Thursday, January 21, 2021
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Chris Baer

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This Was Then: Some assembly required

The Ford Motor Company is often lauded for the invention of the modern assembly line (a claim that begins with a lot of caveats)....

This Was Then: Smith, Bodfish, and Swift

S.B.S. — Smith, Bodfish, and Swift — was once an extensive Island chain. Their flagship store was a grocery on Main Street, Vineyard Haven,...

This Was Then: Dolph

“I recall Dolph; his job in the winter was to plow the sidewalks after a snowstorm,” remembered the late Stan Lair (1902-1987) of Vineyard...

This Was Then: Street Store

There were no fewer than seven grocery stores in downtown Edgartown at the turn of the 20th century. The list, which included Pease Brothers,...

This Was Then: North School and Hill Mill

There were four school districts in Edgartown at the time of the American Revolution: “Pohoganut,” the Plains, Chappaquiddick, and Edgartown village. In 1837, a...

This Was Then: The 1918 flu

In Massachusetts, 16,358 residents died in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, according to the official figures of the time. Twelve of them were...

This Was Then: Lost graves of Martha’s Vineyard

Jonathan Tilton, here he lies,  Nobody laughs and nobody cries;  Where he's gone and how he fares,  Nobody knows and nobody cares. Jonathan Tilton (1770–1837) of Tisbury was...

This Was Then: Woodpecker Hall

Chilmark’s first town hall was built on Middle Road in 1844, not far from Tabor House Road, on land given to the town by...

This Was Then: Classic Rocks, Part II

Twenty thousand years ago, two colossal glaciers crossed paths to form Martha’s Vineyard as we know it. To the east was the mountain of...

This Was Then: Classic rocks

Charles Hine, in his 1908 book “The Story of Martha’s Vineyard,” describes the area around Peaked Hill in Chilmark as “a wilderness of tumbled...

This Was Then: Poison Vineyard

This Island is full of native poisons. Black widows, water hemlock, jimsonweed, baneberry, amanita, man o' war, and many, many others. Moshup, the legendary...

This Was Then: The manufactories

Flipping through the “1907 Business Directory of Oak Bluffs,” you’ll find it’s arranged by category. One might look up “Boarding Houses,” for example (there...

This Was Then: Swept aground

It was ten o’clock on a Monday night, August 24,1931. The steamer Naushon was arriving in Vineyard Haven from New Bedford via Woods Hole,...

This Was Then: 10 minutes to Boston

In August 1807, Dr. James Freeman visited the port of Holmes Hole (today, Vineyard Haven). He described a rustic village consisting of about 70...

This Was Then: The Daggett Avenue Grocery

Depending on how you want to define it, there are fewer than 10 grocery stores on the Island today. But it wasn’t always so....

This Was Then: The Bachelor

Finding a mate on the Island has always had its challenges. “At Martha’s Vineyard,” wrote the Rev. Charles Brooks in 1855, “they have a...

Can you help solve a mystery?

My grandfather, Vineyard Haven plumber Stan Lair (1902–87), collected a lot of images. He had a copy stand set up in his bedroom command...

This Was Then: Body count

There’s a Victorian trope in literature, art, and theater — later echoed in films and television — of the troubled, distraught heroine who walks...

This Was Then: Plagues on the Island

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 infected some half-billion people around the world, killing tens of millions globally and tens of thousands in Massachusetts...

This Was Then, Narrated: St. Croix Oliver 

When you stand inside the Steamship Authority ticket office in Vineyard Haven, you’re standing on the site of one of the most storied maritime...
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