In the last decades of the twentieth century, the South End Historical Society’s Richard Card saved a shoebox of letter from destruction.¹ These letters provide a rare and personal view into the lives of a middle-class family in Boston’s South End in the decade leading up to the Civil War. They help us understand the conversations that Otis Blake Everett, young merchant working in Calcutta, had with his parents Otis and Elizabeth Everett. Some 167 letters, spanning the years 1851-1859, highlight the concerns and everyday life of the middle-class living in the South End and the life of a Boston man living and working in India. Letters often took an average of two months to travel to their destination by steamer.
This exhibit examines the Everett family in Boston’s South End neighborhood and middle-class life in Boston in the 1850s as they observe the changes to the neighborhood and discuss business, socializing, marriages, and deaths with their son. It also delves into the abolition movement, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the infamous Anthony Burns case of 1854 through the eyes of the Everetts.
This project represents a collaboration between the South End Historical Society and University of Massachusetts Boston’s M.A. in History candidate, Corinne Zaczek Bermon. Without the guidance of Dr. Monica Pelayo Lock and Dr. Marilyn Morgan, this project would have never come to fruition. A special thanks goes out to Lauren Prescott, Executive Director of the South End Historical Society, for making this project possible and allowing me to come spend time at the SEHS every Monday.
¹ Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly when Richard Card came into possession of these letters but some notes he left behind leads me to believe they were recovered in the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Next: The Everett Family Tree