Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Allotment: How the 1887 Dawes Act disrupted Native American cultures

Henry Laurens Dawes
Presented to the Club by Martin C. Langeveld on Tuesday evening, May 26, 2015 (that Monday being a holiday)

One of the founding members of this club in 1869 was Henry Laurens Dawes, born in Cummington in 1816. He graduated from Yale University in 1839 and became a teacher in Greenfield, where he also edited the Greenfield Recorder.

In 1842 he was admitted to the bar and opened a law practice in North Adams, maintaining his interest in journalism by editing the North Adams Transcript.

From journalism he moved into politics, being elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1848, 1849 and 1852, to the state Senate in 1850, and to the Massachusetts Constitutional convention in 1853.

He then served as U.S. district attorney for Western Massachusetts from 1853 to 1857, when he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives and served there for 23 years until 1875.

That year, Dawes was elected by the Massachusetts General Court as United States Senator from Massachusetts, to succeed Charles Sumner, who died in office. He served in the Senate until 1893, and died in Pittsfield in 1903 at the age of 86.

A friend of Abraham Lincoln, he served as a pall bearer at Lincoln’s funeral.

In the House, Dawes figured prominently in the passage of anti-slavery and Reconstruction measures during and after the Civil War, as well as in tariff legislation, the establishment of a fish commission, and the establishment of a system of daily weather reports, which was a forerunner to the United States Weather Service.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In memoriam: Kim Burbank

We are saddened by the death of Kelton Miller Burbank ("Kim"), who was a member of the Club for nearly 50 years, from 1964 until 2013, and an honorary member for the last few years. Our condolences go to his widow, Hedy, and to his extended family. The Club will miss Kim.

The following is Kim's obituary:

Kelton Miller Burbank died peacefully in his home in New Ashford, Mass. on June 29th, 2015.

He is survived by his loving wife, Hedy Harris Lipez Burbank; his three children, Kelton M. Burbank, Jr., (Betsy Burbank), Brooke E. Burbank, (Blake Wood), and Joshua G. Burbank, (Miriam Preus); his brother, John Burbank, (Ouissa Fohrhaltz), his sister, Donna Burbank Eckhardt, (Alan Eckhardt); his two step-children, Sydney J.Lipez and Zachary H.Lipez, (Zohra Atash); and his three grand-daughters, Phoebe Lan Burbank, Katherine Xian Burbank and Samara Preus Burbank.

Jazz for the Journey

Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões, used under Creative Commons License
Presented to the club by James Lumsden on Monday evening, March 23, 2015


The brilliant American singer-songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, recently wrote that, “some of us come into this world with a note safety pinned to our shirts saying, ‘This one belongs to the song.’ For us music is as necessary as air or water. We live it, breathe it, drink it, dream it and chase it all our lives. For us there are moments when the song feels like the closest thing we'll ever know in this world to true communion.” Such is the case in my life whether the song starts in hardass rock and roll, gentle acoustic folk song, chant, string quartet, gospel or jazz: I was born to make music – and do not feel complete until “I’ve got the music in me.” (Bias Boshell, “I’ve Got the Music in Me,” 1973 performed by Kiki Dee.)

Knowing this, however, people continue to ask me, “Why are you so focused and concerned about jazz?” Specifically, what drives your current emphasis on a spirituality of jazz? The short answer is found in Ted Gioia’s stirring book, A History of Jazz, where he speaks of jazz as “an art music with the emotional pungency of a battle cry.” (p. 209) But such a brilliant quip only communicates with the cognoscenti– those who already know how to read between the lines of culture and spirit and do their own simultaneous translation – and I am not interested in musical Gnosticism.

Rather, I want to be clear why the music matters – to me – as well as the wider community. So this is one attempt to articulate a context for celebrating jazz: why it matters to me, what is going on with the music as an art form and some of the implications I find in both the sounds and feelings it evokes. The impressionistic jazz pianist, Bill Evans, said, “It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz into an intellectual theorem. It’s not – it’s a feeling.” Then he adds:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Never On Sunday: A visit to one of the Club's antecedants

"The Dinner Party" by Henry Sargent, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Presented to the Club by Ronald Trabulsi on Monday evening, April 27, 2015

A few years ago, Ann and I were wandering through Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts when we noticed a handsome painting of a group of 18 men at what was clearly a nineteenth century dinner table, attended by two man servants. We jokingly commented that it looked like an historical version of our Monday Evening Club.

Well, be careful about speculation! Some research showed that the painting was of a dinner meeting of Boston’s Wednesday Evening Club.  The artist was Henry Sargent, a Boston artist who was born in 1770 and died in 1845. The painting was done in 1821.  Sargent’s paintings are known for giving intimate glimpses of Boston’s homes in the early 19th century and this painting certainly does.

