Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Merit Not Race

William A. Hinton
(Courtesy of the Canton Historical Society)

In all honesty, Canton does not have a rich history that includes stories about African-Americans. There are dark elements of stories that trace the ownership of slaves to Isaac Royal – for whom Royal Street is named at the foot of the Blue Hill. In fact, while there were blacks living in that part of Stoughton that is now Canton, many of them had married into the Ponkapoag Indian Tribe and their stories have mostly been lost to time.

Yet, Canton does celebrate the career and home of William Augustus “Gus” Hinton, the first African-American to hold the rank of professor at Harvard University in its 313-year history. Yet, what Gus Hinton is widely known for is the Hinton Test, one that became the most effective tests leading to the diagnosis of syphilis.

Born in 1883 in Chicago, Illinois, Hinton was the son of Augustus Hinton and Maria Clark, emancipated slaves from North Carolina. Little is known of Hinton’s parents. What we do know is after slavery, Augustus Hinton was freed following the Civil War and became a farmer and railroad porter. It is possible that the Hinton surname came from being a slave on one of the Hinton Plantations. The largest landowner in the early days of Wake County (then Johnston County), North Carolina was the Hinton family. One of their early grants was a 136-acre parcel located on the west bank of the Neuse River. This was followed shortly with multiple grants, which eventually led to their having some 22,000 acres, extending to Clayton. Hundreds of slaves all took the name Hinton as a result of being the property of the Hinton Family.

The historical records indicate that the Hinton family treated their slaves very well and had a small school building erected for their education. Yet, when you read the slave narratives conducted by the Federal Writer’s Project in 1938, education did not seem to be a part of the backstory.  Robert Hinton, an emancipated slave, when interviewed about education said, "De white folks, ole missus, teached us de catechism, but dey didn't want you to learn to read and write. I can read and write now; learned since de surrender.” As for Augustus and Maria Hinton they knew that for their son to be successful in America, he would need an education.

Shortly after William Hinton was born, the family moved to Kansas City, Kansas and they determined to give him the education they likely had not enjoyed. Hinton attended public schools and a private Catholic school and worked as a newsboy. Through perseverance, young Gus Hinton would propel himself into the upper echelons of medicine and earn a place in history and science.

Hinton’s career choice was medicine, sparked by a high school biology teacher. Graduating from high school as the youngest in its history at age 16, Hinton went on to attend the University of Kansas in 1900. Within two years he was forced to drop out, unable to pay the tuition. Taking a leave he was able to earn enough money to return, yet the program of studies changed such that instead he transferred to Harvard College in Cambridge on a scholarship. A recurring theme in Hinton’s education was the fact that he would be forced repeatedly to leave school to finance his education, returning each and every time to move forward. For three years after his graduation, Hinton worked teaching biology, chemistry and physics in colleges in Tennessee and Oklahoma. It was in Langston, Oklahoma that Hinton met fellow teacher, Ada Hawes, who was teaching Latin at the Agricultural and Mechanical College. In 1909, Ada and Gus married, and that same year, they moved to Boston and rented a small apartment at 52 Fenwood Road, Jamaica Plain.

Although several years had passed since Hinton had done his pre-medical studies, he was able to enter Harvard Medical School and skip the second year, thus graduating in three years. Remarkably, and also in character, Hinton won the Edward Wigglesworth Scholarship – recommended by the administrative board to a “needy and deserving student.” At the same time, Hinton refused to accept the Lewis and Harriet Hayden Scholarship for “colored” students. Hinton stated that he wanted to be rewarded on his merit, not compensated because of his race. Graduating with cum laude in 1912, Hinton initially desired to become a surgeon, yet hospitals in Boston denied blacks the opportunity to intern with patients.

After Hinton’s graduation, Dr. Richard C. Cabot, a close friend and eminent physician, remarked that “but for Hinton’s courage, determination, and perseverance, his contributions to humanity might have been lost.” A former student of Cabot’s, Hinton had worked in the Harvard Laboratories that would become the backdrop of his groundbreaking research. “He was determined to succeed without benefit of internship which is considered essential for every doctor,” observed Cabot.

