Monday, February 13, 2017

The Presidential Popular Vote—More Controversy or Soon to be a Reality?


President’s Day 2017 is upon us—or as the federal government still officially calls it, Washington’s Birthday, even though it now falls on the third Monday in February. It was moved there by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1971 and because of this quirk, will never again be celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday--February 22.  By calling it President’s Day, Presidents’ Day, or by its third option, just Presidents Day (with no apostrophe)—some states (interestingly, NOT Massachusetts, which also opts for “Washington’s Birthday”) and the mainstream media must debate the question raised: which president(s) is/are being honored (just Washington and Lincoln or ALL Presidents past and present?), is it just the OFFICE of President of the United States being honored, OR is it just a name for a marketing tool to sell new cars?

This unresolved minor debate aside, Presidents Day sales are not needed this year to remind us that our attention is still on the last Presidential election and the hot button issue of the Electoral College vs. the popular vote. Due to the crisis created by the contentious and deadlocked election of 1800, the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1804 and changed the voting process of the Electoral College for President and Vice-President. Massachusetts supposedly ratified it in 1961 after its initial rejection in 1804 (according to Wikipedia); however, I can find no evidence to confirm this in the State Library’s official legislative sources! From 1804 to 2016, each presidential election has been conducted under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment with regards to the Electoral College vote.

One might think that the rallying cry for the abolition of the Electoral College to be superseded by the national popular vote is a recent phenomenon—possibly dating back to Florida’s “hanging chads” of the Bush-Gore election of 2000? However, a review of the Massachusetts Legislative Documents reveals that this sentiment has been a long-standing wish of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Dating back to bills proposed from the early 1900’s and continuing throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries there were Massachusetts legislative filings and/or resolutions seeking to abolish the Electoral College in 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1925, 1937, 1938, 1941, 1969, and 1981.

With the enactment of Chapter 229, Acts of 2010, Massachusetts joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact—a more realistic path being charted by individual state governments to  banish the Electoral College forever and avoid the necessity of a new Constitutional amendment to change or repeal the Twelfth Amendment. Will this Compact between states pledging to award electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the OVERALL national popular vote become a reality by 2020?  It is definitely a possibility—as of last year, 10 states and the District of Columbia have joined and their combined electoral votes add up to 165 of the magic number of 270.  In the current 2017 legislative session, 19 other states have a popular vote bill pending with 221 electoral votes at stake. It will soon be determined if any of these states will decide to join the 11 current Compact members—but one thing is certain: Massachusetts has already been on this Presidential popular vote bandwagon for a very long time!

Every vote equal: a state-based plan for electing the president by national popular vote  / John R. Koza, 2013.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, February 6, 2017

Halliday Photograph Collection (MS. Coll. 162)

If First Period architecture piques your interest, the State Library has a great collection of photographic prints of 17th century Massachusetts buildings.  This period of architecture dates from 1626 through 1725, and there are more examples in Essex County (especially the town of Ipswich) than anywhere else in the country.  Characteristics of this period include steeply sloped roof lines, central chimneys, exposed summer beams, south-facing facades, and asymmetrical designs due to the fact that the homes were built in phases.

The library has 20 volumes, or over 1100 black and white photographic prints, published by William Halliday (later the Halliday Historic Photograph Co. of Boston) between 1902 and 1932.  The bulk of the collection consists of Massachusetts historic buildings constructed between 1628 and 1700, however examples from other New England states are included.  Many of the buildings in this collection no longer exist, and in some cases Halliday’s photographs are the only visual records that remain.


These volumes can be viewed by visiting our Special Collections Department in Room 55 of the State House.  They are also available for sponsorship through the library’s Adopt-a-Book program, which aims to conserve and preserve library materials with historical significance to Massachusetts and the world:  http://www.mass.gov/anf/research-and-tech/oversight-agencies/lib/adopt-a-book-program.html

If you have any questions about these prints or our Adopt-a-Book program, you can send your inquiries via email at special.collections@state.ma.us or call their reference desk at: 617-727-2595.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

February Author Talk: Ted Reinstein



Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds
by Ted Reinstein 
Tuesday, February 14, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

We have a treat for you this Valentine’s Day: an author talk with Chronicle reporter Ted Reinstein! Join us at noon on February 14th to hear journalist and local author Ted Reinstein talk about his latest book, Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds.

