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

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Great Elm on Boston Common

Did you know that the American elm (ulmus americana) is the official tree of Massachusetts?  Elm trees have played a significant role in Massachusetts history and folklore, many of which were venerated for their old age and associations with important people and events.  One famous American elm witnessed the founding of Boston, saw the excitement and violence during the American Revolution, stood through the city’s industrial age, and was finally felled by a winter storm in 1876—which caused an outpouring of sorrow in Boston and around the commonwealth.

A facsimile of a map drawn by John Bonner in 1722
 providing an early depiction of Boston, including
the Great Elm. (Source:  Library of Congress).
The “Great Elm” was considered old even as far back as the early 18th century, and it was estimated to have been planted sometime between the 1620s-1670s.  It stood in a central location on the Boston Common and later in its life drew many visitors due to its age and unusually large size; in 1855 the City Engineer measured it as “height, seventy-two and one-half feet; girth one foot above the ground, twenty-two and one-half feet; girth four feet above the ground, seventeen feet; average diameter of greatest extent of branches, one hundred and one feet.” (Source, p. 51)  In fact, one of the tree’s earliest depictions is on a 1722 map of Boston by John Bonner, which reveals it as being much larger than other trees in the area.

An engraving, circa 1792, that shows the Great Elm
centered on the Boston Common (Source). 
The Boston Common, founded in 1634, is a historically rich location, and it goes without saying that the elm bore witness to many events throughout its lifetime.  The British Red Coats encamped on the Common for eight years starting in 1768, and the colonial militia also mustered here; it is also said that the Sons of Liberty often met in the neighborhood near the tree during the Revolutionary era.  Methodist Episcopal clergyman Jesse Lee delivered a sermon under the Great Elm in 1790, and some believe that this was the origin of Methodism in New England.  A memorial of Jesse Lee’s sermon, published in 1875, traces the history of the elm and describes a duel that occurred nearby in 1728 between Benjamin Woodbridge and Henry Phillips.  The elm is also believed to have been the site of public executions, including the hangings of Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson in 1659, and Mary Dyer in 1660.

Over time, the effects of age, its size, weather-related events, and constant visitors caused the tree to weaken; Jerome V. C. Smith, the mayor of Boston from 1854-1855, took special interest in its care and preservation and built an iron enclosure around it—upon which was a tablet that read:

This tree has been standing here for an unknown 
period.  It is believed to have existed before 
the settlement of Boston, being full
grown in 1722.  Exhibited marks of
old age in 1792, and was nearly
destroyed by a storm in 1832.
Protected by an iron
enclosure in 1854.
J. V. C. Smith, Mayor

A photograph of the 1866 New England Centenary Convention,
with the Great Elm pictured in the background.(Source)

The elm weathered a damaging storm in 1860 and stood for another 16 years until a strong gale took it down on February 15, 1876.  People sought to collect pieces of its wood as mementos, and some even repurposed the wood to build various items, such as a chair that can be found today in the Boston Public Library’s rare book department.

For more information about the Great Elm and other famous trees in Massachusetts history, check out the following resources below.

Resources and Further Reading

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Friends Newsletter - April 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Laws during the Dominion of New England

The Province of Massachusetts Bay, far before it was ever a commonwealth in the United States of America, had the ability to form a legislative body or “General Court” in order to pass laws as part of their original charter. At the State Library, we have several volumes of laws from both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony, though these volumes stop at 1685. The laws then resume in 1692, and each of these acts and resolves are available online. But what happened between 1686 and 1692?

In 1684, King Charles II of England revoked the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s 1629 charter. The Puritans had been ignoring English civil law in favor of their own biblical teachings and voting requirements, specifically those regarding trade with other nations (known as the Navigation Acts) and the Crown had insisted that they revise their charter so that English civil law would be back on top. When the colony refused, Charles II revoked their charter. He died soon after, and his successor James II took action a step further: in an effort to organize and centralize government administration in the colonies, he combined the northern colonies including Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, and Connecticut, as well as the Provinces of New Hampshire and later New York, East Jersey, and West Jersey in 1688. Together, they were the new Dominion of New England.

