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A couple of my favorite photographs from the Historic New England Library and Archives collections are of the 1925 Boston College football team. The photographs are by Boston photographer Leslie Jones, taken at the first practice of the 1925 season, in front of Gasson Hall. I first saw the images hanging in a sports exhibit outside the Library and Archives; they are a personal favorite because they tie together so much of what the archival collections at Historic New England mean to me.
My grandfather, Edward Thomas Donahue, is smack in the center of these photographs. He played both Right Guard and First Base for the Boston College Eagles in the late 1920s; he went on to play semiprofessional football and had a long career as a teacher, multi-sport coach, and athletic director in Peabody, Massachusetts.
Growing up, I was often known as “Coach Ed’s granddaughter,” which was a point of pride as an accomplished athlete myself. Everything I learned about sports, I learned from him; I could read the Red Sox box scores before I could read a book. My grandfather went to college on football scholarship – he would not have had the means to go otherwise. His collegiate experience opened the doors to new opportunities for his daughters and, by extension, me.
The reason these photographs resonate for me, beyond the obvious connection, is that they are an example of the varied ways people find and use the Library and Archives collections. The images certainly represent family history, but also: sports, fashion, college, architecture, and photographic history. Leslie Jones was a well-known photographer for the Boston Herald-Traveler newspaper, where he worked for almost forty years. During that time, he photographed news events, celebrities, and the everyday lives of New Englanders.
While, as an archivist, it is a pleasure to have a small, inadvertent connection to the collection, my favorite thing is seeing all the ways this photograph fits into Historic New England’s mission to save and share New England’s past to engage present and future generations.
Discover your favorite thing in Historic New England’s rich collection of archival material.