According to the publisher, “From sports to politics, food to finance, aviation to engineering, to bitter disputes over simple boundaries themselves, New England’s feuds have peppered the region’s life for centuries. Ted Reinstein, a native New Englander and local writer, offers us fascinating stories, some known, others not so much, from the history of New England in this fun, accessible book. Bringing to life many of the fights, spats, and arguments that have, in many ways, shaped the area itself, Reinstein demonstrates what it really means to be Wicked Pissed.”

Although he is perhaps best known for his award-winning reporting for WCVB’s Chronicle, Mr. Reinstein is also a playwright and the author of a previous book: A New England Notebook: One Reporter, Six States, Uncommon Stories. At the conclusion of his talk at the State Library, Mr. Reinstein will offer copies of Wicked Pissed for sale and signing.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, January 30, 2017

Order, Order! Executive Order!

Executive orders as issued by a governor are not statutes like those passed by state legislatures, but do have the force of law in a similar way to the perhaps more familiar Presidential executive orders issued on the federal governmental level. State executive orders are based on existing constitutional or statutory powers of the governor and do not require any action by the state legislature to take effect.  In Massachusetts, each executive order cites the legal basis for the governor’s authority in issuing the order.

The first formal executive orders issued by a Massachusetts governor were during the administration of the 55th Governor of the Commonwealth, Leverett Saltonstall, in 1941. His very first executive order, Creating a State and Local Civil Defense Organization and Defining its Functions, was issued on December 29, 1941 in response to the immediate needs required in the Commonwealth in order to safeguard lives and property due to the declarations of war being made on both Japan and Germany by the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  

Governor Saltonstall (1939-1945) and his successorsMaurice J. Tobin (1945-1947) and Robert F. Bradford (1947-1949)would issue together a total of 99 executive orders in what would come to be known as the “first series” and are cited as “1 EO [number].”  All of these executive orders in this “first series” would cite their legal basis as either the An Act to Provide for the Safety of the Commonwealth in Time of Military Emergency (a.k.a the Commonwealth Emergency Defense Act of 1941 (Chapter 719, Acts of 1941) and/or An Act to Provide for the Safety of the Commonwealth During the Existing State of War (Chapter 13, Acts of 1942). The executive orders issued in this “first series” were eventually revoked by later executive orders in the same series as they were deemed no longer “necessary or expedient for meeting any existing emergency.” The final executive order in this first series, “1 EO 99” was issued on June 27, 1947.

Three years later Governor Paul A. Dever (1949-1953) would issue the first executive order in the “second series,” 2 EO 1 on September 8, 1950. (This second series still continues to this day.) As with the first series of executive orders, the focus was again on meeting immediate civil defense needs in the Commonwealth due to the onset of the Korean War in June of 1950. Governor Dever and his successorsGovernor Christian A. Herter (1953-1957), Governor Foster Furcolo (1957-1962), and Governor John A. Volpe (1961-1963)would cite the legal basis for their authority to issue their ensuing executive orders as An Act to Provide for the Safety of the Commonwealth During the Existence of an Emergency Resulting from Disaster or from Hostile Action (Chapter 639, Acts of 1950). This same 1950 Act that gave the governor the power to provide for the common defense or the common welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth, is still cited frequently as the legal basis for authority in executive orders that are chiefly issued in response to the need to declare a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions or terrorism incidents.

Further on  into the 1960’s the necessity for executive orders to be issued to respond to exigencies in times of war and military emergency decreased and governors increasingly used their executive order powers to set forth policies and procedures by invoking and citing the authority of the governor’s position of “supreme executive magistrate” given in the Massachusetts Constitution (Chapter II, Section I, Article I).  The entire collection of Massachusetts Governor’s Executive Orders can be found here on the Massachusetts Court System website or in the State Library’s DSpace repository here.  

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, January 23, 2017

What’s so odd about our Sacred Cod?