Seal of the Dominion of New England

The new government under the Dominion of New England consisted of an appointed gubernatorial council and no representative legislature, and in protest many of the individuals who were appointed to the council (and those elected to be military officers) refused to serve. The colonists in Massachusetts Bay also resisted paying taxes and establishing an Anglican congregation. When Edmund Andros, previously Royal Governor of New York and new Governor of the Dominion of New England, arrived in Boston at the end of 1686, he decided to pursue a hardline position with the rebellious colonists, arresting those rallying the people to protest and resist taxes, limiting town meetings to once a year, and challenging land titles. He also established the first Anglican congregation (today’s King’s Chapel) by claiming land by eminent domain. This choice was extremely unpopular due to the land being next to the oldest Puritan cemetery in Boston (now known as the King’s Chapel Burying Ground).

King's Chapel, Boston, Mass. circa 1930-1945

Needless to say, Andros’ reign was not popular and religious leaders like Cotton and Increase Mather petitioned the Crown to hear their case against Andros. At the same time, England’s Glorious Revolution began, and James II was replaced by sovereigns William and Mary. Increase Mather, who had gone to England to press charges against Andros, was there just in time to meet with the new monarchs regarding a new charter. At the same time, the news of the Glorious Revolution caused a political revolt in Boston in 1689, during which the insurgents arrested Andros and set up a new temporary government known as the Council for Safety.

The new Massachusetts Bay charter created the Province of Massachusetts Bay and absorbed Plymouth colony and Maine, but many of the original aspects of the 1629 charter were forever lost. While the province once again had a representative legislature, they had lost many of its other self-governing rights, including electing their governor, who would now be appointed by the Crown. English civil law was also elevated above the Puritans’ congregation-based laws to uphold as the Navigation Acts and remove religious restrictions on voting.

During this short period of time, the colony of Massachusetts Bay did not exist politically, which may account for the gap in laws at the State Library of Massachusetts. But where would the laws, passed by Governor Andros and his council, actually be located? In our collections, we have a 1928 reprinting of the Laws of the Dominion of New England from 1686, but no other years. The cover page states: “From the only known copy of the original issue, now in the archives of the State of New Hampshire.” A handwritten note adds, “These orders and others… may be found in Laws of New Hampshire (ed. By Batchellor) vol. 1, p. 102-138.”

Laws of the Dominion of New England

The 1902 edition of the Laws of New Hampshire, compiled by Albert Stillman Batchellor, appears to be the only time that the laws of the Dominion of New England have ever been published. It is possible that Batchellor traveled to England for certified copies of these laws so that his compilation would be as complete as possible. Thankfully, it is available online on courtesy of Harvard University and Google Books. Manuscript copies of the laws and council minutes are also available in the Massachusetts State Archives. These original engrossed acts have never been digitized, but thankfully researches can still locate laws from this time period via Batchellor’s edition.

Special thanks to Brian Buford of the New Hampshire State Archives and John Hannigan of the Massachusetts State Archives for their assistance in tracking down these laws.

Further Reading:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, March 26, 2018

New acquisition: 1897 “Boston Souvenir Calendar”

Images of the building we all work in make welcome additions to the State Library’s collection of artifacts relating to the State House. This small calendar (4 ¾” high by 3 ½” wide) has six sheets, with our own building featured prominently on the front. Other images include Old South Church, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, Old North Church, and Trinity Church.

The calendar was published in 1896 by L. Prang & Co., Boston, the firm owned by Louis Prang (1824-1909), who was best known for his work in chromolithography. Except for a small loss in the lower left corner of the top card, the calendar is in very good condition. It came as a gift in March, 2018.

We plan to add it to Souvenir 90: Artifacts relating to the Massachusetts State House, 1865-2014.

Beth Carroll-Horrocks
Special Collections Department

Monday, March 19, 2018

April Author Talk: Amber Moulton

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts 
By Amber D. Moulton 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to join us on Wednesday, April 4, to hear author Amber Moulton speak about her book The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts.

