Monday, April 24, 2017

Will the REAL State Library of Massachusetts please stand up?!

Entrance to the State Library
 of Massachusetts
It may be known by many other names: the “legal name” George Fingold Library, Massachusetts State Library, or State House Library … but no matter what it is called, it remains the same place (and is just as sweet—apologies to Shakespeare). The mix-up does not only extend to the name of the “State Library” but also to the confusion as to the differences (and similarities) between the State Library of Massachusetts and our two other Commonwealth “partners in library business”—the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the Massachusetts Archives.

This confusion is understandable, because in many other states what is called the “state library” has the combined responsibilities of both the State Library of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners in one, and even in some cases, the responsibilities of the Massachusetts Archives added on for good measure. Still, in other states, the “state library” is a law library that serves the state courts like the Massachusetts Trial Court Libraries. However, in Massachusetts, the somewhat labyrinthine structure of state government that has evolved over the years has meant that these three agencies continue to remain under completely different branches of government oversight.

The State Library of Massachusetts is the oldest, having been formally established in 1826, is under the oversight of the Executive Branch Office for Administration and Finance, a Cabinet Secretariat directly under the Governor. The Executive Office for Administration and Finance is known mainly as being the “budget office” but also manages the Commonwealth’s administrative agencies, “including revenue collection, information technology, human resources, procurement, and state facilities” and results in a diverse mix of agencies under the Secretariat--including the State Library of Massachusetts.

The State Library itself,  as an agency under the Secretary for Administration and Finance, has its own Board of Trustees for oversight that is comprised of 6 members—President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State (or their designees), and three members of the public appointed by the Governor.

4th floor, State Library of Massachusetts

The State Library of Massachusetts’ first collections began from an informal documents exchange program between Massachusetts and other U.S. states and has evolved over the 19th and 20th centuries into a research library with rich legal and historical collections to support the work of the legislature, governor, other public officials, and the work of Massachusetts state agency employees in all branches of government but it is also open to the general public and its collections are available to anyone to use and view—especially now as more library collections are being digitized and added to the State Library’s digital repository. The State Library’s main focus, past and present, is to maintain a complete repository of *published* Massachusetts state documents and preserve these collections (in both paper and electronic) for future access and retrieval. The State Library of Massachusetts moved into its current location in Rooms 341 and 442 of the State House “Brigham Addition” in 1895 and established a separate location for the Special Collections Department in Room 55 in the basement of the West Wing of the State House in the 1970’s.

And What About Our “Library Partner” agencies?”

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is an independent state agency governed by 9 commissioners appointed by the Governor and was established in 1890 as the Massachusetts Free Public Library Commission (the oldest state library agency in the United States in fact) and became the “Board” in 1952. From its current offices on North Washington Street in Boston’s North End, it promotes library services at the free public libraries throughout the Commonwealth by administering funding (from the General Appropriations Act, a.k.a. “final budget”) and grants to individual libraries, supporting resource sharing and technology in libraries, as well as providing library services to the blind and physically handicapped residents of the Commonwealth.

The past histories of the State Library of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners intertwine in the years from 1870-1909 when Caleb Benjamin Tillinghast served as both the chairman of the Board (from its inception in 1890) and as State Librarian (the first to hold the official title after serving as “acting librarian” from 1879-1893) until his death in 1909.

Massachusetts Archives facade

The Massachusetts Archives is overseen by the Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of State, headed by the elected Constitutional Officer, Secretary of State, currently William F. Galvin.  As somewhat of a counterpart to the State Library of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Archives mission is to preserve and provide access to the “original and permanent records of state government”—that is, records that Massachusetts state government agencies produce as part of government business that document government actions taken.  The State Library of Massachusetts concentrates on preserving and providing access to the output of the agencies—published documents, reports, and the like.  The Massachusetts Archives in conjunction with the Public Records Division of the Office of the Secretary of State also have the responsibility of helping state and municipal Massachusetts government agencies in managing their records and compliance with the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

The Massachusetts Archives moved from its previous location in the State House to its current home on the UMass Boston Columbia Point campus in 1985 where it counts among its treasures the state’s foundation documents--the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, and the 1629 Charter of Massachusetts Bay which can be seen on display at the Archive-operated Commonwealth Museum that is definitely worth a visit.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Friday, April 14, 2017

Special Event: Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts

Thursday, May 4th, 2017—3:00-3:45pm
State Library of Massachusetts, Special Collections—Room 55
Massachusetts State House

Detail of Aprosmictus splendens.
(Peale.), from the atlas volume “Mamalia
and ornithology,” United States
Exploring Expedition: During the
Years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842,
Under the Command of Charles
Wilkes, U. S. N. Philadelphia, 1844-1874.
The State Library is once again participating in ArtWeek Boston!  On May 4th from 3:00-3:45pm the Library’s Special Collections Department will be hosting the event “Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts.” Visitors will be able to view and learn about materials that are normally not on public view.  Items include some of the earliest published laws of Massachusetts, a realistic facsimile of Mayflower passenger William Bradford’s manuscript journal Of Plimoth Plantation, broadsides recruiting soldiers for the Civil War, photographs of African-American soldiers from the Massachusetts 54th and 55th Regiments, a handwritten journal by a Civil War soldier from Massachusetts, early maps of Boston, and beautifully illustrated books on natural history.  Space is limited so register today!

To register or learn more about the event, please visit: Treasures of the State Library of Massachusetts

Have a question?  Contact the library’s Special Collections staff directly via e-mail or by phone:
Phone: 617-727-2595

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

April Author Talk: Tammy Rebello & L.F. Blanchard

Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts

by Tammy Rebello & L.F. Blanchard 
Thursday, April 20, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Our next author talk features two authors and one intriguing topic: Tammy Rebello and Lynn Blanchard will join us at noon on Thursday, April 20, to speak about their recent book Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts.

As part of the Images of Modern America series from Arcadia Publishing, Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts presents vivid photographs of several abandoned mental health facilities in Massachusetts, including such institutions as Belchertown State School, Monson State Hospital, and the Walter Fernald State School. Each photograph is accompanied by a descriptive vignette, adapted from the stories of former patients, their families, and those who once worked in the facilities. According to the authors, their mission with this project is not to sensationalize the abuses of the past, but to educate and enlighten, telling the stories of those too often forgotten.

At the conclusion of the talk, the authors will provide copies of Abandoned Asylums of Massachusetts for sale and signing. Also available for purchase will be several photographic prints. We invite you to register online and join us on April 20 at the State Library.

Belchertown State School Auditorium 

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, March 27, 2017

To Save Daylight or Not to Save Daylight, That is the Question

The calendar may say “spring” but the weather lately certainly still says “winter” but at least since the shift to Eastern Daylight Time in Massachusetts a mere two weeks ago, the days seem so much more bearable with sunlight in the evenings, even if the temperatures are nowhere near agreeable for March! Even before this year’s “springing ahead,” Massachusetts made national headlines with its renewed and organized push to make daylight saving time permanent all year round—in essence, leaving the Eastern Standard Time Zone and joining Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (among others) in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone.

The “Special Commission on the Commonwealth’s Time Zone” to “study the economic, health, energy, education, and transportation impacts” of this time zone move was established by Chap. 219, Acts of 2016 and recently held a hearing to debate the advantages, as well as the disadvantages, of the change and expect to issue a summary report on the pros and cons in the late spring. At the same time, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire are also considering the same time zone move, with the idea that the relocation of New England as a “regional block” to the new time zone would be easier and more likely to be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the ultimate decision maker for all time zone changes. But without gaining the “buy in” of the state of New York (and, to a lesser extent, Connecticut), the chance of success might be limited. Florida also tried on its own to make daylight saving time permanent there in 2016 with its aptly named "Sunshine Protection Act" that failed to get out of committee, so perhaps Massachusetts will have more traction in the crusade to “save daylight” this time around.

