Monday, November 17, 2014

Where is Bartlett Hall?

At the State Library of Massachusetts we get questions about a multitude of subjects.  They can run the gamut from legislative history questions to finding a state report.  We also get questions about the State House including where Governors’ portraits are hanging to when the State House was built.

Recently we got the following question: “Where is Bartlett Hall?”  Even though I have worked at the library for over 25 years I had not heard of it.  I found the answer in a booklet entitled Massachusetts Facts published by the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office.

Barlett Hall is a small hall between Doric Hall and Nurses Hall and it was designed in the Italian Renaissance style by Charles Brigham in 1895. The hall contains a bronze statue of Civil War hero, William Francis Bartlett, sculpted by Daniel Chester French.

Another statue of Bartlett, also by French, exists in Memorial Hall at Harvard University. After Memorial Hall was built in 1874 Bartlett gave a moving speech about reconciliation after the Civil War.

William Francis Bartlett was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1840. He was a graduate of Harvard and Civil War hero, who rose through the ranks to become a General.  He was injured several times during the war and after recuperating he would go back to fighting. He lost a leg at Yorktown in early 1862.  He died from tuberculosis on December 17th, 1876 in Pittsfield, Mass., he was 36 years old.

In addition to Barlett’s statue the Hall also houses two busts: one of Henry Cabot Lodge and the other of his grandson Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.  Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924) served as a State Representative from 1880-81.  Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (1902-1985) served as a State Representative from 1933-1936.  Both went on to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, November 10, 2014

Early Boston City Documents Relating to the Pure Water Issue

As the city of Boston continued to develop and increase in population, supplying pure water to the city “for the domestic use of the inhabitants, as well as for extinguishing fires, and for all the general purposes of comfort and cleanliness”* became a pressing issue.

Earlier attempts by private developers had been made to address the need for an enhanced public water works, including the 1795 legislative approval for “The Aqueduct Corporation” to oversee the laying of “subterranean pipes” that would route water to Boston from Jamaica Pond in Roxbury.  In 1816, a preliminary look into routing additional water from Spot Pond in Stoneham was found “inexpedient.”

It wasn’t until May of 1825 that Boston’s city government first took action on the water issue and formed a commission, which was chaired by then-Mayor Josiah Quincy, Jr.  That same year, the Water Commission was authorized to conduct a survey to collect information, and Professor Daniel Treadwell, one of its appointed members, issued the first of many investigative reports that would survey Boston’s nearby freshwater sources and estimate the feasibility and probable costs of transporting water to the city.  Some of the later reports, authored by subsequent Boston commissions and by various civil engineers, included maps, plans for proposed pipelines, and examples of other domestic and foreign public water works.  The State Library has many of these reports within its collection, as well as additional Boston city documents, communications, and citizen testimony pertaining to the water supply issue during the 19th century.

"Plan of a proposed route of pipes from Spot Pond in Stoneham to Boston," issued in the 1837 report of the city's Water Commission. Spot Pond was one of the options Boston considered in its surveys of pure water sources.

One valuable resource compiled by a member of Boston’s Water Board, titled History of the Introduction of Pure Water into the City of Boston (1868), is available online and provides an early history on the delivery of pure water into Boston.

A past exhibit by the State Library, titled “The Time of Action Has Come”: Introducing Pure Water into the City of Boston, can be viewed online, and chronicles the history of Boston’s water supply up through the 20th century.

For further information regarding Boston’s water documents, please contact the library by phone at 617-727-2590, or by email at  The library is open from 9am to 5pm Mondays through Fridays.

*Quoted from Daniel Treadwell’s 1825 report to the mayor and alderman of the city of Boston.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island: A Bird Sanctuary and a Treasured Coastal Beach Area

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a mecca for tourists, students, and of course, for residents who flock to her many famous landmarks. The state is known for her beaches and for beautiful state parks.  It is the Department of Conservation and Recreation  which oversees these areas. The State Library’s collection includes many documents from this agency.  In fact, one main focus of the library is to make materials from all state agencies available.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parks is Sandy Point Reservation on Plum Island near Newburyport because it has much to offer and it is well-traveled.

Lest tern
Some special things about this area include:  a “nesting area” for threatened birds such as the piping plover and the least tern.

In terms of swimming, one can approach the beach and the beautiful scenery through the town of Newburyport.  The drive is lovely and one passes salt and freshwater marshes and dunes. For those interested in bird watching, as mentioned above, there are several hundreds of species other than the endangered birds pictured.

A visit to Sandy Point is a special experience.  Just be careful not to go during  the “Green Head Fly” season, which usually lasts from the middle of May through the first week of July.

You can check both the tides and the bird information in the Boston Globe: (this example is from the September 30th, 2014 paper).

Recent bird sightings as reported to the Massachusetts Audubon Society:

This great state has much to offer for all who live here or visit.  Sandy Point is definitely a highlight for those wishing to visit the North Shore.

