Vermont Statehood: A Dissenting Opinion from the Allen Family

Vermont celebrates 225 years of statehood in 2016, having formally entered the Union as the fourteenth state on March 4, 1791. There was a great deal of popular support for joining the United States at the time, but it was far from the only option being considered. Some Vermont citizens favored remaining an independent state, while others advocated for joining Great Britain.

The faction headed by the Allen brothers and Governor Thomas Chittenden had held numerous diplomatic discussions over the years with representatives from Great Britain, most notably the Haldimand negotiations during the Revolutionary War. Negotiations with Britain continued long after the war, right up until Vermont’s admittance into the Union. Levi Allen, brother of Ethan and Ira, played a large role in these discussion, in no small part to protect his growing land holdings and trade activity in Quebec.

Levi was sent to England in 1789 by his brothers and Governor Chittenden with instructions “to Assure the British Court that Vermont was truly from local situation as well as inclination firmly attached to them.” In addition, Levi pursued a number of commercial opportunities including an effort to provide the Royal Navy with ship timber. Levi attempted to return via the St. Lawrence, but the captain diverted the ship to Georgia due to weather conditions. Returning to London to protect his return cargo in early 1791, Levi belatedly learned of Vermont’s entrance into the Union.


When Levi finally discovered the news, he was incredulous. In a letter written from London to his wife Nancy and his brother Ira dated August 20, 1791, Levi complains, “I am in a very disagreeable Situation here, having no Advices for more than twelve months from either, or any Other from Vermont. Reports are that Vermont have Joined federal Congress, which neither myself nor any the Friends of Vermont here Credit, as we cannot think You have So much alter’d from Your former fixed Opinions, and so contrary to Your real Interest.”


Later in the letter, after discussing various business and political questions, Levi reiterates his opposition in even stronger terms, “hope in the name of Common Sense, you have not, and in the name of almighty God, you will not join Congress. Gov C—-n, my deceased Brother, Yourself, Col. Lyon, Clark, Enos, Hitchcock, Spafford’s, Coit, Eben! &c &c &c all being fully determined to the Contrary when I left you.”


Levi, and others who preferred becoming a part of Great Britain, were attracted to the idea for economic reasons. Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River were major trade routes for northwestern Vermont, and whether Vermont became a part of the United States or Great Britain had great implications for commercial relations with partners along this route to the north. Levi returned to Vermont in the 1790’s and continued to pursue land and trade opportunities in Quebec, but like his brother Ira fell into a great deal of debt, ultimately dying in prison in Burlington in 1801. This letter from Levi and many more can be found in the Allen Family Papers in Special Collections.


Contributed by Chris Burns,
Curator of Manuscripts and University Archivist 

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Spring 2016 Programs–March 1 and 17


MARCH 1, 5:30
In and Out of Print

On March 1 at 5:30, Special Collections will host UVM art professor Steven Kostell for a discussion of his work investigating forms of mediation, production and collaboration through explorations in art, design and the artist book.

Steven Kostell is an intermedia artist and designer whose work explores the convergence of traditional and experimental techniques in print and digital media, resulting in hybrid forms. His work is grounded in material-based production and image processing, involving papermaking, printmaking, artist books, and multi-channel audio/video installations.

Kostell’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at such venues as the Center for Book and Paper at Columbia College, Chicago; the Qijiang International Printmaking Festival, Chongqing, China; Ozu Washi Gallery and the Oji Paper Museum, Tokyo, Japan; New Forms Festival, Vancouver, BC and the Laura Haber Gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He received his BFA from Indiana State and his MFA from Arizona State University. Before coming to Vermont, Kostell taught at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


MARCH 17, 5:30
Public Monuments: The Politics and Processes of Commemoration

Bill Lipke and Bill Mares will present an illustrated lecture summarizing the research which they undertook for their recently published book on commemorative monuments from the American Revolutionary War to the present, Grafting Memory. In their essays, Lipke and Mares explore the evolving practices that allow memories to pass through generations. From monuments to cemeteries, paintings and living memorials, they present diverse examples, including many close to home, like Burlington’s Battery Park, to those farther away, like national cemeteries in France.

