Monday, November 23, 2015

State Library’s Bradford Manuscript on Public Television

On Tuesday, November 24 and Thursday, November 26 (Thanksgiving Day) at 8pm EST, PBS will air a new film by documentary film-maker Ric Burns of Steeplechase Films called The Pilgrims. The film documents the political, economic, religious and historical forces that led to the Pilgrim’s migration to New England and their settlement at Plimoth Plantation in 1620.

Mr. Burns and his production crew spent an entire day in the State Library’s Special Collections Department in November 2014, working under the careful supervision of multiple staff members to film selected portions of the Bradford Manuscript, the hand-written journal by Mayflower passenger William Bradford, one of the original Mayflower passengers. In 1630, Bradford started to write an account of the Pilgrim’s history and travels, starting in England, moving to the Netherlands, crossing the Atlantic, and then their first thirty years in Massachusetts.

The resulting “Bradford Manuscript,” considered a treasure of the Commonwealth, plays an important role in the film’s narrative.

The State Library has digitized the entire volume, and it is available for public viewing through the Library’s digital repository, DSpace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Time of Thanks at the State Library

As Thanksgiving approaches, we reflect, give thanks, and perhaps ponder the mysteries behind this special holiday.  The truth is, we do not know the details about the first Thanksgiving, despite the many generational stories and legends that have led us to believe certain “facts.”  In fact, the date of the feast was not even acknowledged; we only know it was between September and November, after the fall crops were harvested. Obviously, the first Thanksgiving was also not well documented, and very few first-hand accounts are in existence that we currently know of.  We are lucky to have two of these accounts here at the State Library of Massachusetts.

The Bradford Manuscript is an original document written by author and Plymouth Colony Governor (1621-1657) William Bradford.  It documents the Pilgrim voyage from England to the Netherlands to North America, the establishment of the Plymouth Colony, passenger lists and details, and of course, a vague description of the first Thanksgiving.  Bradford does not cover the feast in great detail.  However, we know that the meal was in celebration of a successful fall harvest, that 53 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag, including Squanto, were in attendance, and that fowl and deer were served.  Traditional meals, like pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing and roasted turkey were not dishes that would have been present, as the necessary ingredients were not used or available at the time.

Another primary source is Edward Winslow’s Mourt's Relation; taken from it, this interesting
passage about the feast:

"our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."

"The Pilgrims," a new film by Ric Burns,  will premiere on AMERICAN EXPERIENCE on PBS on Tuesday, November 24 at 8:00 PM EST and again on Thanksgiving Day at 9:30 PM EST.

Monday, November 16, 2015

REMINDER -- November Author Talk: Heather Cox Richardson

To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party by Heather Cox Richardson 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015—Noon to 1:30 pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

With the presidential primary campaign season in full swing, party politics are at the forefront of American media coverage. But have you ever wondered how the political party system in America has evolved over time? Author and Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson has taken an in-depth look at the origins and history of the Republican Party in America in her most recently published book, To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party. Join us at the State Library at noon on Tuesday, November 17, for an Author Talk with Dr. Richardson, who will speak about her book and the fascinating history of the Republican Party.

In addition to her most recent book, Dr. Richardson is also the author of several other books focusing on American history, including Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre (2010) and West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (2007).

Dr. Richardson’s talk on the origins of the Republican Party is free and open to the public. Please register online and join us on November 17th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Friday, November 13, 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Little Massachusetts Wine (and Cheese)

As summer has turned to fall it’s time again to enjoy the harvest outdoors in New England before the first frost—the fun of picking apples and pumpkins come easily to mind.  On the other hand, you might prefer to remain indoors in front of a cozy fire with a glass of Massachusetts wine. Yes, you read that correctly, Massachusetts wine. Massachusetts may have a way to go to compete with California, which currently produces 90% of the wine in the United States, but at #23 and rising, Massachusetts is an up and coming contender in the winemaking industry.

Winemaking has a long history in Massachusetts—it is even rumored that wine from native grapes graced the table at Plimoth Plantation during the first Thanksgiving in 1621. A History of Wine in America by Thomas Pinney relates that in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wine was made from native grapes in the first summer of settlement in 1630.  And who can forget Concord grapes, named for the town where they originated, although they are known more today for jelly than for wine.

And what goes better with wine than cheese? The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources booklet “Massachusetts Wine & Cheese Trails” promotes and draws much-deserved attention to this growing industry to encourage tourism at local vineyards and farms. This booklet makes a great guide for an enjoyable fall road trip!

In the State Library’s eclectic collections, we can find items on the historical interest in and the importance of winemaking throughout the years—chronicling a long and worthy history of an old industry where the future seems just as bright.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moving Forward with Legislative History

As a reference librarian, I have come to expect certain things from patrons hoping to do legislative history. For those who have never had to complete the process before, there is often a look of panic that comes over them as you point to all the walls of books they will need to go through and describe the process of ‘reading between the lines’ to find intent. As someone who also had to learn how to backtrack a law using material like the General Laws, the Acts and Resolves and Senate and House Journals, I understand the dread a patron feels as they disappear behind a tower of oversized books. Legislative history in Massachusetts can be complicated and the library staff has put together a number of helpful resources to guide patrons through the process. Nevertheless, the older a law is the more difficult it can be to find the information you need.

The good news is that it is getting easier. For more recent bills, a number of online resources are gathering the information in one place so that legislative history can be done in less time and with less ambiguity. The legislature’s website is a great place to start. They have the General Laws available as well as Acts starting in 1997 and Resolves starting in 1998. If you have the act number, you will even be able to find the number of the bill that was passed. While perhaps to today’s standards this step may seem basic and obvious, finding this bill number for older laws can take time and some careful maneuvering through various sources. With the Legislature’s website it can be found in an instant.

With this bill number and the year, you have the tools to then use the resource Instatrac. Instatrac, or MassTrac, is a bill-tracking service the State Library subscribes to so it can only be used by patrons on location at the State House. Even without the bill number, you can search by keywords, categories and other citations to find the information you may need. The database contains legislative information including bill text, history, committee information, reports, news articles, votes, press releases and even floor debate for more recent bills. Since it is constantly being updated, it is also a wonderful way to track bills that are still being debated in the current session. For laws enacted after 1995, Instatrac allows a patron doing legislative history to follow a bill from its original text to the day it’s signed into law.

We at the library know how difficult the legislative history process can be, especially for those who are working on older laws or who cannot visit the library. We have already put all Acts and Resolves online and are working to put up all of Legislative Documents (bills). Nevertheless, sometimes the information desired will not be available. With online resources like the legislature’s website, Instatrac, and news services archiving their articles like the Boston Globe and the State House News Service, this process will continue to get easier and how and why a bill became law may get clearer.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Librarian

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Author Talks: Myths and Legends of Massachusetts

Myths and Legends of Massachusetts:
A Presentation by Local Author Sam Baltrusis
Wednesday, October 28, 2015—Noon to 1:30pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts is pleased to announce the first in a monthly series of Author Talks. Sam Baltrusis, author of the recently published book 13 Most Haunted in Massachusetts, will speak on myths and legends in Massachusetts. Just in time for Halloween, this event will be held on Wednesday, October 28, from noon until 1:30pm in the beautifully restored State Library reading room, located in Room 341 of the Massachusetts State House.

Author and journalist Sam Baltrusis is a freelance writer for such publications as Boston Spirit Magazine and STUFF Magazine. In the past, he has worked for, VH1, Newsweek,, and ABC Radio and has served as a regional stringer for The New York Times and as editor-in-chief of Spare Change News.

In addition to his most recent book, Mr. Baltrusis is also the author of three books in the “Haunted America” series: Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub, Ghosts of Cambridge: Haunts of Harvard Square and Beyond, and Ghosts of Salem: Haunts of the Witch City. Copies of the books 13 Most Haunted in Massachusetts and Ghosts of Boston will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

“Myths and Legends of Massachusetts” is free and open to the public. Please register online to attend this exciting Author Talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian