The Photographic Record of the Delano Triplets

Delano Triplets, 1868 Photographer: Baxter & Adams, Chelsea, MA

Delano Triplets, 1868
Photographer: Baxter & Adams, Chelsea, MA

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

The survival rate of triplets in the mid-19th century was not high – neither for mother nor children. A home-birth with the assistance of the local doctor was dicey at best. Medicine of the day was also woefully inadequate to assist these undersized or premature babies once they were born.  So, it is surprising that Catherine Drew Delano (1833-1919) was able to produce three healthy babies on a cold winter’s day in January, 1868.  The children – two girls and a boy – were Caroline S. Delano (1868-1955), Grace T. Delano (1868-1935) and Benjamin Franklin Delano (1868-1920).  What makes their coming into the world even more special, are the four photographs that follow them from infancy to their teenage years. A remarkable record of their early life.

The triplets were born in Chelsea, MA but they are from Duxbury stock and spent much of their lives here.  Their father, Winslow T. Delano, was the son of Capt. Samuel Delano and the nephew of Capt. Amasa Delano. After a short stint following the California Gold Rush, Winslow returned east and entered is brother’s shipbuilding firm on Lincoln’s Wharf in Boston – B. F. Delano & Co. In 1855 he married Catherine D. Winslow of Duxbury.  Two sets of twins came in quick succession – Fanny and Emily in 1857 and George and Arthur in 1859. In each of these cases, a twin sadly died within three months. When the triplets arrived, therefore, they were greeted not only by their grateful parents, but also only two older siblings.  But, in a cruel twist of fate, while the triplets thrived, it was their father who did not live past three months of their birth. On April 23, 1868 Winslow died of “softening of the brain.”  This diagnosis could indicate a variety of causes, but it was most likely a cerebral hemorrhage. He was only 47 years old.  Catherine was now the widowed mother of five young children.

Delano Triplets, c. 1870 Photographer: M. Chandler [Marshfield, MA]

Delano Triplets, c. 1870
Photographer: M. Chandler [Marshfield, MA]

The 1870 census shows the family having left Chelsea and living on St. George Street in Duxbury next to the home of Catherine’s parents – George Winslow and Hannah Drew Winslow. This move ensured that Catherine had the help of not only her mother and younger sister, Georgianna Winslow, but also of a number of aunts, cousins and friends.  By 1880, however, the family had moved back to Boston and was living at 81 St. Botoloph Street. They divided their time between the city and the seaside, maintaining ownership of their St. George Street property throughout their lives.  The Delanos were active in Duxbury’s civic and social affairs of the day – Caroline S. Delano, also called “Carrie,” was one of the founding members of the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society.  Grace and Carrie never married and it does not appear that their brother did either – all are buried in their family’s plot in Duxbury’s Mayflower Cemetery.

Delano Triplets, c. 1888 Photographer: Notman, Boston, MA

Delano Triplets: Carrie, Frank & Grace, c. 1888
Photographer: Notman, Boston, MA

Delano Triplets, c. 1874 Photographer: Unknown

Delano Triplets, c. 1874
Photographer: Unknown

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How Myles Standish Lost His Head

Sculptor John Horrigan with Myles Standish's head, 1930.

The Duxbury Rural & Historical Society recently acquired this photograph of sculptor John Horrigan with Myles Standish’s head, 1930.

Carolyn Ravenscroft, Archivist

Myles Standish was known to have a hot temper but it was not until 1922[1] that he truly lost his head.  Shortly after noon on a sultry August day an electrical storm caused lightning to strike the 116-foot monument dedicated to the former military leader of the Pilgrims. The bolt from the sky caused Myles’ head and arm to topple to the ground.

There was no great push to replace his missing granite anatomy so Myles stood headless over Duxbury for four long years.  In 1926, a new head was created by Boston sculptor John Horrigan[2].  Unfortunately the old lightening damaged legs could not support their new addition so back to the quarry it went, along with an order for stronger lower limbs.[3]  Finally, in 1930, an almost completely remade Myles Standish was placed back atop his perch (his outstretched arm and possibly torso are the only remaining parts of the original statue).

While the damage to its statue was catastrophic, the beheading of Myles Standish was only one in a series of misfortunes suffered by the Monument – and some would say it continues to suffer.  The Monument was conceived not by a Duxbury resident but rather by J. Henry Stickney of Baltimore, an admirer of Capt. Standish.  The land atop Captain’s Hill, formerly owned by Standish, was deemed the most appropriate spot to place a memorial. Architect Alden Frink’s design called for a 100′ monument topped with a 14′ statue (with two feet between the parapet and the statue, making it 116′ total). Garnering support and enough money to begin the project, the cornerstone was laid on October 7, 1872, with much fanfare and even Masonic ceremonies, in front of 10,000 onlookers.  But, after an expenditure of $27,000 the monument was still only 72 feet high.  Interest and money waned and it stood half complete until a second wave of donors saw the monument finished in 1898.  When you look at the two shades of granite, you can tell exactly where construction originally halted.

Standish Monument, c. 1900

Standish Monument, c. 1900

By 1920 the Monument and statue were in disrepair.  Dr. Horton, the President of the Standish Monument Association, sought $10,000 from the State for repairs and landscaping.  According to Thomas Weston’s autobiography, the State could offer no assistance unless it acquired the monument.  After persuading the Association deed the land over, a bill was signed by Gov. Calvin Coolidge, allowing for Massachusetts to become its owner and caretaker. [4]  Thus, when Myles lost his head, the State got the bill.

Today the State still gets the bill, but with so many other pressing responsibilities, the upkeep and opening of the Myles Standish Monument has become a bit overlooked.  Despite this, however,  Myles, with his reconstructed head and body, still stands tall.


[1] “Bolt Beheads Myles Standish Statue on Duxbury Shore,” Boston Sunday Globe, August 27, 1922.  This date has been misreported over the years as 1903, 1920 and 1924.  However the actual storm hit on August 26, 1922, two years after the State of Massachusetts took control of the monument from the town.

[2] S. J. Kelly of Boston designed the original statue.  It was sculpted by Stephano Brignoli and Luigi Limonetta of Bayeno, Italy using granite from Maine.  The Monument was designed by architect Alden Frink.

[3] The lower legs were left at Horrigan Granite Co. in Quincy and later ended up in Halifax.

[4] Excerpt from the autobiography of Thomas Weston in Don H. Ross, “The Mystery of Captain Myles Standish’s Legs”, 2001, p. 12.