Thanks to the hard working folks at the Boston Public Library, our large collection of legislative photographs has finally been digitized! The collection, which spans inclusively from 1855 up to 1908, is comprised of various formats of loose photographs, as well as bound legislative portrait albums depicting members of the Massachusetts General Court during their years served. Also digitized are the versos of photographs when necessary, which provide important identifying information and, in many cases, the name of the photography studio.
As mentioned in our previous blog post, which details our efforts to produce a comprehensive database based on our legislative biographical file, our goal is to make all of these images electronically accessible to the public in the near future. The photographs will compliment images already available in our digitized collection of “Bird Books” and Souvenirs of Massachusetts Legislators, as well as fill in some of the years that are not currently available.
While browsing through the photographs, one thing I found interesting was that many images (as evidenced on those from the 1855 Senate) were signed by their respective legislators and have various handwritten messages such as “With great respect”, “Yours in love”, “Fraternally yours”, and “Receive my considerations”. Also notable in this collection is a wonderful early image of John James Smith (1825-1906), a native Virginian, entrepreneur, and African American legislator who was elected to serve Boston in 1868, three years after the conclusion of the Civil War.
In addition to the services provided by the BPL, the project was supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. For more information about our legislative photograph collection, please contact our library’s Special Collections Dept. at 617-727-2595.