Bill Lipke is UVM professor emeritus in Art History and a former director of the Fleming Museum. He has written about landscape painting and modern architecture. Bill Mares has been a journalist and high school teacher, and has fifteen books to his credit on subjects ranging from beer and coffee to Vermont politics.

Both presentations will be held in Special Collections, Bailey/Howe Library. They are free and open to the public. For more information, email or call 656-2138.

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Burlington’s First City Market

Since 2002, shoppers have been buying groceries at Onion River Co-op’s City Market on South Winooski Avenue in Burlington, Vermont. The store is very successful, with over 11,000 members/owners and thousands of shoppers every day. Prompted by a photo in our Burlington photograph collection, I recently investigated the short history of Burlington’s first city market, also located on South Winooski Avenue, and found that it did not fare as well.

The city purchased land for a market before 1865, but progress was slow. In his 1867 annual report, Mayor Wales acknowledged that there was disagreement about the need for a public market, but he felt that once established it would be a great blessing, and urged the alderman to experiment in a prudent way. The following year, Mayor Ballou was more blunt, saying that the city should move on the market or sell the land.


The City Market lot east of White Street (now Winooski Avenue) between College and Main Streets can be seen in this section from an 1869 map.

Although Ballou didn’t mention the market in his 1869 report, the aldermen had chosen to move. On December 3, 1869, the Burlington Free Press announced that the city market building was nearly completed and ready for occupancy. The announcement provides a good description of the site, the building, and the first vendors.

The new market site and its surrounding grounds were created by an ambitious program to fill a deep hollow that ran through the growing city center. The newspaper anticipated that more filling would be undertaken to make room for vendors and customers.

The brick building, one of many designed by master carpenter and contractor Elmore Johnson, was 104 feet long and 51 feet wide. A deck above the roof provided light and ventilation. Stalls lined both sides of a 14-foot wide main hall. A second hall ran east-west through the center of the building. The 12 x 18 foot stalls were separated by 7-foot partitions. Each stall had a sliding door and a cellar under it. The building was lighted with gas, and water came from the city aqueduct. All of the stalls had been rented. Eight were devoted to meat, several to groceries and general merchandise, one to fish, and one to refreshments.


City Market is the long brick building in the lower right. Main Street runs through the center of the photo, which was taken between 1882 and 1887. The ravine east of the market was still being filled.

Shortly after the building was completed, the city council passed a city market ordinance that established rules for its operation and created the position of superintendent of markets to manage the market and collect rent. In his 1870 annual report, Mayor D. C. Linsley was optimistic about the market’s future. The following year, Mayor L. C. Dodge proclaimed that while he had not originally supported the market, the city needed to make it successful.


Some vendors who rented stalls at the City Market advertised in the Burlington Free Press.

In February 1870, the Burlington Free Press acknowledged that produce sellers were beginning to appreciate the market. At least one vendor, “Berry Man” Joseph Chauvin, did exceptionally well. In the summer of 1871, he sold 9,500 quarts of blueberries, strawberries,  raspberries, and blackberries, and the following summer, he sold an astonishing 14,400 quarts of blueberries.

Unfortunately, merchants preferred the growing downtown to the west, and the stall rents collected by Superintendent F. Smith failed to cover market expenses. In his 1872 annual report, Mayor Dodge complained about the “very unsatisfactory state of affairs.”  He told the city council that it was time to “kill or cure.” Their cure involved leasing the market building. In October 1873 the market ordinance was repealed, and after an initial rental failed, local attorney and businessman Levi Underwood leased the market building for ten years. His plans must not have succeeded, because by the early 1880s, one observer noted that the market had grown “into disfavor, was abandoned, and now stands unoccupied.”

For the next several decades, city departments used the building for storage and work space. The city market grounds also included a much more successful city scale, used by wood, hay and other vendors. The city leased land on the College Street side for a building that housed a skating rink (1884) and later a store, and then built the Fletcher Free Library there. The Chittenden County jail was built on the Main Street side of the lot in 1887. In 1925, the old city market building (which then housed the Street Department) was torn down to make way for the new Central Fire Station.


