All posts by Sharon Pietryka

About Sharon Pietryka

Archivist at the Kingston Public Library

Skiing down Summer Street

Four young men on cross-country skis on Summer Street in Kingston, MA
From left to right: Clinton Keith, Isaac Hathaway Sr., Ralph Drew, and Ralph Holmes, around 1915


On a snowy, winter day a hundred years ago, these four young men strapped on their cross-country skis and posed for this picture right in the center of Summer Street, just north of the railroad tracks. The Adams Block is visible on the right, and the laundry building that was previously the freight station for the railroad is visible on the left.


Source: Image from the Albion Holmes Collection (MC25). 

Woman standing in front of a large snow drift, undated


Cyanotype photographic prints are immediately recognizable. Their striking blue appearance is the result of a particular chemical combination (though the prints can in fact be toned to alter this color).

Credited to Sir John Herschel—an astronomer and chemist—in 1842, the cyanotype process involves coating a piece of paper with a solution of ferric ammonium citrate before exposing it to light under a positive image (as opposed to a negative image, which is the inversion). Then, that exposed paper is developed with a potassium ferricyanide solution.

Anna Atkins, who knew Herschel as a friend of her father, used this process to illustrate her botanical studies. Her three-volume work,  Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843–53), was the first photographically illustrated book.

The first commercial cyanotype paper emerged in 1872 in France. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) started instructing its students on the cyanotype process for the creation of blueprints in 1875. The following year, the first commercial blueprint machine made in Switzerland was introduced at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the first official World’s Fair in the United States.

From the 1870s to the 1950s, the cyanotype process was primarily used by engineers and architects for printing blueprints. It was revived by photographers during the 1960s as an alternative to the silver gelatin process.

We have a number of cyanotypes here in the Local History Room.

House where they serve clambakes, Wharf Lane, Rocky Nook, circa 1905
House where they serve clambakes, Wharf Lane, Rocky Nook, c. 1905


Joshua Delano house, 91 Main Street, circa 1905
Joshua Delano house, 91 Main Street, c. 1905


Woman standing in front of a large snow drift, undated
Unidentified woman standing in front of a large snow drift, undated


Man seated in a horse-drawn buggy, undated
Man seated in a horse-drawn buggy, undated


If you’d like to see these—or the other cyanotypes we have—in person, stop by the Local History Room!


Sources: Images from the Delano Photograph Collection (IC11) and the Emily Fuller Drew Collection (MC16). 

Stulik, Dusan, and Art Kaplan. 2013. The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Conservation Institute.

James, Christopher. 2014. “The Cyanotype Process” in The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes. (Course Technology).


Ada Brewster: Civil War Nurse, Traveler, and Artist

Sketch captioned "Cow Boy from Arizona," dated April 19, 1885
Cow Boy from Arizona, April 19, 1885


Ada Brewster, born in Kingston on May 25, 1842, lived a fascinating life. She served as a nurse at Lovell General Hopsital in Rhode Island during the Civil War; worked at the U.S. Mint in Carson City, Nevada during the production of the first trade dollar coined by the federal government; studied art at the Lowell Institute in Boston and the California School of Design (now the San Francisco Art Institute); opened her own art studio and became known as a portraitist, illustrator, china-painter, and teacher; and moved all over the country before returning home to Kingston in 1919. Stop by to learn more in this month’s Local History exhibit, featuring a selection of Ada’s sketches from her time out West.


Source: This sketch comes from the Ada Brewster Collection (MC24).


Consider the Manicule

When looking at historical texts, it is especially exciting to stumble upon a manicule. You may not know the symbol by this particular name, but I’d be willing to bet that you’ve seen this punctuation mark before: a pointing hand, drawing attention to a particular line or passage. I’m particularly referring to manicules when they appear as marginalia, or notes in the margins of texts.

☞ This name comes from the Latin root, manicula, for “little hand.” However, this symbol has been referred to by many names, in fact, including “hand, hand director, pointing hand, pointing finger, pointer, digit, fist, mutton fist, bishop’s fist, index, indicator, indicule, maniple, and pilcrow,” and William H. Sherman, Professor at the University at York, goes as far to suggest that “it may be the most pervasive feature in the history of textual culture that does not have a standard name.”¹ Sherman also argues, “between at least the twelfth and the eighteenth centuries, [the manicule] may have been the most common symbol produced both for and by readers in the margins of manuscripts and printed books.”² These symbols varied widely in appearance; any cursory web search will give you a taste of their individualistic flair.