Based on information from court and church records, family histories, and popular literature, The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts chronicles the grassroots movement to overturn the Commonwealth’s ban on interracial marriage that culminated in its repeal in 1843. Even though Massachusetts was known as an abolitionist stronghold before the Civil War, a powerful racial caste system persisted, reinforced by a law prohibiting interracial unions. Dr. Moulton’s well-researched book details the work of activists and reformers to overturn this law and thereby help shape this early chapter in the fight for civil rights.

Author Amber Moulton leads the Unitarian Universalist
Service Committee’s emergent research program, where she conducts multidisciplinary research into human rights abuses to support advocacy and policy reform. Prior to her work at UUSC, Dr. Moulton taught at Harvard University, Northeastern University, and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She holds a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University and has published several articles on environmental justice and human rights.

Dr. Moulton will be selling and signing copies of The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts at the conclusion of her talk at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Closer Look at the MacArthur Scrapbook

I recently wrote about a scrapbook documenting General Douglas MacArthur's visit to Massachusetts that made its way to the preservation lab because it needed to be re-housed. When an item comes to the lab, my primary concern is addressing its preservation needs but I also spend a little time examining these items and appreciating their historical value. When I started working on this scrapbook I initially thought that it only contained photographs, but I was surprised to find that nestled amongst the pages was a menu for a dinner held in General MacArthur's honor. Personally, one of my favorite items in special collections are historical menus. On an aesthetic level, I love looking at the intricate designs, illustrations, and ornaments that adorn menus from the 19th and 20th centuries. On a research level, I appreciate the information that we can glean from them, which often provide insight into popular foods and dinner customs, entertainment culture, class, and the economy during a specific point in history.

The MacArthur menu is a dinner menu from the Oval Room at the Sheraton Copley Plaza (now the Fairmont Copley Plaza) and is dated July 25, 1951. According to the hotel's current website, the Oval Room is considered one of the most beautiful rooms in Boston with a sky and cloud mural painted on its ceiling. Given this location and the fact that a special menu was printed for the occasion, we can guess that MacArthur's dinner was a formal affair. The cover of the menu is illustrated with his profile and a welcome message, and our copy also includes his signature, written in pencil. The following two pages list the wide variety of items that were available for dinner, ranging from the "Chef's Special" - a grilled ham steak Hawaiian style for $2.00 - to the sirloin steak for two, which at $9.00 is the priciest item on the menu. When I come across a historical menu, I always like to examine the options and figure out what I would have ordered and how much it would have cost me. I also usually find that there are at least a few menu items that aren't familiar to me, or that don't sound appetizing at all to my 21st century palate. I encourage our readers to take a close look at the menu and do the same!

Beyond food items, the menu also tells us a little bit about nightlife culture in the 1950s. The menu indicates that music and dinner service was until 9:00 p.m., followed by dancing until close. There was no cover charge at the Oval Room, but I was curious about two taxes that were printed on the menu - a Massachusetts old age tax of 5% and an amusement tax of 20% (but only after 9:00 p.m.). A little bit of digging revealed that the Massachusetts old age tax was a 5% state tax on meals that cost over $1.00 to help fund the Old Age Assistance Fund, a state program that was similar to Social Security and was in existence from 1941 to 1955. A version of the amusement tax, also referred to as the fun tax, is still around today. Tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other "fun" activities are exempt from sales tax, but they can be subject to separate amusement tax. Luckily, eligible amusement and recreational services today are not taxed at 20% today like they were in 1951!  

The MacArthur menu is now housed in an acid-free paper sleeve and stored along with the photographs from the scrapbook. Taking some time to look deeper into the content of the items that I work on is a fun part of my job, and I look forward to the next interesting item that makes its way to the preservation lab.

