Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summertime … and it’s time to take a vacation!

As I was sitting in a long line of traffic to get both on and off Cape Cod over Memorial Day weekend, I was thinking how some things stay the same no matter what—as long as there have been cars, there have been summer traffic jams. But what did people do for their summer vacations in the days before the automobile? Where did they go?  Cape Cod? The Berkshires? Martha’s Vineyard? Boston’s North Shore? Some interesting finds in the State Library’s collections give a glimpse into the typical summer vacation of the mid to late 1800’s and, believe it or not, the favorite Massachusetts summer vacation spots of today are not much different from those of the past!

From a 2017 perspective, a somewhat amusing Book of Summer Resorts: explaining where to find them, how to find them, and their especial advantages, with details of time tables and prices published in 1868 claims to be “a complete guide for the summer tourist.”  In its introductory chapter it outlines the five top things that an “experienced traveler makes a particular care:”

  • He owns a good trunk
  • He carries thick clothing, even in the hottest weather
  • His hand-satchel is never without camphor, laudanum, and brandy for medicine
  • He does not drink water in unaccustomed places
  • He buys through tickets, even when not going beyond a local station

I suppose we can translate most of this sage advice for today by substituting “suitcase” for trunk, “layers” for thick clothing, “tylenol” for laudanum (no comment on the brandy) and it is still good advice to not to “drink the water” but as for buying “through tickets,” I am mystified as to why I would buy a ticket to somewhere I don’t intend to go!  The book continues on to describe in great detail the history and attractions of numerous summer vacation spots (including the nearest hotels and telegraph locations) in Massachusetts and beyond that were places in the Eastern U.S. and Canada accessible by rail from Boston, Philadelphia, or New York. In the book’s section on “Lakes, Rivers, and Mountains,” the author singles out Massachusetts’ Williamstown as “stand[ing] at a considerable altitude, and boast[ing] the purest of mountain air” and Pittsfield as one of the “most beautiful villages in all New-England.”

If you prefer the seashore, then how about going where “fashionable Boston” used to move during the month of July in the mid-19th century: Swampscott (!?!)--although the author of the Book of Summer Resorts sees “little which can account for its extraordinary popularity” excepting its proximity to Boston—only a 40 minute train ride in that day. Today we would probably say the preferred North Shore summer hot spots have moved a bit farther north from Swampscott to encompass the Cape Ann peninsula and the beaches of Salisbury, Rockport, and Plum Island.  However, once the railroad was extended to Provincetown in 1873, Cape Cod became the foremost summer vacation location by the seashore in Massachusetts and arguably remains so to this day.

Cape Cod summer vacations also include the much beloved islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket—still reached by the famous island ferries--the same as in the 19th century. In The Cottage City, or, The season at Martha's Vineyard, published in 1879, the author professes on the title page that “there can be found in New England no other summer resort presenting so many attractions and affording so many comforts with so few undesirable attendants, as Martha's Vineyard gives to the thousands who every year throng her well managed hotels and dwell in her pretty cottage homes” which was true then and continues now, 138 years into the future, as any visitor to this beautiful island can tell you (including the 42nd and 44th Presidents of the United States!). Happy travels this summer, whether it be woods or beaches!

Additional sources:

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services

Monday, June 19, 2017

The History of a Massachusetts Business or How NECCO Got its Start

Everyone is familiar with NECCO candies (especially their wafers), however do you know what the acronym NECCO means?  Did you know that they were and still are headquartered in Massachusetts?  This blog will cover some fun historical facts about the famous candy-making company.

In 1901 three of the leading confectionary firms in Massachusetts came together under the name of the New England Confectionary Company or NECCO.  The companies were Chase and Company, Bird Wright & Company, and Fobes, Hayward & Company.  Oliver Chase of Chase and Company was originally a druggist at a pharmacy, a field in which it was already a common practice to put bitter tasting medicine into sweet lozenges. In 1847 Chase invented a medicinal lozenge cutter, which increased the production of lozenges and made it possible to also make wafer candies. He patented his invention and then started his own confectionery company with his brother Silas in 1847.  His lozenge cutter is considered the first candy-making machine, and in 1866 another brother Daniel invented a machine that could print words onto candy—leading to the invention of Conversation Candy or Sweethearts.

NECCO Wafers are made in the same original eight flavors that are made today:  orange, lemon, lime, clove, chocolate, cinnamon, licorice and wintergreen. In 2009 they experimented with changing the flavors so there would be no artificial flavors or colors, however consumers objected to the changes and in 2011 they went back to the original flavors.  During the Civil War they were called “Hub wafers” and given to soldiers.  During WWII the wafers were part of the K-rations for soldiers. In 1913 Donald MacMillan took NECCO wafers on an Arctic expedition for nutrition and as rewards to Eskimo children. Other candies they make include Candy Buttons, Canada Mints, Clark Bars, Sky Bars and Mary Janes.

