News & Events, April 2010
Dear Friend,
The Friends of Mount Auburn is pleased to present the April 2010 edition of our
newsletter. We invite you to join our email list to receive this mailing on a monthly basis.  To
ensure that you continue to receive emails from us, add [email protected] to your
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In this issue
Friends of Mount Auburn Spring Programs
Legends of the Revolution: Poetical Myth-Making in the 19th Century
Birds & Birding at Mount Auburn: The Blue-headed Vireo
Person of the Month: Isabella Stewart Gardner
Horticultural Highlight: Scilla siberica
Spotlight On: Mount Auburn's Historical Collections
April History Highlight: Understanding Cremation
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Spring Tour at Mount AuburnFriends of Mount Auburn Spring Programs 
Join us this spring to learn more about the history, horticulture, art, architecture, and wildlife of Mount Auburn Cemetery!   
Here are just a few highlights from our April program schedule:
  • Appreciate the early spring blooms while learning about the history of the Cemetery and the lives of those buried here during our Discover Mount Auburn walking tour on Saturday, April 3. 
  • Celebrate National Poetry Month during our annual poetry month walking tour,  "I hear the whispering voice of spring," on Sunday, April 18.
  • Participate alongside other members of the Friends in the Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup on Saturday, April 24.
Visit the Mount Auburn Cemetery website for our full list of spring 2010 programs and register online today!  You can now register for one or several programs in a few easy steps.
And, because you've asked, we're making our online program registration even easier and more efficient.  You can now register for multiple programs in one transaction.  Click on a month, select the events you plan to attend from the list, enter the number of spaces we should reserve for you at each program, and then proceed to checkout.  Register online today and see just how easy it is!  ____________________________________________________________________
Captain Cleaveland's marker
Legends of the Revolution:
Poetical Myth-Making in the 19th Century 
In honor of National Poetry Month, join Longfellow
National Historic Site Park Ranger, literary historian and creator of The American Literary Blog, Rob Velella at 2:00 PM on Saturday, April 10th for  
"Legends of the Revolution: Poetical Myth-Making in the 19th Century" - a walking tour at Mount Auburn Cemetery. 
From "Paul Revere's Ride" to "The Last Leaf," 19th century writers re-imagined the American Revolution - some even created enduring myths which are more legend than truth.
$5 for members of the Friends; $10 for non-members.
Photo above:  Tablet marker in memory of Revolutionary War Veteran, Captain Josiah Cleaveland, of Owego, N.Y. (Lot 4143 Lime Avenue, Mount Auburn Cemetery), taken by Brian A. Sullivan, Archivist, Mount Auburn.
Blue-headed VireoBirds and Birding at Mount Auburn
By Robert H. Stymeist
The Blue-headed Vireo is one of the first truly song bird migrants in the month of April at Mount Auburn, arriving one to two weeks before any other vireo. 
Once known as the Solitary Vireo, the American Ornithologist Union (AOU) in 1977 recognized three distinct species:  the Plumbeous Vireo from the central Rockies; the Cassin's Vireo from the West Coast; and the Blue-headed Vireo, which is found along the East Coast.
Actually an even better name might be "Spectacled" Vireo which refers to its more prominent white goggles rather than its "gray" blue head. The Blue-headed Vireo, like all vireos, is a slow-moving and methodical feeder tending to feed on limbs and stronger branches and rarely feeding on the outer branches like the warblers tend to do. Often it is not found feeding with other Blue-headed Vireos, hence the old name of Solitary Vireo, but will be found feeding with mixed flocks of warblers and other song birds. Sometimes it will fly out to catch insects in mid air.
The song of the Blue-headed Vireo is a sweet short series of two or three notes though some sound slurred and has often been described as "see-you", "here I am", "up here" "in the tree" with a very short pause in between the phrases. The song of the Red-eyed Vireo is similar but not as high pitched and is a bit faster making it difficult to separate the two species later in the migration. The Blue-headed Vireo has a call that has been described as a raspy descending series of calls: "cheh, cheh, cheh, check".
I've found that the Blue-headed Vireo is quite responsive to pishing and will approach close to investigate. On their breeding grounds the male will sing until mid to late October, much longer than most of the migratory songbirds. Another interesting fact besides singing to gain a female, the male will build a nest to show the female he is willing; the "love" nest is often then abandoned after a pair-bond is established and another nest is built, the new site undoubtedly chosen by the female.

At Mount Auburn you can find the Blue-headed Vireo almost anywhere on the grounds but veteran birders searching for the first arrivals will likely find them on Palm Avenue and on Indian Ridge. In the fall look for this vireo along with the Red-eyed feeding on the dogwood berries and the Sweetbay Magnolia at Auburn Lake and another at Willow Pond.
Check the Bird Chalkboard in the Egyptian Revival Entrance at Mount Auburn the next time you visit!
Birds and Birding at Mount Auburn Cemetery: An Introductory Guideis regularly available for purchase at the Cemetery from 8:30 AM to 4 PM everyday (except holidays). The cost is $8.00. Copies are available by mail order by sending payment to the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery, ATT: Bird Guide, 580 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Please include the cost $8.00, plus $2.00 for mailing and handling (total $10) for each copy ordered.
Gardner TombPerson of the Month: Isabella Stewart Gardner
Born 170 years ago this April 14th, Isabella Stewart Gardner amassed a world-class art collection and founded the Boston museum bearing her name.  Join us for Mount Auburn Book Club at 10:00 AM on Thursday, April 8th when we will discuss Mrs. Jack: A biography of Isabella Stewart Gardner by Louise Hall Tharp (2003).  FREE.  
Later this month, on Sunday, April 25th at 2:00 PM, Robin Hazard Ray, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum volunteer and Mount Auburn Docent will lead Isabella Stewart Gardner and Her Circle of Influence - a walking tour at the Cemetery.  On the tour, we will visit Gardner's family mausoleum (pictured above, circa 1886) and the burial places of many in her luminary circle, including Julia Ward Howe, Charles Eliot Norton, and William Sturgis Bigelow, while contemplating the charmed, complicated, and at times, tragic life of this dynamic Bostonian.
$5 for members of the Friends; $10 non-members.
Horticultural Highlight: Scilla siberica
By Jim Gorman, Mount Auburn Cemetery Docent
The earth turns its northern face
                closer to the sun
as March delivers a raw and damp April.
Everything is restless and impatient,
like small children
made to sit a little too long.
                Donald Everett Axinn
One of the most impatient of springtime plants, now flowering at Mount Auburn is Scilla siberica, Siberian squill. Its brilliant azure-blue flowers are one of our most striking springtime sights. The genus Scilla is represented by over eighty species of bulbous herbs native to Asia, Europe and Africa. Of these about a half-dozen species are planted for horticultural use in the United States. Scilla siberica is the most popular mainly due to its ability to produce a beautiful blue carpet just when we are all weary of our visually subdued winter landscape.
These small plants have two-to-five strap-shaped, half-inch wide leaves that are four-to-six inches long. Each nodding flower has six deep blue-colored petals arranged as if they were half-opened ribs of an umbrella. There may be one to five flowers on each arching floral stalk arising three-four inches from the center of the leaves. The floral impact may last two to three weeks, the longest persistence occurring with cool temperatures.  As poet James Schuyler wrote in his Hymn to Life, "...Consider April, early April, wet snow falling into the blue squills that underneath a beech make an illusory lake, a haze of blue with depth to it..."
The genus name Scilla is a Greek word meaning to injure or harm and alludes to toxic properties found within some of the European species. We may also derive meaning from several versions of Scylla found in Greek mythology. Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867, lot #2308, Bellwort Path) popularized these versions in his The Age of Fable which was later compiled with his other writings and published as Bulfinch's Mythology.   In one classical version Glaucus , a fisherman turned into a fish-like creature is smitten by a Sicilian beauty named Scylla who runs away from his advances. Glaucus' appeal for help from the enchantress Circe, who liked him too well herself, led to Circe transforming Scylla into a monster serpent that devoured mariners who came within her grasp until she was later turned into a rock which continued to be a terror to mariners.
A different fable presents King Nisus and his daughter Scylla. King Nisus is defending his city from a hostile army led by Minos, king of Crete, which has stretched into a six month siege. It was decreed by fate that the city would not be taken as long as a certain purple lock of hair of King Nisus remained on his head. Scylla meanwhile became excited by her admiration for the enemy King Minos and while all slept she entered her father's bedchamber and cut off and delivered the lock to her father's enemy. There is no happy ending as King Minos was repulsed by her actions cursing that neither earth nor sea would yield her a resting place. A pitying deity changed her into a bird.

Nonetheless we encourage you to leave ideas of jealousy and duplicitous behavior aside on an early April visit to Mount Auburn to revel in our Scilla siberica displays found at many locations throughout our landscape. 
