Monday, September 17, 2018

Joy Books and the War Camp Community Service

November 11, 2018 will mark one hundred years since the ceasefire came into effect ending the First World War (1914-1918). Some of our blog’s readers may be familiar with many of the World War I-related materials we have here at the State Library of Massachusetts, including our collection of World War I soldier photographs given to us by the Boston Globe or histories of different military divisions, such as this Pictorial History of the Twenty-sixth Division of the U.S. Army from 1920. But in addition to these fantastic resources, our stacks contain evidence of bright moments amid this dark time. One such item is a thin volume published by the Boston War Camp Community Service Committee on Hospitality in 1918. It’s title? Simply: Joy Book for Soldiers and Sailors.

Cover of Joy Book for Soldiers
 and Sailors

The Joy Book serves as a guide book for soldiers and sailors stationed in and around Boston, with “suggestions of places which the Committee hopes may interest and entertain.” And truly the book includes something for everyone: club rooms, vaudeville and movies, gymnasiums, music, and libraries are listed in their own categories, with the State Library listed under “Books” on page 6. The book also includes a helpful foldout map of Boston for those visiting, and features travel and hospitality information “if your women folks are coming to Boston” (page 4).

Foldout map from Joy Book for Soldiers and Sailors (1918)

Guide books like these were published by the War Camp Community Service, one of the two secular groups involved in the United War Work Campaign dedicated to providing entertainment to American troops at home and abroad (the only other secular group involved with the UWWC? The American Library Association). War Camp Community Service (WCCS) groups were devoted to acting as a facilitator between the community and the soldiers stationed nearby: “One of the manifestations of this spirit is the widespread and wholehearted effort to make the man in uniform feel that, wherever he may be in this country – whether in his home town or a thousand miles from his native state – he has both the friendship and respect of the community, and that his uniform entitles him to feel at home wherever he is stationed” wrote Paul Robert Jacques in an article about the efforts of the WCCS. He also proclaimed that “New England has been a leader in this excellent work. At Portsmouth, N.H. for instance, a committee, representing the summer colony at Rye Beach and Little Boars Head, was formed early last summer to meet the social needs of the men at the Navy Yard… In the vicinity of Boston, a number of delightful homes have also been thrown open for purposes of hospitality to men in uniform. They include the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Stanwood G. Willington at Brookline; Mr. John E. Oldham and Miss Smith at Wellesley Hills; and Mr. George D. Hall at Dedham.”

Photograph of Edward J. Dunlea,
101st Infan. Co. E.
from our World War I
Soldier Photographs collection
By providing entertainment and hospitality, those involved in the WCCS believed they were providing a vital service, one which President Woodrow Wilson called ‘a military and social necessity.’ Paul Robert Jacques went on to explain that the WCCS’s “special care is the comfort, welfare, and recreation of the enlisted men of the Army and Navy, and to this end its ramifications spread through countless activities which touch upon the soldier when he is off duty. To quote the President [Wilson] once more: ‘The spirit with which our soldiers leave American and their efficiency on the battlefronts of Europe will be vitally affected by the character of the environment surrounding our military training camps’” (What We Are Doing for the Boys in Camp).

What would you have recommended to soldiers stationed in Massachusetts? Are they listed in the Joy Book, now available online? Learn more about the State Library’s World War I-related materials and Massachusetts’ involvement via our blog or by searching our catalog.


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, September 10, 2018

New Fall Exhibition: Bird's-Eye View Maps in the State Library of Massachusetts

Opening today at the State Library: Bird's-Eye View Maps in the State Library of Massachusetts. This exhibition draws from the library’s extensive collection of historic bird’s-eye view maps. Dating from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, the maps provide a fascinating view into a town’s past. Every Massachusetts county is represented in the exhibition, and the full collection will be available through our digital repository.  

The exhibition runs from September 10 through December 31, 2018 and can be viewed outside of the Library, Room 341 of the State House. Library hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm. This exhibition will be available to view online as a set of images on the State Library's Flickr site.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Tips When Researching Legislation: Rejected Bills

Histories of bills from the 2005-2006
legislative session that were either sent
to a study order—a common way to
 “kill a bill”—or on which no further
action was taken.
Researching a law in Massachusetts usually involves tracing it back to its beginning, reviewing primary documents(1) and secondary resources(2) along the way.  Bill histories are essential tools that greatly help with tracing laws and understanding their background; however, it’s important to keep in mind that they will only help you trace as far back as a law’s own initial filing.  If you’re researching a law that passed, there may have been several previous attempts at passing the same or a similar law that weren’t so successful.  Here are some things to consider when conducting your research:

  • Have there been any similar bills that were submitted and ultimately rejected in the past?  Even though they might not be part of the direct history of the law you’re researching, they can provide a further backstory on how the law came to be, who was involved, and how it was treated in previous legislative sessions.  It’s even possible that the text of a passed law wholly or partly derives from an earlier version that was rejected.
  • If you do find earlier unsuccessful bills, were public hearings held and were the bills debated?  Even though they were rejected, they still might have gone far enough through the legislative process that the House and Senate were given the opportunity to discuss them during floor sessions.  Looking at the histories of these earlier unsuccessful bills will help determine how far they made it through the process.
  • Are there any patterns?  Did local and/or world events act as a catalyst for previous bill attempts?  What are the differences between the law that passed and the previous rejected bills?  Did the political climate change over time?