By 1915, Hinton moved his family to a modest house at 154 Dedham Street in Canton. It is likely that fellow classmate, Henry Lyman told Hinton of the four-acre parcel just a few miles from his own home on Elm Street. Lyman was a research chemist at Harvard, and by many accounts a close personal friend of the Hinton’s. Lyman was married into the Cabot family and kept homes on Commonwealth Avenue as well. The connection between Hinton and Lyman certainly shows the respect that the medical community of scholars held for this remarkable man.

The house in Canton was sold as an accessory to the land. The owner had told the Hinton’s that “the house isn’t worth anything, what you are getting is the land.” Yet, it was that house that Hinton turned into a home. Dr. Hinton loved both gardening and furniture making. A friend of Hinton said that “the pool was always filled with lilies of all colors, there was a tennis court, a rose garden, and an orchard and grape vines on the hill with every kind of fruit tree that grows in this part of the country.” His barbecues were legendary, and he worked to cut paths into the woods, lining the borders with irises and ladyslippers. “He loved the unusual and the beautiful.”

In 1919, Hinton received an appointment as instructor in preventative medicine and Hygiene at Harvard Medical School, commencing a more than three-decade teaching association at Harvard. In 1931, he started a school that would train women to become laboratory technicians. At the same time, Hinton was overseeing the expansion of state laboratory facilities and expanded ten facilities to more than a hundred in order to meet state regulations for marital blood tests. From 1946 -1949, Hinton worked as a consultant at the Massachusetts Hospital School here in Canton.

What Hinton was best known for, however, was his groundbreaking medical research in the field of sexually transmitted diseases, in particular, syphilis. During the period between 1930 and 1943, the rate of syphilis climbed by over 150%, and the treatment was a long series of painful injections or oral doses of mercury, bismuth and arsenic. As early as the mid 1920’s, Hinton insisted that treatment “not be guided by the persistence of positive tests, but by the physician’s diagnosis, since many patients react positively long after the disease has become inactive.” Hinton had come to recognize the problem of false positive tests, and set out to develop a more definitive test for syphilis.
False positive tests resulted in painful treatment, dangerous prognoses and the stigma of a shameful venereal disease.  By 1927, Hinton published the finding of a test that would become the widely known Hinton Test. Ten years later; the Hinton Test was the most sensitive and accurate test for syphilis ever created. False positives were almost eliminated, and as a result Hinton’s test became the gold standard. More importantly, in 1935 Hinton wrote the seminal text Syphilis and Its Treatment, devoting extensive sections to patient care. He made it clear that such diseases were “a by-product of poverty and ignorance and poor living conditions.” Race was not a factor in the spread of venereal diseases.

In fact, Hinton worked his whole life to ensure that race was not a factor in his work. So much so that he generally felt that widespread knowledge of the fact that he was black would delay the acceptance of his test. Robert C. Hayden, a biographer that wrote extensively on Hinton explains that “he was very realistic, and felt if his work got out there and they found out that he was black, his science would be devalued. In fact, some southern states stopped using the Hinton Test when they learned of his race.”  Hinton turned down the NAACP's 1938 Spingarn Medal award because he wanted his work to stand on its own merit. "Race should never get mixed up in the struggle for human welfare," he would later comment.

On February 10, 1941, Hinton left his home in Canton and was involved in accident on icy roads on Morton Street in Mattapan. His car skidded and a second car driving 15 mph crashed into him and caused such injury that Hinton’s leg was amputated above the knee. The next 18 years were filled with pain and acute diabetes, yet Hinton worked tirelessly at Harvard. In 1949, one year before academic retirement, Hinton was made Clinical Professor of Bacteriology, the first black to be named to a professorial rank in Harvard’s history. 

