Monday, August 22, 2016

Happy Statehood Anniversary, Hawaii!

Official seal of the State of Hawaii 

August 21, 2016 marks the 57th anniversary of Hawaiian statehood.  What does this have to do with Massachusetts, you may ask?!  Missionaries who graduated from the Andover Theological Seminary (established in 1807 on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts) played a pivotal role in the story of the “Americanization” of Hawaii that ultimately led to the establishment of our 50th state in 1959. Hiram and Sibyl Bingham and Asa and Lucy Thurston were the first company of New England missionaries to lead a mission to the then Sandwich Islands, as we call now the Hawaiian Islands, for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (which was also founded in 1810 in Massachusetts by recent graduates of Williams College).

Hawaiian Bible

The missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820 and were the first to devise a written Hawaiian alphabet from what was until then only a spoken language. They translated the Bible into Hawaiian and taught the native Hawaiians how to read and write their spoken language. In 1841 a copy of one of the first translations of this Hawaiian Bible was presented to the General Court by the members of The Board (as detailed in 1841 Senate Bill 47) and placed in the keeping of the State Library, where this treasure still resides today. As a result of these very early Massachusetts missionary ties with Hawaii, the State Library’s collections on Hawaii and the history of the Hawaiian Islands are particularly rich and varied.

Some notable items include:

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Loyal Nine, a secret precursor to the Sons of Liberty

Boston’s rough and rowdy reputation goes back farther than the establishment of local sports teams and rivalries. In colonial New England, the anti-Catholic “Pope’s Day,” stemming from the tradition of Guy Fawkes Day in England, was widely celebrated by building large carriages with effigies of popes, bishops, and devils and parading these figures toward a great bonfire, where they would be burned. In Boston, however, the celebration became a bloody competition between gangs from the South End and North End. Each gang would attempt to possess the other’s carriages, resulting in “a ferocious battle” where “people were killed and maimed for life” (Paul Revere & the World He lived in). When England began enforcing stricter taxes on its American colonies in the mid-1700’s, Samuel Adams and his political contemporaries believed that they could harness the North End and South End gangs to further their political agendas.

Via Wikipedia Commons
In reaction to the Stamp Act, a group of nine middle-class artisans and shopkeepers joined together in a secret political group which referred to itself as the “Loyal Nine.”  These men were listed by John Adams as braziers John Smith and Thomas Chase, painter Thomas Crafts, printer Benjamin Edes, distiller Joseph Field, naval officer Henry Bass, and jeweler George Trott. While none of the members were high-profile political figures in Boston, they recognized the threat that the Stamp Act would have on their businesses and crafts. Samuel Adams was not listed as among their ranks but appears to have worked closely with these men to subvert the economic intentions of Great Britain.

Preferring to avoid publicity, the secret group enlisted the help of Ebenezer MacKintosh, the leader of the South End gang that had brutally defeated the North End gang in the last Pope’s Day Riots. On August 14, 1765, MacIntosh orchestrated the hanging of two effigies on the Liberty Tree: one, an effigy of Andrew Oliver, the official responsible for implementing the Stamp Act in Massachusetts, and the other a boot effigy containing a devil figure, a reference to the Earl of Bute who was mistakenly thought to be the architect of the act in England.  A crowd surrounded the tree and effigies and would not allow “peace officers” nor the local sheriff’s forces to cut them down. Eventually, the crowd removed the figures themselves and carried them toward Oliver’s home, where they beheaded and burned the effigy. MacKintosh further incited the mob into ransacking Oliver’s home and forcing Andrew Oliver to flee to Castle William, violence that may not have been part of the original plan. Days later on the 26th of August, MacKintosh also lead a mob which destroyed Governor Hutchison’s North End mansion.

Henry Bass, a member of the Loyal Nine, wrote in a letter to Samuel Savage that “we do every thing in order to keep this & the first Affair Private: and are not a little pleas’d to head that McIntosh has the Credit of the whole Affair… we Endeavour to keep up the Spirit which I think is as great as ever” ("A Note on Ebenezer MacKintosh"). Perhaps because their support of violent action against those supporting the Stamp Act, John Adams seems surprised that the night he spent with the Loyal Nine was unmarred by conflict or drama. Adams reported that he was “very civilly and respectfully treated by all present” and that he “heard nothing but such conservation as passes at all clubs, among gentlemen, about the times. No plots, no machinations. They chose a committee to make preparations for grand rejoicings upon the arrival of the news of a repeal of the Stamp Act, and I heard afterwards they are to have such illuminations, bonfires, pyramids, obelisks, such grand exhibitions and such fireworks as were never before seen in America. I wish they may not be disappointed” (The Works  of John Adams)

After the repeal of the Stamp Act, the Loyal Nine all became active members of the more public Sons of Liberty.  MacKintosh continued to be a persuasive leader for the Boston mobs during the revolutionary period and, along with four members of the Loyal Nine, was recorded as participants in the Boston Tea Party protest years later in 1773.

Further reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, August 8, 2016

MBTA Congestion Relief: The Recommendations from WWII Are Staggering

     Those of us who commute to Boston on the T know that the rush hour trains tend to experience heavy ridership. The T has been a popular way to travel to and from the city for decades, dating all the way back to the days before the MBTA, when the trains in Boston were operated by the Boston Elevated Railway Company, or the Boston El. During World War II, the Boston El recommended an innovative way to relieve rush hour congestion on its trains: staggered working hours.

Because of the wartime rationing of materials such as gasoline, tires, and metal, the Boston El, along with the Boston Traffic Commission, the Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the Retail Trade Board, recommended to the City of Boston War Transportation Conservation Committee that certain workers in Boston change their working hours in order to relieve congestion on the limited number of trains in operation. One of the items in the State Library’s collection is a Boston El brochure from this time period, which explains how the staggered working hours would be implemented, starting October 1, 1942.

According to the brochure, the groups cooperating in this method of congestion relief included state employees, City of Boston employees, and employees of Boston retail stores and insurance firms. Each of these groups would start and end work either 15 minutes to 1 hour earlier or 15 to 30 minutes later than before. Also noted in the brochure were students in the five high schools in Boston proper, who would continue their 10 a.m. opening hour that had been adopted on March 2, 1942.

To view this brochure and other materials relating to the Boston El, come visit us at the State Library M-F 9am-5pm. Can’t make it to the State House? Many of our holdings are freely available online in our repository of state publications, including a number of publications from the MBTA:

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 1, 2016

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mount Greylock State Reservation and State Parks in Massachusetts

Image of Mt. Greylock and an inset of Francis W. Rockwell, one of the
first Commissioners of the Mount Greylock State Reservation. From
The Glory of Greylock, by Francis W. Rockwell, 1921.

The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. National Park Service and the month of July is National Parks and Recreation month. It seems only right, therefore, to highlight the state and national parks here in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts State Forests and Parks Service was founded in 1898 as an effort by the Greylock Park Association to protect Mount Greylock, the state’s tallest peak. The association had been established as an effort to save the mountain from the logging and charcoal-making industries that deforested and cut roads into the slopes, but the cost of protecting and maintaining the Association’s land holdings on the mountain soon outweighed the little revenue raised by tolls and admission fees. Several environmental organizations such as the Massachusetts Forest Association, the Trustees of Reservations, and the Appalachian Mountain Club assisted the Greylock Park Association by lobbying the Massachusetts Legislature to purchase Mount Greylock and dedicate it as a State Reservation. This law, Chapter 543 of the Acts and Resolves of 1898, also provided funds for operating expenses and for purchasing more land.

1917 Trail Map for Greylock State Reservation.
From Guide to the Greylock State Reservation (1917)

Further efforts at land conservation in Massachusetts were primarily concerned with fighting reforestation, ensuring water conservation, and restoring wildlife rather than recreational activities such as hiking or camping. Public use of the land increased through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal work relief program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which built many of the roads and recreational facilities in the state forests and parks of Massachusetts.

Today, the Division of MassParks, part of the Department for Conservation and Recreation (DCR), maintains almost 300,000 acres of land, including forests, beaches, mountains, trails, and parks throughout Massachusetts. Promoting the parks and recreational facilities is one of DCR’s primary goals, and their website provides a wealth of information and tools for park enthusiasts. Trail maps are easily attainable for many of the parks as downloadable PDFs and MassParks has created a recreational activity search engine to connect you with events and activities going on throughout the state. You can even download the MassParks Adventure Guide app, available via the Apple App Store or Google Play, to add more to your state park and recreational experience. Celebrate National Parks and Recreation month this July by checking out some state parks near you!  

Alexandra Bernson

Monday, July 18, 2016

Massachusetts Citizens’ Right to Free Petition

Massachusetts is the only state in the country that gives its citizens the right to file bills directly in its state legislature.  This right of free petition is first mentioned as the 12th liberty in the Massachusetts Body of Liberties (1641), which was intended for use as guidance for the General Court at the time:
Every man whether Inhabitant or fforreiner, free or not free shall have libertie to come to any publique Court, Councel, or Towne meeting, and either by speech or writeing to move any lawfull, seasonable, and materiall question, or to present any necessary motion, complaint, petition, Bill or information, whereof that meeting hath proper cognizance, so it be done in convenient time, due order, and respective manner.
This right can also be found in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, which is also the oldest constitution in the world that is still currently in use.  Article XIX of Part the First, which is one of 30 articles that makes up the “Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” states:
The people have a right, in an orderly and peaceable manner, to assemble to consult upon the common good; give instructions to their representatives, and to request of the legislative body, by the way of addresses, petitions, or remonstrances, redress of the wrongs done them, and of the grievances they suffer.
Now that you, the Massachusetts citizen, know your right to petition—where do you begin?  It’s important to first take a look at some introductory resources that will help you understand general procedures as well tips on how to draft a potentially successful piece of legislation:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Dangers of “Moving Pictures”

Mellen as Representative
in 1888
In 1910 Representative James Henry Mellen of Worcester, who served for many years until his death that same year, submitted a petition (House No. 433) to the Massachusetts legislature to consider an investigation into the “great moral, mental and physical danger” of moving pictures.  His many concerns include:

  • Greed of the motion picture industry;
  • Coarse language and slang heard in theatres, especially in the presence of women and children who have “never frequented theatres before;” 
  • The “havoc” that “jerky flickering films” are causing on people’s eyes, young and old;
  • Objectionable pictures being shown, especially those from Paris “where the morals are low,” which could physically affect women “in a delicate condition” and influence gangs of “desperadoes” by desensitizing the population to crime;
  • The negative influence “pictures of vice” have on young girls, making them more susceptible to victimization;
  • Children idolizing film characters as “real heroes in life;”
  • The lack of fire protection in many small theatres.

Text of 1910 HB433

It doesn’t appear that anything came of the investigation, if there was one, as no report could be found within the legislative documents.  Many of Mellen’s arguments seem amusing now (especially his fixation on the Parisians) since motion pictures have become a regular part of everyday life and censorship is overall much more lax.  However, technological developments in more recent history, such as television, video games, the internet, mobile devices, have been met with similar concerns.

The library continues to upload its collection of legislative documents online, which are a valuable source of historical sentiments and developing attitudes surrounding various topics that were of both great and minor importance to Massachusetts citizens.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department