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Friends Newsletter - March issue

It is the first of the month and that means the Friends newsletter is out and it is full of information about the Library's coming events. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Congressional Duel and Massachusetts’ Reaction

This past Saturday marked the 180th anniversary of a fatal duel between two United States congressmen.  On February 24th, 1838, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, right outside the border of the District of Columbia, a duel between Representative Jonathan Cilley of Maine and Representative William J. Graves of Kentucky was held, which resulted in the death of Cilley after three rounds with rifles.  The trouble began when Cilley accused James Watson Webb, editor of the New York Courier and Enquirer, of taking bribes.  Webb responded to these accusations through a letter and asked Graves to deliver it to his detractor, who declined to accept it.  Further discussion between Cilley and Graves about the refusal worsened the situation and, although they had no known grievance against one another prior to this, Graves felt that his character was also under attack and challenged Cilley to a duel.  Three days after Cilley’s death a funeral, attended by President Martin Van Buren, was held in the U.S. House Chamber.

The Massachusetts General Court was horrified by the event and, in official statements, called the practice “savage, cowardly, and abominable” before amending the language to “immoral, unchristian, and unlawful.”  Massachusetts laws prohibiting duels and levying punishments on participants go back as far as the early 18th century, as evidenced in the following acts:

A joint select committee was quickly formed in the General Court to review the matter and to determine what action, if any, should be taken.  The committee’s scathing report found that, despite most states having laws in place against dueling, one major problem was an overall “reluctance on the part of the public, to prosecute and convict … offender[s]” due to the sentiment of bravery and honor associated with it.  The report also pushed federal legislators to use their influence and “all reasonable exertions” to “procure the passage of a law by Congress” that would suppress the custom once and for all—with many states submitting similar petitions.  In February of 1839, after a lengthy debate in the U.S. Congress, a law was passed (Chap. 30) that criminalized the challenging or acceptance of duels in the District of Columbia; this law strengthened earlier 18th century laws in DC that merely banned the act itself.  As public opinion changed over time, dueling in the United States saw a decline during the Civil War era and eventually came to an end in the 1880s.

Other congressional duels:
Further reading:

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

March Author Talk: Brooke Barbier

Boston in the American Revolution: A Town versus an Empire
by Brooke Barbier 
Wednesday, March 7, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, 
Massachusetts State House

Join us at the State Library on Wednesday, March 7, for an author talk with Brooke Barbier, author of Boston in the American Revolution: A Town versus an Empire

Boston in the American Revolution explores the truths behind the myths of the key players in the American Revolution, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. These historical figures come to life in vivid detail in this lively and entertaining read. In addition to its fresh perspective on the years leading up to the Revolution, Boston in the American Revolution provides a guide to the sites in the Boston area where these important historical events unfolded.

Author Brooke Barbier is the founder of Ye Olde Tavern Tours, which offers spirited tours of the Freedom Trail in Boston. She earned her Ph.D. in American History from Boston College, where she studied the history of Boston before and during the American Revolution. Before founding her historical tavern tour business, she worked as a historical consultant for the
Boston Red Sox.

Dr. Barbier will be selling and signing copies of Boston in the American Revolution at the conclusion of her talk. We invite you to register in advance, and we look forward to seeing you on March 7 at the State Library.

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Upcoming Author Talks at the State Library:

Monday, February 12, 2018

The History of Black History Month

February is Black History Month, but did you know that this celebration was first held in 1915 at the Chicago Coliseum.  The celebration was originally called the Lincoln Jubilee and was held 50 years after Lincoln passed the emancipation of the slaves.  It was sponsored by the state of Illinois.  One of the participants was Carter Woodson, who had a doctorate from Harvard. He and other exhibitors had a black history display.  The celebration lasted 3 weeks and thousands of people came.  Afterwards Woodson met with other people they decided to form an organization to promote scientific study of black life and history. They called it the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH).  In 1920 Woodson urged black civic organizations to promote achievements that researchers were uncovering.  In 1924 Woodson’s old fraternity created Negro History and Literature Week which was renamed Negro Achievement Week.

