our customers. As the
work progressed, however, we found so much of
interest which had occurred in the year '47 and
so much of Boston history which was connected
with our present location, that the original plan
of a small booklet was abandoned.

Moreover, competent judges advised us that
the material thus collected was of more than
passing importance — most of it indeed being of
real historic value — which could not fail to interest
a much wider circle of readers.

We therefore decided to eliminate the adver-
tising matter (unless occasional reference in signed
articles or illustrations showing some of the
changes which have taken place at the historic
corner where this business is now located could
be so construed) and to print in permanent book
form the material which had been collected. This
volume is the result.

Pref a ce

With this explanation we submit it to our
friends with the hope that those who personally
or through family ties are identified with old
Boston will find it a welcome and permanent
addition to the already considerable literature
relating to the city, and that many others, with-
out such associations, will derive both pleasure
and inspiration from "Days and Ways in Old

R. H. Stearns and Company.




By William S. Rossiteb



By Thomas Wentworth Higginson


From a Conversation with a Boston Lady
OF the Period


By Frank H. Forbes


By Maud Howe Elliott


By Robert Lincoln O'Brien


By Heloise E. Herset


By Walter K. Watb:ins


From Information Furnished by Francis R.



Celebration on the Common of Introduction of

City Water, 1848 Frontispiece

The Adams House in 1847 15

Temple Place in 1860 16

Railroad Stations in Boston in 1850:

Eastern 18


Boston & Maine 19

Boston & Lowell 20

Boston & Worcester 22

Old Colony 23

Boston & Providence 23

Railroad Crossing, Back Bay, 1836 21

Thomas Wentworth Higginson 26

James Russell Lowell 28

Wendell Phillips 29

Map of Section of Boston, 1814 33

Beacon Street Mall, about 1850 35

Louis Agassiz 36

Oliver Wendell Holmes 37

Bird's-eye View of Boston Common, about 1850 ... 43

Old Boston Water Front 47

Mrs. Julia Ward Howe 60

Theodore Parker 71

Part of Evening Transcript, 1847 79

State House from the Common, 1836 82

Mansion erected by Hezekiah Usher 96

Waitstill Winthrop 98

The Usher Tomb 100

Wedding Gown (1735) of Mistress Roger Price. . . 103

Sheriff Stephen Greenleaf 104

Map of Boston, 1722 105

The John Hancock Mansion 106



Map of Present Temple Place Section, 1722 107

Review on the Common, 1768 108

Boston Common, 1799 110

Charles Bulfinch 112

Common Street, now Tremont, looking South, 1800 113

Common Street, now Tremont, looking North, 1800 115

Beacon Street from the Common, about 1812 118

Announcement of the Washington Gardens 119

Masonic Temple, Tremont Street and Temple Place,

ABOUT 1875 124

Amos Bronbon Alcott 125

Tremont Street from Park Street Church, 1830. . 126

Margaret Fuller, the Marchioness Ossoli 127

Ralph Waldo Emerson 128

Judge John Lowell 129

Richard H. Stearns 129

Tremont Street and Temple Place, 1914 131

State Street in 1804 133

Massachusetts Bank, 1800 139

First National Bank, 1914 139

State Street, 1837 141

Court Street, showing Old Colony Trust Company 143


Days and Ways in Old



By William S. Rossiteb

War and politics conspired to make 1847 a
year of much importance in the history of the
United States. With the admission of Iowa De-
cember 28, 1846, the Union consisted of twenty-
nine states and one territory. Part of Texas
was in dispute, and the area which extends
from the Rio Grande to the Oregon Hne and
now includes the states of CaUfornia, Nevada,
Utah, New Mexico and Arizona and much of
Colorado and Texas, comprising in all half a
milUon square miles, was still a part of the
Republic of Mexico. It was for the prize of this
coveted territory that war was declared by the
United States, and in 1847 the assault upon Mexi-
can domain was carried to a successful conclusion.

National Events and Conditions

The pecuhar importance in federal history of the
year '47 did not arise from any deliberate purpose
of Congress or the administration, but was an
incidental result of the pohtical exigencies of that
period. This result was two fold:

The pro-slavery leaders determined to extend —
at the expense of Mexico — the area from which to
erect future slave holding states. This immedi-
ate object failed, but the southern leaders builded

Days and Ways in Old Boston

better than they realized. Victories in Mexico,
culminating in 1847, added to the United States
a section of the continent which was never avail-
able for slavery but which became almost immedi-
ately indispensable to the growth and destiny of
the Republic.

The Mexican War, by the brilhant achievements
of the American armies, aroused the pride and
fired the martial spirit of the people, especially
in the South. This successful war was a factor,
probably of considerable importance, in determin-
ing the attitude of the southern states in the in-
ternal dissensions which soon led to civil war.
In '47 the war news was a long succession of
victories. In February General Taylor won the
hard fought battle of Buena Vista. In March
General Scott captured Vera Cruz. In April he
won the battle of Cerro Gordo, while the crown-
ing events of the war, the storming of Chapul-
tepec and the capture of the City of Mexico came
in September.

There are few twelve -month periods, therefore,
in the century and a third elapsed since the Re-
public was organized, which have affected more
powerfully its territory and its destiny.

In the year 1847 James K. Polk was President
of the United States. The total population in that
year according to an estimate made four years
later by the superintendent of the Seventh
Census, was 21,154,144. The inhabitants were
still principally located in the original thirteen
states. Many, however, were already settling

The Year Eighteen Forty Seven

in the rich agricultural areas which extended
northward from Tennessee to the Lakes, and
which benefited by the earliest immigration
movement after the adoption of the constitution
and the close of General Wayne's campaigns
against the Indians. So strong was the tide of
immigration that by 1854 not only were Cali-
fornia and Wisconsin members of the Union, but
Kansas, Utah, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon,
Washington and New Mexico had advanced to the
dignity of federal territories.

When the social conditions of that period are
compared with those prevailing more than half
a century later, the nation seems to have been
conspicuous in '47 for plain living, and the pref-
erence shown by a homogeneous population for
country life as compared with that in towns
and cities. In 1850, indeed, three quarters of
the population of the North Atlantic States
dwelt in communities of less than 5,000 inhabi-
tants and one quarter in large towns and cities,
proportions which sixty -four years later are prac-
tically reversed.

New York contained about 475,000 inhabitants.
Brooklyn, not yet a part of greater New York's
vast population, was a modest independent city
of approximately 75,000 souls, reached only by
small ferry boats, after long periods of waiting.
Chicago was a newly founded prairie town of
about 20,000 inhabitants. Philadelphia, with its
independent suburban towns, included about
300,000 people.


Days and Ways in Old Boston

Boston in 1847

Boston was a small city, — as we now regard
cities, — of 130,000 inhabitants, but this total did
not include the quiet country population of Rox-
bury and Dorchester, Roxbury, however, by a
vote of 837 to 129 had just resolved to become a
city. Somerville had been set off from Charles-
town but five years before, in 1842, and when
made an independent town, it contained neither
a post office, hotel, lawyer, clergyman nor physi-
cian. Brookline, now famous as a beautiful and
wealthy suburb of 30,000 inhabitants, was a
village of 2400 population.

Boston was not only small in population, but
small in area. The broad streets and avenues
which now stretch from the Public Garden, and
are known as the Back Bay, sixty years ago were
represented by open water or marsh. In fact, the
Public Garden had but recently been reclaimed
from a damp and undeveloped tract seemingly
hopeless for any practical use. Where Beacon
Street now descends the hill to stretch into the
Back Bay district, was the famous "Mill Dam"
connecting Boston with the narrow roadway that
led to Brookline. This strip of land was wide
enough to accommodate only a few buildings.
Facing the Common on Beacon Street still lingered
the John Hancock mansion, a famous old colonial
home. Tremont and Boylston were residence
streets, as were also Temple Place, Summer, Win-
ter and Franklin Streets. Retail business —

The Year Eighteen Forty Seven

and as we judge business today it was very deco-
rous and deliberate — was confined principally to
Washington Street, Scollay Square (including
Tremont Row), Hanover, Court and State Streets,
to which of course should be added the water front
from which came in generous measure so much
of Boston's material prosperity during the era of
American commerce which culminated in the
early fifties.