The city market building (center) in 1925, just before it was demolished to make way for a new fire house. The Fletcher Free Library can be seen at the left, and the jail is on the right.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty,
Public Services Librarian

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Views of Saint Helena

While preparing for a presentation on book illustrations this summer, we came across a rare volume of prints in our Rare Book collection that has special historical significance today (October 15).  George Hutchins Bellasis’s Views of Saint Helena (London: printed by John Tyler, 1815) contains six hand-colored aquatint landscapes, each measuring approximately 9 inches by 14.5 inches, of the island that became the final home of the deposed emperor Napoleon. He would spend the last six years of his life in exile on Saint Helena.

St. Helena, taken from sea.

St. Helena, taken from sea.

Napoleon stepped ashore on Saint Helena on October 15, 1815. It was the final act of a long drama that had turned Europe upside down, as Napoleon built and defended an empire against a series of coalitions led by Great Britain. Once before, in 1814, Napoleon had been defeated and captured, only to escape exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba in 1815. His final defeat at Waterloo in June 1815 led to the determination of his British captors to imprison the emperor in a place where escape was virtually impossible.

They chose well: Saint Helena was, and remains, one of the most remote inhabited places on earth. Located about 1,200 miles west of Africa and 1,800 miles east of South America, Saint Helena is still a British territory, with a current population of about 7,750.

Thanks to an eight-month visit to Saint Helena by soldier and artist George H. Bellasis, a certain segment of the British population soon got to see what the newly-famous island looked like. Bellasis, a young officer in the 19th Light Dragoons of the British East India Company, had been put ashore on Saint Helena in 1804 when he became too sick to continue his voyage home from India. While he recuperated, Bellasis made sketches of the dramatic island landscape. Eleven years later, when the location of Napoleon’s new home was disclosed, Bellasis arranged to have six of his sketches etched and printed in Views of Saint Helena. Artist Robert Havell used the aquatint process to make the prints, giving the illustrations a rich texture. Each of the prints was then hand-colored.

Plantation House, the country residence of the Governor.

Plantation House, the country residence of the Governor.

Bellasis obtained 263 subscribers for Views of Saint Helena (including Queen Charlotte and other members of the royal family), suggesting that at least this many copies were printed, though only 31 are currently listed in the bibliographic database Worldcat. He dedicated the book to Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, Napoleon’s recent nemesis on the battlefield, who, in 1804, had been colonel of the 19th Light Dragoons in India. The provenance of UVM’s copy of Views of Saint Helena is unknown.

Contributed by Jeffrey Marshall,
Director, Special Collections

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Our Fall Lecture Series


We are pleased to announce our fall lecture series, which will feature presentations on historical landscapes. Robert McCullough will talk about tracing bicycle history on the land, and Jeffrey Marshall will look at Burlington’s once prominent ravine.

Good Roads and Good Sidepaths
Wednesday, October 21, 2015, 5:30 pm

Robert McCullough’s new book, Old Wheelways: Traces of Bicycle History on the Land,  explores the “golden age of American bicycle touring” at the end of the nineteenth century. In conjunction with the library’s current exhibit, Cycling through the News, Professor McCullough will talk about the bicyclists who shaped and reshaped American culture from 1880 to 1900. These cyclists introduced an independent and dependable means of overland travel, propelled a campaign to improve the nation’s pitiful network of roads, swayed park planners, and even set into motion the modern engineering technology essential to the development of automobiles and airplanes.  They constructed a far-flung network of bicycle paths to satisfy their exploratory impulses.  Wheelmen and wheel women also assembled a substantial body of geographical literature, illustration, and photography. Their vivid descriptions of American places made them some of the country’s keenest observers of suburban and rural landscapes.

Robert L. McCullough is Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at UVM, and the author of The Landscape of Community: A History of Communal Forests in New England and Crossings: History of New England Bridges.


A Ravine Runs Through It: Topography and Function in 19th Century Burlington
Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

One of the most notable features of Burlington’s landscape in the nineteenth century was a deep ravine that ran from the Old North End across downtown and into Lake Champlain.  Although much of the ravine was filled in by the beginning of the twentieth century, parts of it are still clearly visible today.  Special Collections director Jeffrey D. Marshall will discuss the significance of the ravine in Burlington’s development as a city, using photographs from the department’s extensive collection.

Both presentations, which are free and open to the public, will take place in the Special Collections reading room. Refreshments will be served. For more information, email or call 656-2138.

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Vermonter Henry Stevens, Jr., Joins Yale’s “Skull & Bones” Secret Society

stevens006Bookseller Henry Stevens, Jr. (1819-1886) achieved distinction as a builder of library collections in a career that took him from his home in Barnet, Vermont, to London, where he spent most of his life after graduating from Yale in 1843. As the letters in our Henry Stevens Papers suggest, his success relied to some extent on the network of contacts he developed in college—including the exclusive undergraduate societies he was invited to join. Yale’s undergraduate “secret societies” are the focus of researcher David Alan Richards, a semi-retired lawyer in New York City, who discovered that Stevens belonged to the Skull and Bones Society and served as librarian in one of Yale’s literary societies.

Bones_logo The Skull and Bones Society, restricted to a handful of senior undergraduates, has among its members many distinguished alumni, including both major candidates in the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush and John Kerry. Since its founding in 1832 this society has admitted only fifteen members annually, and these members are selected at the end of their junior year by the graduating senior members. David Richards’s forthcoming book will examine Yale’s secret societies, beginning with Phi Beta Kappa and progressing through Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and others into the modern era.

Henry Stevens, Jr., became the first and arguably the greatest Americana book and manuscript dealer. He collected Americana for the British Museum Library and Europeana for great American collectors, including James Lenox in New York and John Carter Brown in Rhode Island. The Henry Stevens Papers in Special Collections holds a collection of letters from young Stevens to his parents back in Vermont, and in one of these (dated August 6, 1842) he proudly announced his election to Skull and Bones:

There is a club that has existed in college for many years, made up of only 15 Students called the Skull and Bones Society. I have been elected as one of these 15. It is considered one of the greatest compliments that can be paid a student by his fellows to elect him to this honorary society. Two members of the faculty belong to it and several ministers of all denominations, both in New Haven and New York Washington and all over the country. Nearly every one of its members that have been out of college as long as 5 years are distinguished men. There are at least 10 young active [lawyers] in New York that belong to it. We meet once a week and often many of these old members are present and it is very interesting. The night before commencement many from Boston, Hartford, New York, Phila & Washington are coming on to attend an annual meeting. It will be a glorious time. One member in Congress will I expect be with us. I will tell you more of it when I see you.

If membership in Skull and Bones conferred success upon its privileged members, Henry Stevens, Jr., was certainly a prime example.

Contributed by Jeffrey Marshall,
Director, Special Collections

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Touring Old Mill With Local School Children

I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of six Edmunds Elementary second graders on a tour of Old Mill. The students were from the classrooms of Mrs. Bellevance and Ms. McMorris, and were visiting as part of a curriculum unit called “If These Buildings Could Talk.” The goal of the unit was to connect the students with the history of their community by learning about historic buildings and the ways they have been used.

Old Mill Visit

Chris Burns, Curator of Manuscripts and the University Archivist, is on the far right.

The tour started on the University green with an overview of the long history of Old Mill, drawing on Special Collections resources to illustrate the many changes to the building over time. A quick timeline of Old Mill’s history includes the following:

1802 – Original College Building constructed on site of Old Mill.
1824 – Fire destroyed College Building.
1825-1829 – North, South, and Middle College buildings constructed, with eight-foot fire breaks in between them. Middle College was topped with a Gold Dome.
1846 – North, South, and Middle College buildings were joined, and the long building was soon known as “the Mill” and eventually “Old Mill.”
1882 – Old Mill underwent a major renovation, with funds provided by John Purple Howard. Front and side facades were completely rebuilt, a fourth floor with dormers was added, and the dome was replaced by a tower.
1918 – A fire caused major damage to Old Mill. The fourth floor was closed off and the dormers were removed.
1957-1958 – Lafayette was constructed and Old Mill’s interior was altered.
1995-1997 – Old Mill and Lafayette undergo major renovations, which include restoring the fourth floor and bringing back the dormers to Old Mill.

UVM’s Historic Preservation program has produced two online histories of Old Mill that are great sources for anyone looking for further information on the building, available here and here.


Old Mill circa 1835

As we toured the outside of the building, the students took note of many details on and around Old Mill, including Lafayette’s cornerstone, the UVM Boulder, the bust of John Purple Howard, the sundial, and the bell that used to hang in the tower.

Our tour of the inside included a stop in the John Dewy Memorial Lounge to look at the four stained glass windows and a trip up to the tower with its stunning views of campus, Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks. A little know fact about the tower is that it houses a webcam used to document haze levels in Burlington. You can view the images from the webcam here. The site also has a handy guide to landmarks visible from the tower when looking toward the lake.


Upon returning to school, the students spent the next few weeks creating eBook reports and a three-dimensional model. They did a wonderful job on the model, paying close attention to architectural details such as the stained glass windows. While most of the students we work with are enrolled here at UVM, this was a great opportunity to contribute to the education of some younger minds and dig a little deeper into the history of Old Mill.

Contributed by Chris Burns,
Curator of Manuscripts and University Archivist

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Before Bernie Sanders Made History, He Sold It

logoaphs 0001Since Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, UVM Special Collections librarians have become much better acquainted with the diverse resources in our Vermont research collection that document Sanders’ life and political career. After receiving an inquiry about his educational filmstrip business, we turned to our reference files, where clippings, brochures and other ephemera frequently provide information about obscure topics.

We searched for the name of the company, the American People’s Historical Society, and found a folder where a conscientious predecessor had saved four promotional brochures sent to the library between 1978 and 1980.  The brochures provide details about the nonprofit’s goals, products, and staff.

aphsvt 0001Two of the brochures advertise film strips about Vermont history. The organization, originally known as Green Mountain Media, produced a series of six Vermont history filmstrips in 1977 for students in grade 6 and up. A 1978 brochure advertised three additional film strips, presented as “Great Events and People in Vermont History, Part II.” A second 1978 offering promoted a version of the original six filmstrips for third through fifth graders.

The topics are standard fare. The original series covered Ethan Allen, the Battle of Bennington, Vermont and the Civil War, Vermont statesmen, Calvin Coolidge, and the 1927 flood. The second series looked at the lives of Vermont-born President Chester A. Arthur, newspaperman Horace Greeley, Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, women who played important roles in the state’s past, Champlain “discovering” Vermont, the St. Albans Raid, and Admiral Dewey’s victory in the Philippines.

aphsmap 0001The third brochure indicates that the organization expanded its scope to other New England states, adding film strips for Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Addressing the New England educators who might purchase and use the films, director Bernard Sanders explained, “It is our belief that state and regional history has too long been neglected by the audio-visual industry, and we are happy to begin the process of rectifying that situation. We believe that students have the right to learn about the state and region in which they are living.”

The six products for Massachusetts featured Thoreau, U.S. presidents from Massachusetts, the abolition movement, maritime history, John Quincy Adams and the Amistad slave ship, and four important Massachusetts women. The three New Hampshire filmstrips profiled John Stark and five great leaders from New Hampshire and examined New Hampshire’s role in the Civil War.

The Vermont and New England brochures included a coupon with details about ordering the film strips. The society followed a fairly conventional pricing structure. It offered a 10-day free trial, with discounts for bulk purchases. Individual film strips  could be purchased for $18.50. A 10% discount set the price for six strips at $99.90.  A bundle of all 15 Vermont film strips was discounted to $155.40, while a set of 15 New England films was available for $225.00.

The fourth brochure marks a new direction for the society. Debs, about trade unionist, socialist and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, was issued as a color videocassette. In the brochure’s “Dear Educator” section, Sanders announced that Debs was the first documentary in a new series called “The Other Side of American History,” which would “deal with people and ideas that the major profit oriented manufacturers of audio-visual material will not cover because of economic and political reasons.”

In his memoir, Outsider in the House, Bernie Sanders remembers that the educational filmstrip business was reasonably successful and “a lot of fun.” It ended when he turned his attention back to the political arena and won the 1981 mayoral election in Burlington, Vermont.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty,
Public Services Librarian



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Longhouse Records Now Available

logo003The records of Longhouse, Publishers and Booksellers of Guilford, Vermont are now available for research. Poet and editor Bob Arnold established Longhouse in 1971 and was joined by Susan Arnold in 1974.  Specializing in poetry, they have published hundreds of folders, chapbooks, broadsides, anthologies and small edition books by mimeograph, letterpress, photocopy and off-set.

Several noted writers have worked with Longhouse over its more than forty years of operation, including Cid Corman, David Giannini, Lyle Glazier, Ted Enslin, Janine Pommy Vega, Louise Landes Levi, Charlie Mehrhoff, Hayden Carruth, and John Levy.

The correspondence from Corman, Enslin, Levasseur, and Giannini is particularly voluminous and is valuable for understanding the rewards and challenges of the life of a poet. The following excerpt from a December 31, 1983 letter from Cid Corman to Bob Arnold is an excellent illustration of a noted poet detailing his need to create poetry, the struggles of getting work published, his financial picture, and his overall state of mind all in just a few short paragraphs.

Anyhow: the years of wretchedness have had graces too and even the worst scenes have not kept me from poetry. Nor am I going to stop before I am stopped. (Lately I can feel my mortality impinging more momently and my hopes are confined to wishes of completing some of my major work still entertained within. 3-5 major works.)

Of course – the bulk of my work remains unpublished. Here too – various people write me with apparent desire to help – but nothing comes of it.

Jonathan Greene has ts. For a selected haiku volume (translations) for the coming year. The Kusano book and Station Hill Press volume are both well overdue – as usual. And ORIGIN no. 2 – Terry tells me – was to have gone to press on the 19th. I lose track of the books that publishers have long since accepted and have let sit interminably: I assume they are waiting for me to die.

For all that – and though we live marginally as ever – this year has been one of my best and I savor the days – and nights – even the aches involved. (Arthritis begins to come on with dismaying speed now.)

The collection is also a great source for looking at the process of making poems. Poets shared their work in progress with Bob Arnold in their correspondence, and the manuscripts section of the collection shows works as they go through the various stages of the publishing process. Below is part of a poem by Louise Landes Levi, writing about the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986.


Special Collections is delighted to add this collection to our literary holdings, which include the papers of Hayden Carruth, David Budbill, James Hayford, Sarah Cleghorn, and Dorothy Canfield Fisher. More information about the Longhouse Records is available in the collection finding aid.

Contributed by Chris Burns, Manuscripts Curator

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“She knew something about seeds” – A Tribute to Celia Thaxter

A casual conversation about favorite gardening books led us to browse a copy of Celia Thaxter’s An Island Garden from the University of Vermont’s Rare Book collection. We discovered that our copy is especially interesting for content that was added after the book was printed and for the connection that brought it to UVM.


Sarah Wyman Whitman used a simple floral motif for An Island Garden’s cover.

An Island Garden Becomes a Memorial Album

Celia Thaxter was a popular poet and artist during the nineteenth century. Her family operated a fashionable summer resort on the Isles of Shoals off the New Hampshire coast that attracted distinguished artists, writers and musicians. Despite the challenging soil and climate, Thaxter added to the natural beauty of rocky Appledore Island with a luxuriant flower garden. The garden was the subject of her last book, An Island Garden, which came out in the spring of 1894. She worked with the American Impressionist painter Childe Hassam, a friend who painted scenes and people at the Isles of Shoals for many years,  to illustrate the book.