For those who appreciate the early morning or who are looking for a quick walk before work, join us for Early-Risers' Horticultural Club - brief excursions highlighting what's in bloom and other horticulturally interesting things throughout the spring - with Mount Auburn's Horticultural Staff.  From early bulbs to magnificent flowering trees, we will try to catch them all!  Walks begin promptly at 7:00 AM and last approximately one hour. No preregistration. FREE. Fridays, April 2, 16 and 30, May 7 and 21, and June 4th.
"Big Trees at Mount Auburn" and "Unusual Trees of Mount Auburn" maps are available for
 purchase at the Mount Auburn Entrance Gate and in the Visitors Center.
Harnden MonumentSpotlight On: Mount Auburn's Historical Collections
When you visit Mount Auburn Cemetery's Historical Collections, you may want to bring your 3-D glasses. 
Three-dimensional photographs were also poplar in the
19th century in the form of stereo views. Two photographs mounted side by side on a stiff card were seen through the viewer, or stereoscope, to achieve a three dimensional effect.
Mount Auburn has a collection of more than 250 stereo views. Dating mostly from the 1860s-1900s, these 3-D views depict the Cemetery landscape, monuments, and specific attractions such as Bigelow Chapel, Asa Gray Garden and Washington Tower.
This stereo view depicts a group of visitors to the Harnden monument on Central Avenue. The impressive monument commemorates William Frederick Harnden (1813-1845), the original founder of the "Express Business in America" who pioneered express package services between Boston and New York. Harnden died young and in 1866, the Express Companies of America erected this complex monument to his memory, replacing a simple marble stone. This is one of the many monuments placed in Mount Auburn by professional organizations and business colleagues.
Historical Collections staff is responsible for the permanent collections of long term value to the Cemetery.  These include the photography collection, the archival collection of business records, library, objects collection of decorative and fine arts, and collection of artistic monuments and stained glass. If you have photographs or ephemera related to Mount Auburn, we'd like to know!  Please contact Curator of Historical Collections Meg L. Winslow at [email protected]
Bigelow Chapel sketchHistory Highlight: Understanding Cremation
April 18, 1900 Mount Auburn's first cremation performed.
The trustees of Mount Auburn first started to consider establishing a crematorium in 1885 but awaited "the further development of public sentiment." In 1897 the Cemetery applied to the state legislature for an act authorizing Mount Auburn Cemetery to establish a crematory. 
Architect Willard T. Sears was enlisted to design a plan to renovate the interior of the old chapel (now Bigelow Chapel) to accommodate a crematory, and "only the outer granite structure which it was deemed desirable to retain on account of its associations was preserved."
In 1899, the interior of the old chapel was renovated to accommodate the first crematory in a cemetery in Massachusetts. (The first cremation in Massachusetts - that of the well-known suffragist and social reformer, Lucy Blackwell Stone - took place in December of 1893 at a facility operated by the Massachusetts Cremation Society.) A basement was constructed and the floor was raised. Additionally, an elevator in front of the alter area was installed for lowering caskets to the retorts below.  See historic drawing to the left above.
On April 18, 1900, Mount Auburn's first cremation was performed. During that year, Mount Auburn performed 50 cremations. President Israel M. Spelman, reported in the 1900 Annual Report, "That cremation is growing in favor seems clearly evident. It is undoubtedly not only the most speedy method of resolving the body into its elements, one hour doing the work of years, but also the safest in a sanitary point of view." 
Cremations have continued to grow in popularity and last year Mount Auburn performed 1,183 cremations. The national average cremation rate is 34%, and the Cremation Association of North America predicts that by 2015 it could be as high as 50%.
If you are interested in learning more about the history, procedure and costs of cremation, join Mount Auburn's Crematory Manager, Walter J. Morrison, Jr. on Saturday, April 17th at 1:00 PM, for the Understanding Cremation program in Bigelow Chapel. This program includes a tour of the crematory.
April 18-24 is Volunteer Appreciation week. Mount Auburn has over 50 active volunteers who dedicate their time and talent to the Greenhouse, Historical Collections, Preservation Department and Visitor Services. We couldn't get by without them! They help with everything from recording monument inscriptions to preparing holiday wreaths to leading tours to processing lot correspondence files for the archives.  
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Mount Auburn Spring
View Friends of Mount Auburn photos on Flickr.  Flickr is a free
photo hosting website - we are now sharing our photos with the world
through Flickr.

The Friends of Mount Auburn Electronic Newsletter Archives Homepage is your source for links to earlier issues of our e-newsletter that date back to January 2007.
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Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery
email: [email protected]
phone: 617-547-7105
web: http://www.mountauburn.org