An easy way to find bills, passed and not passed, and other legislative documents is by searching the library’s DSpace online repository.  Other materials not available online can be found in the library’s reading room in room 341 of the State House.  In addition, the library’s website also provides helpful information on how to compile legislative histories in Massachusetts.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

(1) Primary materials include, but are not limited to:  legislative documents (bills, reports, communications), House and Senate Journals, and videos of hearings and floor debates (if available).
(2) Secondary materials include, but are not limited to:  news and journal articles, outside commentary, and other unofficial publications that discuss the law or the general subject.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Cold War and the Building of Fallout Shelters

As a reference librarian sometimes I get very interesting questions.  Recently I got a question where a patron wanted to know about a bomb shelter in the State House.  When I researched this question I found out that in 1961 President John F. Kennedy, worried about the threat of nuclear attack, created a program to determine where public community fallout shelters were located.  According to the podcast The Global Politico, on October 6, 1961 “President John F. Kennedy advised U.S. families to build bomb shelters as protection from atomic fallout in the event of a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union.”  Media outlets followed with stories about shelters and how to build them.  Shelters should be made with concrete blocks for a basement shelter, sand or gravel fill for an above ground shelter and both have waterproof plywood.  “Congress voted to appropriate $169 million to locate, mark and stock fallout shelters in existing public and private buildings.”

In order to become a fallout shelter a building had to meet certain criteria and then the Office of Civil defense would let it be marked as a fallout shelter.  WGBH reports the criteria for a building to be designated a fallout shelter as suitable if they met three criteria.  First was that they provided physical protection usually meaning they were fairly airtight with thick concrete walls:  “They had to have a protection factor of at least 40 which meant you would receive 1/40th the radiation inside the building than you would outside, unprotected.” The building also had to be built away from likely fallout therefore shelters were built in basements of schools, and in the middle floors of taller buildings.  The third requirement was that there had to be room for at least 50 people with 10 square feet of space per person.

Shelter sign at the Boston
Public Library
According to the blog Fallout Five Zero, on November 5, 1962 Governor John Volpe posted a shelter sign in front of the State House. Some unconventional places such as theaters, department stores and office buildings became shelters. The shelters were marked with a yellow and black sign which was designed by Robert Blakeley, a US Army Corps of Engineers employee.  The Macy’s in downtown Boston and the central branch of the Boston Public Library still have shelter signs on their buildings.

Bomb shelters and fallout shelters are two different entities and the terms are frequently confused with each other.  A bomb shelter is designed to protect people from the physical force of a bomb, while a fallout shelter is supposed to protect one from the radioactive particles in the air after the bomb drops.  The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham is designed to protect people against a severe bomb blast making it an example of a bomb blast.

 As a result of the nuclear threat in the 1960s’, people were building shelters in their own backyards. The Boston Globe Magazine published an article on December 12, 1999 about a family in Tewksbury that has a bomb shelter in their backyard.  Several families got together to build a 22 by 38 foot shelter space after President Kennedy, responding to the Berlin crisis gave a speech in the summer of 1961 telling citizens to build fallout shelters.  The project started out amicably with each family chipping in $600. Then disagreements started with what foods to stock.  Then there was a discussion about what to do if neighbors wanted to break into the fallout shelter during a nuclear attack.  One neighbor, who participated in the building of the shelter said to shoot them which made another participant want to scrap the whole project.  The shelter is still there because it is hard to remove something that is built out of concrete and steel. There could be hundreds or more of these backyard shelters in backyards all over Massachusetts and the country unbeknownst to current residents.

Resources for Further Reading and Research

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, August 13, 2018

September Author Talk: Karilyn Crockett

People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making, by Karilyn Crockett 
Tuesday, September 18, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts has a great lineup of authors for our new season of Author Talks, starting with our September speaker, Dr. Karilyn Crockett, author of People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making. We invite you to join us for Dr. Crockett’s talk and book signing at noon on Tuesday, September 18th, in Room 341 of the Massachusetts State House.

People before Highways explores a 1960s grassroots movement to halt the planned extension of the interstate highway system through the city of Boston. When it became clear that the planned highway would disproportionately impact poor communities of color, activists began to organize in order to push back. Now, thanks to this victorious multiracial coalition of anti-highway protestors, Bostonians are able to enjoy a highway-less urban corridor and a linear central city park—testaments to the power of citizen-led city making. 

Author Karilyn Crockett is the former Director of Economic Policy and Research, and Director of Small Business Development, for the City of Boston and Lecturer of Public Policy and Urban Planning at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning. Prior to her graduate studies at Yale University and the London School of Economics, Dr. Crockett co-founded Multicultural Youth Tour Of What's Now (MYTOWN), an award winning, educational non-profit organization in Boston. During its nearly 15 years of operation, MYTOWN created jobs for more than 300 low and moderate-income teenagers and was touted by the National Endowment for the Humanities as being “one of ten best Youth Humanities Programs in America.”

The State Library’s Author Talks are free and open to everyone. We invite you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on September 18th at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, August 6, 2018

Before it gets cold!: Recreational Resources for Massachusetts

With the beginning of August comes the slow end of summer, but still there is plenty of time to pack every last bit of summer fun in! While winter brings with it its own seasonal recreational activities, the opportunities to tour and trek throughout New England are abundant during the warmer months, with the most popular remaining the same for decades, perhaps even centuries.

Throughout history, locals and tourists alike have pursued the historic, cultural, and environmental recreation that the Commonwealth offers in abundance. Our library’s collection offers a few documents about recreation throughout Massachusetts from the 1930s that show that we have more in common with our ancestors that we may have thought.