Then again, either the extension of, or the permanent adoption of daylight saving time is an idea that has been floated by bills in the Massachusetts General Court since the 1950’s. After its first adoption during World War I and then again during World War II (in fact, dubbed “War Time,” daylight saving time was in effect for the entire period from Feb. 9, 1942 through Sept. 30. 1945). Over the years, the federal government shifted around the start and end of daylight saving time exclusively during the months of April and October. In 2007, then Rep. (now Sen.) Edward Markey of Massachusetts sponsored an energy bill amendment to begin daylight saving time on the second Sunday of March and end the first Sunday in November. With this 4 to 5 week extension (depending on the how the days fall on the calendar), about 65% of the year is already spent in daylight saving time, so what is the harm to add a mere 35% more (and end to those depressing, dark winter afternoons!)? We will await the final word from the Commission on whether or not we can look forward to never having to “spring forward” or “fall back” again.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Quabbin Reservoir and its Lost Towns

From Ghost Towns 'Neath Quabbin Reservoir

The vast majority of land that makes up the city of Boston is man-made, and while those that live in and around New England’s largest city may take note of the way that Bostonians have altered their immediate environment to suit their needs, they may not be aware of environments farther west that were also drastically changed for their benefit.

The Quabbin Reservoir, which is located almost exactly in the middle of the state of Massachusetts in what was known as the Swift River Valley, was built in order to supply the city of Boston with water. The city had been growing at an exponential rate during the 1800s and the smaller water systems, aqueducts, and reservoirs in place had failed to keep up with the demand for water. In 1895, the Massachusetts Board of Health recommended the Swift River Valley as one of two potential sites for the construction of a reservoir, but nothing came of the recommendation initially. Residents of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, all located within the valley, appeared to dismiss the possibility that such a project would affect them. One news correspondent from North Dana wrote in 1909: “It is safe to say that the day is far distant when it [the reservoir] will be done. North Dana people don’t need to move before snow flies, at any rate.” (The Creation of Quabbin Reservoir: The Death of the Swift River Valley, 18).

The State Board of Health's 1895 report that first recommended
the Swift River Valley as the site of a new reservoir, filed with
the General Court as House Bill 500

By 1922, the Swift River Valley was officially selected as the next extension of the complex water system channeling into Boston. The first stage of the project involved building a tunnel now known as the Quabbin Aqueduct, which connected the Ware River and Swift River with the Wachusett Reservoir. The diversion of these waters angered the state of Connecticut, who claimed rights to those waters since they ultimately joined the Connecticut River. The contention between the two states could not be settled and ultimately went to the Supreme Court, where the federal justices dismissed Connecticut’s bill of complaint in 1931.

The construction of the Windsor Dam and the Goodnough Dike began after the Supreme Court decision, but the people in the four Swift Valley towns were able to take their time leaving their homes. Some historic buildings, such as the Field House originally in Enfield and the Coldbrook Springs Baptist Church, were moved to other towns to escape destruction. By March 28, 1938, the Metropolitan District Water Supply Commission, formally took over all land in the Swift River Valley by eminent domain. Still, many townspeople continued to live and work in the valley until 1939.

The 1938 Farewell Ball from The Day Four Quabbin Towns Died

On April 27, 1938, the Enfield Fire Department hosted a ball, “the very, very last social affair” in the town. They expected only about 300 people like their previous annual balls, but more than 1,000 people squeezed into the ballroom, with another 2,000 outside. The raucous affair was punctuated with emotion, however, when the orchestra paused at midnight to play “Auld Lang Syne” in tribute to the passing Swift Valley towns:

'A reporter for the Springfield Union described the scene best: ‘A hush fell over the Town Hall, jammed far beyond ordinary capacity, as the first note of the clock sounded; a nervous tension… had been felt by both present and former residents, and casual onlookers… muffled sounds of sobbing were heard, hardened men were not ashamed to take out their handkerchiefs, and even children, attending the ball with their parents, broke into tears.'" (The Day Four Quabbin Towns Died, 47).

Flooding commenced in the Swift River Valley on August 14, 1939. Despite stories of whole buildings standing below the current water and former residents being carried out in boats as water rose on their front steps, there is no evidence that either of these things are true. Today, the Quabbin Reservoir is 18 miles long and holds 412 billion gallons of water ( The name of the reservoir comes from the name of a Nipmuc sachem, or chief, by the name of Nani-Quaben, whose name meant “place of many waters” or “well-watered place.” It appears that the name continues to be appropriate today.

