Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What is in a Name? A Treasure of the State Library from 1941: "The Origin of Massachusetts Place Names of the State, Counties, Cities and Towns"

During the Administrations of President Franklin Roosevelt, a federal program, known as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), was implemented to provide employment to those searching for work during the years of the Great Depression.

In Massachusetts, part of the effort was led by the Writers’ Project and the State Library owns some very important materials produced by this group. Publications of the Federal Writer's Project of the Work Progress Administration of Massachusetts in the library's collections include:
One publication of this enterprise, however, has a particular “relationship” with the State Library. It is: The Origin of Massachusetts Place Names of the State, Counties, Cities and Towns.

This gem was actually written under the sponsorship of State Librarian Dennis A. Dooley, who served in that position from 1936-1959. Dooley wrote a forward to the 1941 publication, noting “Every compilation of scattered material in a convenient form is valuable.”

This booklet, kept in the third floor Reference area of the library, has helped answer many questions posed to the library staff.
The “Name of the State” definition is long and in-depth: 

The origins of the cities and town names are again, very helpful for answering reference questions:

For information on the state and its cities and towns, one should definitely visit us here in the State House. The Library is located in Rooms 341, 442 and 55, the latter being where the Special Collections Department is located. 
The library collects voluminous materials concerning the commonwealth and her 351 cities and towns.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Librarian