Hinton died at his home here in Canton on August 8, 1959 and was celebrated at First Parish Church at Canton Corner. In his will he left $75,000 to be put into a special scholarship for Harvard graduate students. The fund, a memorial to his parents, “who although born into slavery and without formal education, nevertheless recognized and practiced not only the highest ideals of their personal conduct, but also the true democratic principle of equal opportunity for all, without regard to racial or religious origins or to political status.” Hinton named the fund the Dwight D. Eisenhower Scholarship Fund in honor of the president whom he had felt made great strides in providing equal opportunity employment during his administration.  President Eisenhower wrote, “I could not recall having been given a personal distinction that had touched me more deeply.”

In 2008, Governor Deval Patrick dedicated the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Laboratory Institute in honor of Dr. William A. Hinton.

Special thanks to members of the Hinton family and to Robert C. Hayden, Jr. historian, author, and educator.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dear children,

The Advice of Jonathan Keny Jr. to his
children was published soon after
the Ensign’s death in 1756.

The imagery that stirs the loudest in the Ken Burns documentary, The Civil War is that of the letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah. In his now-famous letter to his wife, Ballou endeavored to express the emotions he was feeling: worry, fear, guilt, sadness and, most importantly, the pull between his love for her and his sense of duty to the country. And that letter, now famous, is simply one in thousands upon thousands of letters home from our men and women in the military that express love, fear and the emotions tied to war.

Letters home have always served as a reminder of the costs associated with great sacrifice. In fact, many of these letters became wartime propaganda, held up as an example of the glory of service to one’s country. In the effort to promote the Second World War, thousands of posters were created to “sell messages.” Federal agencies printed a downpour of brightly colored posters. Labor unions and factory owners printed up their own versions aimed at turning defense workers into “production soldiers.” At the end of the day it is emotion that moves the spirit to action.  And, while we may think propaganda is a modern invention, it is in fact an ancient art. If the letter home from Sullivan Ballou stands out, it is because the emotions are real, deep, and intensely personal.

More than 100 years earlier the French and Indian War was the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years' War. The war, fought between the colonies of British America and New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France, as well as Native allies. As the war began, the French North American colonies had a population of roughly 60,000 compared to 2 million in the English North American colonies. The outnumbered French particularly depended on the Indians. Long in conflict, the two nations declared war on each other in 1756, escalating the war from a regional affair into an international conflict. This was the war that saw the expulsions of the Acadians from the Annapolis Basin in Nova Scotia and redrew the boundaries of two nations.

To bolster troops brought from England, the Crown turned to the colonists as support for the war efforts. As early as 1744, Governor William Shirley devised a plan to take Louisburg. Several local militiamen were pressed into service for the King. Throughout the war, many Stoughton men took part in hostilities and we have many examples of how the war changed the lives right here in our own community. Guiding by example, the Reverend Samuel Dunbar, was a staunch supporter of the Crown. Dunbar was of the highest moral character and most esteemed by the entire community, so when the King of England placed the call of duty in 1755, Dunbar, as chaplain, accompanied Richard Gridley and Paul Revere (then 21) to fight against the French at Crown Point. 

Crown Point was a critical and strategic battleground for the war between the two nations. During the 17th Century, both France and Great Britain laid claim to the Champlain Valley: the French by virtue of the voyages of Verrazano, Cartier, and Champlain; the British based on those of the Cabots in 1497 and 1498.  It would be Crown Point that would be the final soil on which thirteen men from Stoughton would fall in service to the Crown.

William Johnson was placed in command of a force of 3,500 Provincial troops from New England, New York, and New Jersey, for the expedition against Fort St. Frédéric. While the Provincial troops prevailed, they did not press their advantage.
In response, the French began construction in October 1755 of Carillon (later named Fort Ticonderoga) to serve as a buffer between the British position at Lake George and Fort St. Frédéric. During this period of the conflict, more than thirty young men from what was then Stoughton – but largely now Canton – fought in the war.

Col. Samuel Miller, whose military district embraced the town of Stoughton, says that in 1755 the town had three hundred and twenty enlisted soldiers; that the stock of ammunition consisted only of four half-barrels of powder, and lead and flints accordingly, which was but half of what the town should possess. The selectmen accordingly ordered a tax of £40 to be assessed to make good the deficiency.

The story of some of the Stoughton men who enlisted in his Majesty's service in the expedition to Crown Point is wrought with sickness, death and difficult journeys home.  Elijah Esty, Nathaniel Clark, Thomas Billings, John Wadsworth, William Patten, James Bailey, Michael Woodcock, and James, son of Joseph Everett, were all taken sick in camp at Lake George. Some of them remained for weeks in the hospital at Albany, but for each of them a horse was purchased by their friends, and some one from Stoughton went out and brought them home. Joseph Tucker, a minor, was brought home by his brother Uriah. John Redman took a wagon to go from Lake George to Albany; and for some reason the driver put him out of the vehicle in the wilderness, where, he affirms, he must have perished had not Sargent Ralph Houghton, of Milton, happened to pass that way, who took pity on him, hired another wagon to carry him to Albany, and also lent him money to buy such things as were necessary. Daniel Talbot and his seventeen-year-old son Amaziah both engaged in the Crown Point expedition. The son was taken sick at Half Moon, and the father hired a horse to bring them home; the son died en-route, and the father returned home alone.

Yet, it is the letter that we now have in our ancient Stoughton document tome that has stood the test of time. Few know of its existence and merely a handful of historians have spent any time with this letter. It was written in that part of Stoughton that is now Canton. So strong were the words, that it was published as a broadside, likely by the English colonial government as a way to build support for the campaign against the French. The letter was written by Jonathan Keny just before the young man left for Albany, New York for Crown Point. Historical accounts of the young ensign paint a picture of a devoted family man and member of the Church of England who grew up in the early 1700’s in what is now Ponkapoag. Around 1750, Keny (also spelled as Kenney) married Sarah Redman, the daughter of Robert Redman, one of the earliest settlers in this area.

In the dark of an early spring night, Keny paced the floors of his small house near Potash Meadows and Aunt Katy’s Brook. Holding his two small children - his boy, Jonathan just barely two years old, and his daughter, Cloe, age four. Keny’s wife had died two years earlier, perhaps after the birthing of their son. And so, Keny knew that departing for war meant that he might never look upon their sweet faces again.

The letter, written on April 16, 1756 under seal, is religious, poignant, and heart wrenching when you consider that Keny would die within months of the writing. “Dear children, Since God by his all-wise providence, about sixteen months ago, remove your kind and tender mother from you by death, and as I am called by Providence to go into service of my King and country, and not knowing whether ever I shall return to you again, I charge and beseech you to mind the One Thing needful, to remember your Creator in the days of your youth, to love one another, to mind religion while you are young, to be constant in secret prayer, for God loves to hear young children come to him, and though you have no father or mother he will be better to you than the most affectionate parents can possibly be… I charge you to beware of bad company… to be obedient, and often read your books…when you come to a sick bed, and a dying hour, to look back on a life well spent.”

The letter is quite long, and ends with the premonition of Keny’s death “My dear children, I hope better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, and I charge and advise you once more to observe this council and advice; and though you may never see me again in this world, I entreat you to prepare to meet me in heaven where I hope to rest after this frail life is ended.”  Keny died in a hospital at Albany within nine months of writing the letter. Delivered to his small children, the letter contained a gold ring that he had placed on his wife’s finger six years earlier.

The children were placed in the care of their grandparents, Robert and Mary Redman, who raised them as their own.  In 1757, Robert Redman executed a will in which he provided for his grandchildren, leaving 6 pounds 13 shillings and 4 pence to Jonathan and 4 pounds and a good cow to Cloe when she arrived at the age of twenty-one.  The letter was published soon after his death and one of only two known copies survive in the collection of the Canton Historical Society.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Infantryman Returns Home

Canton’s Infantryman at the turn of the 20th 
century with a group of Canton High School girls. 

