"Mr. Loring's play"

Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Ayer's house in Prides Crossing, 1906.

My cousin Neil recently shared some family albums with me: the oldest one belonged to his grandfather, Frederick Ayer (Jr.) (1888–1969), who kept it in 1905 and 1906. Over time, the images and the captions have faded, and the book’s middle section is held together with ancient cellophane tape, but Uncle Fred obviously cared about the record he was keeping. One of the most puzzling, and therefore interesting, images fills almost an entire leaf of the album; the identifying captions are squeezed out to the page edge: D. Sohier, D. Beal, F. Ayer Jr., etc.

, F. Prince, P. Gardner, J. Blair, S. Eliot, C. E. Cotting, H. Thomas, M. Eliot, M. Loring, B. Lee, M. De Ford, L. Bradley, R. Anthony, R. Bradley, G. Prince, M. Hooper, E. Fitz, F__ T__, R__ R__
I despaired of identifying where or when the photo was taken until I had scanned it: enlarging the image and the names listed, I was also able to read the explanatory text trailing off below the photo: “Mr. Loring’s play, ‘Alladin,’ August 1905.” This was a very large hint, along with some of the other names I could now read, since the Sohiers and Lorings appear in the 2011 Lowell genealogy [1]; furthermore, the photo was taken soon after the Ayers moved out to the Prides Crossing section of Beverly, Massachusetts, where the Lorings were their neighbors.

A little more research indicates that the Loring play's performers came from Manchester, Beverly Farms, Prides Crossing, and Beverly Cove, all summer resorts on Boston's North Shore. Although stories abound of Bostonians of the period taking time to warm to newcomers, it's apparent that Uncle Fred’s contemporaries (and their parents) were quick to embrace him, even during his first summer in Prides Crossing (so-called for its train station). Given the prevalence of romances at summer resorts, it is interesting to see that, so far as I can tell, none of the young people in this photo grew up to marry one another; a generation later, Uncle Fred's niece Rosemary Merrill would marry the grandson of the play's producer, Augustus Peabody Loring (1856–1938), and many other such unions may be listed for descendants of the young people who appeared in "Mr. Loring's play."

I have not been able to identify them all, but here are some initial notes on the cast:[2]

Back row, standing, from left: William Davies Sohier (1889–1969); William De Ford Beal (1888–); Frederick Ayer (1888–1969); M. Lee; Margaret Thomas (1889–1981), who married William Tudor Gardiner, Governor of Maine 1929–33; M. Robinson; Morton Peabody Prince (1889–); Caleb Loring (1888–1954); Charles Minot Amory (1889–); Morton Prince’s cousin Frederick (1885–1962); the great Harvard athlete George Peabody “Peabo” Gardner (1888–1976); J. Blair; S. Eliot; and Charles Edward Cotting (1889–1985).

Middle row, seated, from left: Margaret Thomas’ sister Helen, who married Samuel Dennis Warren; M. Eliot; M. Loring; B. Lee; M. De Ford; Leslie Bradley (1890–1971), who married Roger Wilson Cutler[3]; and Ruth Anthony, who married Lyon Weyburn.

Front row, seated, from left: Leslie Bradley’s sister Rosamond (1888–1969), who married Charles Auguste Rheault; Morton Prince’s cousin Gordon (1888–1983); M. Hooper; Edith Fitz; and two I could not identify (F__ T__ and R__ R__).


[1] Scott C. Steward and Christopher C. Child, The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2011).

[2] Another clue: Several of the men in the photo were members of the Classes of 1910 or 1911 at Harvard. See Boston Social Register 1906 (1905), Summer Social Register 1906, Boston Social Register 1908 (1907), and Who's Who along the North Shore ... for the summer of 1911.

[3] The Cutlers’ granddaughter married my uncle.

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward