Automobiles, the World Series, and the Iditarod all have at least one thing in common: Northeastern.
This year, the Archives and Special Collections staff have been doing research and digitizing records to support the observance of the university’s 125th anniversary.
Around the Boston campus, you can still see the signs installed on Founders Day detailing Northeastern’s development and the Boston campus history.
As we approach Homecoming Weekend, here are some features of Husky history to brush up on:
Northeastern’s Automotive School The Automotive School was established in 1903 as a part of the Evening Institute. Franklin Palmer Speare anticipated that with the rise of automobiles in America, there would be need for related education. Classes offered included automotive engineering, driving lessons, upholstery, and auto repair. It was a high-enrolling school until the 1920s and it officially closed in 1926. The Automotive School even had a jingle written for it: “The Auto-mo-billie-beel.”
King Husky I King Husky I was trained by Leonhard Seppala. When Vice President Carl Ell sought out Seppala in 1927, he did so not only because Northeastern needed a mascot, but also because Seppala had already inspired one great tradition: the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. In 1925, Nome, Alaska, experienced an infamous diphtheria epidemic. Teams of sled dogs played an important role in bringing diphtheria serum through extremely harsh conditions. Leonhard Seppala and his team of Siberian huskies carried the serum over 91 miles of the treacherous relay before passing the cargo to the more famous Gunnar Kaasen, driver of the famous Balto, who covered the final stretch of trail and delivered the serum to Nome. The effort made by Seppala and the other teams have since been commemorated yearly by the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
King Husky was beloved by the students, and Seppala even provided feeding instructions for the care and keeping of King Husky I.
Northeastern and the World Series Northeastern’s Cabot Physical Education Center now occupies what were the grounds for the first World Series, which took place in 1903 between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Americans. The Americans became the first-ever World Series champions and the event is commemorated with a statue of Americans pitcher Cy Young located between Cabot Center and Churchill Hall.
The year 2024 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1974 decision by Judge Garrity that found the Boston Public Schools unconstitutionally segregated. A cohort of historians, activists, teachers, former students, civic leaders, and community members have gathered together to build events and outreach to observe this significant anniversary. On Thursday, September 7, at the Massachusetts State House, the Boston Desegregation and Busing Initiative announced their efforts toward increasing conversation, commemoration, and coalition-building around the history of school desegregation in Boston’s public schools.
Surrounding the press and attendees gathered at the State House were reproductions of records from the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections’ many collections documenting the long history of school desegregation and the fight against racial imbalance in the Boston Public Schools. I worked with members of the initiative to select photographs and records that were emblematic of the key events and stories of school desegregation, busing, and early education activism. Records selected included flyers advertising Freedom Schools as an opportunity for civil protest; Ruth Batson‘s demands issued on behalf of the NAACP to the Boston School Committee; and records of the pre-1974 busing organization Operation Exodus, run by Ellen Jackson, as well as photos of the many pro-busing and anti-busing protests that took place across the city of Boston and photos of the first days and weeks of busing in 1974 and 1975.
Once the records were selected, reproductions were made to be featured at the many events of the Boston Desegregation and Busing Initiative, alongside other archives’ historical desegregation records. We are grateful to their work of activating our archival collections and inviting the Greater Boston community to put these records into conversation with the present and their own memories of the past.
In anticipation of the Barbie movie premiere, many archives and museums, including the Smithsonian and the National Archives, have been consulting their records to see what stories related to the iconic doll are preserved in their collections. At the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, our greatest source of Barbie insight comes from the East Boston Community News.
Maxine Tassin Ari-Teixeira, or Ms. Tex, wrote about all kinds of issues facing a mother working and raising a family in East Boston. One of the subjects that kept reappearing in her “Heights Notes by Ms. Tex” column in the East Boston Community News was toys, and in particular, Barbie. Every December, Ms. Tex would give her annual toy report while Christmas shopping for her family. Barbie is mentioned in 17 of her columns between 1972 and 1988.
In a December 7, 1982 issue of the East Boston Community News, Ms. Tex titled her column “Year of the Toy Takeover” and under the heading “Doll Debt” described the complexity of the Barbie dream house.
“As I said last year, dear old Barbie’s dream house is enormous. You would need a separate room for this house, with the patio and pool (sold separately) and the Corvette. You have your choice of the plain ‘vette that does nothing, or the remote controlled one. You not only need a room for the dream house, you need a mortgage. That plastic nightmare is $98.87!!!! That is unfurnished, naturally. The furniture costs between $9 and $15 per piece!!! Actually, looking at the doll houses, I wondered if Child World had considered the mortgage business. They could make a killing.”
On December 20, 1988 Ms. Tex observed a shift in Barbie-land in her Heights Notes column:
“Finally at the ripe of age of what? 29? 30? Barbie has a career. Doctor Barbie comes with a white lab coat, and doctor things. But she is still Barbie after all, and also comes with an evening gown for her nights off with Doctor Ken.”
To find more of Ms. Tex’s observations on living in East Boston, the daunting task of Barbie shopping in December, and more, you can search and read the East Boston Community News in Northeastern Library’s Digital Repository Service.