In 1847 the Revere House was completed and
opened, and was regarded as easily the largest
and finest hotel in New England. On June 29th,
when President Polk visited Boston as the guest
of the city, he was lodged at this new and sump-
tuous hotel. Other Boston hotels of that period
were the Tremont House, Adams House, the
American House and United States Hotel.

Aside from the State House, pubUc buildings
were few and of simple architecture when judged
by the standards of later years. The Boston
Post Office was located in the Merchants Exchange
on State Street. It is diflScult, indeed, to reaUze
how business could be conducted at all with the
limited mail service available in 1847. In that
year there was one northern, one southern, and
one eastern mail daily, three to Lowell, two each
to Providence, Worcester, Springfield, Hartford
and Albany. Other toA^rns such as Haverhill,
and Nashua, Manchester and Concord, N. H.,
averaged about two mails per day. The mail to
England was received and forwarded twice each
month. Boston and suburbs at this time sup-

Temple Place in 1860

The site of the first three buildings is now covered by the rear of the present
ten story building facing Tremont St.

The Year Eighteen Forty Seven

ported about 75 newspapers and periodicals of all
kinds but their aggregate circulation was very

During the year 1847 the Custom House was
completed, and the corner stone of the Atheneura
on Beacon Street was laid. On the latter occasion
the address was delivered by Hon. Josiah Quincy.
The year was made memorable in Boston by the
breaking of ground in front of the old State House
on Washington Street for pipes to carry water
through the city. The law which made this
public improvement possible had passed the
legislature in April, 1846, and on being submitted
to a popular vote in Boston was approved 4667 to
848. It is difficult now to understand how any-
one could oppose the introduction of public water
works. Later in the same year the ground was
broken for an aqueduct at Long Pond, and
Hon. John Quincy Adams took part in the cere-

The revolution in methods of living which has
occurred since 1847 is perhaps illustrated most
strikingly by the change in transportation facilities.
In the year 1847, Boston did not possess even one
horse car line. Instead, the city and its suburbs
were connected by various stage lines which fur-
nished inadequate service to Roxbury, Cambridge,
Charlestown, etc. One of these lines of prim-
itive omnibuses ran at intervals of seven minutes
from Charlestown to Scollay Square. Another
line ran along Washington Street to "the Neck."
Another line of omnibuses starting from Scollay
2 17

Days and Ways in Old Boston

Square, connected Boston with Cambridge. Stages
ran to Maiden and other towns.

Railroads *
In 1847 there were eight railroad stations within
the city limits of Boston. The Eastern Railroad
which had been opened ten years before, was 71
miles in length, and subsequently was extended
to Portland, a distance of 110 miles. The trains of

Eastern Railroad Station

this road were reached by crossing a ferry from
Commercial Street to East Boston.

The Boston & Maine Railroad was 71 miles in
length and was opened for travel in 1843. An-
other division, opened in 1845, passed through
Reading, Maiden and the suburban towns of that
section. The Boston terminal, fronting on Hay-
market Square, was a large brick building two

*The illustrations of railroad stations which appear in the follow-
ing pages are reproductions of wood cuts published in 1852.


Boston and Maine Railroad Station

FiTCHBURQ Railroad Station

Days and Ways in Old Boston

stories in height, erected on the former bed of a
canal. This was regarded as more centrally
located than the other railroad stations. The
ground floor of the building was utilized as a
station, but the second floor, or loft, was rented
by the railroad to a firm of merchants as a
carpet wareroom.

This road was declared to be one of the most


Boston amd Lo'vrBLL Railkoad Station

promising in New England, and it was said
at that period that if any property of this kind
could succeed, the Boston & Maine was destined
to become very valuable.