“Poised high aloft in the old hall of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, riding serenely the sound waves of debate, unperturbed by the ebb and flow of enactment and repeal or the desultory storms that vexed the nether depths of oratory, there has hung through immemorial years an ancient codfish, quaintly wrought in wood and painted to the life.”
So begins an 1895 report of a committee appointed by the Massachusetts Legislature to investigate and prepare a history of the Sacred Cod. No artwork in the State House delights and perplexes its visitors as much as this odd but historic emblem. This fish, just short of 5 feet long and carved from pine, hangs in the House of Representatives and such a fish has done so since the early 1700s. But why?

The fishing industry, specifically the fishing of cod, not only sustained the early European settlers but became a staple upon which the colonists built up prosperity. Samuel Adams allegedly stated that codfish “were to us [in Massachusetts] what wool was to England or tobacco to Virginia – the great staple which became the basis of power and wealth.” In order to remember and honor the industry that brought wealth and power to Massachusetts Bay and later the state of Massachusetts, the legislative body has traditionally hung some sort of codfish in their meeting hall. According to the 1895 report, there was a “dim tradition” that an emblem of a codfish, gift of Judge Samuel Sewall, hung in the House of Assembly of the Province before Sewall’s death in 1729. This same fish, then, is also believed to be destroyed when the Old State House was destroyed in a fire in 1747. A second codfish then hung in the newly restored building until at least 1773, when it was ordered to be cleaned and repainted… but seems to have disappeared mysteriously afterward. On March 17, 1784, Mr. John Rowe petitioned the House of Representatives to “hang up the representation of a Cod Fish in the room where the House sit, as a memorial of the importance of the Cod-Fishery to the welfare of this Commonwealth, as had been usual formerly.” This codfish was most likely commissioned and paid for by Mr. Rowe and was hung in the Old State House upon completion. On January 11, 1798, when the Massachusetts Legislature moved to the current State House, the Sacred Cod was wrapped in an American flag and carried in a solemn procession in the newly finished building designed by Charles Bulfinch.

However, this third iteration of the Sacred Cod is not without its own scandal. On April 26, 1933, it was stolen from the House of Representatives and later recovered by the Harvard chief of police after an anonymous phone call regarding its location. The scandal was covered by newspapers throughout the United States, with some accounts testifying that the search included car chases and mysterious meetings with the thieves in the woods. The Sacred Cod was recovered about 50 hours after it was found missing, and no one was ever formally held responsible for the theft. While the student editor was detained and questioned and eventually released, police continued to attribute the prank to Harvard students affiliated with the humor magazine The Harvard Lampoon.

Today, the Sacred Cod continues to hang above the House of Representatives, though now about six inches higher to deter would-be Lampooners.
“It typifies to the citizens of the Commonwealth and of the world the founding of a State. It commemorates Democracy. It celebrates the rise of free institutions. It emphasizes progress. It epitomizes Massachusetts.”



Further Reading:


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Department

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January Author Talk: Doug Most



The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway, by Doug Most 
Thursday, January 26, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library is pleased to announce our first author talk of 2017: journalist Doug Most will speak about his acclaimed book The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway. This well-researched book chronicling the construction of the Boston and New York subways is the basis of the new “American Experience” documentary The Race Underground, which premieres January 31 on PBS. Join us at the State Library on January 26th to meet the author before the premiere!

First published in 2014, The Race Underground explores the competition between Boston and New York to build the first subway in the United States. According to the publisher, “Doug Most chronicles the science of the subway, looks at the centuries of fears people overcame about traveling underground and tells a story as exciting as any ever ripped from the pages of U.S. history. The Race Underground is a great American saga of two rival American cities, their rich, powerful and sometimes corrupt interests, and an invention that changed the lives of millions.”

Doug Most is currently the Director of Strategic Growth Initiatives at The Boston Globe and has also
written for Sports Illustrated, Parents magazine, and Runner’s World, and he has previously served as senior editor at Boston magazine. He is also the author of the true crime book Always in Our Hearts: The Story of Amy Grossberg, Brian Peterson, and the Baby They Didn't Want.

This author talk promises to be an interesting perspective on the history of Boston’s subway system, especially for those of us who rely on the T for our day-to-day transportation. At the conclusion of the talk, copies of The Race Underground will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian