Offering an assemblage of 19 letters from MARGARET MORELAND (later Stathos) 1925-2021, a gifted pianist who performed for the likes of Prince Rainer of Monaco at his palace and throughout Europe and the United States. Moreland also performed with the Boston Pops and the Esplanade Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler. Moreland was a noted animal rights activist and an author.
The letters, entirely in Moreland’s hand, approximately 35 pp, various sizes, are written from Boston to her boyfriend, James V. Wyman while he was in World War II. Wyman would later become executive editor of The Providence [Rhode Island] Journal and lead the paper to win a 1994 Pulitzer Prize for uncovering widespread corruption in the Rhode Island court system. Most of Moreland’s letters were written in 1945. Moreland manages to create an interesting narrative, taking the reader back in time as she describes the home front experience during the war, even describing what was likely America’s celebration of war’s end when General Patton made an appearance in Boston. Moreland said he “rode down Commonwealth Avenue and then had dinner at The Copley Plaza. He got a tremendous ovation.” Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces on May 7, 1945. Actual fighting was somewhat delayed after the surrender of Germany.
Speaking of the city’s feelings toward achieving peace, she wrote, “We are anxiously listening to the radio every hour and the news is so good so far as the fighting goes but the peace planning seems so frustrated – The Conference at San Francisco isn’t far away now and everyone is anxiously awaiting it. Even the cooks! So, I’ve been reading a quote from Time, “Peace in our time can well depend on whether we soothe or insult the gastronomic tastes of our guests...Maybe Adolph’s gastronomic taste was insulted long ago...”
Moreland’s topics range from the war to her musical career to controversial events in Boston, such as Mayor Michael Curley getting elected, then going on trial for fraud and ultimately going to prison. “...From what I gather he is trying to go through the ceremony of officially being mayor (you know what I mean, before his trial for fraud or something)...” Curley was sentenced to federal prison for mail fraud. Then President Harry Truman commuted his sentence after only five months due to Curley’s poor health.
In one letter, she calls Wyman “my devoted Stafford fan,” referring to his fondness for Jo Stafford, a traditional pop singer from the late 1930s to the early 1980s. Stafford was admired for the purity of her voice and underwent classical training to become an opera singer. Moreland writes, “...I drooled with glee at your affirmation of her superb ability. Did I mention that she’s singing at ‘La Martinique’ (a New York City club) these days...She’s (her records) terribly hard to get around town these days, though I’ve tried three music companies and they haven’t been able to sell me one of her records...Will keep you informed about her latest recordings...so we can look forward to an ecstatic evening with her voice one of these days...”
In a letter dated March 31, 1941, Moreland references 13 firefighters who were killed in a fire. “We had the following Wednesday off. The stores, offices, etc. were closed in their memory. So far, there is $17,520 in the firemen’s relief fund.” The fire occurred at the Strand Theater on March 10, 1941, in nearby Brockton, MA, when the roof collapsed resulting in the deadliest firefighter disaster in Massachusetts history.
In February 1945, Moreland writes, in great detail about the snow blizzard that immobilized traffic and caused significant destruction in Boston. “You have no idea of the New England winter you’re missing this year! Almost said ‘missed’ but it’s far from over. Thursday morning, I trotted out to the back door to fetch my milk for my morning coffee. As soon as I opened the back door a gust almost carried me back to my front door...Brother! It was snowing. I worked till 10...had another cup of coffee and got buried under a pile of woolen petticoats, rubber boots, cable knit socks, plaid muffler and then bravely paced the storm and started for school. It whirled and whistled and screeched all day. At five it was getting nasty. The wind had started to howl and it blew me into mud puddles all the way to the subway. One of my friends was staying with me. After her rehearsal with late opera class and when I left school, I gave her directions as to how to reach the apartment. There was plenty of work for me to do that Night...I began to wish Connie would come home. Eleven o’clock and no Connie. Finally, at 11:15 the door knob turned and it wobbled this creature white from head to foot (with the exception of two very pink cheeks and knees). Connie told me to look outside. I opened the venetian blinds. All I could see was white. The snow had already risen above my window. I went up one more flight and took another look. I couldn’t find any stairs, any sidewalk, road, any first-floor windows, any autos (only mounds). It was a fantastic white sight! Connie had walked home from school because the subway had an accident and wasn’t running. Neither were the streetcars or Taxis. Friday morning, we read about 17 inches had fallen in Boston. We also read of millions in lost property and time...At night as I lay in bed I could still hear the faint scratch and scrape of the shovels and the grinding struggles of the motors in the automobiles...”
MORELAND’s father was a cotton classer who owned Bay Colony Textiles.
She developed a love of nature, animals and music early on. She was awarded the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst Fellowship from the West German government in 1957. The grant enabled her to continue her piano studies in Berlin and Munich and partake in master classes with Edwin Fischer and Bruce Hungerford. Moreland was hired as a substitute-pianist for George Balanchine, his dancers and a group of singers two days before their performance in Germany. Sadly, the singers lost their voices from last minute rehearsing and were booed off the stage. In 1999, she was commissioned to write six biographies of American musicians and instrument makers, including the Steinways, for the American National Biography.
Moreland was an avid animal activist and one of the early members of the Animal Welfare Institute. In the 1990s, she served on the Board of Directors of the New England Antivivisection Society and wrote extensively on animal protection. She wrote letters to legislators endlessly, picketed and attended protests to help those without a voice. Columbia University recorded an oral history of her life of music and animal advocacy in 2000, which can be found in their oral archives.
Moreland continued to perform until age 92.
Most of the letters come with their original covers, some from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Soiling and wear to the covers. Letters are in excellent condition. Two photographs, believed to be of Moreland are included, though we have not been able to confirm that these are of Moreland.
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