As is so often the case, soldiers that return home from war are often broken. We see the veterans who have sacrificed for our great nation, but sometimes what we fail to see are the scars hidden deep inside. And, if there could be a metaphor for all this, it is the soldier that is about to return home to Canton next week.

This soldier, Infantryman, has stood guard for over one hundred years. You may have seen him during his lonely vigil, looking down over Washington Street – or standing guard at the end of a dusty hallway. Yet, his is a history that will come full circle in just a matter of days. This is the story of the Civil War Monument and one man who has a pretty ambitious bucket list.

On the second floor of the William’s Estate is the office of the Veteran’s Agent, Tony Andreotti. The office is littered with flags, files, and plaques. Sitting behind his desk, one day last year, Melissa Araujo walked into his office. Melissa is the daughter of a Canton man that had been killed in action in Vietnam. Andreotti had been recognizing various fallen heroes at their graveside for the past several years, and a few years ago attention was turned to Rudolph Araujo who had died almost forty-four years ago.

At the simple ceremony, at St. Mary’s Cemetery on Washington Street, the family gathered to pay tribute to a husband, father and citizen of Canton. As Andreotti looked down at the headstone he shook his head, “this was a small, government issued stone that seemed so insignificant- certainly given the sacrifice that Rudolph had made to his country.” And, as far as sacrifices go, Araujo gave the ultimate one – his life. In a far away place, near Binh Duong, South Vietnam, an explosive device killed the 29 year-old army mechanic just four days before Christmas. In an instant, a wife and a daughter’s holidays were forever changed. In that winter of 1969, the Town of Canton mourned the loss of one of its own.

And, reflecting upon that modest stone, it was apparent to Andreotti that something had to change. “The original stone was so insignificant that you could not find it. I think perhaps the family might not have had the means for a larger stone. So, we are correcting this now.” And, by correcting it, Andreotti means that he will make the insignificant, now significant. It has always been the mission of this Veteran’s Agent to make us see what has been lost to time. This past Sunday on a crisp autumn morning, family and friends and townspeople gathered at the grave of Rudolph Ernest Araujo. The air hung heavy, and leaves crunched underfoot. In this sacred place,  Andreotti helped us remember the sacrifice of this amazing hero. What was there was trivial, what is now there today is proper.

What has been done makes us stand up, take notice, and remember. And still, another soldier is about to return and as a result of significant funding by the people of Canton, we will give our tribute to the fallen Civil War soldiers from Canton. By now, everyone knows the story of the statue that had stood at Memorial Hall. One night, hoodlums from a neighboring town – in response to local rivalries – hitched a rope around the statue and tied the other end to the bumper of a car and in an instant destroyed a monument to the War of the Rebellion.

Andreotti was reminded that Community Preservation money could help restore the statue, the repair of which had been on his “bucket list” for quite some time. “I conceived of the project in 2000 – a year into my new job as agent. I asked Buddy Fallon to get a quote for restoration, and as budgets have always been tight it was impossible to undertake.” Explains Andreotti, “Jeremy Comeau gave me the hint … we were at Starbucks one day and he tipped me off.  And I went after the money and fortunately the town was receptive.”

Canton’s Civil War Monument has a name – known simply as Infantryman, the statue is painted, cast-zinc, and manufactured by the J.W. Fiske Company in the early 1890’s. Weighing in at 400 pounds and measuring almost seven feet high, this statue has several “brothers” throughout the country.  This same statue can be found in Iola, Kansas at the town cemetery, in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and more importantly one on Martha’s Vineyard at Oak Bluffs.