Pamela Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cold Feet

Sometimes we find surprises while we’re doing our jobs. A few weeks ago, while helping a researcher search for articles in 1854 newspapers, we found a notice that made us all laugh.

The State Library holds a set of the nineteenth-century paper called the Boston Atlas. For the edition published Wednesday morning, May 24, 1854, we found the following notice on page 2:

“A woman has sued for divorce in Indiana, on the ground that her husband’s feet were so cold it distressed her. A case of clear incompatibility of temperament and of sole.”

Did the woman from Indiana ever get her divorce? We don’t know. She may have gotten cold feet.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Monday, October 20, 2014

In Celebration of Open Access Week: Enhancing Discovery and Access to Historical Collections at the State Library

For the past two years, the Special Collections Department has been working on a project to standardize descriptions of its manuscript collections, so that more people can find them and use them for research.

The project started in early 2012 when intern Abigail Cramer joined us as an intern from the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. There were two major components of her work:
  • to locate the existing guides, or “finding aids,” to the collections, and reformat them so they conform to current standards, and then deposit those findings aids in our digital depository, DSpace
  • to update and improve the descriptions of those collections in our online catalog

The project was much more complicated than it may appear to non-archivists! Finding aids, when they existed at all, were in so many different formats (handwritten, typed, created in WordPerfect, or in MS Word) and in so many different styles that researchers couldn’t be quite sure what they were looking at. Even more important: researchers couldn’t find descriptions of the collections online, so they had to contact staff and have descriptions photocopied and mailed. Not efficient, and not conducive to research.

Old guide to Salvatore Albano Papers (Ms.Coll. 43)

Updated guide to Salvatore Albano Papers (Ms.Coll. 43)

Thanks to Abby’s hard work, that situation has changed. She not only completed work on over 140 collections, now all described in our online catalog with finding aids available with a single click, and findable through major search engines, but she also wrote out clear, comprehensive instructions for all aspects of the project, so it can be continued by Library staff and interns.

Example of an old catalog record 

Example of an updated catalog record

Results of improved accessas shown by increased use of the collectionswere immediate, and extremely gratifying to Library staff.  Improving access to our collections is why we come to work every day!

Special thanks to Abigail Cramer for the superb work she did on a very complicated project.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Head of Special Collections

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Opinions Issued By the Attorney General

An entry from Shepard's Citations for
Chapter 796 of the 1949 Acts, providing a
reference to page 29 of the 1949 Report
of the Attorney General   
Legislators, state officials, agencies, and district attorneys often require advice on the legality or constitutionality of a law or issue that has an “immediate concrete relation to the official duties of the state agency or officer requesting the opinion.”  The Attorney General is authorized to provide formal opinions and legal advice on such matters if the request falls within the scope of the AG’s requirements, and these opinions are published in the AG’s annual reports (also known as Public Document 12).  For current information on the types of requests to which the AG will and will not respond, you can visit the office’s opinions overview page.  However, it is important to know that, as of right now, the last formal opinion issued by the AG was on October 11th, 2001.

State and federal legislation, as well as case law, are almost always referenced in the opinions depending on the subject.  Often pieces of legislation are the main subject about which the AG opines, and there are a few ways to see if the legislation you are researching was once submitted for review. One way is by using Shepard’s Citations and/or Westlaw’s KeyCite, which provide citations to relevant opinions (ex. 1949MaAG29).  The editors of the annotated editions of the Massachusetts General Laws also provide citations, but are selective as to which they include.

A helpful hint when researching: prior to 1968, opinions were not numbered individually.  Any citations to opinions that were issued before 1968 will refer to the page number of the report; later citations refer to the assigned opinion number.

Researchers should also keep in mind that the Massachusetts fiscal year begins on July 1st and ends on the following June 30th.

Want to access a report but can’t visit the State Library?  The library maintains a digital collection of reports of the Attorney General in our DSpace electronic documents repository, starting from 1832 up to the most current issue.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Astronomical Almanac

The Astronomical Almanac is a publication of both the United States and Britain. Its publishing history is as follow: in 1766, the British published Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris. It was renamed: The Astronomical Ephemeris in 1960.  In 1852, America published The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. In 1981 both were combined and the title became:  The Astronomical Almanac.

In the United States the Almanac is published by the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) and in Britain by Her Majesty’s Nautical Almanac Office, United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (HMNAO). It is printed only in the United States and uses reproducible materials from both offices. Data is received from scientists all over the world, and it is considered to be a worldwide resource for astronomical information.

There are 12 sections, including:  a glossary, notes and references, observatories, natural satellites, the sun, the moon and the planets.

There is an online version which does not duplicate the data in the printed volume. Among other data, maps have been added to this version. The yearly Almanac is available for purchase from the Government Printing Office (GPO).

The State Library has the 2015 edition of the Almanac in print (call # D213.8: 2015).  It is available by requesting it from the Reference Desk in room 341 of the State Library. The online version can be accessed at any one of the 8 public access computers available in rooms 341 or 442.

The State Library is open to the public Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

Bette L. Siegel
Documents Librarian