Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


PURELY ON the spur of a moment, I thought it’s time to brush up on my knowledge of New England. There’s a guidebook around here somewhere.

Sweetster’s New England: A guide to the Chief Cities and Popular Resorts of New England, and to its Scenery and Historic Attractions, with the Western and Northern Borders from New York to Quebec, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1896.

Ah, yes. Sweetster’s…. Mine is a fifteenth edition, revised and augmented in 1896. And, to update a previously stated opinion on old guidebooks, something worth seeing 123 years ago (and still there) is all the more worth seeing today.

What’s more, unlike the Baedeker’s but like the Cook’s in my collection, the Sweetster’s carries advertising. These old ads give a flavor for traveling back then. They also encourage some Internet sleuthing.

“Unlike the Dutch Process….” Baker’s Chocolate is still in business, part of Mondelez International, which is a story in itself. There’s no one named Mondelez. When Kraft Foods reorganized back in 2012, its employees chose the name for its global branch: Mon from Latin mundus, “world,” and delez as in “delicious.”

It was way back in 1764 that American colonists John Hannon and Dr. James Baker started importing beans and producing chocolate in Dorchester, Massachusetts. According to Wikipedia, “After Hannon never returned from a 1779 sailing trip to the West Indies to purchase cocoa beans, his wife sold the company to Dr. Baker in 1780.”

The firm continued in Dorchester until 1969, when it moved to Dover, Delaware.

But I don’t have a Sweetster’s Mid-Atlantic now, do I?

Dorchester, Massachusetts. Sweetster’s has only one reference to Dorchester, in describing the cemetery of Mount Hope: “This is in Dorchester, an ancient town which was united with Boston in 1870. Over its extensive area (which is bounded on one side by the Bay) are scattered several villages and hundreds of country residences. The natural scenery is picturesque, and is diversified by hills and forests.”

According to Wikipedia, “Dorchester (colloquially referred to as ‘Dot’ [probably “Dort” with a New England accent] is a Boston neighborhood comprising more than 6 square miles….”

“The Dorchester neighborhood has a very diverse population…,” Wikipedia says, and “also has a significant LGBT population, with active political groups and the largest concentration of same-sex couples in Boston after the South End and Jamaica Plain.”

Pittsfield’s Attractions. “Pittsfield,” Sweetster’s says “is a beautiful city of 20,000 inhabitants, and is in the centre and capital of Berkshire County. It was settled about the middle of the last century (1752) on the Indian domain of Pontoosuc, and in 1761 it received its present name, in honor of William Pitt, the English statesman and friend of America.”

“Pontoosuc” may sound odd to our ears, though Sweetster’s says Pontoosuc Lake is “the haunt of the winter deer.” And imagine what the Native Americans thought when foreigners moved in.

Sweetster’s mentions both of Mr. Plumb’s establishments: “American House, on North St., 120 guests, at $10 to $15 a week” and “Maplewood, for summer boarders, $12 to $25 a week.”

The Maplewood, c. 1910–1920, was quite the grand place. Image from the Library of Congress.

In Lost New England, February 8, 2017, Derek Strahan offers history of this Pittsfield locale. Among other notable activities on the site, the Maplewood Institute girls school hosted the country’s first intercollegiate baseball game. On July 1, 1859, Amherst College beat Williams College 73-32 in 26 innings.

Strahan writes, “The game drew large numbers of Maplewood girls….” I’ll bet the young ladies cheered like crazy.

Well, I have five more pages of ads before getting to Sweetster’s title page. There’s sure a lot of New England to learn. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

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