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IN PLEASANT COMPANY

 

                    

 

Proper Exposure:

 

19th Century Somerville Through the Lens of Frederic Stone

 

    

This exciting exhibition, a collaboration between the Somerville Museum and the Somerville Public Library, brings together the extraordinary work of local businessman and photographer Frederic Walter Stone (1854-1936). Recently discovered, over a half century after his death, Frederic Stone's photographs provide a unique look at the everyday life of a Somerville family in the early 1890's. Embracing the naturalist movement in photography, popular at the turn of the century, Mr. Stone avoided the formal parlor picture and photographed his subjects at work, at play and at social gatherings. Highlights of the exhibition include rare nineteenth century images of the public and private lives of Somerville mothers, daughters, and wives, amazing rooftop and panoramic views of a rapidly changing Union Square, and a surprising look at the recreational habits of the city's early founders. The exhibition will run from September 1998 through May 1999 to commemorate the Museum's 100th anniversary.


Frederic Stone

 

Businessman, Photographer and Dedicated Bank Treasurer
Frederic Stone was a direct descendent of Thomas Rand, who settled what is now Somerville in 1760. Frederic's father, Jonathan Stone (1819-1896), established the Stone business block in Union Square and produced horse-drawn carriages behind his home. Frederic attended Prospect Hill School and was a member of the Somerville High School class of 1871. On May 31, 18810 he married Eliza Gage and together they raised four daughters in Somerville.
The history of the Stone family parallels the development of the city of Somerville. From 1880­1890, the population of Somerville doubled and many city and social institutions were founded, including the Stone business block in Union Square. Frederic's photographs capture these first critical years of Somerville's growth from small rural town to city proper.

In 1885, at a time when there was no bank in Somerville, a group of citizens, including Frederic and his father Jonathan, decided that a place should be provided where city savings could be safely and profitably deposited. On February 24, 1885, by special act of the state legislature, the Somerville Savings Bank was chartered with Frederic Stone as treasurer. He served the bank in various capacities from 1885 to his retirement in 1927, as clerk, trustee and treasurer. Neither president nor treasurer received any salary the first year of operations when the deposits crept up to $50,000, but in the second year Treasurer Stone was allowed $15 per month for his services. Upon his retirement, the Somerville Joumal stated "that the depositors have entrusted their money to the keeping of the bank largely because of their confidence in the honesty and ability of Mr. Stone."


Besides the Somerville Savings Bank, Frederic was also involved in the establishment of several other important civic institutions. He was a founding and life-long member of the Somerville Historical Society, a founding member of the First Unitarian Church, a senior trustee of the Somerville Hospital (1895-1936) and the first treasurer of the Somerville Rotary Club.

The women of the Stone Family were also actively involved in community organizing and participated in important events of Somerville's history. Frederic Stone's great, great-grandmother is said to have warned her neighbors that the British were marching toward Lexington on the morning of April 19, 1775. According to Jonathan Stone, the British fired randomly at the family's home when they returned from Lexington, glad to vent their rage for the morning's disaster. Frederic's sister Sara (Stone) Carpenter, cousin Lucy M. Stone and daughter Amy Stone were active and lifelong members of the Somerville Historical Society and the Somerville Women's Club. Quite unusual for the time, all four of Frederic's daughters attended Radcliffe College, and his daughter Ruth became a doctor in 1922.


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