All this, of course, then led to curiosity about the Wednesday Evening Club of Boston – and that is the subject of my talk tonight for it is a fascinating look at our forebears and the similarities with our Club that make for what seemed to me to be a captivating story.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

La Moria Grandissima: the Black Death of the 14th Century

Presented to the Club by David T. Noyes on Monday evening, Dec. 1, 2014

Current news reports are filled with alarms of the Ebola virus. In the recent past, we have been warned about SARS, AIDS, Mad Cow Disease, Lyme disease, and multiply drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA. But tonight, I’d like to take you back 670 years to the mid fourteenth century to the most infamous scourge of all time—La moria grandissima. This is what the medieval Europeans called the Great Mortality, medieval Muslims named the Year of Annihilation, and modern history refers to the Black Death.

First, some definitions. The incidence of a disease is the number of new cases of a disease that occur over a defined time period. An epidemic, then, is defined as occurring when the incidence of a disease escalates beyond what would normally be expected in a given population.  The term pandemic means that a given disease has extended to more than one continent.

There are Common Source Epidemics, usually coming from a contaminated water or food source. This was the case of the cholera outbreak seen in Haiti after the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January of 2010. Or many of you may recall the Pittsfield, Massachusetts “Beaver Fever” Giardiasis outbreak over the three months beginning November, 1985 through January of 1986, when there were 703 confirmed cases of the disease originating from the contaminated City reservoir. (As an aside, Harold Hutchins did a paper of the same title that year—but, true to Monday Evening Club tradition, the subject turned out to be a discussion of the pre-American Revolution trapping industry in the upper Midwest!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Great Commoner: William Jennings Bryan and the US presidential campaign of 1896

Presented to the Club by Roger B. Linscott (date of presentation unknown — sometime in the 1960s or 1970s). Roger was, for many years, the associate editor of The Berkshire Eagle, Pittsfield's daily newspaper. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his editorial writing in 1973, and died in 2008 at the age of 88, having been a member of the Club since 1950. We are indebted to Roger's daughter, Wendy Lamme, for a treasure trove of Roger's Monday Evening Club papers.

This paper is principally the story of a political campaign. But no member of the Club need tremble for fear that our unwritten injunction against political topics will be breached. Just as a statesman has been defined a dead politician, so can history be pictured as the politics of yesterday. The presidential campaign I propose to discuss is not the one that engaged our attentions so thoroughly last fall, but rather a campaign far enough removed in time to be labeled history rather than politics — so far removed, in fact, that no person here tonight is old enough to have known at first hand the enormous flood of passion and prejudice which it unleashed throughout the land.

To me, the presidential contest of 1896 has always seemed the most exciting of all our presidential campaigns, and in many respects the most significant as well. It drew a dividing line through the nation's history; it marked the last stand of agrarianism against an inexorably rising industrialism; and it marked the dramatic emergence of an arresting new personality bursting like a meteor on the American scene. This political meteor was, of course, William Jennings Bryan — Bryan the Boy Orator, the Great Commoner, the young crusader from the prairies of Nebraska who, in one magnificent flight of oratory, expressed so powerfully the dissatisfaction of the economically disenfranchised that he was catapulted overnight from obscurity to fame and, very nearly, into the White House.

It is difficult for us today to understand the tremendous impact that Bryan made upon America in that fateful year. Our judgment of him is too heavily weighted by his later follies and failures. He lived too long; he talked too much; he ran for president too often; he embraced too many foolish causes. When he finally died in 1925, it was in Dayton, Tennessee, where he had just suffered his last and most ignominious defeat, in the celebrated Scopes trial, at the hands of Clarence Darrow. His pathetic attempt to defend Bible Belt fundamentalism against the forces of scientific progress had destroyed what standing he still had with the new generation. H. L. Mencken spoke for most of the intelligentsia when, on the day after Bryan's death he wrote: "He was born with a roaring voice, and it had the trick of inflaming halfwits. His whole career was devoted to raising those halfwits against their betters, that he himself might shine."

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Horseman: A 1976 exploration of global crises and solutions

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1887
Presented to the Club by Robert M. Henderson in 1976

On this final evening of a very enjoyable year of camaraderie and discussions you might wonder what "The Horseman" has to offer to such an illustrious group. Particularly so in this bicentennial year of our nation's history. I'll start by thanking our host, Bill Selke, for a delightful dinner and the opportunity to share with him his lovely home.

Then, let me ramble just a bit and state some seemingly unrelated bits of information, mostly of my early life, as they all do have some bearing on the main point of this evening's presentation.

As a young boy and for many years thereafter, horses were my first love. My only goal as a youngster was to have my own horse to train and to ride. In due course, this came about, and I thoroughly enjoyed riding, pack trailing, and training horses. Even today it is a pleasurable experience for me to ride a good horse. During high school and college days, I broke several horses to ride — and in my senior year in college, I rode in the first intercollegiate rodeo. This sport has now developed into a rather large affair, and some 57 schools have organized rodeo teams today. (Editor's note: As of 2014, there are more than 135 colleges who are members of NIRA, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association). My participation was in the less strenuous roping events and my success was absolutely zero. Nonetheless, I did consider myself quite a horseman and a judge of good horses.