One book entitled Recreation in and about Boston; a handbook of opportunities, published 1930, includes subject-specific essays on all that the commonwealth’s capital city offers. The chapter titles offer a glimpse of the book’s suggestions: “Cruising Afoot,” “Architecture Worth Seeing,” “Outdoor Sports,” and “An Approach to Art,” all of which directly correlate to today’s walking tours, architecture tours, sports stadiums, and art museums that are still popular. Even the Freedom Trail, which wouldn’t be organized for another 20 years after the book was published, is alluded to in two essays on “Historical Walks.” One reason we at the State Library particularly like this book is that we are featured in the essay “The Libraries of Greater Boston”:

Recreation in and about Boston; a handbook
of opportunities (1930)

“It contains a great collection of law reports, session laws, Federal, State, and town documents...” Some things never change!

Another particularly interesting look back into the region’s recreational history is a marketing pamphlet entitled “Come Again to New England.” The pamphlet’s introductory paragraph waxes on about the features, amenities, and recreational opportunities that abound in New England, but is particularly charming about the region’s people: “The ruggedness of her hills is reflected in the ruggedness of her people – statistics show that New Englanders live longer than the average – and that is one reason why New England is vacationland to so many thousands of visitors. Like them, if you come once, you’ll come again.” Whether this statistic is still true (or was ever true) we do not know, but the pamphlet goes on to list recreational literature about other sites throughout the region. In Massachusetts, it highlights Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, as well as historic Plymouth, the beautiful Mohawk Trail in Western Massachusetts, and more historic and outdoorsy spots to visit.

Come Again to New England (1930)

What are your favorite things to do in Massachusetts? It’s possible that people here have been enjoying exactly what you like to do for generations. Our catalog contains a wealth of information like the histories of your favorite cultural institution, the organization of the public recreational facilities by the state’s many recreational or environmental departments since 1898, and even guidebooks that led visitors throughout our state from as early as 1829. Our old and new resources can help whether you are planning your own getaway or wondering what your great-great-grandparents might have done for fun in Boston in the 1840’s.


Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, July 30, 2018

The “Zimmer” Newspaper Index

Although the State Library’s “Zimmer” newspaper index has been mentioned in some of our previous blogs, it’s such a great resource that I felt it deserving of its own post.  Developed and maintained by library staff, it was a card index to the “current events” of the time that were featured in late 19th and 20th century Massachusetts newspaper articles.  The bulk of the index covers the years 1878-1937, with some selected entries for earlier and later dates.  Entries include obituaries, political events, speeches, visits of foreign dignitaries, disasters (fires, floods, etc.) and other general newsworthy events.  A later index, which focuses primarily on political and governmental articles featured in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, covers the years 1960-1983.

The card index is nicknamed after Lowell native George Dana Zimmer, who was first appointed as an assistant in the library’s newspaper department by State Librarian Edward H. Redstone in 1924, and later became a senior library assistant.  Its history, however, can be traced back to the year 1891—over 30 years prior to Mr. Zimmer’s appointment.  State Librarian John W. Dickinson, in the library’s 1891 annual report, expressed a dire need for a newspaper index:

The modern newspaper covers so wide a field, in addition to the news of the world embodying carefully prepared special articles upon almost every subject of modern thought or material activity; it has become such an encyclopaedic treasure-house of information upon all subjects which are of interest to the historian or genealogist, the publicist or the student of political, economic or social questions, the merchant or the mechanic, the scientist or the man of letters, that the advisability of the employment of some competent person to make a comprehensive card index to some leading current newspaper, which shall also embody special features and the most important articles in other papers so far as may be practicable, is hereby commended to the careful consideration of the Legislature.  Such an index would save the patrons of the library a vast amount of time which is now spent in research, -- often to no purpose, -- and it would render accessible to public use a vast store-house of valuable material which is now practically unavailable after the day of its publication.

The next year, in 1892, the legislature, via Chapter 140 of the Acts, authorized the library trustees and the librarian “to cause to be prepared, at their discretion, an index to current events, and such other matters as they may deem important, contained in the newspapers of the day.”  James F. Munroe, who was in charge of the newspaper department at the time, created and maintained the “Current Events Index” (as it was previously known) until Zimmer succeeded Munroe in 1924.  Munroe’s “patient care and good judgment” to the project is noted in the library’s 1911 annual report.

The State Library has scanned the main part of the index (1878-1937) and hopes to make the collection available online in the future.  If you have any questions or would like for us to look up a person or event in the index for you, please send us an email ( or call our reference desk at 617-727-2590.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, July 23, 2018

For Every Seal a Story: Town and City Town Seals in the Commonwealth

The Massachusetts state seal, which adorns the commonwealth’s flag, is easily identifiable by most Massachusetts residents. In 1629 King Charles allowed the Massachusetts Bay Colony to create and use a seal as part of their charter, and though the symbol changed several times the local government always had an official seal during the colonial period. In 1780, the new state legislature settled on a new design to represent the Commonwealth, submitted by Nathan Cushing: an Algonquin Native American holding a bow and arrow pointed downward, signifying peace, against a blue shield; a white star in the upper left corner of the shield signifying their status as one of the 13 original colonies; and an arm holding a sword above the shield, illustrating the motto inscribed on the blue ribbon: “Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem” (“By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty”).

The seal, and consequently the flag, has persisted despite some controversy regarding the design, but it is certainly not the most interesting of the many seals that exist in the commonwealth. In 1899, the General Court passed Chapter 256, dictating that “the city government of every city not already having a seal shall by ordinance establish a seal of the city and designate the custodian thereof” and further that “every town not already having a seal shall… establish a seal of the town, which seal shall be in the custody of the town clerk.” While some cities and towns already had seals in place, this order required the rest of the towns to create official symbols that uniquely represented their identity.

