Show Notes – The Poorhouses of Mass. with Heli Meltsner

Heli Meltsner author of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts on Fieldstone Common

Heli Meltsner author of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts

Following are some items that were mentioned during the 15 November 2012 Fieldstone Common interview with Heli Meltsner, author of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts.

The podcast of the interview is now available.

A Special Chance to  Win

Books were not given out during the live airing of the interview. Fieldstone Common, however, is giving out 2 copies of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts in a pre-Thanksgiving giveaway on the blog. See this post for all the details. You have between now and Wednesday, Nov. 21st at 6pm EST to enter the giveaway.

Heli Meltsner is a board member and curator with the Cambridge Historical Society.  Feel free to contact Heli through the society. The Cambridge Historical Society is a very active dynamic group. They have a Facebook page that is updated nearly daily. During the interview Heli mentioned that the society is working on a book about the Cambridge Historical Commission’s 50 years of service to the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. We will look forward to seeing that published in November 2013.

The Poorhouses of Massachusetts was published by McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers and copies are available for sale through and other booksellers.
Some of the concepts of poor law (ie settlement law) that were discussed in the interview include:

  • Warning outs
  • Towns suing other towns for support
  • Indentured servitude for both children and adults
  • Vendue – selling the poor to the lowest bidder

In Massachusetts many records about the poor can be found at the town level in town record books or in town reports. For states outside of New England you should probably check county-level records.

To receive your free Thanksgiving Gift from Houstory, follow this link and add the registration number to your cart. At checkout, simply type in “TURKEYDAYGIFT” in the coupon code box. Your permanent registration code will be emailed to you. The special offer for a FREE Heirloom Registry runs now through Thanksgiving Day. More details are available here.

Fieldstone listeners can also take 15 percent off the purchase of your entire order, including registry stickers and brass plates — which make attaching a registration number to your heirlooms even easier — by using the coupon code “FIELDSTONE.”

McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, the publisher of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts, donated two copies of the book that are being given as a “door prizes”. See this post for how you can win one of the books (ends Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012) . A big thank you to McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers for  their generosity!

Copyright 2012-2013 Marian Pierre-Louis

The Big Giveaway!

Fieldstone Common has two copies of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts to give away to its listeners!

The Poorhouses of Massachusetts by Heli Meltsner is published by McFarland & Company Inc, Publishers.

The book retails for $55!!
This 235 page book includes four appendices, end notes, a bibliography and an index. It has lots of black and white photos. It also has a large section on extant Massachusetts poorhouses and their history. It also includes an overview history of poor laws in Massachusetts.
Enter the Giveaway
In order to win, go to the Fieldstone Common page on Facebook and hit “like.” Then leave a comment describing which has been your favorite Fieldstone Common episode and why. The two most convincing/genuine answers will win the books.

If you haven’t listened to Fieldstone Common yet start now! You have plenty of time between now and Wednesday!

If you don’t have a Facebook account then send your comment to
Enter anytime between now and Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6pm EST.  The winners will be announced on the blog that evening.
Photo by shimelle and used under the creative commons license.
Copyright 2012-2013 Marian Pierre-Louis

The Poorhouses of Mass. with Heli Meltsner Now a Podcast

by Derrickkwa

The most recent episode of Fieldstone Common featuring author Heli Meltsner speaking about her book The Poorhouses of Massachusetts is now available as a podcast.

The podcast can be played through the computer using your default media player (click play below) or downloaded to iTunes (also below).

Listen to internet radio with Fieldstone Common on Blog Talk Radio
Copyright 2012-2013 Marian Pierre-Louis

The Poorhouses of Massachusetts with Heli Meltsner

LIVE: THURSDAY, 15 November 2012 at 1:00pm EST

Listen in to Fieldstone Common this week as host Marian Pierre-Louis talks to Heli Meltsner, author of The Poorhouses of Massachusetts.

Ever since the English settled in America, extreme poverty and the inability of individuals to support themselves and their families have been persistent problems. In the early nineteenth century, many communities established almshouses, or “poorhouses,” in a valiant but ultimately failed attempt to assist the destitute, including the sick, elderly, unemployed, mentally ill and orphaned, as well as unwed mothers, petty criminals and alcoholics.

This work details the rise and decline of poorhouses in Massachusetts, painting a portrait of life inside these institutions and revealing a history of constant political and social turmoil over issues that dominate the conversation about welfare recipients even today. The first study to address the role of architecture in shaping as well as reflecting the treatment of paupers, it also provides photographs and histories of dozens of former poorhouses across the state, many of which still stand.

Heli Meltsner, the curator of the Cambridge Historical Society, has been a town planner and a preservation consultant, undertaking numerous nominations to the National Register of Historic Places and historic resource inventories for municipalities and state agencies. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Copyright 2012-2013 Marian Pierre-Louis

Upcoming in November on Fieldstone Common Radio

Be sure to mark your calendar. We’ll be giving away some great books during the live broadcasts of Fieldstone Common.

1 Nov 2012 at 1pm EST
When America First Met China by Eric Jay Dolin on Fieldstone Common

When America First Met China with Eric Jay Dolin. As a brand new country the United States set out right away to establish itself as a commercial power. Eric Jay Dolin talks about the early roots of the China trade and the historical balance of power between these two nations.

8 Nov 2012 at 1pm EST
Mahogany by Prof. Jennifer L. Anderson on Fieldstone Common

Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America with Prof. Jennifer L. Anderson. In the mid-eighteenth century, colonial Americans became enamored with the rich colors and silky surface of mahogany. Mahogany traces the path of this wood through many hands, from source to sale: from the enslaved African woodcutters, to the ship captains, merchants, and timber dealers.

15 Nov 2012 at 1pm EST
The Poorhouses of Massachusetts by Heli Meltsner on Fieldstone Common
The Poorhouses of Massachusetts with Heli Meltsner.  A Study on the development of the poorhouses, the life within their walls and their architecture. Learn how Massachusetts dealt with its poor, homeless and mentally ill before the inception of Social Security and current welfare programs.
22 Nov 2012 at 1pm EST
Plimoth Plantation Culinarian Kathleen Wall on Fieldstone Common
An Original Thanksgiving with Plimouth Plantation Culinarian, Kathleen Wall. What was the original Thanksgiving like and how does it compare with how we celebrate today? Learn about colonial food in this very special Thanksgiving episode.
29 Nov 2012 at 1pm EST
Professor Ken Lockridge on Fieldstone Common

A New England Town with Prof. Ken Lockridge . Ken Lockridge wrote A New England Town in 1970 and it went on to become a significant contribution to the field of history and our understanding of the development of New England. Come hear how the field of history has changed since that time.
Copyright 2012-2013 Marian Pierre-Louis