BOSTON'S NORTH SHORE by Joseph E. Garland


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At Taft's Restaurant in Winthrop, Emerson and Longfellow dined on roasted hummingbirds tucked in walnut shells. Farther north in Beverly, Dr. Holmes presided autocratically over his breakfast table. Adamses, Lowells, and Cabots yachted and swam in Nahant and, in Revere, Bostonians strolled around the amusement park skeptically munching that newfangled concoction, the potato chip. In this delightful and amply illustrated social history of the northern Massachusetts shore from 1823-1890, Joseph Garland, a journalist with the Beverly Times, records the transformation of the North Shore from a collection of sturdy, xenophobic fishing and farming villages into the summer playground of Victorian Boston. In wry prose, Garland describes a cast of characters straight from a comedy of manners: folksy natives ""whose hands of hospitality were extended palm-up"" to the rich Bostonians; well-appointed yachtsmen in spirited discussion on the proper method for carving a joint of mutton; prissy Brahmins looking like blue cabbages as they bathed in their billowing Victorian swimming suits. Nineteenth-century Americans had not yet succumbed to the sinfulness of the Gilded Age, but they had enough money and leisure to make fools of themselves in their ardor for socially-approved ways of having fun. Describing the construction of railroads and hotels, and the burgeoning northward migration each June, Garland has some arch comments to make on the despoliation of land, the nature of human greed, and the things people do to gain a line in the Social Register, but he never overplays his hand. The faults of the era are, after all, obvious. The book has a wealth of unpublished photographs and excerpts from unpublished memoirs, and the text is well-paced and well-phrased. A sequel is planned to cover the years from 1890 to the Great Depression.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1978
Publisher: Little, Brown