Chapter 256 of the Acts and Resolves of 1899

As the cities and towns in the commonwealth acquiesced to the new law, many of the towns looked to their past. Many of the local seals reference the Native American tribes that lived in the area before the arrival of European settlers, though not all depictions are accurate to the various tribes’ way of life. For example, the Natick town seal originally showed a scene of Puritan missionary John Eliot preaching to several Wampanoag men (a common image seen in many town seals in the commonwealth) with a teepee in the background, despite the fact that the Wampanoag traditionally built and lived in wigwams. The seal has since been changed to correct this inaccuracy.

Other towns portrayed their founding namesakes or legends on their seal, such as Taunton. Paul Revere is featured on Revere’s seal, Alexander Hamilton on Hamilton’s seal, and E.N. Holbrook on Holbrook’s seal. The first town founded by a woman in the United States, the seal shows Elizabeth Poole purchasing the land from the Nemasket Native Americans in 1637, though in reality she was not involved in the direct purchase.

Seal of the city of Taunton
Other towns and cities created seals that looked to the industries that helped put them on the map. Merrimac’s seal celebrates the carriage-building industry that began there when it was still named West Amesbury, while Medford’s seal is one of many that gives prominence to the ship-building industry. The town of North Adams has a particularly original seal featuring the Hoosac Tunnel, a great feat of engineering that resulting in the longest tunnel in North America at the time it was opened in 1875.

Town Seal of North Adams
Every seal has a story, and thankfully there are many resources that include these stories. The State Library of Massachusetts has several resources regarding local, county, and state heraldry such as Civil heraldry; a roll of arms of cities and towns in the United States including those of some counties, councils and courts. A more comprehensive collection is the multi-volume Town and city seals of Massachusetts published in the 1950’s, which includes not only the seal, but some history and anecdotes regarding each town and its seal. Our Special Collections department even has a scrapbook from the Department of Agriculture featuring embossed and printed seals for towns and cities in Massachusetts. You can also reach out to your town clerk or otherwise designated custodian of your town or city’s seal for more information.

Further reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We Hold These Truths

We celebrate America’s independence on July 4, but Bostonians in 1776 did not hear the stirring words of the Declaration of Independence until it was read from the balcony of the Old State House on July 18. For those who were not part of that large crowd, the Declaration was also published in Boston on the same date. Three Boston newspaper publishers--John Gill, Edward E. Powars, and Nathaniel Willis--came together to print the Declaration as a broadside and in newspapers. Similar to modern-day posters, the broadside was a large piece of paper with printing just on one side that was posted and shared throughout the city. To spread the news of the Declaration even farther, its text was printed in Gill’s Continental Journal and Powars and Willis’ The New-England Chronicle. These are the only two newspapers in Boston that published the Declaration of Independence, though it appeared throughout Massachusetts in newspapers in Newburyport, Watertown, Worcester, and Salem. The State Library has a copy of the printing from The New-England Chronicle as part of its Special Collections holdings.

Full image and detail of The New-England Chronicle,
vol. VIII number 413, published July 18, 1776.

The first official printing of the Declaration of Independence was a broadside made by John Dunlap in Philadelphia on the night of July 4, 1776. Copies of that broadside were then distributed to the Committees of Safety in the other colonies, and the text from Dunlap’s printing was used by printers throughout the colonies to set their own versions in type. The copies that were printed by Gill, Powars, and Willis are significant because they mark the first time that the Declaration of Independence appeared in type in a Boston newspaper. If you look closely, you’ll see that in many instances it looks like the letter “f” appears in the text where an “s” should be. Powars and Willis didn’t pepper their version with typos; what looks like an “f” is actually known as a “long s.” This form of the lowercase s is used when it appears in the beginning or middle of a word, and as the first s in a word that includes a double s. The “long s” was used in the majority of books published in English during the 17th and 18th centuries, but most printers stopped using it by the early 1800s. Since the newspaper and broadside versions were set in type by many different people throughout the colonies, each version differs slightly in terms of punctuation, capitalization, and even some human error. It was not as easy to make an exact copy in the 1700s as it is today!

As the Preservation Librarian, I couldn’t end this post without a note on the newspaper’s condition. I spend a fair amount of time working with yellowed paper from the 1900s that is extremely brittle, and I’m always struck by how much better preserved paper is from the 1700s. The reason is a difference in paper quality. Paper in the 1700s was sometimes referred to as “rag paper” and it contained a higher content of cotton, which resulted in a strong and durable paper fiber. By the 1900s, paper was more commonly made with wood pulp, which is more acidic and would degrade faster. This is part of the reason why this newspaper from 1776 is in good condition, but the newspaper you might have tried to save when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 is likely starting to deteriorate!

By Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, July 16, 2018

Massachusetts City and Town reports: Paper and Electronic

The State Library holds a large collection of annual reports of Massachusetts towns and cities dating back to the nineteenth century, largely because of Massachusetts General Law chapter 40, section 50, which mandates that towns have to send us their annual town reports.  These reports provide much useful information about the Commonwealth’s many towns.

The cities and towns put a variety of information into the reports, and they are not uniform with their coverage.  Some cities or towns include vital statistics, including birth, marriage and death statistics.  Other town reports include the town budget, departmental reports of various offices in the town such as the town clerk, and information from the most recent town meeting.

For instance, the town report for Hadley 2017, which we have so far only in paper, has their town seal on the title page, a table of contents and some statistics about the town including the year settled (1659), year incorporated (1661), current population (5198) and registered voters (4035).  The town has some vital statistics which include the number of births, deaths, and marriages in the last five years.  They have various town agency reports.  This includes a report from the Public Health Nurse with a chart of reported diseases with Influenza and Lyme topping the list; and a report from Animal Control with the number of barking dog complaints, and other incidents.