NECCO is the oldest continuously-run candy factory in the country.  In 1902 NECCO was located at 253 Summer Street and 11-27 Melcher Street in the Fort Point Channel area of Boston.  Although the company has since moved from the Fort Point neighborhood, Necco Street and Necco Court remind us of where it once was located.  In 1927 the company built its factory in Cambridge on Massachusetts Avenue near the Charles River and remained there until its move to Revere in 2003.

In 1947 the Boston Globe said that NECCO was one of the world’s largest candy producers and that New England was leading the country in boxed candies.  The latest developments in the NECCO story come from an April 27th, 2017 article in Banker and Tradesman: “Framingham-based developer Atlantic Management has acquired New England Confectionery Co.’s 50-acre headquarters in Revere, the candy manufacturer’s home since 2003, for $54.6 million.”

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer exhibition - Rest, Relaxation, and Recreation: Parks in Massachusetts summer exhibit

The State Library invites you to view our newest exhibition, Rest, Relaxation, and Recreation: Parks in Massachusetts. This visually attractive exhibition displays many unique parks in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts parks range from very old to brand new; from forest green to urban gray; from government-run to privately-owned; and from tranquil to noisy and fun. Using materials from the State Library’s collections, this exhibition documents the rich history of parks in the Commonwealth.  

The exhibition runs from June 12 through September 1, 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!

Monday, June 5, 2017

June Author Talk: Joshua Kendall

First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to 
Barack Obama, by Joshua Kendall 
Thursday, June 22, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, 
Massachusetts State House

June is a great month for dads—not only is Father’s Day this month, but we’re also celebrating dads here at the State Library with our next author talk! Join us at noon on Thursday, June 22, to hear author Joshua Kendall speak about his latest book, First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama.

First Dads explores the parenting styles of our nation’s first 43 presidents, grouping these fathers into six categories: the preoccupied, playful pals, double-dealing dads, tiger dads, the grief-stricken, and the nurturers. Franklin Roosevelt, whose children had to make appointments to speak with him, falls under the category of “the preoccupied,” while Barack Obama, who took the time during his presidency for family dinners and bedtime reading rituals, is described as a “nurturer.” How would our current president be categorized? Come to our author talk to find out!

Author Joshua Kendall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Psychology Today. He is also the author of three previous books and the co-author of three academic psychology books.

Mr. Kendall will be offering copies of First Dads for sale at the discounted price of $20 at the conclusion of his talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, May 22, 2017

Who Is Robert Twelves?

Boston has a rich history of architecture, from historic buildings from the 1600s to contemporary architecture designed by all-stars like IM Pei & Partners and everything else in-between. Around the time when Massachusetts transitioned from a colony to a commonwealth, architecture was also changing from a (expensive) hobby of educated gentlemen to a studied practice by professionals. Today we like to know the identity of the individual or firm that designed our favorite buildings and structures, but in colonial America the mason or builder was often responsible for both the layout and the construction of the buildings, and therefore many early “architects” are unknown. However, there are two early Boston landmarks whose designers should be unknown but have been credited to the mysterious Robert Twelves.

The Old South Meeting House, built 1729.

Both locals and visitors to Boston are familiar with the Old South Meeting House and the Old State House, both built in the first half of the 1700s and both sites for iconic moments in American Revolutionary history. But who built these buildings? If you do a basic Google search for their architect, many webpages will inform you that the talented individual is none other than Robert Twelves. Wikipedia mentions Robert Twelves in their entries for both buildings; his name is also listed on websites and resources like iBoston.org, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, MIT’s DOME digital collections, and the Boston Public Library Fine Arts Department’s artist index. But if you try to dig deeper, the trail ends. Who is this so-called architect and why do we have no record of him?

According to Marian C. Donnelly, the first reference to Robert Twelves occurred in Hamilton A. Hill’s History of the Old South Church (1890). At the end of a citation regarding cornerstones, Hill casually throws in, “Robert Twelves is said to have been the builder” without any explanation as to where this information came from. Yet further architecture historians took this kernel for truth, and the attribution appeared in Charles A. Place’s Old Time New England (1923), Hugh Morrison’s Early American Architecture (1952), and Harold W. Rose’s Colonial Houses of Worship in America (1963) (Donnelly). Even some contemporary books like Howard S. Andros’ Buildings and Landmarks of Old Boston (2001) mention Twelves as the designer of Old South Meeting House.

Old State House, built circa 1712.

How Twelves was also credited with the design of the Old State House is less clear. It is possible that, because the Old State House in its current form was built less than two decades before the Old South Meeting House, contemporary sources have gotten the two buildings confused or assigned Twelves when no architect was known.

Donnelly was able to trace a Robert Twelves using colonial town records. In Braintree, a Robert Tweld “who erected the South Church at Boston” died March 9 in either 1696 or 1697. How could a man have built the Old State House when the original Town House of 1657 didn’t burn down until 1711, almost 15 years after his death? Similarly, how could he have designed a building for the Old South congregation when they voted to replace their wooden building in 1728? It is possible, at the most, that Twelves was involved in building the original Old Cedar Meeting House around 1670.

We unfortunately don’t know where Hamilton A. Hill found the name of Robert Twelves, whether he misread this limited Braintree obituary or viewed other records that mentioned Twelves. The proliferation of this seemingly insignificant fact can serve as an example of how historiography can so easily alter contemporary understandings of what happened in the past. Whether you are a student, established historian, or amateur researcher, always remember to check those citations!


Donnelly, Marian C. “Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 29, no. 2, 1970, pp. 204–204., www.jstor.org/stable/98866

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, May 15, 2017

Political Milestones of Christian A. Herter

Recently the library recognized Christian Herter’s anniversary on being appointed the 53rd United States Secretary of State on April 21, 1959 by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  His official term as Secretary began the very next day on April 22nd.  While looking through the library’s collection for a portrait of Herter, I came across some fun pamphlets that mark the different milestones of his political career in Massachusetts.

Campaign pamphlets illustrating Herter's state and congressional
service, as well as a dinner program celebrating his gubernatorial victory.

Here’s a short timeline of Herter’s life and the political seats to which he was elected or appointed in Massachusetts and beyond:
  • March 28, 1895:  Christian Archibald Herter was born in Paris, France to expatriate parents.
  • 1915:   Graduated from Harvard University.
  • Jan. 1931-Jan. 1943:  Served as a republican state representative for the 5th Suffolk district; during the latter part of his tenure he was also appointed Speaker of the House.
  • Jan. 1943-Jan. 1953:  Served the 10th Massachusetts congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Jan. 1953-Jan. 1957:  Served for one term as Governor of Massachusetts.
  • Feb. 1957-Apr. 1959:  Served as Under Secretary of State, appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
  • Apr. 1959-Jan. 1961:  Served as Secretary of State, appointed by Eisenhower.
  • Dec. 1962-Dec. 1966 (his death):   Served as the first United States Trade Representative, appointed by President John F. Kennedy.
I also came across a very fragile comic book in our collection that criticizes Herter’s political record and asks its readers to instead vote for then-gubernatorial incumbent and Democrat Paul Dever.  The comic book was published by Massachusetts United Labor in 1952 during Herter’s campaign and refers to the governor hopeful as a “reactionary” and a man who “cannot wish to stand on his record.”  Dever ultimately lost the election to Herter and retired from political life.

For more information on Christian Herter’s life and career, please visit:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Librarian

Monday, May 8, 2017

May Author Talk: Gregory N. Flemming

                        Register Online

At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, 
and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton, by Gregory N. Flemming 
Tuesday, May 23, 2017—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House
Join us at the State Library on Tuesday, May 23, to hear author
Gregory N. Flemming share the story of the Marblehead fisherman who has been called “America’s real-life Robinson Crusoe.” This intriguing tale is at the center of Mr. Flemming’s 2014 book At the Point of a Cutlass: The Pirate Capture, Bold Escape, and Lonely Exile of Philip Ashton.

A Boston Globe bestseller, At the Point of a Cutlass tells the true story of Philip Ashton, a nineteen-year-old Massachusetts fisherman who was captured by pirates in 1722 and forced to sail across the Atlantic and back under the command of the notorious pirate Edward Low. Ashton managed to escape his captors while anchored off the coast of a deserted Caribbean island, where he survived for more than a year as a castaway. Meticulously researched, At the Point of a Cutlass is based on trial records, logbooks, colonial newspaper reports, and Ashton’s own first-hand account of his ordeal.  

Author Greg Flemming is a former journalist with a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During the three years that he spent researching his book, Mr. Flemming traveled to many of the key locations in Philip Ashton’s story, including the Nova Scotia harbor where Ashton was taken captive as well as the remote island of Roatan, where Ashton was marooned.

Copies of At the Point of a Cutlass will be available for sale and signing at the conclusion of the talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Lost Bradford Manuscript

The Mayflower Compact from
William Bradford's journal 
On Plimoth Plantation, also known as the Bradford Manuscript, may be the jewel of the State Library of Massachusetts’ collection. But the manuscript had many other homes along the way, was coveted by other institutions, and was even considered lost at one point during the 19th century. So how did the manuscript find its way back to the Commonwealth?