Further Reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, March 13, 2017

Old Massachusetts Hospital Records and Patient Files

Old hospital medical records or patient files are a common request we receive at the State Library, usually from patrons who are researching their family history.  Questions such as these get even trickier when a particular hospital no longer exists—where did the records end up?  While the Library does not collect or house these types of records, over the years we’ve made note of the Massachusetts libraries and archives that do.  An important note before beginning your research: many patient records and other files have restricted public access due to medical privacy laws.  Some archived collections are restricted at the discretion of the librarian or archivist, and access may have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.  Make sure to contact the holding institution about record accessibility before your visit.

Danvers State Hospital circa 1880. The hospital permanently closed its doors in
1992. Many of its records are located at the Massachusetts State Archives

Massachusetts State Archives:  The Archives mainly collects materials produced by state agencies, and these include records from state hospitals and sanatoriums, mental health facilities, almshouses, and reform schools.  Here’s the best way to search their collections:  Visit ArchiveGrid and in the search bar type “contributor:33” (this is the number assigned to the State Archives) and then a search term (name of the hospital, “patient records,” “case files,” etc.)

Example of search results using ArchiveGrid

Contact info:
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Massachusetts Archives
220 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125
Phone:  617-727-2816

Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine:  Use Harvard Library System’s HOLLIS+ catalog to search the types of records Countway has in their archives and manuscripts collection.  For example: type in a general or specific search term (ex. “patient records,” “hospital,” name of the institution, etc.) and hit Enter. Next, on the left side, you can narrow down your results by clicking “Archives/Manuscripts” under Resource Type, and then click “Countway Medicine” under Location.

Contact info:
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
10 Shattuck St.
Boston, MA 02115
Email:  Ask-A-Librarian online form
Reference Phone: 617-432-2134

City of Boston Archives:  The city’s Archives also have record collections for Boston-area hospitals, including those for Long Island Hospital and the Boston Lunatic Hospital.  Users can keyword search their online catalog for other related record collections, too.

Contact info:
City of Boston Archives and Records Management
201 Rivermoor St.
West Roxbury, MA 02132
Phone:  617-635-1195

ArchiveGrid:  As mentioned earlier, ArchiveGrid is a great tool to use for searching collections at the State Archives.  However, it can also be used for searching other repositories in Massachusetts and across the United States.  If you’re still having trouble finding the location of certain records, try searches that cast a wider net to see if there are any not-so-obvious collections out there that may be helpful with your research.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, March 6, 2017

March Author Talk: Joseph M. Bagley

A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts, by Joseph M. Bagley 
Tuesday, March 21, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, 
Massachusetts State House

The State Library is pleased to announce the next speaker in our Author Talks series: Boston City Archaeologist Joseph M. Bagley. Join us at noon on Tuesday, March 21, to hear Mr. Bagley speak about his recent book, A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts.

As the City Archaeologist for Boston, Mr. Bagley manages over a million artifacts that have been excavated from dozens of sites throughout the city. He selected fifty of the most interesting artifacts from this vast collection for his book on the history of Boston, including a 17th-century bowling ball found in the North End, an 18th-century sail needle found in Charlestown, a 1788 Massachusetts cent coin found in the Boston Common, and a 1912 Red Sox pin found in Roxbury. Each of the fifty artifacts is accompanied by a description of both the artifact’s significance to its specific archaeological site as well as its significance to the larger history of the city of Boston.

At the conclusion of Mr. Bagley’s talk, copies of A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts will be available for purchase and signing, with all author proceeds going toward the Boston City Archaeology Program.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

Abiel Smith School

Image from Sketches of Boston, Past and Present, by I. Smith Homans. Boston, 1851.

This is the first building in the nation built for the sole purpose of serving as a public school for black children.

It is currently part of the Museum of African American History at 46 Joy Street, Beacon Hill, Boston. The National Park Service maintains the site, which is open to the public.

Description from Sketches of Boston, Past and Present,
by I. Smith Homans. Boston, 1851.

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:

If you have any questions about these prints or our Adopt-a-Book program, you can send your inquiries via email at 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

Monday, January 9, 2017

From Williamstown to Wellfleet: Wandering through the Commonwealth -- opens today!

The State Library invites you to view the newest exhibition, From Williamstown to Wellfleet: Wandering through the Commonwealth. Arranged by county, this exhibition features towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts whose names start with letter W.

The exhibition runs from January 9 through May 31, 2017 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. Can't make it to the library? View the digital exhibit on the library's Flickr site!