Since she arrived in 2016 as the new executive director of the South End Historical Society, Lauren Prescott has immersed herself into projects that would make the organization broadly relevant to as many South-enders as possible. She is working on using social media to connect archived stories in the SEHS collection. She wants to enlarge the SEHS oral history archives. She has agreed to install a Local/Focus display in the library's Tremont Street window with historical images of the South End on a continuous loop on a flat screen.
Judging from the standing-room only crowd that came to hear her present her first book and watch the slide show, Boston's South End, a Post Card History, Prescott may have succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. All the copies of the book she brought were sold. Many people had to leave for lack of space. And numerous comments from the engaged audience made it clear that there is a large group of 'old-timers' living here whose memories and personal stories about growing up in the South End are needle sharp. "My father used to take me to the stables on Shawmut to see the horses," said one. "I got my first job at the First National Store where Foodies is now," said another. "There was a fudge room next to the library in the Franklin Square Hotel," reminisced a former occupant.
Prescott, who was born in New Bedford, MA, is a public historian who received a B.A. in History at UMass Amherst and M.A. in Public History at UMass Boston. She was introduced by one of the South End's three district councilors, Frank Baker, who told the audience that many of the postcards date from what is called “the golden age of postcards,” the period from the late 1890s into the first two decades of the 20th century. In 1905 alone seven billion postcards were mailed around the world. In 1907, the postcards’ popularity may have skyrocketed further after Congress passed an act to allow senders to use the left side of the back of postcards to write personal messages. Those were the days when, in a number of cities in the United States, there were up to seven mail deliveries a day; in New York City, nine. (In London, England, there were twelve.)
For an interview with Prescott by FOSEL board member Kim Clark, click here.