The Bradford Manuscript is so called for its writer, William Bradford, who was the governor of the Plymouth Colony generally from 1621 to 1657. The journal includes the original Mayflower Compact, a list of Mayflower passengers, and the most authoritative account of life in the early years of the colony. Most famously, it includes an account of the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags led by Massasoit. After the death of William Bradford, the manuscript was kept by his descendants and lent to historians throughout the 17th and 18th centuries such as Cotton Mather, Samuel Sewall, and Thomas Hutchinson. Thomas Prince, a clergyman, historian, and collector, eventually obtained the manuscript from the Bradford family and deposited it, along with the rest of his historical collection, at the Old South Meeting House in the mid-1750s. However, from there, the manuscript appears to have disappeared during the American Revolution. For almost a century, the Bradford Manuscript was lost.

Did a British soldier or statesman steal the volume during the tumultuous period in Boston leading to the American Revolutionary War? Was it in the possession of a Loyalist historian or clergyman for research purposes when they decided to return to England, perhaps Thomas Hutchinson? We do not know how the Bradford Manuscript arrived in London, but some antiquarians with an eye for detail noticed that several histories published in London in the 19th century included passages that had been attributed to Bradford’s manuscript by American historians before the manuscript’s disappearance. Eventually word of these theories made its way to Charles Deane, chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Society’s publishing committee. Deane reached out to Reverend Joseph Hunter, vice president of the Society of Antiquaries of London and correspondent of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and asked that he examine the manuscript cited in these histories to verify if it was the long-lost On Plimoth Plantation. Not only did the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) want to recover the manuscript, but they also wished to produce the first publication of the document in American history.

Hunter obtained the manuscript from its keeper, Bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce, and verified that its identity using attached documents from the Bradford family and Thomas Prince. Deane commissioned a copy of the manuscript, which arrived in Boston on August 3, 1855. While the MHS did publish the manuscript, its members were not satisfied and wanted the manuscript to be restored to the United States. So began a struggle that would persist for almost half a century. In 1860, MHS President John Charles Winthrop attempted to secure the return of the Bradford manuscript during an upcoming visit to the United States from the Prince of Wales as a “conciliatory act,” but this plan was foiled by an inability to push legislation allowing this transfer through Parliament. After the Civil War, Justin Winsor, librarian at the Boston Public Library, met with John Lothrop Motley, newly appointed minister to the Court of St. James, to organize an act of reciprocity by returning the Bradford Manuscript in a similar manner to the return of several British manuscripts by the Library Company of Philadelphia in the 1860s, but again the transfer was considered out of the question without an act of Parliament. Further appeals were made to various church officials in England by Winsor and other members of the Massachusetts Historical Society throughout the 1860s and 1870s to no avail. Finally in 1896, MHS member and U.S. Senator George Frisbie Hoar visited the manuscript and petitioned the Bishop once again for its return: “Why, if there were in existence in England a history of King Alfred’s reign for thirty years, written by his own hand, it would not be more precious in the eyes of Englishmen than this manuscript is to us” (The Massachusetts Historical Society: A Bicentennial History, pages 212-213). The Bishop responded that he thought “myself that it ought to go back, and if it depended on me it would have gone back before this” and that he would petition Queen Victoria directly about the manuscript’s transfer.

But who would the manuscript be transferred to? Those involved considered the manuscript Massachusetts property and therefore did not want to deposit it in a federal institution such as the Library of Congress. The Boston Public Library, the Plymouth Registry of Deeds, and other organizations were considered before it was decided that the manuscript would be presented to Governor Wolcott.  On May 26, 1897, the delegates of the General Court presented to the governor the Bradford Manuscript in a public ceremony. While the governor had the option to deposit the document with the state government or the Massachusetts Historical Society, Wolcott decided to keep the manuscript in the State House’s collection. Hence, the Bradford Manuscript was finally recovered and returned to the Commonwealth and has been part of the State Library’s collections since the turn of the century. Today, this precious manuscript is kept in secure storage in the library’s Special Collections department, with high-quality facsimile reproduction for anyone who wishes to view or research the manuscript both in person or online.

Further reading:

The Massachusetts Historical Society: A Bicentennial History (1791-1991) by Louis Leonard Tucker (1996)
The Surrender of the Bradford Manuscript by Justin Winsor (1897)

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

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:
E-mail: special.collections@state.ma.us
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

State Library of Massachusetts Services - Survey

Are State Library of Massachusetts Services Meeting Your Needs? Tells us by filling out our brief survey.

To access the survey please visit:

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 (Mass.gov). 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
Email:  archives@sec.state.ma.us
Phone:  617-727-2816
Website:  https://www.sec.state.ma.us/arc/ 

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
Website: https://www.countway.harvard.edu/

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
Email:  archives@boston.gov 
Phone:  617-635-1195
Website:  https://www.boston.gov/departments/archives-and-records-management

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:  http://www.mass.gov/anf/research-and-tech/oversight-agencies/lib/adopt-a-book-program.html

If you have any questions about these prints or our Adopt-a-Book program, you can send your inquiries via email at special.collections@state.ma.us 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