Monday, January 28, 2013

Item of the month for January 2013

Written by Cornelius Dalton, in collaboration with John Wirkkala and Anne Thomas, Leading the Way: A History of the Massachusetts General Court 1629-1980 is a valuable source for anyone interested in the story of the state and its government. Divided into six parts: Origins, 1629-1775, Founding-1776-1780, Legislating for the Common Good, 1780 -1865, Pioneering in Progressive Legislation 1866-1915, A Changing Commonwealth 1915-1950, and A New Era, 1950-1980, this book is a classic and beautifully written history of the Commonwealth which has and will continue to touch historians, politicians and all with an interest in Massachusetts. Often consulted for reference questions here in the State Library, the book includes short illustrated biographies of Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House, a listing of the political “complexion” of the General Court for the years 1867 until 1980 and pages giving the lengths of legislative sessions. This “treasure” stands out as a uniquely valuable source for those wishing to know the history of the Massachusetts General Court.

Cornelius Dalton’s own story is in itself a beautiful State House tale. A political reporter, he worked for 39 years for the Herald-Traveler. To Boston Globe reporter David Farrell, who remembered Dalton in a piece in 1985, he was “Mr. Chips”:
“The scholarly Dalton, who wrote about local and national politics for more than four decades, died last Thursday. His death caused little more than a ripple in the local media which is dominated by people who were in diapers when Dalton was in his prime. But the qualities that made him special will never pass away. His integrity, professional standards, patriotism, warmth and sincerity were the hallmarks of his distinguished career. Dalton was one of a kind. As a young political reporter in the early 1950s, I had the good fortune of breaking in under him at the State House. He was a beautiful man, my Mr. Chips.” (Boston Globe, September 16th, 1985, page 15).
A copy of Leading the Way is kept at the Reference desk for referrals by our staff. The library has several copies for circulation.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian
State Library of Massachusetts