Woodson sent out a press release for the first Negro History Week in February 1926.  He chose the month of February because Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays are celebrated during February.  Woodson did not believe in celebrating the lives of only two men but the black community “should focus on the countless black men and women who had contributed to the advance of human civilization.”  After World War I there were many black people who had migrated to the North and were doing well because of urbanization and industrialization.  There was a lot of racial pride and consciousness.  Woodson expanded the (ANSLH) and established the Negro History Bulletin in 1937 at the urging of Mary McLeod Bethune.   She was an educator, humanitarian and civil rights activist best known for starting a private school for African-American students in Florida.

During the 1940s the study of black history expanded.   In the South, black history was often taught to supplement U.S. history in schools.  It is said that there was one teacher who would hide Woodson’s textbook beneath his desk in order to not anger the principal.  Many years before his death in 1950, Woodson believed that the weekly celebrations of black history would eventually come to an end.  Woodson never intended black history to be about black firsts and a parade of black icons.  He intended the observance to combat institutional hatred of black people and this new information would be included in the teaching of American history.

In the 1960s Negro History Week was on its way to becoming Black History Month.  In the 1940s, West Virginia, where Woodson made speeches often, black people, began to celebrate Negro History Month.  Frederick H. Hammaurabi, a cultural activist in Chicago, also began celebrating Negro History Month in the mid-1960’s. As black college students became more aware of links to Africa, Black History Month began to replace Negro History Week.  In 1976 on the 50th anniversary of the first Negro History Week Black History Month was celebrated nationally.  We now call it African American History Month.

Since the 1970s every President has issued a proclamation for endorsing the ASNLH African American’s annual theme of achievement.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian

Monday, February 5, 2018

Red, White , and Yellow: The Many Faces of the Bulfinch State House

The State House of Massachusetts is easily one of the most iconic buildings in Boston. The classic Federal exterior, the pillars, and the stunning golden dome inspired Oliver Wendell Holmes to crown it “the hub of the solar system,” and Boston is still known as the “the Hub” today. But the original State House, completed in 1798 and designed by Charles Bulfinch, did not always exemplify the brick-based style that is so characteristic of Boston itself. For the majority of the 19th century, it wasn’t even red.

Etching of the State House, painted white, during the Bunker Hill celebration,
Ballou’s Pictorial c. 1850s.

In 1825, during Charles Bulfinch’s lifetime, the State House of Massachusetts was painted bright white by Gore & Baker, who charged only $2,631.19 for the job. Many of Boston’s famous buildings were being similarly painted, possibly to protect the brick and make it water tight (Preservation by Prevention). Throughout the 1800’s, the Bulfinch façade was painted several more times, though the color was often left out of the receipts of work. Ellen Mudge Burrill, who wrote several guide books regarding the State House, estimates that thirty years after it was first painted white, the State House was changed to yellow. This is explains by the extension behind the State House, built in 1895 and designed by Charles E. Brigham, was built with yellow brick rather than with red.

Postcard of the State House showing the Brigham extension, ca. 1901-1919

Throughout these many faces of the State House, some people thought that the Bulfinch building should be replaced all together to make way for a bigger, better building. By the 1890s, despite consistent maintenance to the building and an expansion in the 1850s, the overall condition of the State House had caused some legislators to suggest demolition. This caused a public outcry, inspiring petitions, articles, pamphlets entitled “Save the State House,” and a “ladies committee” that demanded preservation of the historic landmark (State House Historic Structures Report). Thankfully the Legislature decided to preserve, not destroy, the building in 1896. Instead, the State House was expanded again with white Vermont marble and granite wings designed by designed by William Chapman, R. Clipson Sturgis, and Robert D. Andrews and built between 1914 ad 1917.

Postcard featuring the State House, painted white, with the new
 East and West Wings, ca. 1913-1918.

However, by the 1920s, a desire to restore the old buildings of Boston hit the city. The Park Street Church, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, and many other important early buildings were being stripped of their coats of paint and restored to their traditional brick facades. This was in part because of a Romantic Movement inspired by the (often misinformed) restorations of medieval structures in Europe, as well as the rise of an Arts and Crafts Movement that wanted to expose the rough brick and the “’honest’ crafts of the past,” though it is possible they were misinformed as well (Historic Masonry Finishes). Because the State House was painted during the architect’s lifetime, it is possible that it, as well as other Georgian and Federal brick buildings, were always meant to be painted.

Fanueil Hall and the Old State House before they were restored to their original
brick facades. From the Postcard collection of the State Library of Massachusetts'
Special Collections department.

However, around 1910 some wondered whether the State House should also be restored. On July 12, 1927, Ellen Mudge Burrill submitted a report to Fred Kimball, the Superintendent of Buildings, calling for the restoration of the State House, citing the restoration of the other historic buildings in Boston and the State House’s own architectural importance. Kimball requested permission to strip the paint from Governor Alvan T. Fuller on July 18, 1927 and the next year, workmen began sandblasting the Bulfinch building’s paint away.

The sandblasting was an immense project. The State House had layers and layers of oil paint, much of which had to be burned after it was removed. One article described the work as such: “There are four men doing it, two in each ‘gang.’ They work on a scaffolding lowered down the side of the building by means of a hoisting tackle… While one man applies the acetylene torch, the other, with a long-handled scraper removed the burned paint. The process leaves a surface that looks as if it has gone through a siege of fires” (Boston Post, 1928).

Cover of the January 1953 publication of Telephone Topics showing the restored front of the State House

After the restoration was completed, most appeared to have very favorable opinions on the State House’s new look. One reporter wrote that passersby “never saw the old front with its gilden dome look so attractive” and that the exposure of the brick “is widely considered an unexpected architectural triumph” (Corbett, 1928). But not all liked how the red brick and the granite wings looked together: another writer declared that the newly stripped State House “reminds him of a lean corned beef sandwich” (“The Restored State House,” 1928). Another writer reflected on an opinion that suggested the stripped brick was “indecent” and the only proper course of action would be to “cover it up and forget it… put [it] in the Art Museum along with the other nudes” (M.A.A., 1928). Thankfully today both citizens and tourists of Boston share the view that our beautiful State House is indeed an architectural triumph, and few today have compared it to a sandwich.

See Also:

Works Cited:

Alexandra Bernson
Reference staff

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

Scrapbook of Eugene N. Foss (Scrapbook 17)

Bronze-colored medallion
with the saying “a la Sainte
Terre,” which is included in
the Foss scrapbook collection.
Old scrapbooks are interesting research tools because, behind all the pasting and arranging, there was a dedicated compiler who was deeply invested in documenting a certain person, event, or subject.  Sometimes scrapbooks document the life and memories of the compiler him or herself, and the types of materials included can offer a more complete story than a journal or diary alone.  Scrapbooks can contain all sorts of documents and ephemera (letters, photos, greeting cards, class grades, etc.), which may have been otherwise discarded if they hadn’t been preserved in such a way; objects that have a meaning or memory attached are also commonly found in scrapbooks (e.g. pressed flowers, silverware, fabric).

The State Library houses a large collection of scrapbooks which can be searched for using our online catalog.  One especially voluminous example covers the career of Massachusetts Governor Eugene N. Foss (1858-1939).  Under the direction of Foss, this 40 volume set was compiled by Marion Pottle over a 30 year period, starting from 1902 up through 1936, and includes materials that document Foss’ political activities, business interests, family life, and his life after politics.  The volumes largely contain newspaper clippings, but other types of items, such as banquet menus, posters, flyers, correspondence, a medallion, and a letter from Franklin Delano Roosevelt while he was serving as Governor of New York, can also be found throughout.  Here’s a link to the catalog record, which provides more information about this collection:

Examples of newspaper clippings and correspondence found
within the Foss scrapbook collection.
For questions about scrapbooks or other archival materials housed at the State Library, you can contact our Special Collections Department via the following ways:

State Library of Massachusetts
Special Collections Department
Room 55, State House
24 Beacon St.,
Boston, MA 02133
Phone:  617-727-2595

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department