Caption: Letter, dated March 7, 1820, from Edward Dowse to his wife, where he expresses deep regret at Congress allowing the continuation of slavery. Dowse resigned shortly after writing the letter.
“We had it in our power to stop the extension of Slavery, and we chose to let it let it go on.”
The current exhibit at the Dedham Historical Society & Museum will be unavailable until the museum reopens.
On view are materials drawn from the museum’s important archival collections relevant to slavery, including 18th-century records, educator Horace Mann’s passionate arguments in favor of abolitionism, and contributions made by African Americans living in Dedham. Among the items is a letter written by Edward Dowse (1756-1828), a merchant and Congressman from Dedham who argued strongly against the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (the bill that maintained the balance of power between the North and the South in the U. S. Senate by admitting Missouri to the nation as a slave state alongside Maine as a free state). An excerpt of the letter is illustrated here, with Dowse’s poignant line: “We had it in our power to stop the extension of Slavery, and we chose to let it let it go on.”
Tavern Signs Installed
Two early 19th-century tavern signs have been installed in the main exhibition gallery. Visit DHSM to see them in person.
Moses Gragg’s 1828 Tavern Sign
An extraordinary sign with different images on each side.
Dedham’s first tavern was opened in the 1640s, a few years after the town’s founding. By the time Moses Gragg opened his Norfolk Hotel in 1818, there were numerous Public Houses in Dedham offering guests accommodations, food, and entertainment, with many lodgers residing at the inns for months at a time while court was in session.
Accounts state that Gragg had a sign made (whereabouts now unknown) that depicted a bust of George Washington and “Norfolk Hotel, 1822”. The Norfolk Hotel, which still stands at 19 Court Street, was a central location for meetings and social gatherings, with luminaries including General Lafayette among its guests.
By 1821, Gragg’s partner sold his interest in the inn and became landlord of the Dedham Hotel (corner of Washington and High Streets). In 1828, Gragg sold the hotel back to his partner, moved to Milton and opened an inn on the “Canton Turnpike” at the junction of Blue Hill Avenue and Brush Hill Road. Gragg’s interest in announcing his new establishment is evident in this tavern sign owned by the DHSM. The imagery on one side promotes his hospitality (complete with wine and pineapple), while the other
identifies local landmarks—the “great oak” opposite Brush Hill, and “Lookout Tower.”
Water in Dedham: Dedham’s Boat Clubs and Canoe Houses
This mini exhibit is one of six held at locations in Dedham. The exhibits were inspired by the Water in Dedham: Past, Present and Future symposium held at the Society on May 4, 2019 (see past events for more details). Each exhibit has a different theme related to water in Dedham. The HIstorical Society’s theme is boat houses and canoe houses. The Charles River is at Dedham Community House; the mills at Motherbrook Art & Community Center; floods at Endicott library; bridges at the library main branch; and recreation at the Dedham Commuminity Theater.
Native American Stone Tools
A display of tools that date from thousands of years ago to the 17th century that were found in Dedham and the surrounding area. The items on display were used in farming, hunting, and felling trees. Also on view are important land deeds between Native Americans and the English settlers.
Cycling in Dedham
Spring is here and Summer is right around the corner. What better time than to take out your bike and go for a ride? Get into the zone by first visiting the DHSM to see materials relating to the Dedham Cycle Club and other biking materials as well as historic photographs of local enthusiasts enjoying being on two wheels.
Image: Dedham Cycle Club, ca. 1894.
Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!
Step on over to DHSM to see a selection of shoes from the museum’s collection, ranging from red brocade slippers from a 1747 Fairbanks wedding, high-heel pumps with silver bead trim from the roaring 1920s, children’s shoes, skates, and a rare shoe from an African American shoe shop brought north after the Civil War. Photographs of Dedham residents, and their shoes, from the 19th and 20th centuries accompany the exhibit.