I’ve found several manicules among the materials here in the Local History Room.

Deed of 100 acres of land from James & Joseph Cook to Wrestling Brester & Joseph Holmes, 1735

This first document is a deed for 100 acres of land from James and Joseph Cook to Wrestling Brewster and Joseph Holmes, signed January 22, 1735 (though this is a copy of the original document). The manicule here in the left margin is hastily scrawled, but you can see how it is combined with underlining to focus attention on important information, specifically the right of the grantees to the Holmes Mill and the privilege of the stream.

Deed for Forge Privilege from Joseph & James Cook to Sever, Brewster, & others, 1736

The second document is a deed for Forge Privilege from James and Joseph Cook to Nicholas Sever, Wrestling Brewster, and others, signed January 14, 1736 (this, too, is a copy of the original document). Again, the manicules here in the left margin point to critical information, the first marking the grantees’ intention to erect a forge or iron mill on the steam flowing from Jones River Pond (Silver Lake) at the site of the Holmes Saw Mill , and the second marking the privileges of the grantees. The manicules between these two documents are so similar stylistically , it’s reasonable to speculate that they were drawn by the same individual.

☞ Manicules may seem insignificant upon first glance, but the fact that they’re readers’ marks makes them special, as they’re a remnant of someone’s encounter(s) with that text. A manicule’s appearance is a reflection of the person who drew it: whether fanciful and elaborate, minimal and discrete, or even anatomically accurate as some can be, they are personal reference marks intended to impose order on sometimes unwieldy texts. They were drawn to more easily navigate and retrieve information from that text in the future, and I suppose that appeals to the archivist and librarian in me.

And you, do you annotate the books you read (when they’re not library books, that is)? Is this symbol part of your note-taking? The next time an opportunity arises, consider the manicule.


  1. William H. Sherman, Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 33.
  2. Used Books, 29.


Source: Documents are from the Mary Hathaway Collection (MC21).

Major John Bradford

Gravestone of Major John Bradford
Gravestone of Major John Bradford, taken by Emily Fuller Drew circa 1925

Today marks the 281st anniversary of the death of Major John Bradford, as he died December 8, 1736.

The inscription on his gravestone reads:

Here lyes y body
of Mayjear John
Bradford who dec
Decbr y 8th
1736 in
y 84th year
of his age
he lived near 62
years with his wife
Gravestone of Major John Bradford
Gravestone of Major John Bradford, taken by Emily Fuller Drew circa 1925

Major John Bradford, born February 20, 1652, was the grandson of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony.  He married Mercy Warren in 1674, with whom he had ten children. Major Bradford likely earned his title during  King Philip’s War (1675-76).

Major John Bradford is also remembered as a benefactor of the town, as he gave 14 acres of land to the North or Jones River Precinct of Plymouth (now Kingston) in 1717 for the purposes of a “Burying Place,” a “Training Field,” and a “Meeting House” — now the land on which the Old Burying Ground, Training Green, First Parish Church, and old Town House sit.

Major John Bradford House, in snow
Major John Bradford House, taken by Emily Fuller Drew circa 1925

The Jones River Village Club (now the Jones River Village Historical Society) purchased and restored his homestead at 50 Landing Road in 1921 before opening it to the public in August of the same year. It is now open on select days during the summer.


Source: Images from the Emily Fuller Drew Collection (MC16).

Happy Holidays!

Frederic C. Adams Library, 33 Summer Street
Frederic C. Adams Library, 33 Summer Street

In the spirit of the holidays, the Local History Room’s December exhibit features a collection of limited edition holiday ornaments created by the Kingston Lions Club between 1990 and 2002. Each one bears the likeness of a Kingston icon – from the old Town House and the Faunce School, to the Old Colony Railroad Station and the Major John Bradford House. Stop by to see this local memorabilia.
Source: Image from the Local History Room Image Collection (IC7).