The Greatest Day in Needham’s History

Reposted from Once Upon a Time in Needham.

Invented in 1850, a stereopticon was a slide projector with two lenses (also known as a magic lantern) that presenters could use to project two-dimensional images from glass slides. This image shows an 1895 Phoenix Stereopticon from the McIntosh Battery and Optical Company in Chicago. In a fun linkage between my archives work and my novel research, magic lantern presentations were often used to entertain patients in asylums of the period. (Image via Wikipedia)

Nowadays the Congregational Church of Needham saves copies of each week’s bulletin.

But that wasn’t always the case. Which is why whenever I come across a stray calendar from our first 100 years I can’t help but wonder why that particular bulletin was saved. What did the Church historian—or more likely, the Church Clerk—of the time want to record for posterity?

Consider the bulletin for the week of April 24, 1921. What prompted its inclusion in the archives?

Was it the special program featuring Stereopticon pictures and talk of France by Mr. Gordon that took place at 6 o’clock on Sunday, April 24, 1921?

Or the Church Service held by the Junior Temperance League on Monday April 25, 1921–a service that reminds us that the nation at the time was in the midst of Prohibition?

What strikes me this morning is the Song and Sermon Service on Sunday evening at which the Reverend Wheelock gave a presentation on the “Greatest Day in Needham’s History.” Wouldn’t you love to know which day he thought that was?

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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