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John Putnam (c. 1817-1895) settled in Greenfield, Massachusetts, where he made a living as a barber, musician, band leader, and dance prompter. Like many other African American musicians at that time, Putnam performed at white gatherings. By 1875, he had assembled Putnam's Orchestra, which played at many of the major musical events and dances in the area. According to family stories, Putnam was active in the Underground Railroad. As a barber operating out of a shop in town, he would have had contact with numerous community members and could have used his shop as a center for making connections and passing on information. It is said that there was a tunnel leading from the basement of one of his homes to the nearby railroad tracks. Interestingly, just such a tunnel was uncovered during demolition of this house in the 1970's. No documentation is currently known definitively proving that Putnam owned or rented the house during the time the tunnel might have been in use.


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John Putnam (c.1817-1895)

photographer   Unidentified
date   1870-1880
location   Unknown
height   5.5"
width   3.75"
width   4.75"
height   6.5"
process/materials   collodion print
item type   Photograph/Photograph
accession #   #1996.29

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