It is important to note that these statues were made of soft metal called zinc. The costs of production of zinc as opposed to bronze are lower due to its low melting temperature and yet when cast it mimics bronze. At the time, zinc was referred to as “white bronze” and was marketed as alternative to actual bronze. In the late 1800’s it was very common for garden sculptures and memorials to be cast in zinc, examples of such can be found in the old part of Canton Corner Cemetery. For a town like Canton, and even though donated by the wealthy philanthropist Elijah Morse, the choice of zinc over more expensive sculptures meant the ability to order a statue from a catalog for quick delivery.

When Infantryman arrived in 1890, he was placed inside Memorial Hall and used as a drinking fountain. Water would pour forth from the lions’ heads in the pedestal into small cast iron bowls.  Quite a controversy erupted when a town resident reportedly walked off with the ladles, causing a brouhaha, “scores of people have gone to the fountain for a cool refreshing drink, only to find the dippers gone. The officers should keep a strict watch and if possible, catch the rascal,” the local paper reported.

Then, in 1894, the town decided to relocate the memorial statue and drinking fountain to the front lawn of Memorial Hall where he stood until attacked by vandals. A wonderful conservation effort by Canton resident, Ernie Ciccotelli pieced Infantryman back together, but he could not be moved outside. Relegated to a back hallway, Andreotti moved restoration off of his bucket list and onto active duty.

What has happened next is nothing short of a miracle in preservation. Part art and part science, the statue has been in Maryland for the past forty days in the care of very talented conservationists.  As the sculpture was unwrapped, the conditions were noted and paint removed. Plenty of items had been lost including the end of the bayonet, the thumb, the interior of the cape, a section of gun strap, and sections of the plinth and strap on the cap brim.

A rare glimpse inside Infantryman,
where a new stainless
steel skeleton takes shape. 
Overseeing the project is Mark Rabinowitz, the Executive Vice President of Conservation Solutions, Inc. the firm that is handling this project. “The best goal for public art is to serve the public need it was intended for.” Notes Rabinowitz, observing that the very essence of this statue is more than a memorial; it is “art.” Of the use of zinc, Rabinowitz puts forward the idea that “it is an interesting form of sculpture whereby the ideals which public art embody – nobility and memorial – were available to localities for a lower cost, leading to the best democratization of the values of public art.” 

David Espinosa and Bob Donahue
solder the cape, which
 conceals the interior armature.
And, when you think of Infantryman as art, he takes on additional meaning.A new stainless steel armature has been fabricated and has become the skeleton inside the figure. As for the missing items, it is here that the “brothers” have been called into action. In the Hurricane of 1938 Infantryman of the Oak Bluffs Soldiers and Sailors Memorial was toppled and severely damaged. In 2002 Conservation Solutions’ conservators fully restored the work to its original condition. So good was the work that the project received an award for excellence from Smithsonian Institute. Today, the same molds that were used for Oak Bluffs (and originally cast from the North Kingston, RI Infantryman) have come full circle to become castings for the scabbard and bayonet missing from our monument. In the case of Oak Bluffs, an actual 1859 Springfield bayonet was used to create a wood model and ultimately the zinc cast replacement. The same model was used again with permission of Oak Bluffs to bring our soldier back to condition.

Over several emails, Tony Andreotti has received updates for the past several weeks. The head, oddly detached, lies on a table and gets close attention and repair. The loose ammo pack becomes soldered to the body. Small losses have been filled with synthetic materials. And within the past few days Infantryman has been reassembled and coated with a system of acid etching primers and acrylics designed to mimic the bronze patina. Bronze powder filled paint has been followed by a coat of darker brown paint and rubbed back to age the statue. And finally, a coat of wax seals the system.

Within days, Infantryman will return to Canton, still a broken soldier – with wounds well covered, yet well cared for by a loving community and a caring Veteran’s Agent. This is why Andreotti ordered a new gravestone for a fallen Vietnam War veteran, and why he initiated the restoration of the Civil War Memorial – to make us remember the sacrifice of our soldiers. When asked if he fears that vandals may attack again, Andreotti merely shrugs and says, “I do not think so,” but in true military fashion he adds, “and if they do, we will put it back up again.”