The Boston & Lowell Railroad which had been
opened in 1835 and subsequently extended, was
«aid to be the most substantially constructed
railway in Massachusetts. It was double tracked
from Boston to Lowell, a distance of 26 miles;
the tracks were laid on stone sleepers. A branch
extended to Woburn. In 1847 the fare from

The Year Eighteen Forty Seven

Boston to Lowell was 65 cents and there were six
trains daily, except Sunday, each way. The sta-
tion in Boston, located at the foot of Lowell
Street, was a plain brick building with no pre-
tensions whatever to architectural elegance.

The Fitchburg Railroad, which had been opened
for travel on March 5, 1845, extended 49 miles to
Fitchburg and under lease a small branch was
operated to Fresh Pond. The Boston terminal
was located in Charlestown, but a few years
later the building which now stands on Cause-
way Street was erected, and was regarded at
the time as one of the most imposing stations
in the United States. Between Boston and
Fitchburg three trains were run daily each way
(except Sunday). It is interesting to note that
in '47 the entire rolling stock of the Fitchburg
Railroad consisted of three six-wheeled loco-
motives, six eight-wheeled locomotives, 15 pas-
senger cars, and freight cars which together were
computed to equal 212 "four-wheeled cars."

The Boston and Worcester Railroad which con-
nected the two cities, and covered a distance of 45
miles, had been opened for travel with a single
track in 1835. The plain brick spacious station
was located on the corner of Beach and Kneeland
Streets. There were four passenger trains daily
each way between Boston and Worcester. In
addition, a freight train with passenger cars at-
tached left Boston for Worcester at noon. This
road was probably more largely patronized at that
period than any of the others and by 1845 the in-

Days and Ways in Old Boston

come of the road was half a million dollars per an-
num. Worcester at this period had a population of
approximately 10,000. It was the eastern terminus
of the Western Railroad which ran from Worces-
ter through Springfield to Albany, and was thus
the junction for travelers passing between Boston
and the Hudson River and Mohawk Valley

Over the Boston and Worcester Railroad there

Boston and Worcester Railroad Station

were two trains daily between Boston and New
York by way of Springfield, and in addition a
boat train left at five p.m., via Worcester and

The Boston and Providence Railroad had been
in operation since the 4th of June, 1834. The
station in Boston was a brick structure rather
more pretentious than the other railway stations
of that period. There was a two-train service

BoaxoN AND Frovoencb Railroad Station

Old Colont Railroad Station

Days and Ways in Old Boston

daily between these cities, one train in the morning
and one in the afternoon in each direction. A
"steamboat train" ran in the afternoon to Ston-
ington. This road also operated four trains
daily each way between Boston and Dedham,
and two between Boston and Stoughton.

In 1847 the Old Colony Railroad had been in
operation for more than a year. This road ex-
tended from Boston to Fall River and also from
Braintree to Plymouth, with several short branch
lines. The station was a three story brick structure
at the corner of Kneeland and South Streets.

Transportation between the various railway
stations in Boston or to different parts of the
city was effected by the use of stages or "hacks."
From the Boston and Lowell Station, for ex-
ample, Cheney, Averill & Company operated an
omnibus line to State Street. For this trip, with-
out baggage, 6j cents was charged. Between
the station and any part of the city proper,
railroad carriages or omnibuses conveyed pas-
sengers for 12^ cents each.


In the year '47 the population of Boston was
composed chiefly of the native stock. The city
at that period was a distinctively New England
community in which the citizens held to the con-
servatism and the comparatively simple habits of
their ancestors.

The comment of Josiah P. Quincy writing in
1881 of the characteristics of Boston in 1800,


The Year Eighteen Forty Seven

applies almost equally well to the Boston of

"There were distinctions in Boston society
which were the inheritance of old colonial and
provincial relations.

"The population was chiefly of English descent.
A type of manhood, ruddier and more robust than
we are accustomed to meet, was to be seen in
the streets. The citizens managed to be as com-
fortable at sixty degrees Fahrenheit as we are at
seventy, and knew little of dyspepsia and those
disordered nerve-centres which occasion their
descendants so much trouble.

