The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 25, 2005


The People of Carlisle, a photo exhibit celebrates the bicentennial

A bicentennial year brings with it a resurgence of interest in history. In honor of Carlisle's bicentennial, the Library will host several exhibits that highlight various aspects of the town's history, including The People of Carlisle, a photo exhibit that runs throughout the bicentennial year. The exhibit was created using images from the collections of the Gleason Public Library and the Carlisle Historical Society. It was sponsored, in part, by a grant from the Carlisle Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Who are The People of Carlisle? The image collections of each institution are full of incredible photographs that include families, students, farmers, mothers with their children, church groups, people at work and at play. There are daguerreotypes, tintypes, albumen prints, and twentieth-century snapshots. There are formal portraits and candid shots, familiar photos and others recently discovered. For the exhibit the photographs were enlarged to 16 x 20, so each one had to be meaningful, conveying visually the essence of the people of the town.

A TOUCH OF GLASS. Nancy Fohl (left) and Kathy Mayer admire the stained glass artwork of Hal Shneider, displayed at the Gleason Library.
With this in mind, the exhibit features Carlisle folks ranging from a happy Elinor Bates, who was two years old in 1926 when her picture was taken on the porch of the Bates farmhouse, to an aged Daniel Webster Robbins, the town's last surviving Civil War veteran. It includes the oft-seen photo of four girls in their summer dresses sitting on the common on Old Home Day, 1913, and a newly discovered portrait of Florence Malcolm made by Ed French and printed from his original glass plate negative. There's Nettie Wilson and members of the Women's Alliance at work hooking rugs for the staircases of the First Religious Society, while Barbara Daisy (Culkins), her brother Bobby, and the Dutton girls sit on the trunk of a large tree that had blown down during the 1938 Hurricane.

Members of the Nickles family stood before their North Street homestead to have their photograph taken, creating a common nineteenth-century scene in which the house or farm is represented with as much importance as the people. In contrast, Amos Baldwin beams at us from the doorway of his farmhouse, while his daughter, Sarah, smiles up at him from her seat on the doorstep. Though the images were made during the same era, two very different moods are conveyed: one distant and documentary, the other spontaneous and friendly. Both the Nickles and Baldwin families represent several generations of Carlisle farmers.

Pictures of Ed French and his vehicles are well-known around Carlisle, and though he sits on a running board in this particular photograph, the emphasis is instead on Ed and his niece Helen Lee about 1914. Helen is an adorable, happy four-year-old having her picture taken with her uncle, providing the viewer with a moment of nostalgia that calls to mind the warmth and simplicity we imagine was a part of life in early-twentieth century Carlisle. Just looking at her makes you smile.

Other Carlisle people pictured in the exhibit are three-year-old Ella Cyrene Green, posing for her portrait in a very fashionable dress, as well as Cora Robbins and Faustina Wilkins in a horse-drawn cart in front of the Robbins Farm on Curve Street.

These are The People of Carlisle, portrayed in an exhibit that celebrates Carlisle's bicentennial year by honoring some of the people who lived here, and by their presence made it a very special place.

Editor's note: Manoli-Skocay is the curator of the The People of Carlisle exhibit.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito