Monday, November 19, 2018

The World’s Fair

Did you know the State Library has books about various World’s Fairs? The guides to these expositions are quite diverse and include maps, advertisements, pictures of the fairgrounds (including iconic buildings), and sculptures.  The World’s Fairs are frequently called expositions or expo for short.  In 1928 an organization called the International Bureau of Exhibitions started running these fairs. The purpose of these exhibitions was to showcase achievements of nations. These fairs or expositions also provided entertainment, introduced artwork and architecture, celebrated history, technology and industry.

In 1876 Philadelphia hosted an historical exposition which celebrated the centennial of the Declaration of Independence and they hosted another exposition in 1926 for its 150th birthday. 

The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 put the Eiffel Tower on display.  In fact the tower was not finished and workman worked throughout the night to finish the 2nd floor observation deck. The Paris Exposition of 1889 is the centennial of the Storming of the Bastille which opened May 6, 1889. The Eiffel Tower was used as the entranceway for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.  This exhibition was devoted to the technological achievements of the past century.  Paris has been host to 6 World’s Fairs the most of any country, including 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, 1900, and 1937.

In 1893 Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus coming to the New World in 1492.  The buildings were done in the beaux arts style which is a classical Greco-Roman style. There were many white buildings that were built and it became known as the white city. Some buildings from the fair still exist including the Museum of Science and Industry which is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts.  The Art Institute of Chicago was built for the 1893 fair.  Various states in the U.S. put up exhibits including Connecticut who featured the Pope Manufacturing Company makers of the Columbia bicycle.  The Ferris Wheel was also introduced at the Columbian Exposition.

In 1904 St Louis, Missouri hosted a World’s Fair for the one hundredth anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase which was in 1803.  Originally this fair was going to be held in 1903 but more time was needed to allow more states and foreign countries to participate.  It is also known as the fair that introduced the most food.

New York is the only city to have a World’s Fair where one fair lasted more than one year.  They did this twice from 1939-1940 and 1964-1965.  The 1939 World’s Fair has a guidebook which features descriptions of exhibits such as the bobsled ride, which was nicknamed “The Flying Turns” where “visitors hurtle at terrific speed down a banked runway reminiscent of a real bobsled course. Some of the turns are taken at a stomach-jolting ninety-degree angle, the sleds being held to their course by centrifugal force.”  Various companies display their products such as the Continental Baking Company, which have a demonstration of Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake being slo-baked. The guidebook uses Art Deco imagery and architecture.

We have two guides for the World’s Fair in New York City from 1964-1965: one for 1964 and one for 1965. The metal globe and the bronze statue from the Fair are still at the location where the fair was held.  Tennis fans might recognize this picture because it is where the US Open of tennis is held in Flushing Meadows, NY.  Nowadays there still are World’s Fairs just not as often as in the past.  Instead they now focus on such topics as the environment.

For more information consult these resources:

Philadelphia Exposition 1876

The Columbian Exposition 1893

St Louis World’s Fair of 1904

Philadelphia Exposition 1926

Naomi Allen
Reference Staff

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Magazines are Now Available in Overdrive!

That’s right!  Nearly 100 popular magazine titles have now been added to Overdrive.  What is
Overdrive?  Overdrive is a free service offered through libraries that allows patrons to borrow eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and now magazines from a collection of millions of titles.  And the best thing about the magazines is that they are always available to anyone who wants to read them—no holds, no waiting!

So how do you get in on this awesome deal?  State government employees can access Overdrive with their State Library card by logging in here (choose “CW MARS Patrons” in the dropdown menu).  If you are a government employee and have not yet applied for a card, you can do so by visiting this page on our website.

Not a state employee?  No problem!  Most local public libraries offer this service, so get in touch with one today.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Broadside Trapped in Plastic

Recently an item came to the Preservation Lab that needed a fair amount of work. This 11 x 17.5" document had vertical and horizontal crease lines from when it had previously been folded, and had been encased in what looked like clear, adhesive, plastic casing, almost like what we think of today as a laminating sheet. The plastic casing is not original to the document; it was added by a library employee in the 1920s or 1930s in an effort to preserve the document. They likely had good intentions, but this repair does not align with the techniques or supplies that we use to preserve our important documents today. Text was printed on the front of the document, though the back had no text, and there were no handwritten notations. The paper itself was in good condition, so I knew that I wanted to try to remove it from the plastic casing. I also noticed that the document was torn along its creases, so the plastic casing was keeping it together, and when it was removed the document would be in four different pieces and would need to be reconnected.

The document covered in plastic, with one section removed.