In the last few years we have also collected some of the annual reports electronically.  We make these reports available in our Digital Repository called DSpace.  (See Hadley’s 2016 annual report here.) One can access the electronic reports from any computer.  We have a list of cities and town annual reports that we have currently in paper and electronically.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, June 25, 2018

Davy Crockett in Massachusetts

Massachusetts may be just as proud of its folklore as it is about its history. Countless books have been written about legends and lore throughout the commonwealth and its regions, and Massachusetts’ official folk hero is none other than John Chapman, a missionary and gardener from Leominster who many know solely as Johnny Appleseed. But he isn’t the only folk hero to have traversed through New England: in 1834, Davy Crockett made a visit to Boston.

Portrait of David "Davy" Crockett from
An Account of Col. Crockett's Tour to the North and Down East (1835)

David “Davy” Crockett had made a name for himself in East Tennessee for his hunting and storytelling prowess before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1827. During his lifetime, he was already the stuff of legend: a satirical play centered around a Crockett parody character named Nimrod Wildfire had opened in 1831, starring popular actor James Hackett in the title role.

This play, as well as an unauthorized biography of Crockett, appropriated his image and reputation and inspired him to create a biography “written by himself.” The memoir was politically driven and not as factual as he claimed, but it led him on a book tour that eventually brought him up to New England. After the book tour, he also wrote an account of the three-week tour itself.

The second publication, An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East, was published 1835. After visiting Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City, he arrived in Boston.  “I must… tell you where I stopped in Boston – and that was just where anyone that has plenty of cash, and plenty of goodwill for pleasure, would like – in a clean street, with a tavern on one side, and the theatre on the other, and both called Tremont,” he wrote.

Like many tourists that visit Boston today, Crockett saw the sights: “Fanuell Hall,” as he spelled it, where he saw the “accourtrements of war for several companies of infantry and riflemen”; Quincy Market, described as simply, “the market… mayor Quincey’s hammers were keeping time on the big granite stones, and the beautiful pillars were rising up as if he had just ordered them”; the Bunker Hill monument, which was still being built during his visit; the Old State House, where he gave a speech; and the current State House, where there was a statue of George Washington of which he did not approve: “They have a Roman gown on him, and he was an American: this a’n’t right… he belonged to this country-heart, soul, and body: and I don’t want any other to have any part of him – not even his clothes.”

He included an amusing dig at his nemesis Andrew Jackson in his record about the trip: the USS Constitution had a new figure-head in the likeness of Jackson, and when Crockett was asked if it was a good likeness, he responded, “I had never seen him misrepresented; but that they had fixed him just where he had fixed himself, that was – before the Constitution.”

Crockett declined a visit to Harvard University in Cambridge during his trip, comically fearing that “they keep ready made titles or nicknames to give people [there]… I would not go, for I did not know but they might stick an L.L.D. on me before they let me go; and I had no idea of changing ‘Member of the House of Representatives of the United States,’ for what stands for ‘lazy lounging dunce.’” He also visited Roxbury, or “Roxborough,” before heading up to witness the planned industrial city of Lowell, Mass.

“Mill Girls” in the Making-up room, Lawrence Hosiery Co., Lowell, Mass., ca. 1865.
Image courtesy of Historic New England.

Lowell had only been incorporated less than ten years earlier in 1826 and Crockett was absolutely marveled by the brand new manufacturing center. The female workers, Crockett observed, were “all well dressed, lively, and genteel in their appearance; indeed, the girls looked as if they were coming from a quilting frolic.” He toured the factories, speaking to the young girls who worked there, noting that “not one expressed herself as tired of her employment, or oppressed with work: all talked well, and looked healthy.” His accounts of Lowell make the manufacturing center sound like heaven on earth and certainly contain propaganda in favor of the mill-owners that were leading his tour. Only months before his visit, the Lowell mill girls had organized an unsuccessful strike against wage reduction.

Despite these literary works, Crockett was not re-elected in 1835 and famously (or infamously) damned his Tennessee constituents that “they might go to hell, and I would go to Texas.”  He arrived in Nacogdoches as the turmoil of the Texas Revolution began. Later he went to San Antonio, where he famously fought in the Battle of the Alamo and died on March 6, 1836, the last day of the 13-day siege. His death further catapulted him into the annals of American folklore, and today he is one of the most instantly recognized folk heroes in America.

The Fall of the Alamo (1903) by Robert Jenkins Onderdonk.

Further Reading:

An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East (1835) available online:

Thompson, Bob. “David Crockett, celebrity pioneer, went from wrestling bears to wrestling with his image.” Washington Post, February 8, 2013. <>

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, June 18, 2018

Online Guides to Manuscript Collections

In the past couple of years the Special Collections department with the help of our interns, has processed several collections that chronicle the history of Massachusetts and its people. Processing is the intellectual and physical organization of records. After processing is done the processor writes a finding aid (guide) describing the content of the records following archival standards. The finding aid serves as the first point of contact for researchers and it will help them determine if the collection would be of use to their research or if it would contain the information they are seeking.

Detailed listing of the Records of the Ancient
and Honorable Artillery of Massachusetts

Our finding aids are divided into two main categories: legislators’ papers and manuscript collections. You can learn more about these collections by reading their online finding aids, located in our DSpace repository:

Guides to Legislators' Papers:
Guides to Manuscript Collections:

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

Silvia Mejia
Special Collections Librarian

Monday, June 11, 2018

New Exhibit at the State Library: Massachusetts Firsts

For almost four hundred years, Massachusetts has led the country and the world in many ways. This exhibition celebrates a selection of the inventions, innovations, and events known as “Firsts” in Massachusetts.