Portrait of Maxine Tassin Ari-Teixeira was drawn by Joe Porzio and is a part of the Joe Portzio cartoons collection at the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections.
While Pride is recognized as a protest, it can also be a time of celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community and queer identity. Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections is fortunate to steward the records of The Theater Offensive, a queer performing arts organization which is still alive and thriving in Boston today and will soon celebrate its 35th year of operation in 2024. Founded in 1989 by Abe Rybeck and other artists, the Theater Offensive strived to combine art and activism for the benefit of the LGBTQIA+ community throughout New England and, eventually, nationally.
Since its founding, they have put on numerous performances, festivals, and community programs. Of note in Northeastern’s digital repository is the performance of Pure PolyEsther: A Biblical Burlesque, an adaptation of the story of Esther from the Old Testament as a part of Purim celebrations. Written by Rybeck, Pure PolyEsther was described as a “hot, flamboyant Mardi Gras…[that] melts the edge off the bitter New England winter.” It is an intersectional celebration of both Jewish and queer traditions.
The Theater Offensive has also uplifted LGBTQIA+ youth with their True Colors program and their youth outreach performances. These have included the Living with AIDS Theater Project’s Lessons from the Heart, which educated teens on ways to combat the AIDS epidemic, highlighting an intergenerational conversation and relationship between queer youth and adults that remains incredibly valuable to this day.
The Theater Offensive continues to be an important cultural institution in Boston, and its records illustrate a rich and robust past that has championed queer creativity and community. To learn more about the Theater Offensive’s work not just this Pride Month but all year round, check out the resources available through the digital repository and University Archives and Special Collections!
At 2:49 p.m. on April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, just over four hours after the start of the race. The aftermath of this disaster, on what should have been a joyful occasion, was devastating. Three spectators were killed, and 281 other people were injured. Many people in Boston and surrounding communities were affected and sought to find ways of healing from this trauma.
Among those seeking to make sense of this event were Northeastern English professors Dr. Ryan Cordell and Dr. Elizabeth Maddock Dillon. They noted the strong reactions in their students, including those not directly impacted by the bombing, and decided to collect public stories of the larger Boston community. They hired a team of graduate students to gather and organize contributions, with the goal of creating an online community archive reflecting on this event. Two graduate students from this original team, Dr. Jim McGrath and Dr. Alicia Peaker, later became co-directors of this project. Along the way, collaborations were established with the NPR radio station, WBUR, the Boston Globe, and the Boston Public Library. The goal of this collection, later entitled Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive, was to construct a public memory to foster a better sense of community in the wake of this tragedy.
The Our Marathon collection includes nearly 8,000 items, with materials ranging from letters to collages to oral histories and other first-person accounts collected by those who founded the project. This archive bears some resemblance to other projects that used crowdsourced materials in response to a public trauma, such as the September 11 Digital Archive (created in 2001) and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank (created in 2005 following hurricanes Katrina and Rita). All three of these projects also focus on the places where traumatic events have occurred. There is a strong emphasis in this collection on showing the implications of this attack for the local community, although materials also include letters sent to people in Boston from students around the world.
In this past year I have become familiar with these materials while adding to and editing some of the metadata for these items in the DRS to clarify the copyright status, associated names and subjects of these materials, as well as the languages used in certain items, for researchers. In surveying this collection, I was particularly intrigued by how the marathon community dealt with this trauma. This attack created a lot of fear and uncertainty around future marathons. In fact, the London Marathon was run six days later, and security was greatly increased there because of what had happened in Boston. But many marathoners in Boston and across the country defiantly raced again, and two of these races – both called “One Run” – are documented in the Our Marathon collection.
The first of these races, the “One Run” Boston Marathon event, took place on May 25, 2013. The bombings kept about 5,700 runners from finishing the original race on April 15, and so “One Run” was seen as a way for these runners to complete the final mile of the race. The Facebook post about the event also said “all are welcome to run – nobody will be turned away. This is a free event open to everyone. No registration is required.” This event was thus meant to be inclusive and healing, but it also allowed marathoners to re-experience the outcome of their race.
Numerous photographs, contributed to this archive by MarathonFoto, also display the joy of the participants and their families as they cross the finish line.
The second race highlighted in the Our Marathon collection occurred a month later. “One Run for Boston” was a non-stop running relay of 3,328 miles, starting in Los Angeles on June 7, 2013, and ending in Boston on June 30, 2013. This race, organized by Danny Bent, Kate Treleaven and Jamie Hay, was a fundraiser, collecting $550,000 for the victims of the bombing through Boston’s One Fund.
The “One Run for Boston” race had an emotional finish. John Odom was badly injured while watching his daughter run on April 15. On June 30, his daughter, Nichole Reis, handed the baton to him in his wheelchair and pushed him over the finish line.
Both of the “One Run” races served first and foremost as an acknowledgement of the suffering caused by the marathon bombing. They also served as a unifying force, made clear by the obvious camaraderie displayed in the photos here. But finally, these races allowed marathoners a kind of therapeutic experience – they took hold of a situation in which they were vulnerable and transformed it into an active reclamation.