Before I began the task of removing the plastic casing I noted that the entire front had been covered, along with a good portion of the back.  Some of the plastic had lost its adhesion and become brittle as it aged, so I used a microspatula to work my way under the plastic and lift it up from the document, and then snipped it away with scissors. This process took some patience because I needed to be careful not to lift up any of the paper along with the plastic. The document also spent a bit of time in a humidification chamber, in an effort to introduce some humidity to loosen up the areas that remained firmly adhered. This process, while slow, resulted in the document being almost entirely free from its plastic casing. There are some areas where the plastic remains, since trying to lift it from the document would have resulted in too much loss of paper and text.

Once the bulk of the plastic casing was removed, the document was in four pieces. I used a thin Japanese paper and wheat paste to back all four individual sections and then join them together. The Japanese paper served two purposes; it reconnected the sections, and provided an extra layer of support on the back of the document, thus making it stronger and easier to handle. After the document was backed with Japanese paper, I covered it with a sheet of spunbonded polyester and a sheet of blotter paper, and then placed it under weights overnight. This would ensure that the paper dried flat and evenly. The next morning, I did some light cleaning and made a custom folder as a new enclosure.

A few pieces remain, but most of the plastic was
removed from the document. 

I spent a lot of hours hunched over this document, so I got a close look at what exactly I was working on. This document is a broadside addressed "To the Electors of the Counties of Bristol and Norfolk" from "An Elector" - an anonymous individual who wrote what is essentially a political endorsement for Caleb Strong, running for Governor of Massachusetts in 1812. Strong had previously served as governor from 1800 to 1807, and he would go on to win this election and serve again from 1812 to 1816. The broadside also endorsed William Phillips for Lieutenant Governor, and Samuel Crocker, Sylvester Brownell, and Joseph Heath for Senate. It goes into detail about current events of the early 1800s and provides opinions about commerce, trade, and taxes. While that content might not be very relatable today, the broadside begins with a more general plea that still applies in 2018. It states, "You will soon be called to the polls to exercise once more the right of suffrage; a right which though often neglected is of inestimable value, though often irksome in practice may secure your permanent prosperity and peace . . ." Occasionally when I'm working with historical documents, I am struck by how an idea or sentiment may still ring true today, even though decades or centuries have passed. With Election Day on the horizon, please keep this plea in mind - confirm your polling location and make time in your schedule to vote. It may be irksome, but it was important in 1812 and it's important today!

Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian

Monday, October 29, 2018

History and Halloween: Ancient Graveyards and Burial Grounds

Graveyards take on an especially spooky feel during the Halloween season, particularly those with ancient stories to tell. Almost four hundred years have passed since the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, an event that will be commemorated by Plymouth 400 throughout 2020, and many of the original graveyards from the early days of Massachusetts Bay Colony still exist throughout the commonwealth.

The oldest maintained cemetery in America is located in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Named for its most famous resident, Myles Standish Burial Ground has existed since about 1638. Several other individuals who arrived on the Mayflower are also buried there, including John Alden and his son Captain Jonathan Alden, who died in 1697 and whose gravestone is the oldest extant carved gravestone in the cemetery. The burial ground was abandoned in the late 1700s, but following the publication of The Courtship of Miles Standish by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858, New England experienced a revival of interest in their colonial roots. In the late 1800s, the Duxbury Rural Society cleaned up the overgrown burial ground and worked to identify Standish’s remains. Today, he rests under a large memorial marked with four cannon, and other historical figures have been identified and labeled with 20th century markers.

A vintage postcard featuring the grave of Myles Standish (Source)

But one doesn’t have to leave the city to visit a colonial graveyard. Bostonians and tourists alike can easily visit three historic burial grounds adjacent to the Freedom Trail. The King Chapel Burying Ground is the oldest cemetery in the city and is the final resting place for Mary Chilton, another Mayflower passenger and the first European woman to step foot in Massachusetts.  John Winthrop, one of the founders of Boston, is also interred there. The Granary Burying Ground is notable for including many figures involved in the American Revolution, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Robert Treat Paine, and James Otis, Jr., as well as the victims of the Boston Massacre.  Lastly, Copp’s Hill Burying Ground in the North End is another colonial cemetery notable for the gravesite of Prince Hall, an African-American abolitionist who founded the Black Freemasonry branch within North American Freemasonry. Another grave is special not only for its resident: the gravestone of Daniel Malcolm, successful merchant and smuggler who resisted British authority, still bears the bullet marks of British sharp shooters who used the stone for practice.

Daniel Malcolm’s gravestone at Copp’s Burying Ground,
 courtesy of  Curious Old Gravestones in and about Boston (1924)

With 17th and 18th century gravesites throughout the Commonwealth, often the graves themselves are interesting whether or not they mark the burial site of a notable historical person. The Puritans were concerned with piety and morality and disliked anything considered extravagant, and their graves reflect these ideas. Visit a colonial gravesite and note the common symbols that adorn gravestones: a winged face represents the soul of the deceased while a winged skull shows the flight of the soul from the mortal body; a sheaf of wheat represents an eternal harvest, and a rising sun symbolizes renewed life.

Colonial Williamsburg offers a helpful glossary of symbols and terms related to ancient cemeteries available on their website that will be helpful as you explore local cemeteries and burial grounds and discover your town’s local history this Halloween. If visiting gravesites during the spookiest time of the year is not your cup of tea, many of these symbols and more can be seen on gravestones featured in our photo collection from Curious Old Gravestones in and about Boston (1924), available on our Flickr page and accessible safely from home.

The impressively detailed gravestone of John Foster,
the first printer in Boston, courtesy of
Curious Old Gravestones in and about Boston (1924)


Alexandra Bernson
Reference staff

Monday, October 22, 2018

November Author Talk: Melinda Ponder

Celebrating the Armistice One Hundred Years Ago: Boston, the Yankee Division, and “America the Beautiful”
An Author Talk with Dr. Melinda M. Ponder 
Wednesday, November 7, 2018—Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts—Room 341, Massachusetts State House

The State Library of Massachusetts invites you to our next author talk and book signing on Wednesday, November 7, with Dr. Melinda M. Ponder, author of the recent book Katharine Lee Bates: From Sea to Shining Sea.

One hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918, Massachusetts poet and Wellesley College professor Katharine Lee Bates joined the throngs of ecstatic Bostonians who were celebrating the Armistice that ended World War I. That same morning, on a hillside in France, the soldiers of the 26th Infantry “Yankee” Division celebrated the news of the Armistice by singing Bates’ patriotic song, “America the Beautiful.” In remembrance of Armistice Day, author Melinda Ponder will discuss the roots of “America the Beautiful” in Bates’ life and career, including Bates’ Cape Cod childhood and her travels that inspired the words of her famous patriotic poem. At the conclusion of Dr. Ponder’s presentation, tenor soloist Teddy Crecelius will sing “America the Beautiful.”

In addition to her book and numerous articles and essays about Katharine Lee Bates, Dr. Ponder has also published two books about another celebrated Massachusetts author: Nathaniel Hawthorne. A graduate of Wellesley College and Boston College, Dr. Ponder is now Professor Emerita of English at Pine Manor College.

Dr. Ponder’s illustrated lecture at the State Library is free and open to all, and registration is encouraged but not required. For more information about the State Library and our Author Talk series, please visit our website at

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Monday, October 15, 2018

New England Court Records

Tracking down New England court records can be a confusing experience because such records are often spread out in different repositories.  If you’ve found yourself stuck and not sure where to look, the book New England court records: a research guide for genealogists and historians will give you all the information you need and then some.  This comprehensive guide, written by professional genealogist and former attorney Diane Rapaport, includes chapters on the American legal system, the federal and state courts in New England, and the types of records that were and still are produced by these courts; there’s also a helpful glossary of common legal terms one might find during their research.  A large portion of Rapaport’s book is devoted to each New England state, covering the histories of their court systems and breaking down into great detail where court records are kept, what format they are in, and what years are available.  It also includes recommendations for other helpful print and electronic resources to consider while researching.  As this book was published in 2006, some of the websites that are cited may no longer exist or have changed URLs.  Despite this, the information compiled by Rapaport is and will continue to be an incredibly valuable tool for those seeking court records, from colonial times to present, that are housed in this region.

New England court records: a research guide for genealogists and historians can be found at the State Library’s reference desk in room 341 of the State House.  If you have any questions about where certain court documents are located, feel free to email our reference department at or call our reference desk at 617-727-2590.  We’re happy to look it up for you!

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department

Monday, October 8, 2018

Interlibrary Loan: Lending books at the State Library

The State Library has a vast collection of books that cover a wide variety of subjects,  especially on Massachusetts and New England politics; such topics include politics, history, notable people, the molasses flood, capital punishment, and woman’s right to vote.

Only Massachusetts employees may check books out of the library; however, non-state employees can request to borrow our materials either through their public or academic library. We lend to libraries across the United States, with an average of 550 per year. We do not loan out items that fall into the following categories:
  • local history
  • microfilm or fiche
  • newspapers
  • books before 1930
  • reference materials
  • CDs and most videos
  • genealogical items
  • items from Special Collections 
  • and items from our Mass Room which includes annual reports from state agencies
  • anything that is in too bad of a condition to be shipped

Some books that are requested on interlibrary loan include: Nudge improving decisions about health, wealth, and happinessA short history of BostonGive me liberty! an American historyThe quest for environmental justice human rights and the politics of pollutionNew directions in special education: eliminating ableism in policy and practice.

We also scan articles from books and periodicals as long as the request does not violate copyright law (e.g. copying only one chapter or up to ten percent of a book.)

If you are a state employee and want to learn more about requesting books or articles check out this blog on borrowing materials.  If you would like to submit a request (and are a state employee) you can email our ILL department directly at or fill out a request form on our website.

Naomi Allen
Reference Department