This exhibition describes our Commonwealth’s Firsts in a number of categories, including Firsts in Massachusetts, Firsts in the United States, and Firsts in the world. Although the Bay State lays claim to a multitude of historic Firsts, only those that could be verified through a number of reliable sources were included in this exhibition.

The exhibition runs from June 11 through August 31, 2018 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 4, 2018

June Author Talk: Patricia Harris and David Lyon

Historic New England: A Tour of the Region’s Top 100 National Landmarks
By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Thursday, June 21, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library invites you to our final author talk of the season: on Thursday, June 21, authors Patricia Harris and David Lyon will speak about their new book, Historic New England: A Tour of the Region’s Top 100 National Landmarks.

Just in time for your summer road trip, this author talk will focus on some of the most interesting historic destinations in all of New England. This region contains one of the highest concentrations of National Historic Landmarks in the country, and although many of these landmarks are historic houses, other New England landmarks are surprisingly quirky, including carousels, submarines, a weather observatory, and a bird sanctuary.

Authors Patricia Harris and David Lyon have traveled and written together for decades and are the authors of more than thirty books about travel, food, and art. They live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, not far from the Longfellow House, and they can be found online at their Hungry Travelers food and travel blog:

Join us at the State Library at noon on June 21st for a lively discussion of New England’s unique historic landmarks and to get your signed copy of Historic New England.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, May 21, 2018

State Government Open Data

From March 12th to April 30th I completed the Civic Data Ambassadors program, which was offered by the City of Boston in collaboration with the Engagement Lab at Emerson College.  The program was advertised to Boston librarians who were curious about civic data and were interested in becoming Civic Data Ambassadors.  As student ambassadors, we learned about what civic data is, how it can be used to answer questions, how it impacts the Boston community, methods on searching and filtering open data, tools that can be used to create visualizations that can help with analysis, and how to identify when someone else can make use of such data.  “Open data,” as defined by the Open Data Handbook, is data that “can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone;” “use” could mean simply viewing the information for general interest or research purposes, or it could mean using it to create a helpful tool (i.e. weather app, traffic app, etc.).  As part of the course we completed projects using primarily the open data published in Analyze Boston; however, I came out of the program wanting to learn more about open data that is published by the Massachusetts state government.  It’s important to keep in mind that data is just as important and useful for research as published reports are—maybe even more so!  Below are examples of open data portals available online that are maintained by state and quasi-state agencies on a regular basis; they also allow data to be downloaded or exported into user-friendly formats (i.e. CSV and Excel files).

Dataset titled “Lead and Copper Drinking Water Results in Schools/Childcare,”
published via the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Data Portal.

MassData: the Open Data Initiative for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Massachusetts Department of Higher Education Data Center
MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) School & District Statewide Reports

Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Open Data Portal
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Data Dashboard

Office of the Comptroller’s CTHRU:  Financial Records Transparency Platform
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority Open Checkbook
Division of Banks Foreclosure Petition Website
Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance Contributions and Expenditures Data
Department of Unemployment Assistance - Labor Market Information (LMI)

Energy and Environment
Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Data Portal
Mass Save Data

Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) Databooks
Massachusetts Environmental Public Health Tracking

Division of Local Services (DLS) Municipal Databank
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) Open Data

If you are interested in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, check out our earlier blog about shapefiles, data layers, and mapping tools published by the state: 

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, May 14, 2018

The War against the Gypsy Moth in Massachusetts

If you aren’t an entomologist, there are probably few insect varieties that you know by species name. But most, if not all, citizens of Massachusetts and her surrounding states know the gypsy moth. Known by the Latin name Lymantria dispar, this particular moth has been devastating woodlands and forests in Massachusetts for over a century.

Image provided by the Department of Conservation and Recreation

The moth was accidentally introduced to Massachusetts in 1869, when a French-born amateur entomologist named Étienne Léopold Trouvelot imported the insect, probably via egg masses, to his home in Medford, Mass. He was occupied with experiments involving silk worms and he hypothesized that breeding silk worms with the robust gypsy moth found in Europe would allow the resultant cross breed to better survive handling and relocation as well as have a more varied diet and avoid existing natural predators, all of which made it ideal for commercial production of silk.

At the time, entomology was still a growing and disorganized science and the importation of insect species was not considered as potentially harmful or invasive. These “men of science were slow to understand the adverse consequences, and government authorities were ambivalent about regulating the practice… there were no legal, moral, or ethical restraints against the practice of transporting alien insects anywhere” Robert J. Spear wrote in his book The Great Gypsy Moth War (2005). Further, Trouvelot’s friend remembered that the backyard enclosure that he used to breed moths was enclosed by netting with significant holes, often large enough for native birds to get in and eat the experimental larvae. Despite these recollections, today we have no evidence of how the first eggs, larvae, caterpillars or adult gypsy moths escaped the enclosure.

Photograph of Trouvelot’s home in Medford, from
Ravages of the Gypsy and Brown Tail Moths 1905 (1906)

Trouvelot eventually turned his attention to other projects and experiments and the moth did not appear to trouble many people for several decades. Later in the 1890’s some witnesses and neighbors remembered Trouvelot searching for the insects, even destroying egg clusters and notifying local authorities of the insect’s escape. However, there is no evidence of these warnings, and by the time the gypsy moth became a problem in the 1890s, Trouvelot had long since moved back to France.