"Many of the peculiarities of Puritanism had
been softened, and so much of the old severity as
remained supported the moral standards which
the God-fearing founders of the State had raised.
A few men were accepted as the leaders of the
community and lived under a wholesome convic-
tion of responsiViility for its good behavior. If
the representatives of good society were in no
sense cosmopolitan, their provincialism was hon-
est, manly, and intelligent."


Thomas Wentworth Hiqqinson


By Thomas Wentwokth Higginson

In my youth the only public conveyance be-
tween Boston and Cambridge was Morse's hourly
stage. The driver was a big, burly, red-faced
man and the fare was twenty -five cents each way.
We drove through the then open region, past Dana
Hill, to the "Port," where we sometimes had to
encounter, even on the stage-box, the open ir-
reverence of the "Port chucks," a phrase applied
to the boys of that locaHty, who kept up an antag-
onism now apparently extinct. Somehow, I do
not know why, the Port delegation seemed to be
larger and more pugnacious than the sons of col-
lege professors and college stewards. As we left
the village of Old Cambridge, there were but few
houses along the open road, until we came to the
village at the Port. Leaving that behind us, we
drove over more open roads, crossed the river
by the old West Boston bridge, and came to the
more thickly settled town of Boston.

But many people, in those days, walked back
and forth, in spite of the celebrated Cambridge
mud, which, I regret to say, still lingers in my na-
tive town. At the time of Charles Dickens' first
visit to the States in 1842, one of my boyish play-

* Written in February, 1911.


Days and Ways in Old Boston

mates, reporting a walk he had taken in Cam-
bridge, said, "the soil clung to me like the women
to Boz." However, it was very common for
Boston and Cambridge ladies to walk back and
forth to visit their friends and do their shopping.
My mother often walked in and out of town.
Indeed, from the shopping center, then located
on Washington street, it was not too long a walk
to Cambridge village or what is now called Har-
vard Square.

It was in the forties that I sometimes attended
evening lectures in Boston. The walk between
the two towns was to my boyish notions delight-
ful, though it was a plunge into darkness. Here
and there, in the distance, sputtered a dim oil
lamp. But there was much more craft on the
river, and I can remember being hailed, when
crossing the bridge, and offered money to pilot a
coasting schooner to Wat-
ertown. My old friend
and schoolmate, James
Russell Lowell, sometimes
walked out with me from
these lectures. On one of
these walks with Lowell,
I remember that we saw
two men leaning over the
bridge watching, what was
not uncommon in those
days, two seals playing in
the water. As we ap-
proached we heard one of

James Russell Lowell


In Boston and Cambridge

the men say to the other, "Wal', now, do you
'spose them critters are common up this way!
Be they, or be they?" "Wal'," said the other,
"I dunno's they be, and I dunno as they be!"
As we walked on, we speculated on the peculiar-
ities of the New England rural dialect.

Before my birth my father had built a house,
which is still standing, at the head of what was
then called Professor's Row, but is now known
as Kirkland Street. This led directly to East
Cambridge which formed a separate village, and
I remember once driving there with my father in
the family chaise.

My elder brother, who was in college at the
same time that Wendell Phillips was, used to say
that Phillips was the only student of that period
for whom the family carriage was habitually
sent out to Cambridge on Saturday morning to
bring him into Boston for Sunday.

On one end of Boston Common, near Park
Street, there was once a playground where my
cousins used to go and play ball; and when I
went into Boston, I used often to go there and
watch the game. They played with larger balls
and larger bats than they do
now and one of my cousins was
a leader in all the games.

The East India trade still lin-
gered in Boston, I remember,
and Cambridge boys were some-
times sent to sea as a punish-
ment or a cure for naughtiness.

Wendell Phillips

Days and Ways in Old Boston

Groups of sailors sometimes strayed through
Cambridge and there were aromatic smells about
the Boston wharves.

My boyish friends were generally connected
with college families; but I remember one boy
alone with whom I was forbidden to associate. I
am now inclined to doubt whether he had com-
mitted any greater offence than that of having

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Online LibraryWilliam S. (William Sidney) RossiterDays and ways in old Boston → online text (page 1 of 7)