Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2019

Frederick MacMonnies' Once-Controversial Sculpture at the Boston Public Library

One of Boston’s most interesting sculptures,  Bacchante and Infant Faun , is displayed in the courtyard of the  Boston Public Library  in Copley Square, Back Bay.  The masterpiece was created in 1893 by American-born sculptor  Frederick MacMonnies , a disciple of  Augustus Saint-Gaudens . MacMonnies gave the original casting to his friend, architect  Charles Follen McKim , whose own masterpiece, the Boston Public Library, was being built.  McKim in turn offered it as a gift to the Library, which installed it.  But an outcry ensued from opponents who objected to the nudity of Bacchante, the Goddess of Wine, and McKim withdrew the gift, giving it instead to the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The controversy over the censorship of the artwork gained MacMonnies a certain notoriety, and he made numerous replicas of the work which he sold to museums and bronze statuettes, which he sold wholesale to the general public. Nearly a century after the banning of t

John Boyle O'Reilly (1844-1890)

Born on June 28, 1844 in Dowth Castle along the River Boyne, O'Reilly was conscripted into the British Army as a young man.  He was later charged with sedition against the British Crown and sentenced to life imprisonment in an Australian penal colony.  O’Reilly made a daring escape aboard a New Bedford whaler,  Gazelle , in 1869, a feat that helped shape his legend by the time he landed in America.   Arriving in Boston in 1870, he spent the next 20 years reconciling the city's racial and ethnic factions who struggled against one another.  He became editor and then owner of  The Pilot ,  the leading Irish Catholic paper in America, using the paper as a bully pulpit to advance various causes.  He befriended the Yankee establishment while admonishing them for the prejudices.   O'Reilly defended American Blacks who were still looking for post Civil War equality.  He welcomed new immigrants such as Italians, Jews and Chinese, insisting that they get the same privil

Yankee Mobs Burn Down Ursuline Convent in Charlestown on August 11, 1834

On August 11, 1834, the Ursuline Convent, a Catholic-run school for girls of all denominations, was set afire by angry workmen who were resentful of an increasing Irish presence in the Town of Charlestown and throughout New England. The night of terror was led by John Buzzell, a New Hampshire transplant who worked as a bricklayer. The frightened nuns and their young female boarding students rushed from the school as the building went up in flames, with the bloodthirsty mob intent on burning it to the ground. A newspaper later reported that the “pianos and harps, thrown from the windows when the Convent was set on fire, were subsequently burnt, and nothing but an old chair and one or two worthless articles were saved from destruction.” But the following week, the Boston Morning Post issued a front-page notice by the school's Mother Superior, suggesting that valuable items, especially musical instruments such as "Piano Ports, Harps, Guitars, Silver Cups were stolen at