In 1889, swarms of gypsy moths invaded Medford. “Citizens could only stare in disbelief as the dirt streets became carpeted with millions of larvae that seemed to have materialized out of the earth… Great pulsating masses of larvae stripped any plant along their path in minutes,” (Spear). The train rails running through Medford were stained green by crushed larvae, and as they swarmed homes the sound of the larvae eating any and all vegetable matter both inside and outside homes was audible (Spear). The town roads commission attempted to battle the insects, but eventually the fear that the insect would attack agricultural communities inspired ambitious entomologists to urge Medford selectmen to petition the Legislature for assistance.

The outbreak had inspired the organization of the American Association of Official Economic Entomologists, later simply the Association of Economic Entomologists. Economic Entomologists believed that the insect had to be fully exterminated, rather than suppressed and controlled, to protect agricultural interests and with their urging the State Legislature passed an act that more or less declared war on the invasive species in 1890.

Section 1 of Chapter 95 of the Acts and Resolve of 1890,
which created the Gypsy Moth Commission

The Commission, under the Board of Agriculture, organized an army to exterminate the insect. By then the gypsy moth was spreading, found in the surrounding towns of Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, and more. The bulk of the army was made up of “privates” who were trained to spray Paris green, an arsenic-based insecticide. Spraying was expensive, and other crews instead scrapped egg masses away, wrapped trees with burlap to stop caterpillars from climbing to the foliage, or burned trees and brush altogether to kill off potential feeding grounds. Only after years of using arsenic-based insecticide would entomologists discover that gypsy moths are impervious to this particular chemical and that spraying arsenic had actually damaged native populations of birds and insects that might have fed on the gypsy moth.

The Gypsy Moth Commission was dependent on yearly appropriations from the Legislature, which made it difficult to hold on to trained personnel when funds ran out for a particular year. They also encountered resistance from private citizens who disapproved of the Commission’s employees coming onto their land without their permission, and much of the testimony provided in hearings regarding the gypsy moth war was given from these individuals. When the infestation threatened Middlesex Fells, the new Metropolitan Park Commission also stood in opposition to any destruction of public woodlands.

A page of testimony from the 1896 hearings

Despite years of work and reports swearing that the Commission was curbing the infestation, the moth continued to gain ground through Massachusetts to the utter bafflement of the economic entomologists involved in the Gypsy Moth Commission. They began to doubt that extermination was even possible. By 1900, an investigative committee began looking into the Gypsy Moth Commission and hearings were held to question those involved. The resultant report found that the efforts were misdirected and the expenditure of state funds had been “extravagant” due to mismanagement. The Commission did not remain for much longer.

The gypsy moth infestation continued to spread and by 1922 they were found in every single town and city in Massachusetts. The federal government eventually got involved as the infestation crossed state lines, and with the invention of DDT (a synthetic chemical compound) in 1946 aerial spraying began on infested areas. However, that didn’t stop the infestation of 1981, which is believed to be “the nadir of the struggle against the gypsy moth, a time when the insect seemed unstoppable and when its voracious habits results in the ‘defoliation’ of thirteen million acres--the greatest damage to trees ever caused by a single insect species in the United States” (Spear). Today, the state’s management has shifted from spraying to relying on nature to manage gypsy moth populations, including a fungus known as Entomophaga maimaiga that spreads quickly and causes significant gypsy moth mortality (Gypsy Moth in Massachusetts). Even so, the insect continues to be an issue both in the state of Massachusetts and throughout the United States.

Further reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, April 30, 2018

Library of Congress Magazine: A Plethora of Information

The State Library is a selective Federal documents depository library. One publication from the Library of Congress is called Library of Congress Magazine. This publication focuses on the collections and projects in the Library of Congress and frequently covers topics of a historical nature.  In the November/December 2017 issue one topic covered is “The Hamilton Papers: A Founding Father Online.”  The Library placed thousands of Hamilton’s letters online for the first time including one he wrote in 1769 as a 12 or 13 year old clerk in St Croix that covered topics such as excise taxes and how to avoid them, and his ambition to raise himself up to a higher station in life.  The Library goes on to say that “The Library holds the world’s largest collection of Hamilton papers, some 12,000 items concentrated from 1777 to Hamilton’s death by duel in 1804.” The letters include correspondence with well- known men such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Jay.  After Hamilton died his wife Elizabeth Schulyer Hamilton held onto her husband’s papers. She tried to get the US government to buy them and she succeeded in 1848 when Congress appropriated $20,000 to buy the papers.

This issue also has a story of “Veterans on the Homefront.”  This article includes a profile of Violet Clara Thurn Cowden of South Dakota who was a Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  She served her country by being employed as a pilot to fly domestically in order to liberate men for service overseas.  She was underweight and under the height requirement so she gorged on bananas and put a wrap in her hair to pass the physical examination.  She thought joining the WASPS would allow her to “do the thing I love most, and I didn’t have to pay for the gas.”

In another article called “An App for Them,” two sisters have created a user-friendly tool that allows veterans to record their stories of their service using just their smartphones.  It was developed for the Veterans History Project, which the U.S. Congress created in October 2000.  The app was started by two sisters in Massachusetts Jean Rhodes and Nancy McNamara.  It started when Rhodes first encountered the Veterans History Project.  She was conducting interviews with veterans alongside her son and found the process cumbersome.  She called her sister who owns her own web design company for advice.  They built a pilot app and tested it out and hired a firm to develop the app. Their product which they are donating to the Library has been tested by folklorists, oral historians from universities, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who have both used the app to interview veterans in their home states.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

State Library participates in ArtWeek

The State Library will participate in the Spring 2018 celebration of ArtWeek (April 27-May 6) on Friday, May 4, at 3:30pm, with a presentation of treasures in the Library’s Special Collections Department. Visitors will see treasures from the State Library collections that are not normally on public view, including 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 Regiment, early maps of Boston, and especially for this year’s event, items relating to tourism in Massachusetts.

ArtWeek, now a state-wide event produced by the Boch Center and with continued support from the Highland Street Foundation, began in 2013 with mostly Boston-area events. The ArtWeek website describes it as an “innovative festival featuring unique and unexpected experiences that are hands-on, interactive or offer behind-the-scenes access to artists or the creative process.” Many events are free, including ours.

The State Library’s treasures tour has limited seating, so registration is required. Please join us!

Register here:

State Library of Massachusetts, Special Collections Department
State House, Room 55 (Basement level, West Wing)
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02133

Monday, April 23, 2018

May Author Talk: Kathleen Teahan

The Cookie Loved ‘Round the World: The Story of the Chocolate Chip Cookie by Kathleen Teahan
Wednesday, May 9, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Did you know that the chocolate chip cookie is the official cookie of Massachusetts? We invite you to come to our next author talk on May 9th to hear author (and former State Representative) Kathleen Teahan share the story of the much-loved chocolate chip cookie, invented right here in the Commonwealth!

Kathleen Teahan’s children’s book, The Cookie Loved ‘Round the World: The Story of the Chocolate Chip Cookie is a fictionalized history of the invention of the chocolate chip cookie during the Great Depression in Whitman, Massachusetts. According to local legend, Toll House Restaurant owner and chef Ruth Wakefield stumbled upon this delicious creation due to a shortage of walnuts at the restaurant. Wakefield’s decision to substitute chocolate chunks in her Butter Do Drops cookies resulted in what would soon become the quintessential American cookie.

Author Kathleen Teahan taught English at Whitman-Hanson Regional High School and the Gordon Mitchell Middle School in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. She also represented the 7th Plymouth District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1997 to 2007, during which time she served on a number of committees and focused on the issues of equal rights, quality education, and improved health (especially oral health) for all. During her first year as a legislator, Rep. Teahan co-sponsored the bill (originally proposed by a third-grade class in Somerset) to make the chocolate chip cookie the official cookie of Massachusetts.

At the conclusion of Representative Teahan’s talk, she will be offering copies of her book for purchase and signing.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Our upcoming Author Talks:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Interconnected History of the State Library of Massachusetts and the “Law Library of Suffolk County Massachusetts”

Why doesn’t Suffolk County have its own, dedicated law library like every other designated county in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? That is the question. The origins of a shared law library in Boston (which makes up most of today’s Suffolk County) go back to 1803 with the creation of what would come to be known as the “Social Law Library.” Formally incorporated on Oct. 21, 1814 by Ch. 79, Acts of 1814, the Social Law Library to this day still remains a quasi-public agency supported by both private membership fees and state taxpayer funds. A few years prior, on Feb. 16, 1811, the Massachusetts General Court passed a resolve that provided “for an exchange of laws with the several states in the Union”. The statute books collected in this exchange would eventually overwhelm the offices in the State House and would be assembled to make up the first collections of the State Library of Massachusetts, which was formally established as the Library of the General Court on Mar. 3, 1826 by Ch. 123, Acts of 1825.

The original “exchange of laws” that had begun in 1811 to start the Library of the General Court was expanded by a resolve on Mar. 11, 1844 to include “an exchange of reported decisions of the Supreme Court, with the several states of the Union” and then again by another resolve on Feb. 27, 1845  “to promote Mutual Literary and Scientific Exchange with Foreign Countries … to exchange copies of the state map … and bound copies of the laws and legislative documents of the Commonwealth … for books and other works of science and art from foreign countries, to be deposited in the Library of the General Court.”  This expansion in the scope of collections would lead to the Library of the General Court being called the “State Library” by Ch. 155, Acts of 1849 which put the library under the office of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Not long after this change, Ch. 182, Acts of 1850 placed the State Library under the “management and control of three trustees, appointed by the governor” but the Secretary of the Board of Education would remain also as the State Librarian.

State Library of Massachusetts
The State Library and its expanding collections moved to a newly dedicated library space in the State House “Bryant Addition” in 1856, however, this section would be removed by the later “Brigham Addition” to the State House where the State Library would eventually move again in 1895 (and where the main library still resides today in Rooms 341 and 442 of the State House) after having become its own department directly under the governor in 1893 (Ch. 86, Acts of 1893). The State Library is now under the administration of the Executive Branch Office for Administration and Finance (Ch. 329, Acts of 1980) after spending a short time under the former Executive Office of Educational Affairs (Ch. 704, Acts of 1969) until that department was reorganized. The State Library would officially and legally become the “depository library for Massachusetts state publications” by the passing of Ch. 259, Acts of 1966 (later amended by Ch. 412, Acts of 1984).

The State Library is laser focused on its legislative mandate to “maintain a complete collection of Massachusetts state publications, both current and historic” (M.G.L. Ch. 6, Section 39A) and on their digitization and addition to the State Library’s growing digital repository.  And what of practical legal research needs rather than the historical?  The State Library provides free in-library access to WESTLAW, Instatrac, the State House News Service, and Social Law Library legal databases. And what about those needs outside the scope of the State Library’s collections? Members of the public can freely use the collections of the State Library’s law library partners—any of the libraries of the Trial Court Library System (either in person or online), the First Circuit Law Library of the United States Court of Appeals in Boston, or by obtaining a courtesy pass to the Social Law Library at the John Adams Courthouse. We thank our legal partners for helping with the enormous and ever changing responsibility of excluding no one from accessing the legal resources they need.

Judy Carlstrom
Technical Services