The UVM copy of An Island Garden originally belonged to Evelyn Benedict. A talented pianist, Benedict was part of the circle of prominent artistic and literary figures who gathered for Thaxter’s summer salons. Benedict’s correspondence with Thaxter and other visitors, including Henry and Clara Rogers, J. Appleton Brown, William Mason, and Henry Alden Mills, indicates how important the Isles of Shoals summers were to all of them. (Benedict’s correspondence is part of the Henry Munroe Rogers papers housed at the Houghton Library, Harvard University).

Benedict visited the island several times during the 1890s, and became close to Thaxter, who addressed her as “my little Benedict” in an 1891 letter. After an August 1892 visit, Thaxter wrote Benedict, “I have done nothing but lament your departure ever since you went. Never was there such an exquisite summer, never such good times of Shoals kinds and sorts.”

Evelyn Benedict

Childe Hassam painted Evelyn Benedict at the Isles of Shoals in 1890.

In March 1894, Celia Thaxter thanked Benedict for “all the kind things” she said about the garden book that Thaxter had sent her. In that letter, and in subsequent letters written in May and July, Thaxter encouraged Benedict to come to the Isles of Shoals. Sadly, Thaxter died that August. It’s not clear if Benedict was on the island then, but other guests attended the poet’s burial on the island.

During the year after Thaxter’s death, Benedict created a memorial album of sorts in her copy of An Island Garden. The landscape painter J. Appleton Brown was the first to write in the book. In Boston on April 17, 1895, he transcribed Shakespeare’s sonnet, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,” on a blank page. A few days later, Clara Kathleen Rogers, a composer, singer, writer and educator, filled another page.


Painter J. Appleton Brown’s contribution, dated April 17, 1895.

Henry Alden, the editor of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, added a tribute to Celia Thaxter in June. He wrote, “She knew something about seeds—and to us, in this garden of God’s love, such knowledge leads to an interpolation of the mysteries of life and death.”

The last two tributes were written in August. A round robin letter sent to Henry and Clara Rogers confirms that twelve of Celia Thaxter’s friends gathered at Appledore Island on the first anniversary of her death, including Benedict, William Mason and Childe Hassam. Mason, a pianist and composer, transcribed bars from the score for Robert Schumann’s Romance in F-sharp Major under Hassam’s painting of the island ferry Pinafore at sunset. Hassam wrote “Nocturne Seafire,” a reflection on the sights and sounds of a summer night by the sea, on a blank page opposite one of the floral headpieces he designed for the book.


Musician William Mason’s tribute, added on August 21, 1895.


Childe Hassam wrote about the sea at night on August 21, 1895.

Evelyn Benedict’s UVM Connection

The accession number recorded on the inside front cover indicates that An Island Garden was one of a number of books that Evelyn Benedict donated to UVM in 1943. Although Benedict was born in New York City, and lived most of her life in New York, Boston, Italy, and Newport, Rhode Island, she was a member of a prominent Burlington, Vermont family.

Evelyn’s grandfather, George Wyllys Benedict, taught at UVM from 1825 to 1847. Benedict and his son George Grenville ran the Burlington Free Press, and both served on the UVM Board of Trustees. In 1908, Evelyn’s father, Robert Dewey Benedict, retired from the practice of admiralty law in New York and retired to Burlington with his family. City directories list Evelyn at the family home on South Williams Street until 1920, when she moved to the Beacon Hill section of Boston. She died in Newport, Rhode Island in 1967 when she was 99, but was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Burlington.

The Vermont Alumnus acknowledged in 1942 that “Miss Evelyn Benedict, formerly of Burlington, now of many places, has given the University, dozens of pieces of dinnerware from her family sets and from collections she has made abroad,” but did not mention her donation to the library.

By 1943, Benedict’s friends from the Isles of Shoals were long gone and perhaps her memories of the Isles of Shoals summers had faded. The tributes she collected in the UVM copy of An Island Garden, along with the letters preserved at the Houghton Library, provide an enduring record of just some of the friendships that flourished on Appledore Island under Celia Thaxter’s cultivation.

Contributed by Prudence Doherty,
Public Services Librarian

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