MV Museum History

Wealth of Treasures Convey Sense of Island’s Rich Past at the Historical Society’s Museum

Hens’ gravestones, a scrimshaw toothpick, a spittoon of General Grant’s, a plank from the Constitution and a spanker for naughty boys are among the many curiosities on display at the Duke’s County Historical Society museum on School street in Edgartown.

Relics on Exhibition

Some of the relics from the Port Hunter that were salvaged this summer by a group of young and enterprising Vineyard skindivers from that “ghost ship” sunk on Hedge Fence Shoal in November, 1918, have been presented to the Dukes County Historical Society. They are now on display in the Squire Cooke House, and serve as real life illustrations of the two informative articles written by Sammy Hart Low which appeared in the Gazette recently, illustrated by pictures he had taken.

Our Living History

The Dukes County Intelligencer is well on its way, according to Gale Huntington, its editor. The quality of the publication may possibly be judged by a sample of some of its surplus. These items were rejected by Eleanor Mayhew when she wrote her account of Christiantown:
May 6, 1743

D.C.H.S. To Build Fireproof Museum

A new fireproof building to house the priceless records and collections of the Dukes County Historical Society is to be built on the land on School street, Edgartown, adjoining the grounds of the society’s Squire Cooke house. The new structure, although placed near School street on this lot, will face toward Cooke street, making an angle with the Gay Head lens tower and the Cooke house.

Half the Job is Done; the Gay Head Lens Is Brought to New Home at the Historical Society

When the good ship Uncle Toby brought the new Fresnel lens to New York and the lens was subsequently deposited at the Edgartown wharf, almost a hundred years ago, little did the drivers, or anyone else for that matter, dream that the forty yoke oxen employed to transport the lens across the Island to Gay Head would not be the last agents to ever move the sixty frames of glass prisms and the multitudinous collection of machinery necessary to operate the light. This week all of these things were back in Edgartown.

D.C.H.S. Acquires Lot to Erect Fireproof Building

The Dukes County Historical Society has purchased from Edward B. Meyer the lot of land on School street, Edgartown, adjoining the society’s present property. The acquisition will make possible the eventual construction of a fireproof building for the society without marring or destroying the appearance of the present premises which preserve an important bit of the historic town.
The Meyer lot, used as a garden in recent years, was formerly owned by Capt. Manuel V. DeLoura.

Acquires Autograph Letter of John Hancock

An autograph letter from John Hancock to James Athearn, a prominent citizen of Tisbury in the period just preceding the American Revolution, has been acquired by the Dukes County Historical Society. Not only does the letter bear Hancock’s signature in the same clear style as that which adorns the Declaration of Independence, but it gives a picture of a business transaction in that early era.

Plan Extensive Changes at the Marine Hospital

The United States Marine Hospital at Vineyard Haven is to be partially remodeled and enlarged, the grounds are to be relaid out and beautified, and the roads and drives altered extensively, according to information received by the Gazette this week. Federal funds have been appropriated for the purpose, and already one contract, for the building of an incinerator, has been awarded to the A. Durso Co. of Haverhill. From this fact it is concluded that the remaining contracts may be awarded at any time and the work begun.

Famous Whaleboat is Presented to the Historical Society

The whaleboat in which Vineyarders out-pulled all others who met them here and elsewhere, has been presented to the Dukes County Historical Society by Captain Isaac Norton of Vineyard Haven, commander of the craft, George Smith of Oak Bluffs, the only surviving member of the crew, and Captain Norton’s nephews, Benjamin, Frank, Orrin and James Norton. The historic craft has been stored in the barn of Cyrus Norton, brother of Captain Isaac, for more than thirty years. It was last used in an historical pageant at Lake Tashmoo.

Customs Records Saved by Society

A quantity of customs house records, all that can be found of the invaluable files of the former Edgartown customs house, have been acquired by the Dukes County Historical Society, Marshall Shepard, the society’s president, announced at the quarterly meeting held at the West Tisbury library Wednesday afternoon. The documents, which Mr. Shepard described as a pile three or four feet high, are a remnant of eighteen large packing cases in which the papers of the customs house were packed and shipped to Boston when the office was discontinued in 1912.