One aspect of my job here at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is reviewing the licenses for third-party materials used in our films. Many of these licenses come from small museums and historical societies, and I've often wondered what these places were like. So recently I decided to visit the Natick Historical Society to see firsthand what a small local museum has to offer.
Natick, Massachusetts, was established in 1651 by missionary John Eliot as a settlement for Christian Native Americans, so-called "Praying Indians." The museum is located across the street from Eliot Church, the site of the original Meetinghouse built by the Praying Indians. Among the town's early artifacts they have a 1685 edition of the "Eliot Indian Bible" and the original pulpit of Rev. Daniel Takawambpait, Eliot's successor and the first ordained Native American minister.
There are also countless items from other periods of Natick's history, such as old maps and photos, shoemaking patterns and tools (Natick was third in the country for shoe production following the industrial revolution), antique household items (cutlery, scales, teapots, fine china, etc.), high school yearbooks, and a British Red Coat taken from a soldier at the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Among the more recent - and unexpected - items on display were two boxes of Flutie Flakes (former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie is from Natick).
I also learned about some other famous people with ties to Natick. Henry Wilson (1812-1875) moved to Natick when he turned 21, became a successful shoemaker, then a U.S. Senator, and finally the 18th Vice President of the U.S., serving under Ulysses S. Grant. The town's prominent Bacon family produced architect Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial. The Historical Society's first president was Horatio Alger Sr., father of prolific author Horatio Alger Jr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Eliot's Oak" is about the oak tree under which John Eliot preached to the Natives. And Calvin Stowe's childhood in Natick was the inspiration for the novel "Oldtown Folks" by his wife Harriet Beecher Stowe.
It was fascinating to learn so much about Natick's history, and the short time I spent at the museum didn't even begin to scratch the surface. I encourage you all to explore your local historical societies and museums and learn about your local history. You never know what interesting things you might find! Flutie Flakes, anyone?
Susana Fernandes is the Contracts Manager at AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.
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